Study Korean Language in Busan, South Korea

Recently I studied Korean language in South Korea for 10 weeks during the summer. I had visited South Korea once before in Autumn of 2018 for 2 weeks. I fell in love with the country and decided to return in order to learn Korean. When it comes to choosing where to study a foreign language in other countries, I always choose a smaller city rather than a capital city. I don’t really like a big city with a lot of  people.  I think going to visit a capital city as a tourist for a short time and living there are different stories.

When I studied English as my 2nd language 12 years ago I went to Adelaide, South Australia when most of Thai students went to Sydney and Melbourne. I could understand why everybody heads to a big city where they think it is more convenient and would give them the best experience of  living in that country.  I also chose to study Russian language in St. Petersburg instead of Moscow 5 years ago. The two experiences of studying a foreign language in a smaller city, not a capital city, gave me many benefits, e.g. I did not meet any Thai students in South Australia and this helped me to develop English faster as there were no Thai people to talk in the school.  I also chose St. Petersburg over Moscow because I thought that Moscow was too big and too busy.  Also the cost of living in Moscow was more expensive than in St. Petersburg. I was very much in love with St. Petersburg and had so much fun living there. The city was very pretty during the summer with many beautiful places to visit. I have been travelling over the world and still no other city can beat beautiful St. Petersburg!

So, this time, I decided to study Korean in Busan, the 2nd largest city in South Korea after Seoul. Busan is located on the south east of South Korea and right beside the sea where you can enjoy eating good quality of seafood and beautiful beaches. The population is about 3.5 million whilst the population of Seoul is about 10 million.

The accommodation:

The school that I chose has 2 branches in Seoul and Busan. The one in Seoul is located in Gangnam, the most expensive area of Seoul. I could not find any nice apartments near the school for a reasonable price in Seoul, and most of the apartments are very, very small for a lot of money. And then I looked in Busan where the school is located in Seomyeon, the city centre of Busan. After looking for a while I saw a big difference in price between Seoul and Busan. Therefore I did not hesitate to chose Busan over Seoul.

I found a 40 sqm apartment near Seomyeon where I just walked about 15 minutes to the school. The location of my apartment was very convenient and everything just on the door step – even a beautiful park for jogging everyday. I found this place via Airbnb. Here is my cozy apartment where I stayed for 10 weeks.

The Korean Language School: 

After comparing many Korean language schools I ended up choosing a private language school in Busan. I took the Intensive 25 hours a week class which from 9.00 am to 3.30 pm Monday – Friday. I did not realise when I signed up that it would be too much to study morning and afternoon. If I go back again I would take the Intensive 15 hours a week then I would only study from 9.00 am to 12.15 pm. and have the free afternoon to enjoy other things.

I very much enjoyed the class and the teachers were very nice to me. They always wanted to help students to develop the language and  they were very kind and had a sense of humour which I like most. One thing I like about their teaching system is that they have an exam every Friday to measure what students learned in the past week. I really like the exam as it forced me to study hard. My speaking was the worst in the class but I knew whether my Korean skills had improved or not by the score of the exam every week.

The school also provided many activities every week, e.g. sport, visiting museums, cooking class, art, culture learning, etc. The school also organised the “Meet Up” with Korean friends. They not only teach Korean language but they also teach English. Therefore you will have a chance to make friends with Korean people. I met a few Korean people from the school and some of them became my good friends who I believe we will be friends for life. We exchanged languages and they helped me a lot with my homework and other things. I cooked Thai food for them from time to time in return! We also hung out together every week and did trips to other cities together. Having local friends gave me the best experience of living in South Korea. Without them I would not have had such a wonderful experience and fun.

Apart from the activities that the school provided I also did a lot of my own things. As I enjoy exercising, I ran regularly in the Busan Citizen  Park in Bujeon located only 2 metro stations from my apartment. The park was very well maintained and very beautiful in the summer. After running I often went to the Bujeon Market to buy seafood and bring home to cook. I very much enjoyed eating seafood here as it was so fresh and not expensive.

Busan is a city of Art. On my first visit in 2018 I visited many art galleries. And this time I continued to explore more.

Korean Food:   To eat good Korean food you need to have good Korean friends, both eating in restaurants and home cooking. I experienced eating Korean home cooking from 2 of my Korean friends. The first person is Hoyun, my Korean junior friend. We got to know each other from the school “Meet Up” and we became friends from the second week of my arrival in Busan. When we went on a trip together and it was my birthday he made me a traditional seaweed soup or Miyeok-guk. Miyeok-guk is traditionally eaten for breakfast on birthdays. Hoyun also took us to many places to eat where you would never find it on your own.

