4 Weeks in South Korea (Thoughts)

Old Nov 22nd, 2022, 12:29 AM
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4 Weeks in South Korea (Thoughts)

We spent most of October in South Korea, and it was WONDERFUL!


Bulguksa Temple near Gyeongju

Here's our itinerary, and some general observations.

Seoul 5 nights (more at end)
Suwon 2 nights
Jeonju 2 nights
Yeosu 2 nights (was booked as 3)
Goheung 1 night
Gwangju 2 nights
Jeju Island 4 nights (self-drive)

Busan 4 nights
Gyeongju 3 nights
Seoul 2 nights

In my trip plan I had (deliberately) put in a lot more than we'd likely do, so we would have options to choose from. There's loads we didn't get to visit, and we loved our trip so we'll definitely be back again to see more.
  • Because of some relatively late changes to the itinerary to include Yeosu, we did Gwangju and Yeosu out of order in terms of location, as we already had flights out of Gwangju to go to Jeju. The last night in Yeosu we dropped as we were invited to spend a day with the agri-marketing teams for tea in Boseong and yuja (yuzu) in Goheung and were put up in Goheung by them that night.
  • We booked rental car segments, first one was on leaving Seoul and returned at Gwangju airport, then a car for the time in Jeju, and then another from leaving Busan returned on arrival back in Seoul. We didn't have the car for our time in Seoul and in Busan as public transport decent in both. Self-drive was absolutely the right choice for us. It's a really really great way to see the breadth of the country, especially if you avoid the toll roads and use local highways and roads, as we did – which doesn't usually add much time to the trips either. And the views and snippets of small town and tiny village life are worth it! If you've driven much in big cities like London, you won't be fazed by Korean driving! If you're a fainthearted, nervous or inexperienced driver, you may not enjoy the experience at all! Pete really enjoyed it!
  • We used Naver Map to navigate, for driving, public transport and walking. Ahead of the trip I had saved hundreds of favourites into the app (hotels, sights, restaurants, cafes, airports, key stations, rental car offices) and added more as we went. Even set to English, a lot of it remains in Korean, and not possible to use fully, but we got along fine with it anyway. I found restaurant suggestions by following a bunch of Korea food grammers and translating their posts to English and then saving those that appealed.
  • I already loved Korean food before this trip (I worked for several years in a town known colloquially as Little Korea and used to eat Korean for lunch 3-4 data a week), but that love has intensified even more. And there's still looooaaaads of dishes we didn't try, waiting for our next trip!
  • Google translate has come on leaps and bounds and we used it to translate menus all over the place. In tourist-heavy places they may have English translations but in many places they don't, but this wasn't an issue for us at all. If you have allergies or restricted diets this will likely be a lot trickier! I very occasionally used papago to translate a sentence to someone but it is much slower than Google translate. Still handy to have it. Load the Korean keyboard at that if someone wants to reply and have it translate Korean to English, they can.
  • Anywhere you have high rises in the cities, there are always amazing sculptures on the corners. Everywhere. It's amazing!
  • In Seoul we used buses more than the metro, mostly because it reduced walking and stairs and we had time. But we did use metro too. All very easy to use in our opinion.
  • Hotel beds in Korea are universally pretty damn firm. Some were so hard it was hard to sleep. Not much you can do about it but be aware. I chose my hotels carefully based on location above all plus bed size and room size and of course price. Was happy with all of them... booked them all via booking dot com.
  • Lost 3+ days of the trip to a really bad bout of food poisoning aka traveller's diarrhoea. 99.9% sure I got that at a hotel breakfast buffet I said at the time was a disaster waiting to happen - why didn't I listen to myself? We didn't even book breakfast but this hotel included it comped for genius level booking dot com members. All the clichés of food that should be kept hot being left out till cold, covers not put onto dishes between customers serving themselves, car crash in many respects. I'm an idiot. Conversely I didn't get ill once from street-food or casual cheap restaurants.
  • Almost flooded one bathroom when I went to the toilet whilst more than half asleep and pressed the button for a***-wash instead of flush. As I was standing up, it shot up and out of the loo and even when I slammed the loo seat lid down it poured out until I woke up and pressed the button to turn it off. 😄 I love robot loos but make sure you know which one is the flush to avoid ensuing hilarity! 😁
  • A lot of restaurants closed during the pandemic. Naver Maps is more up to date than Google but you'll still find some places that aren't open though they seem to be listed as such, and a bunch of places that are open but still restricting to take out only. Have back up plans!
  • We pre-booked WiFi and a SIM that could accept incoming calls (but not make them). It had data as well. The WiFi was very very helpful when out and about. And the Korean number was useful for two things - booking taxis with Kakao taxi, and adding our name to waitlists for 2 or 3 restaurants that operated that system. We needed to be signed in to Kakao talk for that to work.

