Last year’s autumn, I planned on visiting both Haeinsa Temple and Hapcheon Image Theme Park in Hapcheon, but I ended up with only the Image Theme Park because of lack of time since I only had the whole day in Hapcheon. The Image Theme is huge and there are a lot of interesting places that’s why it took me almost the whole day to explore it. Hapcheon is not a big city, it’s a countryside in Gyeongsangnam-do so transportation is limited. I had to catch the last bus at 7pm going back to Changwon. I promised myself that I will go to Haeinsa on my next Korea trip and it happened.
This year’s spring, special thanks to our Korean friend who drove us from Changwon to Haeinsa, I finally fulfilled my promised. After a 1.5 hour trip, we arrived in Hapcheon. The way to Haeinsa was so peaceful as it is in the middle of a mountain. Haeinsa houses the Tripitaka Koreana, a collection of Buddhists texts engraved in over 80,000 woodblocks. According to a friend, many people believed that the Tripitaka Koreana protected them from the Japanese.
The Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks is recognized as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.
Before reaching the main temple we passed by this site which at first I honestly had no idea what it is about until our friend explained its story. That’s the good thing about travelling with someone who’s familiar about the place. hehe.
I was stunned by the dandelions. I don’t why, but it always cheers me up every time I see dandelions.
This the main entrance of Haeinsa. There are colorful lanterns in the temple since it was the during the month of May, the time when they celebrate Buddha’s birthday. Most temples in Korea are decorated by beautiful colorful lanterns usually every April to May for Buddha’s birthday.
Now we’ve reached the main temple. This is Haeinsa Temple. I have been to several temples in Korea but Haeinsa really captivates me. It’s too peaceful and the people who are visiting are devotedly praying.
The collection of the woodblocks or the Tripitaka Koreana is located at the back of the main temple.
Apparently, these woodblocks are precious cultural assets so they are stored inside and I didn’t get to see them up close.
This picture looks so real that you will really look like you are inside and touching the woodblocks.
Of course it’s spring and I spotted beautifully bloomed flowers in the temple. They add more color and appeal to the place.
Haeinsa is located in the southwestern part of Gaya mountain. We followed this path to witness breathtaking scenery and fantastic landscape around the vicinity. It’s more than what I expected.
A lady, who I bumped into and was staying in this place, told me to go up higher ‘coz the view is more beautiful so I did. Well, she’s right. It’s simply mesmerizing. No one is around but me.
We also passed by other places in Gaya mountain. My visit to Haeinsa and Gaya mountain was so worth the long walk. Haeinsa is one of the three jewels temples in Korea and they offer temple stay program. Something you might be interested about, check it out. It’s really an amazing place.
Are you excited for your trip to South Korea but you don’t know what to do or where to go? Is it your first time traveling to Korea? If yes, read up and keep these things in mind.
1. Wear Comfortable Shoes
They say Koreans travel by BMW (bus, metro and walking). Wear your most comfortable shoes because will definitely do a lot of walking while in Korea.
2. Dress Appropriately
Korea has four seasons. Before traveling to the country, do some research on the weather. It’s freezing during winter season from December to February so make sure to wear something that will keep you warm. It is still cold in early spring, from March to early April. The weather becomes warm from mid April. Summer is from June to August. Summer in Korea can be really hot and it usually rains a lot. Autumn is from September to November. It becomes really cold from late October.
One more thing, girls can wear mini skirts or shorts but please avoid wearing revealing tops.
3. Download the Subway Korea app
The Subway Korea app is an offline app where you can find everything you need in taking the subway. You don’t need to connect to a wifi for it to work accurately. There are a lot of trains in Korea and the transfers can be confusing if you are not to used to their system. So get this app and don’t get lost.
4. Use T-Money Card
T-money is a transportation card which you can use in the subway, bus and some taxis. The train will be your main transportation while in Seoul since most tourist attractions can be reached by train. You can save ₩100 each ride by using T-money than purchasing single journey tickets. You can purchase the T-money card and charge it at any convenience store or subway vending machines.
5. Avoid traveling from midnight to early morning.
Subways are closed at 12 midnight. If you missed the last train and you don’t know which bus you have to take, you’ll probably be looking for a taxi. But taxi fare from 12mn to 4am is relatively high compared to regular rates. In my experience, when we went to Jinhae, we came back to Seoul at past 12midnight so we had to take a taxi to go back to the guest house and it charged us at around ₩26,000 for a 5-minute ride.
