Korea is a beautiful part of the world. It's mountainous terrain, gorgeous coastline, modern buildings and wonderful food only touches the surface about what I miss. For those of you thinking about going to Korea on holiday or working there, here are some of my highlights!!
1) The Food
I love food! This isn't restricted to western, oriental or any other kind of food either! However, Korean food offers a variety that, in my opinion, isn't common in many other countries. I don't mean this in terms of which types of restaurants there are, I'm talking about dishes that are staple nourishment in the peninsula. My favourite dishes are generally those containing a substantial amount of meat. Pork, beef or chicken are the most common in SK as Lamb is too expensive. Of the Korean dishes, Galbi, Dakgalbi and Samgapsel are the pick for me. There is also a rich variety of other dishes to :-) As you are probably aware, Kimchi accompanies most meals. Kimchi soup is also a staple among those who live or have been in Korea for any length of time. Then there is Gimbab (rice, meat, some veg wrapped in seaweed) that I compared to our lunchtime favourite...the sandwich! There is also Bibimbap (rice usually fried,vegetables, maybe some meat with hot sauce) and I mustn't forgot Bulgogi (a beef dish) and Jeyukbokkeum (another beef dish). I could go on, but I wont....
2) The Mountains
Ok, the picture below isn't the best but it should give you some idea of what you can see from the mountains. Seoul is surrounded by them (I think about 7 but I may be terribly wrong) and this shot was taken about 1 hour from the capital. You can reach many of the climbs using the subways which is ridiculously convenient, you can also capture some wonderful scenery and they represent a good workout. If you are a serious hiker then you won't break sweat in these mountains, but in other parts of the country (e.g. Seolak Mountain) there are a much bigger challenges for those who fancy it! The advantage of the peaks around the city is that you forget how close you are to the 20 million other people who live in the capital!
3) The Coastline
I don't know an awful lot about coastlines. I come from the coast in England and although it's not the most beautiful site in the world, i find it a wonderful place to think and reflect on life. Although I can't swim and have a healthy respect and fear of the sea, I love being by water. I'm not sure why that it, but there's something about the power of the waves that clears my mind and allows me to see the world and my woes more clearly! When I was in Korea, I only visited the coast 3 times, but each time I vowed to return more frequently....did I?.....No! However, this picture gives you an idea of the stunning bay in the southwest of the penisula. In my opinion, the sea line in Korea is underrated, and depending on whether you go East, South or West (apparently North's not an option - I can't think why) you will enjoy a different experience! The south is the best place for beach bums for those who are interested.
4) The Heated Floors
This one is probably just a quirk of mine! However, there's nothing better than getting out of bed at 5 am in the bitter, bitter cold in Seoul in January and stepping onto heated floors! If you're anything like me, you won't mind the cold too much. However, that all changes when your feet get cold! When my toes are cold, I really hate the world and all things in it! Therefore the lovely, warm, heated floors in Korea ensure that I never have to feel this way inside my own home! I have no idea if there are heated floors in other countries, though I'm pretty sure Japan will have something similar, but I think they're great and it's pretty hard getting used to life without with on a cold winter's day!
5) ATMs / Vending Machines
This might sound a little strange, but you can almost do anything using atms! I was most impressed when I could order something online, print the receipt, take it to the atm and pay it on the atm by entering the appropriate details. This is particularly great as it's not easy for a foreigner get a credit card or buy things online! I also paid all my bills and rent by using a hole in the wall which is amazingly convenient. There are also vending machines everywhere! (Ok, I've heard there are millions in Japan, but I've never been there.) You can buy hot and cold drinks, chocolate, newspapers and books - perfect for the subway ride. Regardless of the fact the books and newspapers are in Hangul, that's not the point!