My adventure to Gyeongbukgung Palace was well over a month ago and with the helter-skelter that has been my work life as of late, I have seriously neglected to put anything up. For those of you who have followed me thus far, sorry, I swear I haven’t dropped off the face of the planet! Anyway, back to the important stuff!
On one of my many adventures to Seoul I decided that I need to go back to Gyeongbukgung Palace and take in all that I saw when I first arrived to Korea in February, though this time I was going to do it in STYLE! Enter the Hanbok, Korea’s traditional clothing, and its insane affordability (renting of course). With my two close friends and a camera, we decided to end our time in Seoul by stopping at one of the many rental shops and renting hanbok to walk around the palace. For 2 hours it will only set you back 10,000~20,000 won ($10-20) or for a day only 25,000~30,000 ($25-30)! I don’t have a specific shop recommendation as there are over 20 all in a small area offering the same type of deals.
Travel Tip: If you wear hanbok to a palace in Korea (in most cases), you DO NOT need to pay an entry fee. It is more than the entry fee, yes, but it 100% worth it! (If you dont believe me check out these pictures!)
History Time: Gyeongbukgung, built in 1395, is also know as the Northern Palace because its location is furthest north when compared to the neighboring palaces of Changdeokgung (Eastern Palace) and Gyeonghuigung (Western Palace) Palace. Gyeongbokgung Palace the largest of all five palaces and considered by many to an example of the building found during the Joseon Dynasty and as such the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion and Hyangwonjeong Pond have remained mostly intact since all of the palace buildings were restored under the leadership of Heungseondaewongun during the reign of King Gojong (1852-1919) following the Imjin War (Japanese Invasions, 1592-1598).
Living in Korea means that I can explore these places of cultural heritage and learn more about the country I am falling in love with more every day!
One of my dreams growing up was to go to the Olympics and see the USA win a gold medal, and while I didn’t get to see a gold medal match I did get the opportunity to watch the US Men’s Hockey team take on Slovakia (and win I might add). There is something surreal about being in another country and watching your homeland team compete, especially when you know that you won’t be going back to your country for a while longer. It becomes a sort of home away from home when your countrymen and women are by you cheering your team on to victory and there is nothing sweeter.
For those of you who may be coming to the Olympics later on, here are some tips on how to make the most of your time! I can only speak from the commute from Seoul to Pyeongchang, so keep that in mind. There are several ways to get to the Olympics from Seoul and they all vary in price and time. The fastest and most expensive option is Korea’s special Olympic KTX train (bullet train) and it will take you roughly an hour to get there and set you back anywhere from 180-145USD as it appears you can only buy a 5 day or 7 day pass. It is a good option if you plan on going more than one day AND you plan on commuting. Another train option is the Mugunghwa (the regular train) which takes about 6 hours and only costs about 20USD. The next option is renting a car and driving the 2.5 hours there yourself and is not something I highly recommend. Why is that? Parking is limited at the event and if you are from the US you might find it hard as street names are in Korean. On to the bus options, you can take a bus to the event from many different companies and the best option is to google it and pick what fits your needs. I, however, took a free shuttle that took about 3 hours to get to Pyeongchang and didn’t cost me a thing! The service is called E-Bus and was pretty easy to use; there is a 2$ reservation fee per ticket that is refunded upon boarding the bus. Plus, they give you a free gift bag upon boarding the bus that had snacks and other little knick-knacks in it! Note to consider: the E-Bus drivers do not speak English so its best to learn some survival phrases if it concerns you or just follow the other passengers on the bus.
Another thing to consider is investing in a transportation card as you can pay for your rides on the subway, bus and even a taxi. Additionally, some cards can be used to buy things in the convenience stores! The cost to buy one can range between 2500-3000 Won and how much money you choose to put on it. You can reload these cards in the subway station and when you leave you can refund the amount that is on them. Pretty nice, right?
As always, good luck on your travels and enjoy the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics!
Every once in a while I think that is good to have a reflective piece rather than an experience piece. While some people only write about the bright and shining events in their travels, my goal is to address every aspect of moving abroad with sincerity and that includes the emotions.
As I have mention in a past post, I have always wanted to teach abroad, see the world, and have an “Eat, Pray, Love” type of experience. However, leaving people, security, and things behind is easier said than done as I can go from being excited as hell to thinking what am I going to do if I can’t talk to my family daily. It’s part of growing up, spreading your wings and leaving the nest, but it’s also a process.
Hours and Miles, comes from a realization that the only thing that separates me physically from my loves ones is the hour difference of living in different countries and the miles it takes to get to Korea. It DOES NOT, though, change any of the feelings I have for my loved ones so putting it in this perspective, life really won’t change!
