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Since so many parts of Seoul are so appealing and you may be wondering about where to visit and what to do (especially if you’re only here for a few days), here are our recommendations for building your bucket list for Seoul.
1. Feel the Sublime Korea Through a Palace Tour
Old palaces from the Josun dynasty display the traditional beauty of Korea, showing how long and preserved Korean history has been. (It spans almost 5,000 years!) There are 4 major palaces in Seoul – Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Deoksugung, and Changgyeonggung. Changdeokgung, in particular, has been designated as a World heritage site by UNESCO and is renowned for its beautiful garden. You can also rent Korean traditional clothes –Hanbok – near the old palaces. Why don’t you walk along the same path that ancient Koreans did by becoming a princess or a prince from the Josun dynasty? Check out this link if you’d like to visit these old palaces? Or perhaps you’d like to rent a Hanbok?
2. Romantic Night View From Namsan Mountain
Namsan Mountain, especially the N Seoul Tower on the top of the mountain, is a highly recommended spot for foreigners. You can see an overview of Seoul from all angles at the towel’s observatory. The night view of Seoul from N Seoul Tower is romantically beautiful. For example, there are the bridges over the black Han River at night that shine like diamond bracelets. The tower is a spot you can’t leave out if you’re a couple, as you can install a lock amongst the existing thousands, in hopes of having an eternal love.
3. Try Fresh Raw Fish in Noryangjin Fish Market
If you want to see the liveliness of the local people in Seoul, Noryangjin fish market will show more than what you can imagine. You will be surprised to see so many fish and other marine creatures gathered in one place. Owners in the Noryangjin fish market will try to attract you to their area by showing how fresh their fish are. You can even see the owners filleting the fish you choose and if you’re lucky, you may be given an extra fish or seafood as a token of their kindness.Check out our insider’s guide to the market here for more information.
4. Burn, Baby, Burn – Clubbing
Seoul is a city that never sleeps because young people usually dance the night away in a club or drink during the night. Hongdae is a popular area of choice for young clubbers, ie college students. Club NB2, Cocoon, and Vera are some of the most well-known ones. Click here for a full list of clubs in Hongdae.
There are also many 24 hour cafes open in Hongdae for clubbers who want to take a rest. Gangnam is another hot place for clubbing. As there are a lot of companies’ offices in Gangnam area, usually people over 25 go clubbing after work. Club Octagon is one of the best clubs around, located in Gangnam and ranked 6th in the world. Check out our picks on the best clubs in Seoul here.
5. Cool Off in Cheonggyecheon!
Cheonggyecheon is a stream going through the northern part of Seoul. There used to be many stores along the stream, but it was restored in 2005 by Seoul City Hall. After the restoration project, Cheonggyecheon and the surrounding area became cleaner and more organized. You can even see fish swimming in the water. Many people have visited Cheonggyecheon during the summer, and sometimes people put their feet in the water.
6. A Blast To the Past: Korean Folk Village
You can experience how people from the past lived by visiting a Korean folk village. Real traditional houses are built and actors are hired to play the roles of people from the past to liven the experience. Instead of just seeing the ancient artifacts in museums, you can be a part of the lives of the commoners from the past. Visit now!
7. Be a Shopaholic!
Shopping is something you must not miss while you are in Korea. There are numerous places to shop in Seoul from underground shopping complexes in subway stations to elegant shops in department stores. Myeong-dong is one of the most popular shopping areas as almost all of the famous brands in Korea are placed there, making shopping very convenient.Check out this post showing the must go places in Myeong-dong as well as discount coupons you can use.
Dongdaemun is famous for reasonably priced items and has several shopping complexes built in the area, providing young and casual style clothes for young people and tourists. Garosugil has risen as a trendy shopping area filled with small boutique shops full of unique styles. Here’s a list of places to go for a cheap shopping spree in Seoul.
8. Enjoy Exotic Cuisines in Itaewon
Itaewon is the most international place in Seoul where people of all cultures and countries gather. It is like a small village of the world. There are many restaurants specializing in authentic traditional dishes of various countries. Zelen is a Bulgarian restaurant run by chef Mihal Spasov Ashminov, who rose to popularity after appearing in Korean cooking TV show “Take Care of My Refrigerator”. Check out this list of our top favorite spots in Itaewon as well as discount coupons you can use here. Follow this link for a whole list of posts on places to dine in Itaewon as well!
