South Korea Winter Edition 2016

If you ha ve been following me on my Instagram account, you would have probably found your news feed spammed with my winter vacation photo...

If you have been following me on my Instagram account, you would have probably found your news feed spammed with my winter vacation photos during my trip to South Korea, again. If you had not known, I was in South Korea during summer as well.  Many of you thought that I was crazily obsessed with South Korea or its K-pop culture (of which I am not, obviously) while some even thought I was too rich to travel to the same country twice in a year! Neither of them are true, of course.


My summer vacation in South Korea was a self-planned graduation trip with my course mates, celebrating our freedom and friendship after four years in university. My second trip to this beautiful country was rather an unexpected one. Prior to spending my summer in South Korea, my family had already signed up a tour package to South Korea. 

Winter trip with family
The same pond at Gyeongbokgung that I visited last summer was now frozen!


Frankly, I was quite reluctant to go to the same country for the second time in a year, because I would have loved to explore other countries as I had covered most major places of attraction during my summer trip. On the bright side, I got to experience winter and saw a different version of South Korea. Besides, the tour focused more on visiting small towns in South Korea, of which I did not set foot in during my summer trip.

After experiencing both a self-planned trip and tour, I had mixed feelings about these two options. I managed to list down the pros and cons of going on a trip planned by a tour agency.

Pros on going by tour:
1. Everything was planned by the tour agency: from air tickets (includes in-flight meals & baggage check-in) to meals, accommodation, admission fees, and transportation. You do not need to worry or fuss about any difficulties or inconvenience arising from your travel planning.

2. We get to experience the luxury of spending our nights at five star hotels with wide selections at breakfast buffets every morning.


Grand Daegu, one of my favourite lodgings throughout my trip.

Missing the hotel breakfasts back in Korea

3. We had more opportunities to visit small towns located at the outskirts of major cities as transportation would be a little inconvenient for foreign tourists.

4. It was definitely less tiring, as we travelled by the tour bus instead of taking public transportation. Besides that, we were given more than enough time to rest as all programs halted after dinner time in the evening.

Cons on going by tour:
1. All activities in the itinerary are not amendable at your own preference. In addition, there were programs that did not favour my interests such as visiting museums and making DIY porcelain dolls.

2. Average time allocated for each location was around 30 mins to 1 hour. 1 hour was definitely not enough to cover every inch of a particular place of interest especially when an area has a lot to be explored and discovered.

3. Some restaurant suggestions were probably not the locals’ favourites. In fact, the whole restaurant was booked only for our tour group as we did not see many crowds in sight. Of course, the tour agency gets commission by introducing patrons to restaurants.

4. Expensive shopping spots. I was very disappointed with the shopping destinations they picked for us. Being in Seoul last summer had given me prior knowledge on getting the best deals and bargains in the city. Instead of bringing us to the popular shopping hot spots in Myeongdong, we were introduced to an outlet which houses several high end beauty products sold at exorbitant prices. In fact, almost all items were tripled charged! We did not even have the opportunity to visit Lotte Mart; the only departmental store we went to that was located near the airport in Incheon on our last day in South Korea. 

Being young and adventurous, I love the freedom of organising and customizing my travel itinerary according to my personal preference. Self-exploring is one of the ways of experiencing and blending into their local culture. More social interactions with the local folks can occur especially when we ask for directions.


Here are the highlights of the noteworthy destinations during my winter trip to South Korea. As for the several places that I have been to during summer, I will not be mentioning them again in this post. Do check out my summer vacation in South Korea here!


Busan


Oryukdo Sky Walk


During my previous trip to Busan, my coursemates and I did not visit the Oryukdo Sky Walk due to inconvenience and long travel duration, as it was located in the far east of Busan, unless you sign up for the Busan City Tour which includes Oryukdo Skywalk in their route. Oryukdo Skywalk acts as a dividing point between East Sea and the South Sea. The Skywalk was based on the “walking over the sky” concept.

The Skywalk was made up of a 15-m glass bridge consisting 24 glass plates connected by iron columns. Every one of the glass plates were coated with a bulletproof film, ensuring the safety of the structure. Donning the shoe covers they provided, we began our first steps on the skywalk. The bridge was unexpectedly short in reality as it looked reasonably long in Google images. As we trod lightly along the glass plates, we could see the glorious ocean waves splashing in beautiful patterns beneath us. The magnificent view of blue sea and clusters of big rocks with sun ray overlays were all there for us to see.


