Take a scenic bike ride! What better way to stroll into the beautiful, yet busy city of D.C. During the peak times of the festival (Sat-Sun) it will nearly impossible to find a parking spot in the city. Unless you have minor children, the best way to commute into the city is by bicycle. I would recommend to park at Gravelly Point park (next to Ronald Reagan Airport) and bicycle into the city. It is about a 15 minute ride to the hotspot for cherry blossom viewing! This park may not have many cherry blossoms, but they have a large lawn area to watch the planes land and beautiful views of the Potomac River.
2. Watch the Kite Flying Competition (Bring your own too!) Take a seat on the grass near the Washington Monument and watch over 300 kites fly in the wind! It might sound boring to watch a kite float, but there is something almost magical about how a simple piece of fabric and string can fly to gracefully (Thanks Mozi and Lu Ban! The 5th century BC Chinese philosophers who created the Kite ). Join in on the fun and bring your own kite to fly, you don’t need to be entered into the competition to fly one.
3. Visit the near by monuments and memorials! In the immediate vicinity of the thick of the cherry blossom festival, are the Washington monument, Jefferson Memorial and the World War II memorial. Those who are history nerds will love this and those who aren’t will still be able to take surprising insta-worthy shots. Stroll from one point to the next at your own pace and own leisure!
4. Free music, crafts, and other live events. Like the kite flying competition, there are several free musical performances, craft/games (for children), and informational events about the cherry blossoms themselves. There are booths that are lined up along the trees with countless fun festivities to partake in. For a detailed schedule/list of the DC Cherry Blossom Festival activities, please visit: https://nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/
5. A picnic underneath the blossoms. For those who don’t enjoy the crowds or dislike public activities, fear not, you can still enjoy this spring festivity. Before arriving to the main DC area or before leaving home pack a few snacks, blanket, and your camera (optional). There is nothing like good food and a spectacular spring view! Around the Cherry blossoms (near the Washington monument) there are comfortable lawn areas that allow you kick back and relax.
Take a look at my Cherry Blossom Image gallery for more great shots!
It is easy to get distracted from visiting other smaller cities in South Korea due to all of Seoul’s magnificence, endless activities, glitter, and glam. Seoul is a city with over several millions of people. Who wouldn’t want a bit of a break from the hustle and bustle? Do not get caught up in the mirage. Seoul is a city where there are bottomless things to discover, yet you must take the time to visit various other smaller Korean cities that hold so much history and tradition. Chuncheon is a city of the old-fashioned; with traditional Korean houses, temples, tea houses, Hanbok, and DakGalbi.
Dak Galbi: The food of Chuncheon
Chuncheon (춘천 ) is located in the north-east section of South Korea. It is the largest city in the Gangwon province and it rests at dip that was created by the Han and Soyang river. This peaceful city is widely recognized in South Korea for it’s Korean dish called DakGalbi. Dakglabi is a delicious dish (my personal favorite Korean dish hands down) that is made on a large type of open-faced skillet and consists of chicken, onions, cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots, dok (rice cake), gochujang (red pepper paste), and other seasonings.
Usually, perilla leaves, lettuce wraps, grilled garlic, and rice are eaten alongside this lip-smackingly good dish. If you love this dish as much as I do, you must go to Dakgalbi street in Chucheon. Yes, a street. It is said that the DakGalbi restaurants on this street make the best Dakgalbi in all of Korea and I must say that my stomach agrees.
To make this dish at home follow Holly’s recipe! It is as tasty as the restaurants in Chucheon! Dak Galbi Recipe
In Chucheon, you can also live out your Joseon Dynasty fantasy. By renting beautiful handcrafted traditional Korean Hanbok clothing for a day! Hanbok is the traditional Korean attire that was worn by every citizen, about 100 years ago. These days, Hanbok is still very much a part of Korean Culture and it is still worn today for more traditional events such as a wedding or holidays, such as Budda’s Birthday (check out my post about the Lotus Blossom festival). Not only are these stunning clothes pieces of wearable artwork, but were also symbolic of a person’s social status, marital status, and age.