9. Head To Insadong For the Best Souvenirs
Good souvenirs show you to be a thoughtful and caring person to others around you. Insadong is a street filled with shops selling Korean traditional items perfect as souvenirs. From small items like a key chain to big ones like a piece of furniture, you can purchase almost anything. If something you want to buy is too expensive, don’t fret as it’s likely to be sold in another store for much cheaper. Besides shopping, there are many good museums and galleries to look around in. Check out this list of traditional restaurants in the area as well as discount coupons you can use.
10. Irresistible Yummy Street Foods
You can easily find vendors selling street food in Korea. Korean street food has its own charm that can’t be replaced by meals from a restaurant. We bet that street vendors selling local street foods will draw you to their food with its mouthwatering smell and look. Gwangjang market is a famous place where you can enjoy classic local foods like mungbean pancake and sliced raw beef sashimi. Noryangjin is a great place where you can have a tasty meal for a cheap price with most dishes costing around 5,000 won or below. Street foods in Hongdae are trendy and experimental like their fashion style. Check out these posts on the best street foods from Jeonju Hanok Village and Myeong-dong. You also don’t want to miss the Seoul street food tour!
11. Sweat It Out at a Jjimjilbang
A Jjimjilbang is a Korean sauna where you can go into rooms with high temperature and emit any impurities and detox your skin by sweating. There are many types of rooms: Red clay room, Ice room, Crystal room and so on. However, before you enter , you are required to use a public bath in full nudity. But don’t worry! Public baths are very common in Korea and people couldn’t care less about how each other’s bodies look. Dragon Hill Spa is the most famous Jjimjilbang in Korea.Click here for an in-depth post about it and make sure you grab this discount ticket if you’re interested in going! We also have a list of the best saunas and spas in Seoul here.
12. Workout During traveling – Climbing Bukhansan National Park
You may think that Seoul is just a city that is high tech. Well, you’re half right. Seoul is also an eco-friendly city surrounded by mountains where you can enjoy nature. One good way to experience this is by hiking along Bukhansan National Park, located in the northern part of Seoul. There are several courses to be hiking across, but most usually take about 4~5 hours to complete. If you get tired while climbing the mountain, try visiting the Buddhism temples built on the mountain. Unlike temples in the middle of the city, the temples isolated on the mountain are much more peaceful and reflective.
13. Experience North Korea Through a DMZ Tour
Korea has been divided into South and North Korea since the Korean civil war in the 1950s. At the border between South and North Korea, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) was set to prevent any invasion and is currently controlled by dispatched UN soldiers. With your ID, you can have a tour in DMZ guided by the soldiers. You can go to the Dora observatory to see North Korean villages, the third tunnel built by North Korean soldiers, and the joint security area Panmunjom. There are two types of tours available – the DMZ tour and the DMZ + JSA tour. Check out this post on the 13 things you need to know before visiting the DMZ before you go.
14. Do You Enjoy Going On Rides At Amusement Parks?
There are 3 big amusement parks in or near Seoul – Lotte World, Everland, and Seoul Land. Lotte World has many thrilling rides and most of its visitors are of a young demographic. Everland has many rides just like Lotte World, but there is also a zoo, botanical garden, and place for glamping (a word combining glamorous and camping). Seoul Land has many exciting yet less thrilling rides, targeting families with children. Along with rides and additional attractions, various festivals are being held with numerous events in these amusement parks. Would you like to visit Everland? Check out these awesome deals on discount tickets to Everland (afternoon + night package, 1-day pass, half price group discount, ticket + shuttle bus ticket and discount ticket + private van transfer package) , Lotte World (ticket discount and 1-day pass + aquarium combo discount) and Seoul Land!
15. Be Yuna Kim in City hall’s Ice Rink!
When winter comes, Seoul city hall opens an ice skating rink in front of the Seoul Plaza for Seoul citizens. Usually, it opens from 10 AM to 10PM and the entrance fee is 1,000 won per hour including rental for ice skates. Next to the rink, various booths are installed to offer additional entertainments for the visitors.
16. Imagine the Sky Covered with Cherry Blossom Flowers in Yeouido
Spring is a romantic season, but what makes it more romantic is walking under cherry blossom trees. Yeouido has a road where a row of cherry blossom trees stands, with millions of people visiting during the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Flower Festival in April. We recommend you to visit at night as there will be fewer people and the cherry blossom flowers gleam dreamily under the street lights. For a full list of cherry blossom festivals in Korea, check out this post.
