Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tips for the American Traveler in South Korea

I'm writing this post on behalf of my buddy Bogle who just got sent to South Korea for a year. I was there from Jan 2005 to Jan 2007 as a Korean linguist in the Air Force, and feel I should offer up some suggestions for others on how to have a good time during your stay on the peninsula. OK here goes:

- Visit Busan! A massive port city w/ a laid back coastal feel. Delicious Korean seafood (get used to it and you'll become lovingly addicted), Haeundae beach, and lots of temples and sightseeing opportunities. Also the Busan Aquarium is located in Haeundae, and they actually let you (and me) go scuba diving in the tank with all the sharks and fish! This was my favorite city in Korea and I made the 3-4 hour trip by KTX train several times.

- See live music! Korea has an awesome scene if you just have the guts to go out and find it. This should help start you out:
  • Osan - around the base the clubs that often have American bands on Friday and Saturday nights are The 99 Club, The Piano Bar, The Hurricane, and sometimes Studio 54.
  • Seoul - There are tons of live music places in Seoul, but the ones I frequented most were Skunk Hell, a raw dive punk club straight from the 70s and 80s (seriously, Korea has punk like it was meant to be), and All That Jazz, a quaint little jazz club. BTW in Korea it's kind of trendy for adolescents to play in jazz bands, and since Asians get pretty serious w/ their hobbies, Korea has plenty of stellar jazz artists.
  • Busan - see here
- Take up snowboarding/skiing! There is a resort called Jisan not too far from Osan, and several others within day trip distance. The resorts are comparable to US East Coast resorts - not great but you can keep your skills up and have fun with your friends. The big one in Korea is Dragon Valley (Yong Pyong), and it is actually pretty sweet but is like four or five hours away from Osan.

- Visit Lotte World! I, regrettably, never visited Lotte World but my friends said it was fun. I think they got discount tickets that day because some people died on a ride the previous day.

- Visit Everland! A HILARIOUS amusement park, and if you have any kind of sense of humor you'll see what I mean when you get there. Prepare to have fun and laugh your ass off, and be sure to see the little parade/shows they have. Also people die on the rides at this park too. Korea has a bit of a problem with this, lol.

- Visit JeJu Do! A beautiful island often termed 'The Hawaii of Asia'. Plane tickets are cheap and the flight is under two hours. I went with the travel agency on base and our package included a few nights stay at a sweet hotel w/ a big pool, an ATV off-road course, and a trip to the gun range where we shot various weapons (still not sure what this had to do with anything, but it was fun). I wish I had stayed longer because that place was great!

- Eat Ramen! My favorite Ramen shop chain in Korea was called Myung EEn, and there's one on the right side of the main drag coming out of the Osan gate. Tell them you want 'duck law myun' and 'kimchi mandu'. God I wish I had that right now.

- Go Bungee Jumping! This place in Seoul is located in a nice park, so even those in your group who decide it's a little too intense can have a nice time. Tip: yell "Whyting!" as you jump to evoke cheers from the Korean crowds. Also, take your dorm key out of your pocket or you'll lose it in the lake (doh!)

- More to come


BogleBone said...

Wonderful information, thank you! I guess I should have asked what to do rather than what to say all those times I asked. I have been off base to get "green beaned?" but other than that I haven't left the base. I now have some goals before I leave here. Once again thanks for this awesome info.

Tom said...

no prob man! I'm going to keep adding to this post and i think it will end up having lots more info - plenty of stuff to keep you busy for a mere 365 days, that's for sure, lol.