Touch Korea Tour - Gangnam Style Highlights

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hey Lovelies,

I thought I'd do a post reviewing the 'Touch Korea Tour - Gangnam Style' that I went on!

First I'll tell you a little about Buzz Korea. :)

I entered a blogging competition through Buzz KOREA. Buzz KOREA is an online community platform that allows users to share and upload content about Korea and its tourism. Buzz KOREA members share their blog posts, photos and videos about their stories and experiences to help others discover the hidden attractions of Korea. You can become a member any time and they usually have competitions like this going all the time. The more activity you have on the site the better your odds - so why not try!
So, I won and they flew me over to be part of the Touch Korea Tour. The Touch Korea Tour campaign provides participants with the opportunity to tangibly experience Korea in person. Participants of this tour travel throughout Korea, exploring the various attractions and sights of the country. In turn, they help other travelers find unique destinations and activities to try.

Waking up early was easy, because the time difference made it feel as though I was sleeping in an extra 2 hours! The tour group all met in the lobby of the hotel. It was the first time I met everyone and I'm usually shy when I meet new people so, I kept to myself a bit that day. 

We went off to get de-briefed at the KTO (Korean Tourism Organisation) headquarters where we met our lovely guides. 
After the debriefing, we boarded the bus and made our way to a show at Seoul Fashion week
It was located at the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan. The rain was wetting my face as I was trying to take in the great, grey building in front of me that was housing Seoul Fashion Week. 
Inside we were quickly ushered passed a long line of people waiting for their turn to enter.

The show started as every show does, the lights and music overcome your senses and your eyes start following the only moving thing in the room. The whole crowd absorbed into watching the beautiful models move and swap, in their hypnotic routine on the runway. 

The show ended and it was as though the room had finally let go of all its breath at once. 
People flooding for the only exit, friends losing each other in the stampede of heels and wedges.
When we finally left, we were greeted by drops of rain outside. Models exercised their skills in heels, rushing their way outside, down the steps and away from the grey building where they had just been. Outside in the natural light, you noticed their heavy makeup clashing with casual clothes. Just a wet blur and they were gone, probably to start a new show. 

Boarding the bus, the hum of sentences about the show started stirring. Plans were being arranged for the next stop at IFC Mall

Here I was introduced to my first Korean meal and I was surprised! I'm usually a fussy eater preferring to try a new drink than a meal, because the commitment to a meal is far too great. 
We had time to look around the quiet mall - something rare for busy South Korea. 

A couple hours later, we boarded our bus and made our way to Ilsan, where we were whisked away to watch a live episode of Show! Music Core
Although no photography was aloud inside, the excitement tore through everyone. As the show drew to its close, Korean girls were screaming lyrics to K-Pop stars songs that were blurting out of the speakers. I have never heard a crowd so loud before, it was almost as though they all had loud speakers inside their voices and I'm sure that at one stage, they did. 

After abandoning the screaming fans, we headed to a dinner at Glamping (Glamourous Camping) - a fuss free indoor camping/dining experience. Koreans don't all have time for the great outdoors, so themed restaurants like this are popular among families. 

We retired at a the Grand Hilton in Seoul, close to the next destination on our itinerary.

View from the Seoul Hilton Hotel. 

Day 2: Paju

Boarding the tour bus again, I took the same seat I had taken the first day.
We headed toward the north of South Korea. Up until this point, I had completely forgotten about the sad history of South Korea. Everything in Seoul is so vibrant and happy that when you're visiting you forget how much pain and suffering had actually happened.
It's not until you start traveling north that you see the barbed wire, scaring the edges of the Han River. Every few meters there's an army post manned by either CCTV or two soldiers, it's a real contrast to the  free spirited and fun Seoul that we left behind.

Alas, we were headed toward Provence Village in Paju - a small town styled to look french provincial, with a South Korean twang. Exploring the small stores in Provence Village and stocking up on small gifts for my family made me miss home. Sometimes, I have this overwhelming feeling of sadness and I wish I could have my family and all the people I love see everything I see at the exact same time.
To have my Mum and Dad in arms reach and to hear my sisters laughing about something silly they saw would've been so nice.
When I start feeling this way, I start compensating by buying presents for the people I miss. (sometimes this is a costly emotion.)

I did however indulge in a little fairy floss for myself while I waited for the group to get ready to board the bus again and make way for our next location.

It was only up the road and to the right that we arrived at Hyeri Art Village. This is a place full of creative people, working in and opening art galleries, cafes, restaurants and stores. It's a wonderful area and if you're ever in Seoul, this is a fantastic place to visit.

Here we had one of my favourite Korean meals called Ssam - you basically just wrap your meat in a salad leaf and eat it. It's simple and really nice!
After lunch, we went to make our own necklaces. I haven't taken mine off since I made it.