17. Small Picnic at Han River
The Han River is the perfect place to chill out during the summer. You can enjoy a nice little vacation in Seoul by feeling the cool breeze. Delivery foods are another attractive point of this venue with the menu of choice by most people being chicken with beer! You simply call any restaurant, order your food, tell them where you’re sitting and your food will be delivered right to you! You can sit on a picnic mat, eat, take pictures, ride an electric scooter or just nap.
However, beware of mosquitoes. Pack some bug bite ointment or mosquito repellent and reapply regularly throughout the day. There are lots of fun activities to enjoy such as wakeboarding and waterskiing, a ferry cruise, buffet cruise, tubester boat ride, or duck boat ride. Check out this post for a full list of things to do at the Han!
18. Cleanse Your Body and Mind With a Temple Stay
Want to wind down and enjoy some healing time? You don’t need to go out of Seoul to find your inner peace. You can join a temple stay operating in Seoul. Forget all the complicated and loud things surrounding you and relax and focus on yourself. In temples such as Gilsangsa, Hwagyesa, and Bongeunsa, you will learn basic temple manners and the way of life harmonized with nature through the guide of monks.Check out this page for a list of places you can have a temple stay experience!
19. Explore the Hometown of K-pop
Seoul would be a fascinating city to K-pop lovers. If you wait in front of the buildings of big entertainment companies like YG, SM and JYP, you may see your beloved stars commuting. This list tells you all of the locations of the major K-pop companies. You can even visit performance halls like Klive or SM artium where you can see K-pop hologram concerts like this one anytime.
A lot of K-pop concerts are also held in big stadiums in Seoul, giving you opportunities to participate in Koreans’ famous crowd sing-along. There are several lessons teaching you how to sing and dance like K-pop stars as well, like this one. Finally, your trip wouldn’t be complete without picking up some k-pop merchandise, so check out these stores to load up on some goods!
20. Enjoy Seoul Life For 24 Hours
As Koreans love to play even at night, many shops and facilities are open for 24 hours. Usually, in crowded areas like Hongdae and Gangnam, cafes are open for 24 hours to give clubbers a place to rest. Buses that start with the alphabet ‘N’ are night buses that run during the night, providing convenience to Seoul citizens. If you’re hungry at around 1 or 2 am, run to any convenient store to pick up a bite to eat. Click here to check out our list of must try convenience store foods and if you’re in Hongdae, try a slice of the famous Monster Pizza to fill your stomach after a night out.
As an English Teacher in Korea, I’m often asked for recommendations about where to go and where to stay in the United States. I’m Canadian, but since Korea is such a small countr,y sometimes I think the fact that I’m from an entirely different country gets overlooked. The Commonwealth of Virginia is rich in history. It was the first colony in British North America. There are plenty of rivers, mountains, and national parks to keep the nature lovers busy, and its proximity to Washington, D.C. makes for a relaxing stay with plenty of educational opportunities.
There are tried and true hotels all over the world, and Virginia is no exception. If you’re looking for a unique hotel stay, the possibilities are endless. Here are five “best bets” in Virginia!
Old Southern Elegance in Richmond, VA
In Richmond, you’ll find history (the hotel is full of antiques from the Victorian and Empire periods) and elegance in the charming Linden Row Inn Hotel. It’s 15 minutes from the airport, so it’s close to all the attractions and activites, including the Edgar Allen Poe Museum and the Museum of Confederacy. The hotel offers a free shuttle service within two miles and you’ll have the added benefit of access to the local YMCA. They provide complimentary continental breakfast and free Wi-Fi. The cost ranges from $129 to $279, but they offer package deals and membership discounts so it’s well worth a look!
Southern Charm and Convenience for the Working Traveler in Richmond, VA
If you’re traveling for business, the Richmond Marriott Hotel is in the heart of downtown with a skywalk to the convention center. There’s an indoor pool, a fitness center,and free Wi-Fi, and breakfast (a buffet!) is included. They have comfy beds, a sports bar, and a Starbucks on the corner. The whole hotel is smoke free, too! As this is a hotel preferred by convention guests it’s not exactly one for a quiet getaway; however, if you’re in town on business, the Richmond Marriott Hotel is a great choice!