For example, Hanbok with light and bright colors, for example, were usually worn by children and girls, yet more dull colors were worn by middle-aged men and women. Upperclass citizens wore a wide variety of colors, while the lower-class were required to wear white. As seen in the picture above, I wore a yellow chima (치마: skirt), white and blue jokki (조끼: vest)! In this Hanbok, I felt like I was born in Korea during the reign of King Sejong.
There are various Hanbok rental shops in Chucheon! Almost too many to chose from. Sadly I do not remember which shop that I rented from but for about 4-5 hours the rental price of about 30,000 won($27). That might seem like a high amount, but the particular shop that I went to had other rentable accessories such as hats, fans, purses, and shoes (I am wearing the hat and purse).
Beautiful Hanok Villages
If you are looking to spend little money, but still have a good time, have no worries. Chuncheon is full of iconic traditional architecture. Hanok (한억) are traditional Korean buildings/architecture that is very iconic to the Korean culture. Hanok’s are heavily recognized by and crisp liner lines thier pointed cornered roofs. Often times they have beautiful painted designs that cover the upper edges and ceilings of the buildings. Be sure to take a stroll through these streets and soak up the culture!
Haneul Gongwon is absolutely one of Seoul’s most beautiful parks! Haneul Gongwon (하늘 공원) in Korean directly translates to “Sky Park” in English; this translation is very true to is name. All year round this park has the most stunning city-overlooks and rolling field scenery. With over 22 city-over-looking points, you can see the main city-scape of Seoul: Seoul Tower, Hangang River and Bukhansan Mountain. Haneul Park is actually 1/5th of the World Cup Park: Pyeonghwa(Peace) Park, Noeul (Sunset) Park, Nanjicheon Park, and Nanji Hangang Park. Generations ago the World Cup Park was once a place of disposal, waste and for a lack of better words trash; it contained over 90 million tons of waste.
Whether you plan to visit Korea in the Spring, Summer, Fall or winter I assure that Haneul Gongwon will retain its beauty, charm, and peacefulness.
In the spring and summer, the seemingly endless fields of Silver Grass are growing or in full bloom (greenery galore!), but in the spring and winter the grass turns dry (as seen the pictures) and leave behind fuzzy tops that are very fun to play with. Because I visited this park in the winter the open views across the fields gave me a eerie feeling of a place where meditation is welcome and where dreams take place! Scattered throughout the park are sculptural installations that are interactive and fun. I
n addition to the sculptures, there are large metal windmills that are strategically placed to capture wind energy that is used to power the facilitates in the park! How eco-friendly is that!? Who ever decided to put windmills in the park to capture energy was on to something BIG. In the fall and winter seasons, the wind can literally sweep off your feet or at least knock you down. Due to the park’s high elevation and Seoul powerful wind speeds, I would recommend wearing scarves, hats, gloves and anything that is insulating.
Do not let the strong winds sway you from visiting this dreamy wonderland! When exploring the park there are two method of travel: bus or foot. You can buy a bus (cart) ticket, which costs about KRW 3,000-4,000 round trip (per person). On the other hand or should I say foot, you can take the stairway that is exactly 291 stairs from start to finish. Getting to Haneul Park is not hard, just take a camera, follow these directions and get ready for a adventure. Follow the instructions below:
Take the Subway from Seoul city center, get off at World Cup Stadium Station (Seoul Subway Line 6) and take Exit 1.
After exiting there should be a huge map of Seoul World Cup complex close by.
