8 days in Seoul and Busan, South Korea (8-15 July 2016)

We recently embarked on a trip to South Korea, just the two of us, without adult supervision (well, we are adults already, what am I talking about) and made some of our most precious memories there, the kind that would never fade. But in case we can’t remember it as vividly anymore, here is it in all its detail.

Planning for this trip was not easy. There were times when hiring a tour guide, who would take care of everything seemed like it made more sense, but we longed for freedom to choose where we wish to go and what we wish to see. We would have none of that cold selling. Also, no jostling with 20 other people in the tour group for photos and treading down the beaten path.

Here’s our itinerary. Our original itinerary differed quite a bit – testament to the uncertainties that travel throws at you. As long as one keeps calm and stays adaptable, there will always be a way to rearrange your itinerary if you think carefully enough. Most importantly, what matters is having fun!

Day Morning Afternoon Night
1
  • Airport Limousine Bus to Sinchon
  • 24guesthouse Seoul Sinchon
2
  • Sinchon
  • Ewha Woman’s University
  • Edae
  • Thanks Nature Cafe
  • Hongdae
  • Hongdae Free Market
  • Seoul Station
  • K-Guesthouse Dongdaemun 1
  • Dongdaemun
  • Dongdaemun Design Plaza
3
  • Seoul Theme Garden
  • Seoul Land
  • Gureum Cafe
  • Banpo Bridge
  • Dongjak Bridge
4
  • KTX to Busan
  • Gamcheon Culture Village
  • BIFF Square
  • Best Western Haeundae Hotel
  • Gwangalli Beach
  • Mom’s Touch
5
  • Haeundae Beach
  • Dongbaek Island
  • Nurimaru APEC House
  • Haeundae Market
  • Busan Cinema Center
  • Shinsegae Centum City
  • KTX to Seoul
  • McDonalds’ Seoul Station
  • Star Hostel Insadong
  • Insadong
  • Ssamziegil
  • 7-Eleven Jongno 3-ga
6
  • Insadong
  • Poop Bread
  • Doo Guesthouse
  • Gyeongbokgung
  • Gwanghwamun Square
  • Samcheongdong
  • Cafe Bingbingbing
  • Bukchon Hanok Village
  • Mukshidonna
  • Songhyeondong
7
  • Hanbok experience at Doo Guesthouse
  • K-Pop Residence Myeongdong 1
  • Myeongdong Kyoja
  • Myeongdong
  • Namsan Cable Car
  • N Seoul Tower
8
  • Myeongdong Cathedral
  • Lotte Supermarket
  • Cheonggyecheon Stream
  • Yoogane
  • Artbox Edae
  • Hongdae
  • Myeongdong
  • AREX All-Stop Train to Incheon Airport

Now for some post-trip thoughts!

Many reckon that the best times to visit South Korea are during the autumn months of September to November, and March to May during spring. It’s true. Summer is either sweltering hot, or cloudy and rainy. If one must come only once, avoid the summer. Otherwise, it’s quite interesting to see the country at this time of the year and how its people try to cope with the weather. We’re now only two seasons away from seeing this country in all four seasons!

The next question is, why Seoul and Busan? They are the largest and second-largest cities in South Korea respectively, after all. We ruled out Jeju island because honestly, it’s quite tough to get around there without a car (and we’ve both been there before anyway). Furthermore, the best time to visit Busan, a coastal city, must be in the summer, right? We read that it’s a more relaxed city, compared to the hustle and bustle of Seoul, and thought it would offer us a different side to the country. And of course, Gamcheon Culture Village was what made us want to visit Busan in the first place.

South Korea as a destination is not known particularly for being affordable, but it can be cheap if you know where to look, and budget properly. We overshot our budget of $1200/person by a little probably because we didn’t keep an eye on it that much. The exchange rate doesn’t help either. It may seem like 1000 won = $1, but it’s actually closer to $1.20. That said, we were well below our accommodation and food budgets – we achieved that by staying mainly in guesthouses and eating cheaply.

I for one found out the importance of Hangeul literacy the painful way – Clara knew, and it made her time in South Korea infinitely easier. Had I known, I would have studied harder and arrived equipped with the new ability to decipher the ‘symbols’, enigmatic yet appearing at every turn.

Seoul’s subway system looks very complicated at first (see below) but we realised that we only needed to be familiar with lines 1-4 (dark blue, bright green, orange, light blue).

seoulmetro

The Busan Metro was even more straightforward given the places we visited. We only used lines 1 and 2 (orange and green) to get around.

busanmetro_en

Navigation was not exactly easy, but memorising the roads helped. We got lost sometimes, but never hopelessly lost. Always we found our way in the end. Google Maps helped a lot, so I would say Wi-Fi access is one of the most important things to have.

Anyway, South Korea was a really intriguing and amazing country (it is, after all, one of only two in the world still at war). We had a great time here, and saw many things. We will definitely, definitely be back!

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