Events and Activities in South Korea
There's plenty to do in South Korea to keep you busy and provide you with entertainment. There are sports to watch, shows to see, events that occur throughout the year, bars, clubs, restaurants, beaches, and more.
Since I've been here, I've attended 3 Busan Giants baseball games, seen the show JUMP, been to numerous bars and clubs, attended the Boryeong Mud Festival in July, attended the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival in April, attended the Jinju Lantern Festival, went to a beach party at Jangsa Beach, visited Jeju Island, the DMZ, and more.
Almost every weekend since being here, I've gone out with friends to either bars, clubs, or a place to eat. There are quite a few western style bars that remind me a lot of bars from back home. One great thing about going out to drink here is that they don't tip in Korea. That definitely saves me a lot of money (it adds up)! Clubs are pretty entertaining. I like most of the music that they play and it's fun to watch everyone dance. Everyone usually faces the DJ and dances in one place (which is nothing like back home). I've seen a lot of Koreans do the same dance.
When going out to restaurants, if you end up going to a western restaurant, they'll have an English menu which is great, but if you go to a Korean restaurant, they won't always have an English menu available. As for what western restaurants you can find here, what I've seen in either Seoul or Busan has been: TGIF, Bennigans, Outback, New York Fries, McDonalds, Taco Bell (in Seoul only), Burger King, KFC, Quiznos, Pizza Hut, and Dominos. That's all I can think of right now. I have been to three Mexican restaurants here as well. They also have Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, Thai, Russian restaurants, and more. Be prepared to spend more money on anything that's not Korean.
I wasn't into sports back home (and I'm from NY), but since being in Busan I have grown to love going to baseball games. I have gone to Yankees games before and I know I should be more supportive of them, but I think going to a baseball game here is a much, much, more entertaining experience. Each player on the Busan Giants team has their own song and every time they go up to bat the stadium plays it. The whole audience sings a long and cheers. Quite a few of the songs are based on a song from back home which makes it even more entertaining for me. Sometimes the wave gets thrown in during the game as well. People cheer and sing songs the entire game. I don't remember any of that happening in NY (hey, I could be wrong, I was young when I went to those games and I don't remember a lot other than being bored). Either way, I LOVE going to the games here.
Let's talk about some more events...
How about the Mud Festival? What a different experience that was! It happens one week a year, during July, in a place called Boryeong. What I've heard is that they ship cosmetic mud to that area for the event. The event is held at the beach and it's a very, very, large beach. Running alongside of the beach are restaurants and shops. Some people that live here organized a bus that took us from Busan to Boryeong for 2 days during the event. It was about a 5 hour drive. The day we arrived there, we immediately put our bathingsuits on and headed out to the event. There's two different types of mud you can put on yourself: one is a brown color and looks more muddy, and the other is colored mud that goes on almost like paint. Unfortunately, you have to wait in line if you want the colored mud put on you. We had to wait about an hour to have one of the people do it for us. You can choose a few colors and tell them where you want it on your body. When I asked to have my back painted, though, they told me no. I'm guessing just the arms, chest, face, and stomach are the main areas to have it placed. You can see the picture off to the side of us at the event. For the non-colored mud there are stands around the event where you can paint yourself or your friends with it. There's also a mud activity center but you have to pay about 5,000 won a person to enter each day (if you choose to). We went in there on the second day. There were slides to race going down, mud pools, mud races (on your belly), an obstacle course (that is very hard when you are sliding all over the place), and more. It was a lot of fun but beware, that stuff BURNS when it gets into your eyes! Thankfully, they had a pool to rinse off inside of the activity center. After rinsing off I think it took about 5 minutes before my eyes were burning again, haha. Oh and by the way, they have public showers that you can pay for but you will shower with other women/men. There's a men's side and a women's side but the showers are all open, so, if you are a woman you will be showering with other women and a man with other men. I didn't find that to be uncomfortable since I have been to the spas in Korea (where everyone is naked there, too). At the end of the night there was a fireworks show on the beach. It was a decent amount of time and a great ending to a long, very fun day.
The Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival is the largest one in Korea and it happens in April. We took a bus from Busan there and it took about an hour and a half, I believe. Once you get there you will see cherry blossom trees all around you. It's a very pretty sight. You're not allowed to touch the cherry blossoms, as I found out the hard way. When you get to the main area of the event, there's an endless amount of food stands for corn dogs, ice cream, french fries, tacos, etc. There are booths selling jewelry items, handcrafted items, hiking supplies, and more. There's also an area where you climb up about 300+ steps to get to this tower and once you go to the top, you can see a magnificant view of the city below. I didn't know if I would make it all the way up but I was glad that I did.
