First time backpacking Korea. Part 1

Busan, Seoul.

before departure, Tune hotel KLIA2.

Trying out the room at tune hotel KLIA2, very nice clean and beautiful, moderately sized, comfortable, 20 channels of flat screen tv, including movies and sport, but for the price RM168, it’s still expensive by local standards. The same rate else where would get better rooms with view, probably swimming pool and gym facilities not to mention complimentary breakfast. Then again, overnight at the terminal building floors, or a bed and cozy blanket.

landed Busan. day 1

The 6 hour flight, landed at 3:30PM local time, After collecting my bag, I asked the airport information counter for some direction and options for transport and fortunately they have the direction to my hostel, even gave me a pamphlet with directions. Everything was a breeze except the english which was a bit arduous at first but still manageable. Arrived at Blue backpacker hostel in Seomyeon two hours later after 2 train, and 20 minutes walk.

arrived Busan, first sefie
blue backpackers hostel

Korean metro system is quite simple. Going from point A to B is just like that. If your are used to the system, it is easy to understand, just have to observe and know the changing stations and which platform to be. For every trip you only need to get one ticket at the machine and there’s translation in english and chinese. There’s also the touch and go card, prepaid, easier and faster, but I know that I won’t be using the station much as I am the kind who walks a lot.

Busan LRT.

Meet with few other backpackers and we went out for dinner together, pleasant people and to my surprise, there was quite a number of Koreans at the same hostel. The day ended with some pictures of the street and scenes.

First dinner.

First time with Korean food was like exploring into the unknown and didn’t know what to expect, the menu just cryptic and enquiring for recommendation from the waitress was not much successful. Eventually after a few laugh and humorous incident we did get to eat and ended with a full belly.

Day 2;

Simple breakfast at hostel of toast and jam, then took the lrt to Jagalchi, fish market( KRW1400), A market that’s organized and surprisingly clean. Fascinating and worth the visit with many unique sea creature.

Jagalchi Hanaro mart entrance.
Jagalchi fish market
Outdoor market.
Outdoor fish market.

Nearby, is the lotte department store which have well-known branded tenants for sports, outdoor stuff and even a kid’s park. The roof have an observation deck where there’s a lovely scene of Busan.

Top of Lotte world, Busan.

Koreans really have trendy sports fashion. Surveyed “The north face” store and most of the apparel are really expensive eg pants and shoes reaching KRW200000 and above! protruding and hype looking, full of Korean “vibe” in them. Wanted to get a specific hiking shoe but unfortunately, not all models/design are available for the Korean market said the salesperson, the ones on display was just unsuitable.

Jagalchi station

Nearby is the Yongdusan Park and Busan tower. KRW8000 fridge magnet is a must when traveling. Entry fee to tower, KRW4000 and you got the view of Busan city 360º Nothing interesting apart from the height and view, but I don’t mind as a one-off. Stayed for 20 minutes or so.

Busan tower.

Catch a train to Beomeosa. (to the north of Busan) KRW1400. Taxi up the hills KRW5000, didn’t want to take the bus as it was late in the afternoon, Took some pictures, very quiet place and kind of concerned that my shutter would intrude the monks there. Went down by bus KRW1300, train back to Jagalchi, KRW1500.

Bus 90, Beomeosa temple.

Had my meal, dinner, A lotte burger KRW6500 and after getting my energy back, explored the Nampodong area night market, streets and wow…! love it. there’s every thing there. Clothes, street food, people, A photographers heaven.

Night market

Ticket to Hyundae station, KRW1500, walk 10 minutes to the beach. Enjoyed the sand and feel the breeze, Few buskers with lots of Koreans teenagers having a good time.

they really like street performances.

Then it was back to Seomyeon, KRW1500, but before heading to the hostel had a late coffee and some pastry at coffee bean, and it was already 12:30am.

Day. 3,

After breakfast at blue backpacker, checked out, walk to Seomyeon station, took LRT to Busan station, off to Seoul via train. KTX. KRW50300. The receptionist at the hostel helped purchased my ticket.

ticket to Seoul, booking online.

Some food at the KTX station. KRW6000, bibimbap and liked it. Few options to Seoul, the have express, direct 2 1/2 hrs for 54000 and the slower 50000 multiple stop. Bus 4 hrs at cheaper rate. The airfare might be cheaper just wanted to try the train.

Busan station.
Ticket vending machine at Busan station.
Busan train station.

