The South Korean Bucketlist! Things I wanted to do in South Korea!

My year in Korea is almost up and I don’t even know where the time has gone! In exactly two weeks I’ll be jetting off to Malaysia to start the biggest trip I have ever been on – no plane ticket home, and nothing but time.

The person responsible for putting these outlandish ideas of indefinite travel in my head is none other than my partner in crime, Sam, whom I coincidentally met only a month after arriving in Korea.

I certainly didn’t expect the year to turn out the way it has, and saying that I’m excited for what’s ahead would be an understatement!

The South Korean Bucketlist! Things I wanted to do in South Korea!
The South Korean Bucketlist! Things I wanted to do in South Korea!

Between the packing, cleaning, and downsizing, I recently came across a bucket list that I made before moving to Korea – things I wanted to do in this land that I knew so little about, and that is what this post is about. Of course, as the title suggests, I kind of forgot about this list and only recently ‘rediscovered’ it, so let’s see how many items I was able to check off:

go to a noraebang with friends

Ahh, Korea’s version of karaoke… I got my first introduction to noraebang during one of my first weekends in town. I never thought I’d enjoy singing for a room full of people, but there’s something about being in Korea that makes it okay to grab a microphone and sing off-pitch while one person plays the tambourine, and someone else dances like a fool. So yes, I got my noraebang on.

– visit the five Grand Palaces in Seoul

I made it to two of the palaces: Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung, the latter which is home to the Secret Garden. After visiting the two main ones I realized that they look exactly the same, so I skipped out on the other three.

Audrey in Insadong, Seoul, South Korea
Audrey in Insadong, Seoul, South Korea

explore Insadong’s artsy shops and coffee houses

Check and check! I shopped there, ate feasts in sit-down-on-the-ground restaurants, spent time in art galleries, listened to street performers, and also indulged in copious amounts of greasy but delicious street food.

attend the Lotus Lantern Festival in May

Yes! This was by far one of my most memorable moments in the country. I got to visit Jogyesa Temple when it was covered in lanterns on the days leading up to the Lotus Lantern Festival, and the day itself did not disappoint. Monks, musicians, and dancers made their way through the city, but the highlight was getting to walk in the parade itself. A sweet Korean woman even gave me one of her lanterns so that I would have something to carry.

– hike one of the 37 mountains around Seoul

I sure hope Namsan counts because it’s the one and only hike I attempted! It’s not exactly the highest peak in the city, but it gives you a great bird’s eye view of Seoul. Plus I did it twice.

attend the Cherry Blossom Festival in April

That didn’t happen. But I did get to see the cherry blossoms in bloom in my own neighbourhood!

– take a tour of Bukchon to see traditional Korean houses

Bukchon was a lot different than I expected. I ended up visiting the area on my own on two separate occasions, and while there are many hanok (traditional houses) in the neighbourhood, you can also find a 7 Eleven, modern boutiques, and coffee shops which take away from the traditional feel.

Audrey visiting the Boseong Tea Fields in South Korea
Audrey visiting the Boseong Tea Fields in South Korea

– visit the Boseong tea fields during the Green Tea Festival

I didn’t go during the Green Tea Festival, but I did visit the Boseong tea fields, TWICE! I went in April with two friends from work, and then again with the boy in September.

snap some crazy shots in a Korean sticker booth

I couldn’t find one of those! I’m starting to think they are more of a Japanese thing and I was misinformed…

– walk and bike along the banks of the Cheonggyecheon

I didn’t bike along the shores of the Cheonggyecheon (I’m not even sure that’s allowed since the path isn’t that wide), but I did get to stroll along the shores of the Cheonggyecheon and bike along the Han River. I have to say, the best time to enjoy the Cheonggyecheon is in the springtime when they have festivals and colourful art installations for children (and grown-ups!) to enjoy.

– shop at Namdaemun: the oldest and largest traditional market in all of Korea

Oh boy! I sure spent a lot of time here, and this market is home to some pretty quirky finds. Padded underwear to enhance your derriere, anyone? Even better, a pair of  socks with PSY doing his signature dance move. Yes, I’ll take a pair of those. Actually, make that two.

– take a tour to the DMZ

I thought I would want to go to the DMZ , but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do so. I just don’t see what there is to gain from going to the North-South Korean border and watching soldiers stare at each other with nothing but hatred towards the other. This one is just a personal choice, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out.

Traditional homes in the Korean Folk Village in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
Traditional homes in the Korean Folk Village in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea

– get to know Yongin as it will be my home for the coming months

I did quite a bit around my city, especially when it comes to trying new restaurants, and I also visited the Korean Folk Village which is one of the main attractions in the city. So I am satisfied with that.

Was I successful in accomplishing everything on my bucket-list?

Maybe just over half of the items…

The thing with bucket lists is that you make a list of all these things you want to do, but then once you get to the country, you learn about all these other activities and attractions. All of a sudden your original list doesn’t seem quite as exciting. I may have neglect some of the items on my list, especially since I lost my list, but I did end up doing lots of other great things instead.

Do you make bucketlists?
Do you end up forgetting about them like I do?

Join the Conversation

31 Comments

  1. says: Jesse

    Those sticker booths do exist in Seoul! I found one completely by accident, it was a whole shop filled with probably almost 10 different sticker booths. I’m thinking it was in Hongdae but I may be mistaken.

