Han River Biking

On one of our days off during Seollal, Dean and I went for a tandem cycle along the Han River. It was a great, refreshing and active way to spend an afternoon. We started our ride from just near Yeouido Park We had wanted to go up to the top of Building 63 but unfortunately the sky wasn't so clear, and we didn't think the view would have been great. Hopefully we will still get a chance. 

Anyway, you can rent bikes on an hourly basis. It is 6000won/hr for a tandem and 3000won/hr for a regular bike. 

It was our first time riding tandem and it was good fun. There were so many people spending their day off along the river. people were riding bikes, walking dogs and there were lots of children playing. These are some pictures taken with my camera and of course our selfie pole too. 

Everland for Lunar New Year

Along with Chuseok, Seollal (Lunar New Year) is one of the major holidays in Korea. It is widely celebrated in Asia too and it is a 5 day weekend. For this holiday we had hoped to visit somewhere in South East Asia but unfortunately due to hiked plane tickets and late planning we didn't manage to. We still made the most of the days off and spent some fun days in Seoul with friends. 


On the actual day of Seollal, Koreans spend time with their families and so this was a perfect opportunity to visit Everland, the largest theme park in Korea. Everland is ranked number 13th of the most popular theme parks in the world and every year 6.6 million people visit. It's much more impressive than Cape Towns local theme park and it has some pretty extreme rides. 


Everland was full with only foreigners and the queues were so short. I think the longest we waited for anything was 10 minutes. My students had told me that waiting for rides at Everland can be as long as a couple of hours. Apparently they normally wait about 2 hours for the T-express (the most awesome rollar coaster). This seems crazy to me and I definitely wouldn't go if I had to spend hours in queues. The weather was lovely and mild, making things much more pleasant. Luckily our faces didn't ice up too much on the rides. In the park there aren't only rides but a variety of other entertainment options. There is a huge safari area (which we didn't do) and a 4D screening of Rio (which was great), to mention a few. We really had a great day out and it was well worth it because of short queues. One thing that was kind of annoying, was the lack of food options. The same kind of restaurant and food option was scattered around the park. We ended up eating lunch at a Chinese restaurant, one of the few indoor eating places.


The highlight of the park is definitely the T-express roller coaster. It is the world's steepest wooden roller coaster with a first drop of 77 degrees and it reaches a top speed of 104km/hr. It was so so thrilling. 


The most peculiar things about Everland are the cleaners that walk around looking like snowmen, and the way the staff greet you at every possible opportunity with a 2 handed comic wave.


There was a great special on tickets for foreigners meaning we only paid 23 000 won entrance. This definitely made our visit worthwhile as tickets are normally 46 000 won. Be sure to check their website for any specials and discount coupons. 


As Everland closes at 10pm, it was too late to head back to Seoul so we stayed the night in the nearest town of Yongin. We stayed at the Q Hotel (more like a motel) there. There didn't seem to be much in the area so we went back to Seoul early the next morning. 

How to get there

There are different ways you can get to Everland (see here) but we decided to catch the subway. I think it took about 2 hours from Hongdae and was only 3300 won. 

Philippines in pictures

I must admit that it has taken me quite a while to do a post about our trip to the Philippines. Our visit to the Philippines was definitely not the most successful holiday and was rather brief. In fact, it was a holiday where everything seemed to go wrong. We had a well-planned trip organized and intended to visit Moalboal and Bohol in Cebu. Things started to go wrong from the start where our flight (Air Asia), was delayed by 12 hours. As we only had 5 days for our trip, this was a big deal. This meant we only spent 2 nights in Moalboal.  The next thing that happened was the Philippines was hit by a typhoon. Ferries were suspended for a few days to the island of Bohol meaning that this part of our trip had to be cancelled. We ended up changing our flight and coming home early. Dean and I were really sad and were so let down. I guess sometime things just happen that you can't control. From what we experienced during our short time in the Philippines, I must say it is an amazing country. The highlight of our trip was Kawasan Falls with its amazing colour water and massaging waterfall. We also enjoyed delicious food and fresh fruit, very different from Korea. The Philippines is definitely high on my list to return to, and I can't wait. Here is a look into our short time in the Philippines, mainly in Moalboal.

