Living in South Korea and Traveling Asia

I was very excited when I found out we would be heading back overseas. The idea of living in South Korea intrigued me. I lived in Korea many years ago as a child. So I immediately began researching Daegu. I looked for blogs that could provide some insights for what to expect. But I couldn’t find any that were very helpful. Moving to South Korea came with the expectation of exploring Asia. I decided to be the research I was looking for. Here, I share some valuable travel tips and ideas that I have learned while living in South Korea and traveling across Asia.

military spouse relaxing at Hidden Bay Ulsan

Becoming the Research: Valuable Travel Tips and Ideas for South Korea and Asia

I was very excited when I found out we would be heading back overseas. The idea of living in South Korea intrigued me. I lived in Korea many years ago as a child. So I immediately began researching Daegu. I looked for blogs that could provide some insights for what to expect. But I couldn’t find any that were very helpful. Moving to South Korea came with the expectation of exploring Asia. I decided to be the research I was looking for. Here, I share some valuable travel tips and ideas that I have learned while living in South Korea and traveling across Asia.

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20221105_143610-scaled Living in South Korea and Traveling Asia

Living in South Korea: Traveling Asia

Living in South Korea has taught me a lot about myself and what truly makes me happy. If I had the opportunity, I would divide my time between Virginia, Bali, Thailand, and Spain. It’s fascinating how simple activities like eating, touring, and shopping can sometimes lead to awkward moments and feelings of anxiety, both at home and while traveling. I remember the first time I ordered a bowl of noodles and felt self-conscious as all eyes were on me when I picked up the chopsticks. Or the time I entered a sauna fully clothed, unaware that I was supposed to be naked. And who could forget the peculiar experience of a salesman measuring my feet with just his eyes while shoe shopping?

As a child, I often encountered people who were curious about my skin and hair. Fortunately, as an adult, I haven’t had to deal with that as much, although the staring still persists. When I meet their gaze, they either smile or appear disinterested.

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Getting Used to Life in South Korea

Similar to Europe, Asia is vast and diverse. Despite considering myself knowledgeable about geography, simply looking at a map doesn’t provide insight into the availability of English-speaking assistance, the quality of transportation and roads, or the time required to travel between places. The region boasts numerous languages that may sound indistinguishable to the average American.

It took me some time, but now I can distinguish between Thai and Vietnamese. However, unlike German, French, or Spanish, I don’t foresee being able to converse in these languages. The characters used are not based on the Latin alphabet, making them almost indecipherable. Moreover, since countries like Korea were not open to foreign tourists until recently, even my best language efforts often fall short due to dialect differences. Ahhh, the struggles of pronouncing SeoSONGGG Lake.

The Asian world is ancient, predating the European civilization and boasting a more diverse and extensive history. Certain customs, such as climbing the central stairs of a temple or accidentally disturbing delicately stacked rocks, can provoke disapproving glances from older generations. There was a time when I placed a stone on the stack, not realizing I was expected to take one off. Ah well, I suppose some misunderstandings are inevitable.

The Culture Shock is Real

I easily stand out while traveling in Asia, but that’s part of the adventure of living in South Korea. The region is predominantly homogeneous, with people sharing similar physical appearances and adhering to cultural norms of modesty and conformity. It only takes a day to notice that around 90% of cars are black, silver, or white. The lack of bold colors is not limited to vehicles; I also noticed that women tend to wear shoes in more muted tones, just like their teeny tiny feet.

People are everywhere, and the crowds can be overwhelming. Similar to Europe, personal space is a luxury that doesn’t exist here. Picture yourself in an elevator or train compartment packed with people who have just enjoyed a meal of raw fish or kimchi. Imagine entering a building where the elevator stops on every floor, and just when you think no one else can squeeze in, three more people manage to find space. You can understand the challenges I face.

Additionally, borders in Asia are often closed, requiring visas and traversing significant bodies of water, mountains, and political bureaucracies. Flights can be long and expensive, and

sometimes tour guides are necessary for added security in certain destinations that may not be entirely safe for tourists. China, for instance, has specific requirements for entry into some areas. All these factors add up to the realization that I won’t be able to visit all 20 countries initially on my bucket list. If I manage to experience half of them, I will consider myself blessed.

Where to Go in Asia? My Asian Bucket List

My original must-see list was much longer, but after 18 months, I realized that even the revised, much shorter, version is still ambitious. Hotel and food expenses are high, and airfare from Korea can be both costly and time-consuming. Taking into account travel times, which can occupy an entire day each way due to layovers and hub locations, destinations like Australia and New Zealand may have to wait for another time.

