While it may not seem like years have passed since I first arrived in Korea, I'm officially facing the beginning of the end. My departure is still months away, but definitely in sight. By the end of this year, I will be gone. As the calendar flipped over to 2014, I suddenly started remembering all the things I've yet to see in this beautiful country! Here's what I'm looking forward to crossing off my Korea Bucket List before I leave...
1. Summertime trip to Jeju
I recently took a trip to beautiful Jeju Island, but, unfortunately, it wasn't exactly prime beach weather. While still gorgeous (and with weather far preferable to the peninsulas), January does not equal swimming season.
Instead, I looked longingly at the turquoise water and silently promised the island that I would be back.
2. Boseong Green Tea Plantation
I can't wait to check this one off of my list -- the photos I've seen of the green tea fields make it almost look unreal.
I'm not the biggest green tea fan, but I also haven't decided that I hate it. I figure a trip to Korea's famous green tea fields will be the final test.
3. Hike Seoraksan
As soon as the weather warms up, I'm going to start building up my hiking stamina. Seoraksan looks absolutely gorgeous (check out the photos from that old Aclipse blog!), from the hiking trails to the national park itself.
I'm hoping I can actually do this one in the fall because everyone tells me it's the most stunning when you can catch the leaves changing colors.
4. Weekend stay on Nami Island
I went to Nami Island for a day last year and I loved it. However, since it was my first time there, I didn't come prepared to fully experience everything the island has to offer! Next time, I want to book a room in one of the pensions on the island, bring a swimsuit, and go crazy! There's zip lining! And tubing!
5. Bicycle around Gyeongju
Gyeongju is often referred to as Korea's "outdoor museum" and I'm already planning a trip there for the spring. Gyeongju was the capital of the Silla Kingdom, so tons of historical sites and relics were left behind. Temples, tombs, parks, a grotto... several of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. I'm really looking forward to bicycling my way from one site to the next and learning more about Korea's history.
One key spot to visit in Gyeongju is definitely Bulguksa. This temple was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, it houses seven of the National Treasures of South Korea, and it's currently a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. Sounds neat, right?
6. Eat live octopus!
Not a whole octopus, because that just freaks me out, but more along the lines of what Cindy did in this Aclipse video blog from last year. It looks borderline terrifying, but also fun? I already know that I won't try some of Korea's other delicacies (like dog or bbunddaegi), so I figure I can give this one a go.
I'm thinking a trip to the Noryangjin Fish Market is in order. Anyone want to join me?!
Information: Korea Tourism Organization (for Noryangjin) website
7. Cherry blossom festival
Every spring, the cherry blossom trees create beautiful canopies of white and pink flowers. My first spring in Korea was so-so for cherry blossoms, and last year I wasn't in the country, so I am absolutely determined to catch the trees in full bloom this year.
My research has told me that early April would be a good time to see the blossoms, and this year I'm hoping to travel to somewhere with an impressive display. I've got my eye on the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival, which is one of the largest in Korea.
Information: Korea Tourism Organization website from last year (2014 info isn't available yet, but this link is still helpful for estimating about when the trees usually bloom in each area.)
This might be a cop out for the last item on the list, but I figure I should open this up to suggestions!
What I've listed above is by no means my complete bucket list (that one is quite lengthy) -- for this entry I decided to just focus on some of the bigger to-do items.
Between studying Japanese and Asian culture in university and setting her sights on a teaching career, it came as no surprise when Zannah Smreker announced that she was moving to South Korea to teach for Chungdahm Learning. In November 2011, Zannah accepted a position through Aclipse with the Yeonsu branch in Incheon, just southwest of Seoul. When she's not teaching, she keeps herself busy with exploring Korea, eating all the street food, and hunting down strange Engrish shirts. Check out her blog here for more of her adventures!