The weather is changing~ Fall is in the air. And as a country where it’s foliage is as famous as its rice cakes, Korea has many things that make autumn seem especially exciting. Here are five things you can do to get into the season as the weather turns cooler
5. Berry Bingsoo
In a country as small as Korea, you can’t just march into a grocery store at any time of the year and expect the same produce at the same prices. Fruit in Korea is seasonal and each season is marked by a specific fruit that is used to celebrate. Sulbing, a popular dessert chain in Korea, is especially known for its seasonal bingsoo (shaved ice) topped with the fruit of the season. In the fall, they have berries! Blueberries and yogurt and cheesecake, oh my! This sweet treat is a definite must for anyone who favors the chill in the fall and it’s so big, it’s just the perfect dessert to enjoy with your group of friends.
Korea is a mountainous country with breathtaking views open to anyone who is willing to take a hike (no pun intended). What’s especially unique about Korean hiking is that it’s done in large groups – many people set up hiking parties to go up to the mountains, loaded with makgeulli (Korean rice wine) and picnic lunch to enjoy once they get to the top. It’s not mountains that you can enjoy a walk through – the Hangang is a famous spot to walk alongside as it offers a stunning view of the bright Korean foliage. I know, I know – leaves changing color in the fall. Shocker. But the Korean leaves really do turn into an intense color (see featured image) and it provides for a really good Instagram photo! Not to mention the most coveted food of all is highly available in this area – fried chicken! (You weren’t expecting that, were you? LOL). In Korea, you don’t need a set address to order food – you just need to tell them where you are (i.e. “under the Mapo bridge” and “next to the people passing out flyers” is a totally acceptable destination address). Summer is hot and gross but fall (at least for the first month or so), provides the perfect balance of sunny and cool to enjoy the weather outside with your friends. Alcohol, chicken, friends, and photo ops – definitely worth getting out of bed for!
3. Semester Parties
This is especially true for those who are going to Korea as a student or a teacher (but mostly student). In Korea, the beginning of the semester for college students is considered an especially important time of the year. It’s called “gaegang” which means “beginning” and people throw parties and gatherings to celebrate, AKA: gaegang parties. This means one thing – alcohol. Lots of it. You will be drinking and possibly all night. Hotspots are filled with these parties during the first or second week after the semester begins so take advantage of the atmosphere and take a drink!
Now if you’re not a student and just trying to have a good time, this could actually be fairly annoying – a lot of places will be booked solid for these gaegang parties and a lot of popular bars and restaurants may not have room. Luckily, though, Korean hotspots are known for their large numbers of both of those places – there’s never only one bar or restaurant that will sell that favorite Korean dish you crave. And with it being so crowded and noisy, some restaurants try to be especially accommodating by offering discounts or service (free food!) to make up for it. So in the end, everyone wins.
If there’s one thing I learned about living in Korea, is that the foreigner card is a lovely thing to have. It gets you special privileges like being able to get out of trouble because the Korean staff doesn’t want to deal with your English or an automatic in into clubs because “your blue eyes so pretty!” (that legit happened to a friend). But one of the best things about visiting Korea during the fall is the Chuseok Holiday, otherwise known as Korean Thanksgiving. And why? Because during Chuseok, foreigners get to do things for free.
Say that again with me.
Or if not, at least a discount.
Koreans are especially proud of their culture and history and they love showing it off, and what better way to do so than during the most culturally Korean holiday of the year? During Chuseok, all of the major palaces – Gyeongbokgung, Deoksugung, Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung – are free entry. Shrines and temples also open free-of-charge and they even pass out Chuseok foods such as rice cakes for all guests to enjoy. You can even reserve a hanbok during this time to take pictures and guess what? This gets you even more free stuff. The amusement parks – I’m looking at you, Lotte World, are free entry to anyone who comes dressed in a hanbok, along with museums and cultural centers.
Ah, now this is something you can only do in Seoul. And it’s totally #worthit.
The Seoul Fireworks Festival is an annual (that means only ONCE A YEAR) festival that takes place in early October at the Hangang. The name itself is pretty self-explanatory – it’s a showing of beautiful, stunning, Fourth-of-July-move-over fireworks! Countries actually team up to create the fireworks show, so it’s really a stunning display of teamwork. And for those of you who have ever been to the Washington Monument to watch the fireworks for Independence Day would know what an event this is. People go as early as first train (that’s 5AM, folks!) to grab a spot near the the Hangang at Yeouido. They set up tents, grab blankets, and just hang out with their friends all day as they wait for the fireworks to start in the evening. People eat food (more fried chicken) and play games – and you know, there’s really something about sitting around all day waiting for a fireworks show that really bonds people.
Dates are announced usually in early September. This year is still unconfirmed but be on the lookout!