6. Tax-free for Foreigners
Foreigners can shop tax-free for a minimum purchase of ₩30,000. There are shops where you can get instant refunds. Some shops will require you to present your passport while others do not. In case you didn’t get instant refund, you can get the refund at Incheon International Airport before departure. Just look for the Tax Refund Counter at the airport and make sure you have the receipts with you.
Just recently, the Korea Tourism Organization announced that foreign tourists are eligible for a 10% tax refund on hotel accommodations. Click on the link for more details and for the list of the hotels.
7. Souvenir Shopping in Insadong
I prefer buying souvenirs in Insadong because it cheaper. Also, if you pay in cash you can get discounts and freebies.
8. Rent a Hanbok
To complete your Korea trip, it’ll be nice to experience to wear their traditional dress, Hanbok. For me, the best souvenir I can have for every Korea trip is a stunning photo wearing a Hanbok in a palace. I like wearing Hanbok because it’s comfortable to wear and it’s colorful.
Did you know that you can enter all 5 palaces, National Folk Museum and Jongmyo Shrine for free if you are wearing a Hanbok? There are Hanbok rentals shops around Insadong and places near the Gyeongbukgung. Rental fees start at ₩14,000 for 4hrs.
9. Eating in Restaurants
In Seoul, you’ll find restaurants in every corner. Most staff in restaurants cannot understand English but they usually have English menus. Take note, some menus require a minimum of 2 portions of order. So don’t get confused when they tell you that you cannot order 1.
When you are done eating, you don’t have to ask the staff for the bill like what we do in the Philippines. You pay on your way out. You should stand up and go to the counter to pay and then you can leave. The counter is usually located near the door.
10. No Tipping
You don’t have to give tips to restaurants, hotels or taxi drivers for their service. South Korea has a no-tipping culture. Koreans are nice and helpful. If someone helps you to carry your luggage or even if someone’s gone out of their way just to help you, you can just sincerely thank them. You don’t need to give tips because they will refuse to accept it or they might feel offended.
But there are also situations where you have to give tips, like if you join group or package tours. Most of the times, you have to give tips to tour guides and drivers.
There are discounts especially for foreigners. You can get discounts coupons when you arrive at the airport or you can get them online.
12. Do not put your powerbank or batteries inside your check-in luggage
This is just a reminder for a hassle-free travel. They scan luggages after check in, so wait until you are cleared to depart Korea. If they cannot reach you, they will open your luggage to remove your powerbank.
13. Respect the Culture and Tradition of the Country
It is a must when traveling to foreign countries. Every country has their own culture and tradition. And you cannot expect the locals to adjust according your needs and wants.
Is it safe to Travel to Korea?
Definitely Yes! I’ve traveled to Korea several times and I’ve never experienced being treated bad or being scammed. You can even leave your stuff in your table at coffee shops or at train/bus stations unattended. No one will be interested.
If you still don’t know where to go, here are the usual places that tourists visit when in Seoul.
Getting there: Gyeongbokgung Station, Exit 5 or Anguk Station and Exit 1.
Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon
Getting there: Anguk Station, Exit 3. Walk straight from the exit (towards east) for about 5-min.
N Seoul Tower
Getting there: Take the Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus or Cable Car
Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus
1. Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus No. 02
– Take the bus from the closest subway station: Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway Line 3, 4), Exit 2 (in front of Daehan Cinema) or Dongguk University Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 6.
2. Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus No. 03
– Take the bus from the closest subway station: Seoul Station (Seoul Subway Line 1, 4), Exit 9, Itaewon Station (Seoul Subway Line 6), Exit 4 or Hangangjin Station (Seoul Subway Line 6), Exit 2.
3. Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus No. 05
– Take the bus from the closest subway station: Myeong-dong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exit 3 or Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 2 (in front of Daehan Cinema).
Get off at Myeong-dong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4) and Exit 3.
Walk for about 15 minutes following the street on the right side of the Pacific Hotel. The cable car boarding place will be seen ahead.
Like other countries, Korea has 4 seasons and all of them have made me always long to travel back to the country. You will never run out of places to visit and activities to do as there are festivals happening all year round. I have been asked several times what is the best season to visit Korea and I couldn’t pick one season to recommend because honestly I like them all. Let me share with you some photos of my trips and recommended places each season.
