South Korea

South Korea

Curious what backpackers do in South Korea? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

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  • Day21

    This should be a post about "Spirited Garden" but isn't owing to my abject failure in bus navigation. So I needed to take a bus from Seogwipo to Dongwang junction and then take an 820-2 bus from there. Dongwang junction is actually a rotary with 6 exits, and each exit has a bus stop. So I didn't realise this until too late ...

    After wasting the whole morning on this exercise, I take the 281 bus back and disembark at Jungmun's Cheonjeyeon falls. I find that I will have to PAY to see the falls. Having seen Iguazu, Victoria and Niagara falls for free I'm expecting big things from these falls! But first I duck across the road to "Soul Kitchen" and have a steak lunch (with potato wedges!).

    Fortified in body if not in mind I walk back to the falls and pay my entrance fee. Fortunately I can put my bag in a locker there as there are quite a few steps along the way.

    The falls comprise three different viewing points. I read later that Jungmun is the most touristy part of Jeju and you do get a sense of being milked as the falls are pretty but not overly spectacular.

    The most spectacular aspect is the selfie I took 😂. Anyway all posted photos are from the falls. I didn't have any coins to throw into the "Fountain of Five Blessings" so I threw my credit card in instead. Nothing's come up on my statement since then so I presume that I remain unblessed 😄
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  • Day3

    Each year around a million Seoul residents gather to watch fireworks from Yeouinaru Park. There are numerous family-oriented activities that run during the day but after 7pm the fireworks are the main draw. Sort of like Riverfire without the aircraft ...

    I take the subway to Gongdeok, where I change lines for the line going to Yeouinaru Park (2 stops). I'm standing at the end of the platform to maximize my chances. The first train comes and ... it's full, or near enough so I don't get on board. The 2nd train comes and ... it's the same as the first. I sense a pattern.

    So I exit the station and walk to the Mapo Bridge, as do many, many others. Many people set up on both sides of the bridge to watch the fireworks. I stand behind the pram of a family so I have a good view (discounting the tree that's in the way!)

    Take some photos and the first session of fireworks are done. I don't stay for the next set, but it's very slow trying to push through the crowd. Once I'm off the bridge it's much easier going. Easy to take trains now!
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  • Day6

    This was a fun morning. So it's the Chuseok holiday and lots of places are closed. The weather's great so I decide to do some hiking.

    Seoul is blessed with numerous hiking trails given it's built around 4 mountains. The trail I want to follow is in the Bukhansan National Park, to the NW of my hotel.

    This entails taking the subway to Dokbawi station and proceeding from there. There are a few fellow hikers in the area when I disembark. They're all kitted out similarly, hiking boots, long hiking pants, colourful hiking jacket and 2 hiking poles. I look nothing like this, of course, the only thing I have in common are the boots.

    I reach the start of the hiking trail (1st photo). The trail I choose is the red arrowed one, bottom left signpost. The "peaks" are Jokduribong and Bibong. It starts off fine but soon becomes more "scrambly", if I can say that. Three men my age or older are following me. They power up the rocks with their hiking poles. However the views over Seoul are epic so I take photos when the trail reaches a clearing. All 5 subsequent photos were taken at this time.

    There is a camaraderie amongst hikers, so I receive (and give) more greetings than would be the case just walking in a park. One hiker talks to me for some time in Korean, while he catches his breath. We're both enjoying the view at the time.

    As I have no hiking poles it does limit me to less difficult ascents. The poles aren't a huge asset ascending but I find them invaluable in descending as they reduce the weight going through the knees. I considered buying poles to bring with me but they would have been too difficult to pack. So I rented 2 for the Mt Fuji hike, none since. I reach the point at which I know it will be painful descending ...

    I backtrack to the signposts shown in the first photo and take the Seoul trail. This seems to run along the southern edge of the park and through some of suburbia before going back into the park. People of all ages are enjoying the trail. It's not as strenuous as the first trail, until I decide to take one uphill that I subsequently find also leads to Jokduribong.

    Back down to thd road there is a park where you can stretch (outdoor gym) as well as clean your boots. From there it is a trudge back to Dokbawi station, tired but well exercised.
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  • Day24

    A great day all round 🤗🤗. On the down side, I didn't find a sandy beach, and I MAY have paddled in water containing raw sewage, but on the up side the weather was perfect and the travel went without a hitch.