Shop Your Heart Out in Charlottesville, VA
If you’re heading to Charlottesville, make sure to check out the various packages at the Omni Charlottesville Hotel. A deluxe room will cost approximately $319 per night; however, for $353, you can get the Bed and Breakfast package, which includes a complimentary breakfast. This hotel is close to the downtown mall area, so you’ll be walking distance from shops and amenities. Your stay at the Omni Charlottesville Hotel will be one for the books as it’s quite a luxurious hotel. Plus, you can bring Fido along on your travels — pets are allowed!
Tried and True in Arlington, VA
I recently spent time at The Holiday Inn in Bangkok, Thailand, where the lobby was impressive and the amenities plentiful. I can always depend on a great stay at the Holiday Inn, and the Holiday Inn National Airport/ Crystal City is no exception! With free wifi, an airport shuttle, a fitness center, and a restaurant, it has everything you need for a comfortable stay. It’s also close to the Potomac River, the old town, and the shops in Crystal City. Kids eat free here too!
Affordable Elegance in Alexandria, VA
Another brand on which I can always depend is Hilton! In Virginia, the Hilton Alexandria Old Town hotel is actually quite affordable! For about $149 per night, you can stay in the exciting old town region, close to the metro and Reagan National Airport. It’s also walking distance from the Amtrak Station for convenient rail travel. There are many museums as well as a convention center about 20 minutes away. Free Wi-Fi, a fitness center, a restaurant, and pets allowed make for a great stay!
Have you been to Washington, DC? Did you visit The Commonwealth of Virginia on your trip? Let us know in the comments!
Toronto Seoulcialite gets Trazy in Thailand
On my final day in Thailand after eating and drinking (mostly eating – there were drinking bans for about half of my vacation) I got up early and took a taxi from Asok to Silom Soi 11 (70 baht/ $2.60 Canadian/ 2,254 Korean Won) for my Thai Cooking Class. Trazy.com Your Travel Shop for Asia sent me to check out Silom Thai Cooking School, and I couldn’t have been more excited!
Before I moved to Korea I treated myself to Thai food about once a week. In Toronto and in Vancouver I could walk to some great cheap and cheerful Thai restaurants with fresh ingredients and bold flavours. Imagine my surprise traveling all the way to Korea to find that there were more opportunities for international food in Canada than in an Asian country? I was dumbfounded! I’ve been missing Massaman curry, Khao Soi, Pad See Ew, Tom Kha Gai, and Pad Thai. Taking a Thai cooking class would enable me to create some of these dishes at home, so I leapt at the opportunity to develop some Thai culinary skills.
We were initially looking at booking the class for Saturday which would mean going from Don Mueang directly to the school with all my stuff. I’m glad I didn’t, not only because the school is fairly compact, but because the menu changes every day throughout the week! Sunday’s menu was my favourite. In my cooking class we learned how to make:
- Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Sour Shrimp Soup, or in my case Tom Yum Gai, Spicy Sour Chicken Soup as I seem to have an issue with seafood in Asia)
- Pad Thai (Thai Stir-Fried Noodles)
- Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)
- Massaman Curry Paste
- Massaman Curry with Chicken and Potatoes
- Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango (Thailand’s most famous dessert)
For more details about the programs provided at the Silom Thai Cooking School, click here!
Before heading in to our woks, we started with a market tour. The traditional market was full of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and other seafood, meat, and nuts. Our fearless leader, Pim, took us through the market and gathered some of the ingredients with which we would be cooking that day. Our group of 12 congregated in a corner stall to touch and smell ginger, lemongrass, limes, and cilantro, among others. This brief, but informative, introduction to Thai ingredients was peppered with humour from Pim, who clearly loves working with people and sharing her national cuisine.
After the market tour we all hopped into tuk-tuks and ventured on to the actual school. I was with a family from Switzerland, a lady from England, two women from Korea (one of which lives in Dubai), and a Canadian mother-daughter combo with a Korean connection – like me, the daughter works in Korea as an English Teacher! It was fantastic to meet interesting people with whom I had different common interests and locales. Once we were at the school we locked our belongings away and bonded while making coconut cream and coconut milk. What’s the difference between coconut cream and milk? The cream is made from taking shredded coconut and squeezing out the liquid then sifting to separate the liquid from the coconut “meat”. How do you make the milk? Add water to the remaining coconut “meat”, squeeze and sift again. Easy, eh? This was a great way to learn about my co-chefs and get out a little aggression patting the coconut.