You can take a picture of the map on your phone to follow or use Kakao maps (I highly recommend this method)
For more information about Haneul Gongwon (Sky Park) click here:
Are you a die-hard fan of Korean Hip-hip like I am? Dok-2, Jay Park, Crush, Dynamic Duo, Hashswan, Tablo and several other Korean hip-hop and R&B artists perform at this yearly music festival at the Nanji Hangang River park (Seoul)! In this post I will tell you the best parts/performances of the Hiphopplaya festival, plus I will add in some much-needed advice for those who attend this festival!
#1. The variety of the artists:
Before the festival starts there is a list (a rather long list) of the artists that will be performing. There is a pleasing mixture of the “Big name” artists such as Dok2, Bewhy, Cjamm, Dean, etc. Yet, what I really love are the small/up-and-coming artist that have the most surprising performances. I end up leaving the festival with a few new rappers/singers that I never knew of before! Some of which I am still a fan of today. CLICK on the link below to see the line up for 2017. hhp 3
#2. Being Close to the Artists!
Depending on how early you get to the festival will depend on how close you can get to the front of the stage. If I do say so myself being near the front of the stage has its pros and cons. Pros: Being able to touch the performers, clear view, more crowd energy, GREAT PICTURES! Cons: The pushing of the crowd, not able to use the restroom, standing for hours. Is it worth it to be close? The answer is yes and no, your answer depends on what you want to get out of the concert.
ADVICE: If you want to clearly see the performances and have Top-notch pictures then be sure to get to the event 2 hours early and DO NOT drink too much water (no pee breaks for you). On the other hand, if you would like to casually listen to the music and sit on that comfy beach towel with some Kimbab, then I would suggest coming at whatever time you would like.
#3. The quality of the performances! (The Hype IS REAL!!!)
It’s time to TURN UP when you are at the HIPPHOPPLAYA FESTIVAL! Wear the comfy-est pair of sneaker that you own because you will be jumping and dancing. Korean artists pour their heart and soul into their performances and you can definitely feel their hard work and creativity. At the 2016 festival, I would give the best performance award to…DEAN. He was singing at the top of his lungs along with some smooth dance moves. The crowd feeds off of each artist energy and it is an experience that is unlike other concerts that I have been to before.
#4. Other Festival Activities (Fan signings, merchandise store, food and more)
In addition to the artist’s performances, there are other ‘tents’ that have a variety of merchandise such as concert t-shirts, bags, hats, stickers, bottles and more. They also sold some of the artists older/newer albums as well! I really liked that they had this feature because I like to have keepsakes/memorabilia for my moments of reminiscing. You will also have the chance to meet an artist and have them sign an item. (Sik-k was doing a fan-signing)
With such a long festival, there has to be food right? Correct! The food here isn’t your average concert food! There is a pretty good selection of Korean Food trucks that serve a varies of food. Korean pork belly sandwiches, gourmet fried rice, chicken wings, beef tip stir-fry. I am not sure if I was more excited about the food or the music! You definitely have a happy belly.
ADVICE: Traveling on a budget? If you are not looking to spend any extra money on food? No problem. The restrictions on outside food and drinks are expressed, but it is not pressed. I did end up packing a water bottle and 2 rolls of Kimbab in my bag just in case I got hungry, and it came in handy. I would advise to pack any snacks/drinks at the bottom of your bag and place a towel or shirt on top.
#5. Meeting other K-HipHop Friends.
Whether you traveling with a group of friends to the festival or you are a lone wolf the Hiphopplaya festival is a great place to meet new friends. My first time going to the festival, I was going alone. Indeed, I was afraid of going to a concert alone as a foreigner in Korea, but I did not let that stop me from enjoying myself. There are hundreds of foreigners that go to concerts in Korea, at this festival I was supposed to see so many different people! As I was standing near the front of the stage and just minutes before the performances began, I met a stranger from France who shared the same passion for Korean music as I did. We ended up enjoying the whole concerts together and going out to eat after. She became one of my good friends and I even met up with her a year later when she came back to Korea.
ADVICE: DO NOT be afraid to go alone! It could be the best experience that you’ve ever had. Be open, talk to others, and make new friends.
