South KoreaCredit:'m a Korean drama fan. Watching K-dramas triggers my interests in Korean culture. So when my family decided to go to South Korea, it was a dream come true. I was so excited! I couldn't wait to finally experience Korea firsthand.

We purchased a tour package that included airfare, hotel accommodation, meals, transportation, and a Korean tour guide. Our trip lasted for five days. Below are some of places we've visited.

N Seoul Tower

N Seoul TowerCredit: Rainy Kua

N Seoul Tower, the highest viewing platform
in Korea
Photo: Rainy Kua

At the heart of Seoul stands the 236.7-meter tall communication tower known as the N Seoul Tower. Also called the Namsan Tower or simply the Seoul Tower, it is connected to Namsan cable car which is a way some tourists prefer to take. Above the sea level, the tower rises up to 479.7 meters. It also serves as an observation tower and was opened to the public in 1980. Visitors can view the city of Seoul from the observatory of the tower which is the highest viewing platform in South Korea.

The tower has four observation decks. The highest one is N Grill, a revolving restaurant that makes a complete turn every 1 hour and 40 minutes. Visitors can dine in while enjoying the panoramic view of the city - a perfect place to bring your date! The second observation deck is the Digital Observatory. It has a high-tech telescope for visitors to use and has different world cities and streets written on the windows. The third is the Analogue Observatory, the only observation deck that I had visited. It has a snack shop and a souvenir shop. You can also relax at the lounging area facing the windows. Although it's not the highest point of the observatory, I still got a pretty good view of the city. It was a waste though not to be able to see the night view of Seoul since we arrived there in the morning. Aside from the revolving restaurant, there is also a Korean restaurant located at the lowest deck of the observatory. Visitors have to pay an admission fee to go up to the observatory.

N Seoul Tower had only become popular after its renovation in 2005. Every night, from 5pm until 11pm, the tower will emit colourful lights to entertain both locals and tourists. A cafe, food court, bakery, shops, children's theatre, and a teddy bear museum can be found at the foot of the tower. At the lobby is a media zone where anyone can watch movies for free (but of course, do this only if you're not in a hurry)!


Teddy Bear Museum

Teddy Bear MuseumCredit: Rainy Kua

teddy bears in Korean costumes
Photo: Rainy Kua

The Teddy Bear Museum presents Seoul's rich history in an unusual and amusing way - with teddy bears! Imagine some teddy bears wearing hanbok (traditional Korean attire), gat (black hat) and gache (huge wig for women)! How adorable is that? I felt like a kid the moment I stepped inside the museum.

Located in the basement of N Seoul Tower, the museum is filled with both big and small teddy bears. The big ones can be found in some corners of the museum, waiting for you to be hugged and taken pictures with. The rest are miniature teddy bears displayed on counters. Some of the bears are even moving! At the exit is a souvenir shop where you can buy your very own teddy bear! I was having so much fun in the museum that I didn't notice the time. We were called to get on the bus for our next trip. I didn't even get a chance to shop at the store!

The museum is a cute place where both young and old will enjoy. It has been featured in the Korean drama Princess Hours. That was the first comment I got when I showed my pictures to my friends. Unfortunately, I haven't watched the drama. Korean drama fans shouldn't miss this place. They will surely be swooned at the sight of Bae Yong Jun teddy bears!


Gyeongbokgung (Gyeongbok Palace)

GwanghwamunCredit: Rainy KuaEmpress MyeongseongCredit: Rainy Kua

Gwanghwamun, the main entrance to Gyeongbokgung
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Geunjeongjeon, Koreas 223th national treasure
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Rainy Kua

Empress Myeongseong (Queen Min) was
brutally murdered at Geongcheonggung
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Jibokjae, the king's library
Photo: Rainy Kua

Completed in 1395 during the Joseon Dynasty, the Gyeongbokgung has been an icon of South Korea. The palace had been destroyed during the Japanese invasion (Hideyoshi's invasion) in the 1500's. In 1868, after almost 300 years of being left in ruins, the palace had been rebuilt. More edifices were constructed, only to be destroyed again by the Japanese government during the Japanese occupation in the early 1900's. In 1990, the Korean government had made efforts to restore the original Gyeongbokgung. As of this writing, about 40 percent of the palace had already been restored.

