Our train from Busan to Seoul was straight forward. We collected the tickets we’d bought in advance from the ticket collection and went to the platform. We were about 40 minutes early but the train was there ready for us.
We had less time in Seoul than what we would’ve liked so we knew we had to make the most of our days in the city.
We stayed at an Airbnb which turned out to be a bit further out of the city than what we were expecting however there were many restaurants and shops nearby which helped. The place was clean and really warm. The couple we stayed with were so friendly and well travelled. They decided to go away for the weekend and leave us to look after the house but the evening before they left we had a great night talking and learning about each others cultures.
Day one was jam packed. It rained constantly but that didn’t stop us from checking out the sights! First on the agenda was Deoksugung Palace. The palace sits in between many western high rise building. The grounds are so peaceful and it was easy for us to forget about the chaos and traffic on the other side of the surrounding walls. After many name alterations as a result of changing residents and war it has finally settled on its current name meaning “palace of virtuous longevity”.
Next was Namsangol Hanok Village which was a great stop although the heavens fully opened for this part of our day out! Its a reconstruction of a traditional Korean Village. It has living quarters, kitchens, prayer rooms and temples. It was so interesting and a really enjoyable place to walk around and learn more about Korean traditions.
Due to the rain we decided to head in doors. The Trick Eye Museum was a great afternoon choice. After learning about so much history and culture it felt like a nice change and was really fun! The rooms are full of wall art which look 3-D. Great photo opportunities. There was also the freezing cold ice museum complete with ice slide, igloos, thrones Christmas themed ice sculptures.
Gyeongbokgung Palace was one of the top highlights for me in Seoul. We visited this Palace on our second day. Its name translates to “Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven”. The construction of the main palace started in 1395 with many more additions later added. There are so many palaces, halls, pavilions and gates it was the perfect way to spend a few hours. Plus we were lucky to see a changing of the guards precession which was great to watch.
The trip we did on our final day was one of the main reason we were keen to visit South Korea. A visit to the Demilitarized Zone. Due to the rocket being launched by North Korea we weren’t able to get to the border however the DMZ is 4 km wide and 250 km long with many points of interest in between. It was created by an agreement between North Korea, China and the United Nations in 1953 to create a cease fire line and a neutral place for both countries to meet. Our day there was so cold and started to snow, but it just added to the atmosphere of the day and the mystery surrounding North Korea.
On our trip we learnt about the history of the DMZ and why it was created. We visited the Third infiltration tunnel created by the North Koreans to access the south in order to attack. We also visited Dorasan train station with its international departure lounge ready in hope that north and south can unite and connect Korea over land to Europe. Finally we visited the Dora observatory where binoculars are used to look out to North Korea. It was fascinating and one of the most interesting history lessons I’ve ever had! I was also surprised to see so many souvenirs as well as chocolate and wine which the DMZ is famous for in Korea.
The DMZ tour was brilliant. We didn’t realise at the time that the trip landed on valentines day. Our lovely guide bought us all Choco Pie’s, a famous chocolate/marshmallow cake in Asia which were really tasty and something she was proud to share with us.
Korea was such a wonderful country. I didn’t really know what to expect but after spending time here I found it to be really modern and keen to move with the times. It has temples that can rival any part of Asia and a history just as eventful. There was so much to see and do that we couldn’t do it all however what we did experience was enough for us to go away satisfied. I’m so pleased we made it and will be talking about this visit for years to come.