CONTRIBUTED BY JANVIKA SHAH
- Unless you plan on living in Korea for a lifetime, you are there for a limited amount of time and should take advantage of seeing the country, because who knows when you’ll ever come back. Regret is one of the worst feelings… and among the most difficult to overcome.
- Korea has 16 national parks with mountains, four with coastlines and one with a considerable amount of paramount history. Covering a mere 3.9% of the country, the parks are sacred space and very well protected by the Republic of Korea. These parks are absolutely stunning throughout the various seasons and the natural wonders provide a nice contrast to the rigidity of the urban landscape.
- Korean people are quite friendly and love to practice their English. I’ve been approached a few times by different people; one time, a Korean family who I met on a hike even invited me out for lunch.
- You don’t need a car! You can take subways, express buses, local buses, trains and planes to almost every single destination.
- In other countries, you may get sneered at for being overindulgent in selfies. However, in the land of the ‘selfie-stick’, there is no shame and you can take a hundreds of photos to get that perfect shot before you are judged.
- Historically, humans were explorers. It’s innate in our beings; however, it’s also easy to get stuck into a routine or comfort zone and start fearing the world outside. Once you break through those personal boundaries, you’ll glow with new confidence and feel refreshed enough to return to your routine with full vigor.
- Korea has 11 UNESCO World Heritage Cultural sites and one UNESCO World Heritage Natural site. The cultural sites include Jongmyo Shrine (1995); Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks (1995); Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple (1995); Hwaseong Fortress (1997); Changdeokgung Palace Complex (1997); Gyeongju Historic Areas (2000); Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites (2000); Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty (2009); and, finally, Historic Villages of Korea: Hahoe and Yangdong (2010); Namhansanseong Fortress (2014); Baekje Historic Areas (2015). Jeju Island was listed in 2007 as a natural heritage site based on its geological and ecological value.
- Touring the country gives you a better idea, sense, and understanding of what the Korean people have experienced. Visiting the DMZ on USO’s Kooridor Tour allowed me to truly feel the testy relations between North and South Korea as well as get a sense for how many times South Korea has been invaded by foreign nations.
- When traveling throughout Korea, you don’t need to pack or plan for much food ahead of time. The convenience stores sell Kimbap, the seaweed-wrapped rice rolls, various snacks and drinks. In addition, there are several stands with hot snacks and treats virtually near any subway stop.
- You can practice your Korean! You should bring a phrasebook or a smartphone with a Korean dictionary or language app. There’s no better practice than actually using the language. Test it out on locals and who knows, you’ll probably receive smiles and reinforcing nods in return. While waiting for a bus or on a long train ride, you can practice reading, speaking and translating the signs.
Here are some helpful links for planning travel. On a side note, if you Google a particular place, you will most like encounter someone’s personal blog with specific directions to a destination. We recommend checking here on Korea Ye, too, since we’ve got hundreds of posts with information about where to go and what to do… and how to get there.