The second person is Junho, a Korean chef who I met on my first visit in 2018. I attended his cooking class and we become friends since then. Junho is a really good cook and fun person. I did recommend a friend to attend his class and my friend had so much fun cooking with him. I would highly recommend Junho if anyone wants to learn Korean cuisine.  I did not have much chance to meet him during my stay as we both were too busy. However we managed to meet up before I left. He cooked a lot of Korean food for me and my friends and I also cooked Thai food for him.

I ate out a lot of the time with my friends. I tried to eat local food and explore different restaurants every day. There are tons of restaurants in Seomyeon. I very much like Korean food as they also eat rice like Thai people. I think I could live in Korea if there is no country such as Thailand!

Busan is very Asian city as you can find Thai restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants and, of course, Japanese restaurants here. And not just a few of them, there are a lot of them. The 2 Thai restaurants that I went to regularly was “I’m Thai” and “Bamboo”, both located in Seomyeon. We also ate Italian from time to time when we became sick of Asian food!

I’m Thai

Nearby cities to visit:  I had a chance to visit 3 cities, Geoje Island, Deagu and Jeonju. The 3 of them are totally different. Geoje Island has beautiful nature, e.g. beaches, mountains and rural lifestyle. We climbed the 566 m high Gyeryongsan Mountain and visited Hak Dong beach, watched the most beautiful sunset and jumped into the rice field to chat with the farmer. Travelling on the island is more convenient with your own transport.

Geoje Island
Hak Dong beach
Windy hill
Gyeryongsan Mountain

Deagu is a modern city like Busan and Seoul but smaller. We enjoyed the modern stuff e.g. the e-world amusement park, Seomun Night Market, Deagu Art Museum and Deagu Arboretum.

the e-world amusement park
Deagu Arboretum.
Deagu Art Museum
LV at Deagu Art Museum

And the last city I visited before coming home is Jeonju. Jeonju is  a cultural village with traditional Korean Hanok & Japanese houses & calligraphy & sake museums. Visiting Jeonju you must stay in a Hanok, a traditional Korean house which we did and we very much enjoyed the experience. If you have a chance to visit South Korea, apart from Seoul and Busan, I highly recommend to visit those 3 cities.

I had one of the best experiences of living in another country. My 10 week stay in South Korea was much more enjoyable than I expected. I chose the right school, I picked the right accommodation, I explored a lot of Korean culture  and, the most important, I met good people. Kaxin, a Taiwanese girl would do anything for me if I cooked Thai food for her! She was like my personal assistant, bought me breakfast and medicine when I was sick and chased me up every times when I being late for the class! She is a beautiful, caring and loving person. Julie was the only Thai friend I met who I did not expect to meet! She was my personal translator in the class as her Korean was  better than me. She would translate what the teacher said immediately when I just looked in her eyes! She bought me Thai herbs all the way from Thailand just for me to cook one meal. She is a beautiful, funny and caring person. Hoyun, my Korean friend, behaved older than his age!  He was like my teacher and he never hesitated to help whenever I asked – even at midnight when I sent sms to ask about homework! He replied as soon as he was available. He joined us to Geoje island as he worried we would get lost! I have a lot of favours to return when he comes to Thailand!

I can’t mention about all of my friends here but everybody in the photos mean a lot to me as you guys helped create one of the best experiences of my life.

Hope you enjoy reading.

Autumn in My Heart, South Korea

In the last few months I was very stressed and bored at with my work. This happens occasionally when I keep doing same old same old stuff and not being challenged. I though I really need to get out of here and go somewhere to have some fun, reboot myself, meet new people and find inspiration. 

I decided to visit South Korea only 2 weeks in advance because recently I have been watching too many Korean soap operas on TV! I also have a Korean friend who I met in Australia when we were studying English together in 2008. It was excited to reunite with my classmate after 10 years!

Day 1 – Train to Busan

After I arrived at Inchoen Airport I went straight away to Busan by train. How many times in my life would I have a chance to take a train to Busan? Maybe just once. Therefore, I would like to dress like Gong Yoo in my favourite zombie movie “Train to Busan”. Gong Yoo wore a suit in the movie when he was on the train to Busan and fought with zombies, therefore I wore a suit on the train to Busan but no zombies to fight with! The funny moment was that after I landed and before going through the immigration, I went to a restroom and changed from pyjamas to a suit! I looked at myself in the mirror and l laughed a lot at my reflection, what the hell am I doing?! Well, after all I looked so smart in a suit and this was probably the reason that the immigration officer let me in to the country without hesitation!

