Llama Land

adventures and madness

Korea – 2010

Korea was awesome. Once again, the people were friendly, the food was delicious, and the sites beautiful. We spent the last week of November in Seoul, Busan & Jeonju. All of this was made possible thanks to an incredibly airfare sale on Singapore Airlines, which made it relatively inexpensive to go.

We spent most of our first full day in Seoul exploring the top historical sites. First we got a really awesome (English) tour of the Jongmyo Shrine. Afterward, we proceeded to walk west, and spent some time wandering around the Bukchon Hanok Village. After a rather nice lunch, we explored Gyeongbok Palace.

We spent a chunk of the second day at the National Museum of Korea. The exhibits are rather well done and comprehensive. Even the children’s museum portion was really nicely done. Next we headed down to the Noryangjin Fish Market. David was both thrilled and horrified to watch live sea creatures being killed & gutted before his eyes.

Our original plan for much of day three was the DMZ tour, however that was canceled due to the madness in the north. As a result, we spent the day mostly window shopping at an E-Mart, and the COEX Mall. Our 4th day started with a trip to the Children’s Grand Park. This was a combination amusement park & zoo for kids. While it might be quite nice in the summer, in late November, most of the park was closed up for the winter. Next we went to the Hongneung National Arboretum. This was actually a surprisingly nice large park completely surrounded by the heavily urbanized city. It had large hills, tons of trees and other plants, and nice walking/hiking trails. As we were walking back to the hotel that evening after dinner, it started to snow. Not tiny flakes, but huge ones. David was absolutely thrilled, and it was quite pretty.

We got up super early, took the subway to Seoul Station, and caught the KTX train to Busan. The KTX line is the super fast (top speed about 200MPH) train line in Korea, and the train cars are pretty decent. We made the trip in just about 3 hours. It was nice to get out of Seoul, and see the countryside. While the previous night’s snow had all melted by day break in Seoul, once outside of the city, there was quite a bit of snow on hillsides and farm fields. As we moved further south, the snow was gone, and there was a lot of mountainous terrain. It was a good 15F warmer in Busan than in Seoul, which was refreshing, considering how it had been mostly in the 40F’s thus far. We got lunch in Busan Station, and then made the short walk to the Busan subway station. Our T-money cards worked in the Busan subway, and we rode it clear to the eastern edge of the city, where we caught bus #181 outside of the Haeundae Beach subway station. The public bus ride was more like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, with the driver speeding & swerving through traffic. However, the ride was just under 30 minutes, where we got off at Haedong Yunggung Buddhist Temple. This is the only Buddhist temple that sits in front of the ocean (all others are either in cities, or up on mountain sides). As a result, the views are awesome. The temple grounds as well, are incredibly well decorated with many statues.

On our final full day in Korea, we took the train again, this time about 2/3 of the way directly south from Seoul, to the city of Jeonju. The fast KTX line doesn’t (yet) go directly to Jeonju, so we took the KTX about 90% of the way, and then changed to a slower train for the final 45 minutes, for a total travel time of about 2 hours & 40 minutes. The scenery & terrain on the western side of the country differed dramatically from the eastern side. The land was much flatter, with many more farms. We arrived in Jeonju at mid morning, and attempted to find the public bus that we needed to get to the Hanok Village, however the official Korean tourist board instructions were either wrong, or outdated. After wandering around the vicinity of Jeonju station for about 20 minutes, we gave up, and went back inside to ask a friendly station agent for help. Turns out that we needed bus #79, which stopped helpfully right outside the station’s main entrance. We hopped on the bus, and about 30 minutes later, we were dropped off right off in front of the village. After having an absolutely amazingly delicious lunch, we spent about 2 hours exploring the village. Most of the buildings were really well maintained. We also spent time exploring the Gyeonggijeon Shrine,which was similar in some ways to the Jongmyo Shrine that we toured the previous week. We had a bit of an adventure trying to get back to the train station afterward. When we got off the #79 bus, it was on a one way street, so we (foolishly) assumed that we needed to get back on the bus in the same direction, and it would loop back to the train station. Unfortunately, we found out the hard way, that the bus route is one way only. After riding nearly an hour in the wrong direction, out of the city, over a mountain pass, and into a remote valley, the bus stopped. Through hand gestures, we figured out that we had gotten on the bus in the wrong direction. The driver was kind enough to let us wait on the bus until he was ready to start the route back in the opposite direction. Nearly 2 hours later, we got back to Jeonju station, and obtained our tickets for the ride back to Seoul.
It was a great trip. We got to see a nice chunk of the country, and the people are so friendly.

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