The Travelling Teacher: South Korea and Japan

 

Introduction

 

This week I’ll be following on with the chilled vibes from Kunming as I venture to South Korea and experience some yummy treats as well visit the Olympic Stadium ahead of the 2018 Olympic events. I’ll also be sharing the many stops I made whilst in Japan including one of my favourite marvels – The Magnificent Mount Fuji.

 

I’ll be sharing some truly stunning sights as well as sharing my culinary experiences along the way. So, read on to find out more!

 

South Korea

 

As my time in Hong Kong came to an end I headed to South Korea. By this point I was only about 2 months into my travels and had times I found it an emotional challenge being away from my family. Particularly as one of my brothers had a baby and it was whilst in Korea that I got to have my first video call with the little beauty! This is one of the biggest challenges I found when travelling, missing those around me, especially during those momentous moments like a new arrival.

 

Unfortunately, I was also really poorly before going travelling and had numerous appointments, scans and antibiotics before leaving to which none cured my mystery ailment. Doctors at home had suspected it could be a chest infection and as I wasn’t getting any better whilst I was away, I headed to a Korean doctor. I have to say the language barrier wasn’t too bad and they were really helpful. They thought that perhaps it was pneumonia rather than a chest infection. None the less, I popped some more pills (including a few vitamins) and hoped for the best. But, I wouldn’t let this stop me and was still eager to see more! I have definitely learnt that there’s no need for excuses, if you want to do something, you will do it!

 

I loved the subway system here. As we were staying in Yongin, a city in the Seoul Capital area in the Gyeonggi Province, we were just outside of the main city of Seoul Capital. We regularly used the subway to get around. It was clean, easy to use and efficient! With the city being ranked as the 5th largest metropolitan area in the world it’s no wonder the transport was so good! 

 

South Korea: My fav bites!

 

 

The food here is amazing! I tried some tasty treats that I definitely want to try and recreate whilst at home and these are just some:

{C}-       Korean BBQ – This is popular in Korean cuisine and simply involves the grilling of meat, often with a large fan above it. We found some of the meats came marinated and some didn’t but regardless, they were all tasty. So simple but so delicious!  I loved watching the thinly sliced beef brisket cook, it’s quite a show! (You’ll see what I mean if you get to witness this for yourself).

{C}-       Red Bean Fish – Or, as known by the Korean’s – Bungeo-ppang. A fish shaped pastry that is stuffed with the utterly yummy red bean paste – don’t worry, it’s sweetened! This combination is amazing and even better when you get one freshly prepared and it’s still warm! MmmmMMMm! This were a tasty treat that were not overly sweet so felt justifiable to eat at any time in the day! Though the ‘Brit’ inside me couldn’t help but think….’I bet these are amazing with custard’.

South Korea : Gangnam style

 

We took a trip to Gangnam District, which literally means ‘South of the River’, via the subway and found ourselves some tasty Kimchi to chow down on. There’s food a plenty here and pretty much every street you walk down has various options. We decided we wanted to try the local delight that is ‘Kimchi’. This is a staple Korean dish made from salted vegetables with a variety of side seasonings – very tasty…but ours was also very hot (hot as in spicy!).

 

There is plenty to do here and though we saw many a business man/ woman it didn’t have the chaotic feel of other cities. If shopping is your thing than this place will most definitely have a shop to suit your needs! It’s known as one of the richest districts in South Korea and is home to man stores and malls.

 

South Korea: Olympic Stadium

 

After taking a walk around Gangnam we didn’t give our feet a rest here, we popped back onto the subway (after attempting to walk most of it) to head to the Olympic Stadium. The Seoul Olympic Stadium, known to the Korean’s as the Jamsil Sports Complex, is a multi-purpose stadium originally built for the 1988 Summer Olympics. This is a sight to see in itself and we were lucky enough to see them beginning preparations for the events they are due to hold there this year. There’s also a lovely park here that makes for a nice stroll.

 

South Korea: Samneung Park

 

Once we’d finished exploring the Olympic Stadium we headed to Samneung Park, which was only 2.5km away. This park is a Unesco World Heritage site and a royal Mausoleum for King Seonjong, the 9th King of the Joseon Dynasty. It’s bizarre that you find yourself in such a serene place surrounded by the busy business district. The park is quite big and it made for such a calming walk around the tombs. There was even a ‘spirit walkway’ which you are politely asked not to walk along, as it’s reserved for the spirit of the King (How cool???).

South Korea : World Cup Park

 

One of my favourite spots in Korea, which involves more walking, yes more walking, was the World Cup Park. I have to admit I am not a particularly big football fan so the stadium itself, although interesting was not my main interest for there. However, Hanuel Park is amazing! There are many parks at the World Cup Park and Hanuel, which means ‘Sky’ in Korean is the most popular.

 

This park is a short walk from the main stadium and over a bridge way to the highest point of the park. From here there are utterly breath-taking views. It’s great to go hear near sunset and watch the sun cause shadows over the city. After climbing the 291 step stairway (or the electric tram, for a small fee, if you’re not feeling as energetic) you reach this amazing view. Once up there, there are lots of different areas for you take in the beautiful city and its scenery. One of the main reasons for visiting this site was also as they said they had released over 30,000 butterflies of different species to stabilize the ecosystem. Unfortunately, I didn’t even see one. The Eulalia field is also magnificent so whilst up here take a wonder over here. It’s a maze made of straw and has many fantastic pieces of art and architecture hidden within it. It’s crazy to think this beautiful place was once a landfill site that held over 92 million tons of garbage.

