Saturday, 26 October 2019

Sleeping in South Korea and Jet-Set in Japan

Today's post is a 2-4-1 and comes express from Japan as I landed back in London less than 24 hours ago! This trip was my second solo trip this year (See Sri Lanka) and has reinvigorated my love for solo travel even more.

Using my coveted Avios points to book the flights with BA and their partner Cathay Pacific (transit through Hong Kong) meant that along with my flight from Seoul to Tokyo with AirSeoul (10/10 airline by the way) came to around £450 which is not bad considering I coincidentally ended up in Japan at the same time as the Rugby World Cup.

As I was doing this solo but still on a bit of a budget, while in Seoul I stayed at Hostel Haru (contact me for discount code) in the Insa-dong area of Seoul which made getting around the city really easy as it was right in the centre but also next to the Jonggak metro station and the tranquil Cheonggyecheon urban river. Although I had two full days in Seoul as my flight landed at 07:35, the 8-hour ahead jet lag made the first day a complete right off.

Seoul, South Korea

However, day 2 was more eventful as I had booked a tour to go to the DMZ - De-Militarised Zone, the buffer zone between the South Korean and North Korean. Just my luck meant that due to African swine fever fears the actual tours to the DMZ were cancelled but I persevered on an 'alternative DMZ' tour and at least got to visit an observatory from which I could see North Korea and learned about the troubles that still exist there as well as going to the Korean war memorial museum. As I knew next to nothing about the Korean war (as shameful as that is) I really relished the opportunity to learn - as well as try as many Koran sweet buns with red bean paste as possible!

North Korea!

(Note: Korea is not a veggie or vegan-friendly place so you will have limited options, but much cheaper than expected)

Hopping over to Japan, I flew into Tokyo and spent two days in the bright lights of the city at the beginning of my tour, visiting Shinjuku crossing, Harajuku, Asaka with its temple and markets along with a hedgehog cafe. Yes, apparently animal cafes (as well as maid cafes - google it) are a big thing in Japan.
I also made sure to catch the England vs OZ and Ireland vs NZ game whilst I was there at a British pub (typical) but what an atmosphere!

Bullet train to Takayama, a small town in the mountains of central Japan, unlocked the traditional side of the country as we stayed in a traditional Japanese inn, sampled ramen and visited an onsen (traditional hot spring baths...naked). I had never considered visiting this part of Japan before but it held so much history and beautiful scenery I would highly recommend it.

Last stop (again via bullet train) was to the old capital, Kyoto. Unlike Tokyo with its mad modern-ness, Kyoto is the capital with culture. Here I got to try spending a few nights in a capsule hotel (pretty good except for the lack of windows so you have no idea what time of day it is), visited Nijo-Castle, the Silver Pavillion (which is not actually silver), a bamboo forest and had a sushi lesson from a sensai.  Three days in Kyoto could have easily been 3 weeks as there is so much to do there!

The long flight back via Hong Kong was totally worth it too - Japan is in its heyday for tourism with the Rugby World Cup/Olympics and South Korea has so much to offer I'll just have to go back. I had no idea what to expect visiting these countries and unlike me did very little planning beforehand so I went in pretty blind but was blown away at how great these places are and I would completely recommend your next trip to be to Japan and South Korea!

Catch you next week for a post on South Africa (due from March!)

Have a good week my lovelies!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

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