    1. says: Audrey

      I’ll have to keep an eye out for them if I make it back to Hongdae! I seriously thought they’d be on every street corner…maybe not. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. says: Vanessa

    Looks like you researched some cool things about Korea before coming! I’ve never made a bucket list, but usually on the last week in a new place, I find myself suddenly running around to do the touristy things that I never did. Maybe I should start early this time!
    p.s. I totally agree about the sticker booths… where in the world ARE those illusive sticker booths… I’ve gone into many an arcade-bang and never found one. Maybe one day!

    1. says: Audrey

      Unless I make a tentative list beforehand, I find that I end up forgetting some of the things I want to do. My biggest bucket list fail: going to Paris and completely forgetting about the catacombs AND Versailles! How does one do that?!

      1. says: Vanessa

        Yeah, I agree! For shorter trips, making a list definitely helps! So sad about Paris… but the good news is that it looks like your travel days aren’t ending anytime soon… Maybe you and Europe will meet again?? ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. says: Jill

    I only made a list a few months before I left Abu Dhabi…it was a “Oh crap, I’ve got to hurry up and do this stuff before I leave list!” that we wrote on giant paper and hung on the wall. Much harder to lose that way! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. says: Audrey

      It’s funny how you feel no rush to do things throughout the year, but then when you’re down to a couple of weeks (even days!) the pressure is on! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. says: Audrey

      I maybe could have been persuaded if the price were a lot lower, but honestly, with the current situation, the DMZ isn’t where I want to be.

  4. says: Gรผnstige Autovermietung

    This is really nice and very attractive for me because The Korea is my dream destination. After reading this post I would like to visit Korea.

  5. says: Rachel

    We will be in Malaysia in a few weeks too! Maybe we’ll cross paths. The sticker booths DO exist, there are several in Bupyeong, Incheon. They didn’t seem as common as I had expected though.

  6. It sounds like you’ve had a great time in Korea! We always make bucket lists, but they seem to be more like ‘mental’ lists….we never write anything down, we always just talk about things to do, which is probably ok because we would definitely lose the list. haha.
    Enjoy your future travels.
    Cheers!

  7. says: Zhu

    How cool for both the list and the upcoming trip! I absolutely loved Malaysia, people are super friendly and the mix of cultures and religions is amazing. I hope you will have a great time there!

    1. says: Audrey

      I am really excited about Malaysia. Especially the food! I can’t wait to see how the mix of cultures translates to their cuisine. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. You’ve done a lot, Audrey! I think I don’t need to create my own bucket list for Seoul… I’ll just copy-paste yours ๐Ÿ™‚ And I will start with “the Cherry Blossom Festival in April” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. says: Sofie

    Oh I sooooo do bucket lists!
    I love to plan and organize. That doesn’t mean I’ll stick to my planning once I get to my destination, though. I just love to do the research and I usually have a list of things I HAVE to do and a list of things I’d like to do if Id have time left.

    1. says: Audrey

      I agree with you, Sofie! For me the research is half the fun. I like reading up on the place, kind of having a vague idea of what there is to see and do, and sure sometimes I may end up ditching the plan, but that’s how travel goes. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. says: Andrea

    Don’t feel bad, I made a Korea bucket list and ignored some of it later too! So much of what you think you want to do ends up being different once you know more about it. I really thought I would want to attend all these festivals in Korea, but once I realized how ridiculously crowded festivals are in Korea, I decided they weren’t for me after all!

    1. says: Audrey

      Festivals in Korea are sooo crowded! MudFest in Boryeong was one of the bigger festivals that I went to, and it was absolute madness. I didn’t expect that many people to descend on this sleepy little town by the sea…

  11. says: Maria

    All good things must come to an end, huh? Well I’m thrilled for you and admittedly a bit of that is selfish because I love your enthusiasm Audrey and ability to just cut loose for simple fun. So what’s selfish about that? I can hardly wait to hear/see your next set of adventures. Kudos Audrey for being brave, stepping to the edge (as I like to call it)!

  12. says: Agness

    That’s been a wonderful year in your life but more adventures are coming! So excited to see you on the road again. How long are you guys gonna travel in South-East Asia? What’s next? Getting back to Korea afterwards?

  13. says: Ceri

    I think you did a pretty good job of doing most of the stuff on your list. ๐Ÿ˜€ I have a list of things I’d like to do in Mexico but I’m leaving in 6 weeks and I know that half of it isn’t done because, as you said, other things and attractions get in the way while you’re there.

  14. I make bucket lists sometimes, but I am leery of doing so because I don’t like being tied to them… all too often I end up doing way cooler things than any bucket list would have allowed me. Although… this is a pretty sweet list you’ve got. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. says: Kate

    That’s a pretty cool list of activities. I am always forgetting and remembering bucket list things. Most of mine aren’t place specific but are more about a location independent lifestyle generally, and learning to relax more.

  16. says: Firsta

    Hey Audrey!
    Snap some crazy shots in a Korean sticker booth —> I did this one!
    The photo sticker machineโ€™s instruction had to be given verbally and the options were written in Korean.
    I got my eyes made automatically bigger and skin whiter on the printed version! Aha! Very interesting and fun experience.

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