When you travel to a new country the ultimate idea is to immerse yourself into a new culture, “a new way of life”. When living and teaching in Korea it is easy to become comfortable doing your usual routine without experiencing any unique cultural opportunities right on your doorstep. This is why you should write-up a Korean Bucket List of things you would like to experience during your time in Korea to challenge yourself to complete them! Push yourself to be a little bit more adventurous and try-out the unique enlightening activities you would never be able to experience back home. These will become the most memorable ‘travel-moments’ you will remember for a lifetime. Below are some of the bucket list items I wrote down and have since completed:
Relax with some tea in a Hanok Village
You will fall in love with a Hanok Village after visiting it once. The little houses and relaxed atmosphere create a unique experience that will have you surely wanting to visit again! Tea houses are very popular in Korea and it is a great place to unwind and relax. Look for an authentic Korean tea house that has indoor floor-seating and a traditional style tea drinking menu. Such teas will include Senggangcha (Ginseng Tea), Yujacha (Citron Tea), Daechucha (Jujube Tea), Sujeonggwa (Persimmon Iced Tea) and Omijacha (Five Flavors Tea). You should also sample some traditional Korean desserts with your tea. These include Yakgwa (Korean Sweet Cakes), Hwagwaja (Flower Cakes), Hotteok (Red bean pancake) and Tteok (Rice Cakes).
Sing your heart out at Noraebang
Noraebang is probably the most distinctive thing to do in Korea. Koreans love Noraebang and if you end up at a Noraebang at all hours of the morning, there will be some kind of special social bonding that might take place among you and another room of merry Koreans! Noraebang is a Karaoke House that allows customers to rent private rooms for groups to sing, eat dried squid and drink beer and soju. There are thick books stacked with every song your heart desires, from English to Korean melodies. The room is equipped with two microphones, tambourines, and a flat screen TV.
There is even a disco ball that rotates and creates a party atmosphere. Going to Noraebang is what most Koreans do once they have finished eating and drinking, as it is considered inexpensive, costing about 7,000₩per person sharing.
Get your sauna on at a Jimjilbang
A Jimjilbang is the equivalent to a European bathhouse, except in Korea they are segregated according to gender. The Jimjilbang is the perfect place to go and relax and enjoy a different kind of sauna experience. They are usually furnished with hot tubs, showers, massage tables and saunas and individuals can usually choose to go in the daytime from 7 am till 7 pm or even stay overnight from 7 pm to 7 am.
There are sleeping rooms that give you the basic Korean-styled sleeping mats and head rests. Koreans usually spend the evening at a Jimjilbang if they are traveling out of town. They choose to stay at a Jimjilbang instead of a motel because, it is affordable, costing between 12,000₩ to 20,000₩ per timeslot.
Sheep, dogs, cats… try every kind of Themed Cafe
Korea has every kind of cafe imaginable. Whatever you prefer, it usually exists! Themed cafes are very popular in Korea, especially the dog cafes you can find in the Seoul district of Hongdae. The idea is to experience something unique while enjoying coffee and deserts. Korea has managed to make the cafe experience interesting and fun! Some kind of cafes you should try to visit are the Thanks Nature Sheep cafe, the Hello Kitty Cafe, Bau House Dog Cafe, the Lego Cafe, Blind Alley Cat Cafe, and Line Friends Cafe.
Get adventurous with a plate of Squirmy Seafood
Ever thought of eating your food alive, while it wriggles inside of your mouth? Yep, that’s the Korean fish experience, if you so choose. Sannakgji Hwe, as it is known in Korea, is a raw fish and seafood dish. It is for the adventurous eater who doesn't mind seeing their food squirming around on their plate such as Nakji, moving octopus tentacles or Gaebul, moving 'Sea Spoons'.
lf you travel down south, to Busan, there is a famous seafood market called Jagalchi Market. Here you can observe live and raw seafood in tanks followed by the store owner weighing your chosen item to eat. Afterwards, you can find a place to sit down while you wait for your Sannakgji Hwe that has been specially prepared for you. lf you are not feeling so adventurous you can order a side of sashimi to accompany the wriggling octopus tentacles.
I hope you enjoyed part 1 of my Korean bucket list blog. Be sure to check back in the coming weeks for part 2.
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information on teaching in Korea!