A true traveller knows what it means when one gets an opportunity to travel regardless its near or far. So this opportunity happened last month when I got a chance to travel to South Korea for my work. There was no second thought, obviously this was one of the countries in my bucket list although I’ll be honest I’d my own doubts 🤪. I took off on 9th of August via Singapore from Bangalore, India. Off course with the mixed feelings, after a long hour’s I landed on 10th of August in a beautiful Seoul City, South Korea. Since it was an official trip I had my hotel booked for me. All I had to do was grab a local taxi and head towards the Hotel. As I headed towards the hotel, I was taken aback by the cleanliness, nice broad roads the City had. It took almost two hours for me to reach there. Well, there was something I could relate to the city to Bangalore, and that was traffic 😂😂. One thing to mention is that Language is a quite a barrier in this country. I think it is better to learn some basic words in Korea so that it would be of some help or refer Google Translator which comes to your rescue. The Hotel booked was “Gangnam Artnouveau City 2” it was pretty decent, and what impressed me so much was the space they had utilized to convert a small space into Bedroom, Living, kitchen & washing area. Address: 49 Seocho-daero 74-gil, Seocho 2(i)-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea
My Stay @“Gangnam Artnouveau City 2”
Since I was jet-lagged all I did was took a quick shower and headed with another colleague of mine who’d come from China for a simple dinner and crashed right after.. I woke up to a beautiful day, had breakfast and headed to work. As I was driven to office on the way I managed to capture each and every little thing not literally by camera but by my eyes. Well, now came the bigger task, I was there as part of a Project, but the employees out there were so helpful and cooperative hence the work seemed much easier than I anticipated. Since this wasn’t a leisure trip, and the shortest trip abroad however the traveler in me let me explore quite a bit. Here are the places I managed to see during my first few days of my stay.
As I am a Vegetarian I find it really difficult to find food which doesn’t have meat in it, again for my rescue my colleague in Korea took me to this amazing restaurant called “Vegie Lovers” I simply loved the food, it was quite amazing, and the ambience is worth a visit. Mostly they serve Vegan Salads, Burgers and Juice, open from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. The location is quite difficult to find as it is nested away from the main streets. If anyone visiting Korea and are Vegan, you should definitely visit this restaurant, here is the address in Korean: 경기도 성남시 수정구 달래내로 27번길 26 Kakao id: 베지러버스_VEGGIE LOVERS
First few days of my trip was just work and all could visit was south korean eateries and have some of the local delicacies, Once such delicacy is the “Cold Noodles” which is also known as “naengmyeon” fortunately I could have the vegeterian version of it :). I am quite bad at using chopstick so stuck to fork & spoon. Naengmyeon is a Korean noodle dish of long and thin handmade noodles made from the flour and starch of various ingredients, including buckwheat, potato, sweet potato etc. I highly recommend to have this dish while in korea, This was rather surprise for me because I never knew that there exists something called as cold noodles.
For the first few days I was using taxi as the primary mode of transport and mostly you have two kinds of taxis, one which is black in color – Driver’s of the black color taxies can speak in english and hence it is quite easy to tell them where you need to be dropped – I felt the prices of the black color one’s are atleast 15% more than the regular ones. If you are boarding a regular one, make sure you have the destination address printed in korean or you have it in your phone to show them otherwise it is really difficult. However all taxis are foreigner friendly. After a few days of my stay, I started using the subway – I never knew it could be that easy. You just need to have subway map, T-Money card loaded, Know your destination – follow the subway map – Signs and station names are in English and korean, it is foreigner friendly and easy to use, it is close to 90% cheaper than commuting by Taxi’s. Other means of Transport are the Bus, I never used the Bus transport cause I tried to experiment and I found that most of the Bus stations dont have any information in English and from my collegues experience it looks like Bus drivers usually dont speak english and there are chances you miss your stop while trying to figuring it out – hence I avoided it completely.
Walk to Banpo Bridge
One day it happened that I returned from office quite early and didn’t know as how to kill time. So, thought of searching google to find some place of Interest close by to which I could walk, I am quite good at walking and can cover 10 to 15Kms on a Lazy day. To my surprise I found this place called “Banpo Bridge”, However please note that Google Map doesn’t work in Korea, it just guides you nearest Bus or Subway stations, you can use the local navigation app called Naver which works quite well. I used Naver app to reach the Banpo Bridge by walk but I took longer than usual as missed directions here and there as I was getting used to the app. Banpo Bridge, is where Moonlight Rainbow Show happens, it is a bridge that spans the Han River connecting the districts of Seocho and Yongsan. One important note on the Rainbow show – that it operates only between April till October, you can walk down to the Banpo Hangang Park located on the southern side of the Han River. I initially walked on top of bridge and later I realized I could have walked to the park to watch the rainbow show better, most people visit this park to see the Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain show. The bridge is a well-known tourist attraction and the longest fountain bridge in the world. Here are some of the captures while on the way to Banpo Bridge and at the Banpo Bridge.
