A trip to Gangneung, Gangwon-do, Korea

It’s been awhile since I last updated my travel blog. I had trips to Korea before the pandemic but I didn’t get the chance to share my travel experiences and the places I visited. My last trip to Korea was spring of 2019 and I stayed there for 22days. That was my longest stay in Korea so far. During my trip, I visited 10 cities from different provinces. Spring is my favorite season to travel around Korea mainly because of the warm weather that makes it easier to travel from cities to cities and the blooming flowers make each place more relaxing, magical and insta-worthy.

Though it took me awhile, but I want to start sharing my trips which you may refer to if you want to visit Korea when their borders open for tourist and when it’s safe to travel again.

First stop is the city of Gangneung in Gangwon Province which is located in the northeastern part of South Korea. I have been to Gangneung in winter of 2018 to visit Jeongdongjin. It was freezing back then that’s why I wasn’t able to fully explore the place so I decided to come back.

I arrived in Incheon International Airport via Cebu Pacific from Manila around 11pm on April 2019. It was already late to go Seoul at that time so I planned to stay at the airport until the next morning to head straight to Gangneung. Although there’s an option to take the bus in Incheon International Airport to Gangneung but that I opted to wait for the first train to Seoul Station to take KTX. Back in winter 2018, I took the airport limousine bus from the airport to Sokcho. It was a bit pricey but it’s more comfortable than having many transfers. KTX is also expensive, but that was the last day of the discounted fare so I saved about 70% of the original fare plus travel time since KTX is the fastest train in Korea. I knew it before the trip because I follow pages of Korea Tourism Organization and other related pages for they constantly post events, travel news, latest updates and sometimes I can also get discount coupons that I can use for the trip.

  1. Jumunjin

After checking in at the hotel, first itinerary was Jumunjin. This place became well-known to foreign travelers because of the memorable scene at the breakwater in Yeongjin Beach or simply known as Jumunjin breakwater from the K-drama Goblin. Goblin was aired in 2016 but until now this place still attracts local and foreign travelers who want to take photos and recreate the scene from the K-drama.

Sodol Adeul Bawi Park or the ‘Son Rock’ was not on my itinerary. I’ve never heard about it before. It just happened that while looking for the Jumunjin breakwater, I took the wrong way and ended up discovering this hidden gem. The myth says an old couple who couldn’t have a child, managed to have a son after praying on the rocks for 100days.

If you are interested in seafood, you may also visit the Jumunjin Fish Market situated next to Jumunjin Port. I heard it is the largest seafood market on the east coast of Korea.

How to get there: Take a bus to Jumunjin Bus Terminal. From there, you can walk to the fish market and to the breakwater.

2. Jeongdongjin

I must say, this is one of my favorite places in Gangneung.

The view of the Sun Cruise Resort and Yacht from Jeongdongjin beach last winter of 2018

Jeongdongjin Station is a small but picturesque station known for the being the closest station to the ocean. It’s also one of the best spots to catch the sunrise as it is facing the east sea. There is a rail bike where you can pedal your way along the beach to enjoy the scenery.

How to get there: From Gangneung Intercity / Express Bus Terminal, take Bus No. 109 and get off at Jeongdong Bus Stop. Walk for approx. 300 m.

Jeongdongjin Hour Glass is said to be the world’s largest hour glass located at the Sandglass Park just a few minutes walk away from Jeongdongjin Station.

Jeongdongjin Time Museum (정동진시간박물관) which is also located at the Sandglass Park, is comprised of a steam locomotive train that features exhibition spaces on the concept of time.

How to get there: From Gangneung Express Bus Terminal Bus Stop, take Bus No. 109 and get off at Moraesigye Park Bus Stop or from Jeongdongjin Bus Stop, walk for about 700 m toward the park.

Sun Cruises Resort and Yacht is a 4-star hotel designed in the image of cruise ship and located at the top of the large cliff. It’s been featured in CNN’s 12 Hotels You Won’t Believe Actually Exist. The hotel is open to visitors who want to take photos inside the vicinity with applicable entrance fee but it’s so worth it. You can have a 360 view of Jeongdongjin at the viewing deck of the hotel.

How to get there: You can walk from the Sandglass Park or you can take the Bus No. 109 and get off at Sculpture Park Bus Stop.

