what to do in seoul

Saturdays in Seoul (ep. 1) - Bongeunsa Temple + The Great Korean Beer Festival

Welcome to "Saturdays in Seoul"

A new lil’ vlogging venture…

...and, this time, my boyfriend Andrew is along for the ride.

Though we still have quite a bit of work to do as far as our coordination goes, (in more ways than one... watch 'til the end to see what I mean...), overall, we had a great Saturday and are really excited about creating more of these to document the rest of our time in Seoul.

 

*No Andrews were harmed in the making of this video*

 

WHERE WE WENT

 

Bongeunsa Temple

In episode one, Andrew and I start our day at Bongeunsa Temple, a calm oasis in the middle of the bustling city. It's my favorite time of year to visit the temples in South Korea... because the rows of lanterns are already hung for Buddha's birthday, but the hoardes of tourists aren't lined up to snap photos with them... yet...

Avoid the crowds and head there early, or stop in at night to see the lanterns all lit up.

Getting There

By cab: 봉은사 

By metro: Bongeunsa Temple Station, Exit 1. Cheongdam Station, Exit 2.

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Great Korean Beer Festival

After exploring the temple, we wandered over to the Great Korean Beer Festival, conveniently located by the COEX mall just across the street. If you missed it this weekend, don't worry - this year's beer festival is everyday from 12 p.m. until 10 p.m. through May 6th. 

COEX is pretty massive, and we weren't sure where exactly to go at first for the festival. You'll find this year's festival at the K-POP Square right outside of SMTOWN. Check out the food and drink selection before you go here.

Getting There

By cab: 삼성역

By metro: Samsung Station, Exit 5 or 6.

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Starfield Library

When it got a bit chilly at the beer festival we ducked inside COEX's Starfield Library to warm up (and charge my phone). If you're in the area, it's absolutely a must see.

Directions are the same as above.

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Unfortunately, the day wasn't entirely smooth sailing. When the hoodie I bought at H&M didn't warm me up, I was shivering so much I was nearly spilling my beer. Then Andrew told me it wasn't even cold outside, so I decided to stop rallying through the day and we headed home... where a full blown fever fully caught up with me. Being the complete perfect human that he is, Andrew got me soup, made us tea, and I was asleep by 10.

Despite this turn of events, it was still an awesome day, and, again, in my opinion, resulted in what may be the best video I've made so far.

Check it out for yourself!

If you liked this week's episode, be sure to give it a thumbs up, and subscribe to my channel on Youtube for future Saturday shenanigans in Seoul!

 

 

Fall at Nami Island - Seoul, South Korea Day Trips

Need an escape from the hustle and bustle of Seoul?

Trying to relax and enjoy the outdoors before winter sets in? Looking for a spot to snap epic photos of the fall leaves... or do you want to be a little adventurous? 

Less than a couple hours outside of the city lies a teeny tiny 'island' in the middle of the Han River where you can do all of these things and more - Nami Island. 

Whether you're visiting South Korea or living there, Nami Island should be on your to-do list. Keep reading to find out why!

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Nami exploded as a tourist destination for Korean drama fans, as many scenes from the wildly popular film Winter Sonata were shot there. If you're into K-dramas, you'll enjoy retracing the character's steps and recreating scenes at various spots around the island. If you're not into K-dramas, expect to see lots of people queuing up for identical pictures that you don't understand - Confusion can be avioded by joining the club and watching the film before you go. I didn't... but you could. Anyway, peace and quiet can be hard to come by when you suddenly find yourself in a mass of tripods and selfie sticks all competing for the same shot. It depends entirely on the time of day & time of year that you go, but the army of selfie takers can typically be avoided by going early.

Personally, I enjoy Nami because it's nice get away from the concrete jungle, honking cars, and busy city streets. The trip is well worth it, if for nothing more than to be surrounded by nature's sky scrapers for a bit. There is a definite bonus to visiting in the fall... The already picturesque tree-lined paths become a work of art, and make Nami Island an absolute autumn wonderland.

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If you're planning to just pop in for a quick visit to Nami Island, keep in mind that it IS a bit of a hike from central Seoul (about 1.5 hours on the subway). I'd recommend making a day of it and seeing some of the other sights nearby - see the end of this article for other things to do and see near Nami Island.

We decided to make the trip to Nami this past weekend. I knew that it would probably be insanelyyyy busy since the fall leaves are at their prime, so I talked my friends into waking up at the literal crack of dawn on Sunday morning to beat the rush.