I arrived in Busan at 3 pm and just walked a few minutes from Busan Station to the apartment that I booked via Airbnb. I very much like this place as it was a brand new apartment with perfect facilities. The location was the best and easy to get around the city by metro. I would stay here again if I ever return.

Day 2 – Cooking class & Gamcheon Culture Village

I booked the market tour + a cooking class via Airbnb Experience. We visited Jagalchi Market and Kkangtong Market from 9:30-12.00. Jagalchi market is full of fresh seafood, it was very impressive how many kinds of seafood they have and many things I’ve never seen in my life before. If you want to try seafood here, come in the evening when all seafood restaurants are open.

Kkangtong Market is full of pre-cooked food. You better come here when you are very hungry! If I was not in a hurry to return home for work, I would probably stay in Busan for a month and just come to eat here everyday!

After some appetiser at the market we went to the cooking studio. We learned 6 dishes in 3 hours and Junho was a very good at cooking. I love all of them and I really enjoyed eating Korean food with Soju! I also met 5 women from Malaysia, they were fun and very much enjoy eating!

After over eating at the cooking class, JunHo dropped me at the Gamcheon Culture Village located only 5 minutes from the cooking studio. It was a beautiful blue sky day and I enjoyed walking around the village for 2 hours.

Day 3 – Yonggung Temple & Busan Art

I started my day at 9:30 am by taking a bus from Busan station to Haedong Yonggungsa  Temple. I arrived at the temple around 10:30 am. The temple is located by the seaside with beautiful scenery. I did not enjoy much at the temple as there were too many tourists.

After an hour at the temple I went to an art tour in Haeudae located not far from the temple. I booked this art tour via Airbnb Experience with Kyungmi, a lovely young Korean artist girl. We started our trip by walking through the old railway and caught the view of the Gwangandaegyo bridge and beautiful Haeundae Beach. Here is the list of the galleries I visited;

I very much enjoyed the art galleries that  Kyungmi took me to; some of the paintings were very beautiful and I just could not believe that what kind of person can create such beautiful art pieces!

Near the end of the tour Kyungmi brought me to a very stylish coffee shop + a gallery. I loved everything in this cafe, everything was modern and stylish. The interior was done by paying a lot of attention to detail and I have seen the most stylish cafe toilet here! We spent 3 hours together from 13:00-16:00. Kyungmi even bought her friend to join us and this made the trip even better. Kyungmi was a bright girl, full of energy, speaks perfect English and has a sense of humour like me, therefore we shared a lot of laughs.

After the art tour I went to the Busan Cinema Centre where they host Busan Film Festival every year. I came here to see the lights that would turn on at 6 pm but I arrived too early so I went cycling along the river in front of the cinema. This was not in my plan but I saw an OFO bike parked there. I enjoyed watching fish jumping in the river – never seen anything like this before, and seeing art everywhere along the river and a lot of local people around who were enjoying the weekend. It was a very relaxing atmosphere.

Later I returned to the cinema. It was really worth waiting. My day ended very colourfully and beautifully!

Day 4 – Busan Tower & night hiking

After a long day of tour on day 3, I decided not to do much on this day. I left my apartment at 12 noon for lunch and went to the Busan Tower located only 2 metro stations from my apartment. I did like normal tourist, went up to see the view over Busan, took photos and walked around the shopping area a bit before returning to the apartment around 3 pm. It was nothing special for being such a normal tourist, I needed more fun on my last day in Busan!

At 6.30 pm I met Young, a Korean hiking man and we went to a night hiking at Mt. Hwangryung. I booked this trip via Airbnb Experience. There was only 2 of us in the trip. We started hiking around 7 pm and it took us about 2 hours to reach the top. It was a new experience for me to hike at night and it was an easy hike. Along the way we stopped from time to time to enjoy the view. When we reached the top of the mountain there was a spectacular 360 degree view over Busan; the city was so brightly lit and very beautiful. After enjoying the view, Young unpacked food and Korean alcohol drink that he brought from home. The food was simple but I very much enjoyed it and I even joked with Young that this is a very romantic dinner, he laughed!

Young made me laugh a lot during the hike but the best one was when we were in the car on the way home, he asked me if he is handsome for Thai girls! He was very serious and even said to please give him an honest answer! He had given me much more difficult time than the hiking! I just could not stop laughing from his innocent question. I love you, Young Jin Jeon!