Bonus place is Raramuri which is located near Deungmyoung beach. If it looks familiar, you’ve probably seen it in K-dramas. It is a small cafe facing the beach and that has been shooting locations of popular K-dramas like Goblin, Legend of the Blue Sea. Meloholic and Encounter. I’m not sure if it still operates though.

How to get there: From Gangneung Intercity Bus Terminal Bus Stop, take Bus No. 111, 112 or 113 and get off at Haslla Art World Bus Stop. From there, you have to walk along the beach for about 5-7mins.

There are a lot more to be explored in Jeongdongjin such as Haslla Art World also known as Pinocchio Museum, Korean War Monument, Tongil Unification Park among others. When you take the bus from center of Gangneung, you have to get off at every bus stop when you approach Jeongdongjin because there’s something worth visiting. I just didn’t have enough time to see all of them so I had to skip some. If I had another chance to go to Gangneung again, I’d love to go back to Jeongdongjin.

3. Anmok Beach and Coffee Street

This is another famous place in Gangneung especially for coffee lovers. Cafes are lined up along the coastline of Anmok beach. These cozy cafes have windows or terrace with the ocean view where you can enjoy your favorite coffee.

How to get there: Take Bus No. 202-1 or 302 and get off at Anmok Bus Stop

4. Wolhwa Street

After touring around Gangneung, last stop is always Wolhwa Street to eat dinner or street foods and enjoy live music as it is a place famous for busking.

Gangneung Jungang Market is located next to Wolhwa Street. The market is divided into a traditional market and a fishery market. There are restaurants and cafes on the 2nd floor. Visiting traditional markets in every region in Korea is always a good idea to have a taste of their delicious local produce and cuisines.

How to get there: From Gangneung Intercity Bus Terminal, take Bus 202 and get off at Sinyeong Theater Bus Stop.

I stayed in Gangneung for 5days and I also got to visit nearby cities such as Donghae and Pyeongchang. Other than these cities that I mentioned, I have other dream destinations in Gangwon-do for every season so I’m looking forward to the day when I can come back to Korea.

Guide for First Time Travellers to Korea

Are you excited for your trip to South Korea but you don’t know what to do or where to go? Is it your first time traveling to Korea? If yes, read up and keep these things in mind.

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Gyeongbokgung Palace

1. Wear Comfortable Shoes

They say Koreans travel by BMW (bus, metro and walking). Wear your most comfortable shoes because will definitely do a lot of walking while in Korea.

2. Dress Appropriately

Korea has four seasons. Before traveling to the country, do some research on the weather. It’s freezing during winter season from December to February so make sure to wear something that will keep you warm. It is still cold in early spring, from March to early April. The weather becomes warm from mid April. Summer is from June to August. Summer in Korea can be really hot and it usually rains a lot. Autumn is from September to November. It becomes really cold from late October.

One more thing, girls can wear mini skirts or shorts but please avoid wearing revealing tops.

3. Download the Subway Korea app

The Subway Korea app is an offline app where you can find everything you need in taking the subway. You don’t need to connect to a wifi for it to work accurately. There are a lot of trains in Korea and the transfers can be confusing if you are not to used to their system. So get this app and don’t get lost.

4. Use T-Money Card

T-money is a transportation card which you can use in the subway, bus and some taxis. The train will be your main transportation while in Seoul since most tourist attractions can be reached by train. You can save ₩100 each ride by using T-money than purchasing single journey tickets. You can purchase the T-money card and charge it at any convenience store or subway vending machines.

5. Avoid traveling from midnight to early morning.

Subways are closed at 12 midnight. If you missed the last train and you don’t know which bus you have to take, you’ll probably be looking for a taxi. But taxi fare from 12mn to 4am is relatively high compared to regular rates. In my experience, when we went to Jinhae, we came back to Seoul at past 12midnight so we had to take a taxi to go back to the guest house and it charged us at around ₩26,000 for a 5-minute ride.

6. Tax-free for Foreigners

Foreigners can shop tax-free for a minimum purchase of ₩30,000. There are shops where you can get instant refunds. Some shops will require you to present your passport while others do not. In case you didn’t get instant refund, you can get the refund at Incheon International Airport before departure. Just look for the Tax Refund Counter at the airport and make sure you have the receipts with you.

