Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Not really. I had such a great year teaching, traveling and having fun in Korea. I didn’t leave my heart behind completely, but it feels like something’s been missing since I left. Unlike many of my friends who went straight home after finishing their contracts, I decided to extend my time abroad and stay in the Philippines. I haven’t been home in over a year now, but I don’t feel ready to go back quite yet.

I’ve been thinking about Korea a lot lately – wondering at odd hours of the day what my friends must be doing (deskwarming, hanging out downtown, or drinking in any combination). Wondering if my students miss me or if their beloved Maria Teacher has been replaced ㅠ_ㅠ (I hope not!). Wondering what new cosmetics must be out. I could go on. Instead, I’ll make a list of things I miss from my life in the 대한민국.

Korea Miss List:

  • 제 친구들 – My friends!! I met so many great people and I miss seeing their goofy, drunken faces. Just kidding, we weren’t always drunk, right?
  • My co-teacher – She is such a great person. I miss her! Seriously, I was crying on the bus ride to the airport after she dropped me off ㅜ_ㅜ.
  • My students – I loved being a teacher. Not trying to gloss over the stress and frustration I often felt while teaching in Korea. But, my experience was overwhelmingly positive and most of that is thanks to my students.
  • Foods – Let me make a brief list: kimchi, samgyeopsal, samgyetang, kimchi jjiggae, doenjang jjiggae, Korean wings and fried chicken, bibimbap, freakin banchan, kimbap, rice cakes, ddoekbokki, street snacks
  • Egg Tarts – Not what Korea is famous for, but I always used to hang out at the egg tarts place with my pals after dinner.
  • Shopping – Because let’s face it, where did half of my salary go every month.
  • Cosmetics – There are so many and they’re so cheap! I’m also obsessed with cosmetics and Korea just made it worse.
  • K-pop – The soundtrack of my life in Korea. What’s new nowadays??
  • K-dramas – DUDE what’s new nowadays??
  • Nature – Never thought I’d say it. I kind of like nature now thanks to Korea.
  • 4 Seasons – I think it’s a nice concept.
  • Internet – I miss the high-speed internet!
  • Mobility – It’s pretty easy to travel in Korea. I can’t travel as easily here in the Philippines so I feel very limited.
  • Hair salons – I need a trim! I miss Ji-won at Serrano!
  • Korean – I miss hearing Korean! I feel like following around the Korean students I see here. I know, that is just creepy. I won’t do it 😛
  • Traveling – There was always somewhere new to see or return trips to Seoul or Busan. I felt like I could do anything I wanted at any moment.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things. I’m so glad that I took a chance and went to Korea. I learned so much and I have lots of great memories and stories to share with everyone when I finally return home.


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Indefinite Stopover

I took a one-way flight to the Philippines instead of going back home right away. Technically this isn’t a stopover since Manila was the final destination on my flight. But, I consider this part of the path that eventually leads me back home.

This is actually from my flight to Dumaguete 😛

Time flew by so quickly! It’s already been a month since I left Korea. I wasn’t sure what to do with my blog after I left, which is why I haven’t updated with new posts. Of course I wanted to keep it around as a kind of record of my adventures in Korea. But, I’m not sure how to continue this blog now that I’ve left.

I really appreciate all the comments from people who stop by to read the blog. Thank you!!!! I hope you have a great experience in Korea or have the opportunity to travel there sometime. Like I’ve said before, everyone has a unique experience – for better or for worse. I’d like to hear some of your stories from Korea.

I’m always available to answer questions if you want to contact me by leaving a comment. I’m sorry if I don’t respond to your comments or emails right away. Sometimes I don’t have time to respond quickly and the emails quickly get buried by random facebook updates. Have to disable those…

I’m not sure when I’ll be able to return to Korea, but I definitely plan on going back! Hopefully within the next couple years so I can say hi to my little first graders before they go off to high school. Aww, yeah I got attached.

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As a Southern Californian, I’m not accustomed to (reliable) public transport. Actually, I’m not accustomed to riding in something other than a car. One of the biggest changes for me was learning how to use public transportation and how to navigate it in Korean. My descriptions are overall pretty positive because I think that public transportation in Korea is relatively convenient and reliable. But I’ve experienced problems, as well.
  • City Buses – I have to admit, the first time I got onto the bus I was freakin scared. The bus starts moving before you even get on. I think the average time the bus stops at each stop is between 1-2 seconds. So once you’re on, brace yourself! It took me a while to get on the bus again because I didn’t want to fall on my ass. But, the buses are really convenient since there are only 2 subway lines in Daegu so they don’t cover many areas. They come about every 12-15 minutes. Also, it’s super easy to sleep on the bus. Somehow people here (myself included) wake up in time to catch their stop.


