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Here’s why you should add this garden of national significance to your bucket list. Pukekura Park is something quite surprising indeed. For many reasons, but among them, the location. This world-famous garden is located in what is the otherwise often overlooked city of New Plymouth. A city that is often left off of the bucket lists of tourists who visit New Zealand. However, New Plymouth is a city rich in culture, activities, and especially nature. Just recently I wrote about Tupare Gardens, another famous garden located within the city. Pukekura Park, however, is a far larger and more famous attraction. If you are visiting New Plymouth, make sure to check out both locations. Pukekura Park owes its fame to a few different events throughout the year – WOMAD, The Festival of Lights, Christmas at the Bowl, and more. Oh, and the fact that it is an amazing garden with lakes, themed gardens, and a LOT of summertime entertainment. The park is easily one of (if not) the most, visited places in the city. Without further ado, let’s get into why that is. Entry Into The Park Being so large, entering the park is really quite easy. Further, it is free. There will occasionally be pay-to-enter events happening, but the park itself is always open and always free. There is an extremely useful map (mobile version) which contains all the information you may need. The map is a fantastic resource and I recommend it to anyone interested in visiting. From showing the parks many entrances to car parks, the map has everything. It also contains the names and locations of all of the paths, and it will be sure to give you a painless experience navigating the park. Boats can be hired to explore the main lake of Pukekura Park. While a bit pricey, it is a fun experience and one of the best ways to view the Festival of Lights. However, if you do happen to get lost, there are also information areas available. The paths are labelled with signs, and maps are placed around the park. Being New Plymouth’s premier tourist attraction (minus the Coastal Walkway), it is very well equipped. Brooklands is located on the far end of Pukekura Park and contains a zoo and some other attractions which are also free to enter. While quite a small zoo, Brooklands is great for the price (it’s free!) and is a nice place to visit, especially with children. Accommodation If you are interested in visiting Pukekura Park, make sure to check out the accommodation options nearby. Some places are located on the edge of the park and it really is an ideal location to stay. Not only do you have the park right outside your door, but it is also very central within New Plymouth. Booking.com About The Park Pukekura Park first came into existence in the late 1870s. Originally a treeless swampy area, it was transformed with the assistance of Robert Clinton Hughes into its current splendour. Many attractions, many of which have symbolic meanings, have been added over the years. Some of these include the drinking fountain which was added to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The water wheel was also added in 1976 to market the centenary of Pukekura. The park itself has an incredibly rich history and is continually being added to. Brooklands The Bowl of Brooklands is one of the most beautiful stages you can find. With performances throughout the year, it’s always worth checking what is one. Read on to learn more about the performances below! In 1934 Brooklands was added to the park. Originally a family estate, Brooklands also has a long history before being added to Pukekura. The Gables, an old colonial hospital, still stands in Brooklands and the original house (at least what remains of it) still stands. Although being burned down during the Land Wars, the chimney still remains. Brooklands now also contains the Bowl of Brooklands, a large stage for performances. During WOMAD, this becomes the primary stage. It is also one of New Plymouth’s most popular band locations. Brooklands is also home to Brooklands zoo, a small zoo with free entry. Pukekura Park and Brooklands combined take up 49ha (hectares) of land, and are situated right in the heart of New Plymouth. While Pukekura Park is more of a large garden with many trees and bushwalks, Brooklands is more akin to a well-maintained backyard. With many picnic areas and flat places to play games, Brooklands is great for outings also. Brooklands is also home to a 2000-year-old Puriri Tree, one of the oldest trees in the world. You can learn more about the park here. Events Throughout the year Pukekura Park and Brooklands (although they are essentially different parts of the same park) hold many events. WOMAD, the biggest of these events, attracts thousands of visitors every year. A view from the Pukekura Park lookout. WOMAD World of Music and Dance is by far the biggest yearly attraction (at least in visitors per day – the Festival of Lights is also very famous). It is a festival that runs for three days (Friday-Sunday) in March. WOMAD attracts many foreign artists ranging from Tibetan monks to French Gotan Project, every year, and it is an incredibly culture-rich event featuring cultures and traditions you may have never known about. It is a fun-filled weekend of shopping, eating, dancing, and late nights. If you visit in March then it is well worth checking WOMAD out. Although the tickets can be quite expensive, it is well worth it. Three days isn’t essential, so if you would prefer to just buy a one-day ticket then that is usually just as good. Make sure to check the schedule before you go so that you can pick the day of your most preferred performances! Christmas at the Bowl Christmas at the Bowl is a yearly event held usually a week before Christmas. Featuring live bands, fireworks, and hundreds of candles, this is another great event held at the park. Christmas at the Bowl is a gold coin donation (gold coins are either $1 or $2) making it close enough to free. This night also marks the start of the… Festival of Lights In the summer months most of the park becomes lit with beautiful lights. Probably the most famous event at Pukekura Park is a light festival that is held every summer, spanning from Christmas at the Bowl to the beginning of February. The Festival of Lights always attracts thousands of visitors and takes place in the evenings before 11 pm (when it ends). A large part of the park is lit up with coloured lights, and many attractions are placed around the park. On top of these festivals and events, there are also many other seasonal and annual events. Cricket is held regularly at the cricket pitch, concerts are held throughout the year, and the multi-ethnic extravaganza is held at Pukekura. All in all, there is a lot to do at Pukekura Park. It can be hard to keep track of all of the events that are held there, however, some helpful resources are the New Plymouth NZ website and Eventfinda. Park Attractions As I mentioned above, Pukekura is split into a few main areas. Brooklands, Pukekura Raceway, and Pukekura Park itself. Brooklands is home to places such as the zoo and the Bowl of Brooklands (the parks primary stage for performances and such). The Bowl of Brooklands is a stunning stage located in the middle of a lake at the bottom of a steep incline. Throughout the year, both free and paid performances are held here, and they run throughout the year. If you are visiting for a concert, make sure you prepare for the elements, as New Zealand weather can be quite harsh at times! The rest of Brooklands is a well-maintained garden with numerous open areas. It’s a fantastic place for a picnic, or for a game of soccer with your family. The area is dotted with places of historical significance, such as the old hospital The Gables. These locations add a unique character to the park that makes it truly unique. Poet’s Bridge crosses the Main Lake in Pukekura Park. Pukekura Raceway Pukekura Raceway is a horse-racing track, that holds events throughout the year. While horse-racing isn’t for everyone, it can make for a great day out. If you are interested in visiting then event times can be found here. That brings me to Pukekura Park itself – a rather beautiful park located in a great location. It’s hard to describe all of Pukekura Park, however, I can list the main attractions here! The park itself is most famous for being a park surrounding multiple lakes within. These lakes are crossed by bridges which provide stunning views. The park is also home to many different species of plants and trees, as well as some themed gardens. Pukekura Park Fern House Pukekura Park contains a fern house which is widely regarded as being well worth visiting. I’ve always liked it myself, but I didn’t realise how well-loved it was until reading some reviews online. The house is a multi-storied greenhouse with many beautiful flowers and other kinds of flora. Tunnels bring you into the fern house, and it’s almost like entering another world. Lakes of Pukekura Inside the fern house (left). The lawn outside the fern house (right) is one of the many stage areas within the park. The park is most famous for its three lakes, and the views that they afford. The main lake is crossed by Poet’s Bridge and is one of the most famous landscapes in Taranaki. The lake is surrounded by other attractions such as the cafe and pavilion on the northern end, the waterfall on the north-west, and the nice walks which walk lakeside to the south. Heading north from the main lake will take you to another, smaller lake. This lake has a fountain in the centre which lights up at times of the year and many nice viewing platforms. Between the lakes is a stage (one of the many located within the park) that is often being used for performances. In the far north-western corner of the park is a fantastic, and large, playground as well as a waterwheel. This is a great place to visit and spend time if you have children. The playground is large enough that it can entertain nearly every child – with everything from climbing nets to a flying fox, to a large down-hill slide. Is Pukekura Park Worth Visiting? Pukekura Park is definitely a place that you should visit if you happen to be in Taranaki. If you weren’t planning on visiting Taranaki already, it is well worth a visit. With the stunning beaches, amazing coffee, and nice weather (in summer), it should be on everybody’s bucket list. Pukekura Park itself is one of New Zealand’s premier gardens. If you haven’t planned a trip yet, then aim to visit in the summer. This means that you will get to experience the stunning Festival of Lights, and the weather will usually be sunny and clear. If you have already planned a trip to New Zealand, then Pukekura Park is worth visiting no matter what the season. There are events running through the whole year, and the park is mostly evergreen – meaning most of the trees aren’t seasonal. Whatever the time, Pukekura Park is worth a visit.  

