We put our luggage into the lower compartment hold and wearily climbed into the coach one by one. Whether it was the sharp cold air of Seoul that greeted us or the tearful heartfelt farewells to our Korea.net colleagues, the sniffled sounds reverberated throughout the coach as we sat in silence and wound our way our back toward the hotel to spend our last night in the capital. One week of travelling across Seoul, Busan and Tongyeong had come to an unfaltering end.
I had been one of the privileged twelve honorary reporters that had been invited to visit Korea courtesty of Korea.Net. It was a week long scheduled trip. We started out as strangers, knowing little about each other, other than that we had a love for Korea. A few of us were familiar with one another from events that Korea.net had run before, but for me it was my first time to meet a fellow Korea.net reporter from another country. We all hailed from eight different parts of the world: Pakistan, mainland China, the Philippines, Germany, Egypt, Italy, Greece and the U.K. I didn’t know what to expect, but as the trip unfolded, the places we visited, the various types of dishes and foods we ate, we were slowly forming a bond that would last for a lifetime. Through travelling and visiting Korea’s historic spots, we not only exchanged our own insights and experiences of this unique country, but exchanged stories of our own cultural background and came to appreciate one other’s uniqueness and perspective we each bought.
I remember waking up on the morning of the first day of the tour knowing that I would be meeting my fellow reporters, after having flown in the day before from London. I wandered into the breakfast bar, snatching glances at those sitting near me, wondering if these people would be my travel buddies for the next couple of days. It wasn’t until after I went down to the foyer and met with Jihye, the Korea.net staff reporter with whom I had been corresponding these past few months, that I got to meet all the other honorary reporters. A few shy nervous hellos tinged with enthusiasm were exchanged before we departed for our first visit to the K-Style Hub. Walking along Cheonggyecheon in Hanbok was pretty surreal, especially being photographed not just by our official Korea.net photographers but by general passersby, too. Just a brief glimpse into the life of a celebrity, which was followed by lunch in Insadong, a tour of Gyeongbokung Palace, dinner and then a quick tour of Hongdae, and then the cooking show Nanta.
By the end of day one, we had all met each other briefly and caught snatches of conversation here and there about who was from where and who liked what about Korea.
The first stop on day two was an intriguing one for me, as we got to visit the National Museum of Korea to learn about Korea’s past and delve more into the history of calligraphy. I could have spent more than an hour here, but our itinerary was packed, as we had a brief tour of the Korea.net offices, lunch in Itaewon, and then off to SM Town. Then it was off to the heady heights of Namsan Tower and dinner.
It felt like we had been in each other’s company for more than a week as day three saw us move on to the second largest city in Korea, Busan. We all checked out with our luggage and were ready to board the KTX to Busan. For our lunch, the Korea.net team packed a boxed lunch for us, as we ate on the two and half hour ride. We were then introduced to the colorful Gamcheon Culture Village and to scenic spots in Taejongdae. We rounded up day three with dinner at the Jalgalchi Fish Market and had an amazing night view of Busan.
Day four began with a scenic visit to Haeundae Beach at the APEC Nurimaru House, and then a spiritual visit to the Haedong Yongung Temple. For lunch, we got to do some cooking of our own, and made our own fish cake whales! It may look easy, but I can assure you it was a lot of hard work! A tour of Nampodong followed, after which we visited the Busan Tower, BIFF square and the modern history museum — and my favorite, the Bosu-Dong Book Store Street.
We soon wound our way back to the hotel to prepare for the next day and for our visit to Tongyeong.
This time, it was a bus ride to the coastal city that greeted us with rain, and we visited the Dongpirang Village furnished with umbrellas and raincoats. We stopped over at a varnish art gallery to admire the ottchil artwork and briefly made an appearance at the Admiral Yi Sun Shin Park. We finished up with a tour of the cable cars, a tour of the local jungang central market and a scenic bike ride, which for me was one of my favorite moments on the whole trip.
It wasn’t long before we had dinner at a local restaurant and then all got together for a quick honorary reporter meeting to decide how we were going to write about this amazing experience that Korea.net organized for us.
It was here that I learnt so much more about my fellow reporters and what sparked their initial interest in Korea. Ranging from food, to Korean pop music, to history, shopping, tourism, to Hallyu, the popularity of Korean music and TV shows across East Asia and elsewhere, and even to fashion. Our interests covered a wide range, but one thing was certain: we all shared a passion for writing articles, creating stories and sharing our knowledge about this country with the world. We were all amazed at the kindness and hospitality afforded to us by the team and the meticulous detail that had gone in to planning the trip. We had three different tour guides for each city that represented its own uniqueness and I know well, in fact, that I’m almost certain that we broke a record for the number of selfies and group selfies taken in a matter of days!
What follows are the stories, photos and videos that my fellow reporters have written about the week we spent together. It’s a trip that will live on in my mind for many years to come.
§ K Style Hub
§ Hanbok and Cheongyecheon
§ Gyeongbokung Palace
§ Hongdae and Nanta Show
§ National Museum of Korea
§ Lunch at Itaewon: halal food
§ Seoul Tower
§ Riding the KTX
§ Gamcheon Culture Village
§ Night view of Busan
§ APEC Nurimaru House
§ Haedong Yongung Temple
§ Making fish cake
§ Enjoying Busan street food
§ Donpirang Wall Painting Village
§ Ottchil Art
§ Admiral Yi Sun Shin Park
§ Hallyeosudo cable car
§ Tongyeong Coastal Path
§ Tongyeong Traditional Market
§ Tongyeong Club E-S Resort
Photos by Korea.Net Flickr Page