Tag Archives: things to do in korea

Things I Wish I’d Known When Arriving in Korea

26th January 2015

It’s getting close to the time of year when lots of new recruits will be arriving through the gates at Seoul airport, so I thought i’d share with you all some of the things that would have really helped us when we first arrived. Hopefully it will make your transition into Korean society go that little bit smoother.

Banks

Banking in Korea is HARD. It is a complicated mission made up of no English and endless signatures, all just to get a tiny task done. I am currently with NH and although I have had a lot of problems with them, like them leaving me stranded in Bangkok with a overseas card that doesn’t work, they have overall been helpful.

If you are going to be able to choose I would always go with KEB or KB. KEB is the best bank for transferring money home by far, their online system doesn’t charge a lot of the fee’s most banks do and there is a myth that it’s open on weekends. I am going to find out if this myth is true this weekend.*edit it is true and it is even open on some Sundays of the month but this changes*  KB is worth joining because your card can be used on all subway systems in Korea. You just swipe it when you get on or off any transport and on the 15th and 30th of the month it deducts it from your bill. Lee has one of these and it’s the most helpful things to have when traveling.

The internet system on all Korean banks is abysmal and requires you to download about 5 security packages every time. Also be aware that it will download a file to your computer when you first sign up to internet banking. You will then only be able to use that computer to sign in, unless you get the file onto a USB and carry it with you. Also it will only work with internet explorer.

When you get a new account be sure to ask for:

. A card you can use in shops and at an ATM (I was given a card only for ATM’s which baffled me)

. A card you can use online to buy things (this requires a VISA or MASTERCARD)

. Internet banking

. And internet banking password (I kid you not, if you don’t ask for the password you will have to return to the bank and get one even though you’ve signed up and received authorization codes, also be aware that after you sign up you must log in within 48 hours or you will have to go back to the bank)

. Ability to transfer money abroad

. Ability to transfer money abroad on the internet

. A card that will work over seas. (this is the card I paid for and was reassured would work only to arrive in Bangkok and be as worthless as a Kit Kat wrapper.)

. The English phone line number.

. How to use the bill paying machine. (very simple luckily)

That’s all I can think of now but after a year there were still some of these things I needed to get sorted. Each of these bullet points is unfortunately a different bank trip for me. If you can sit down and get them all done at once your arm will hurt from the 20 signatures for every bullet point but you will be ready to go.

*In regards to using your cards outside of Korea. I believe the way it works is Korean VISA will let you take money out of the ATM’s and Korean Mastercards will allow you to charge money to it in shops, but this may only be my bank NH….just make sure that the card they gave you is also registered for abroad use.

blogger-image-919191957 Travel

A travel card is really helpful and will save you a lot of money over time. You can get these from the tiny (and I mean tiny) stalls next to bus stops and subways. They normally look like they only sell drinks, cigarettes and candy but you can top up and buy travel cards here.

The name of the cards are:

대경교통카드 or Dae-kyeong gyo-tong card-uh

You can use the blue machines in subways or these stall to top them up but they require cash. I have an awful memory but I think it was 2,000 won to get the card.

If you spend a little extra and get a ‘T’ mobile travel card or a ‘cash-bee’ card which is small enough to attach to your keys (they can be found in the small stalls or 7-11’s) then you can also use these in Seoul and Busan….it’s important to know that cash-bee is a lot more popular in Daegu than the t-mobile cards and easier to top up.

 

Bus stations

If you want to travel by bus somewhere, it is really easy and really cheap. The amazing leg room and space found on the luxury buses that go on long journeys also make it a great way to travel. The main bus station for Seoul and Busan is at DongDaegu. You can get a subway here. Depending where you are headed will determine which station you go to . Currently we are still working out which is which but they are all very close together. You don’t seem to be able to buy these tickets online but you can check how many seats are left on coaches at this site: Here

IMG_2815 KTX

If you are trying to get to Seoul or Busan in a hurry then the KTX is for you. You may have already tried this great form of transport but if not its easy and simple to navigate.

You can order tickets for the KTX or slow trains here

The KTX will be booked up extremely fast on busy days and its always smart to pre-order.

As a Brit, trains come and go vaguely based on times listed. That is not the case here. The ktx will leave the station at the exact time listed. Make sure you have a seat and don’t let Ajummas (old Korean ladies) kick you out of them or confuse you as has been known to happen. I’ve heard many a tale of people getting off trains thinking it’s the wrong one but actually have been seat-jacked.

Don’t be tempted to treat yourself on the slow or fast trains to first class. There is no noticeable difference what so ever in these carriages apart from people aren’t allowed to stand in them.