By the time I returned to the hotel I was too exhausted and headed directly to sleep, another day well spent.
Seocho Walking Trail
Next day while I was rushing to the office, I saw the poster near the elevator related to walking trail close by, I thought of exploring it very next day early morning. I followed route on the poster into the “Seocho Walking Trail”, it was an excellent and peaceful walking trail with lot of fresh air and greenry and I loved it. I was happy that I was able explore this walking trail which was quite close to the hotel.
A short visit to Namdaemun Market
Namdaemun Market is large traditional market in Seoul, they say that it is one of oldest and largest market in Korea. Its quite big and very busy and there are chances you might get lost. I felt this is one of best place to taste various kinds of food, excellent street shopping experience – ideally you get everything here from clothes, bags, umbrella, souvenirs, home appliances, electronics and much more – open for bargaining. Here are some of the captures in and around Namdaemun.
Tour of DMZ
As the weekend was approaching, me and my collegue were thinking as what to do over the weekend and suddenly we came across number of borchures at the Hotel Lobby and we picked few of them, one thing which grabbed our attention was the DMZ tour. We immediately thought that we should not miss this and booked our tour for Saturday 11:00 am
At 11:00 am, the tour guide “Kim” was waiting for us in the Lobby and we were so fortunate that we were only 2 as part of the tour which gave us more time to spend with Kim, Kim was very enthusiatic and very fluent in English and he started explaining about the history, importance of DMZ, relationship between the countries, what people want etc, we got too engrosed with Korean History. It took 2 hours for us to reach the destination from our hotel. Now coming back to DMZ, DMZ is 4km wide 250km long buffer zone that seperates South Korea and North Korea since 1953, they say that it is the heavily guarded border in the world. Eventhough it seems like the most dreadful place in the world but continues to be a Major Tourist Attraction.
The first place to visit as part of the DMZ tour was Injingak Resort, this resort was built on the hopes that at someday unification of South and Korea would be a reality, it houses some of the important landmarks
- Unification board – which shows photos and documents of reality of North Korea.
- Mangbaedan Alter – According to our Guide Kim, koreans typically visit this place on new years day and thanksgiving to perform rites to their ancestors in North korea.
- Bridge of Freedom – This refers to the bridge which South Koreans crossed when they were released from North Korea, you will also be able to witness lot of ribbons tied to the fences which contains message of hope and peace
- Rusting DMZ Steam Train – One more attraction is the Rusting DMZ Steam Train Riddled With Bullets, it is the Symbol Of Korean War
Here are some of the captures
Next we headed to the third inflitration Tunnel/3rd Tunnel of Aggression – DMZ, no photographs allowed inside the tunnel. It is one of the 4 known tunnels which was dug by North Korea in order to invade South Korea, this tunnel seems to have the capacity to transport around 20000 – 30000 soldiers. you have 2 options to enter the tunnel – one by walking other via the rubber-tyred train. Walking is not that difficult but due the height of the tunnel most of time you would be bending which might strain you out but this has been one kind of experience for me as I never been inside any of the tunnels till date, we finished this tour quite quick and the next stop was to the Dora Observatory
Dora Observatory: This built on top of Mount Dora, you can have a closer look at the North Korea with the help Binoculars placed at the site, you can also look at the Peace Village and few called it as propoganda village which is currently abandoned and resembles a ghost town.
Next we headed to the final part of our tour which is the Dorasan Station, it is the northermost train stop on south korea’s railway line that connects North Korea to South Korea when peace is established between these two countries. You can find stamps here to commemorate your visit to the station. By this time we were completely exhausted and we were all set to return back to the hotel, we reached our hotel around 6:30 pm and we called it off for the day.
Finally time had come to say good bye to Seoul.There were so much to do and so less time, however I enjoyed every bit of my stay here, be it work or staying at my hotel room cooking food for myself and exploring all I could in few days. I am so grateful for this opportunity to explore Korea, meet some new people and stretch myself in new ways. Each time I travel I learn something new about myself and my life. This Country taught me “ No matter how broken bruised and destroyed you were once, you can always stand strong yet again”. Thank you Korea.