Even though my bed was extremely warm and cozy, I somehow fought the urge to snooze my fifth and final alarm. However, when I got a text from one of my friends telling me it was 0.5°C outside... (that's 33°F for all you Americans), I almost doze headfirst right back under the covers. ALMOST. Again... I fought the urge to hibernate, and at 6:47 on a SUNDAY MORNING, I rolled out of my apartment and began the train journey to Gapyeong Station.

I'm REALLY glad I didn't hit snooze, because our day-trip to Nami Island ended up being incredible.

I'd visited Nami before, but I went in February (so I was freezing), and I also went alone. This time was much different... and much better. It might have been the makgeolli (traditional Korean rice wine) we had for breakfast... or maybe just being outside, soaking up the sunshine... possibly the random ostrich sightings, but, most likely, the beautiful fall leaves surrounding us. We all looked and felt like a bunch of little kids again.

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Once we arrived at Gapyeong Station, we caught a cab to the Nami "Immigration" zone, bee-lined to the convenience store for our makgeolli breakfasts, and spent the morning by the river. We sipped our rice wine to stay warm, and killed time before it was our turn to zip-line - yes, I said zip-line - to Nami Island.

There are two ways to get to Nami - by boat and by zip-line... so we obviously chose the later.

Even though we got to Gapyeong literally as early as humanly possible... there was still already a line for the zip-line! Of our two options, we chose the course that had the shortest wait time - The Adventure Course. On the Adventure Course, we zip-lined to a smaller, nearby island first. From there, we rode what was, for us, a practically private ferry (with only 3 other people on board) over to Nami. For 38,000 won you can either take the Adventure Course or go for the Family Course which zips you straight over to Nami. Both options include a return ferry ride! - (After doing both, I'd recommend the Adventure Course. It takes a bit longer, but you get more for your money).

Once we arrived on the island, we were all still feeling an adrenaline rush from the zip-line ride.

I spotted a massive clearing where the ground was covered in yellow leaves and literally made a run for it. We spent the next few hours rolling around in the grass, throwing leaves at each other, gawking at the random ostriches in the middle of the island, and climbing trees like a bunch of little kids. The makgeolli, the sunshine, the laughter... and likely the running around... warmed us right up.

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A visit to Nami was the perfect way to spend a fall Sunday.

Don't believe me? - Go see for yourself!

If you're in Korea, get your butt out of bed and get over to Nami as early as possible NEXT WEEKEND to catch the end of this beautiful, golden season. You won't regret it.

Til' then, get yourself pumped up by watching this recap video! 

(Note - Look out for the Nami fun police, as they will tell you to stop climbing the trees).

 


Want to go to Nami Island?

Not sure how to get there? 

Good news! - you've got options!

The bad news is, you've got so many options that the sheer number of choices may confuse you even more.

I've tried to simplify things a bit.


Getting to Nami by Metro

Take the metro to Gapyeong Station located on the light green Gyeongchun ITX line. My friends and I were all coming from Eastern Seoul, so the metro was our quickest and most convenient option. From my station, the trip only cost 2,350 won (this amount will vary).

By ITX

If you're traveling from Western or Central Seoul, I'd recommend taking the ITX – Cheongchun High Speed Train from Yongsan Station to Gapyeong Station. This line operates from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and has trains departing from Yongsan station on every hour. Gapyeong is only three stops away, so you should arrive at the station in a little under an hour. The cost is 6,900 won each way.

Keep in mind this train doesn't run very often, so check the schedule ahead of time or book online here.

By Shuttle Bus

I've never personally taken the shuttle bus, but it seems like a great option for people travelling from the Insadong/Myeongdong areas in Northern Seoul. The following are the shuttle bus departure times. A one-way adult fare costs 7,500 won... and roundtrip will cost you 15,000.

Seoul Insa-dong - 09:30 - (Nearby the West Gate of Tapgol Park)

Seoul Namdaemun - 09:30 - (Sungnyemun Square Bus Stop in front of Namdaemun Market)

Seoul Myeong-dong - 09:45 - (Back Alley of Shinsegae Department Store (Main))

Nami Island - 16:00 - (Parking lot in front of ticket office)

If you want to depart Nami at a different time, only purchase a one way ticket. 

For more information on shuttle bus schedules, fares, and packages, click here.