The post Why You Must Visit Pukekura Park appeared first on Seoulinspired.

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Tupare Gardens is located just inside the city limits of New Plymouth and has been standing since 1932. The garden is part of a large homestead that was built by Sir Russell Matthews. Since, it has become one of New Plymouth’s premier parks and attracts visitors year round. Tupare is a popular swimming destination as well as being a fantastic picnic location and a beautiful scenic garden. The garden sits on the banks of the Waiwhakaiho River and the carpark is located at the top of the river bank. Most of the garden is located on the hillside and at the bottom are the stunning river flats. Located about halfway down the hill is the Chapman-Taylor House, along with the house gardens and a public tennis court. The tennis court can be accessed at most times and is kept open to the public. Public tours of the house run on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays from 11 am October through March. The house has a unique architectural style and is worth a visit if you are able to visit at a tour time – the house usually isn’t accessible otherwise. Chapman-Taylor House The Chapman-Taylor House within Tupare Gardens is both in a stunning location and stunning itself. The inside is no less impressive! The gardens themselves are incredibly diverse and house hundreds of different plants with some themed areas. From the river flats at the bottom of the hillside to the carpark at the top, you will find many different species. Tupare is a good visit in all seasons due to the wide variety of flora. In fall, Tupare has the best colours in the city mainly due to the many Maple trees. In spring, a dell of the old English bulb of Lily of the Valley can be seen (and smelt) blooming. A full map of the gardens can be found here. There are a large variety of paths that lead down the riverbank. As such, It’s very easy to spend a few hours at Tupare. From the carpark, simply enter the garden through the gates and head either left or right. To the right, you will find most of the flower gardens and other gardens, and to the left is a track that leads through the trees to the river flat. Tupare Garden Paths The Burma Trail in Tupare Gardens. My recommendation is to begin by walking down the Burma Trail. This will lead down to the river flat and the picnic areas (equipped with barbecues too!). If you are visiting with children it is a great idea to bring a soccer ball, frisbee, or anything else that can be used in large spaces. The flats are large and fantastic for outdoor sports. Being on the side of the river means that it is also an ideal swimming spot. About swimming – the river isn’t clean and at times there are warnings against swimming in the river. This site here is a great guide to the water quality and will let you know if it is safe to swim in or not. Generally, however, avoid the river for three days after heavy rain, if the river is high, or if you cannot see the bottom of the river clearly. You will probably still see locals swimming, but it is worth being wary. Entry Fees Since Tupare Gardens is operated by the regional council it is open every day and also free to enter. This is the same case for Pukeiti and Hollard Gardens which are two more popular Taranaki spots. Tupare is one of the few remaining free gardens in New Plymouth. It is loved and enjoyed by many locals. Facilities The garden is equipped with free to use barbecues and a roofed area to enjoy your food. The garden also has toilets (restrooms), picnic areas, and even a tennis court. These aspects combined make the garden a fantastic place to spend a summer (or any nice) evening. There is a ban on dogs in the garden as it helps to preserve the pristine quality of the garden and also helps to make a family friendly public space. The garden also has wheelchair access (although there are some quite steep hills) and a shuttle service. For more information about this, please refer to the website. The gardens at Tupare are well maintained and stunning. One of the most unique aspects and by far one of my favourites is that the garden is constantly changing. While keeping the spirit and feeling of the original garden, there are always improvements and changes being made. The garden is fantastically maintained and it is really a testament to the quality and skill of the gardeners that look after it – Even after more than 75 years, it is beautiful. Events Tupare also has many events running throughout the year and a full list can be found here. Multiple garden fairs run throughout the year, beginning in January. These fairs have live music, performances, food, and house tours. If you are looking for some great free entertainment then these events are definitely worth checking out! There are also many other more niche events that run throughout the year. Everything from gardening lessons (such as how to maintain and grow perfect grass), botanical art classes and courses on how to landscape take place throughout the year. The council has done a fantastic job at making sure that Tupare always has something to entertain visitors. The river flats at Tupare Gardens provide a great location for family activities and picnics. Is Tupare Worth Visiting? Without a doubt. Whether you visit by yourself, on a date, with a family, or with friends, Tupare is worth a visit. Even if you aren’t a person who loves gardens, Tupare may make you change your mind. What I love about Tupare is that while it is a fantastic and beautiful garden, it also has areas that can be played in. Taking a soccer ball or frisbee and playing on the river flat is an experience that will stay with you for years to come. If the sun is too hot then simply head down to the river for a dip. The combination of elegant gardens and the uncontrollable river give the garden a feeling unique to other similar locations. It isn’t just a garden that can be loved by garden lovers. It is a garden that can be loved by anyone.

The post The Best Garden in New Plymouth? appeared first on Seoulinspired.

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Seoulinspired by Ethan Brooke - 5d ago

Lake Rotokare stands as a stunning scenic reserve in the heart of Taranaki. The lake is home to much different native birdlife. It is also one of the few places that kiwi live in Taranaki. The lake itself is a community-led conservation project that aims to bring about restoration, protection, and enhancement of the local ecosystem. Native, and often endangered birds, inhabit the park. Protected from pests such as possums and ferrets (not to mention cats and dogs) by a massive barrier fence that travels the perimeter of the park. Lake Rotokare Rotokare is a stunning location just outside of Eltham. It is not only an area with a wide variety of fauna, but there is a lot of flora too. The lake is home to much water life and is open to boating and water sports from the 1st of December until April every year. The lake is closed for the rest of the year for conservation purposes and due to harmful bacteria in other periods of the year. There is a lot of wildlife within the protected borders of Lake Rotokare. From kiwi to native eels and more, Rotokare is one of the best places in the country to see native New Zealand wildlife. There is a lot to do at Rotokare as long as you don’t mind spending some time outdoors. The lake area around the carpark is beautiful by itself and makes for a great picnic location. There are benches and tables located on the edge of the lake (right next to the carpark). This means it’s easy to take some food and enjoy it with a fantastic view. If, on the other hand, you prefer to be more active on your visit then you are also in luck! Rotokare has some stunning walks of varying lengths and difficulties. The two primary tracks are the lake walkway and the ridge walkway. Both of which provide totally different but equally interesting experiences. Lake Walkway The lake walkway is the easier of the two and is also shorter. The walk is estimated to take between one and a half and two hours and is quite flat. The walk has no big hills and as such, it is possible for people of most fitness levels. This walk sticks closer to the lake and has some marshland boardwalks through the wetlands. Most of the images in this post were taken on this walk. There is a viewing platform that floats on the lake that is accessible from this walk. There are also many benches built along the track that provide views out over the lake and surrounding areas. If you want to enjoy the swamp life and birdlife then this walk is perfect! The lake walkway has beautiful plant life and isn’t too difficult of a walk. This would be my recommended walk for most people. The walk is around 4km total, and the first 600m is accessible by wheelchair. This 600m includes the floating viewing platform. If you are interested in a less serious walk that will let you enjoy New Zealand nature while also having some beautiful views then this is the ideal walk! Ridge Walkway The ridge walk, on the other hand, takes the higher ground. This walk follows the predator fence that protects Rotokare’s endangered wildlife. It is definitely worth seeing the fence up close just to see how hard it is to stop predators from getting in. Overhangs are used to prevent any animals from jumping in, and the fence continues underground to stop any kind of digging predators. One of the many viewpoints over the lake (left). The predator fence that runs along the edge of the track to keep the native wildlife safe (right). This walk begins from the same carpark as the lake walkway but is a more difficult track. This track is closer to 6km and takes between three and five hours to complete. Due to the nature of the track (being a ridge walk), there is a lot more vertical distance to cover in this track and as such, it is a more difficult walk. The walk isn’t exceptionally difficult, however at least a medium level of fitness is required. The ridge walk also has some stunning views, and if you are interested in the views it’s hard to recommend one walk over the other. Both of them have unique, yet stunning, views. Learning About New Zealand Wildlife Rotokare also has a great education program. Covering everything from early childhood to secondary school year 13 and tertiary education levels. There is a lot to learn here and it is one of the country’s best places to learn and experience New Zealand wildlife. The website also has some cool free resources such as this one about animal tracks and identifying them. The treetops at Rotokare are filled with trees decades old. If you are interested in the wildlife that is located within the reserve then their website also has full lists of the animals and plants that can be seen in the park. If you are interested in specifically seeing kiwi, night tours are available and while seeing kiwis isn’t guaranteed, it is one of the few places that you can still see them the wild. Rotokare is a gem within Taranaki. It’s one of the best conservation areas within the region and is somewhere that everyone should visit when they come. The location means that while it is a bit out of the way, it is also never too busy either. Nature is best enjoyed in the calm and quiet and Rotokare’s location works very well for it in this way.