Address: 137, Oryukdo-ro, Nam-gu, Busan



 Busan Tower


This was my second time visiting this iconic landmark in Busan but it was my first time going up to the observatory. I let my imagination run wild and the reality disappointed me once again as I thought the observatory deck was huge or at least, had a rotating observatory. Through the glass window, we could see a panoramic view of Busan city. As I beheld the view of the concrete jungle before us, I could have never believed that Busan was the second-city of South Korea that was known to have a more laid back atmosphere. We also saw the busy ports surrounded by ferries and cargo ships.
 View from the observatory

I remembered that the Yongdusan Park was surrounded by luscious greenery last summer. After four months, most trees became bare of leaves.
Banana milk, a must-have beverage when you're in South Korea.




Address: 37-55, Yongdusan-gil, Jung-gu, Busan



Snapshots in Busan

Walking down the streets of Busan


 My favourite refreshing beverage, corn silk tea. I love how concentrated the tea tastes, and there was definitely no added sugar.



The remnants of autumn



 Daegu

Yeongnamnu Pavilion in Miryang


We stopped at this notable location in Miryang en route to Daegu. Yeongnamnu Pavilion, conferred with the title of National Treasure No. 147, is among the three great pavilions of Korea. The other two pavilions are Chokseoknu Pavilion of Jinju and Bubyeoknu Pavilion of Pyeongyang. This iconic place is loaded with centuries of history during the Goryeo and the Joseon dynasties.

I was more interested with the beautiful landscape painted with varying shades of autumn colours. The colours of leaves varied from fiery red, rusting-orange, and flaming yellow, creating a living masterpiece for us to relish.


 While some dried brown leaves were still attached to their branches in the beginning of winter, I got to experience the remnants of autumn. Ahead of us, there was a steep staircase consisting almost a hundred steps leading to the peak. There was not anything special at the peak, but along your way up, there were certain breathtaking spots for you to revel in its beauty and take some gorgeous pictures.

 That perfect maple leaf
My pretty aunt & I


Address: 324, Jungang-ro, Miryang-si, Gyeongsangnam-do

Daegu Dalseong Park

Oh deer!

Dalseong Park in Daegu is not like any other ordinary outdoor park. Apart from enjoying the serenity of the natural landscape, you can even find a zoo in this park! There were several animal species inhabiting this zoo including deer, peacocks, wolves, foxes, elephants, and even tigers. Some animals were unresponsive, probably because they were bored of entertaining humans. If you are curious about the history of Daegu, there is a Daegu History Museum in the park for you to explore. There were also monuments built in this park, where one of them was inscribed on with a poem of the famous poet Lee Sanghwa.

 As usual, I was more attracted to the mesmerizing autumn landscape. It was amazingly pleasant to saunter slowly down the pavement while appreciating the colours of autumn before all the brown leaves completely fell off from their branches. Basking in the cold winter, I took a deep breath of chilly air.



Address: 35, Dalseonggongwon-ro, Jung-gu, Daegu
Free admission


Andong

Byeongsanseowon Confucian Academy


I was anticipating a visit to this ancient school which was established by the Confucian scholars centuries ago. This academy was built in memory of Seong-nyong Yu, a famous and well-respected scholar known for his academic works. 

The Confucian Academy comprises several buildings built on the basis of traditional geomancy and Confucian principles. The view from the academy was truly fascinating. The majestic mountains stood high above us, shining with golden sunlight, creating a magical view. What an inspiring classroom window view!
 Those majestic mountains!
The sun shine gloriously upon the mountains
 Basking in the winter sunlight

Address: 30, Byeongsan-ri, Pungcheon-myeon, Andong-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do


Andong Hahoe Folk Village


We felt like we travelled back in time when we arrived at Andong Hahoe Folk Village. Upon our arrival, I was imagining the ancient villagers coming out to greet us. The Hahoe village serves as accomodation to the descendants of the Ryu clan of Pungsan. The Hahoe Folk Village resembled the Jeju Folk Village which I visited last summer. The buildings were similar in architecture, as well as the construction materials they used. However, there were probably differences in terms of the villagers’ lifestyles and cultures mainly due to geographical influence.
I wonder what berries are these
I was indulging in the serenity that I found from the quiet waters of Nakdong river flowing around Hahoe Village. Aside from the exquisite scenery that Hahoe Village offered, there were several points of attraction nearby Hahoe Village that were worth a visit such as Bongjeongsa Temple (built during the Silla Period), Gyemyeongsan Mountain Recreational Forest, Hakgasan Mountain Recreational Forest, Waryongsan Mountain, and the Hahoe Mask Museum. We only visited the mask museum which showcased all types of masks around the globe. It is definitely worth visiting especially for you arts and culture aficionados.

