Tag Archives: South Korea

South Korea: How and What?

How to enjoy?

Lonely backpacker will be lonely.

So sad.

In my opinion you get the most out of South Korea when you go there with your friends or make some friends there and travel with them, you will be able to eat samgyopsal, go to noraebang and have more fun in all other ways. I traveled for two weeks alone and I think it was quite depressing (maybe because it was the winter?), many cities don’t have hostels where you could meet other foreigners and if they have there are not many westerners anyway, young Koreans can speak English but good or bad that varies greatly. I suggest you use CouchSurfing outside Seoul, Gyuongju and Pusan, this way you can get a precious chance to taste home made food and sneak a peak into Korean everyday life.

If you wonder what most of the foreigners do in South Korea the answer is they teach English or study. Most of the tourists and backpackers hang out within Seoul and mostly at Hongdae after sun sets. If you go to smaller cities you will feel everyone’s eyes on yourself, not many foreigners go there.

Korea is a pretty safe country and the people are honest. Though, in subways and on the street everyone will bump into you and it freaking hurts. During weekends drunk people will pee and throw up all over, sleep on the streets and just be drunk. See, it’s even safe to sleep on the streets, your wallet and phone won’t be stolen.

So what to bring?

One word

One item

This summer.

The bad smell will be beaten.

And you ready to smell good again?

Deodorant.

Coming soon to the backpacks.

DEODORANT, LOTS OF DEODORANT! I have heard about myths that they sell deodorant at some shops like Watsons but I have never seen it on the shelves. You can buy perfume anywhere. Maybe Koreans don’t sweat at all, must be that. DON’T FORGET DEODORANT!

If you are fat, I mean normal sized in the west bring clothes, mostly pants because in Korea normal is fat and skeleton is normal. Though, you can always find big sized clothes at Itaewon but I doubt you want to look like black rapper or alcoholic. If you are a skeleton congrats, you will be able to buy so many fancy clothes, yay! By the way, if you have boobs pack bras, if you don’t then there won’t be any problem.

Everything else can be bought in Korea.

But you need to pack something, right?

A trash bag because you know, there are no trash bins anywhere on the streets. Even if you go trough them with a loop, you won’t find even a shadow of a trash bin, not a trace, nothing. You know why? My friend had an answer, she said: “Koreans don’t create any trash so they don’t need trash bins.” Simple.

High heels, make up, designer bags, and your best clothes including all of your mini skirts. (guys too!) And of course, a mirror so you can look at yourself every 5 minutes.

Your smart phone. You can leave your old cellphone home, it won’t work there and even if it will you won’t be able to buy a sim card if you are just visiting, or you can but it might be way too difficult and annoying. Some foreign phones and sims work there though so if you are not scared of big bills then… If you have a smart phone it will be useful because you will be able to access Internet at least and use skype and kakao talk.

A big empty bag because you will end up buying too much and an empty stomach so you can eat as much as possible.

Money, hell yeah, you are gonna spend like crazy. It’s cheap but remember, you are gonna spend like crazy!

If you don’t want to use whitening creams you better bring all of what you need along.

What to buy?

Kimbab. The food of the poor.

I heart Korea t-shirt or other Korea related t-shirt, just because those are cheap and cool souvenirs. I brought one I heart Korea t shirt to all my Russian relatives and they love them. LoL

Hambok, a traditional Korean dress just because it’s so pretty. You will never use it for anything (maybe for rugs later) but still, it’s pretty. Go to Namdaemun and the big shopping center at the center, I think on the second (maybe third) floor you will be able to find a cheap little shop for a simple ordinary dresses.

Chocolates with seaweed fillings. Surprisingly good. They also sell delicious stone chocolates aka ugly m&m’s and choco pies (this is typical Korean snack, they also have with strawberry filling which is my personal favorite). Why you are at it buy some Gim, dried laver, it’s tasty.

Ginseng anything, should be very healthy!

Key chains, little silk purses, magnets, teddy bear key chains, wooden masks and fancy fans. + Every possible tourist shit there is.