The Jinju Lantern Festival went on in October this year. Jinju is also about an hour and a half away from Busan. When you arrive at the event you will see lanterns all around. These are not small hanging lanters, they are very big and are in the shape of something. I saw soldiers, horses, birds, and tree lanterns all over the property. You can also walk along tire bridges to view the lanterns that are out in the water. They had a lantern to represent many countires (USA, Australia, Russia, China, Netherlands, Norway, and more). They also had Disney lanterns which I found to be a great touch (Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King). On the ground in another section they had Batman, Spiderman, Superman, more Disney characters, Teletubbies, and more. There were also peacock lanterns whose tails would spread out and they would breathe fire from their mouths. They had a gorgeous dragon lantern as well, you can see a picture of it off to the side. I had a great time walking around and seeing all of them. Of course I wanted to get a picture with a lot of them as well!
A big event that happens in Busan during October is the PIFF (Pusan International Film Festival). During that time there are international films playing at certain movie theaters throughout the city. They have a website that you can look at to find out which movies are playing, where they're playing at, and what time they are playing. I didn't go to see any of the movies this year because the movie that I wanted to see was playing at a theater far away from me. I never made the time to go.
At the end of October, Busan has the Gwangalli International Fireworks Festival. This event happens at Gwangalli Beach and this year it fell on Halloween (October 31st). I heard that there are a few million people that attend each year. I went this year at around 5 pm when the fireworks were supposed to start at 8 pm. We grabbed dinner and afterwards we were going to find a place on the beach to sit down. Well, even being a few hours early wasn't enough because we had to practically step on people to walk through the beach to find a spot. We were lucky that there was even a spot on the beach. Behind the beach, along the road, they had tents set up for other people, but once those were full, no one else was allowed to enter the beach area. It was insanely packed. Too bad it ended up raining on us the entire time. We only had one umbrella for the two of us and we both had our cameras to worry about. We were cold and wet for the whole event. Putting that aside, though, it was great to watch. The fireworks were definitely worth the suffering. I would suggest that you arrive between 3 and 4 pm, bring a blanket to sit on (on the beach), check the weather, and bring some food with you. You can see a picture from the fireworks show off to the side.
Some other places I've visited....
Back in the beginning of June, a friend and I went to Jeju Island. This island is known as the honeymoon island or the "Hawaii of Korea". We stayed on the southern end of the island, close to the lava rocks formation and the Teddy Bear Museum. We went to see the lava rocks which were very beautiful. We also went to the waterfalls, but unfortunately the largest one wasn't there anymore. I'm not really sure how that happens but it did. The other one's were very pretty though. We did not get a chance to make it over to Sunrise Peak. Of course after I left it was added to the new list of the "7 Wonders of Nature". I do plan on heading back there sometime next year and making it out there. I've heard it's absolutely gorgeous. Another place I did make it over to was LoveLand. It's a park filled with "adult" statues in various positions and sizes. It's pretty entertaining to spend an hour or two there, walking around and taking pictures.
I've also made it up to Seoul 3 times and during one of those trips I took a tour to the DMZ. I did the tour that took me to the 3rd tunnel and the Panmunjom. Doing both in one day made for a very long tour but I'm happy that I went. I'm not a history buff so some of the things did not interest me as much as it may for other people, but still, I found it to be worthwhile. Also in Seoul I highly recommend going to the Namsan Tower or "Seoul Tower". You can take a bus up the mountain and then you just have to walk a little ways up (on a steep incline). Once you are up there you can see some great views of Seoul. I didn't get to go at night but I would imagine that it's very beautiful seeing the city all lit up. And if you are a partier, you should check out Itaewon. There were a ton of foreigners when I went out there at night and a lot of places to go out and have some drinks. During the day I found it to be quite boring, though. I've also heard that Hongdae (the university area) is a great place to go out at night, but that's another place I haven't made it out to yet.
If you are interested in seeing some more historical sites around South Korea, Gyeongju is a very well-known place to go. It took us about an hour to get there by bus from Busan. Renting bikes is a great way to see the area and you can find bike rental shops all over the place. There are tombs to see (around the town they look like green hills but they are actually tombs), a famous temple, a traditional town, a museum, and more. I highly recommend the traditional town. I took some great pictures there and got to see many traditional Korean homes.
I will be sure to update this as the adventure continues! :)
There are many things to do while living in Korea. You can find a lot of activities or events for Busan at http://english.busan.go.kr/main/. For Busan, you can also go tohttp://www.busanhaps.com/ to find restaurants, events, and activities.