*Important information*

Make sure to take your passport if you have booked tickets. The ticket desk uses your passport to confirm your order and you will need it to receive your purchase. You can also just make a note of the number and read it to them, they don’t normally need to see the actual passport.

Phones

Unfortunately I can’t help you too much with this one as I only obtained my phone after the 5th month of being here due to bringing an locked (thought it was unlocked) iPhone with me. What I will say is if you are bring one from home make sure you contact the provider it use to be with and you have it officially unlocked. I used many ones online that claimed to work but unfortunately none did. It costs about $40 to get an iPhone unlocked officially.

I currently pay 60,000 won a month which includes unlimited internet which is a savior in a country that does have great Wi-Fi but only if you already have a SK or Olleh account to enter a specific code.

You can find Wi-Fi in places such as Lotteria, Starbucks and Holly’s coffee but you normally only get about half hour with it. Smaller coffee shops normally have unlimited internet if you buy a coffee.

My biggest advice when getting a phone is find a Korean person to help you. The nuances of the contracts and the general information needed will leave you feeling a little over  whelmed. There are people that speak English but they are few and far between. In Daegu there is phone alley which has endless phone shops you can try near the main subway station Banwoldang.

To get to this street, leave Banwoldang from exit 10. Walk straight and make a left at the Burger bar in front of you. There will be a small alley, when you come out of the alley you will be on phone alley. (If you know the way to Traveler’s bar, it is the exact same way but the road you cross before turning left to Traveler’s street)

Internet

The internet in Korea comes on varying plans. I have free internet in my house but other people I know had to pay monthly. My boyfriend’s co-teacher set his up for him and it was about 30,000 won a month. Unfortunately when he left his flat this year they wanted 400,000 won disconnection fee. This was due to his co-teacher signing him up for a 3 year deal (?) she had very good intentions as it made it cheaper through out the year but over all was not worth it. Make sure to check the disconnection policy in case your school wants to cut it off before you leave or you change flats in your second year.

If you have any questions or more experiences to share please let me know.

Traveling is daunting and the only way we survived at the beginning was with helpful advice from people that had already dragged themselves up the mountain and made it to the top.

PLEASE note that all of this is just opinion and not 100% accurate, its just my experiences. I hope it helps just a little. Welcome to Daegu

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The DMZ : A trip to North Korea

15th January 2015

One of the first things you get asked when you mention you live in Korea is ‘North or South?’.

Luckily and like 99.9999% of the people who head to Korea I do live in the South but the North is a beautiful and scary mystery. The rest of the world is terrified by this small unpredictable land. While living here it can sometimes feel like Korea ignores it like an annoying younger sibling that wants to play in their room. During the scares and threats from the North last year it was only parents and families back home that even alerted most teachers to there being a problem. When I asked my co-workers opinions on their neighbor’s threats I was met with blank stares…“It’s just North Korea, they just want food and then they will be quiet for a while”. It was an interesting opinion and not one I think we have in the West.
All this being said, I knew at some point during my stay in Korea I would have to pay a visit to the scary area that is named the DMZ (De Militarised Zone) . Last year when a few of my friends wanted to go we jumped on board.
We headed up to Seoul on the KTX after school, Soju and Beer in hand. Ready for a well needed week of celebration in Seoul before they departed Korea with the added bonus of visiting the DMZ. We arrived at our pleasant enough hostel and decided to get a ‘quiet’ dinner.

Eight hours later, two bars, six buckets and a night club later we were running around the hotel desperately trying to wake ourselves up enough to catch our bus to the DMZ.

We rallied and caught our bus that took us up North.