SHOES! Especially some street at Gangnam (I’m such a good guide, just go there, some street, you will find it somehow) is full of shoe shops filled with branded shoes at cheap prices! At Dongdaemun you will be able to find a shoe market, maybe not the real stuff but very interesting and cheap.

An animal hoodie with ears, tails and other extras. Those are damn cute. I have one with wings sticking from the hood. If you wear one of those back at home they will think you are a crazy otaku or even weird larper, good luck.

Korean won boxers, got one pair for my dad and little brother. It’s funny, trust me.

Mountain climbing gear, there is a wast variety of products, anything you imagined about. Koreans love their mountains!

Make up and perfume, Korean stuff is famous around Asia. All sorts of facial masks and creams, shampoos and million things. Just remember that most of the masks and creams might have whitening effect.

Korean celebrity shits like little pillows, pencils, purses, posters, stickers, key chains, CDs, mugs, clocks, socks, t shirts, fans, umbrellas or anything made to please mad screaming fan girls and Japanese tourists. If you have a personal favorite always ask what they have to offer but if you are not familiar with Korean Showbiz just go for mugs with prints of boy band members hugging each other while dressed in pink and yellow.

Personal stamp because it seems cool while you are there but once you get home you will wonder why the heck did you buy it in the first place. Regrets, regrets. Still buy it.

Other stuff: tableware, cups for alcohol, pan for samgyopsal because by then you are probably so much in love with it you want to try cooking it at your house.

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South Korea: Why?

Korean 101
Pc – bang – Internet cafe
Noraebang – Karaoke
Jimjilbang – Public Sauna
Ahjumma – old woman
Ahjussi – old man
Samgyopsal – barbeque
kakao talk – Korean MSN

My mini guide for anyone who wants to go to South Korea.

Wondering if you should go?

Why not?

Why go to Korea?

If you like to paaa-arty!

There are three places, not the only places but biggest places for partying, in Seoul. Hongdae, Gangnam and Itaewon. Each has fairly different atmosphere and you better decide beforehand what do you want. If you want to go to a host club I am sure you can find them at all areas mentioned. If you want to smoke shisha you will have to look up a place in advance but in my opinion the one at Gangnam (there are prolly many but I only went to one and don’t remember the name, but if you end up in a place that seems I would be comfortable there then you have hit the jackpot) was the most comfortable.

Hongdae is a laid back restaurant/shopping/cafe/hangout for students place during the day and restaurant/shopping/bar/STUDENTS during the night. There are clubs, karaokes, bars and pubs. The streets are full of more or less drunk people and street performers so it’s always fun to hang out outside and make new friends. Also, if you have always dreamed about going to a Hello Kitty cafe there is one at Hongdae! Most of the cheap hostels are located around Hongdae as well so it’s convenient.

Gangnam is the classy area for fancy dates and expensive night clubs. At Hongdae bars are just next to each other but at Gangnam you must know the address and check on the Internet if there are any possible chances for you to get in any club for free otherwise pay yourself sick.

Itaewon is the place where all the foreigners hang out, the bars and foreign restaurants are lined next to each other, on the back there is a gay hill but it’s nothing special. Based on my experience the atmosphere is not very pleasant and there is a big chance to get into trouble, especially if you are drunk. Clubs are okay but more expensive than Hongdae, watch out for shady people. And anyway, nothing beats Hongdae’s friendly atmosphere.

And of course, there are bars anywhere, go where you are most comfortable. At Heukseouk dong (subway: heukseouk exit 3, once out make an u-turn, turn right at the traffic light and walk straight) there is an amazing cellar bar with everything you need for some jamming, drums and guitars. It’s tiny but the sound system is heavenly. And KABOOM, I remember the name The Zeppelin. The owner can’t speak English but his son or nephew or something can, he is Korean, has an afro hair and speaks real good English. Another  pub at Heukseouk dong is WOW house, they sell food too. And there is one other cellar bar, these all are actually cellar bars… Hmm, the owner is a photographer, he has photos of his clients on the wall! One night he gave us a lot of free beer and then took out his cameras and such, we spent one hour taking pictures because as models, we failed horribly and he was never satisfied. Once we came there with a watermelon, the  owner brought out a knife and cut it up for us. God bless him.