So if you worry about the changes in life as you head off to new things, think, what really changes? Just the Hours and Miles!
With the Christmas season in swing and my last semester of university coming to an end, I have neglected to post updates on the visa status and what the next 6 weeks will hold. To cut to the chase, I did receive my visa and I was all sorts of happy and wistful as I looked at it but I can say with certainty that I haven’t had a doubt about going on this journey. I’ve found inspiration at every corner and even in the most random of moments to light my way. However, there are the few questions that I think many soon to be ex-pats hear or will hear and I want to address some of those now.
For starters, I often hear, “Korea? Like North Korea?” which to no end makes me scratch my head in wonder and to which I usually reply sardonically, “Yes, that exact one except a bit more to the south.” Another thing is that in the US when you tell people you’re going to teach English abroad their first thought is that you are going to Spain, France or Italy (basically somewhere European) because even though it is foreign, you won’t necessarily feel out of place. So once I tell them, “No, I decided to teach in South Korea”, I inevitably get the follow up “Why?”.
If you have read my previous blog then you know why and I won’t bore you by repeating myself. However, I think the “why” is an important topic to mull over in making a decision to live outside your home country. That “why” needs to be something, a feeling or goal (etc), that can pull you up when you hit low points or when you need affirmation that you made the right choice to up and move.
With that in mind, I’ve begun to start to thinking about what I need to wrap up in the States and what I need to get ready to go. I, like many other people, am a notorious over-packer so before I leave I will make sure I make a list of all that I am taking. Once, I’ve been in Korea for a couple of months I can update everyone on what actually was a necessity and what was just my anxiety about being unprepared talking.
A couple of weeks ago, following the Paris trip, I was in London and looking forward to seeing all the historical sights and everything Harry Potter related. The primary purpose of this post is to outline some of the things I did but to also give other first time England travelers a bit of a head start.
Day one: Traveling from Paris was so much easier by train as it is easier to travel with wine in your suitcase and you don’t have to deal with all the misery that altitude has on your eardrums. The first day was just a quick walk around of sorts as I had an online final to take for school, bleh, but it was one of the most relaxing days of travel.
Travel tip: There is a chain of hotels called Premier Inn and they have a sub-chain called “the hub”. I would highly recommend checking them out as they are affordable AND they are close to London’s main attractions.
On the list of activities for the day was a stop at Westminster Abbey, the London Bridge, Tower of London, and the London Eye (now renamed Coca-Cola London Eye).
King’s Cross Station
Kings Cross Station
Tower of London
Indian food for dinner
Travel Tip: If you have apple pay on your phone you can scan your debit/credit card at the turnstile as you enter and exit the Underground you save a lot of money. This is because electronically it picks the best pay rate for all of your travel times throughout the day and compiles it into one payment on your card (at the end of the day). Some trains will also let you use this method!
On our second day we walked around, stopping to have a proper tea and scone, before heading to the showing of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2. If you are a Harry Potter fan this is a must see as it can only be described as enthralling, magically, and unparalleled. If you can’t make the play you can, however, check out the Warner Bros. Studio near London where all of the franchise was filmed! It will take a train (use apple pay) and a bus (2.50 round-trip) to get there but it is completely worth it. We went on our last day and it was an amazing way to end the trip! Between these days, we went to Oxford to check out the University as it is one of the oldest and I love academic stuff. Like many college towns, it has its own unique atmosphere and some of that has to do with the buildings, literature and history of the town itself but overall it should be one of the things to check off your bucket list.
Over Thanksgiving break from school I was lucky to be able to travel to France and England (next post) and it was a wonderful experience. While I have been to England before this was my first time in Paris and it was new and a different kind of challenge. I have been to Italy and England and I never felt a language barrier as I can speak both English and Italian. However, I have no good working knowledge of French so at times I felt overwhelmed and worried I wouldn’t be able to convey what I wanted to or with accuracy. Probably a good indicator of how much I’ll need to work on learning Korean before I head there!
Anyway, I took an overnight flight from the US to Paris and flew into CDG and arrived the following morning. The first day in Paris consisted of getting to our lodging and then finding a nice little coffee shop to consume some caffeine in order to make it through the day. The cafe was quaint and full of greenery and the most amazing quiche!
After a coffee and perusal of the city we went back to our hotel and took a brief nap as I am not the best at dealing with jet-lag. Following that we walked over to the Louvre, which on Friday nights is free to everyone after 6pm, to check out some of the amazing art as well as the building itself. It was a great way to end the start of my journey!