South Korea : City Wall

 

During one of our treks we came across the city wall. There are a series of walls that were originally built to protect the city of Seoul against invaders. Having found the wall, we decided to follow it up the hill. I have to admit, there were a couple of pit stops along the way. I found out the hard way that there are not many toilets along the route! However, we did discover an adorable market as we trekked along it and then we came along a great viewpoint of the city.  

Japan

 

Following on from the chilled Korean life we caught a flight lasting just over an hour to get to Japan. As I much prefer to be on the outskirts of the city than directly in the middle of the city, we stayed in Osaka which is technically a dedicated city in the Kansai region of Japan but far more laid back than Tokyo.

 

We started as we meant to go on and as per normal didn’t stop for long. On our very first day we got tickets to head to Universal Studios, the FIRST theme park under the Universal Studios brand to be built in Asia. Now I know what you’re thinking, if you read my previous blogs I was saying how I tend to avoid these overly ‘touristy’ places but I feel like my Shanghai Disney experience definitely opened my eyes! Plus, I found a discount code so managed to get a discount ticket that lasted 2 days! So our first 2 days of experiencing Japan were spent in the awesome Universal Studios (I especially loved Harry Potter!!!)….and eating the not so traditional TGI Fridays!

 

It wasn’t until we’d been in Japan a few days that we actually headed to Tokyo. The famous capital of Japan! There’s an abundance of places to eat in this city and it is clean and well-kept. I had one of my BEST EVER bits of meat whilst here! We went to a meaty filled restaurant and ordered some Wagu. It came out on a hanging skewer and was cut and weighed at the table. You know when someone says something is mouth-watering and literally melts in your mouth…this was exactly how I could describe this. Infact, it was so good, and so tasty…..we ordered seconds. Unfortunately our budget didn’t allow for thirds…or I would have.

Japan: Dontonburi

 

Next on our list was to head to Dotonburi and we were not disappointed here! This is a popular area that runs parallel to the Dotonburi canal. It’s extremely popular for its food options! I always love to try new things and being a lover of seafood, warm objects and things covered in batter, I was open to trying the octopus filled balls that can be seen on sale throughout this street. Sadly, these were not for me, I can confirm that each time I have tried Octopus with open arms….I have not yet been converted! I just find it chewy – do you?

Japan: Kutomon Market 

 

Just a walk of around 15 minutes, we headed to Kutomon Market. Though it felt like longer as the majority of the walk was up hill. Here we mostly saw food stalls and some other goodies were on offer. It was here I sampled the cheese and vegetable Bulgogi and absolutely loved it!! It encompassed some of my favourite things – cheese, warmth and bread!

 

Japan: Bamboo Forest

 

We have definitely made a few rookie mistakes whilst travelling and unfortunately we missed out on the Katsura Villa as you have to pre-book tickets to get in here and CANNOT buy them on the door.

 

 

***TOP TIP*** Book up in advance to see the stunning Katsura Villa to avoid disappoint.

 

 It does look like it is absolutely wonderful so if you get a chance make sure you book in advance and don’t miss out! Not one to let a day go to waste or be too down-hearted we headed to Bamboo Forest. Again, as I mentioned in my last blog, this is another spot that many of our IQBar Buddies will be familiar with. On the outskirts of Kyoto and after a short walk through the town, the eerie yet fantastical bamboo forest can be found. I have to admit it was very busy here both in the town and at the bamboo forest but, if you’re anything like me, I spent the majority of time looking up in amazement at how tall this forest is! You also hear this very distinct rustling and creaking of the bamboo as you pass through. It’s even been included on a selection of everyday noises to intend locals to stop and enjoy nature (look out for ‘100 soundscapes of Japan).

Japan: Nijo Castle

 

As we still had energy in us, we then headed to Nijo Castle, originally built in 1603. It’s acclaimed palace architecture is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is surrounded by stone walls and moat. The main attraction, and where we headed, is Ninomaru Palace. Which, amazingly, is still in its original form! Inside you take off your shoes and walk around the palace and can read about its story from the past. 

Japan: Shinjuku Gardens

 

We visited Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens  – W.O.W. It felt like we just kept walking through to different worlds. Here they have various themed gardens so for each area it feels like a whole new place. Even though this garden is located near the city it provides a well needed calming escape from city life. There were so many varieties of flora and fauna here and many, many insects. Also, some HUGE yellow and black stripy legged spiders! The Nephila Clavata Spider can be seen throughout this park, often their webs reaching from one large tree to another (don’t worry, they aren’t likely to fall on you!). I was more fascinated by how far they can make their webs and how thick and strong the web is!

Japan: Mount Fuji (pssssttttt….Fuji…I love you!)

 

Our final destination here was last but definitely by no means least. I was more than excited to head here….MOUNT FUJI (can I add, this is an active volcano!)! It was fantastic. I fell in love with the highest mountain in Japan. Though there were lots of clouds that kept whipping around the mountain (which just enthralled me even more!), when there was a break you could see just how magnificent it was. Cold! But magnificent. In fact, it felt weird having snow under foot! On our way down from the mountain we got the bus to Lake Kawaguchiko, one of the 5 surrounding lakes. The view across the lake was full of hills and as we turned, behind us, another splendid view of Mount Fuji <3 I’d never experienced love at first sight, but this truly was!

What’s up next?

 

In my next blog I’ll be starting my adventure in India. Join me as I start in the South and make my way up North.

 

Remember if you have any questions or would like to share your stories my email is -

travellingteacher@iqbar.net.

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2018-06-04 01:02

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