I am not posting a trip report here but I posted 3-4 updates to my Instagram every day throughout the trip, with detailed captions, so that's probably closest to a report www.instagram.com/Kaveyf
And you can also search Instagram for #kaveyeatskorea
Click Recent to see the images in date order (most recent first) to get an in-order feel for the trip.

And lastly, a huge thanks to kja whose original trip report gave me the best starting point to my own research and planning!
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Old Nov 23rd, 2022, 09:49 AM
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hi Kavey, thanks for this. I have been thinking about going to Korea and maybe this will help with where to start. I do have to learn more about Korean food. How does the taxi system work? Book by phone/online, wave them down on the street (yes in NYV, not so much in Tokyo), taxi stands on the street (or, like i did in Japan: find a nice hotel for waiting taxis)?
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Old Nov 23rd, 2022, 10:12 PM
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Sounds like a great trip, Kavey -- except, of course, for the food poisoning. Yikes!

Unlike you, I really hadn't known Korean food before my trip; like you, I adore it -- so many incredibly flavorful dishes!

I also agree that the amount of public art in Korea is impressive.

Thanks for sharing your observations!. I'm very glad my trip report provided a good starting point for the adventure you and Pete shared.
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Old Nov 24th, 2022, 12:09 AM
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Originally Posted by mrwunrfl View Post
hi Kavey, thanks for this. I have been thinking about going to Korea and maybe this will help with where to start. I do have to learn more about Korean food. How does the taxi system work? Book by phone/online, wave them down on the street (yes in NYV, not so much in Tokyo), taxi stands on the street (or, like i did in Japan: find a nice hotel for waiting taxis)?
Hello!
We didn't have any trouble with taxis, but we only used them in Seoul and Busan.
We did flag one down without problem in Seoul but mostly we used the Kakao Taxi app to order one. You will need a Korean phone number to use this app, so we had pre-ordered a phone SIM but with no allowance to make calls, it was just to have the number and be able to receive calls. We had data on it as well which made using the phone for Sat Nav easier, though we also had a WiFi dongle to easily access Wifi on our other devices.
You can also ask hotels and restaurants to book one for you, they'll likely do it with Kakao taxi or a similar app.
Taxis are pretty cheap!
There are different types, orange ones are standard but there are also deluxe taxis and foreigner taxis (where the driver speaks English). We only used the standard ones.

In Seoul and Busan we used buses, metro and shanks pony!
But for the rest of the itinerary we had a car, so didn't need to use taxis much to get around sights.

Last edited by Kavey; Nov 24th, 2022 at 12:18 AM.
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Old Nov 24th, 2022, 12:12 AM
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Originally Posted by kja View Post
Sounds like a great trip, Kavey -- except, of course, for the food poisoning. Yikes!
Yes that was definitely not ideal but it was overall a really fantastic trip!

Originally Posted by kja View Post
Unlike you, I really hadn't known Korean food before my trip; like you, I adore it -- so many incredibly flavorful dishes!
There were still lots of dishes I didn't manage to try while there, so much to seek out on our next visit!

Originally Posted by kja View Post
I also agree that the amount of public art in Korea is impressive.
It's amazing, I found it so striking how much there was, in cities, in towns, in tiny villages!