Next, we went downstairs to wash our hands and prepare to make Tom Yum (the spicy soup). In Thai, “tom” means soup, “yum” means hot and tangy, “goong” means shrimp, and “gai” means chicken. I can now say “Hello”(Sawatdee [add kha for ladies, “khap” for gents]), “Thank-you” (Khaawp khoon [again, add “kha” or “khap”]), “Soup”, “Hot/ Tangy”, “Shrimp”, “Chicken”, and “Coconut” (“kha-thi”). I got a little curried away with puns throughout the class, but everyone was in high spirits and didn’t seem to mind. It was a good group!
Pim explained the relevance of each ingredient in the dishes. There were no packaged curries or powdered and manufactured ingredients. Everything had been grated or pressed in advance and measured out into beautiful little mise-en-place pots at our stations ready for us to chop a few ingredients and pop ‘em all together in our woks. We prepared to heat the Tom Yum and were given the option of number of chillies. I was told that Thai spice is 5 chillies. I went for 3 to the surprise of my Korean teammates especially (I tell ya – they will never believe that waygookins [foreigners/ aliens] can handle spice!). After chopping our ingredients we grabbed our trays and headed over to our woks. Thai cooking uses high heat and gas stoves (which I miss SO much!) for nearly everything, so within a couple of minutes our soup was ready to eat.
The soup was quite possibly the best I’ve ever had! I don’t normally order Tom Yum because it has a tendency to be oily, heavy, and acidic. This was light, refreshing, and the acidity came from the fresh lime I squeezed to my satisfaction. 3 chilies were perfect for this Canadian! My soup had just enough heat to make me happy without sacrificing flavours and actual spices.
The remaining dishes worked mostly the same way: head to the prep room, discuss the importance of certain ingredients in the dish, chop, head over to the woks. Before preparing and after plating we went over to wash our hands in the al fresco cooking and washing areas.
My Pad Thai was also light and tasty. The key ingredient (tamarind) had been pressed earlier that day, and the blending of ingredients made the chicken in this dish tender and juicy. This was the one dish I didn’t finish eating because I wanted to save room for curry and not load up on noodles.
Our Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad) was made as a group and was loaded with tomato and toasted peanuts. We each contributed one item to that large mixing vessel (it wasn’t a bowl) and then served the mixed up salad family-style.
I had tasted Massaman curry in Phuket (it’s famous in the south) which blew my mind. It evoked memories of the first time I tried this rich dish in Canada with friends. Curries are made differently in each part of Thailand, and are unique to each kitchen, as well! This kitchen was no different. As anticipated, we all got different ingredients to chop. A few were selected and added to a giant mortar and pestle unit. We took turns getting hostile with the ingredients, and before too long we had a nice Massaman curry paste. We took it over to the woks where we mixed the ingredients and cut the boiled potatoes in the wok itself as the ingredients blended together and the fragrance of curry filled the air.
After plating our chicken curry (Pim reminded us to make it pretty so it will “look expensive”) we turned around to find covered platters on the bench behind our cooking stations. Throughout the morning we had learned tidbits here and there about Mango Sticky Rice. Pim had cut the mango with a criss-cross pattern, and then asked me to flip the mango inside out (to pop out the diamond shapes of the mango). What a responsibility! Thankfully I didn’t mess it up, although working at a snail’s pace to ensure the mango didn’t tear and flip flop apart got more than a few laughs.
The cooking school itself is organized into several small, kitchy, cute units with lots of pops of colour and 2 floors. Upstairs was where we sat to make coconut cream and milk, and the downstairs area had a preparation room, a dining room, and a cooking area. While I had been to the beaches in Phuket and the green hills of Chiang Mai, listening to chickens croon and cluck and hearing light music off in the distance actually made me feel like I was finally on vacation. Of course, this was my last day before returning to Seoul. I couldn’t have asked for a better send-off. Thailand, I’ll be back (and I might return to Silom to learn how to make spring rolls)!
To book experiences with Trazy in Bangkok (or Seoul, Busan, or Jeju if you’re sticking around Korea), head over to Trazy.com and use the drop-down menu to select your city. To book this particular Silom Thai Cooking School experience about which I was travel-crazy, make sure to click this link. Select “Morning” 9 AM – 1 PM, “Afternoon” 1:40 PM – 5:30 PM, or “Evening” 6 PM – 9 PM and click “Book Now”. Please be advised that only the Morning and Afternoon classes include the market tour. I really enjoyed our market tour, but if you’re on a time crunch then it’s not essential to the whole experience. You’ll have a great time either way! Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced cook – you’ll have a great time and will definitely leave with a full belly!
