My year in Korea is almost up and I don’t even know where the time has gone! In exactly two weeks I’ll be jetting off to Malaysia to start the biggest trip I have ever been on – no plane ticket home, and nothing but time.
The person responsible for putting these outlandish ideas of indefinite travel in my head is none other than my partner in crime, Sam, whom I coincidentally met only a month after arriving in Korea.
I certainly didn’t expect the year to turn out the way it has, and saying that I’m excited for what’s ahead would be an understatement!
Between the packing, cleaning, and downsizing, I recently came across a bucket list that I made before moving to Korea – things I wanted to do in this land that I knew so little about, and that is what this post is about. Of course, as the title suggests, I kind of forgot about this list and only recently ‘rediscovered’ it, so let’s see how many items I was able to check off:
– go to a noraebang with friends
Ahh, Korea’s version of karaoke… I got my first introduction to noraebang during one of my first weekends in town. I never thought I’d enjoy singing for a room full of people, but there’s something about being in Korea that makes it okay to grab a microphone and sing off-pitch while one person plays the tambourine, and someone else dances like a fool. So yes, I got my noraebang on.
– visit the five Grand Palaces in Seoul
I made it to two of the palaces: Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung, the latter which is home to the Secret Garden. After visiting the two main ones I realized that they look exactly the same, so I skipped out on the other three.
– explore Insadong’s artsy shops and coffee houses
Check and check! I shopped there, ate feasts in sit-down-on-the-ground restaurants, spent time in art galleries, listened to street performers, and also indulged in copious amounts of greasy but delicious street food.
– attend the Lotus Lantern Festival in May
Yes! This was by far one of my most memorable moments in the country. I got to visit Jogyesa Temple when it was covered in lanterns on the days leading up to the Lotus Lantern Festival, and the day itself did not disappoint. Monks, musicians, and dancers made their way through the city, but the highlight was getting to walk in the parade itself. A sweet Korean woman even gave me one of her lanterns so that I would have something to carry.
– hike one of the 37 mountains around Seoul
I sure hope Namsan counts because it’s the one and only hike I attempted! It’s not exactly the highest peak in the city, but it gives you a great bird’s eye view of Seoul. Plus I did it twice.
– attend the Cherry Blossom Festival in April
That didn’t happen. But I did get to see the cherry blossoms in bloom in my own neighbourhood!
– take a tour of Bukchon to see traditional Korean houses
Bukchon was a lot different than I expected. I ended up visiting the area on my own on two separate occasions, and while there are many hanok (traditional houses) in the neighbourhood, you can also find a 7 Eleven, modern boutiques, and coffee shops which take away from the traditional feel.
– visit the Boseong tea fields during the Green Tea Festival
I didn’t go during the Green Tea Festival, but I did visit the Boseong tea fields, TWICE! I went in April with two friends from work, and then again with the boy in September.
– snap some crazy shots in a Korean sticker booth
I couldn’t find one of those! I’m starting to think they are more of a Japanese thing and I was misinformed…
– walk and bike along the banks of the Cheonggyecheon
I didn’t bike along the shores of the Cheonggyecheon (I’m not even sure that’s allowed since the path isn’t that wide), but I did get to stroll along the shores of the Cheonggyecheon and bike along the Han River. I have to say, the best time to enjoy the Cheonggyecheon is in the springtime when they have festivals and colourful art installations for children (and grown-ups!) to enjoy.
– shop at Namdaemun: the oldest and largest traditional market in all of Korea
Oh boy! I sure spent a lot of time here, and this market is home to some pretty quirky finds. Padded underwear to enhance your derriere, anyone? Even better, a pair of socks with PSY doing his signature dance move. Yes, I’ll take a pair of those. Actually, make that two.
– take a tour to the DMZ
I thought I would want to go to the DMZ , but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do so. I just don’t see what there is to gain from going to the North-South Korean border and watching soldiers stare at each other with nothing but hatred towards the other. This one is just a personal choice, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out.
– get to know Yongin as it will be my home for the coming months
I did quite a bit around my city, especially when it comes to trying new restaurants, and I also visited the Korean Folk Village which is one of the main attractions in the city. So I am satisfied with that.
Was I successful in accomplishing everything on my bucket-list?
Maybe just over half of the items…
The thing with bucket lists is that you make a list of all these things you want to do, but then once you get to the country, you learn about all these other activities and attractions. All of a sudden your original list doesn’t seem quite as exciting. I may have neglect some of the items on my list, especially since I lost my list, but I did end up doing lots of other great things instead.