The main entrance is through the Gwanghwamun at the south of the palace. The gate is distinguished by its three doors as opposed to the other single-door gates of the palace. It was ruined during the Korean War but had been restored on August 15, 2010. 
As you enter from the main (south) gate and walk straight to the north, you will pass through a second inner gate known as the Heungnyemun, which leads to another inner gate called the Geunjeongmun. Inside the Geunjeongmun is a vast courtyard where the majestic Geunjeongjeon, the Throne Hall, stands. This is where state affairs and celebrations were being held during the Joseon Dynasty. The emperor sat on his throne, facing his people who were neatly lined up at the courtyard. We had our picture taken in front of Geunjeongmun, Korea's 223th national treasure. The photo is one of my most treasured family photos.
A huge residence was located in the northern part of the palace known as the Geongcheonggung. Sometimes referred to as the palace within the palace, Geongcheonggung used to be the residence of King Gojong and his queen. It was built during the king's tenth year of reign. Nearby was the Hyangwonjeong, a hexagonal pavilion situated in the middle of a man-made pond. It was at this residence that Empress Myeongseong (Queen Min) was brutally murdered by a group of Japanese soldiers. Traumatized by his queen's tragic fate, King Gojong left and since then, had never set foot on the palace.
There are several more buildings in the palace: Gangnyeongjeon, the king's living quarters; Gyotaejeon, the queen's living quarters; Jagyeongjeon, the living quarters of King Heonjong's mother; Jibokjae, the king's library; Gyeonghoeru, a hall where the king feasted with his officials and also Korea's 224th national treasure; Sajeongjeon, the king's main executive office; Taewonjeon, a shrine. The National Folk Museum and the National Palace Museum are also within the palace grounds.

Nami Island (Naminara Republic)

Nami IslandCredit: Rainy KuaNami Island SymbolCredit: Rainy Kua

Nami Island is made popular by the hit
Korean series Winter Sonata

the crescent moon and the star - the symbol
of the Naminara Republic
Photo: Rainy Kua

In 1944, the previously barren land, known as the Nami Island, had turned into a crescent-shaped island after being flooded by the Han River. Located in Chuncheon, Nami Island was named after General Nami . It used to be sandy until Minn Pyong Do started planting on the land in 1965. On March 1, 2006, the island became an independent nation and was officially named the Naminara Republic. It has its own passport, its own flag, its own anthem, and its own currency! This is a nation where people live very closely with nature. The Nami Island's hotels don't have TV sets and they have their electricity turned off every night. Another interesting thing to note is that you will find books at unlikely places such as on the outdoor benches!

The island has stunning scenery that has been made popular by the hit Korean series Winter Sonata. Fans of Winter Sonata series can also have their pictures taken in front of the drama's huge poster or beside the two embracing statues likened after the drama's lead characters that are found within the island. However, you don't have to love Winter Sonata to appreciate this place. Even tourists who haven't watched the series or who are not fans of Korean dramas will love this island. Strolling through the paths with trees on either side will give you a surreal feel. It's a perfect place to walk hand-in-hand with your special someone (or to piggy-back your girl if that's what you prefer). It's like being in fairy tales; thus, it is also referred to as "the imaginary country of Korea." The beauty in this place is that its appearance changes every season, making it a place you'd want to visit more than once. I went there in spring and I would love to see how it looks during autumn! That would be fantastic.

Lotte World

Lotte WorldCredit:

the castle at Lottle World
Photo: Julie Facine | Flickr

Lotte World, located in Seoul, is the largest indoor theme park in the world according to Guinness World Record. There are various activities you can do at this park. Aside from getting on the park rides, you can also play sports such as skating, bowling, swimming, and gun shooting. If you're feeling nerdy, you can visit the park's Folk Museum. You can also shop at Lotte World's shopping mall, department store, and duty-free shops. The park opens everyday until 11pm.

My group went to the theme park about 7pm after having our dinner. The park was already packed with people as we arrived and there was a parade going on. Due to time constraints, we weren't able to do much. We rode on Sinbad, a boat ride similar to Disney's It's a Small World. Next, we went to watch the 3D show Ghost House. The queue was very long and we waited several minutes before we got in. The way into (and out) of the building was very creepy, but the show itself wasn't as eerie. When we got out, the laser show that we'd been wanting to see had already ended. What a bummer!

