4 wonderful solo weeks in South Korea

Old Feb 1st, 2016, 04:32 PM
  #161  
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kja - I finally have an itinerary but now am having trouble finding hotels. Smaller towns don't have hotel listings on line and we like to have reservations. What sources did you use?
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Old Feb 1st, 2016, 07:44 PM
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@ re: I reserved most of my lodging through booking.com and a few places through their own web sites (after consulting booking.com and tripadvisor.com).

The only reservation I didn’t have before leaving was for Yeongju; for that city, I had identified a possible hotel through guidebooks and then asked someone at one of the hotels I stayed in early in my travels to call and book it for me. I was not wholeheartedly pleased with my choice there.

Hope that helps!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 04:29 PM
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kja I wondered if you would take a look at our itinerary and let me know what you think. After reading your wonderful trip report on South Korea I feel we prepare for a trip and travel in a similar manner. We will arrive in Busan after taking a ferry from Fukoko, Japan.Two nights and 1 day in Busan visiting Jagalchi market, Beomeosa and maybe a night walk on the beach. Then we will pick up a car and drive to overnight at Namwon or Sucheon. A distance of 132 miles. I hope we can stop in Jogyesan Provincial Park and see Seonomsa, Songgwangsa, Seungseongyo. The next morning we will head to Gochang and the Dolmen museum. I am skipping Daehan Dawon Tea Plantation as we saw many tea plantations in Myanmar. After a visit to the museum we will overnight in Jeongeup, Jeonju or go back to Namwon. Will then head East and hope to drive thru Maisan Provincial Park and see Haein-sa. Overnight not at the temple but nearby or Daegu. Don't think we can drive all the way to Andong from Gochang. Andong - Byeongsan Seawon and Dosen Seowon - shall we see both or is one better to visit than another? Also should we visit Hahoe Folk Village if we are planning to see Yongdong Folk Village in Gyeongju? Mask museum? Then Gyeongju to visit National Museum, Bulguksa, Seokguram Grotto, Tumuli Park and Royal tombs.
Will stop to see Tongdosa on the way back to Busan. Turn in car in Busan and take the fast train to Seoul. 3 days in Seoul. We end up with a free day and I wonder were it should be put - extra day added to Seoul, Busan or? I have had to leave out Independence Hall of Korea which is near Cheonan, Ungno Lee Museum of Art in Daejeon as well as many other sites that sounded interesting. I certainly would appreciate your thoughts - what to change, what to add; just what you think about this itinerary. Thanks in advance for all your help.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 07:03 PM
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Should be a great trip! Just a couple of thoughts --

As I understand it, South Korea has one of the highest car accident rates in the world, and every Korean I know advised me against driving there. In fact, they all say they refuse to drive there when they go back to visit. I know that at least one other Fodorite -- shelemm -- had a car for part of his time there, and recommends it. But do keep the cautionary notes in mind.... Also, I trust you have confirmed that you would need to return the car to Busan? I ask only because I hate backtracking, and am always looking for ways to avoid doing so.


"should we visit Hahoe Folk Village if we are planning to see Yongdong Folk Village in Gyeongju? Mask museum?"

They are different, and I tried to speak to those differences above (those comments are in the section on Hahoe, which I visited second) but there are many similarities and I'm not sure it makes sense to visit both when there are so many other places calling to you. I found the Hahoe Mask Museum of great interest, and if you think you would also find it of interest and you are going to visit only one, Hahoe would get my nod.

Whether to add your time to Seoul or Busan really depends on what you want to see and experience. One day isn't much for Busan -- but it sounds like you have another 1/2 day or so there for Tongdosa. And 3 days isn't much for Seoul, particularly if you want to include Ho-AM (which I loved). But no bad choices here -- just difficult ones!

Note that Tongdosa, Sanggwangsa, Haeinsa, and Bulguksa are each very large temple complexes; make sure you plan on enough time to explore them.

As you probably know, I didn't stop at many of the places you are considering, so I really can't provide comments on them. And that means I can't comment on a large portion of your itinerary -- sorry!