The post Kiwi in the Heart of Taranaki appeared first on Seoulinspired.

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Despite being rated as the second best region in the world to visit by Lonely Planet in 2017, Taranaki is still a very underrated place within New Zealand. These are the must visit beaches in New Plymouth! Preface There’s a certain type of lifestyle that exists within Taranaki. A rather chill atmosphere with a laid-back attitude – something which makes it an ideal place to retire or vacation. Coming back from Seoul, the quietness and casual lifestyle was the first thing I noticed. Many people flock to New Zealand for the lifestyle, and Taranaki is the epitome of said lifestyle. With that being said, you may be wondering by now ‘Why does a blog called Seoulinspired have anything to do with blogs about New Zealand?!’. Well, New Zealand, and more precisely, Taranaki, is actually my home! It’s interesting how despite living somewhere for your whole life (even if that ‘whole’ is only 18 years) you can miss some of the most spectacular aspects of an area. Or if you don’t miss them altogether, they become mundane. Something standard and expected. You don’t realise what you have until you don’t have it. Anyway, the point that I am trying to get to here is that it took me going away and coming back to appreciate some of the aspects of life here. I hated the beach for the longest time, and while I’m still not a beach fanatic like some, I have come to appreciate it for what it is. Beaches of New Plymouth New Plymouth has some amazing beaches. I took this photo of Back Beach from Paritutu Rock. The beaches of New Plymouth are some of the most underrated in the country. Most of the prime locations are located in the country, and usually city beaches don’t have the best reputation. However, there are a few cities that have amazing beaches – Napier, New Plymouth, and Nelson to name but three. Being in one of those places with relatively underrated beaches I wanted to make a post covering some of them. While providing some photos that may just encourage you to visit and check out these stunning locations! The beaches listed below aren’t special or unknown beaches, in fact, they are all very popular. This post is definitely not for a local. However, if you haven’t visited New Plymouth or Taranaki before and want to check out some beaches while you are here then this post is for you! Back Beach Quite possibly the most fun beach in the city, Back Beach is the first beach on this list. (In)famous for its incredibly large sand dune, Back Beach was voted one of New Zealand’s favourite beaches. However, there’s more than just a large sand dune. Stunning views of the sugarloaf islands, wildlife spotting, and fantastic swimming await all who visit. The dune is so big that it was rated as the #1 Taranaki summer exercise spot. That’s saying something! Don’t let the exercise put you off though, it is A LOT of fun! Unfortunately the stairs back to the top were recently removed. If you intend to have fun on the sand dune just keep in mind that what goes down must come up. I feel like I got that wrong… Anyway. There is a carpark located further down the beach, or you can head back up the dune. Let’s say though that maybe you aren’t interested in Taranaki’s best workout. Maybe wildlife spotting, stunning views, or swimming sound more interesting for you? Luckily Back Beach still has you covered! Being between all of the islands, it is one of the best places in the region for seal, whale, shark, and penguin spotting. Stunning Views! Back Beach is (in my opinion) definitely the most beautiful beach in the city. Speaking of sharks, what about swimming? The swimming is also great! (Don’t worry about the sharks, they are pretty rare!). If you are a capable swimmer then Back Beach is a nice place to swim, and it can be pretty exciting! If you aren’t a capable swimmer or are with younger family members then consider swimming elsewhere. Back Beach doesn’t have lifeguards and it’s a more dangerous beach than the others below. Back beach is located at the bottom of a cliff (which the sand dune runs down), and therefore it also has quite a view (to say the least!). The top of the cliffs have some stunning views to the west – something which makes it perfect for sunset views. The view to the north is also beautiful and the islands can be seen. This photo was taken near the carpark that overlooks Back Beach. This is one of the best places in the city for photos! Back beach is really one of the country’s most stunning beaches, and for good reason! If you’ve read this far, then here is my advice. Visit in the afternoon before sundown and bring some refreshments to enjoy. The sand dune and beach will keep anyone entertained in the daytime, and watching the sun go down with some food and drinks is perfect. Must take items for Back Beach Boogie Board. For both the water and the sand dune! If you have something else like a sled, consider bringing it. Jandals (flip flops), or some kind of open footwear. You can’t avoid the sand here! Swimwear/towel Sunblock. The New Zealand sun is notorious for being dangerous. Even if you don’t get sunburnt in other places, use sunblock here. It’s not worth risking skin cancer for a nice day at the beach. Camera. Back Beach is very pretty! If you are also interested in visiting Paritutu Rock (more about this below), make sure to bring sturdy footwear also. Accessing Back Beach   Back beach is one of the harder beaches to access simply because it is right on the edge of town. It’s easy enough to reach, but it can be time consuming by foot. If you have access to a vehicle however, it is very easy to visit and from the CBD is only a ten to fifteen minute drive! From the city head towards Port Taranki (located in Moturoa) along St Aubyn Street (which turns into Breakwater Road). Turn onto Ngamotu Road and then right away onto Centennial Drive. Paritutu Rock is also located right next to Back Beach, and if you are interested in views then it’s a must visit! Paritutu is an extinct volcanic spire that is now climbable for views over the Taranaki coast. Paritutu Rock is not a hard climb, however, it will definitely scare some people. The path is on a cliffs edge, and has metal ropes for hand-holding. If you plan to climb the rock make sure that you have sturdy shoes and are prepared for a small adventure. The climb itself takes only 10-15 minutes and is possible for most ages. Young children and elderly may have difficulty however. Paritutu has a view over the whole city, from the east (towards the city) to the west (for stunning sunsets). It can be quite windy towards the top however, considering that it’s a big rock located right on the coast. Fitzroy and East End While Back Beach owes its popularity to its fantastic views and unique setting, Fitzroy and East end beaches are some of the most popular swimming beaches in the city. The beaches are located apart from one another, but they are adjacent and easily walkable. As such, I have included them under the same umbrella. Both beaches attract large crowds in summer (a large New Zealand crowd is probably not as big as you imagine. In fact, they are quite small really) due to their prime swimming locations. These beaches are manned in the afternoon and early evening by lifeguards. This gives peace of mind while swimming and means that it’s perfect for a family day. East End Beach also has some cool rock pools next to the Coastal Walkway! The lifeguards are on duty from late November to early March (the 24th of November until the 11th of March in 2019) from 1 pm until 5 pm. While the lifeguards end at 5 pm, it is usually safe to swim for a few more hours as there will still be a lot of people. Safety in numbers after all! If you are not a confident swimmer though definitely swim between the hours listed above. The Best Swimming Beaches If you see flags on the beach then make sure to stick between them as the flags represent the area that is monitored by the lifeguards, AKA, the safe area. It’s easy to get swept down the beach in the currents, so make sure to keep an eye on the flags and check them every few minutes. The Te Henui River flows into the ocean at East End. This creates a great location to have picnics and for children to play. These beaches are two of the less tame beaches. Fitzroy especially. Depending on the weather, there will be some very decently sized waves at times. If you aren’t confident with rough waters then check out Ngamotu beach – inside the New Plymouth Port, it gets all of the benefits of the massive breakwaters. Both of the beaches have changing rooms as well as public toilets available. This is perfect if you don’t want to get your car wet or if you would prefer to not wait for the sun to dry you off – no one wants wet seats. Both beaches also have cafes, and this makes them perfect even if you aren’t interested in swimming. Must take items for a day at Fitzroy Beach Loose footwear. The sand can get unbearably hot, so make sure you have something for your feet. Towel. For the same reason as above. Your preferred entertainment. Boogie Board, Skim Board, etc. Sunblock. The New Zealand sun is notorious for being dangerous. Even if you don’t get sunburnt in other places, use sunblock here. It’s not worth risking skin cancer for a nice day at the beach. Swimwear. If you are planning on swimming this is obviously a must! Accessing Fitzroy Beach   The beach is located right next to the Fitzroy Surf Life Saving Club. Fitzroy beach is easily accessible from anywhere in the city. It is located well within the city limits and can either be reached by foot along the coastal walkway, or via car along Beach Street. Accessing East End Beach   East End is even more central than Fitzroy beach and can beach reached on foot along the coastal walkway or by car from the Te Henui Rivermouth (or Nobs Line). East End also has a playground and river mouth to play in, and is great for children. Both East End Beach and Fitzroy Beach have cafes available! As I mentioned above, Fitzroy and East End beaches are in close proximity. If you spend an afternoon at the beach it is easy enough to visit both as easy has its own attractions. Ngamotu Beach Ngamotu Beach is a beach that is often not considered by locals, simply for the reason that is is very calm. Located within the breakwaters of Port Taranaki means that this beach receives all of the benefits of them! For people who want a more relaxing day at the beach, and families with children and elderly, Ngamotu is perfect. Visitors will find that the beach itself is very well equipped – perhaps more so than any of the other beaches listed here. Public bathrooms with changing rooms are available, playgrounds are on site, and there are many cafes and even an ice-cream truck. Not only these though, but there is also a great treeline located just behind the beach with lots of benches to sit on. This comes as a blessing on the blistering hot days! If you’ve never felt the pain of walking on black sand you’ll soon know it after visiting Taranaki. Port Taranaki Another photo I took...

