Our Top 10 Korean Experiences

Our Top 10 Korean Experiences:

10. Korean Pop Music Concert

KPOP. No one living in Korea can deny the catchy tunes. It didn’t take long before we were shamefully downloading the bodacious beats, dancing to them, and planning to go to a concert. We got tickets to the mother of all KPOP concerts. It turned out to be a 6 hour event with over 10 headlining artists. As everything in Korea, the concert was completely over the top. It was easily one of the biggest concert either of us have ever attended. 40,000 screaming teenagers surrounded the biggest stage imaginable, fireworks, lazer lights, all completed with artists zip lining to the stage from the roof of the stadium. Rhys and I were definitely polka dots at the concert. We were the only foreigners  in a sea of screaming teenagers. They never stopped screaming for 6 hours!

KPOP Concert

Rocking Out with 40,000 Screaming Teenagers!

9. Temple Stay

Korea offers tourists a very unique opportunity to live 1 day and night as a monk. I never realized how hard-core monks are! We woke up at 3:30am, completed 108 FULL bows, ate meals like a monk (eating EVERY last scrap of food), sat cross-legged for way too many hours, and even made a prayer necklace. The highlight was sitting in an old temple surrounded by faded paintings on the walls, the aroma of incense in the air while we chanted, bowed, and prayed alongside the temple’s monks. The temple was tucked away in Busan’s peaceful mountains allowing us to escape the chaos of the city below while listening to the rhythmic chants of Korea’s serene monks.

Korean Monk

Our Teacher for the Temple Stay

8. DMZ

The De-Militarised Zone between North & South Korea is a unique border of high tensions. We were fortunate enough to visit the DMZ on both the East & West ends of the peninsula, each offering a different view. On the West, the DMZ is a touristic affair with day trips from Seoul whipping you round the sites. It’s an intriguing day out & definitely worth a visit, despite the hordes of tourists! To the East the DMZ is very different. As well as the obvious tension along the border, the DMZ is also famous for its natural beauty. Untouched went to a military base in the middle of nowhere during winter. We could follow the DMZ’s barbwire fences over the snow-covered hills and for a rare peek at North Korea.

South Korea Tank

South Korean Tanks Patrolling the Border

7. Seonyudo Island

We went to Seonyudo in the middle of winter. Coats, gloves, scarves, and lots of layers. Seonyudo is a few small islands all in close proximity to each other and all connected with bridges. We spent our time on a motorbike cruising around the different islands trying our best to mix-in with the few locals living there. It was a great place to runaway too & probably even better in summer months when they bust out jet-skis!

Seonydo

Beaches & Snow on Seonydo

6. Hallasan

I’ve never been hiking so much in all my life since moving here. Every single weekend hundreds and hundreds of Koreans packing their hiking gear and take to the wilderness for the day. Korea is covered in green mountains thus making the country very unique. Huge cities dwell in  the valleys separating these various mountains. Korean hikes are perfect because they can be accomplished in one day, but are challenging enough so you feel rewarded for your efforts at the top. There’s no need to pack an overnight bag or tents, you get up and get down. The views at the top award hikers with green rolling mountains as far as the eye can see with big bustling cities lodged in between. Hallasan  tops our hiking list for novelty value (it’s the highest), the fact that it is an old volcano, and the summit offers great views of distant islands and the lake residing in the crater at the top.

Hallasan Crater Lake

Hallasan's Beautiful Crater Lake

5. Soju

Ask anyone what comes to mind when they hear ‘Korea’ and I guarantee the first word will be kimchi and the second will be soju. It’s more than just a drink, more than a shot of liquor, it’s a part of life. If I walk into any restaurant and take a look around every single table will have anywhere from 1-10 bottles of soju littered across it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a couple on a quiet date with each other or if it’s parents out with their kids for dinner. Add an extra 10 bottles to the table if it is a group of business men on a Tuesday night. The soju will be gleaming on the table in its shiny green bottle just waiting to run havoc. Thank God soju has never surfaced in America.  America’s college graduation statistics would drop 50%. A bottle costs $1.50. ONE DOLLAR AND 50 CENTS for a nice grand ol’ drunk followed by a killer headache in the morning. When we flew home we each smuggled 3 liters of the liquid poison back hidden away in our suitcases. My friends guzzled it down as I stood back giggling at the thought of their pounding heads in the morning. Men, women, older, younger no one can resist a night, dinner, or lunch without a shiny green bottle on the table!

Soju

Everyone loves the Soju Man & Free Give-a-ways!

4. Ice Fishing Festival

During Korea’s long and cold winter we spiced things up a bit and went to Korea’s mountainous Gangwon-do Province way up in the North. Every year the infamous Ice Fishing Festival is held for a couple of weeks in January. The festival takes place on… you guessed it, a huge frozen lake. Hundreds of people are bundled up battling the cold with fishing poles in hand hoping for some luck. Basically, I stood on the ice holding a cold pole for an hour shivering. After no luck using a fishing rod we upgraded (or downgraded?) and decided to be rough and rigid and use our bare hands. This meant getting in the subzero water. The festival was already prepared and waiting for us to take the plunge. They had changing rooms, a change of clothes, sauna, and filled a swimming hole with trout waiting to be caught. We were marched out onto the ice in our bare feet in shorts and a t-shirt. I felt like I was in the arctic tundra, simply walking on the ice caused piercing pains in my feet. Then the big countdown 5-4-3-2..1! JUMP! My entire body ached, 1,000 needles piercing every inch of my skin, my only thought was, “GET me the *@#$ OUT of HERE!” Grab fish? Yea right. In a matter of minutes my legs were frozen. I actually had to think left, right, left, right to make them move. Thankfully, the sauna was waiting for us and all of our moans and screams when the boiling water touched our frozen feet. One guy in our group managed to battle the frigid waters and caught 3 fish. 1 in each hand and 1 in his mouth. I guess some people are just that crazy!