  • They usually announce the name of the stop in Korean and in English. FYI: This stop – it means the stop coming up. Next stop – it means two stops away.
  • In Seoul, you have to scan your card before you get off because it calculates the distance. Not the case in Daegu.
    UPDATE: As of February 2011, buses in Daegu now have card scanners for transfers.
  • Transfers are free! If you transfer between any combination of subway lines or buses within 1 hour (up to 3 transfers), then it will only charge you once. Unless you’re coming back the opposite way on the same line/bus. It’ll charge you again.
  • Intercity Buses – These buses make traveling in Korea that much easier. Most foreigners in Korea don’t own a vehicle, so taking the bus is a good option. In the major cities, there are buses that go everywhere. Some smaller cities aren’t accessible by train and sometimes the bus takes the same amount of time as the train to get somewhere. There are plenty of times to choose from and it’s easy to show up at the bus station to buy tickets on the same day you plan on traveling (unless it’s during a holiday). Bus tickets are pretty affordable. The price depends on the destination. It costs about 4,000won to get from Daegu to Gyeongju, but it costs about 12,000won to go to Jeonju and 23,800won to go to Seongnam.
  • Airport Buses – In Daegu, there are buses that go straight to Incheon, Gimpo and Gimhae airports. The bus drops off passengers right in front of the Departures terminal. It’s much more convenient than taking the train since the train stations are far from the airport. It’s also cheaper to take the airport bus than buying a train ticket. They load luggage on the bottom so you have plenty of room on the bus. Also, seats are reserved. Buying tickets in advance is highly recommended (up to 1 week in advance). The only downside is that the last bus going to Incheon leaves around 3pm, which isn’t very late.
  • Subways – Riding the subway makes me feel like a true urbanite. The subways in Daegu, Seoul, and Daejeon are relatively new, clean, reliable, and pretty speedy. I feel like the subway in Busan is slightly older and slower. But places are more spaced out in Busan so that could be the reason it feels slow.

Daegu's 2 lines

  • Navigating the subway system in Seoul is kind of a headache. I recommend learning how to use the subway map on your cell phone, or if you have an iPhone/iPod, download an app called Jihachul (only in Korean) that relieves you of the hassle of having to navigate the best route. Also, if you are telling someone what stop you need to go to, say it and spell it right!! Saying the line number and what exit to meet at are also very helpful.

    Seoul's bajillion lines


  • 무궁화 (slow train) – We like to call it the ‘slow train’ because it’s much, much slower than the KTX and it takes a windy route that stops every 10-15 minutes. It travels so slowly, I feel like I could drive faster in reverse. It also plays the “We will be arriving in _____” music really loudly. I took it twice to try to save money. Never again. I had to take it like 3 more times since other trains were sold out. Never say never.
  • KTX – By far, the best way to get from Daegu to Seoul. The KTX is fast, smooth, and usually on time. I’ve missed the train twice because they’re so on time (and I’m not). KTX is the most expensive form of public transportation, costs twice as much as the slow train, but it’s worth it for those long trips from Seoul to Busan.
  • KTX 1st Class – Costs 15,000won more than a standard ticket for a little more leg room and a little more silence.

Some useful tips:

  • Buy tickets early. Especially for the trains and airport buses. Especially during weekends and especially during holidays.
  • Plan on being there early. You might have trouble finding the bus or train or you might have a really slow cab driver. Things happen!
  • Discounts. Find 3 friends and buy the family seating tickets on the KTX. Even ifyou can only find 2 friends, it’s still cheaper for 3 people to buy family seating than to buy their own individual tickets. Family seating sells out earlier so plan accordingly.
  • Get a transit card. It beats having to buy a single ticket coin every time or digging for cheon won and some loose change. Each city has its own transit card that also provides a discount on the bus and subway. 
  • Check the websites. You can look for trains, intercity buses and city bus routes, etc. The info is out there somewhere! 
  • Have a map handy. Or at least try to memorize which direction you should be taking on the bus or subway.