If you like Musicals.
Oh please, there is always one or two on running at all times around the year. I went to see only one because the tickets were a bit too expensive for my hobo budget, and they had English subs on the screen along with Korean and Japanese. You can book tickets online.

If you like to climb mountains.
There are mountains everywhere (and mountains of everything, haha, so lame) in Korea, a few around Seoul and accessible by subway or a city bus. Though the mountains are not very high they are still fairly challenging. If you avoid (like plague) peak times such as holidays and weekends there are not too many people and you will be able to enjoy yourself. If you hit the mounts during the peak time… you will see more people than trees. Watch out for ahjummas and ahjussis (old women and men), you will be left behind to bite the dust. The Koreans, I once went to climb a mountain with them. We literally ran up and came down super slowly. Sometimes I don’t get it.

If you like eating. (especially barbecue)
There are restaurants everywhere, look for the ones with the TV channel stickers on the wall or photos of TV programs, that means the restaurant has been featured on the TV and should offer you great food. Unless you go to Itaewon or Gangnam eating is cheap. I am sure there are apps for this because Koreans love their food (a few years ago they ran short on the cabbage they use for kimchi, dear god it was like one of the biggest national crises, second after the Korean war). If you go out with Koreans prepare to get hella drunk (inevitable) and participate in drinking games, it’s fun but might be hard if you don’t know Korean.

In many restaurant you will have to sit on the floor while eating  but you will get used to it fast. In Itaewon they usually give small chairs but probably if you use them you will look like a retarded idiot. Usually eating in Korea is a team sport and you better bring your team because if you go alone you won’t be able to taste many famous dishes. The food is good if you like spicy, meat or fish. For a vegetarian there is not much. And the best part is that most of the food is cooked at your table (I don’t mean the most of the food they sell to every table in the restaurant, just yours)

To find out about the most famous dishes just google this question and there will be million answers (ahem, KIMCHI anyone?). By the way, you better learn the names of the dishes because many restaurants don’t have English menus and the waitresses can’t speak English. So check out the food department online or from a guide book to have a full fledged experience. It’s even better if you learn the names/or write them down because then for sure you can order what you want or ask if they even have such food in that restaurant to begin with.

You can taste dog meat.

I heard it’s better to eat during the winter,

supposedly keeps you warm.

If you like shopping.
Seoul is all about shopping, Hongdae for affordable, Gangnam and Apgujeong for high end, Dongdaemun for anything, Namdaemun and Itaewon for souvenirs and touristy stuff + cheap but low quality clothes. Insa Dong for only souvenirs and small cute designer stuff from young Korean designers. Myeongdong and Shinchon for FASHION and hip! Yongsan Electronics Market for electronics, remember to bargain. Shopping malls for the rich and Internet shops for the poor.

Warning, if you don’t have an alien card you might not be able to buy a phone from a store, or if you manage to do that it might be hella expensive. You can always buy a phone on Internet but might never find out if it’s stolen or not (if you care about such things). If you have an alien card you know everything about the hell you have to go trough to just get a working phone and a sim card.

If you like to meet people and socialize.
Hell yeah, even though Koreans know how to be racist and rude they also know how to be great friends, the have the best sense of humor ever and know how to party! But if they get too drunk you will have to piggyback them home and they might vomit on you.

Especially around the places where the students hang out like Sichon and Hongdae you will be able to meet many friendly students. Or then Heoukseouk Dong at Chung Ang University, during warm autumn and spring evenings students hang out on the big wooden steps behind the main gate otherwise go for the bars and cafes. Just approach people and talk with them, you will be able make many new friends in (suitable situations).

If you like holidays on the beach.
Hot girls and handsome guys, kilometers of beaches, bar, seafood, sun, happiness, luxury hotels and cheap hostels, jimjilbang with a beautiful view on the sea, shopping and a few tourist sites. Head out for Pusan, that’s your city.

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