The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, comes once a year sometime in the eight month of the Chinese calendar. All of the teachers had these days off and were able to travel and do anything and everything they wanted. Though celebrating the holiday in China would be very nice and traditional, I chose to leave the country and go international with one of my friends. I had heard from many co-workers and locals that all of the big cities in China become very crowded since everybody in the country had the same holiday. I did not want to deal with the crowds and the traffic so I opted to travel to Seoul, South Korea. South Korea has always been one of those places that I have dreamt of traveling to and experiencing and this holiday gave me the perfect opportunity.
Eyes Wide Open
Our flight left Shijiazhuang early Saturday morning and took us to Guangzhou. After a two hour layover, we were finally on our way to Incheon International Airport. After we got our bags, we jumped onto the AREX railway and it took us directly to the heart of Seoul. I had read about an area in Seoul that was very modern and full of culture around Hongik University, so we decided to book our hostel there. The place was truly the center for culture in Seoul; there were students playing music on every street corner, artists drawing and selling art, food stands galore, a plethora of different types of bars and clubs, and young people everywhere. It was so refreshing to be in such a happening and exciting place! There was such a huge difference between a smaller city in China and the capital and hub of South Korea.
Day one – Palaces and Cultural Areas
I feel as if we really hit some of the greatest highlights that the city had to offer. We started with Chang Deok Gung Palace in the northern part of the city. This palace “was built as a secondary palace of the Joseon Dynasty in 1405, during King Taejong’s reign” according to my free English tour book I got there. It just so happened that the Koreans were celebrating their Thanksgiving that day and all of the fees for this UNESCO World Heritage site were waived. The palace was quite interesting and having an English tour book to describe everything was even better. After the palace, we went to a Korean cultural district called, Insa-dong. This area had many traditional Korean restaurants and shops. I really enjoyed trying some of the Korean deserts from the street vendors.
Day two – Mountains
My favorite part of the trip was when we traveled to Bukhansan National Park the next day. We decided to hike Baegundae Peak, which is the tallest mountain in Seoul standing at 836.5 m (2,744 feet). The views and scenery were breathtaking! It took us about two hours to go up and one and a half to come down. It was nice to do some physical activity while getting great views.
Day three – DMZ and N Seoul Tower
The third day, we traveled to the infamous Demilitarized Zone, otherwise known as the DMZ. Our tour bus took us to the Dora Observatory, which is the only place in South Korea where you can have a clear view of Geaseong City, the third biggest city in North Korea. We also went to the only train station leading to Pyeongyang and down into The 3rd Tunnel the North Koreans built during the war. It was quite eerie to be so far underground in the tunnel. Unfortunately, the DMZ was so crowded that we spent the majority of the time waiting in lines. That afternoon we went up to the North Seoul Tower to watch the sunset on the city. The tower was very relaxing and gave us beautiful views of Seoul.
The Last Days
We spent four days in Seoul and then headed to Incheon for a few days before our flight back. We heard of this great island called Muuido and found a ferry that would take us there. We climbed to the top of the mountain and had great views of the Yellow Sea. Not only did we find picturesque places in Incheon, we also had traditional Korean food. We ate Korean BBQ wrapped up in lettuce and Kimchi, and shared a bottle of the most popular Korean liquor called, Soju. The last couple days in Korea were very relaxed, exactly what was needed to head back to work on Saturday. I truly enjoyed my time in Korea and was rather sad to say good-bye. It was so nice to have the opportunity to explore some more parts of Asia and soak up different cultures. I look forward to my next great adventure!