Tour Group

Several tour groups have organized trips to Nami Island (and usually at least one or two other destinations) as a part of a package deal. Check out Trazy.com and KoreaTravelEasy.com to book a smooth sailing, (almost) no strings attached tour to Nami - the only string that's attached is that by going with a group you're not able to be on your own schedule. Still, it takes the guess work out of the trip and might be your best choice if you're not familiar with public transportation in South Korea.

from Gapyeong Station

Again, you have options here! Either follow the cars and walk (which will take about 20-30 minutes), take a cab for 5-6,000 won, or take the Gapyeong City Shuttle bus for 6,000 won. I would only recommend the last option if you plan on seeing other attractions while you're in the area. Other than that, your quickest and cheapest option (especially if you're travelling with friends) is to split the cost of a cab.

Once you arrive at the "Immigration Zone," you have yet another choice to make - ferry or zip-line to Nami.

By Ferry

The ferry to Nami Island costs 10,000 won roundtrip, but foreigners get a discounted price of 8,000 won. The daily schedule is as follows

07:30-09:00 (30 minute intervals)
09:00-18:00 (10-20 minute intervals)
18:00-21:40 (30 minute intervals

By Zipline

Zip-lining to Nami Island costs 38,000 won. This includes your admission fee for the island, so if you plan to zip-line head straight to the tall building on your left, and DON'T wait in the, likely very long, "immigration lines." Those lines are just for ferry tickets.

You can choose from two courses - the Adventure Course and the Family Course. The Adventure Course zips you over to a smaller island, and, from there, you take a more private ferry to Nami Island. With the Family Course, you zip-line straight to Nami Island.

From April to October the zip-line operates from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. From November to March it closes at 6:00 p.m.

 

When is the best time to go?

According to VisitKorea.com, the reccommended periods to visit Nami Island are May, July-August, and October. I was a big sucker for the fall leaves when I visited in early November, however, I don't really think there's a bad time to visit.

 

What else is there to do nearby?

If you make the trip all the way to Chuncheon, you might as well make a day of it and see what else is there! Petite France and Garden of the Morning Calm are both located in Gapyeong (and on the city tour shuttle bus route). For more information about this shuttle bus, click here. 

To read about my trip to Petite France and Garden of the Morning Calm with KoreaTravelEasy, click here.

One more place to visit is the abandoned amusement part, Yongma Land, located just a 10 minute walk away from Mangu Station (also on the Gyeongchun line, and on the way to Gapyeong station if you take the metro). Read about my trip to Yongma Land here.


Need a place to stay?

Click here to book discounted accommodations in Gapyeong-gun with Agoda!

 

Did you go to Nami Island? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

What to Do for Halloween in Seoul - Good Times ROK Han River Cruise

If you find yourself in Seoul towards the end of October, and aren't sure what to be for Halloween, well... I can't really help you there. I'm sure if you walk around Dongdaemun's Fabric and Craft Market, a DIYer's paradise, you'll be inspired. If not... there's always Pinterest... the virtual DIYer's paradise.

Where I CAN help you, however, is deciding where to go.

With so many trendy neighborhoods and bars to choose from, picking one spot to spend the holiday can be tough. So, let me make it easier for you...


If you like all you can drink booze, costume contests, awesome DJ's, and bangin' fireworks shows... it's a no brainer where you should be on Halloweekend.

Good Times ROK's Halloween Cruise Bash - where you can spend your evening on a four deck party boat cruising down the Han River!

This year, there was over 5 million won in costume contest prizes, not to mention you get FREE admission and drink specials for exclusive after parties around Seoul. (The cruise lasts 'til around 10:30, so you have plenty of time to get your bar-hop on).

Before moving to Korea, a friend in my TEFL course recommended this cruise as the one thing I MUST do when I moved to Seoul. After spending the last two Halloweekends partying on the Booze Cruise, I'd have to agree... 100%. It has yet to disappoint.

Don't take my word for it... get your Pinterest on, craft that contest winning costume, and check out next year's cruise for yourself - but, in the meantime, peep the 2017 Cruise Bash Recap below! 

(Shot and edited on iPhone7 so be sure to play in HD).

* not sponsored by Apple, but a gal can dream *


To stay in the loop about tickets for next year's bash, and to find out about other trips, parties, and special events in Korea, like Good Times ROK (GTR) and Adventure Korea on Facebook. 

Note: I was a guest of Good Times ROK, but, as always, all thoughts, opinions, and shaky dance videos are my own.