 Hahoe Mask Museum
A little snack from the deli at Hahoe Village 

Address: 40, Jongga-gil, Pungcheon-myeon, Andong-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do


Taebaek

Taebaek Special Forces Headquarters


Following the Korean hit drama, Descendants of the Sun (DOTS) which rose to popularity garnering millions of fans both locally and internationally, their notable shooting locations became tourist hot spots. This top Korean drama had contributed substantially to their local tourism industry and subsequently, their country’s economy especially when the DOTS heartthrob, Song Joong Ki endorsed a variety of South Korean brands and services. You can literally see Song Joong Ki(s) everywhere, even on a canned food label whenever you visit South Korea!
Taebaek Special Forces Headquarters provided the location for the military barracks in the drama. Apparently, this location appeared in a scene where an earthquake occurred and destroyed the power plants and barracks of the fictional country, Uruk. Being an American drama fanatic, the white snowy surroundings made me feel like I was on a journey to the north of the wall, like in one of those scenes in Game of Thrones.
 Loving the snow experience!

 Nevertheless, I was only interested in the snow experience! We finally got our hands on the white, icy fallen snowflakes covering the ground like a carpet. Without waiting any longer, we were seen engaging in snowball fights.

High 1 ski


We went to a ski resort in Taebaek, but the ski experience was rather expensive. It was around a few hundred for the total cost of ski equipment rental and admission fee to the ski arena. It was not worth it as we were only given 2 hours at maximum. Instead, we rode the gondola which offered us a bird’s-eye view of the entire ski arena. We could observe snowboarders and skiers looking like ants moving up and down the snowy slope.


 Inside the gondola

Address: 500, High1-gil, Gohan-eup, Jeongseon-gun, Gangwon-do


High Castle Resort


Among all the accommodations I stayed at throughout my trip, High Castle Resort brought me closest to nature. Despite being disconnected to internet connection, this minimalistic lodging offered the best balcony view. The picturesque scenery of the snowy mountain looked so surreal. It looked like a fairytale came to life. I could not get enough of basking in the magical moment.
 I woke up to this view for real!
Love this amazingly thick and creamy chocolate drink! Took a sip while looking at this beautiful view. This made the perfect breakfast combo ever!



Address: 202 High1-gil, Sabuk-eup, Jeongseon, Gangwon-do, South Korea



Notable Korean Food during my winter trip 

Palsaek Samgyeopsal


Grilling to perfection


Palsaek Samgyeopsal, directly translated as ‘eight coloured pork belly’, is served as fresh local pork belly meat seasoned with eight kinds of special sauces i.e. ginger, wine, ginseng, pine leaves, herbs, curry, soybean paste, and pepper paste. There were two selections of vegetables, which were lettuce and perilla, serving the purpose of wrapping the meat.

The hot plate was filled with succulent pork of different parts, grilled to perfection. The meat was very well-seasoned. 8 ingredients marinating the meat were definitely sufficient for that amazing taste! The meat portion was huge and beyond our stomach capacity. Overall, it was a great experience for us. In fact, we can relive our experience at Palsaik Korean BBQ, Mont Kiara. Apparently, it is a branch from the outlet in South Korea!


Address: 18, Baekbeom-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul


Korean Ginseng Chicken


Samgyetang (Korean Ginseng Chicken) is a totally must-have dish for winter. Although it is known as a summer dish as it cools down the body by causing sweating, the broiling broth kept me warm during this cold season. This dish consists of a whole young chicken stuffed with rice, Korean ginseng, and other herbs, and cooked in a broth. 
This dish was accompanied with insamju, Korean ginseng wine. You may take a sip of the wine before pouring the rest into the broth. The broth was beyond amazing. Warm sips of the broth was comforting during the winter. The wine in the broth accented the taste and essence of the chicken and spices. This winter comfort food should never be missed out in your itinerary.
 Enjoying my Samgyetang!

Imagining having gigantic displays of Korean ginseng next to you!

More of my favourite beverages from South Korea:

Not a fan of soju? Try the Korean rice wine then! No reason to dislike this.

This yogurt drink is definitely refreshing, giving you extra chills during winter!

DOTS behind the scenes visit.

Since our trip was mainly based on the Descendants of the Sun theme, here is a compilation of photos showing several shooting locations we went to in South Korea.

DOTS fans, remember this place?

Samtan Art Mine


Dalkom Coffee

 Chocolate drinks for all!
 Enjoying my cup of chocolate







That is all for the highlights of my South Korea [Winter Edition] trip! I hope all of you will benefit from my personal experiences visiting the same country in two different seasons. Also, I hope this blog post will provide some insights and ideas on going on a trip planned by yourself or by a tour agency. Hope to receive some feedback!

 If you have not notice, I am compounding medicine in a pharmacy!
Annyeong!









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3 comments

  1. Ahh wish I could be enjoying a cup of hot chocolate with a nice cold weather too. Enjoyed reading your blog. Hope you'd follow me back too!

    theofficialrebeldresser.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Awww, thanks for dropping by! Followed you back :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. i love your writing and photos! 😍 can i what camera you used and the price for the tour? 😊😆

    ReplyDelete