    I bought 2 tickets at the ferry terminal for a round trip to Ham Geum port on Geumodo island. The ferry going over was to leave at 9:50 and the return trip would depart at 4:05 pm. It was a car ferry and would make 2 stops at other islands before Geumodo.

    Although it's a Saturday (and you know what THAT means), there aren't the usual weekend crowds. On the ferry I sit outside taking in the view. On Korean ferries there can be an internal room with wooden floors and a landing for shoes. It seems to be mostly used by women and children. Bit of a waste to sit there today as there are magnificent views of various islands as we proceed. Very different from the other ferry trips I've taken on this holiday.

    We arrive on Geumodo at around 11:15. I remember it's a car ferry and successfully avoid the cars disembarking. A notice board supplies some information on hiking around the island. My plan is to walk clockwise along the main road, look for a sandy beach, swim, eat my lunch and return to port for the ferry back.

    The road is quite elevated from the sea. This means the views continue to be stunning as I walk on, but it does make it problematic finding a trail down to the sea. I walk through a small fishing village which also contains quite a few persimmon trees. Back on the main road there are stretches of long mesh tarpaulins along the side of the road where the locals are drying baitfish. I see no other hikers all day.

    I eventually reach a village called Daeyu around 1:15. This is the end of the road and my lunch spot. Although it's on the water, there are no beaches. I take off my boots and socks to dip my feet into the water at a jetty. Although there's a pipe nearby, there are fish as well as they jump into the air periodically to catch insects.

    Long walk back, maybe 13 km in total. I'm running low on water and end up with none on the returning ferry. However, I do get to enjoy the sunset over the water (took way too many photos). We reach Yeosu a bit before 6 and I catch the 555 bus back to the hotel.

    I have been looking forward to the Bledisloe Cup match from Lang Park, but daylight saving (in Sydney and Melbourne) means that it starts an hour earlier than usual. So I miss the first half. But I see most of the 2nd half and celebrate the win with soju and red wine. Go Wallabies! Hope that ticket for their match against Japan is waiting for me in Tokyo 🤔

    POSTSCRIPT: I woke up the next day and noticed rashes over the lower parts of both legs. They do go away within a few days thankfully.
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  • Day3

    I'll admit that this is the number 1 reason I've come to the ROK. It costs 46,000 won (51 AUD) for a half day tour but it's worth it. I'm picked up at 8:30 by Seoul City Tours and pay the tour guide Gemma (her Western name, she's a local).

    We pick up more people so around 10 of us are travelling in a minibus. We all bring passports to make sure no spies are on board. I try to match my expression to my passport photo, but that scowling hurts my face if I do it for too long ☹

    The first stop is the Imjingak Peace Park. It has a pretty park, souvenir shops of course and some views. I think we have around 25 minutes here, Gemma keeps us to a tight schedule. There are a number of monuments and statues here, see first 3 photos.

    What comes through from the day is the desire for reunification within the ROK. However, relations between the two countries aren't great at the moment. The ROK started investing in a PRK industrial complex around 20 years ago but have discontinued that as the PRK were spending the revenue from the complex on their nuclear program.

    There's also a lot of propaganda. We sit in a cinema and a video presentation takes us through the event timeline after WWII that leads to the Korean War. The video shows representations of 3 tunnels dug by the PRK into the ROK and discovered by the ROK in the 1970s.

    We stop at a viewpoint that overlooks the border. A soldier comes on board the minibus to do a passport check. At the disembarkation point, there are viewers that allow a closer look at North Korea. I've taken some video as the PRK are broadcasting propaganda music (an antidote to KPop). I take a photo for a Peruvian couple and they reciprocate.

    Part of the tour includes walking down tunnel 3, which is our next port of call. This apparently will take us down 25 stories (which we then have to walk up) so it takes some time. A ramp takes us down, then there is a reasonably level walk through the tunnel. We're wearing safety helmets as the tunnel roof is quite low in parts. I bump my head once - general mirth from tourists coming the other way. Also, no phones or cameras allowed!

    I power back up the ramp, it's a good cardio workout. This buys me some time to walk around some pretty gardens in the vicinity.

    Our final DMZ stop is Dorasan station. Its of interest because it is the only INTERNATIONAL train station in the ROK. It is connected to the PRK train network but currently runs services to Seoul only. Should reunification take place, it will be part of the network that runs through Asia and Europe.

    For sponsorship reasons, the tour makes a trip to a Ginseng Centre on the way back. It's all hard sell now! I used to take Korean Ginseng tablets back in the 90s but I have no idea if they were effective. So I don't purchase and head for the exit, which means going through the shop. Big entrance, little exit.

