While living and teaching in Korea, I have experienced some fun but unique activities. I’ve already discussed my top 5 favorite places to go to in Seoul, which you can check out here, but in this blog I wanted to go over some more things to do. These are all activities that are a bit hard to find, or that might make others hesitant to try, but if given the opportunity I highly recommend trying out. They are also great date activities, but perfectly fine to do by yourself.
1. Ring Making
Korea has the biggest dating anniversaries at 100 days, 200 days, and 300 days. If you missed one of these important dates, but didn’t know it, you might want to look into getting something for your Korean significant other. The most common gift to get at 100 days is couple rings. If you have a Korean girlfriend, you might want to just get a gift without asking, because the culture is to say "no" even though it is wanted. In choosing which rings to get, you have options. You can either buy the couple rings outright, or you can get the experience of making each other’s rings, which is a very fun experience.
If you’re not in a dating relationship but just want to try something new, that is perfectly fine too! I found ring making to be so entertaining that I have actually made 5 different rings and only once was it with my girlfriend. I’m not sure what made it so satisfying to me, but making something so intricate with my own hands, shaping it, and then polishing it was such a good feeling. My girlfriend has three of them, and I have our couple ring plus one that is a little smaller because my hand shrinks in winter time.
The ring making process takes several hours. First, you have to size the ring. Depending on where you go, this can take a long time, or a very short time because of the different methods. The first time I went, we had to hit the ring against a pole until it widened to match the size of our fingers. However, the second time I went, they simply formed the ring around the pole to match for me. I found that there was no difference in quality, only the amount of time I spent. The rest of the time is used grinding, shaping, and polishing the ring. First you have to grind the ring by hand. This is one of the most important steps because if you don’t have the design you want completely it will take a lot more time and be less precise in the next steps. It’s also important because if you take too much off, you can’t get it back. The next step is the most fun. This involves shaping the ring, and then polishing it. This is when it begins to look really nice, and you can decide how round or flat you want the ring to be. Personally, I love detail and I am a perfectionist in theory. Overall, it took around 3 to 4 hours to complete everything.
To find a ring making shop, there are quite a few around Hongdae, however they can be found in many different locations. The one I originally went to was in Hongdae, however I found that there were two right across from each other in Ilsan as well. The word for ring is banji, while the word for making is mandele. So, if you see these words together it is a ring making shop. You can check out how to find a shop and general cost right here. That’s where I first went with my girlfriend at our 100 days. They have a lot of different options, so consider what you want first. The one thing you need to know though is that most shops will take what you make, and turn it into something else at the very end. They are trying to give it the final touches, but at the same time it loses its feeling of originality. So, if you don’t like it, be straightforward and tell them not to change it.
2. Massage Chair
While teaching is a great job, and I love it, standing through class and looking down at small children can hurt my muscles. When this occurs, I get really tense and absolutely need a massage. Luckily, Korea has these great cafes where they have chair massages for only around $12 per hour. They are excellent! I like to get them and take a nap. I wake up feeling relaxed, happy, and ready to go! The chairs are usually the high-end massage chairs. Some even come with a massage headset. At the end of the massage, you can go to the cafe part and have a nice hot tea. Overall this is an excellent experience.
The massage chair cafes are becoming quite popular, and you can find them easily. Usually, there are a lot of signs for massage chair cafes, so find the sign and the cafe should be nearby. A lot of them have the word massage chair or healing cafe.
The most exciting experience I have had in Korea was probably paragliding. Getting to go up in the air was both fun and scary, which is exactly how it should be. The trip to the paragliding site itself was great as well. My co-workers and I went to the Hongdae area and stayed the night in a large shared room. Then we woke up early and made our way to a huge bus. On the way to the site we talked and met with a lot of different people. It was a great way to meet new people who loved adventuring and trying new things. Once we got the paragliding site, we had a bit of a hike. It was nice to get to stretch our legs before having a go at it. For myself, I was actually the first one to have good luck. It felt like I had flown up quite high. The man below was telling me what to do with my arms, and I landed safely. I had several chances to go up later, but decided to let my friends have an extra turn instead. I took a lot of great pictures and had an excellent experience.
To find a group to go with, you can check out this link. I definitely know there are groups on Facebook that go as well. Before you sign up, realize that there are two ways to go. The way that I went was by myself, but we didn’t go that high up. The other way is tandem, where you are strapped into the chute with an instructor. For those, it seems like you can go much higher up, and it is probably a bit safer. Whatever you do, make sure that you try your best to listen to the instructor, and be safe!
Neil Frazer has been teaching with Chungdahm for a little over two years. He comes from a small town in Wisconsin, named Spooner and graduated from Olivet Nazarene University with a Bachelor's of Social Work. After traveling to Korea in college he quickly fell in love the culture, food, and quality of life that Korea has to offer and immediately knew he wanted to come back. He looks forward to sharing his experiences of living in Korea and working at the Pyeongchon branch, near Seoul.