Ice Fishing

Sledding, Fishing, Skating, & Jumping in Frozen Lakes...!

3. Norebang [karaoke room]

The perfect night out in Korea starts with a big Korean-style barbecue,  mix-in a lot of alcohol, and end the night in a karaoke room. I think it’s appropriate to say most Koreans are fairly quiet and shy people. They don’t want to talk too much or stand out in the crowd.  Which makes the whole norebang phenomenon here even more amazing. Nore means singing and bang means room, so Norebang translates to singing room. I don’t know a single foreigner in Korea who can say they haven’t had the pleasurable experience of being whisked off to norebang with their fellow teachers, vice principle, and principle in attendance. Question: would you ever get drunk with your bosses at home & then go out singing together?!? It’s simply not acceptable for most jobs. However, Koreans feel it is necessary to form strong bonds and if you try to back out from a night of drinking & singing, it might be considered offensive. Within the first month of moving here I was gliding across a norebang floor with Rhys’s principle singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ to me. The rest of the room cheered us on with tambourines and toasted us with shots of soju. Since our first norebang outings with our schools, it’s become a regular occurrence with our friends. So many nights here consist of dinner, drinks, and singing “Roxanne” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” until 4 in the morning.

norebang

Our friends & us rocking out to YMCA on stage at a karaoke competition!

2. Bungee Jumping

For obvious reasons this is definitely one of the highlights of our year. I still can’t believe I voluntarily jumped off a platform looking down at the ground over 200 feet away! The adrenaline rush and the unusual feeling of accomplishment definitely deserve a spot on our Top 10. We’ve even begun researching our next jump. Nepal has the second highest bungee in Asia! I still get goosebumps when I think about the ground rushing towards me as I helplessly spiraled down waiting for the rope to pull so life, feelings, and thoughts would return. It was incredible.

Bungee Jumping

1...2...3... FLY!

1. Tapsa Temple

Korea’s certainly not short on temples to visit. All of them have a certain ‘wow’ factor… but when you’ve visited over 25 they all start to blend together. The vivid teal and red colors start to amalgamate into one big temple visiting blob and it is easy to confuse one temple for a different one visited the week before. However, Tapsa is all on its own as far as temples are concerned. Tapsa was built in a small valley that separates two twin mountains. The mountains alone are a ravishing site to witness- making Tapsa all the more spectacular. The temple has an unbelievable collection of stone pagodas. Pagodas are huge piles of rocks teetered like a pyramid in perfect balance. The pagodas at Tapsa are a testament of what one man can accomplish on his own. Over 80 pagodas still stand tall today, some over 30 feet in height! A lone Buddhist Monk came to Tapsa  in 1885 and started constructing these invigorating sculptures. Over the next 30 years he made over 100 pagodas, laying each rock on his own accord with no tools or help. As Rhys and I took the brisk walk down to Tapsa I was expecting to see yet another Buddhist Temple, but as the forest cleared away and we caught our first glimpse of the bizarre structures…. it was clear. Tapsa is far from being categorized as any typical temple. It looks more like something broadcasted on The Discovery Channels, “Alien Encounters” TV show.

(Tapsa may have been slightly influenced into its number 1 place by a fighter jet pilot practicing his navigation skills. He was swiftly flying his fierce jet in between the twin mountains that tower high above the temple as we were walking back. VERY COOL.)

Tapsa Temple

Auora of Divinty at Tapsa

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Annual Mask Dance Festival
  • Seokbulsa Temple – One of Busan’s hidden gems
  • Seongsang Illchubong- A beautiful green volcanic crater on Jeju Island
  • Visiting a Temple on Buddha’s Birthday
  • Skiing at YongPyong Resort
  • Traditional Dinner at a Korean’s Home with their family
  • Zooming around the sidewalks and side streets on our Batman Bike
Comments
No Responses to “Our Top 10 Korean Experiences”
  1. Mike says:

    What a great trip! I will have to put Korea on the list.

    Thanks for sharing

    Mike

    • Nicky says:

      Thanks! & yes Korea is a fantastic place to visit, it was so hard to leave after our year working there. The people, food, temples, and cities are too good to be true at times!

  2. Celeste says:

    Hey thanks for the great info! I am thinking of teaching abroad and am looking for any information I can get from people who have experienced it. I will be bringing my daughter with me so I need to make sure its a very safe situation. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!

    • Nicky says:

      I met a few families teaching in Korea who brought their children with them. It is a fantastic country, one of the safest places in the world. The language barrier can be very trying and difficult at times, but life in Seoul offers ALL the comforts of home. DO IT!

  3. Ryan Kim says:

    Hope all your memories in Korea were great for you 🙂

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