    Finally some of us are dropped off at City Hall. We drive past a venue advertising the Fever Festival (broadcast by V Live). A huge queue of Kpop young folk are gathered. Its 2pm and I'm hungry 😩
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  • Day12

    I had hoped to visit the Byeonsanbando National Park on the Sunday but I've come down with a head cold and the medication I bought makes me feel woozy. It would have meant spending 4 hours in buses there and back so I postpone it.

    So Sunday is a rest day. On Monday I take the bus to Gwangju, which is 90 minutes south of Jeonju. On arrival I notice that the Gwangju bus station is much more modern than Jeonju's. I also buy a ticket for my next destination (Wando) before exiting to the taxi rank.

    Once again the taxi driver can't make head nor tail of the address. He does have a GPS, so I dig up the phone number of my hotel and we're finally on our way. I'm staying at the ACC Design Hotel not far from the Asian Culture Complex (hence the ACC). Gwangju is making a real push to further the arts. I'm able to check in straight away, even though I'm early.

    After settling in and eating some lunch, I look at how I'll spend the afternoon. Gwangju is most famous for the Mudeungsan National Park, and bus #09 will take me there.

    It's a warm day in the city, 29 degrees or thereabouts. However the weather is more moderate in the national park. All photos were taken here. As it turns out, quite a few different bus lines terminate here so the park is easily accessible by public transport.

    There are plenty of people around, but it is the end of the holidays. There are streams that flow through the park, so the sound of running water is continual. I find it very soothing and a welcome distraction from my travels.
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  • Day13

    Having enjoyed a taste of Mudeungsan National Park yesterday, I've come back today to do a full hike. As I walk into the park I pass Tourist Information, where a couple of gents who work there are sitting outside with clipboards. I am asked to fill in some profile information. No problem, don't even lie about my age group.

    It's much more humid in the park this morning than when I came yesterday. It seems like many people have already finished their hike at this time, early risers. There are quite a few shops and accommodation at the front of the park. I wandered around some of these before starting the hike.

    There are several trails that I'm interested in, but given my head cold I don't want to overdo it. I take the Jungmeorijae Pass trail, which will take me to Saeinbong peak (617 metres). I sweat profusely on the climb up, I much prefer hiking on cool or cold days.

    At the peak there is a rock showing the height. Great views of Gwangju to the east. It's another kilometre to Jungbong peak, and it is more difficult, so I abandon that trail after 15 minutes or so.

    Instead I take the trail for Jangbuljae Pass, which is at 919 metres. When I get there I find there are no views as what looks to be smog obscures most of Gwangju. What's worse is that there is no quick trail leading down so I have to backtrack the whole way back to the park entrance.

    By this time my cotton shorts are soaked in sweat. It's not a good look, considering every Korean hiker wears a "uniform" of dark nylon trekking trousers. I should have worn my board shorts! My hiking trousers would be too hot on a day like this.

    Usually there is a bit of a wait at the bus stop, in the sun, for the #09 bus to return to the city. I buy an iced coffee at the Angel-in-us cafe (who makes up these names?) which overlooks the bus stop, allowing me to wait in the cool. It does mean a mad scramble when the bus does arrive, but that's a price I'm willing to pay ...

    Finally back at the hotel, and a shower is the first order of business, followed by a long rest.
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  • Day14

    I'm due on Jeju Island tomorrow. The closest port to the island is Wando, which is my destination today.

    However I do have some time to kill before heading to the bus terminal, so I visit an art gallery and then the Asian Culture Complex. The medication has kicked in and I find it hard to concentrate on the task at hand. One of the lady reception staff at the hotel is kind enough to call a taxi for me when it's time to leave. She even starts to help me load my megaluggage into the boot - that's a WHS issue if I've ever seen one so I decline her help.

    I thought I'd given myself plenty of time to get to the bus terminal, but traffic congestion and red lights eat into the contingency. Every red light costs 3 minutes of time, they start to add up. Anyway I have around 6 minutes to spare when we reach the bus terminal.

    It's around a 2 hour trip to Wando. The bus driver does a quick head count and tells me to buckle up. Later on I understand why, as he takes cornering as a speed challenge. I can feel my ribs under pressure from the seat belt 😫

    Arriving at Wando, I eschew taking a taxi for a walk with my luggage. It's around a 10 minute trip to Wandonesia (I'm not making this up) where I'm staying. It's no problem checking in, the problem is that my room number is 403 and I'm Wandonesia is a hostel without lifts. So I have to haul my luggage up 3 flights of stairs (remembering that ground floor is 1F).