The post Must Visit Beaches in New Plymouth appeared first on Seoulinspired.

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There are many countries that are famous for coffee cultures – Italy, Brazil, and Ethiopia to name but a few. These countries are infamous for coffee. Who doesn’t have fantasies of sitting under the Italian morning sun and enjoying the atmosphere of a bustling street corner (albeit while standing)? Cafe Culture of Seoul As with everything though, there are also some overshadowed experiences that are barely ever discussed, despite arguably being as great. Korea, and more specifically, Seoul, has a coffee culture that is one of these. Not as established, not as traditional, and definitely not as famous, but worth experiencing. In this post I want to look at the unique cafe culture of Seoul. Dating back to 1896 when King Gojong first tried coffee, it has gradually become more popular and spread throughout the country. Once enjoyed only by royals and high classes. Coffee is now enjoyed by all and a complete culture has been formed around it. While initially enjoyed as a western experience, a unique twist has occurred over the history of coffee in Korea. A unique twist that can only be experienced in Korea. Cafes in Korea Now, I am no coffee connoisseur. I am, however, someone who enjoys coffees a lot. Someone who would happily spend the morning in a cafe discussing nothing of real importance with a close friend. I am not here to say whether Korean coffee is good or bad – it can be either or. What I want to look at is the culture itself. What is it all about? How did it happen? Why does it even exist? I must begin this by saying that in Korea everything passes as a cafe. When I say everything, I mean to say EVERYTHING. Many of these ‘cafes’ even seem to serve drinks as an afterthought. However, it is important to understand this Korean definition of the word cafe before we get any further. From here on out the word ‘cafe’ basically just means somewhere that serves typical cafe drinks – even if the drinks are second to another attraction. One of my favourite cat cafes in Wolgok followed by a happy meerkat at Meerkat and Friends. If you are still trying to grasp exactly what I mean then let me help you out a bit. Let me list a few Korean cafes that are not only not rare, but in fact rather common: cat cafes, flower cafes, board game cafes, virtual reality cafes, and even toy cafes. None of these cafes are rare within Seoul, and except the possible exception of toy cafes, I would even go so far as to say that they are very common. This begs the question ‘are they actually cafes or rather just social meeting locations?’. This is one of the most important things to understand about Korean cafe culture – a cafe can be nearly anything. Types of Cafes in Korea Of course, no city would be complete without the traditional kinds of cafes. Chain stores dominate the streets, Ediya, Tom N Tom’s, Starbucks, Coffee Bean… You can’t walk ten feet without seeing a chain coffee store. Much like any city. But another aspect that truly surprised me about Seoul is just how many small, independent cafes exist. Not only are these cafes common, but they are good!  I live next to a cafe that grinds its own beans (where they come from I don’t know, I’ve never thought to ask), and when you order coffee you can watch the whole process of its creation. The quality is impeccable. These little gems of cafes exist all over Seoul, and combined with the chains and the aforementioned cafes they create a truly rich and diverse cafe culture within a city that is never associated with words such as ‘cafe’ or ‘coffee’. In Korea, there are three types of common cafes: chain cafes (Starbucks, Coffee Bean, etc), independent cafes (non-chain cafes), and Korean cafes (usually places where coffee is not the main attraction – cats cafes, flower cafes, etc). There are also many traditional tea houses which serve coffee as well as tea, however, these are less common. They are usually found in more tourist-focused areas. Insadong, Bukcheon Hanok Village, and Gwanghwamun are a few areas they can be found. How Did This Culture Come About? I think that Cafes in Korea can be identified as social hangout locations rather than places to enjoy coffee (although both can go hand in hand) and this is an important distinction. With the lack of outdoor areas that typically exists within cities and the fact that most youths live at home until their mid 20’s or older, places that can be enjoyed with friends or by oneself are essential. It is from there that this idea of cafes has sprung up from. Not only that, but dating in Korea is taken very seriously. One thing that you will quickly notice is that there is never a lack of couples enjoying the wide variety of cafes. The fact that it’s hard to find privacy when dating increases the popularity of these cafes as it is somewhere that can be enjoyed away from parents and family. It’s at this point that you may ask me ‘why not just browse a mall instead?’ I think that the key here is that cafes offer environments where it is normal just to sit, relax, and take your time. Nearly every time I meet a friend there is a cafe mixed in somewhere – It’s just what you do when you want to sit for a while. Since cafes are one of the few places where you can meet friends and sit and relax, they have become incredibly popular. But… Why serve drinks? Why not just have a board game room? Firstly, hot drinks are loved by all. Board games are made infinitely better with a nice cup of tea of coffee. As is a study period in the infamous study cafes. However, more importantly, drinks allow a universal payment method that doesn’t need to be monitored. Ninety percent of the cafes in Korea will charge for overpriced drinks – drinks that are a requirement to enter. These drinks include all other prices though. They will allow you to use the board game cafe until you are board (See what I did there?), play with cats until you are tired, or allow you to read as many books as you want. The drink price is also the entry and time fee. No need to monitor the number of board games used, or the time spent. Jeffrey Flower Cafe in Hyehwa serves some amazing drinks and has a beautiful atmosphere. Something that I noticed while passing through all of these cafes is that they are primarily enjoyed by the younger generations. Sure, there are traditional tea houses and some middle-aged and elderly, but the vast majority of the cafes are filled with younger locals. This is something that I believe can be attributed to globalisation and the (in some cases) idolisation of western cultures that has appeared in Korea. The want to visit Europe is something that I hear from nearly every young Korean. While visiting Europe is costly, difficult and often out of reach though, experiencing a piece of the culture at a local cafe isn’t. So, why does this unique culture exist? Speaking in terms of the ‘cafes’ coined above, I would have to attribute the culture with the need for social meeting locations. In my country if I want to play a board game with friends, it is simple. We go to someone’s house and play. In Korea though, this isn’t as possible for a multitude of reasons. This drives the success of board game cafes. VR cafes can be attributed to the same reason. Flower cafes are fantastic and beautiful dating locations – another social requirement as dating at home is often out of the question.  Further, these cafes allow one to experience the attractions without investment. A pet is a LOT of work. Board games are usually quite pricey, especially if you only play once or twice. VR requires an expensive setup. For people who may not have the money or motivation to get these things themselves, the cafes are once again perfect. However, we have to look further than just Korea’s themed cafes. What about the more traditional cafes? Now, I have only lived in Korea for around two years. While I have experienced and seen a lot in that time, I definitely do not know the history of cafes in Korea. I have done a lot of research while writing this article however, and these are my findings. Korea is a very ‘trendy’ country. That is to say, that trends have a lot of influence within Korean society. Chains such as Starbucks came to Korea over 20 years ago. Not only does Starbucks bring coffee though, but it also brings the western feeling. I don’t know anyone who visit Starbucks for the drinks – I know people who visit for the atmosphere. Western Experience This new ‘authentic’ western experience brought customers. The ‘trendiness’ of those customers brought more customers, and this trend has continued until today. Coffee since then has become a massive part of Korean society. As a student I often see 80% of my class with take-out coffee in hand! Coffee also has an addictive element which is worth mentioning. Possibly a reason why the trend hasn’t stopped and won’t stop anytime soon. Don’t believe me? Simply look at which city has the most Starbucks in the world. Why? because Starbucks is trendy. Korean Coffee Up until this point I have only discussed cafes. There is, however, another factor that must be mentioned in an article about cafe culture though, and that is the coffee itself. Korea is famous for its instant coffee. While instant coffee usually has a reputation for being bad (as it often is), Korean instant coffee is becoming quite decent. Brands such as Maxim, Kanu and Nescafe dominate the stores of supermarkets. Some of the more premium products are definitely not bad! Especially for instant. Not only is instant coffee popular, but so is RTD coffee. Maxim especially is famous for its RTD coffee – coffee which just needs water. Sugar is already included (and very plentiful) and you simply pour it into a cup and add water. This coffee is hated by many foreigners, but it’s really not that bad once you get used to it. However, it is well known that it is terrible for your health, the amount of sugar is very significant. In supermarkets, you will usually only find instant and RTD coffee. Other types of coffee are usually found at only speciality stores (except pod coffee which is very popular recently). The cafe drinks can vary a lot in quality. But as with everywhere, some are good and some are bad. (Second image) a flower cafe in Seoul! Cafes usually provide a consistent quality of coffee and at decent prices. Americanos can often be found as low as 1000KRW and other drinks will often take you up to 5000KRW. It is important to keep in mind that if you want good coffee, visit a traditional cafe. The themed cafes are very hit or miss. Sometimes you will get fantastic coffee, while other times you will wish you went somewhere else. Is the Korean Coffee Culture Worth Experiencing? And should the Korean coffee culture be considered with other, more famous, countries coffee cultures? The answer to both of these questions is most definitely: Yes. Korean coffee culture is very unique to every other culture I have experienced. However, that uniqueness adds to its attraction. While it may seem obvious – you have to visit Korea to experience the Korean coffee culture. It’s most definitely worth visiting. There is a lot that couldn’t be covered in this post. I would have loved to cover some specific cafes and their specialities. However, as I...