Skiing in Muju

We finally got around to going skiing on the last weekend of January. We went to Muju resort and I must say I was really impressed. Dean and I really love skiing and had wanted to go for a while. We were a bit weary about skiing in Korea compared to skiing in the Alps and we were worried we would be dissapointed.  But actually we had a great time. It's a good thing we waited so long in the season to go as I'm sure if we had gone earlier we would have spent all our money on skiing weekends. Skiing in Korea was really interesting and a completely different skiing culture to that of France. The slopes were decent and the snow was good too. Although there wasn't much snow around, the slopes were well kept. It was really crowded at the bottom of the slopes. The lines to get the lift up the mountain were really long but once up the mountain the slopes were empty and the views are beautiful. We look forward to a couple more trips before the season ends. These are just a few snaps from our iphones. We were way too busy skiing and making the most of our short time to focus on taking photos.

To get to the resort was really easy. We took a bus to Muju town, about 9000won and 2 hours from Jeonju, and then a free shuttle bus to the resort, about 45 minutes. The ski rental and passes are also well priced and easy to organize. You even get a great discount with your Korean bankcards (nh and kb cards). 

Gochangeupseong Fortress

Now that we are in the heart of winter, it is often difficult to get motivated to leave the house to explore new places. But, we are always looking for easy day trips from Jeonju and so we started off the new year with a trip to the small town of Gochang. We were eager to check out the Gochangeupseong Fortress. Gochang is about an 80 minute bus ride from Jeonju. 

Dean and I both love being outdoors and in nature so Gochang has definitely been one of our favourite outings. It is not often in Korea that you can escape the thousands of people, but the Gochang fortress was surprisingly quiet and peaceful. There were only a few families around having fun in the snow.

We arrived in Gochang to thick snow which made the fortress look particularly beautiful and gave it a different feel to what typical pictures showed. We were dressed really warmly (Nowadays I wear 2 jackets!!) but there were blue skies, the sun was out and the weather was actually rather pleasant.

 The entrance fee to the fortress is 1000won. 

The fortress is just behind the town and was built in 1453. It was used to defend against Japanese invasions. You can walk along the wall which is 1.6km. We walked around the whole fortress and didn't see anybody, it was great!

Inside the fortress there are many different paths and there is a bamboo forest which is an interesting contrast to the surrounding pine trees.

I would definitely recommend a visit to Gochang fortress. It was nice to have a change from some of the typical Korean sites, especially since it was so quiet.

Directions

The available directions online were a bit vague but the fortress is actually easy to get to. When you leave the Gochang bus terminal, walk left at the main road. After about 500m, turn right at an intersection just before a school. Walk for about 150m, cross a bridge. and the fortress entrance is straight ahead. 

Christmas in Korea

Christmas is not a very celebrated holiday in Korea and for some reason it is thought of as a 'couple holiday'. This didn't deter us and so we had a big Christmas celebration with a group of our foreigner friends in Jeonju.

We got into the Christmas spirit and decorated our apartment and it felt nice and cozy with the cold weather outside.

Our friends came over for an afternoon of good food and company as well as some games. There was so much yummy food, Christmas jumpers, and even gluwein and champagne too.

We organized a secret Santa and there were some interesting gifts including a BB gun.

It was a lovely day and definitely a memorable Christmas in Korea.

Winter weekend in Seoul

In a last attempt to check out any Christmas spirit in Korea, myself, Dean and our friend Marcel, headed to Seoul the weekend before Christmas. We were hoping, that like most major cities, we would see a substantial "Christmasy" atmosphere with lots of lights and high spirits. Unfortunately we were a bit dissapointed as there was not too much. We still made the most of our time and had some good food and experience some freezing weather. 

We started off our weekend with a stroll along the Cheonggyecheon Stream. The weather was icy but it was really peaceful to walk alongside the river.

We had lunch at Richard Copycat in Itaewon. The restaurant is at the end of the Itaewon "strip" near the High Street Market. It is quite a chic restaurant and kind of reminds me of places in Camps Bay in Cape Town. In summer the restaurant is open air so I can imagine it would be a cool place to hang out. They serve some good food, bottomless drinks, and we enjoyed great sandwiches and burgers. Since visiting I have read some terrible reviews about Richard Copycat on Trip Advisor but I have to disagree with them as our experience there was pleasant. 

In the evening, we checked out the giant Christmas tree near the Seoul City Hall. Just near the tree was some outdoor ice skating. We were really enthusiastic to try it out so we queued up. We stood in the freezing cold for 30 minutes, only to find out we had been in the wrong queue and were actually meant to book a session. The next session was sold out and as we didn't want to hang around for the next 2 hours, we ended up giving the ice skating a miss. The winter weather in Seoul can definitely be mean. The winds were icy and the evening temperature (not including the wind chill) was -10 degrees! 

We ended off our weekend with a 4Dx movie (more on this soon) which was amazing and definitely the highlight of my weekend.