Usually this 6 hour long music festival is held between the late spring/early summer months (April-May).
Visit the Hiphopplaya website for information about the festival, posts and music videos of current and up&coming Korean Rap and R&B artists, and much more: Hiphopplaya Site
Where to buy the tickets? The tickets are usually sold via Interpark or Melon.
Korean Cuisine? Or should I say, the best food on earth? It’s easy to say for me that is definitely the case. Korean cuisine has a wide range, depth, and somewhat odd delicacies. For most of us foreigners who live in a place where Korean food is often very difficult to come by and is very expensive. Not knowing the wide variety of dishes/food that Korean culture has, I only knew of a handful of Korea’s most popular foods; Korean BBQ and Ramen Noodles. While I used to enjoy the beef and shrimp flavors of the cheap TopRamen, I was in quite a shock when saw (and tasted) authentic Korean food. As seen in the pictures above, left to right: Nakkshi (raw Octopus), Pacheon (Korean Pancake), Sashimi (Raw Fish), and lastly Pork Belly (Korean BBQ).
The most notable attribute of Korean food has to be their Banchan, otherwise known as side dishes. I would say that any tasty Korean meal is not complete without a plethora of Banchan. Banchan can consist of different foods, yet generally speaking the sides dishes are usually different types of seasoned or marinaded vegetables (such as Kimchi). Other sides can include other foods such as small pacheon, potatoes, salad and much more. When eating at various restaurants, I began to notice that the more small business; mom and pop shops have the BEST banchan! Not only are they more delicious and but often time you will have more of a variety than at the chain Korean restaurants in Korea.
These three almost edible pictures are just the surface of what Korea has to offer. From fresh seafood and juicy BBQ meat to gourmet spicy ramen and sweet egg bread. Korean cuisine has a dish that anyone will love.
There is a calming and serene sensation that you get from the southernmost districts; that feeling of being home and welcomed. While visiting a friend that lived in Mokpo, she was kind enough to take me and her family on a trip around her beautiful sea-side city, as well as the surrounding areas. Mokpo, set on a small peninsula located on the southwest corner of Korea it is known for their bustling seafood markets, city sites, sea-nic views, and sunsets. This city is definitely a must if you are either passing through to get to Jeju island or to visit the southern coast.
Located not too far from Mokpo is Juk-nok-gwan, otherwise known as Bamboo forest park. Walking through a forest of bamboo may sound like a bore, but it is rather unexpectedly interesting. In America, I only saw bamboo when it is small and in little decorative glass vases, but a forest full of bamboo was a different experience indeed. While walking through the park, I felt as if I was in an old Asian warrior movie! With various props and figures that are placed around the park, I definitely had more fun than I thought I was going to have.
For more information about Mokpo and the Bamboo Forest Park please visit:
A trip to Wando is not a common one for a foreigner to take. Think of a cute and quaint country town with the sweetest people, but near the Sea! Wando is a beautiful province that is sure to calm the senses and satisfy the taste-buds for all of the seafood lovers out there. More specifically, Wando County (Wando-gun) is a county in South Jeolla Province. Wando is a great place to visit during the spring and summer months because of their warm beaches, several large fresh seafood markets, and scenic farmlands.
My best experiences in Wando was definitely walking along the sandy beaches and stopping by what seems like the world’s best seafood restaurants. Sushi and Sashimi lover’s this is your calling. Try different sea creatures that you have never seen before or try a Korean Classic seafood dish; Raw Octopus (Nakk-ji). Nakk-ji is so fresh that you can still see the nerves in the tentacles wiggle. This delicacy may seem odd, but the taste is not so odd. Try it for yourself (with shots of Soju of course)!
How to get there:
The best method to get to Wando is by car or by ferry.