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With the massive crowds and expensive shopping, why exactly does everyone like Myeongdong? Myeongdong is famous as it is one of the most built-up areas of Seoul. With one of the most stunning skylines in Seoul, it is also one of the most popular areas to visit. Myeongdong is also one of the most widely covered (in terms of blogs and articles) areas in Seoul due to its insane popularity. Nearly every tourist to the city has Myeongdong on their bucket list. I was not planning on covering the area as it is simply too common already. However, when visiting the other day there were a lot of cool street photography opportunities that I wanted to share! Everything from fruit cups to meat skewers can be found in Myeongdong! Beware of the prices though… 10,000KRW strawberries are insane! You may or may not know already, but Myeongdong is famous for shopping. Not just shopping though, but also street food. The street food in Myeongdong is incredibly famous as it has some of the largest variety of street food in Seoul. Really, you can find pretty much anything here! The variety in foods is unimaginable. Not just Korean food, but foreign foods from all around the world can be found at the street food sellers in Myeongdong. Something important to keep in mind, however, is that although Myeongdong has an incredible variety of food, it is also not the cheapest. In fact, it is the total opposite. The street food in Myeongdong is often very high priced and is often between 5000-10,000KRW (essentially $5-$10). For food that is usually just considered a snack, this is insane! If you are interested in more budget-friendly street food, then you are probably better off looking at Namdaemun Market or Gwangjang Market. Both markets are famous for their varied and quality street foods. If however, you decide to stay in Myeongdong, then this post is for you! While visiting the other day I took a lot of photos and I wanted to share some of the atmosphere of the area with some street photography. Street Food in Myeongdong The crowds and constant business keep the vendors on their toes! Myeongdong is always a thriving and busy area – one of the busiest in Seoul in fact. However, it is usually more popular with tourists and you often won’t find as many Koreans here. Most locals avoid Myeongdong at all costs, simply because it is too busy, or too stressful to shop in. It is great if you want to find everything in one area though. On the streets passing below the towering buildings, you will find a totally different atmosphere to that inside the shopping malls. A more raw and traditional feeling of being surrounded by what is pretty much one diverse and large market. You can’t explore Myeongdong without being constantly hit by new and unique smells. If you go there and you don’t end up buying food then I would be very surprised! Many of the street food vendors have steam wafting from their carts, and it gives the area a special feeling of a more traditional market. Albeit one surrounded by one of the most ultra-modern areas of Seoul. While exploring the streets of Myeongdong we found many different kinds of unique and exotic foods. Everything from stuffed lobster tails to kebabs and hotdeokk (a type of Korean pancake with sweet or savory flavors inside). It is definitely one of the most multi-cultural places I have ever visited! So, why should you visit Myeongdong? Meat skewers are prepared at Myeongdong. Myeongdong’s failings also make some of its most unique aspects. The incredibly busy streets are so busy that I don’t think anywhere I’ve ever visited in my life can compare. The pictures really don’t do it justice – it is insanely busy. In saying that though, I would also say that the crowds give it a truly unique feel. You know when you are in Myeongdong as it is unmistakable. A word of warning: If you are still planning where to stay when you visit Seoul, try to avoid Myeongdong. It isn’t the worst place to stay, but it’s just so busy and loud at all times of the day… and night. It’s never quiet, and you will have trouble pushing through the crowds every morning to get to the subway or bus station. If you have the choice of where to stay still, I would definitely advise that you stay somewhere a little quieter. I don’t think that many people go back to Myeongdong after visiting there once or twice, however, it is most definitely worth visiting that once or twice. A Unique Experience You can’t escape the variety of aromas in Myeongdong! Back to the street food in Myeongdong though! When visiting the area, make sure to bring lots of cash. Many of the street stalls in the city either won’t accept cards or will have a 10% surcharge. While this isn’t the end of the world and ATM’s are always close, it’s well worth always having some cash on you. It will help you avoid a lot of potential problems and hassles. As I mentioned earlier, the street food in Myeongdong is very expensive compared to that of other food markets nearby. As such, it isn’t really worth getting food here unless you want something specific to Myeongdong. Many international foods are the best (in Korea) here, however, if you want Korean food then try the markets Namdaemun and Kwangjang. Often you will be able to find food at half the cost or even less! Myeongdong is somewhere that like many places, is truly unique. While it may not be unique for the normally ‘good’ reasons, it is somewhere that I recommend visiting at least once! The street food in Myeongdong along with the unique atmosphere that it has is dynamic and diverse. If possible though, avoid staying in Myeongdong. It’s nice to visit, but staying there is definitely not as nice. Not only is it busy and crowded, but usually you will get a lot less and pay far more.

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Seoulinspired by Ethan Brooke - 5d ago