When we arrived at Panmunjom (the area of the demilitarized zone that brings the guards face to face with each other 24 hours a day) the snow was falling and the area seemed as grim as its past. It was at this moment we all felt horribly guilty for being so blase about this trip. I think as travelers who are use to seeing tourist sights we had allowed ourselves to forget where exactly we were and the gravity of the situation we were walking into.
The American army guards gave us a fantastic tour but it was eerie. I have never been in an area with so much tension. This was a tour but at the same time we were warned that North Korea was taking our pictures to use as propaganda. We could see camera lens poking out behind curtains. We were warned that if they were to give us the finger or try to spit on us that there was nothing we could do. If you approached a guard to closely they would punch you. Even the South Korean ones. They were taking no chances.
The blue buildings you see in the picture below are the mid way points between two sides. All meetings take place here between the two countries. Many decisions have been made in these very rooms. To be stood in a room that has seen so many conversations deciding the fate of millions of lives left me with a really sense of the weight these countries are under. It upset me to think that I live in a country with such a delicate and painful past.
As well as  Panmunjom we were also taken to the location of the 1976 axe murders. This was an incident cause by cutting down a tree. The tree was cutting off all visibility for the only South Korean viewing station. North Korea delayed the confirmed time because of rain but a small team of South Korean and American unarmed guards went to cut the tree down. The N.Koreans watched for 15 minutes without incident but suddenly the North Koreans attacked with over 20 men all carrying crossbows and clubs. The North Koreans got hold of the axes held by the two South Korean and American guard and attacked them. There are horrible photos of the incident in which the guards were brutally murdered.
There is also a photo of another guard Capt. Bonifas who was bludgeoned to death by 5 North Korean guards.
I realise this isn’t a nice story but it shocked me to the core to see the photos and realise that the area we were in was so volatile.
There are many other stories I could tell you but it was all pointing to the forgiveness shown by the South Koreans. Tunnels built by North Korea for miles into areas beyond the DMZ created purely to attack South Korea  which created no reperpussions from South Korea or America,  as well as endless rants and abuse hurled daily from the North Korean guards to the South Korean men.  I would like to think that the UK or America could be as forgiving in the same situations but it’s hard to believe. Ovbiously we only saw a very one sided version of events being on the South Korean side so please don’t take this as fact but it was strange to see.
There is break through, such as the completely deserted and fully built train station to North Korea at the DMZ that is fully functional but full of nothing. It’s incredible to think that one day there will be a link to these two countries via this train.
Being a tourist area as well as the historical sight there was also a shop that let us stock up on North Korean memorabilia. We left with some North Korean Brandy that we aren’t planning on drinking. It will be a weird memento of our time in this country.
It was a fantastic and haunting trip but I’m really glad I did it. I’ve been trying to decide recently whether to visit the killing fields in Cambodia when we visit or the prisoner of war camps in Vietnam. Remembering this trip makes me think it is definitely something we need to do.   I think that sometimes its a way of honoring the country you are in. Showing that little bit of respect and a way to show you do care about the places you are visiting. Obviously the DMZ is very different since it is a working and active area but I think it is still the same as other historic areas in the way that it helped to form the country you are in and deserves tourists to take a second to respect the country they want to be a part of.
I do regret how blase we were before we arrived but this sobering and somber place really hit home.

The one piece of advice I would give to anyone heading on this trip is:

If you are tall then be wary of the tunnels. These tunnels were secretly created by using dynamite. Their purpose was to attack the South Koreans. They are quiet errie when you are walking in them since you understand their purpose but on a practical level….they are small. Watching Lee and our friend, who are extremely tall men, crawl their way through it while shorter Koreans laughed at them was quite funny.Especially when groups of tourists would stop just to point and laugh at their predicement. I had to duck and i’m only 5 foot 5 so you can imagine how a 6 foot 3 man and our even taller friend fared. The comedy was short lived when we all had to walk up the steep 362km hill to get out of the tunnel….my poor legs.
It was a gratifying and interesting trip that expanded my knowledge of a country I like to call home. I once again want to mention that we are in no way experts or even consider ourselves vaguely proficient on the subject of the DMZ but we wanted to share our experience with your all for anyone else thinking of visiting this site.
 Hopefully there can be some peace between the two countries some day but it does seem a very long way away when you are stood at Panmunjom.
Have you been to the  DMZ? What did you think? Would you like to go if you haven’t been or have you been to any other sad locations considered tourist spots? We look forward to hearing from you.

A Korean Bucket List

13th January 2015

KoreaMoney01 Before I created this little blog with the lovely Lee I had a small blogspot site called Doodlezilla. I’m an animator by trade and Doodlezilla is a character I created before I left home. This week , since i’m desk warming up a storm, I went back to review the site when I stumbled upon my old Korean bucket list.

With just 50 days left in this lovely country it seems quite fitting to review and see what it is I need to cram into these 50 days before we head off on our travels. I’m quite proud to see how many things I’ve check off my list since arriving two years ago. It feels like forever since I was sat at my new desk and making this list. It’s been a good two years.

