It is hard for me to imagine getting bored such is the vast array of entertainment on offer in Korea. Seriously. Just step outside your door. Chances are something odd is going on. Milk ladies making deliveries, farmers in Bongo trucks selling their produce, children playing and then freezing solid when they see you.
Life here can be fascinating for a foreigner if you just sat on a corner and watched. Go to the local 7-11, buy a beer or soju and sit outside at one of their tables and observe. But if people watching isn’t your idea of a good time, there are plenty of other activities in Korea to keep you entertained. Here is a list of must do’s whilst in Korea:
Traveling– Korea is small and has an excellent public transportation system. You can bus, train or fly almost anywhere you want to go for very cheap. Also transportation is extremely reliable, efficient and comfortable. Go to the beach, go to the mountains or go to a big city. You can be at any in a matter of minutes. Korea is small, but each region has its own unique charm.
Festivals – Almost every weekend there is a festival in some nearby town that will introduce you to something authentically Korean. Interested in mask dances of old? Go to Andong in October. More into green tea? Try Boseong in May. Want to play in mud? Go to Boryeong in July. Koreans make these festivals feel like a very big deal. They are definitely worth fighting the crowds to get there.
Hiking– Korea is one mountain after another with almost every one accessible by trail. Koreans love to hike so it isn’t easy to get away from the crowds on the trails. But this type of hiking makes it Korean. The trails are packed with Korean men and women 30 and up in some of the nicest hiking gear seen this side of Everest. Korean hikers are extremely kind and one could spend the whole day eating and drinking with locals who hardly speak English. Not only is hiking here extremely social, but the views can be outstanding.
Get involved in a sport– Most cities in Korea have a group of Koreans or foreigners involved in some kind of sport. Koreans play them all. Badminton, running, bowling, baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, taekwondo and many, many more. Many of these sports even have a few organized foreign teams knocking about. You might even find a group of Koreans more than willing to let a foreigner take play with them. There are also yoga, taekwondo and other martial arts classes you can find in English. Or you could sharpen your Korean by taking these classes with the locals.
Drink– There is quite a drinking culture in Korea. It is said that Koreans put everything they have into an activity and drinking is no exception. Bars, clubs and Soju hofs are just around every corner. Some of the big cities have foreigner bars frequented by stressed out English teachers. But be warned, soju and beer produce a nasty, nasty hangover.
Go to church or to temple– If you are Christian or Buddhist, you are in luck. There are plenty of temples and churches all over Korea. Many of the churches have services in English and Buddhist temples are some of the most welcoming places on Earth.
Support the local sports team– The major cities in Korea have one or more professional basketball, baseball and soccer teams. The quality of play in these leagues gets better every year, and the stands always offer a fascinating study in culture. Tickets are cheap and the stands can get quite full. Unlike professional teams in the west, sports teams in Korea are not named after their home cities. Instead major Korean businesses sponsor the teams and have naming rights. Samsung, Lotte, Kia and other companies take the place of the city names in all sports teams.
Founded in 1982, the Korean Baseball Organization is one of the oldest leagues in Korea. It currently fields 8 teams in 5 different cities. Seoul has 3 (plus a fourth in nearby Incheon) and Gwangju, Daejeon, Daegu and Busan each have one. Currently, the SK Wyverns in Incheon reign over the league after winning the last two Korean Baseball Championships. This is probably the most popular of all the professional sports teams as the games are regularly televised and the stadiums are always lively. Baseball games are exceptionally nice in the spring and summer. The season starts in April and runs into late September. The games usually start around 6:30 and finish around 9PM. Buy chicken, mandu, beer and soju outside the stadium and then pay 6,000 won for a ticket. Find a seat and enjoy being a part of a rowdy, thunderstick wielding crowd.
The Korean Basketball League is over 10 years old with 10 teams scattered all around Korea. Each team has two foreigners, the maximum the league will allow. But don’t expect to see the two foreigners from the same team playing at the same time, that is against the KBL rules. Like the baseball league these games are played in the spring and summer and can get very rowdy.
The K-League is Korea’s answer to Europe’s Champion’s League. It certainly isn’t as popular or as competitive, but for Americans, the passionate Korean soccer fans will be mind-blowing. Ever since the World Cup was in Korea in 2002, soccer has exploded on the peninsula. Soccer games are exciting, cheap and during the beautiful Korean spring days. Also, most teams play in the beautiful World Cup stadiums that are scattered around the country. Not a bad option for some outdoor entertainment.
Go to a Noraebang– You can have a room all to yourself or invite your closest friends while you belt out some of your favorite Korean or English tunes. Noraebangs are comfortable, fun and can be a good, cheap, clean night out. Some noraebangs double as soju rooms offering you to lower your inhibitions a little. Rarely is a noraebang night (or afternoon) a bust.
Play PC games– If you are a gamer there is no better place to be one than South Korea. Gamers aren’t dorky here, and you are never too old to play. In fact, there are big gaming tournaments that are televised. The gamers are as famous and well-respected as professional athletes. There are even PC rooms all over Korea where many Koreans get together and play PC games till their eyes pop out. They are extremely comfortable and very cheap. Have fun gaming! But be careful! They have camps to help young addicted gamers.
Movies– Most of the big blockbusters in English make their way to Korea. Korea also has a very strong movie industry that puts out lots of entertaining movies. They are an excellent way to learn more about Korean culture and to brush up on your Korean.
Shopping– Let’s face it. Korea is a shoppers paradise. Spending lots of money on clothes has become a popular pastime in Korea. Name brands abound in this country. You could go broke every weekend in the endless streets of shops around this country.