Nevertheless, I am grateful for the opportunity to live in South Korea. We have already embarked on many adventures and crossed off several destinations from our bucket list, including China and Cambodia.

Vietnam

Vietnam was unquestionably a top priority on my Asian bucket list. I have a deep desire to sail around Halong Bay and explore cities like Hanoi, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City.

Thailand

We fell in love with Thailand after our first trip to Phuket’s stunning beaches and islands. Subsequently, we visited the vibrant city of Bangkok and recently immersed ourselves in the delicious food and temples of Chiang Mai. We enjoyed it so much that we are considering making it a part of our retirement plans.

China (3x)

China presents a challenge due to its vastness. My main attraction is the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, although bad weather caused our flight to be canceled. However, we did explore Beijing and Guangzhou, visiting iconic sites like the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. If I had to choose, Beijing would be my preferred destination.

Hong Kong

While I would love to spend my time on a beach in New Caledonia, Sri Lanka, or Bora Bora, Hong Kong offers a convenient and affordable option for travel.

Japan

Japan is approximately the same distance from South Korea as Hong Kong, but in the opposite direction. I hope to visit Tokyo and Kyoto, experience the bullet train, and immerse myself in the vibrant atmosphere of Shibuya. Staying at the beautiful New Sanno Hotel and Resort, a military resort, can save us money during our stay.

Australia

It’s hard to resist the allure of Australia. When I have the chance, I want to explore the Great Barrier Reef and indulge in some wine tasting.

New Zealand

New Zealand, with its stunning natural beauty and connections to the Lord of the Rings movies, is a must-see destination for me. I look forward to experiencing the breathtaking landscapes and perhaps enjoying a meal in the Shire.

Singapore

It seems that visiting Singapore is inevitable, as it often serves as a layover airport for many trips. Instead of 10 trips, I’ll have to make it 11.

Cambodia

I have a strong desire to visit Angkor Wat and Siem Reap, channeling my inner Angelina Jolie.

Indonesia

Bali, Bali, Bali… There’s no need to say more. While most people think of the beaches, I found solace in the mountains and jungles of the island.

Philippines

My plans include staying in an air-conditioned hut on a beach and exploring Palawan Island’s underground river through boat and kayak tours. Unfortunately, our flight to the Philippines was also canceled due to bad weather.

Malaysia

Our trip to Kuala Lumpur turned into a stopover in Singapore, but we did have the chance to visit some of its treasures during a long layover.

Jeju Island

During our first three months, we were fortunate enough to visit Jeju Island, often referred to as the Hawaii of South Korea. It’s a volcanic island off the southern coast where many Koreans spend their honeymoons and summer vacations.

As I reflect on my plans, I realize the challenge of fitting in visits to these eight remaining countries while also exploring South Korea during our two-year stay. It may be more than I can handle alone, considering my husband’s work commitments. Nevertheless, I am ready to embrace the challenge and make the most of this incredible opportunity.

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18 thoughts on “Living in South Korea and Traveling Asia

  1. You seem to be very well traveled. I loved that your really immersed yourself into another culture and let yourself be willing to try so many new things. This was truly a joy to read.

  2. It looks like you have experienced a lot of things! That’s so cool! Moving to another country definitely has it’s challenges. I moved to Norway 6 years ago and it’s been an experience!

  3. Aww, the experience of them wanting to touch you- I’m sorry! It’s pretty standard to outcast people they don’t see belonging there. Although my ethnicity Vietnamese, they could spot I’m an American by just looking at me… because I have more meat than the typical Asian girls, lol. I learn to deal with them saying that. xoxo

    1. Thank you Thi. I am used to it as well. I have Asian friends who have lived in America or American born who say the same exact thing. Its funny how much our environment affects things like the way we walk, isn’t it?

    1. Its keeping as many post relevant as possible. And hoping readers will take a look at multiple pages when they visit. I want you to spend your free time with me.

    1. Thanks looks like we won’t make it Australia or New Zealand on this trip, but theres always next time. We traveled to a lot of beautiful places in the last two years.

  4. Those are some ambitious goals for your must see places. I would love to visit some of them as well but not in a rush since I’ve yet to visit Europe. Planning to fix that this summer.

    1. Looks like we won;t get to Australia or New Zealand before leaving Korea. But since we are definitely coming back because of our love for Thailand, we’ll get there on a future trip.

    1. My daughter is in Italy right now for 3 years and my sone will be moving there in the summer. Its a beautiful country. Traveling around Asia is so much cheaper than both America and Europe so you can experience a lot for so little.

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