Our most recent BIG adventure was 11 days in South Korea. It was mine and Husband’s 23rd country to visit together, and Luna’s 4th country to visit. (And, probably close to the 20th country that our Dad-in-law has visited with us.) It was also, by far, the most difficult trip I’ve ever planned. We had 11 days to see EVERYTHING and a toddler to keep happy along the way. I absolutely LOVE planning our trips, but it is a lot of work. My goal is always to see as much as possible, but also to hit the spots that my Husband, my Dad-in-Law, Luna and myself will all find the most interesting.
South Korea took more research and pre-planning than most trips, but all of that extra time was worth it. Our trip went even better than expected, in my humble opinion, and we made many unforgettable memories. It’s near impossible to tell you about EVERY amazing thing we saw and experienced, but I’ll try to narrow it down to our most experiences for this post!
The Demilitarized Zone (or DMZ) is unlike any other place in the world. It is the border between North and South Korea and was created at the end of the Korean War as a buffer zone. It’s 160 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. Since the DMZ came around, there have been several incidents and invasions from North Korea. In fact, 4 tunnels have been uncovered that went under the DMZ area and into South Korea, probably as part of a sneak attack plan. We were told that there are likely hundreds of more undiscovered tunnels…hundreds. That was a hair-raising fact to hear as we were touring one of the four found tunnels.
We had the opportunity to tour a tunnel, the Freedom Bridge, look through binoculars into North Korea, etc, but the craziest part was definitely touring the Dorasan train station. This is a modern and recently restored train station that connects North and South Korea. Obviously the tracks that connect these two countries is never used, but it’s been remodeled in hopes that there will eventually been unification. They hope for the trains to one day run through North Korea, through Asia and into Europe.
It was super surreal to be in this completely modern, yet deserted, station. Sad, that it is unused, but also hopeful.
South Korea is famous for its unique themed cafes. I couldn’t get enough of them. If it wasn’t for my Dad-in-law threatening to abandon us, I would have tried to find them all.
Besides the animal cafes, there’s also a Hello Kitty café, a “make your own ring” café, a potty café, an arts and crafts café and so much more!
This magical honeymoon island, often called the “Hawaii of Korea”, deserves a blog of it’s own, but I’ll give you a quick synopsis here…. Beautiful hikes to tall scenic peaks, waterfalls galore, beaches, and a crazy huge lava tube. This island was covered in thousands of tangerine trees, all ripe for the picking. The entire place seemed to be made of lava rock. The mountainous landscapes was breathtaking and we honestly couldn’t get enough of it.
Food markets (markets in general)
No matter the country, I love a good market, and Korea is full of them! There were so many street markets that I think we went to a new one every night. Besides getting tons of great souvenirs (some cheap, some handmade, some vintage), there was SO much amazing food. Some of our favorite street foods were the mungbean pancake, gimbap (Korean sushi), Korean donuts and egg muffins. OMG, so yummy! The “donuts” are more like plump pancakes filled with chocolate sauce, so heavenly.
The most exciting market was likely the fish market, the Noryangjin Fish Market. It brought back many memories of our time spent at the fish market in Tokyo…largest warehouse ever, stocked full of fresh seafood booths, sea creatures we’ve never seen before and a giant auction floor to auction off the biggest and best fish to the highest bidding wholesaler. We decided on haggling enough to buy an enormous king crab.
Best part is, after you purchase your fresh seafood, you just walk upstairs and have one of the dozens of restaurants cook it for you!
Korean Furniture Museum
Whenever I plan a trip, I try to include activities to suit each person’s needs. My Dad-in-law is not only an incredibly talented carpenter, but he is also just a wood enthusiast. So, while planning, I googled “Seoul furniture museums” thinking I’d find very little. Little did I know, one of the most beautiful, unique and exclusive museums in Korea, just happens to be a furniture museum, just outside of Seoul.
You can only enter this museum if you book a tour in advance, which fills up rather quickly, BTW. There goal is for every single visitor to experience the history and culture in it’s entirety, which we totally did. We were toured around the property and through each room of the house, all while being carefully told how each piece of furniture was made and used. I swear it was more interesting than I’m making it sound! It’s a fancy enough place that they shot an episode of the Bachelor there, back during Juan Pablo’s disastrous season.
Another Korean experience that brought back memories of Japan was the Korean bath house, or Jjimjilbang, we visited. Although, kind of touristy, we decided to go to the Dragon Hill Spa in Seoul. This particular bath house is HUGE. There are restaurants, spas, saunas, a game room, super nice locker rooms and showers, an outdoor pool, hot tubs, TV’s, massage chairs and even sleeping rooms for people who want to stay the night. Or course, what makes a bath house most unique to Americans is the fact that everyone is nude.
Like Japan, the men and the women are in separate areas, meaning Luna and I hung out in one section, while Husband and Dad-in-law relaxed in another. I was stoked that Luna could join us, but I definitely couldn’t participate in as much as I could have without her…no saunas or hot tubs for us! Luna LOVED running around naked and swimming from pool to pool. My favorite part was the endless supply of beauty products available in the locker room. I felt super clean, uber moisturized and 10-years younger by the time we left.
There were so many more great experience during our trip, but I’ll save those stories for another day! In the meantime, I’m already dreaming of our next trip…