South Korea is an unlikely honeymoon destination to travel to. It is a country known for being tech savy, K-dramas & pop and more recently plastic surgery. I’m not too sure how we decided but in September we hopped on a 12 hour business class flight (thank you family and friends for the wedding gift & British Airways for an awesome sale) to Seoul.
My expectations were shaped from the blogs I read for research and a somewhat dated account from Jennifer Barclay’s Meeting Mr. Kim: How I moved to Korea and learned to love kimchi. I was told to expect food markets bristling with character, lack of English in menus and a somewhat reserved society when it comes to foreigners. The latter was a mixed bag since we found that I was readily embraced while the Brit went mostly ignored (in terms of conversation) – he didn’t find this as amusing as I did.
Quite a few things surprised me about South Korea as well. Here are some of my observations:
1. COFFEE & CAKE CULTURE
There is literally a coffee shop in just about every corner of Seoul and Busan… in some cases two! I didn’t realize just how much the Koreans love their coffee. The best part is that with coffee comes sweet treats with a wide range of interesting flavors. My favorite is the earl grey chocolate pie from Retrona Pie & iced coffee.
2. SERIOUS HIKERS
I loved seeing the hikers out and about resplendent in their hiking gear. I didn’t realize how health conscious the people in South Korea are, particularly those aged 40 and above. Hiking, it seems, is a social activity usually done with a group of friends or family.
In Seoul, Namsan Park is a great place for a long walk and rewarded us with beautiful views overlooking the city. We also went to Seorksan in northeast S. Korea to visit their national park where the spirit of hiking is taken to a whole other level.
3. IT STINKS, MILDLY
The pervasive smell of sulfur caught us off guard. Apparently there is a sewage problem that affects various areas in Seoul. If you’re looking to stay in a hanok, a traditional Korean house, it would help to look into whether the smell of rotten eggs is present. We stayed in the annex at Sopoong Guesthouse in Bukchon Village where the kitchen area smelled mildly of sulfur but thankfully it did not reach our bedrooms. I don’t recall the scent being overpowering, it’s more of a nuisance but best to avoid. We also stayed at the Grand Hotel Myeondong in Seoul and highly recommend it for its location, comfort and odor-free status.