Click on the links below for more information on Wando and for transportation methods
Things are not as they appear! This especially true for in the case of this odd, yet interesting museum that is smack in the middle of the youthful Hongdae area in Seoul. Hongdae is the hot-spot for all things trendy, fun, party, and booze. Easy to miss, the Trickeye Museum is a major tourist attraction that is sure to leave you with countless devious and mind-blowing photos. By playing with the depth-of-field, hidden objects, and other hidden features this museum is full of backgrounds and props that create an awesome photo.
Getting eaten by a shark? Done. Floating in the air? Check. Being micro-sized with a giant friend? Impossible? I think not. Be sure to check out this place! In the same building, on different floors, there is a Ice Museum and a Love Museum (adults only). There is a discount if you buy a ticket for all three museums, but a ticket for the Trickeye Museum is about 15,000 Won ($13 USD).
For directions and more information, please visit:
When you first visit Gwanghwamun Square you will definitely feel the unique and highly valued history and tradition of Korea. Gwanghwamun Square is comprised of the breath-taking Gyeongbokgung Palace (one of my favorite places in Korea), the statue of King Sejong and the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin. All three landmarks are very important to the history and development of Korea, not to mention that they are beautiful to look at! The large golden statues, unique and bold designs, this place is heaven for those who love history. This was my first “trip” into the heart of Seoul. My friend (in the picture) was so kind as to show me around this plaza and he gave me a bit of history about each statue and the palace.
Here is a glance into each them; Admiral Yi Sun-sin, a Korean naval commander became famous for his victories against the Japanese navy during the Imjin war in the Joseon Dynasty. The mighty King Sejong the Great, was the creator of Hangeul (the Korean alphabet), and ruler during the Joseon Dynasty. Lastly, Gyeongbokgung Palace was built in 1395 and was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. The largest of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon dynasty, Gyeongbokgung served as the home of Kings of the Joseon dynasty, the Kings’ households, as well as the government of Joseon. Gyeongbokgung Palace is normally open everyday of the week for Korean Nationals and tourists to explore the inside, which can take up to 3 hours.
Gwanghwamun Square is a must see for all who are visiting Korea! It is a great place to learn about the history of Korea and to take memorable pictures. It was and still is one of my favorite places in Korea.
How to get there:
1) City Hall Station (Seoul Subway Line 1 & 2), Exit 3.
2) Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 6 & 7.
3) Gwanghwamun Station (Seoul Subway Line 5), Exit 1, 2 & 8.
* Connected to the underground exit.
For more information about Gwanghwamun Square please visit:
Located at the top of the formerly and famously known Namsan Tower (now called Seoul Tower) are the hundreds of thousands or perhaps even millions of LOVE LOCKS. These ‘locks of love’ are added by couples that have the desire to secure their love by writing their names, initials, or a short message onto the lock and adding to these colorful, yet somewhat overwhelming walls of ‘eternal love’.
In Korea, some couples believe that if they “lock their love” at Namsan Tower then their love will last forever. I am not too sure if this is taken seriously or for fun, but either way, it is definitely a sight to see! I would like to find one of the first couples to locked their love to see if this myth is sound!
There are many walls, shapes, and sculptures with these locks. In addition, at the top of the tower, you are able to see, what seems like, all of Seoul. Miles and miles of city; a literal concrete jungle. From my many travels in Korea I would place ‘Locks of Love’ at Namsan tower at the top of the ‘must see’ list. Even if you are not visiting Namsan Tower with the love of your life and are with friend or family, you can still make your own personal addition to the locks. If you have a burning hot love for let’s say…. your favorite KPOP group, go on and lock it up! If you forget to bring your own lock, do not fret there are a large variety of locks that are sold in the tower’s gift shop.
How to get there:
Get off at Myeong-dong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4) and Exit 3.
Walk for about 15 minutes following the street on the right side of the Pacific Hotel. The cable car boarding place will be seen ahead.
I would recommend taking the cable car up to the Tower unless you would like a sweaty workout! The cable car will cost about 8,000 Won per person (one-way).