Whs under renovation by September 2022:
1. part of Namhansanseong walls and North gate
2. Jongmyo Shrine main hall
3. Some buildings of Changdeokgung
4. Tongdosa museum
5. Gyeongju - Wolseong
I arrived late at Incheon Airport. There are sim card booths belong to three different operators (LG U+, SK, KT) at the arrival hall. I get 10-day data-only package from LGU+ for 38k won. If you choose data-only package, you will not get a Korean phone number. You need to pay extra to get a Korean number. Mobile internet was super fast in all over Korea. After you remove the nano sim card, the remaining body of the card can be used as a T money card. I topped up the T-money card in a convenient store at the arrival hall with the cash that I brought with me (only cash accepted).
For metro and all other kinds of transportation, I used Naver Map and Kakao Metro applications that are quite sufficient and mostly in English. You are tapping two times in metro, once you are getting in and another while you are getting out. I had a Korean barbecue dinner in a Seoul restaurant named Ggupdang. It was a Michelin bib gourmand-awarded pork barbecue restaurant. I can suggest this place to all meat lovers. Note that kitchens in Korea are mostly closing 1-hour before the closing time. Then I spent some time in Gangnam, saw the K-pop statues and returned to my hotel.
I started the day at 5.30 am in Seolleung (WHS #1). The advantages of this burial ground are its proximity to metro station and early opening time (6 am). The only entrance door to this tomb site is located at southeast corner. I used the metro station at the northwest corner, which costed me to an additional 15 min walk. You cannot climb up to the first tomb but only the second one to see the statues closely. I walked by the Starfield Library (closed at that time) and Gangnam statue and reached a nice temple named Bongeunsa.
I took the metro to Namhansanseong (WHS #2). I get out at the Sanseong metro station and waited the bus to climb up to the hill. I tried using the Kakao T app to call a taxi but failed. I had tried using this app almost everyday in my Korea trip but could not achieve to call a taxi at all. The most convenient way for me was to yell at the cabs to get them. While waiting for the bus, I visited the bakery "Paris Baguette" which is a famous joint in Korea. I got off the bus close the south gate. I walked all the way from South to West and then to the North and reached the palace. After the palace visit, I caught a cab to metro station (5k won).
I headed to Jongmyo shrine (WHS #3). Weekday visits are solely guided tours, thus don't forget to check the tour times. There is a combined royal palace ticket (10k won). If you book the secret garden by using their website, they are returning back your money (5k won) while you are buying the combined ticket. Main building of the shrine will be under renovation until first Sunday of May 2024. The shrine tour lasts 1 hour. After shrine, I walked through the Gwangjang market, had lunch there with some fish cakes, kimbap and walnut cookies. After seeing DDP, I arrived to the first tent (TENT #1); Seoul city walls. There is a small and free museum that you can check at the trail-head start. I walked all the way up through Ihwa village and Jaeneung Culture Center building (suggested by nomadmania as an architectural delight but not that much impressive).
I took a bus to Changdeokgung (WHS #4). The secret garden is tour-only visit. The 3.30 pm tour ends close to 5pm. If you want to visit Changgyeonggung, you need to use the gate before 5pm. Otherwise you need to walk from outside which is an additional half an hour. After Changgyeonggung, I visited Sung Kyun Kwan temple as winterkjm suggested.
Then I took another bus to Gwanghwamun square. I saw the gate and king statues. Visiting Deoksugung at sunset was amazing, like a movie scene. I saw the churches, Appenzeller/Noble museum etc. from only outside (another winterjkm suggestion). I ended up in "Ddobagi chicken" to try Korean fried chicken (it is called Chi-Mac). It was dangerously delicious.
I took the 5 am something KTX from Seoul Station to Ulsan (arrived at 8.19 am). It was very easy to buy a korail ticket by a foreign credit card from http://korail.go.kr/ebizbf/EbizBfKrPassAbout.do
website. You need to exchange the ticket to a printed one in the ticket offices. There are plenty of secure lockers in almost all train and metro stations.
Planning Error #1 (major): I rented a car from Hertz. I could not get it since they asked a "IDP" obtained from my home country. Luckily, they did not charge me and thankfully gave me a ride back to station.