Autumn is really beautiful but I think spring is my favorite. Mainly because of the weather. The temperature is getting warm and it’s easier for me to wander around. Of course, the flowers are blooming which makes the surroundings romantic. Though I’m not a romantic person but I find spring to be the most romantic of all seasons. You’ll see couples strolling around wearing couple outfits and families are having picnics at the parks. They are out having fun after hibernating during the freezing winter. It’s like a start of new life, as what my Korean friend said.
Now you might wonder what’s with spring? What you can expect to see in spring? It’s cherry blossom season. Cherry blossoms only last for about 2 weeks. They usually start blooming on late March and at its peak on the first week of April in some places. If you want to catch the cherry blossoms check out the forecast that’s being announced by the Korea Tourism Organization.
This photo was taken at Gyeongbukgung Palace in Seoul
Jinhae Cherry Blossom festival is the biggest cherry blossom festival in the South Korea. Jinhae is a district in the city of Changwon in South Gyeongsang Province where over 350,000 cherry blossom trees bloom during spring. The festival is being held every first week of April.
The 2 famous spots in Jinhae Cherry Blossom festival are Yeojwacheon Stream and the Gyeonghwa Station.
The Yeojwacheon is also famously known as the Romance Bridge because it is a filming location of Korean drama “Romance”.
Get your cameras ready when approaching the Gyeonghwa Station. You’ll be passing the cherry trees lined rail road.
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Getting there: If you are in Busan, you are less than 1 hour away from Jinhae by bus. If you are coming from Seoul, traveling via KTX is the best option. There is no KTX line in Jinhae Station though, you have to transfer Mugunghwa Line in Masan or Changwon Station. And take note that train to Jinhae Station runs only during the festival.
If you don’t have time to go Jinhae, head over to Yeouido in Seoul for the Yeouido Cherry Blossom festival.
Getting there: Get off at Yeouinaru Station (Subway Line 5), Exit 1. 20 minute walk.
In case you miss the cherry blossoms, don’t worry. There are other festivals to look forward to in spring. There’s the Yuchae Flower festival in Daejo Eco-Park along Nakdong River in Busan. Also known as rapeseed or canola flowers. You can see these flowers by mid April.
Getting there: Get off at Gangseo-gu Office Station and go out exit 1 or 3
Another highlight of spring is the Taean Tulip Festival in Taean-gun, in South Chungcheong Province. I believe it’s one of the best tulips festivals in the world.
Who wouldn’t fall for autumn? It’s the most colorful season. You can spot autumn foliage everywhere in the country. Nami Island is beautiful all season and it’s stunning in autumn.
The Ginkgo Tree Avenue is Asan is also one of the best places to witness the beauty of autumn.
More details about my trip to Ginkgo Tree Avenue here.
If you don’t have time to go to other places outside Seoul, it’s okay, you can still have a wonderful autumn experience in Seoul. Don’t forget to visit Deoksugung, it’s a palace that’s famous for autumn foliage.
I also spotted this huge Ginkgo tree inside Gyeongbukgung Palace.
Winter in Korea can be really harsh. Most people hate the freezing winter. But since I live in tropical country, I enjoyed winter so much. It’s a dream come true to experience snow. Gangwon province is the most popular during winter season. There are a lot of ski resorts in Gangwon-do. It’s the host province of the 2018 Winter Olympics which will be held in Pyeongchang this February.
One of the most accessible ski resorts is the Elysian Gangchon Ski Resort. It’s near Nami Island.
Getting there: Get off at Baegyang-ri Station. A complimentary shuttle ride is provided from Baegyangri Station to the resort.
Summer is not a new season to me. I grew up and still living in a country where it’s like summer all year hehe. Summer in Korea is really hot but not humid. It can also be considered as the rainy season in Korea. It’s the season when I traveled to Jeju Island. I was lucky it didn’t rain too much during my trip. I like the bright green leaves of summer.
Because it’s summer, it’s time to sunbathe. Haeundae Beach in Busan is also a must-visit place during summer to enjoy the sun.
I don’t claim to be an expert, there might be some things I’ve missed but I’m glad I’m able to share the things I learned from my trips because it’s always been a fulfilling experience to travel around Korea whatever season it may be.
Now it’s up to you to decide in which season you would want to travel to Korea. Let me know if you need more information.