  • Crowded. During rush hour, buses and subways get crazy packed. The pushing doesn’t help either.
  • Bad timing. I seem to have this problem when I’m in a hurry (Murphy’s Law??). Just missing the bus, subway, or train is the absolute worst.
  • It takes long. Sometimes the bus or subway just doesn’t cut it. Driving might be faster in some cases, when the roads aren’t too jammed. There are always taxis around.

I have to admit that recently I’ve been getting frustrated with the public transportation system. Having to wait so long for the bus (especially the express bus) I feel like I waste a lot of time just waiting. Even though I think public transportation is usually very good, I’d prefer to drive or at least have it as an option.

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Seoul Sights and City Lights

Wanted to get out of the ‘Gu for the week so we went to Seoul for some sightseeing adventures.

On Chuseok, the palaces waived the admission fee so we went to 3 of them in one afternoon. I have now officially been to all five of the grand palaces in Seoul!

First on our list was Deoksugung. Although Deoksugung is quite small compared to the other palaces, it’s worth a visit because it has an art museum and a large Western-style building where the king used to hang out. It’s difficult to take a picture without modern buildings in the background because it’s surrounded by tall buildings. Interesting juxtaposition!


Next, we went to Changdeokgung, “the palace of prospering virtue.” This palace is fairly large, but like the other palaces, only a fractions of the original structures survived after the Japanese invasion. Changdeokgung has also has a large garden, but it was closed the day we went.


We walked over next door to Changgyeonggung, which, I’m sorry, looked the same to me.


To end our lovely Chuseok holiday, we went up to Namsan Tower. We took a yellow bus (2 or 5) from Chungmuro Station up to Namsan Tower. You can also take a taxi up there, though it’s much harder to find one coming back down.

Locks as a symbol of eternal love, I guess?

I think the end of the day is a good time to go up to the tower to see the city all lit up. Unfortunately, it’s also quite crowded so be prepared to wait in line. Tickets to go up to the observatory cost 7,000won.

Just after sunset

You can spend as much time as you want in the observatory, I think. But it only takes a few minutes to walk around, take photos, and enjoy the view. It’s a little hard to get the pictures just right.

City lights

It was a great way to end our day and see the city that we spent the entire day wandering.

Han River?

Here are some helpful sites to check out if you’re interested in traveling in Seoul:

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Jeonju – Land of Bibimbap

Jeonju. Famous for bibimbap, historic buildings and Korean traditional paper. We took the 2.5 hour bus ride from Daegu early in the morning with my generous co-teacher as our guide.

Our first stop was lunch (of course) at a famous bibimbap restaurant. My co-teacher told me that the restaurant is famous because the woman who works there has a certificate from the government for making the special Jeonju bibimbap. The bibimbap was served in a brass bowl that clanged loudly when I mixed everything together with my brass spoon and chopsticks. The rice was boiled in a special broth mixture and was topped with various local vegetables.

Certifiably delicious!

I’m a big fan of bibimbap so I thought it was delicious! My co-teacher liked it as well, but she admitted that she couldn’t taste much of a difference. I really liked the texture of the rice (not mushy) and the crispness of the vegetables. Definitely a quality meal.

Later, we passed by the Pungnammun Gate but it was closed for renovation. It’s the last city gate that remains of the original four that surrounded the city.


After lunch, we went to the Gyeonggijeon Shrine to see the portraits of King Tae-jo, the founder of the Joseon dynasty, and his successors.

King Sejong??

Sorry I don't know which emperor he is

Next door was a model of traditional living quarters. The buildings and walls were built pretty low since the average height during the Joseon dynasty was smaller than it is today. Well, I felt right at home.

Traditional village building

Then we walked across the street to see the Jeondong Cathedral.

Went to church

Another special quality about Jeonju is the effort to preserve traditional architecture. Some residents purchased multiple lots in the Hanok Village to build their homes. The government provided some money to subsidize building costs to residents interested in remodeling their homes in the traditional style.

A view of the village

We walked around the Hanok Village, which has nicely paved streets and even a small stream running along the walkway. The shops and restaurants were themed and well-decorated. It was clear that a lot of time and money went into planning this place. It seems like the government invested a lot of money to create an almost idyllic environment to showcase the best of traditional Korean architecture.

Main street


Many of the homes are beautifully constructed with expensive, custom-made wooden gates and clay roof tiles. A few of the homes are open to the public.