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Seoul-based NGO Teach North Korean Refugees recently held its 4th English speech contest for North Korean defectors here in the capital. TNKR’s 3rd speech contest was held earlier this year, & during that event, Korea FM’s Chance Dorland had the opportunity to speak with some of the judges & winning contestants who pitched their ideas for helping other North Koreans at the standing-room-only event.
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The post below was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on March 4th, 2016 by KELLY SODERLUND
Carry On with Bravo TV’s Tour Group Host Brandon Presser
As a travel expert, TV host, and writer, Brandon Presser is no stranger to life on the go. Presser, who has visited more than 100 countries, has penned over 50 travel books, and is a regular contributor for such publications as Afar, Travel + Leisure, The Daily Beast, and National Geographic Traveler. And while he may be well known in the travel industry, he’s about to experience a whole new level of recognition: Presser is the lead host of Bravo TV’s new travel-based reality show, “Tour Group“, which tags along as 11 travelers search for the ultimate vacation. (10 p.m. EST/PST on Bravo.) We got Presser to stay in one place long enough to give us his best travel advice, his favorite places to go, and the items he can’t leave home without.
Hipmunk: So, tell us. What’s in your carry-on?
Brandon Presser: A dopp kit with some small essentials like eye drops, moisturizer, a travel toothbrush, Advil, and Ursa Major face towelettes; a small pouch with some lucky charms (a few pebbles I’ve collected from different beaches around the world–I’m a little superstitious!); a good book (that I never finish); an iPad fully loaded with some of my favorite movies; Bose headphones; and Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Granola Bars.
H: Carry on bag of choice?
BP: If I’m hauling some serious carry-on luggage and want the flexibility of bringing more things home, I go for the Dakine Over Under bag, which can grow and shrink in size. For quick trips I’m obsessed with Fjallraven’s safari duffle.
H: How often do you travel?
BP: I’ll travel through roughly 15 countries a year, which has me on one or two large trips a month. Last year’s highlights included everything from Tahiti to Portugal, and leading 11 strangers on a world tour through Africa and Asia while making “Tour Group.”
H: First, business class or coach?
BP: Each travel project I work on has different travel parameters–sometimes I’m in coach, other times I’m in first. I can tell you that it’s super hard to do a long-haul flight at the back of the plane after being treated to the flat beds up front.
H: Ok, now that we’re warmed up, let’s play a game of favorites. Favorite city to visit for work? Why?
BP: Tokyo is the best canvas for my work–whether it’s researching and writing articles and guidebooks or leading travelers through the incredible neighborhoods. The city is an endless well of oddities and curious fads. (Read Brendon’s articles on Tokyo’s oddities and fads here and here, respectively).
H: Favorite city for play? Why?
BP: Luckily, my work life and play life are closely intertwined. And Tokyo never stops inspiring me to get out there and explore with its thousands of cool restaurants, bars, shops and public spaces.
H: Favorite hotels?
BP: I’ve stayed in more than 2,500 hotels worldwide, so this is definitely a tricky one to answer. In the last 12 months some of my hotel highlights have included: Four Seasons Bora Bora, Twin Farms in Vermont, and Roch Castle in Wales.
H: Favorite airline? Airport? Airport Terminal?
BP: I’m really loving JetBlue’s newest aircrafts right now–the entertainment system is bigger and better than ever, the coach seats really aren’t bad, and there’s an endless supply of snacks. Portland’s PDX wins domestically for making a promise to its traveler to not price gauge on snacks and supplies. And Hong Kong wins internationally for Cathay Pacific’s awesome business class lounge with delicious food and state-of-the-art shower facilities.
H: Any travel tips before you take off?
BP: Change your place; change your luck.
The main temple courtyard at Daeheungsa Temple in northern Gyeongju.
Hello Again Everyone!!
Daeheungsa Temple is located in the northern part of Gyeongju and just south east of the towering Mt. Jioksan (569m). You first approach Daeheungsa Temple past several farmers’ fields. The temple in fact seems out of place surrounded by agriculture on all sides.