Just recently, the Korea Tourism Organization announced that foreign tourists are eligible for a 10% tax refund on hotel accommodations. Click on the link for more details and for the list of the hotels.

7. Souvenir Shopping in Insadong

I prefer buying souvenirs in Insadong because it cheaper. Also, if you pay in cash you can get discounts and freebies.

8. Rent a Hanbok

To complete your Korea trip, it’ll be nice to experience to wear their traditional dress, Hanbok. For me, the best souvenir I can have for every Korea trip is a stunning photo wearing a Hanbok in a palace. I like wearing Hanbok because it’s comfortable to wear and it’s colorful.

Did you know that you can enter all 5 palaces, National Folk Museum and Jongmyo Shrine for free if you are wearing a Hanbok? There are Hanbok rentals shops around Insadong and places near the Gyeongbukgung. Rental fees start at ₩14,000 for 4hrs.

9. Eating in Restaurants

In Seoul, you’ll find restaurants in every corner. Most staff in restaurants cannot understand English but they usually have English menus. Take note, some menus require a minimum of 2 portions of order. So don’t get confused when they tell you that you cannot order 1.

When you are done eating, you don’t have to ask the staff for the bill like what we do in the Philippines. You pay on your way out. You should stand up and go to the counter to pay and then you can leave. The counter is usually located near the door.

10. No Tipping

You don’t have to give tips to restaurants, hotels or taxi drivers for their service. South Korea has a no-tipping culture. Koreans are nice and helpful.  If someone helps you to carry your luggage or even if someone’s gone out of their way just to help you, you can just sincerely thank them. You don’t need to give tips because they will refuse to accept it or they might feel offended.

But there are also situations where you have to give tips, like if you join group or package tours. Most of the times, you have to give tips to tour guides and drivers.

11. Discounts

There are discounts especially for foreigners. You can get discounts coupons when you arrive at the airport or you can get them online.

12. Do not put your powerbank or batteries inside your check-in luggage

This is just a reminder for a hassle-free travel. They scan luggages after check in, so wait until you are cleared to depart Korea. If they cannot reach you, they will open your luggage to remove your powerbank.

13. Respect the Culture and Tradition of the Country

It is a must when traveling to foreign countries. Every country has their own culture and tradition. And you cannot expect the locals to adjust according your needs and wants.

Is it safe to Travel to Korea?

Definitely Yes! I’ve traveled to Korea several times and I’ve never experienced being treated bad or being scammed. You can even leave your stuff in your table at coffee shops or at train/bus stations unattended. No one will be interested.

If you still don’t know where to go, here are the usual places that tourists visit when in Seoul.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

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Gwanghwamun Gate is the main gate of the Gyeongbokgung

Getting there: Gyeongbokgung Station, Exit 5 or Anguk Station and Exit 1.

Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon

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Getting there: Anguk Station, Exit 3. Walk straight from the exit (towards east) for about 5-min.

N Seoul Tower

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Getting there: Take the Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus or Cable Car

Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus
1. Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus No. 02
– Take the bus from the closest subway station: Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway Line 3, 4), Exit 2 (in front of Daehan Cinema) or Dongguk University Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 6.

2. Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus No. 03
– Take the bus from the closest subway station: Seoul Station (Seoul Subway Line 1, 4), Exit 9, Itaewon Station (Seoul Subway Line 6), Exit 4 or Hangangjin Station (Seoul Subway Line 6), Exit 2.

3. Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus No. 05
– Take the bus from the closest subway station: Myeong-dong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exit 3 or Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 2 (in front of Daehan Cinema).

[Cable Car]
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.

Credits to Korea Tourism Organization

Myeongdong

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Getting there: Myeong-dong Station , Exits 5, 6, 7 & 8.

Bukchon Hanok Village

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Getting there: Anguk Station , Exit 1 or 2. Go straight for about 300m.

Changdeokgung, Insadong and Bukchon are close to each other. So visit these places while you are within the area.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

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Getting there: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station and Exit 1.

Nami Island

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Getting there: Get off at Gapyeong Station, and take a taxi to Gapyeong Wharf or take the Gapyeong Tourist Bus.

Those were just some of the popular places in Seoul and nearby places. You can add more to your itinerary if you have enough time in Korea. Enjoy your trip!