Lotte World, just like its more popular counterparts, is a must-visit place. However, you will need much more than just a few hours to truly enjoy the place. What we had was like a sneak peak to the park.


Everland Resort

T ExpressCredit: TigerCredit: Rock SpinCredit:

the T Express at Everland
Photo: milst1 | Flickr

a tiger at Zoo-Topia
Photo: Jinho.Jung | Flickr

Double Rock Spin
Photo: Jinho.Jung | Flickr

Opened in 1976, the award-winning Everland Resort is the largest theme park in South Korea. There are five themed areas in the park: Global Fair, a place where you can shop for souvenirs; American Adventure, a site filled with dizzying and vomit-inducing rides; Magic Land, the park's section catered to younger guests; European Adventure, a European-inspired area that is perfect for couples; and Zoo-Topia, a small zoo within the park.

A new part of Everland is the Carribean Bay which was opened in 2010. It is South Korea's largest water park. It has different kinds of pools and slides. I wasn't able to see this part of Everland Resort since it requires another ticket to enter.

The popular ride (and probably a ride not to be missed by thrill-seekers) is the T Express. T Express is the longest wooden roller coaster in South Korea and the steepest in the world. The queue to the ride, as expected, was very long (we didn't have Q-Pass). I didn't try to ride on that, not because of the long queue, but because just the sight of it made my legs wobbly.

For tourists who are not interested in rides, they can proceed to Zoo-Topia. It's a great way to make your trip educational and fun at the same time. I am very fond of animals, so I dragged my family to Zoo-Topia right when we arrived at the park. There's a sheep pen where tourists can pet the animals. Of course, I tried to reach a sheep, but despite my super outstretched arm, all the sheep stayed far away from me. I wonder if I looked like a bad guy to them. I also saw some polar bears for the first time! One of them was swimming. I spotted a sleeping tiger, too. It would be cool though if it was awake and growling.

I noticed that the park rides in Korea are way more extreme than their Asian counterparts. I saw a Korean teenage girl crying during the whole ride on Double Rock Spin. Her friends were filming her as she was crying her heart out. After the agonizing three-minute ride (or was it longer?), the teen remained seated, probably too shocked to get up. Her friend had to go to her to pull her up. That was enough to send me running away from that ride.

Everland has been compared to Disneyland due to a lot of similarities between the two. Honestly, it doesn't give me the magical feel that Disneyland gives me. Nothing beats Disneyland in my opinion. Nevertheless, Everland does a great job. The attractions at the park are pretty neat. If you're visiting Korea, don't miss Everland.


Seoraksan National Park

Seoraksan National Park StatueCredit: Rainy Kua

the bear statue at Seoraksan National Park
Photo: Rainy Kua

Seoraksan, or Mount Seorak, is part of the Taebaek mountain range and is the third highest mountain in South Korea. Taebaek mountain range measures over 500 kilometres and stretches along the North and South Korean peninsula. The park is located in Sokcho City. A giant bronze Buddha sits at the Sinheungsa Temple near the main entrance of the park. My group took the Gwongeumseong Cable Car, a huge rectangular cable car stationed near the temple. I was afraid of heights, but I stayed by the windows so I wouldn't miss the beautiful scenery along the way. It was jaw-dropping. There were several cherry blossom trees scattered in the area. I could see the big Buddha from the cable car. My dad, who was more afraid of heights than I did, stayed in the middle of the cable car. When we reached the other side, we had to climb some steps for about 20 to 30 minutes to Gwongeumseong Fortress. Some of the elders in my group didn't proceed and waited at the station.

We were all sweating when we reached the rocky peak of Gwongeumseong Fortress. I was so afraid of slipping so I thought that it would be best for a clumsy girl like me to just sit on a boulder. My mountain-loving dad got so excited that he kept on pulling us to the higher part of the mountain to take some pictures.

If you go to Seoraksan National Park and have plenty of time, I recommend you to check out the other sites that I haven't visited. Biseondae Cliff, Ulsanbawi Rock, Geumganggul Cave, and Biryong Falls are some of the beautiful views that are worth seeing. This is a great place to trek. Some tourists even spend a few days to explore the whole territory. I'd love to go back there in the autumn. I've heard that it is during autumn that the park is at its best.

© Rainy Kua 2014. All Rights Reserved.