I made a deal with a taxi driver for 150k won by using the translation app -Papago-. He took me to Tongdosa (WHS #5), Petroglyphs in Cheonjeon-ri (TENT #2), Gyeongju - (Daereungwon and Geumgwanchong Tomb Complexes, Cheomseongdae, Wolseong, Donggung Palace & Wolji Pond) (WHS #6), Bulguksa and Seokguram (WHS #7), Oksan Academy (WHS #8-9) and Yangdong village (WHS #9), respectively. We ate a traditional Korean lunch around 4pm in a restaurant named 우향다옥 in Yangdong village (16k for person). I enjoyed the traditional Korean food so much. I returned back to my hotel in Ulsan city centre around 6.30pm.
I skipped the Petroglyphs of Bangudae Terrace, Ulsan Petroglyph Museum, Namsan mountain, Gyeongju National Museum, Hwangnyongsa Temple Site & Museum and Donggangseowon Confucian Academy. If you want to visit what I skipped, you will need an additional day in the region.
Planning Error #2 (minor): I might choose to stay in a hotel near Ulsan station. From Ulsan city centre to station lasts 30 min and 20k won by taxi. There is not much to see in city centre, but anyway it was a tick in Nomadmania for the city in this way.
Day 4 morning
I took another KTX from Ulsan to Iksan that has a stopover in Osong. In Iksan, I made a deal with a taxi driver for 75k won to take me to Mireuksaji pagoda (WHS #10) and Janghang Skywalk in Gunsan (WHS #11). The skywalk was really good, a perfect way to see tidal flats, tons of purple flowers and pine trees. I took the 11.40 am express bus from Gunsan to Jeongan Service Area and then to Incheon. The service area is a hub for buses from many different directions and has lots of food vendors.
Day 4 afternoon, Day 5-6-7
Congress + Typhoon (no sightseeing for 3.5 days). At the evening of the Day 7, I flight to Jeju from Gimpo airport. From metro station to departure gate lasted for 20 minutes including security check without checked-in baggage and online boarding pass.
I took the bus #201 from city centre to Manjanggul Cave (WHS # 12) road. To reach the cave from main road, you need to walk 30 mins or take a taxi/bus. Bus times are infrequent, thus I took a taxi for each ways (4k won one-way). I took the bus #201 again to Seongsan Ilchulbong. It was not even 12 pm when I returned down from the summit. I had the chance to visit a folk village or stone park, but I decided to go to Gwaneumsa trail start of Mt. Hallasan to have a closer look to the mountain, even though I was quite sure that they will not let me to walk a few kms of the trail. The bus was passing through the core zone of NP by using the road #1112. I took another taxi to the trail start. They are not letting anyone to enter the trail after 12.30 pm. I returned to city centre by taxi and spent the rest of day by having a Korean massage (Jejudo Aroma Yeohaeng, 70k won for 1 hour full body aroma massage) and buying Korean cosmetics to my wife. (Korean cosmetic products are high quality and very cheap compared to western counterparts). Close-by, I found a hidden cafe named "Maeume On" which is very chic and serving delicious coffees and desserts. I returned to Seoul that night with 9 pm flight.
Day #9 morning
I started the day with a cathedral visit near my Seoul hotel (Myeongdong Cathedral) and then an early morning hike in Suwon Hwaseong Fortress (WHS #13). The palace was opening at 9 am and I was done in Suwon by 9.30 am. There is a direct bus departing in front of the palace for city centre, thus you do not need to walk all the way to the metro station. This was the end of my whs hunt for South Korea. I might choose to go to Ganghwa Dolmen to visit an additional whs or the new tent site Hoeamsa but I had not seen more than half of Seoul at that time and opted to spend time in Seoul rather than visiting another whs.
Day #9 afternoon
I visited the War Memorial of Korea, National Museum and Hangul Museum. Instead of visiting a replica palace, Gwanghwamun, I decided to go to Nami Island to see a micronation and spend some time in nature (also another region tick in nomadmania). By ITX train, it lasted around an hour to reach the train station and another 5 min by taxi to island ferry. I was quite disappointed when I saw how crowded the island was with lots of local tourists. On the way back to my hotel, I walked through the Cheonggyecheon and Euljiro, had another barbecue and more shopping in Myeong-Dong. I returned back in the morning of the next day.
You can see my photos @ https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1588263618238122&type=3