Before my recent visit to Korea with my best friend, I imagined us walking down aisle after aisle of chic boutiques and cosmetic stores, renting hanboksat Gyeongbokgung palace, and letting our inner child run wild at Lotte World. This was indeed the case during the first few days of our trip. And then I met up with my Korean aunt for a fun girls’ day out, AKA the best day of my life- and everything changed. She opened my eyes to so much more cool things you can do here, and fortunately for you, I’m letting you in on just a few. So if you’re planning a trip to Korea with your close pals, be sure you guys check the following activities off your bucket list!
1. Sail In A Private Yacht Down The Han River
My aunt rented us a private yacht so we could sail on the Han River at night, and it was honestly one of the best parts of my entire trip. That’s saying a lot, considering the whole thing only lasted for about an hour. We were treated to a glittering view of the distant city lights as pop songs blasted away from the boat’s sound system. (Yes, that’s me in the grainy picture above.)You can even witness the Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountainup close, a spectacular water show that operates daily.
Renting a cruiser yacht at the Seoul Marina (8-seater boat) costs 15 000 won per person. For the experience you'll be getting, i'd say it's more than worth the price.
2. Tour The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
Pictured above is the Freedom Bridge, which connects North Korea to the South. What with the recent Kim-Trump Summit held here in Singapore, there’s no better time to pay the DMZ a visit. After all, it’s the closest you might ever get to the mysterious, Communist land of North Korea. If you don’t already know, the DMZ is an area of land formed in 1953 which separates the North from the South. Currently, the only way to travel to the DMZ is through registering for a tour and hopping onto the DMZ Peace Trainfrom Seoul. There are several tour packages available, which include sites such as the Third Infiltration Tunnel, a secret unfinished tunnel built by North Korea, and the Dora Observatory, where you can actually glimpse into parts of North Korea through binocular lens!
3. Make A Day Trip To Gyeongju
Take a breather from the glistening skyscrapers of Seoul or Busan, and drop by Gyeongju, the wealthy capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla, and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Get transported back to a time of art and cultural flourishing, or reenact your favorite period K-dramas dressed in Korean traditional costume. If you’ve visited Seoul’s Gyeongbokgung palace and thought you’d seen it all, you might want to think again. Gyeongju, popularly referred to as “the museum without walls” is brimming with enchanting historical architecture, from statues and pagodas to the ruins of palaces and temples. If you’re visiting Busan, do add Gyeongju to your itinerary as it’s only a 40-minute train ride away!
4. Have A Midnight Picnic By The Han River
You could have it in the daytime if you wanted, but I personally find that it’s more scenic when it’s dark. The chilly night air will make you want to huddle together, get wrapped in blankets and gaze out at the shimmering reflection of the city lights on the water as you slurp down piping hot ramen. Alternatively, if you’re starting to feel heavy from all the eating you’ve been doing throughout your trip, you could opt for a refreshing evening jog as well! Why travel like a tourist when you can live like a local?
5. Visit A Variety Of Themed Cafes
If you enjoy cafe-hopping, you’ll be delighted to know Korea has its fair share of quirky themed cafes, all found in Seoul! My favorite has got to be Meerkat Friends, which houses 12 meerkats and other animals including a wallaby, a raccoon, an arctic fox and a South African genet. Other cool cafes include a poop cafe, a Sherlock-themed cafe, a Hello Kitty cafe, and a sheep cafe!
Why fight the crowd at overpopulated tourist hotspots when you can try all these underrated activities and have equal (if not, more) fun? There’s so much more to Korea than shops galore, and there’s no better way to enjoy them than with your squad!