With a river as large as the Han it can be pretty hard to find the perfect photo location. With that being said, I want to share with you some of my top photo locations – and a few that I don’t think you would have heard of before! The river has some fantastic locations to take photos. From more standard locations such as Nanji Hangang park to Ttukseom Resort to the Han River bridges, I will cover all of the best locations in this post! Most of these locations offer picnic locations and public facilities which make them perfect to enjoy an evening near the Han. With that being said, let’s start with what you probably know… Ttukseom Resort Ttukseom resort is one of the best places for photos in Seoul, period. With stunning views towards both Namsan Tower and Lotte Tower, there is a lot to love. I have witnessed some of the most stunning sunsets I have ever seen from Ttukseom Resort and it holds a special place in my heart. The view from J-Bug is especially stunning when combined with an amazing sunset! There is a large area right outside exit 3 of the station which holds many events throughout the year. The area also doubles as a picnic location and is often a popular place when the weather is warmer. Bikes can be hired to ride along the river, and really it’s just a nice place to spend some time. J-Bug slithers around overhead, and if you need to retreat to the warmth you can. The snake-like building also has many exhibitions and displays throughout the year. Ttukseom is really a great place for any kind of photo. Whether you want to take some profile photos, sunset photos, or just some generally nice photos, it is easily possible here! This has got to be the best Han River view in my opinion. Whether you want portrait shots or city-scapes, Ttukseom is amazing! Yeouido Yeouido is a word that you’ve probably heard in the same sentence as ‘Han River’ many many times. However, it really is a beautiful place and as such, I had to include it. There are a few downsides to Yeouido however, so make sure to keep reading further! Yeouido is the location of not only one of the most beautiful Han River locations, but also of some of the most expensive real estate in the city. The sunsets here are also stunning and similar to Ttukseom, Yeouido has a lot of picnic space and fantastic public facilities. One of my favourite images ever – taken in Yeouido! What sets Yeouido apart from some of the other locations on this list are the fantastic facilities and the central city location. You can get fantastic views in any direction from here! However, it isn’t perfect. Since it is such a popular location, you will also find that at times it is packed. Packed packed. Really packed. It is a very popular pastime to order chicken and beer and enjoy the Yeouido sunset. Not only that, but many people hire tents and spend hours enjoying the river and the warm summer weather. Really, it all depends on when you visit, but I do recommend being careful. Sometimes it is VERY busy! Nanji Hangang Park I never really knew about Nanji Hangang park until just the other week! However, I now wish that I knew about it earlier. Nanji Hangang Park is one of the many parks located at World Cup Stadium, and while that means it is out of the way, it also means that it is surrounded by fantastic parks. Nanji Hangang Park is out of the way for most people, however, and that can make it quite hard to visit. However, it is well worth a visit if you have some spare time! Its location may make it harder to reach, but that isn’t always a bad thing – It means that less other people will visit too! At the moment (December 2018), the area is still under construction as a new bridge is being made. This will soon be complete though, and the area will be completely open once again. It is still worth visiting currently, just keep in mind that the area isn’t completely open currently. The new bridge that is under construction! Nanji Hangang Park is quite similar to both Yeouido and Ttukseom in regards to facilities and functionality. There are a lot of picnic areas, and the area has public toilets and is close to convenience stores and children’s playgrounds. I like the view from Nanji Hangang Park because it is very unique to the others on this list! What sets Nanji apart from the other locations are the views. The views here are very unique and you can see a lot of the less built-up areas towards the west of Seoul. I like this view a lot because it is just so different from the views you usually encounter in the more typical viewing locations. As with pretty much any Han River location, the sunsets here are stunning! Dongho Bridge This one is a little less known. Maybe because it is a bit more difficult to get to, or maybe because it is a little cold and windy in the middle. I am not sure! However, Dongho Bridge has some stunning views of the city and is probably my personal favourite bridge view in Seoul. There are many different bridges with great views in Seoul, however, what sets Dongho apart is the stunning views on both sides of the bridge. On one side you have the more typical view with Namsan Tower, and on the other side, you get a really nice view facing east. Dongho Bridge has some stunning photo opportunities! It is relatively easy to reach the bridge, and you will have no problem reaching it from either side of the river. Apgujeong Station and Oksu Station both provide easy and fast access. In summer especially, this makes the bridge a very nice and calming walk. If you can only visit one bridge in the city, then I would recommend that you visit Dongho Bridge. While there are many other bridges with unique and stunning views also, Dongho holds a place in my heart as I have taken some of my favourite pictures there. Dongjak Bridge E-mart What would you say if I said that an E-mart 24 holds one of the best views in the city? Would you believe me? Well whether you believe me or not, I will prove it. This particular E-mart sits on the Dongjak Bridge and overlooks both eastern and western Han River views. Actually, it is two separate E-marts. There is one on each side of the bridge! The E-mart is three stories tall and houses a convenience store, small library, roof-top views, and more. For a convenience store, these E-marts are both really well equipped and have great atmospheres. The prices are the same as any other convenience store, and as such, are very cheap. If you want something fancier, you can also order restaurant and cafe like foods. From the roof, you can get some stunning shots. Definitely think about which view you want before crossing the bridge, however, as once you are on the bridge you can’t cross to the other side. Decide first if you want to visit the east or west E-mart. I’ve personally only visited the eastern E-mart, and the views were great. Both the northern view towards Namsan Tower and along the Dongjak bridge, and the eastern view towards the city are beautiful. What do you think? Where are your favourite Han River views? And is there anywhere that you would add to the list? Feel free to let me know! I might even consider adding more locations to this post if you have any good ideas.

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Seoulinspired by Ethan Brooke - 5d ago

If you want to live somewhere peaceful and quiet, then Seoul is probably not the place for you. It’s a loud, fast, and stressful city. However, for many people it is also the perfect place to live. Is living in Seoul for you? Seoul is becoming more popular among foreigners every day, with Korea’s emigration exponentially increasing. For many reasons, but probably mostly due to Hallyu, Korea has suddenly appeared on many people’s radars. I’ve seen a lot of people say that Seoul is their dream city without ever having actually experienced the city. However, how is it to actually live in Seoul? What are the ups and downs, the good and bad? Who will like Seoul, and who might not find it great? In this post I want to answer all of these questions from my experiences. A Diverse and Giant City Including the satellite cities, Seoul is the 5th largest metropolitan area in the world. While this means that Seoul has nearly anything you could imagine, it also means that the city is incredibly large, and travelling can be tiresome. Further, if you want to visit the country it isn’t simply a morning trip. It’s a whole day trip involving buses and trains. This is perfect if you love cities and never find yourself wanting to surround yourself with nature. Also if you just don’t like the outdoors in general. However, if you are someone who wants to spend lots of time outdoors then you may have some difficulties with Seoul. That isn’t to say that the city doesn’t have nice parks though, because it does. But all of the parks are well-kept and while they are fantastic, I wouldn’t count them as ‘real’ outdoors. There are many beautiful parks within the city, and even quite a few mountains. Even Bukhansan can be visited without leaving the city! Seoul is most definitely a beautiful city! In this article I want to go over some of my general feelings towards Seoul. My honest feelings and realizations, the good and the bad. While there are a lot of facts in this post, a lot of it is also my opinion and the opinions of those who surround me. Please keep that in mind while reading this article! I do love Seoul, and I recommend that everyone visits it. However, it isn’t the ideal place to live for many people, and there’s a lot to consider before moving here. Table of Contents This is a very long article, and many people won’t want to read it all. If you would like to jump to a section, simply click on the links below! Facilities in Seoul Crime and Safety Entertainment and Activities Crowds and Stress Health Concerns Education and Work Costs Speed of Life General Overview Who is Seoul For? Facilities in Seoul Seoul, as with any large city is well equipped with every basic necessity you may need. Medical and dental facilities in Korea are great, and usually of very high quality and cleanliness. Further, there are many different price points that exist for each kind of medical facility, and many cheaper options exist. The leading hospitals (that are also the most well equipped) are Seoul National University Hospital, Samsung Medical Center, and Ewha Women’s University Medical Center. While there are many many hospitals in Seoul, the top university hospitals are widely considered to be the best, hospitals such as Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei Severance Hospital. It is, however, worth keeping in mind that unless you require the state-of-the-art medical facilities that they offer, that you are probably better off visiting a less well-known hospital. The universities have great hospitals, but often you will find that the price reflects their quality. Public sports/exercise facilities are also easy to find and exist nearly everywhere. Near where I live I have noticed multiple gyms, kick-boxing, yoga, an Olympic swimming pool, and an ice-skating rink. On top of that, there is also a public soccer field about 15 minutes from my home. It is open to the public except for when there are teams practicing. While most people don’t seem to use these facilities, they are all there and ready to be used. Further, the membership costs (when relevant) are usually comparable or cheaper compared to those of similarly sized western cities. Fantastic medical facilities are definitely not something you need to worry about while living in Seoul! Parks and Nature Outdoor parks and recreation areas are abundant. This is one of the aspects of Seoul that really surprised me and continues to pleasantly surprise me every week. From the small streams that can be found all around Seoul (Cheonggyecheon being the most famous of them) to the massive parks such as Pyeonghwa Park and Olympic Park, Seoul really has a lot to offer. I personally live in Seongbuk-Gu, and Seongbuk Stream is easily reachable. The stream isn’t anything special, but it is a nice green space that passes through the suburbs. It is great for walking, skating, or biking and provides a great alternative to the also great public transport. Pyeonghwa Park is one of the many beautiful parks within the city. The larger parks (such as the parks at World Cup Stadium) are also plentiful and can be found all around the city. These parks are usually very nice and well maintained. Whether you want a nice date location or a place to walk your dogs, these parks are fantastic and well equipped. Another thing that Seoul is great for is hiking. While none of the mountains in Korea are exceptionally tall (with most of them being rather small relative to even the mountains I am used to in New Zealand), there are many that offer beautiful hiking trails. Bukhansan is easily reachable from the city and provides anything from 30-minute walks to 6+ hour walks. Many other (small) mountains are also located within the city, mountains such as Naksan, Eungbongsan, Namsan, and more! Cultural Locations Cultural and historical areas are also located all over the city. If you are interested in Korean history then you won’t be disappointed. Everything from massive temples (such as Gyeongbokgung and changdeokgung) to the great gates such as Dongdaemun can be found throughout the city. There are a decent amount of museums and galleries that have cheap, or no entry fees. Some outstanding places such as the War Memorial in Samgakji are completely free to enter and offer a lot of information about Korea’s past. Smaller museums such as the Seoul wall museum are also totally free to enter which is something that is usually too rare in big cities. Shopping Shopping in Seoul is great, with both traditional markets and massive department stores coexisting. Markets like Gwangjang capture the more traditional feel of the city while still retaining relevance today with their incredibly large and diverse inventories. Gwangjang, Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, and the other markets contain pretty much anything you could ever imagine and they are a joy to visit. However what if markets aren’t your thing? Then you will be pleased to hear that Seoul has a lot of very modern shopping malls. Some of them are even the biggest (and tallest as the case may be) in the world. Shinsegae, Hyundai, and Lotte Department Stores are always reachable no matter where in Seoul you live. The products that these malls sell are comparable in price to that of cities such as London, New York, Melbourne, and any other big city. Don’t expect to get away with cheap shopping in Korea if you want brand names and department stores. Both markets and shopping malls are easy to find in Seoul! Other areas of interest are the Chinatown in Incheon, the ice-skating rink in Lotte World (Jamsil), the traditional markets like Noryangjin Fish Market, and a whole lot more. I feel like there’s not much more to say about Seoul and its facilities. It has everything that city of its size needs, and it really isn’t lacking in any area. While the city is massive, usually you won’t need to leave your home area or district due to the great spread of these facilities. However, even if you need to travel a bit there is fantastic public transport in Seoul… Public Transport Seoul’s public transport is truly world class. Even further, it is a world-leading public transport. The subway, buses, taxis and trains are comparatively cheap (a usually subway/bus ride is 1250KRW, about $1 USD). Further, they run from 5 am until 11pm-1am. Buses are fast and efficient (although quite bumpy sometimes), and the subways are fantastic. Every subway station is equipped with big glass doors and walls to prevent access to the tracks – something which terrified me as a child when I visited London. The subways are often attached to shopping malls or underground markets, and as such the subways are even better than just being great public transport. Crime and Safety While not directly related, I will include them together as they are often relevant to one another. Major crime-wise, Korea is VERY safe. However, petty crimes are very common. Common to the point where for some crimes, many people don’t even know that what they are doing is against the law – things such as very poor driving (I consistently see people running red lights or even driving on the wrong side of the road/footpath), and drunk driving are both very common. Things such as prostitution are illegal but simply overlooked, and there are occasionally incidents of corruption. However, when talking about the crimes that most people care about – things such as homicide rates, theft, scams, etc, Korea has a good record, and living in Seoul is usually very safe. With that being said, I do have a few warnings. Even in the back-streets of Kwangjang Market I felt safe. Scams If anyone on the street approaches you for some kind of ‘cultural experience’ DO NOT agree. Simply leave them and walk off. Cults do exist in Korea, and scams are common enough. I’ve had people try to scam money off me (by claiming they had a child who needed medical care, and apparently the women was the mother. Later  though, she claimed she was the aunt of the child) and I’ve been approached by the cults on multiple occasions. If someone asks you if you want to wear Hanbok, say no. Even better, just walk off and don’t talk to them. If someone comes up to you and asks questions like ‘where are you from?’ or ‘how long are you here for?’ just leave them. Especially if there are two people. If you really want to wear a Hanbok, visit a rental place yourself and don’t let anyone else lead you there. I’ve heard some horrible experiences from foreigners who have followed them, and while I’ve never gone off with them, they have approached me many times. So while serious crimes are very rare, there are still small crimes being committed everywhere. However, these crimes won’t affect you (except maybe the bad driving) if you know what to look out for and just live your life. Safety As for safety, Seoul is generally very safe too. My one piece of advice though is just to watch out when you cross roads. If the light is green for crossing, make sure you still look. People run red lights as if it’s a fun game, and people often drive very drunk. Always keep an eye on the road, and never trust the lights of crossings – many drivers apparently can’t even see them or are in too much of a rush to care. In conclusion, Seoul is very safe and I’ve never felt concerned for my safety. The only real worry here are the scams as I know many tourists do fall prey to them. If someone approaches you on the street and is acting friendly there is a 99% chance the want to scam you – no matter how friendly...

