Okay, so first a little back story. In 10th grade, my friend (who is from South Korea), introduced me to a K-Drama called “Boys Over Flowers” and a K-Pop group known as Wonder Girls. I was reluctant at first because I didn’t want to bother with subtitles and what was the point of listening to music you can’t understand, right? Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. That drama and music got me hooked to the point Seoul has been my #1 travel destination for 10 years. And now, I am finally getting to cross that destination off the list (much to the happiness of my mom too so she can stop listening to me “whine” about wanting to go).
Since booking my trip, I have had one question every single person has asked me: “Why would you want to go to South Korea?” Honestly, I get a little upset when I get asked this question because the amazing scenery, culture, etc. often get overshadowed by other things on the news. So, I decided to make a list of the reasons South Korea should be on your travel list too!
1. The Street Food
If you haven’t noticed by now, I love my food. Any type, any way, any time, I can eat (seriously I don’t think I know what “full” is). Asian cuisine is by far my favorite with the range of variety mixed with vibrant and spicy flavors. I’ll choose some dumplings, ramen, kimchi, sushi, and Korean BBQ over pizza, french fries, and tacos any day. Korea’s street food scene is most likely one of the most popular things to try when visiting and you can bet I’ll be a regular during my trip. Foods on my “not leaving until I eat” list are: Tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), Pajeon (Korean pancake), Korean BBQ (bulgogi, galbi, etc), Hweori Gamja (tornado potato), Broiled/grilled eels, and all the desserts (especially steamed red bean buns). Basically, I’m returning about 20 pounds heavier 😀 .
2. The Palaces and History of the Joseon Dynasty
Chances are if you know anything about Korean history or watched any K-dramas, you’ve heard of the Joseon Dynasty. Many of the historical dramas that air take place around a king during this time period. Their history goes back much further than the USA’s and it is based on a much different type of government (Joseon Dynasty was founded in 1392 and was the longest lasting Confucian dynasty until its end in 1910).
During the Joseon Dynasty, five palaces were built with the main one being Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁). Touring this palace is in my top 3 things I must do when I visit. According to the official website, it’s only 3,000KRW ($2.82) to enter and spend the day. While Gyeongbokgung has undergone some restoration, the architecture and elaborateness is sure to not disappoint. I’m hoping I will get the chance to see the changing of the guards as well! The other four of the Five Grand Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty include Changdeokgung (창덕궁), Changgyeonggung (창경궁), Deoksugung (덕수궁), and Gyeonghuigung (경희궁).
3. The Culture
Hanboks, K-Pop, fashion, beauty, and technology are all things that South Korea is arguably one of the top influencers of in the world. And, all my personal favorite things too. I’ve been a die-hard, loyal Samsung user since the very first Galaxy smart phone was released (go ahead Apple folks, call me crazy). Combine that with the fastest internet in the world and I’m going to be in tech heaven.
However, my favorite thing about Korean culture is the language and mannerisms. It’s so vastly different from our own. the respect of elders is one of the most important things to grasp, so much so, you have to change basically every sentence you speak to an elder to show respect. The traditional dress, hanbok, is also so beautiful and typically worn for semi-formal/formal traditional festivals and celebrations. I’m hoping my friend and I will have the chance to do a traditional tea where we get to wear hanboks.
4. The Shopping
If you’ve been to my blog before, it’s pretty clear I love me some K-beauty and skin care. So, I’ve already planned on bringing an extra bag (or two) to bring back an atrocious amount of products to try out. Many products are much more expensive here with the shipping costs. I’m hoping to pick up some Huxley, Innisfree, Dr. Jart, and Pony Effect.
I’ve noticed that South Korea is typically about a year ahead of the US in terms of fashion. Whatever was popular and trendy on the runways this time last year in Korea, is just now hitting the runways here for the most part. Personally, I gravitate towards the comfy/edgy street style rather than cute and preppy. And, South Korea is known for some of the best street wear there is. I’ll definitely be hitting up the Adidas Originals store (if only they’d sponsor me 😀 ), Ader Error, StyleNanda, Gentle Monster and many others. I can already see the damage to my bank account now.
5. The Cafes
One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is to find a cute cafe (not a chain like Starbucks) with my laptop and write and drink coffee. Asia (particularly South Korea and Japan) is known for having small, charming, individualist, sometimes themed cafes. And I am here for it! I know there is no way I’m going to be able to visit all of the ones I want, but I find comfort knowing I will never be without my afternoon coffee and dessert while in Seoul.
Just to name a few of the more popular themed cafes are the Line Friends, Kakao Friends, the Poop Emoji Cafe (yes, I’m serious), and Hello Kitty. The Line and Kakao Friends cafes are a must for me since they are in the flagship store so I can buy merchandise as well! Other popular cafes I’m planning on trying to make it to are ones recommended by Joan Kim on her JoanDay YouTube channel. If you’re interested in sights and everyday life in Seoul, I highly recommend watching her videos HERE. She’s awesome.
6. The Scenery and Landscape
When you mention Seoul, beautiful scenery is probably not the first thing to pop in your head. However, there is plenty of it right in the main city without ever traveling out to the mountains, Busan, or Jeju Island (I’ll get to these places one day!). I’m most excited about walking to the top of Bukchon Hanok Village which overlooks a view of the city.
The Lotte Tower is a 123 floor building (5th tallest in the world) that is open to the public to venture into to get pictures of Seoul. There is also a tower called Namsan Tower or N Seoul Tower that you can reach by taking a cable car up Mt. Namsan, so you can bet there will be great views from this area too. All of these locations are so popular that many dramas are filmed here, so they’re picture-worthy locations that are a must visit for me.
Whew…that ended up being a much longer post than I originally expected. If you have any recommendations on where to go, eat, or see, please let me know! I love hearing everyone’s opinions.