Korea is a mind blowing, fascinating, scintillating country where you’ll be bowled off your feet the minute you arrive. Neon lit streets, skyscrapers that go for miles, technology, public transport. Contrasted by old ladies pushing cardboard carts along the side of the street, food tents that remind you of yesteryear and public toilets that still use squatters. It’s the ultimate mix of old and new and that means you are treated to the best of both worlds as you live out your adventure.
Here are 5 awesome things you can only do in Korea that will have your friends and family back home looking at you with envy;
1. Step into North Korea, stand yards from a live mine field and walk away unscathed!
The most famous tourist destination in Korea is the Demilitarized Zone or “DMZ” for short. You’d never think you could step inside North Korea and return home to the comfort of your own home in the same day but with a tour of the DMZ it can be done! You’ll leave from Seoul with a guided tour (I recommend using the USO American Army tour which you can book via Korridor) and arrive at the DMZ an hour later.
You’ll be given a safety briefing then taken to the UN peace house where bilateral talks between the “two Koreas” take place. In this room you can cross the border into North Korea under the watchful eye of several South Korean soldiers there to protect you from being grabbed into the North – or so they say!
You’ll also be taken around the area by a US soldier and you’ll skirt live mine fields in the process. You’ll have the chance to catch a glimpse of “propaganda village” (a fake village built by the North to give DMZ tourists the impression it’s a thriving country) through binoculars. You will also be taken to the train station where trains would depart from South Korea into North Korea in the event of unification. The lines and infrastructure are all in place!
All in all it’s a must do and whilst safety shouldn’t be taken for granted you should be fine…
2. Have food delivered literally anywhere, at any time!
Perhaps the most amazing thing about living in Korea is that you can have food (or anything for that matter) delivered in a matter of minutes to your home or any other location you happen to be. Fancy a pizza, fried chicken, Chinese, Korean, Japanese… you can call and have it brought to you!
If you are at home the delivery driver will deliver your food within 20 minutes and if you ordered something that required plates and cutlery, simply finish your food and leave your plates outside your front door – the driver will come back later and pick them up! If you are outside, perhaps at a park in the summer, the driver will bring your food there for you too!
McDonald’s deliver in Korea too! McDelivery can be ordered online from the McDonald’s website in English and as the picture above shows, the McDelivery scooter will whizz to your home in no time!
To learn how to order food in Korea, Seoulistic has a great step by step guide here.
3. Be awoken at 4am to partake in the morning Buddhist rituals as you experience a temple stay!
A temple stay is something that should be on everyone’s list of things to do in Korea because it’s so unique and a great chance to experience something so different from what you are used to. Spend the night in a temple with Buddhist monks and partake in their daily rituals.
Meals consist of rice, kimchi, soup and vegetables and you’ll have to wash your plates when you are finished. If you’re lucky they will teach some martial arts before bed which is usually at 9pm. Men and women can’t sleep together so if you are going with your other half you will be split up.
A 4am wake up call will startle you out of your slumber and you’ll then meditate for an hour before doing the traditional bowing which can be a bit much for us foreigners! Breakfast is then served the same way as dinner the night before and you’ll usually take a walk around the temple grounds afterwards for more reflection and meditation.
A very worthwhile albeit uncomfortable way to immerse yourself in Korean culture.
4. “Convenience store beers” – watch the world go by as you sit outside the store having beers with friends!
Drinking in public is illegal in most places but in Korea you can meet your friends and sit outside the local convenience store and enjoy some beers in the warmer months as Koreans go about their daily lives all around you without blinking an eye. In fact, it wouldn’t be uncommon to be joined by some locals who are interested in talking to you about where you are from and what you are doing in Korea!
This is one of my favourites and although I’m far from being an alcoholic, a few beers at the weekend on a plastic table and chairs is something that really makes me feel comfortable in my surroundings. Your time in Korea is not complete until you have ticked this off your list and I promise once you do it for the first time you’ll be doing it more and more often!
5. Die from “fan death”
I’ll let the pictures do the talking on this wide held belief that if you fall asleep with the fan on you will sadly pass away in the middle of the night… whether or not you choose to believe it or not is up to you!