The post Is Seoul the City for You? appeared first on Seoulinspired.

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World Cup Stadium(월드컵공원) is a well-known location in Seoul due to its large variety of beautiful gardens. Most famously known for Haneul Park, there is a lot more to World Cup Stadium than just Haneul. The area itself is very large, and you can easily spend a whole afternoon or evening there if you want to enjoy all of the gardens different sights and attractions. This week I had the chance to visit another of the five gardens located at World Cup Stadium – Pyeonghwa Park (평화공원). Together with Haneul Park, Nanji Stream Park, Nanji Han River Park, and Sunset Park, these five gardens take up a large area of land near the Han River close to Hapjeong (Hongdae area). What makes this area unique compared to the other gardens and parks of Seoul is the combined area and activities of all of these gardens combined. Walking between the gardens is easily possible, and this means that you can really plan your own day without the hassle of transport. If you want to arrive in the afternoon, have a picnic next to the river, climb up Haneul to watch the sunset, and then stroll through the other parks, you can! If you visit in fall you will get to see the stunning leaves of the trees changing colors! All of the parks are different and offer many different sights depending on the seasons. However, autumn (fall!) and spring are definitely the nicest times to visit in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong though, winter and summer are both great too if you visit the right areas! Today I want to talk about the first of these parks that you will encounter when you visit the area, Pyeonghwa Park. Pyeonghwa Park is located the closest to World Cup Stadium, which means that it is also the closest to the subway station. Most people visiting the other parks will find themselves walking through Pyeonghwa Park first to reach them. Directions   Pyeonghwa Park is easily accessible from World Cup Stadium. World Cup Stadium is located on line 6 (the brown line) of the Seoul Subway, but it can also be reached by buses which service nearly every part of the central city. From the station or bus stop, you can simply cross the bridge that joins World Cup Stadium and the park together. Keep in mind that the further away you walk, the further you will have to return later. I’ve been caught off guard a few times and had very large walks back to the station! Pyeonghwa Park (평화공원) Pyeonghwa Park is right next to a fish and food market and that makes it perfect for a picnic or meal. The fresh food and beautiful scenes make it one of the best picnic spots in Seoul. Once you buy some delicious fresh food you can head to the lakeside or riverside and enjoy your time. A lake and stream is located in Pyeonghwa and makes the center of the park. The park has many different amenities and everything from dog parks to multiple public restrooms and playgrounds can be found. It really is an ideal place to spend an afternoon or evening, whether as a date, with your family, or even by yourself. Speaking of, the park can be quite popular at times due to its close proximity to the stadium. It’s also a popular date spot and you will definitely run into many couples enjoying their time together. We visited just as the fall leaves were beginning to pass. The colors were still stunning though! Pyeonghwa Park has a lot of streams and quiet spots that can be enjoyable and calming. If you explore around the park you will find many different areas within the park. In the center of the park is the lake, and everything is centered around that. The lakeside provides a nice area to sit if you would prefer to not get dirty (as the ground is concrete). It is also located right next to a convenience store and public restrooms. Even better, it is also located right next to the fish and food market. Progressing around the lake you will find all sorts of different sections of plants. Initially, you will come across the stream and many tall trees. These trees look stunning in fall and there is a LOT of variety in the colors you will find. If you are looking for some photo locations, this is definitely one of the best areas. From the north-west side of the lake, Haneul Park is accessible by another bridge. Fall Colors at Pyeonghwa Park The trees in fall make for some awesome photo opportunities! My personal favorite location in the park is where the above pictures were taken. It has many trees which all become red, orange and yellow in the fall. Along with the stream passing through the area, it is really beautiful! To reach the area simply go to the point where the stream and carpark almost meet in the map above. From there, proceed into the park by following the path across the stream. Follow the path to the Seven Eleven and you can’t miss the areas with the trees. The combination of the different colored trees and the stream makes for the perfect photo! Walking around the park you will eventually reach the south and south-eastern sides. These sides have most of the park’s attractions (other than the lake of course) and you will find many pampas grass (silver grass) plants here. This is another brilliant location for photos! From this side, you can also easily reach Nanji Han River Park via yet another bridge. The Children’s Adventure Playground is also located here and that makes the southern part of the park quite popular also. Pyeonghwa Silver Grass The Eulalia Grass which is also called Pampas Grass, which is apparently also called Silver Grass makes for even more awesome photos! Sorry if I confused the plant names… I’m not good with plants! To reach the photo location above simply cross the stream at the location mentioned above (for the last set of photos) and follow the path that runs next to the stream to the south-west (towards the Han River). You can’t miss the silver grass as you have to walk past it if you intend to cross the highway into Nanji Han River Park. There isn’t much of the silver grass here as it is just planted in small groups, but it still allows for some nice photos. If you are interested in seeing more silver grass, however, definitely consider visiting Haneul Garden. After all, Haneul is famous for it! Nanji Han River Park (난지한강공원) Across the bridge on the southern side of Pyeonghwa Park is Nanji Han River Park. This park is similar to many of the other Han River parks. Many well-kept paths and trees are spread out along the banks of the river. My recommendation is to visit the Han River park at sunset as this is when you will get the most stunning views. The park is very long and is great for riding bikes or just for a relaxing stroll along the river. Hired bikes are available throughout the parks, and also at the stadium. It isn’t the easiest process if you can’t speak Korean, but it is possible. Simply download the app (Android, IOS) and follow the steps that the bikes tell you. This means that you will be able to hire the green and white bikes that you see all over the city! Stunning Han River Views The view from Nanji Park is of the Han River. Needless to say, it is stunning as always. Nanji Han River Park is great not only for dates and picnics but also for fitness. The park is well equipped with different facilities such as a baseball field and swimming pool, along with spaces for skateboarding, biking, and more. If you are interested in getting some exercise in then Nanji Park is perfect with its views and facilities. Lastly, the park is also equipped with camping facilities and even barbecue locations. All in all, Nanji is a park that has a lot of facilities and services that make it a great location for many different kinds of people. It is also less busy than some of the other Han River parks such as Yeouido or Ttukseom, and this means that it can be a bit easier to find a peaceful location next to the river. When we visited there was a new bridge under construction. It may not have been the most appealing view, but I was rather surprised with the results! Nanji Han River Park is another great place to have a picnic or enjoy some chicken and beer. There are concrete stairs near the river that allow you to sit and relax and not have to worry about getting dirty. The area is also quite calm (at least it is towards the end of fall when it is a bit colder) and provides an ideal spot to unwind. Haneul Park (하늘공원) Haneul Garden is located atop a big hill (or small mountain?) that sits right next to the river. It can be reached by crossing from World Cup Stadium into Pyeonghwa Park, and then crossing the bridge on the north-east of Pyeonghwa Park into Hanuel. You can see a staircase ascending the hill. Unfortunately, it is usually only open to people coming down the hill. I am not sure if this is always the case, but both times I have visited the staircase has been closed for anyone wanting to go up (and is only open for people coming down). Haneul Park is famous for its silver grass. Built on an old landfill, Haneul and Seoullo 7017 are great examples of unconventional recycling! Rather, people wanting to ascend the hill must follow a road to the top. The road follows the edge of the hill. As such, it can take a while to get to the top, usually around 30 minutes. Following the road is an easy walk, however, and it can be done as a family with children also. Usually, Haneul is relatively busy. If you are planning ahead is often worth it as visiting on a non-weekend or non-holiday day will mean the park is much less crowded. There is also a tram available at certain times which can be used as transport to the top of the hill. The top on Haneul you will find some amazing views! The park was once a landfill but has since been converted into a stunning garden. A garden with some fantastic views of the river! The garden is famous for the silver grass, and every October there is a festival to celebrate the grass blooming. If you can choose when to visit, aim for October or the beginning of November. Haneul Sunset Haneul Park is similar to Nanji Han River Park in that it is best enjoyed at sunset. However, it is up to you to decide where you would prefer to watch the sunset! Most people focus on the silver grass when visiting Haneul, however, the views over the city are also pretty good! There are almost 360-degree views of the city from Haneul. While not all of the views are fantastic, a few of them are definitely worth witnessing! To the south, the Han River can be spotted flowing through the city. To the other directions, you can see into the city and it is a spectacular view at dawn, dusk, or anytime in between! A view to the west of Haneul. World Cup Stadium – A Park You Should Visit! It may not be the most popular park in Seoul (minus Haneul Park which is well known by all). But the World Cup Stadium Parks are some of the most accessible, largest, and most beautiful parks in the city. Between the five different parks there are always different events being held. Further, there are...

