Okay, that was a bad pun and rhyme.
Regardless, Seoul indeed has a thousand and one things to see, do, eat, shop, how does one ever know where to start?
This blog started off as a Korea-based blog because I wanted to chronicle my student exchange life back in Spring 2010 when I was a student at Seoul National University. More than that, I ended up blogging about the food, shopping and interesting places I went to when I was in Korea. Over the years, though I have only gone back to Korea twice (once in 2010 and once just this year), I've been getting a steady stream of e-mails and comments asking me about Korea. Of course, I would love to help everyone to the best of my abilities, but with a full-time job and back-dated information on Korea, my answers often fall short.
I've always wondered why, for the longest time between 2010 to 2012, I barely updated, yet my blog still saw quite a few visitors. It wasn't like my photos or writing was superb (compared to all the Korea blogs out there). It wasn't till some readers wrote to me and shed some light. They said they liked how my experiences weren't the touristy sort and how I provided an "insider's" perspective to Korea. (This may have been true for my exchange days, but my recent trips have been quite "touristy", no?)
So, you can imagine my joy when I first learnt about Trazy.com, a travel website that helps you travel Korea like a local. I first chanced upon Trazy when I was searching for information on places to go to when I was in Seoul back in April 2014, and got to learn more about it when I met up with Kristine, who works with Trazy later this year as she was in Singapore for a bit. If you've followed my blog for a while, you'd know that I would readily introduce tools/sites to readers which I feel will be useful in planning your Korea trip. Trazy is one of them.
Trazy's tagline is "Travel Korea like a local", something I definitely believe in when I'm in Seoul. Sure, I love going to palaces, and doing other touristy things sometimes. But one thing I've always tried to do when I was a student there was to travel like a local. Some examples include going strawberry-picking at the Nonsan Strawberry Festival, having Jajangmyeon (black bean noodles) on Black Day, and hiking up Gwanak-san with all the hiking-loving Ajummas and Ajusshis.
Strawberry for you? (Me, circa 2010, picking some of the juiciest strawberries at Nonsan.)
True to it's tagline, Trazy provides you with recommendations that aren't your usual touristy types. These come in the form of hot spots (recommended locations with trusted reviews), travel themes and experiences.
Since I'm already back from my trip and not heading there anytime soon, I thought I'd show you can use the site, by creating an imaginary itinerary of sorts. It's December now and Korea is a wintery wonderland. I've already had two colleagues ask me what should they do while they're on holiday there in Winter...
So I present you, a list of things on What to Do in Korea in Winter, planned using Trazy as a guide.
Well, for starters, going skiing there is a definite no-brainer. But with the plethora of ski resorts in and out of Seoul, how does one know which to choose? Trazy has a list of ski resorts you can consider. I have actually been to two of them and definitely agree these are places worth a visit! (You can read about my time at Konjiam Resort and High 1 Resort respectively.) If you have no time to head out to Seoul (though Konjiam is just 40 minutes from Seoul and really worth a visit), try ice-skating or sledding down a hill right in the heart of the city.
The view at the top of High 1 Resort. Looks just like a postcard, doesn't it? It was freezing though!
After all that skiing, you might want to head to an awesome Chimaek (Chicken and Maekju) restaurant to fill your tummy. If that doesn't warm or fill you enough, how about some hot and spicy traditional Korean favourites then? Or if you're like me, and crazy enough, you might want to have some ice cream in the cold! I personally feel Winter is the best time to have ice cream because your ice cream doesn't melt and compared to the surrounding cold, the ice cream doesn't feel that cold, really. But that's just me.
Apart from all that food and skiing, one should never forget to shop and sight-see when in Seoul. It's extremely cold out, so if you're feeling brave and warm enough, you might want to take a stroll in Myeongdong, an area popular among tourists. (See Trazy's comprehensive list of must-go places in Myeongdong. My favourites, however, are Samcheongdong and Garosugil for cafe-hopping and shopping. Another location I LOVE for shopping when it's cold out is Express Bus Terminal where you're protected from all the elements because everything is underground.
When you're all tired from shopping, eating, skiing and cafe-hopping, then maybe it's time to relax and take a slow evening cruise on the Han River. This might be a tad touristy, but there's really nothing like seeing the Banpo Rainbow Bridge and its multi-coloured show, and fireworks in the sky above the Han River.
And there you have it, about 3-4 days worth of things to do when in Seoul during Winter. The amazing thing is Trazy is not just about winter locations. They have experiences for what to do in Spring, Fall and Summer, where to go if you want some authentic Korean traditional food, or even some global cuisines like Thai or Indian, so on. The permutations are endless.
So, if you haven't already done so, head on over to Trazy and start using it to plan your next trip in Korea. In fact, I myself, already have my eyes set on some of the unique experiences offered on the site like Korean cooking classes and the Korean pub crawl. Give it a go and let me know how your experiences are! (: