In Korea, it’s common practice that the female does the gifting on Valentine’s Day (and males return the favor on White Day [March 14]). This year, I treated my boyfriend to a holiday in neighboring city, Daejeon.

After thoughtful reconnaissance behind the Daejeon bus terminal, we found the best love motel, MS Motel (엠에스모텔). Granted, the name isn’t particularly clever and the outside decor isn’t the most awe-inspiring, but I promise you it was the best inside. We popped in and out of several motel rooms —and this was the best by far.

I suggest getting the best room (60,000₩ a night), which has two extremely comfortable queen sized beds, three showers, one bathtub, and a 3D TV. If you ask nicely, the employees will help you order delivery, and you’ll have food straight to your room (a major plus in my eyes).

Busan Tower (부산타워) in Yongdusan Park (용두산공원) is a must-see destination for visitors to Busan. I suggest going to the observatory at the top (designed after the baldaquin of Dabotap Pagoda in Bulguksa Temple) where one can see a 360 degree view of the entire city. For a few dollars more, one can check out the modest musical instrument museum and cultural relic exhibit hall in the same vicinity.

It’s not very tall. It stands at 120 meters tall, compared to the N Seoul Tower’s 237 meters, but on a clear day, I find the view much more impressive.

Directions: Nampo Station (Busan Subway Line 1), Exit 7. Go 350m on Gwangbok-ro Street towards Yongdusan Park. You’ll need to go up the line of escalators on the right.

Operating Hours: 09:00-22:00

A message from Anonymous
What do you recommend packing for a first teacher living a year in S.K? What clothes, etc?

First of all, I recommend bringing at least $1000 USD of spending cash for the first month. Pack toiletries as if you were going on vacation, just so you have enough until you are fully settled into your apartment.

Between Costco, Gmarket, iHerb, and foreign marts, I’ve found that most things can be purchased here -especially if you’re willing to pay more. I believe in the old adage that if Koreans can live without it their whole lives, you can probably live without it for a year, but I’ll still humor your question with an educated response.

Bedding: I have never wasted precious luggage space this way, but friends swear by packing their favorite fleece blankets, jersey sheets, or fitted/flat sheets. All these items can be extremely difficult to find and/or expensive in Korea.

Birth control: If you prefer a certain brand of condoms or pills, stock up in your home country and bring them over.

Board games: Games to play with friends or with your students, I’ve brought cards (e.g. Uno) and board games (e.g. Apples to Apples).

Clothes: If you are bigger or taller than the average Korean, may want to bring a year of swimsuits, shoes, socks, underwear, bras, jeans, and/or sports gear (e.g. cleats and pads). Korea brags that it experiences all four seasons. Prepare for a bit of snow, a bit of monsoon, a bit of humidity, and a bit of sweltering heat. Ladies, lean towards being more conservative on your top half (wear cardigans with those tank tops), and gentlemen, you’ll look further out of place with baggy pants. 

Comfort foods: I like to bring my favorite spices and hot sauces from home. I don’t know the laws of what is legal to bring into the country, but I have definitely had meat (i.e. Spam and beef jerky) confiscated from my luggage at the airport.

Electronics: If you really want to bring your favorite hair straightener or gaming console, read your cables. If they say anywhere on them “Input: 100-240v,” you can plug in your electronics with a little plug adapter. If you don’t have that cable, you should buy a power converter.

Toiletries: Deodorant is becoming more readily available, and womens’ make-up is plentiful —but many of your favorite brands may not be available in Korea. I, personally, bring over Tom’s apricot deodorant and Bare Minerals make-up, because I’ve never seen either in Korea.

I went to a palace themed coffee shop in Hongdae, Seoul, Korea called 공주가 사는 궁전같은 카페 (“Where a princess should live”). The coffee shop has individual tables sort of hidden away, mostly meant for couples, but I saw a few groups of females there as well. Drinks are a bit expensive (e.g. lattes 8,000₩ and cocktails 9,000₩) but aesthetically pleasing.

I like themed cafes. I think they’re fun when meeting people. It serves as a conversation starter, and it’s also a good place to explore (or take selcas, as the Koreans often do). This isn’t the sort of place you go to by yourself. There is a smoking section, but it doesn’t smell bad in the non-smoking area.

