My three years teaching in Korea were, to put it simply, amazing. My return to the States in November has made me reflect on my time in Korea, analyzing and reminiscing about every facet of my expat life. As a way to neatly conclude my blogging duties here, I'll be posting a three part series on these reflections. This first part is inspired by my recent posts about my favorite adventures of 2014, opening that topic up even more to become a list of my all-time favorite activities to do in Korea during my three years of living and teaching there -- ones that you absolutely cannot miss during your time abroad...
1. Temple Stay
Participating in a temple stay program was one of the earliest trips I took around Korea and still one of the coolest. There are tons of Buddhist temples in Korea that offer an assortment of temple stay programs, so you can easily shop around for one that suits your interests and time schedule. The program I did, which I highly recommend, was at Golgulsa. It was for two days and one night, and it included some awesome activities, such as a lesson in an ancient martial art called Sunmudo and having tea with a Buddhist monk.
2. Lantern Festival
Asia loves its lantern festivals and Korea is no exception. Within the Seoul area, there are two festivals of note: the Lotus Lantern Festival in the spring to celebrate Buddha's birthday and the Seoul Lantern Festival in November. Of those two, I prefer the Lotus Lantern Festival because not only are lanterns on display all over Seoul, but there are lots of cultural activities and a big parade. If you're in other areas of Korea, you'll easily find lanterns decorating Buddhist temples to celebrate Buddha's birthday, or you can attend some of the other famous lantern festivals, such as the Jinju Lantern Festival.
3. Island Getaway
There are tons of islands in Korea, and you would be remiss if you don't make time for an island trip. Long holiday weekends are excellent opportunities to visit Korea's larger, more famous islands, such as Jeju-do and Ulleung-do, but plenty of island weekend trips are available to you no matter where you are on the peninsula. If the greater Seoul area is accessible to you, head out to Muui-do or Ganghwa-do. If you're farther south, look into a trip to islands like Namhae or Geoje, two that I sadly have yet to visit.
4. Street Food Sampling
This one is easy to do while you're teaching and living abroad. Street food in Korea eating is huge, so indulge yourself when you walk past a cart and the wafting smell is impossible to resist. Not only will you find a wide variety of treats at these carts, but you'll also be happy to see that prices are ridiculously low. Popular areas of any city will have these carts popping up in the evening hours, but if you're ever looking for a more concentrated area, check out Insadong, Myeongdong, or Gwangjang Market.
5. Market Shopping
I came to really enjoy shopping in Korea, especially in the markets. From the open air markets that sell cheap (and fresh!) produce to the underground shopping centers that are great for cheap clothes, definitely explore what the markets in your area have to offer. You'll find these markets everywhere, so just keep your eyes peeled. Sometimes it takes a little patience to find what you're looking for, but the exploration is the fun part, right? Well, that and the price haggling.
Hiking in Korea is a national pastime. Even with a knee injury, I tried to hike as much as I could, enjoying an activity that the rest of the country seemingly loves. Korea is wonderfully mountainous, so you'll likely find a local mountain that's great for a quick morning hike. If you're feeling more adventurous, definitely try to hit up some of the more famous hikes around your city or around Korea. Traveling out to Seoraksan National Park is one trip I can't recommend enough, as well as various hikes within Seoul that offer amazing views of the city.
Next week, I'll be sharing information and advice that I wish I'd known when I first arrived in Korea, from how to manage your money to discount travel tips to a roundup of my blog entries about working for Chungdahm!
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 Songdo 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 and her Instagram for more of her adventures!