The train is punctual, departed at 12:10 as scheduled, not a minute more or less. Didn’t feel like sleeping so used the time updating notes and reading.

Bibimbap, before boarding.
some work on the iPad

WIFI in ktx, available but very limited 30mb only(Free). Power socket for recharge phone? didn’t see any. I was perplexed that I bought the tickets at the hostel few hours ago with the help from the staff, boarded the train without anyone or gate, checking or looking at my ticket, very efficient.

Seoul station

Seoul 

Arrived Seoul station 3:17pm. The station is huge! Had to ask the information counter where to board the train to my desired station. Got there with a little effort but managed to reached Anguk station. different from Busan where the people is quieter and more laid back, Seoul gets kind of pushy sometimes.

Following lonely planet guide-book, searched for the guest house, unfortunately, the first three that I found was fully booked. Got lucky at the fourth, “Fortune Hostels”. three nights KRW56000. Fine deal, within budget.

The hostel owner, real cool guy, gave me recommendations and where to go, so I walked insandong-gil (street) and watched all sorts of tourist shop, restaurants and even street performers. The place is bustling and alive. Touristy but great place for sightseeing.

Insadong, Ssamziegil. Lively place.
fans, decorative and for souvenirs..
Busy street.

Lots of souvenirs, craft and things you can get there. Plenty of restaurant, but kind of expensive. Unless you don’t mind the price it’s a wonderful place to eat.

day 4;

Visited Changdeokgung palace and the secret garden, english tours are allocated for 11:30, 13:30 and 15:30 and the entry plus secret garden KRW3000+5000. The word “secrets” just enticed me, but glad that I went for the tour. The guide’s not that fluent in english but still understandable with an amusing story and communication skills.

Changdeokgung, ticket booth at the secret garden entry
Palace gates
Palace grounds.

The Buckchon Hanok village, is located at a hill and the sight-seeing is a walk up and down hills for a whole 2-3 hours there. Tiring and the sights worth it.

Bukchon Hanok village
interesting architecture, traditional Korean houses.

Later, I asked the hostel staff help to book my flight from Gimhae international airport to Jeju on the 1st as I didn’t succeed doing it on my own. Seems that my credit card wasn’t “Korean friendly” or something, but fortunately, Koreans are beautiful people and everything cleared in the end, they just paid and login with their credentials and I paid them in cash. KRW35000.

Seoul metro station, could be confusing, due to the fact that the name and signage is kind of unfamiliar, but still very efficient and if you are carefull and alert, you just can’t get lost. exiting at the wrong station would just mean you would have to buy another ticket. Average price is KRW1300-1500. Went to lotte world where all the “lotte” is there, hotel lotte, lotte amusement park, lotte department, lotte hi-shop for those designer boutique and lotte food.

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lotte world

Nice heavy dinner at Insadong street for KRW27000. Drinks and icecream 5000krw. Now, Insadong street is a very touristy place to be, so there’s lots more other cheaper options else where.

day 5;

Went for some sight-seeing at Namdaemun and Myeongdong market. For not being a shopaholic, I left both market within few hours or else I might have just wasted the entire day with the myriad of merchandise there, clothes for men, women of every categories including military style and outdoors equipment. Then to Gyeongbokgung palace, just in time to catch the 3:00PM guards changing ceremony, sounds pretty lame right? but… I was elated being able to witness it.

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guard changing ceremony
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packed with visitors

The KRW3000 admisson fee, includes free english tour guides(at certain times) Interesting history lesson that day and I followed the entire tour. After the guided tour’s over, she left saying goodby and we are free to explore the palace compound. Took 3-4 hours total there.

Why go Korea?

When somebody asked that question, I do not have an answer to that question when arriving at Seoul, in-fact, Korea was purposely for the landscape, national parks (mostly the eastern part and southern part). However, instincts got me to Seoul and grateful that I did as there’s a mixture of history, modern and culture all mixed up within. The same time Seoul is seen as such a modern city, in the end of the road there’s traditional houses, historical places well kept for display. Interesting experience all the same. Next part is at Jeju and then back to Busan.

continued on part 2
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5 thoughts on “First time backpacking Korea. Part 1”

  1. I wonder what is the meaning of backpacker hostel. With an affordable fee, does it allow customer to leave the backpack in the hostel during day time? Or customer has to carry that wherever they go? Can you please enlighten me.

    1. Backpacker hostel, are hostels, room sharing, and so are cheaper than hotel rates. You can leave your things at the hostel as usual.

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