    The room is quite lovely though, particularly the bathroom. There is a lot of road noise but once I close the double-glazed windows I hear nothing.

    I want to buy a ticket for tomorrow's 9am ferry to Jeju. Unfortunately the ticket office is closed, even though it's not long after 4. Looks like I'll need to be there at 8am tomorrow when the ticket office reopens. I take the first 3 attached photos on the way back to Wandonesia, then the last photo from my room.
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  • Day16

    So this is my second day on Jeju Island. The first day comprised the ferry trip (nothing special), the taxi ride from the ferry terminal to the hotel (usual cockup) and browsing around Jeju City. I went to a Mexican place for dinner and ordered a drink that included Somersby apple cider! So they CAN be found.

    Today I'll be taking 7 buses, giving my travelcard a thorough working over. The first bus takes me to the bus terminal. From outside the terminal I take a bus that takes me clockwise around the island about 90 degrees. After one of the stops (Gimnyeong) I notice a sandy beach so plan to stop off here on the way back.

    I disembark at Goseong-ri junction and walk to the bus stop across the road. This is where I take a local bus that goes to near Seongsan port. The weather is excellent today, the best that I'll experience on the island. I walk around some of the coastline as far as The Cloud Hotel (so THAT'S where it is, IT humour 😁). There's a good place nearby, overlooking the water, for a spot of lunch.

    After lunch I take a small trail to the base of Ichilbung, where I buy a ticket and join the masses for the walk up to the 180 metre summit. Simply spectacular views on a fine day, as my photos show. At the summit I drink in the view, it's Rio-esque on a smaller scale.

    On the way down there are some great views of the local area and Mt Hallasan, which is a volcanic peak and S Korea's highest mountain. Further on it's possible to detour down to the beach, which I do. Just rocks, no sand. There's a stall selling live seafood, octopus anyone? I wander around the rockpools for a while before heading back to the bus stop.

    Soon there's a local bus that takes me back to Goseong-ri junction. Surprisingly the intercity bus arrives within 5 minutes, I usually assume that I've just missed the bus. Lucky as there is a 50 minute interval between these buses. It drops me off at Gimnyeong and I walk to the beach.

    Weather's still decent, so I take off my hiking boots and paddle barefoot in the water for around 15 minutes. Noone else does this, ofc, but I find it very therapeutic. A photographer is nearby shooting either a fashion spread or a commercial. His model is wearing a robe and walks into the water (no disrobing) until her head is fully submerged. Then she walks out a minute later (freezing). The things we do for art (or money) 😦

    Back to the bus stop, I backtrack to Jeju Bus Terminal and then the hotel. It's been a LONG day.
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  • Day17

    It's Saturday again and you all know what THAT means ... weekend warriors. Breakfast starts at 7am, I'm in the dining room at 7:20 and it is close to full. Looks like a few hiking groups are in, nobody under 40. I suspect they're hiking Mt Hallasan as most of them have departed by 7:40. It's back to normal then (quiet).

    As the weather is ordinary today, it seems like a good day to visit a cave. There are something like 160 lava tunnels on the island, a reflection of the extreme volcanic activity in the island's past. Manjang-gul cave is one such set of lava tunnels.

    I basically take the same buses to return to Gimnyeong. From there it's a bit tricky. Its just after 11 but the bus that will take me closer to the cave is almost 40 minutes away. And I would still have a 30 minute walk from there to the cave.

    So I look for a taxi, none to be found. I walk back to the beach and spy a taxi. He takes me to the cave for just over $5, which saves me an hour compared to the alternative. I buy a ticket to the cave and wander in.

    Fortunately the ceiling inside the cave is quite high so I don't need to duck or bend at any stage. It's a one km track through, which you then backtrack. There are good explanations (in English) of the various formations, including stalagmites, stalactites, toes and shelves.

    The cave is quite dimly lit so most of my photos are flash-enabled. The going is a little tricky at times with the lighting. Eventually I exit and head for a cafe. There's always time for a coffee.

    In the car park there are taxis waiting. They are the sharks of the road, slowly circling, looking for prey. I take one back to Gimnyeong bus stop. There is some time until the intercity bus arrives, giving me time to browse around a local temple. I have no information on this temple whatsoever.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

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