You know and we know that every K-Drama/K-Pop fan’s dream is to someday visit South Korea. Seoul, in particular. If not for the purpose of sightseeing and soaking in all the feels, then perhaps to marvel at the city and fangirl over the fact that you are >thismuch< closer to your oppa. Personally, I travel to Seoul every year, whether it’s by choice (read: hallyu-obsessed fan) or for work assignments. If you’ve been following us closely, you would’ve even seen the previous travel posts on Jeju and Busan.
To be honest, Seoul is like any other city in the world – busy, busy, busy – and at times it could be a little overrated. And because Gangnam (ala “Gangnam Style”) is so 2012, this list will hopefully give you more ideas of places to go outside of Seoul beyond Gangnam, Myeongdong, Itaewon, Insadong, Hongdae, etc.
Korean Folk Village (한국 민속촌)
Hands down, the best place to travel back in time and immerse yourself in learning and observing South Korean traditions is at the Korean Folk Village. The “living museum” introduces traditional culture from the late Joseon period to both local and international visitors through cultural classes experience, shaman faith, seasonal customs, etc. On display are also various unique places such as a farming village, private house, official districts, Confucian academy, seodang (village school), a realistic village street, a nobleman’s house, and traditional workshop. Performances including nongak (farmer’s music), martial arts on horseback, traditional wedding ceremony, and other special events are available by season. Visitors can enjoy Korean traditional rice cake like jeungpyeon (steamed and fermented rice cake), injeolmi (rice cake coated with bean powder), bukeo-gui (grilled dried pollack), or pajeon (green onion pancake) along with dongdongju (traditional Korean liquor). Did we mention that the Korean Folk Village is also the filming location for K-Dramas including (but not limited to) “The Moon That Embraces The Sun” and “Sungkyunkwon Scandal”? If you have time to spare, spend at least half a day at the Korean Folk Village because it truly is South Korea’s history and culture all under one (imaginary) roof.
- Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 9:30am till 6:30pm; Saturday and Sunday, 9:30am till 7pm
- Admission: 15,000 won, Adults (ages 19 and up); 12,000 won, Teens (ages 13 – 18); 10,000 won (Children)
- Address: 90 Minsokchon-ro, Bora-dong, Giheung-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do
Dreamy Camera Cafe (꿈꾸는사진기)
Voted as one of the cafes to visit “before you die“, Dreamy Camera Cafe actually has a pretty interesting backstory. Located in the serene Yangpyeong country (about 64km away from Seoul), the cafe is owned by a South Korean couple, Park Sung Hwan and his wife Kwak Myung Hee. By profession, Park is a helicopter pilot for the army while Kwak is a retired army pilot. Dreamy Camera Cafe was born out of Park’s passion in photography and the idea of helping people achieve their dreams. As such, in 2012, construction for the 2-storey, 30-feet tall building that looks like a classic Rolleiflex twin-lens camera began. Not one to chase money or fame, Park and Kwak have kept their cafe small and humble. Although it can only accommodate up to 20 patrons at a time, visitors would be pleased to find that its space features Park and Kwak’s huge collection of cameras. What makes Dreamy Camera Cafe different is their method of visualisation as the owners encourage visitors to list down their bucket list, which they will take a picture of and print on instant film to display on the cafe’s walls. Guests who have achieved their goals can then return to the cafe to visit and perhaps write another bucket list :)
- Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 11am till 6pm
- Admission: Free
- Address: 341-13, Jung-won-ri, Yongmun-myeon, Yangpyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do
Hwaseong Fortress (화성)
Behind every fortress is a tragic story. In Suwon (the capital of Gyeonggi-do) stands a 5.52km-long fortress wall called Hwaseong that surrounds the centre of the city. It was built in the late 18th century (Joseon Dysnasty) by King Jeongjo for defensive purposes, to form a new political basis and to house/honour the remains of his father, Crown Prince Jangheon, who was executed by his own father (king Jeongjo’s grandfather). The fortress was designated as Historical Monument No. 3 in January 1963, and in December 1997, it was designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. In more recent times, the Hwaseong was one of the main filming locations for record-breaking sageuk (historical-styled) K-Drama, “Dae Jang Geum” (대장금), which starred Lee Young Ae (이영애). For an authentic historical Korean experience, you may rent a hanbok (traditional Korean attire) at a nearby store before walking over to Hwaseong. We got ours from chjangem and it costs only 10,000 won per person (about RM38) for one hour including headgear, footwear, and accessories. The lovely chjangem store owners will even help you mix, match, and accessorise. Then, take a walk around the Hwaseong and go crazy snapping lots of pics as you channel your best Joseon dynasty look!