Address: 364-1 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul

Phone number: 02-3143-1536

Street view and directions on Google Maps

I remember when I first saw door guards on cars in Korea and couldn’t believe that they would actually be used to protect car doors. I still wonder how useful they really are. They come in all different shapes, but I find angel wing door guards (도어가드 천사날개) the most amusing.

I went to Gakwonsa Temple (각원사) in Cheonan last summer, but the “big Buddha” is more impressive in the winter. Also, the temple is way less crowded.

How to get there: Take bus 24 from the opposite side of Shinsegae, to the end of its route. Make sure you follow the bus to the last stop, or you’ll end up walking further. The bus will make a U-turn at a narrow road before heading for the last stop.

Korean discount cards

If you make many purchases in Korea, many of the big companies will ask if you have a point card. You can save 5% with purchases over 1,000₩ with a Happy Point Card at Paris Baguette, Baskin Robbins, Dunkin Donuts, Paris Croissant, Café Passcucci, and Sanuki Bore.

If you want one, say, “해피포인트카드만들고 싶어요” at the register.

And, if you ever forget your card, they can look up your membership with your phone or ID number after you say, “카드 안 가지고 왔어요. 번호로 적립할게요.”

Also, if you have Korean cell phone, most providers offer a discount card for various companies (e.g. Domino’s, Mr. Pizza, Starbucks, Paris Baguette, TOUS les JOURS, Holly’s Coffee, Cold Stone, A Twosome Place, Bennigan’s, etc.). You have to contact a customer service agent on the phone during business hours (typically Monday to Friday, 9:00am - 6:00pm) and they’ll mail you a discount card within a few weeks.

For LG U+ dial 114, press “0,” and you’ll talk to a representative who you can ask for English. 

For KT Olleh, dial 016-1583. You can talk directly to an English Representative.

For SK telecom, dial 114, press “2,” press “0,” and you’ll talk to a representative who you can ask for English. 

A fun activity to do in Seoul is to walk along the stream, Cheonggyecheon (청계천). It’s a 5.8 km (or 3.6 mile) walk. In the summer, I prefer finding a shady spot to sit in and dip my feet in the water.  In the winter, I’d just walk quickly along the stream as it’s really cold outside.

I recommend starting in Cheonggye Plaza. You can get there from Gwanghwamun Station (Seoul Subway Line 5), Exit 5 or City Hall Station (Seoul Subway Line 1 & 2), Exit 4.

I spent the weekend in Gwangju. It was my first visit to southwestern South Korea. Chris was in town to show me his old stomping grounds, and we both enjoyed staying at Pedro’s House.

As the sixth largest city in South Korea, there’s plenty to do in Gwangju. Below is a quick list of things I’d recommend.

  1. Gwangju has a fun niche foreigner scene. I ate and drank at The First Alleyway, Speakeasy, and Tequilaz. Easy enough area to get to from the subway. If you get to one of them, they’ll tell you how to walk to the others.
  2. Take the inner-city bus to Mudeungsan National Park (무등산) and hike around to several temples.
  3. We did a scavenger hunt at Gwangju Biennale (광주비엔날레) during the Kimchi Festival. It’s a really nice and huge place to walk around. We traveled to and from here by taxi.
  4. Yangdong Market is a nice Korean traditional market. I didn’t find much to buy (who needs a live chicken?), but looking around is fun.
  5. Gwangju has an art community, but I didn’t explore it at all. One can check out The Street of Art, Gwangju Museum of Art, Uijae Museum of Korean Art, and WooJaeGil Art Museum.

One of my favorite places to hang out in Seoul is a cat bar called 묘한술책. I try to stop by every time I’m in Hongdae. It’s a place you can drink alcohol and hang out with a bunch of cats! The owners, 조아용 and 장재영, are super friendly and nice. They’ll chat with you or they’ll leave you alone to read or play a game. Also, they’ll play any music you like. I’ve spent hours just requesting songs. Just so you know, 재영 really likes Red Hot Chili Peppers.

It’s between Hapjeong and Sangsu subway stations, but probably a bit closer to Sangsu. The address is 서울시 마포구 서교동 402-13 한스빌 4층 and here are directions from google.