So here is my Korean Bucket List:

  • Order a meal without knowing what you are asking for.
  • Drink Makgoli
  • Try Soju
  • Go to a Cat Café.
  • Have lunch on a beach in Busan
  • Go dancing in Seoul
  • See the Busan Aquarium
  •  Go to an Orphanage
  • Try Shaba Shaba

lunch

  •  Nora Bang with Jess (my uk friend) in Korea
  • Use the photo booths
  • See Asias biggest Budda (luckily located in Daegu)
  • Climb Apsan
  • Volenteer at a childrens charity
  •  Spend Christmas day with my friends
  • Spend a summer weekend in the park
  •  Visit Jeju island
  • See Sokjoe in the Autum unfit38
  • Eat Dak Galbi in the home of Dak Galbi
  • Try K-pole (Korean pole dancing class)
  • Go to a charitable dog walk.
  • Kick leaves in the park in Autum
  • See the Cherry blossoms.
  • Watch Christmas films in a DVD Bang with friends.
  • Cook a meal for friends.
  • Have cocktail in a bag
  • Make crafts for my class
  • Take my camera out into Daegu (This is a year long achievment!)
  • Stay in a Buddist temple
  • Put my feet in the Ocean
  • Join a Kpop dance class
  • Try Taekwondo
  • Norabang!
  • Make Kimbap at home.
  • Eat in Kim Pasa
  • Learn to like beer
  • Travel to a random place on the subway and explore
  •  Jump from Duryu tower (not something they do anymore but I did climb it)
  • Participate in a tea drinking ceremony
  • Sit on the floor in a restaurant
  • Visit a Korean families home.

holi7

  • Go to Holi Hai
  • Go to Mudfest
  • Dance all night in Pacha
  • Have a phone conversation in Korean.
  • Find a Korean Mentor.
  • Learn Hangul.
  • Learn enough Korean to order food, use transportation and buy things.
  • Have a Korean Haircut.
  • Go to a Korean beauty salon.
  • Have a summer Korean BBQ.
  • Eat Dak Galbi.
  • Get a phone.
  • Learn my address.
  • Order McDonalds to be delivered.
  • Dance to Gangnam style in Seoul (Gangnam preferred).
  • Buy a Konglish t-shirt.
  • Make a Korean friend.
  • Visit a random place in Korea on the train.
  • Sleep on the floor.
  • Stay in a love motel.(recommeded , it was really comfy and so funny)
  •  learn to like Chap Sal Duk. (as long as I have coffee with it) *edit….I learnt to like it only with coffee about a year ago, now I just like it 
  • See Japan during vacation.
  • See Thailand. 
  • See China.
  • See Taiwan 
  • Watch Lee swim with sharks in Busan.
  • Get eyelashes fitted (?)
  • Learn at least 7 student’s names.
  • Draw every day. (doing well so far)
  • Put a lock at the top of Seoul Tower.
  • Do yoga (even though its not a Korean thing)
  • Cook a Christmas dinner for friends.
  • Have a film/games night at the flat. 
  • Try writing for a magazine
  • Try getting paid for my photography work
  • Ride a roller coaster.
  • Go to a Korean wedding
  • Start Roller Derby
  • Feel I’ve really helped at least one student.
  • Go Skiing
  • See the DMZ
  • Travel on the KTX
  • Stay up until the first subway
  • Make Welsh cakes
  • Try an out door gym.
  • Eworld
  • Ride the duck boats in Susung Lake
  • Drink a cocktail from a coconut.
  • See the sunrise on the beach.
  • See a 4d movie
  • See a big korean fireworks display
  • See live music in korea.
  • Go to a dog café

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  • Teach elementary school 
  • Fly to an exotic location for holidays
  • Do fancy dress in Korea 
  • See the Tripataka Koreana

So that is the list. It feels great to have done so many things on it. We still have a few to do. Some such as go to Jeju I unfortunately don’t think will happen but we’ve been to many lovely Korean islands such as Namhae and Geoje so  I don’t feel like we’ve missed out too much, it’s such a popular destination that it can be an expensive and a busy holiday. The other thing we unfortunately may not do is get to watch Lee swim with sharks…but that’s just in Korea. He’s upgrading from an aquarium to a cage in Australia….mental boy, you couldn’t pay me to do it…jumping out of a plane on the other hand.

In the next two months we have some days off so we are planning on taking a random train up to the home of Dak Galbi and trying that for ourselves, climbing Apsan and maybe putting a lock in Susung lake instead of Seoul since Daegu is our home.  This post has also given me a boot and i’ll buy kimbap ingredients this weekend and give making it at home a go.

I also have my own little personal ‘one more time before I leave list’ but that mainly consists of seeing friends and eating my weight in Korean food.  I can’t believe it’s coming to an end.

If you are reading this and thinking about traveling to Korea…do it…DO IT NOW! daegu8

What would be on your bucket list? Have you tried any of the things we’ve listed? Did we miss any huge important Korean ‘things to do’? We can’t wait to hear from you.  signature