I hope you enjoy South Korea as much as I did.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2016, 09:45 PM
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BTW, definitely visit any of the National Museums you can!
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Old Feb 8th, 2016, 10:02 PM
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Are you still there, re?
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Old Feb 15th, 2016, 08:38 AM
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kja - Finishing itinerary, booking hotels etc. We leave March 14 and will spend 2 weeks in Southern Japan before taking a ferry to Busan. 2 weeks in South Korea visiting many sights by car and then taking the fast train to Seoul were we will spend 5 days. Thanks for your help, your trip report was one of my guides.
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Old Feb 15th, 2016, 11:58 AM
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Enjoy!
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Old Feb 23rd, 2016, 12:48 AM
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Interesting list of likes and dislikes from Korea. Most of which I would agree with. Any great photos or videos you can share from your adventure?

Mike
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Old Feb 23rd, 2016, 06:02 PM
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@ MikeNatalieWorldwide -- thanks for your interest! But no, sorry, neither photos nor video. After reading your comment, I re-read my lists of likes and dislikes, and I can say that nearly 2 years after the fact, I still vividly remember all the likes, and had forgotten most of the dislikes.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2016, 06:55 PM
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Hi kja,

Just rereading you report which is still a mine of information.

I may be going back in May with luck and will have some spare time so have been looking around Andong as I will definitely be in Mungyeon which is quite close but most of the time back in Icheon/Yeoju.

We will hire a car which, out of the cities, is quite easy. At least my husband is happy driving there. Me not so. We did that in the far South last time and were able to get to so many odd spots that we would not have gone by bus. We took the bus between main cities and picked up the car in Gwanju. We chanced on many interesting little places that turned up on roads to nowhere in particular and of course we were free of waiting for buses even though the buses a really so good.

I still haven't written a report on the last trip and feel very guiltly as I have benefited so much from your report - both in information and pure reading enjoyment.

Mary
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Old Feb 23rd, 2016, 07:41 PM
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@ MaryW - Oh, how very nice to hear from you again! I think of you every time I see a piece of Korean ceramic ware (and since I bought myself a small piece, that's pretty often!) and hope that you are well and continuing to enjoy your choices about how to further your career and craftsmanship as a potter.

And please, stop feeling guilty about a trip report! I doubt that I'm alone in recognizing how difficult it can be to juggle life's endeavors or to find time for all the worthy goals that pull us each in so many different directions. But perhaps I should restate that -- if the ONE thing in your life that most tugs on your guilt strings is your "failure" to write a trip report, then IMO, that's where you should go. Now. Think of it as one of Monopoly's "Go Straight to Jail" cards, and treat it with exactly that degree of seriousness. ;-)

Thanks again for your kind words, Mary, and for hanging in there with me through my lengthy trip report -- for better or worse, you definitely helped me keep going with your expressions of interest, not to mention your very interesting contributions.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2016, 08:58 PM
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Thanks for your kind words Kja.

If it all comes together we will go in May otherwise October. Of course its always largely about the ceramics for me anyway but there are a couple of big ceramic festivals on then as well as Buddha's birthday which is a big plus (and your report very helpful in this). We may well be outside Seoul then which is s pity but will find a temple wherever we are to see the festival.

Its such a beautiful country to travel around and though small by Australian standards has enough packed in that I still haven't seen enough despite 4 trips.

I hope your Indonesian trip goes well.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2016, 09:58 PM
  #174  
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@ MaryW -- I will look forward to at least a word or two (but not necessarily an actual trip report) from you in the coming months. I don't think you need to worry about being in Seoul for Dharma -- I think ANY temple, anywhere in South Korea, would likely allow you to experience the celebration of Buddha's Birthday. And as you say, it is a beautiful country.