Young also asked me a very interesting question that why Thailand has so many transgenders like lady boy. I answered his question that because we are free to be whatever we want as long as it does not result in harm to others. And also our culture is quite open to this. Most of their family would not stop them from being a transgender as long as they are good people. I also said to Young that I believe that there would be a lot of transgenders in other counties, as much as in Thailand, if those countries are open to it. Unfortunately, they are not open like Thailand.

I very much enjoyed 2 hours of night hiking, talking and had dinner with the best view of Busan with Young. You can see this amazing view without hiking 2 hours but you would not have such an unique and fun experience with Young like I did if you just being an ordinary tourist.

Young also mentioned that I was the fastest walking guest since he started the business, something I can be proud of!

Day 5 – Train to Seoul

After had such a very good time in Busan for 4 nights I left for Seoul by taking a train. I wish there was a movie called ” Train to Seoul” starring Gong Yoo!

I booked an apartment just next to Samgakji metro station, located just next to the War Memorial of Korea. It was a residential apartment located only 2 metro stations from Seoul Station. It was the best location for me to get around in Seoul.

Day 6 – Making Kimchi & Haneul Park

I booked a cooking class in Mangwon via Airbnb Experience to make Kimchi because I love to eat Kimchi very much. We met up at 10 am at the Mangwon station. Jomin, our chef, took us to the market, did some shopping and we went to her house. There were 2 other girls in the class with me, Vanessa from Singapore and Bianca from Canada. I very much enjoyed the Kimchi class and Jomin was a professional chef, her cooking studio was comfortable, well prepared and her recipe book looks very professional with beautiful photos. Her class was high standard and she has many classes available not only Kimchi. I highly recommend Jomin if you are interested in Korean cuisine.

After the cooking class in Mangwon I visited Haneul Park located near the World Cup Stadium and only a few stations from Mangwon. This place was beautiful and full of tourists.

Day 7 – Gyeongbok Palace & Bukchon Hanok Village

As my place was next to the the National Museum of Korea, I went to kill time there before going to the Gyeongbok Palace at 11am. At the museum I met a group of Korean soldiers who were also visiting the museum. They seemed very passionate and proud to be soldiers and chatting with them inspired me to learn more about Korean history. I wish I could have more time with them as they offered to be my guide. Unfortunately, I could not stay longer.

After that I went back to the history of Korea by visiting the Gyeongbok Palace and dressed up in Hanbok. I booked this tour with Geo via Airbnb Experience. I decided to dress up in a male costume as I had inspiration from Gong Yoo in the Korean drama “Goblin”. I even brought my own accessories from home to be exactly like him! There were another 3 girls who joined the tour and they all dressed up in a female costume as ordinary girls. I very much enjoyed the experience dressed up in a male costume and it turned out to be so much fun with those girls!

After the Gyeongbok Palace I visited the Bukchon Hanok Village and Vanessa from Singapore and Karen from China also joined me. We enjoyed walking and ended up having a very nice tea in one of the traditional Hanok houses in the village. I had another wonderful day in Seoul.

Day 8 – War Memorial of Korea, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art & Cycling

I finally made an official visit to the War Memorial of Korea after stopping by 2 times! There were 3 main floors of the museum and there was also an art exhibition on the 1st floor which I enjoyed a lot. I learned a lot about the Korean war and the history of Korea, some of the stories in the war even brought tears to my eyes. I felt so sad for all of the people who had a hard time in their life during the Korean War and the period when colonised by Japan. In contrast, I admired those Korean heroes and many people that were very brave to fight for their country and for freedom. I believe that freedom creates better people and a better world.

After being harshly colonised by Japan for 35 years from 1910-1945, and the three years of the Korean War bloody fighting from 1950-1953 in which three million Koreans were killed, I very much admired South Korea for what the country has become nowadays and could not stop comparing it to Thailand. Thailand was never colonised by any countries and the wars in Thailand were not as bad as the Korean War but Thailand is still many steps behind South Korea in many ways.

I agree that history is relevant to the problem we face today and this reminds me about The sinking of Sewol that happened in 2014 in South Korea and killed 304 passengers and mostly secondary school students. I believe that if South Korea accepted help from The Japan Coast Guard, it would have saved more innocent children on that disaster ferry.

History is a great thing to remember and to be proud of our predecessors who fight for our countries. However, people should not let history affect life nowadays by not accepting help from other countries when your country is in trouble because you are too proud, and at the end it doesn’t help to develop anything, only losing.  I wish all the readers who run their countries nowadays would make important decisions for their countries base on the present situation and what the countries and people need most right now, more than based on history that we can never change. History doesn’t change, but a better understanding of it can change the world to be a better place.