- Opening Hours: 9am till 5pm daily
- Admission: 1,000 won (Adults), 700 won (Youth), 500 won (Children)
- Address: 11 Haenggung-ro, Namchang-dong, Paldal-gu, Suwon, Gyeonggi-do
Petite France (쁘띠프랑스)
In December 2013, K-Drama fans fell head over heels in love with “My Love From The Star” (별에서 온 그대) coupling Cheon Song Yi (played by Jun Ji Hyun) and Do Min Joon (played by Kim Soo Hyun). One of the most memorable scenes in the K-Drama, episode 15, where Do Min Joon turned on all the lights on a street and confessed his love for Cheon Song Yi, was filmed at Petite France. Inspired by Saint-Exupery’s 1943 novel “The Little Prince” (Le Petit Prince), the overall design of the French village represents “flowers, stars, and The Little Prince”. In fact, the sight of the cluster of colourful French-style buildings sitting on top of a hill in the Korean countryside will definitely take your breath away and kick your Instagramming into high gear. Aside from striking your favourite “My Love From The Star” pose for pictures, visitors can also catch the puppet play, view the orgels (musicbox) collected from all over European countries at the Orgel House, and learn about the life of Saint-Exupery at the Saint-Exupery Memorial Hall. If you’d like, you can even lodge at Petite France and experience the French food, clothing, and culture.
- Opening Hours: 9am till 6pm daily
- Admission: 8,000 won (Adults), 6,000 won (Middle and High School Students), 5,000 won (ages 3 – Elementary School Students), 6,000 won (ages 65 and above)
- Address: 615-2 Goseong-ri, Oeseo-myeon, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do
The Greem Cafe (양평 더그림)
Said to be a place that’s “more beautiful than a picture”, The Greem Cafe boasts a sprawling lawn and 2 cafe buildings that can accommodate up to 100 people. Its grounds span across 11,000 square metres that are dotted by beautiful gardens and cute little statues/fixtures. And if that’s not impressive enough, The Greem Cafe is also a popular filming location for CFs (commercials) and dramas such as 2012’s “The Innocent Man” (세상 어디에도 없는 착한 남자) starring Song Joong Ki (송중기) and Moon Chae Won (문채원), 2015’s “Mask” (가면) starring Park Soo Ae (박수애) and Ju Ji Hoon (주지훈), 2014’s “Line Romance” (라인 로맨스) starring Lee Min Ho (이민호) and Bea Hayden, and 2012’s “Rooftop Prince” (옥탑방 왕세자). Interestingly, admission into The Greem Cafe costs 7,000 won and each visitor will be given an entrance ticket. A list of beverages and ice-cream is printed on the ticket (like a menu) and visitors can redeem their drink/ice-cream of choice at the cafe. As it was raining when we were there, we really took our time sipping on our hot coffee and savouring the yummy cakes while enjoying the view :)
- Opening Hours: Closed on Wednesdays
- Admission: 7,000 won
- Address: 564-7, Yongcheon-ri, Okcheon-myeon, Yangpyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do
Camp Greaves DMZ Experience Center (캠프 그리브스)
Last but not least, one must never miss the opportunity to visit Camp Greaves, especially if you’re a true blue
Song Joong Ki “Descendants of the Sun” (태양의 후예) fan. Located 2km away from the South Limit Line of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Camp Greaves one of the oldest US army bases which was occupied by the US military for about 50 years after the ceasefire agreement of Korean War. The accommodation for officers, living hall, physical activity hall, and several other army facilities remain intact. It has since been renovated into an experience accommodation facility for peace and safety after the withdrawal of the US forces, and more recently, it was used as one of the main filming locations for “Descendants of the Sun” (태양의 후예). While on site, visitors can take part in various experience programs including becoming Captain Yoo Si Jin (wearing the military uniform, cartridge belt, and beret), personalising your very own dog tag (an essential item for soldiers), and taking pictures at specific points of the K-Drama set (the military tent, the fight scene area, Captain Yoo Si Jin’s waiting room, etc). Camp Greaves even houses the first youth hostel (which can accommodate up to 240 guests) to be located within a restricted area for civilians in Paju city.
- Opening Hours: 9am till 5pm
- Admission: Make a reservation online
- Address: 137 Jeoksipja-ro, Gunnae-myeon, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do (357-1 Baegyeon-ri)
So, you game to see South Korea like you’ve never before? Book your next trip via AirAsiaGo!
Not only will you be able to secure both your flights and accommodation at the same time, if you’re an AirAsiaGo member, you qualify for discounts up to 55% on hotel deals and will always be amongst the first to be alerted of any exclusive promos.
Oh, and did we also mention that AirAsiaGo currently has over 1,500 choices of accommodation in Gyeonggi-do? Go get ’em ;)
We’ll leave you now with a quick recap video of our trip to South Korea:
Special thanks to our friends from AirAsiaGo and Gyeonggi Tourism Organization for making this trip happen for us!