Standing in the centre of the temple parking lot, you face a large retaining wall, past which lays the temple grounds. Climbing the large set of stairs, you’ll finally pass through the Cheonwangmun Gate at Daeheungsa Temple to enter the lower temple courtyard. Housed inside the Cheonwangmun Gate are four rather underwhelming statues of the Four Heavenly Kings.
Finally standing inside the lower courtyard, you’ll first notice the ornateness of the temple. To your immediate left is a statue of Podae-hwasang. And a little further left is the temple’s bell pavilion which houses a beautiful bronze bell. Straight ahead, on the other hand, is a large granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), who stands in a shallow flowing pond. To the left rear of this pond is an elevated altar that houses a statue of the Eight Spoke Buddhist Wheel, and it’s backed by a seated stone image of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). While to the right rear of the pond is another elevated altar. This time, the altar is fronted by a large metal Geumgang-jeo (Diamond Pounder) and backed by another stone image of Seokgamoni-bul.
Climbing a flight of stairs directly to the rear of the pond and Gwanseeum-bosal, you’ll come to the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas. Just outside this hall are large paintings of the sixteen Nahan, as well as smaller stone statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. As for inside the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas, and resting on the main altar, is triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And this triad is surrounded on all sides, as you might have guessed it, by one thousand smaller images of Amita-bul.
Up another flight of stairs, and passing through the beautiful dragon adorned entry gate, you’ll be welcomed by a large concrete main hall. While the exterior of the hall is all but unadorned except for the traditional dancheong colours, you’ll notice a large triad resting on the main altar. Again, Amita-bul is front and centre in this triad. And he’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul).
To the left of the main hall, besides the monks’ dorms and a training centre for the monks, is a large statue to Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). But it’s to the right of the main hall which probably draws most of your attention. The all white shrine hall, which looks to be Indian-inspired, houses sari (crystallized remains) inside. But before stepping inside this elevated hall, you’ll first have to pass by two intimidating stone Vajra warrior statues. Once you step inside the circular hall, you’ll notice that the wall’s to the hall are painted with the Palsang-do murals that recreate Seokgamoni-bul’s life. And resting on the main altar is a sari.
Just behind the white circular shrine hall, and to the right of the main hall, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hidden hall are three rather common paintings of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Yongwang (The Dragon King), and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).
HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal, take Bus #203 for 45 stops., which will last one hour and twenty minutes. Get off at Oksan 2-ri and walk 850 metres towards Daeheungsa Temple.
OVERALL RATING: 8/10. While a bit out of the way from the usual tourist trappings of Gyeongju, Daeheungsa Temple is well worth the visit to the northern part of the ancient city. With all its stone statues and altars, the trip is worth it alone. But when you add into the mix the white circular sari hall, as well as the massive main hall that’s ornately adorned inside, and you’ll have to find a way to get to the newer Daeheungsa Temple.
The entrance to Daeheungsa Temple.
Rather uniquely designed stupas at the base of the temple entrance.
A walk towards the beautiful Daeheungsa Temple.
One of the Four Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.
The lower courtyard at Daeheungsa Temple.
The Podae-hwasang statue at the entry of the temple.
The bell pavilion to the left of the Cheonwangmun Gate.
The Eight Spoke Buddhist Wheel platform at Daeheungsa Temple.
And to the right is another platform backed by Seokgamoni-bul and fronted by a large metal Geumgang-jeo (Diamond Pounder).
The stairs leading up to the main hall at Daeheungsa Temple.
Inside the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas.
One of the Nahan paintings outside the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas.
The entry gate to the upper courtyard.
One of the ornamental dragons that hangs from the upper courtyard gate.
The unique hall that houses sari inside.
One of the stone guardians that protects the entry to the sari hall.
The main altar inside the sari hall.
A closer look at the main altar with the sari in the centre.
A look back at the entry.
The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Daeheungsa Temple.
The Sanshin mural inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.
The large concrete main hall at Daeheungsa Temple.
The main altar inside the main hall at Daeheungsa Temple with Amita-bul front and centre.
The Mireuk-bul statue to the left of the main hall.
The view from the upper courtyard down towards the lower courtyard.
Cat cafes aren't very hard to find in Korea, but they're a special stop for any traveler looking for a quick relaxing drink and a chat.
You'll find cats of many varieties, colors, and personalities, just itching to ignore you (just kidding... kind of).
If you've never stopped by a cat cafe before, check it out. It's definitely a unique experience from conventional cafes which are all over the world.
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