A peek inside

Another traditional craft that we saw was 한지 hanji, which is Korean paper made from mulberry bark. It’s surprisingly versatile since it can be made into ties, clothing and even socks.

Ties made from paper

There are gift shops, museum exhibits and even rooms dedicated to showcasing this unique paper craft. An entire room full of paper. Beautiful but hazardously flammable.

Paper cutting designs

Making 한지

We had an enjoyable day walking around Jeonju. The highlight of our trip was eating bibimbap in the region where it originated. And seeing these cute babies wearing hanbok!

Ready for Chuseok

Have a great Chuseok holiday everyone!

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I did it. My first Korean concert! Thanks to some eagle-eyed friends of mine, I was able to sign up for free tickets to the Hallyu Dream Concert in Gyeongju. They offered a limited number of FREE tickets for foreigners through the festival website. Stick FREE on anything and I’ll take it.

The ever-reaching Hallyu influence

And all the big names were there:

  • Super Junior
  • 2PM and 2AM
  • SE7EN
  • KARA
  • T-ara
  • 2NE1
  • as well as others I wasn’t too familiar with: FT Island, 4minute, SHINee, Davichi, Cho Shin Sung, Beast, Son DamBi, After School, miss A, Flower, MBLAQ, Seo In-Guk, U-Kiss, Secret, Eru, Nine Muses

taken from the Hallyu Festival site

Here’s how the ticket voucher system works:

  1. Sign up for a ticket voucher on the festival website. Passport number is required!
  2. Print the voucher.
  3. Bring the voucher and passport to the ticket exchange booths.
  4. Get a ticket and wristband.
  5. Wait in line with screaming fans.

Pretty simple and little effort so it was definitely a worthwhile experience! Also, I’m still convinced that K-Pop is a political tool used to distract the population from domestic and international social and economic issues. With that said, here are some blurry photos from the concert!

The stage

The lovely and talented hosts who kept messing up and had to do over their entrance for the televised version.


Miss A. Careful not to stare too much at this photo. One of the girls is only 15.

4 Minute


And then my camera battery died :(. We had to leave before Super Junior, KARA, 2NE1 and 2AM unfortunately. But I hope I’ll have another opportunity to see them in the future. For free.

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I went to the R-16 international bboy competition in at Olympic Park in Seoul this past Sunday. Definitely worth staying late in Seoul. Being from Socal around the hip hop scene back home, I felt a little pang of homesickness. I have to admit, before I came to Korea I thought I’d see bboys all over the place haha.

bboy competition in Seoul

Saturday was the individual competition but I couldn’t go to that since I was at the Usher concert haha. Sunday was the crew show and battle. There were 8 crews from Korea, Vietnam, China, Philippines, Germany, France, Spain, and Puerto Rico.  I’m not a judge or anything, but they could’ve been cleaner. Overall, pretty good competition and variety of styles.

I was happy to see a crew from the Philippines! Project P-Noise (ha clever!) from Manila. A lot of bboys back home are Pil-Ams so it’s nice to see some bboys from the motherland competing internationally. I read on their bio that they’re the first crew from the Philippines to compete on an international level. Not the first bboys to do it, but the first bboy crew.

Their routine was really creative and told a story. There were 3 nerdy guys trying to learn how to dance so they looked on the internet and downloaded some moves. Kudos for the geek factor. They wore some nice Philippine flag hoodies and tees, too. Way to represent! Here are a couple videos:

They beat Puerto Rico in the battle by just a few points. Anyone else find that interesting? Philippines v Puerto Rico?


In the next round, they were up against Jinjo Crew from Korea. Seeing them live just confirms that Korean bboys are damn good. Jinjo Crew won the competition at the end of the night. Would’ve been cool to see Gamblerz too :P. Here’s Jinjo Crew’s routine. I wonder where they kept those hats…

During the competition, one of my friends pointed out that a bunch of girls were taking pictures of someone behind the stage. I had no clue why. She said it was someone from a boy band. So I asked her who and which one? She said it was Jaebeom! I recognized his name from the 2PM controversy since he suddenly and mysteriously left the band earlier this year. I didn’t know what he looked like so I had to trust all the girls there that it was really him.

So I decided to check online to confirm and yeah it was Jaebeom! I’ve only been in Korea for 5 months and I’ve already seen a (well, former) boy band member!

Jaebeom... from 2PM leader to bboy?

Now, if I could only see Rain!

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