I can't imagine that my time in Indonesia will be anything other than amazing (thanks!), and still look forward to spending some time in Australia at some point (at which time I will DEMAND your help).
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Old Feb 23rd, 2016, 11:56 PM
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Kja - I'm in Western Australia - out in the bush (countryside). Anytime you are this way I will help in any way I can and would love to meet you if possible.
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Old Feb 24th, 2016, 06:52 PM
  #176  
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@ MaryW -- I hope that I am able to take you up on that offer some day!
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Old Mar 19th, 2016, 11:32 AM
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Wow kja, I love your report.. It will definitely help my planning... Thank you!!!!
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Old Mar 19th, 2016, 11:39 AM
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Anyways kja, I am from Indonesia, just let me know if you need anything for your trip... I hope you will enjoy your stay here and best regards for you... Your posts have assisted me so many times, like your Japan report and some other responses... I cannot wait for your Indonesia's trip report...
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Old Mar 19th, 2016, 11:39 AM
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@ julianaoctavia -- I'm glad you found it useful! Good luck as you plan, and feel free to ask questions.
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Old Apr 5th, 2016, 09:59 AM
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Hello! I just found your post last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. I love all your vivid descriptions. We're planning a family trip to Korea next year--still about a year and a half away, but I've been deeply immersed in researching and planning and daydreaming, with much anticipation. Waiting is so hard. (Seriously, I'm ready to go RIGHT NOW.)

I was in Korea as a missionary years ago, waaaay back in 92-93, and then went back over and taught English with my husband in Cheonan right after we got married. I spent about 2 1/2 years total in the country, but it's been almost 20 years now since I've been there. I've been dreaming of going back. It's so fun to finally have a plan. (I've been saving up!)

We have two kids, girl and boy, who will be 12 and 8. We're planning to spend a few days in Seoul, then take the train to Daegu and rent a car (the better to haul around kids and luggage), visit a friend in Pohang, and then make a loop south and west.

I keep finding more and more places to add to my list. There's a temple called Daewonsa (on Jirisan) that I pinned on Pinterest years ago, but while researching it I found a different temple called Daewonsa that has a hall in the shape of a dragon, that you enter through the mouth. And it's just north of Pohang! We can't pass that up. And Naeyeonsan mountain with its 12 waterfalls looks gorgeous, and hey, it's really close to Pohang too. And then while doing a google image search for something else I ran across this temple called Hongryongsa that's right by a waterfall, and found out it's just a bit south of Tongdosa, which we were planning to see anyway. And Daewangam park in Ulsan looks very cool, and has a dragon slide--we can squeeze that in too. It's amazing how many of these places happen to be in the Pohang/Ulsan area. Or maybe it's just that there are a lot of foreigners there who blog and take lots of pictures.

My husband and I are both greatly enamored of Korean Buddhist temples and their gorgeous mountain settings. I'm hoping the kids will be up for lots of temple-ing. They'll enjoy the bridges and stairs and streams, I think. (We'll make sure to bring along water shoes for everybody.) Dale's Korean Temple Adventures site has some great info about all the different elements of a temple (in the Architecture and Artwork sections), and I think I'll write some of that up in simplified form for my daughter, so she'll understand better what she's seeing. We can make it into a treasure hunt, like find the San-Shin (mountain spirit) shrine and see how many tigers this one has in the painting. (It occurred to me that this could make a great informational coloring book, too. Hmmmm....)

We're planning to go down through Geoje and Tongyeong (do the cable car), visit a friend who farms maeshil plums in Gwangyang and then go on to Yeosu and see Hyangiram, then spend the night in Nagan Folk Village, go to Songgwangsa and then up to Seomjin river train village and ride the rail bikes (the kids will like that). I spent a lot of my mission in Jeollanam-do and I'm looking forward to seeing some of the area again. (I've actually been to Songgwangsa three times--and once my husband and I hiked over the mountain to Seonamsa. That was very cool. We are hoping to visit all three jewel temples, so I was pleased to see that you'd done that too, kja.)

My daughter wants me to teach her Korean. I've told her that she'll be fine without it, but she still wants to know some. I've taught her the alphabet (actually I've taught it to her several times, but it may be sticking this time!) and we're practicing a few words. I need to make a Go-Fish game with useful nouns. (It's also great for practicing "do you have a _____" We did that with the kids that we taught English.)

We're looking at early September--probably including a few days at the end of August, so I'm hoping it won't be too beastly hot. I'd really prefer to go around late September, early October, but this will fit with my husband's schedule, and maybe the mountains will be less crowded since the trees won't be changing color yet. I'm just excited to go back with a good camera! And eat lots of food!

Thanks for sharing your adventure! It was a great vicarious journey. (Now I'm even MORE excited... Eeeek!)
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