The post Must Visit Fall Parks in Seoul appeared first on Seoulinspired.

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Gyeongbokgung is the most famous palace in Korea and the most visited by visitors to Korea. However, this is exactly why you it might not be the best palace for you. Before I begin I want to say that I am by no means against visiting Gyeongbokgung. In fact, I think that everyone coming to Korea should visit at least one palace while they are here. In saying that though, I don’t believe that Gyeongbokgung is always the best choice of palace to visit. There are many palaces in Seoul (and Korea), and mostly they are completely overlooked by visitors. In this article I only talk about Changdeokgung, but there are also many other palaces! Gyeongbokgung is the largest palace in Seoul and has been standing for over 600 years. It is located very centrally in Seoul, right next to Gwanghamun – a place that nearly everyone who comes to Seoul will visit. This means that the palace is very large, and you can easily spend a few hours there.  Entry is very cheap, with an entrance fee of 3000KRW (around $3) for adults and 1500KRW for children. However, this fee can be totally avoided if you wear traditional Korean clothing – the Hanbok. Hanbok can be rented on an hourly basis and is usually quite cheap. The added bonus of free palace entry makes it even more worth it! click here for more information on the entrance fees and opening hours. There are many best times to visit Gyeongbokgung, just make sure you get there before closing time (which is usually around 6 pm). Personally, I wouldn’t visit in the summer at daytime as the palace is very exposed and you will be VERY hot, especially in Hanbok. Instead, you can check out these places for when the weather is hot! Any of the other seasons are great though. In winter the palace will be less crowded which is perfect for photo opportunities. If you can visit at a time when the palace isn’t packed, it is a great experience! Within the palace, there are also other attractions such as the National Palace Museum of Korea, and the National Folk Museum. There is a garden located at the back of the palace and it makes for a great place for photos. However, the biggest attraction, in my opinion, is the lake located at the back of Gyeongbokgung. The lake is stunning, and in summer evenings there is often a light show with dancers. If you can visit on a summer evening, don’t miss the opportunity! So, why shouldn’t you visit Gyeongbokgung?  Gyeongbokgung is the biggest palace in Korea, and the convenience of its location makes it extremely popular. It is primarily for this reason that I recommend against visiting it. The palace is incredibly busy on most days, and the crowds ruin much of the appeal. Whether you are just exploring, wanting to take photos, or trying to browse the museum, the crowds can ruin the experience if you visit on a wrong day. Interestingly, one of the biggest attractions at Gyeongbokgung can also be witnessed without actually entering the palace. The changing of the guards happens multiple times throughout the day (you can check the times here), and this is at the entrance of the palace. If you are interested in watching this ceremony you won’t need to actually enter the palace. Not only this, but I find that Gyeongbokgung offers nothing unique compared to the other palaces. It’s a Korean palace, and that is great. But there is nothing that makes it stand out other than the pure size and historical significance. I definitely think that visiting a palace in Korea is worth it! However, why not visit another less crowded palace that has some special sights? Hanbok is cheap to rent and gives you a unique cultural experience. If you are interested in Hanbok photography feel free to contact me here. If Gyeongbokgung is the only palace you are able to visit, or if you have already made a booking, never fear. Gyeongbokgung is still great, and in the end, any Korean Palace is worth visiting. My advice is this: Visit in the morning if you wish to avoid the crowds. I have visited the palace over 20 times, and the only times I find it to be relatively empty are before 11 am in the morning. On the other hand, if you are still creating your travel plans or contemplating where to visit, why not visit Changdeokgung? It is very close to Gyeongbokgung and is easily reachable if you are in the area. However, what makes it stand out is the royal garden located at the back of the palace. Changdoekgung   Just to the left of Changdeokgung you can see Gyeongbokbung’s location. They are very close to each other! Gyeongbokgung is larger and more spread out, and I found Changdeokgung to be more compact and interesting. Not only that but usually it is much less crowded there. Changdeokgung costs the same for entrance as Gyeongbokgung. However, the garden tour (you can only enter as a tour) is an added 8000KRW. This price is well worth it, however, and if you can, do it! You can find the timetables and more information for the tours here. Unfortunately I didn’t get any general photos of the garden when I visited. However you can believe me when I say that the garden is beautiful! The Royal Garden in Changdeokgung was reserved for the royal family, and was left as untouched as possible by human hands. The garden was intended to be as natural as possible, with only a few pavilions being constructed for enjoyment of the garden. The cost to enter the garden is larger than the cost to enter the palace, and as such it may be hard to justify. However, this is a cost that is well worth it – especially if you love nature. A full tour timetable can be found here. If you get a chance to visit in fall or spring, these gardens are truly stunning. Unfortunately since you have to be a part of a group, you can’t experience it at your own speed. However, even so, it is well worth it. The garden isn’t open at all times of the year, so please be sure to refer to the link above to check that it is actually open at your ideal time. If the garden isn’t open, then there are many other palaces you can visit. Gyeongbokgung is probably the best though, as you can learn about the history and culture while experiencing the sights and beautiful palace. Have you experienced the palaces in Korea? If so, which one is your favourite? If you enjoyed this article please be sure to share it – every share helps me and lets me make better content in the future. Pin This!    

The post Why You Shouldn’t Visit Gyeongbokgung Palace appeared first on Seoulinspired.

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