If you have kids you should not miss to take them to see those outdoor showcase. Some of them you can even see inside.

Later I went to visit the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art. I loved the design and decor of the museum much more than all the ceramics and old paintings that are challenging to understand!

Later I went cycling along the Han River with Jason who hosted this experience via Airbnb and Clotilde from France also joined us. We cycled for an hour around the island and there was beautiful scenery; I enjoyed it. After that we were supposed to order a delivery of food and eat near the river but I asked Jason if he could take us to eat like locals. He made my wish come true by taking us to Gwangjang market to eat Yukhoi which is a dish of raw beef, enhanced by fresh egg yolk on the top, joined by fresh pears and with a touch of sesame oil. One of the most sensitive and special dishes among all Korean traditional dishes. We also ate live Octopus! It was the most exciting eating experience in my life and I loved it! The evening turned out to be very enjoyable as we also had Soju with those dishes. Soju is a common alcohol in Korea with different kinds of fruit favour. The food was good, the drink was excellent and my companions were the best! Thanks to Jason who was an extraordinary host. My day ended very drunk!

Day 9 – Rainy day

I had been very lucky with the weather since I arrived but today, unfortunately, I needed to cancel all outdoor activities and I only visited the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), a very modern and stylish looking building designed by Zaha Hadid, a famous British Iraqi architect. I very much admired and was jealous that South Korea could create this major urban development landmark which Thailand lacks.

Day 10 – Namsan Park & Songdo Central Park

The temperature was around 10 degrees today, it was the coldest since I arrived – winter is coming! I visited Namsan Park in the morning with Clotilde, who I cycled with the other day. It was too cold then I ran home!

In the late afternoon I decided at the last minute to visit Songdo Central Park in Incheon. It was recommended by Kwon, a lovely young soldier who I met at the museum the other day. The park is the centrepiece of Songdo IBD’s green space plan, inspired by New York City’s Central Park. The park also displays sculpture and artwork such as the swooping neofuturistic metallic architecture of the Tri-Bowl. In front of the park there is the Songdo Hanok complex. Hanok is traditional Korean architecture. The complex  includes traditional culture and tourism facilities, including 30 traditional ondol-type hotel rooms, a guest house for banquets, restaurants, culture experience halls, a concert hall, and a marketplace. I had Korean Beef Bulgogi at HANYANG, one of the restaurants in the complex and it was really good and looked very popular for the locals. Songdo is a perfect combination of the traditional and modern style.  I would diffidently stay here a few nights on my next visit.

Day 11 – 12 Healience Seonmaeul

I reunited with my Korean friend, Kiwon who I met 10 years ago in Australia when we were studying English together. Kiwon greeted me by taking me to stay one night in the Healience Seonmaeul in Hongcheon. They advertised themselves as a Korea’s first “well-aging” and healing centre that will help you learn good eating and exercise habits, in addition to maintaining a peaceful mind and a rhythmic life cycle, all for ageing in a healthy way.

The location of the resort is up a mountain which has no telephone signal. They provide a hot spring, spa, sauna, meditation class, Yoga class, hiking, healthy food, etc. The resort seemed very popular with Koreans; I was probably the only foreigner there which is what I loved the most! Kiwon and I very much enjoyed the experience there and we wish we could stay longer. I felt like I could live for 100 years if I stayed in this resort for the rest of my life! The air was so fresh, the food was so delicious and healthy and all the activities that they provided were great.   This treatment was what I really needed after travelling for nearly 2 weeks.  If you want to get away from a busy lifestyle, find somewhere peaceful, reboot yourself, live with nature, you can’t miss out this place. My holiday in South Korea ended so healthy and perfectly!

Day 13 – Homestay

I experienced Korean homestay by staying one night with Kiwon and her mother at their house in Seoul. Kiwon is the most caring friend that anyone could ever ask for and I appreciated a lot her hospitality. 10 years ago in Australia she cooked Bibimbap for me and this time I returned by cooking chicken green curry for her and she loved it!

I very much enjoyed my 13 days in South Korea. Even though I traveled on my own, I met many interesting and nice people, both locals and foreigners. There was not a single day in South Korea that I was lonely! Only going to visit all the tourist attractions that recommend on the Internet e.g. top 10 things to do and see, to me it sounds very boring and not being any extraordinary tourist at all. My trip was much more enjoyable than I expected because I met local people and  those local people took me to do local things. My 13 days in South Korea from 18-30 Oct 2018 is one of the best autumn and awesome trips in my life!

Hope you enjoy reading!