Originally Posted by kja View Post
Thanks for sharing your observations!. I'm very glad my trip report provided a good starting point for the adventure you and Pete shared.
It gave me the very best starting point, I'm so grateful. I feel bad that I didn't manage to get to any of the museums and only one folk village at Nagan, but we truly had a wonderful trip!
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Old Nov 24th, 2022, 07:29 PM
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Thanks for posting! Sounds like you had a truly wonderful experience and you were primed to enjoy it to the fullest. I didn't have any firm bed problems in Korea (nothing like China,) What are your impressions of the food in Korea vs Korean food available to you at home? Any other impressions you'd like to share on this forum? Surprises? Delights?
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Old Nov 24th, 2022, 10:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Kavey View Post
I feel bad that I didn't manage to get to any of the museums and only one folk village at Nagan, but we truly had a wonderful trip!
Don't feel bad for making the trip what you and Pete wanted it to be! Wouldn't life be boring if we all decided to do the same things? Boring and crowded. It sounds like you and Pete made choices that made for a memorable journey. Kudos!
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Old Nov 25th, 2022, 12:07 AM
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Originally Posted by shelemm View Post
Thanks for posting! Sounds like you had a truly wonderful experience and you were primed to enjoy it to the fullest. I didn't have any firm bed problems in Korea (nothing like China,) What are your impressions of the food in Korea vs Korean food available to you at home? Any other impressions you'd like to share on this forum? Surprises? Delights?
Aah, good to know China is much firmer again. We have what's considered a pretty firm bed at home but yeah, struggled with many of the ones in South Korea.
The dishes I had already had in New Malden were very similar indeed, the restaurants there run by immigrants from South Korea and with strong Korean customer base. But there were many more dishes for us to discover, which was a joy. Food is a huge part of travel for me. If you want to see just the food content on insta the # I used is #KaveyEatsKoreaFood
Lots of delights, particular favourite places, probably best to read those in the captions I wrote to the instagram posts as I wrote those every day with it all fresh in my memory.
I loved visiting temple sites, loved food markets (again, this is a favourite activity of mine), loved the views self-driving.
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Old Nov 25th, 2022, 12:09 AM
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Originally Posted by kja View Post
Don't feel bad for making the trip what you and Pete wanted it to be! Wouldn't life be boring if we all decided to do the same things? Boring and crowded. It sounds like you and Pete made choices that made for a memorable journey. Kudos!
Aah thank you, that is certainly true. But truly, your trip itinerary and report really helped me so much in creating our own. Thank you again!
Where is next for you?
I'm currently dithering between a return to Taiwan (we only did 5 nights so want to see more), a return to Japan (3 trips thus far but soooo much more to see), Costa Rica (would be first trip), and Malaysia (again, first trip).
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Old Nov 25th, 2022, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Kavey View Post
Aah, good to know China is much firmer again. We have what's considered a pretty firm bed at home but yeah, struggled with many of the ones in South Korea.
The dishes I had already had in New Malden were very similar indeed, the restaurants there run by immigrants from South Korea and with strong Korean customer base. But there were many more dishes for us to discover, which was a joy. Food is a huge part of travel for me. If you want to see just the food content on insta the # I used is #KaveyEatsKoreaFood
Lots of delights, particular favourite places, probably best to read those in the captions I wrote to the instagram posts as I wrote those every day with it all fresh in my memory.
I loved visiting temple sites, loved food markets (again, this is a favourite activity of mine), loved the views self-driving.
So far I have been successful in avoiding most social media, so no access to Instagram. I am glad you got to Nagan Stone village, did you get to Boseong's Daehan Dawon tea plantation?
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Old Nov 28th, 2022, 06:25 AM
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”…Instagram for #kaveyeatskorea
Click Recent to see the images in date order (most recent first) to get an in-order feel for the trip.”

sorry, I don’t see where/how to click recent?
Very interested to see the southern posts, including Jeju!
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Old Nov 29th, 2022, 12:09 AM
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It may be that you can only sort you have an account and are logged in.

However, another way to get the southern posts would be to search individually for these hashtags.

#kaveyEatsGyeongju
#KaveyEatsBusan
#KaveyEatsJeju
#kaveyeatsgwangju
#kaveyeatsyeosu

There are a few from Suncheon, Goheung, and Boseong that wouldn't be included in those but are in the main tag.

p.s. We lost a day in Jeju and 2 days in Busan when I got ill.

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Old Dec 6th, 2022, 01:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Kavey View Post
We didn't have any trouble with taxis, but we only used them in Seoul and Busan.
We did flag one down without problem in Seoul but mostly we used the Kakao Taxi app to order one. You will need a Korean phone number to use this app, so we had pre-ordered a phone SIM but with no allowance to make calls, it was just to have the number and be able to receive calls. .
Quick follow up, I think (?) you CAN use Kakao Taxi without a Korean number, but you'll then need to select the option to pay the driver in the car, which can be cash or CC I think.
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Old Dec 30th, 2022, 09:42 PM
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looks like you really got to explore the country. You probably could have finished gyeongju in 1 day instead of 3 , and spent more time in Busan. Sorry to hear that you got food poisoning!
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Old Jan 24th, 2023, 07:37 AM
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I especially like your photo of the Baekje Buddhism Birthplace. What in interesting, and unique site!
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