After creating our own necklaces, we headed for the Trick Art museum - at first I had a feeling this would be boring. I was wrong, it was a lot of fun, the gallery was really interactive and every painting was a photo opp!

Later we visited an amazing museum called White Block Gallery. Walking into the building took your breath away. The building reminded me of the open, fresh scandinavian design that I love. Huge windows framed the moutains outside beautifully.

Soon after, we made our way to Kartland where we all drove petrol Go-Karts. As we walked into the small shed office, I couldn't help but notice the signed images on the wall of famous K-Pop stars that had once visited Kartland.
After a briefing on how to drive the Karts we were able to choose our helmets. I started to panic - every helmet I picked was either too big, broken and didn't clip under my chin. I thought I was going to be the only person in the tour group who would have an accident - I thought I was going to be that person.
I summoned up some courage and decided to stick to the helmet I had on. If I tilted my head forward only the slightest, it covered my eyes. My heart started pounding and without thinking I called for some help and started trying helmets on again, I didn't want to die.
Settling on a helmet that wasn't any better than what I had on to begin with, we were all given the signal to drive.
As soon as I planted my foot down on the accelerator, I realised I wasn't going to die, I was probably going to have fun. The cold October air kissed my cheeks until they became numb. My hair danced in the wind to the sound of peoples laughter and rumbling engines. I looked up at the sky and in that one moment it all fell silent. My cheeks stung from the cold air and my hair moved in slow motion. The sky was just beginning to grow dark, it had a dark blue glow to it. Pale grey and white clouds looked like they were stuck on with glue. Just a touch darker in the middle but you knew it would fade into one colour later. Matching the background and fading into one complete colour of black.

The sound of someone passing me brought me back to my loud surroundings. Planting my foot on the accelerator I instantly felt far away from home and free. An overwhelming feeling settled in my stomach and didn't leave until my flight back home. The feeling of absolute happiness and content twisted its way up from my stomach and remained as one huge smile across my cold face.

That night we went to a traditional Korean restaurant, we were greeted by all kinds of sea creatures - cooked and presented our table. At home, I grew up on a very Polish diet containing potatoes, cabbages, pork and sauerkraut. Stepping into this restaurant was scary, I usually shy away from all types of seafood unless it's the one time a year I eat fish -  Christmas. Getting me to eat fish when I was younger was a feat on it's own, I managed to grow into liking it but I've remained stubborn when it comes to trying seafood. I'm not sure why I'm like this, I'm sure it's good - maybe one day I'll grow into it like I did with the Christmas fish.

We stayed at a quiet place in Paju called Jijihyang. This hotel is one that wants its visitors to turn off their wireless and read a book instead. The lobby was full of reading material. Simplistic with its furniture and design.
Unforgivingly, I tapped into some free high-speed wireless, I was able to check my emails and draft some blog posts.

Day 3: Sand Factory / Gangnam Shopping / Samsung D'light Shop

Waking up to the sound of my blackberry wasn't the most relaxing feeling. Thinking I was back home, I started going through what I needed to do that day, it was only when I couldn't think of a single thing I remembered I was in South Korea. It was so much easier getting out of bed then.

I gathered my belongings and stuffed them into my suitcase and made my way for the elevators.
After a western breakfast we boarded our tour bus and made our way for Gangnam. On the way our guide was filling us in on information about Seoul and how businesses like Hyundai and Samsung began. The trip seemed to only take a few minutes, despite the heavy traffic everywhere in Seoul.

Arriving at the Sand Factory we were greeted by two lovely people. A professional singer and choreographer. After being split into two teams, one team went to learn the lyrics to Psy's Gangnam style and the other the dance.
After learning both the song and dance, both teams battled it out for a winning prize. The team I was on won, we had practised our dance and tried to have as much fun as possible.

After the Sand Factory we had lunch and headed to Garosu-gil road in Sinsa-dong. There were lots of shops on this strip - it reminded me of Chapel Street in Melbourne a little. We all had a break at a cute cafe called Rabbit.

The Samsung D'light shop was next, it was located in Gangnam, near Gangnam subway station - basically on top of it!

We finished the night off with some fusion korean at Mui Mui. I started feeling a little more confident using chopsticks. It's always when you think you've got the hang of something that when you try to show people that you can do it - you can't.

We finished the night with bowling at Pierrot Strike.

The last day of the Touch Korea Tour was bittersweet, I had such a lovely time meeting new people and experiencing new things. On the other hand, I was excited to be starting my own travels in South Korea with Adrian.

I woke up feeling refreshed, not having to repack in the morning made me feel better - I'm probably the house keepers worst nightmare.
I curled my hair in the morning and sprayed it with some extra hairspray so it would still look half decent after Lotte World for the Buzz Korea Awards. I packed a change of clothes and headed for the tour bus for the last time.

On the way to Lotte World I felt like a child again, if you know me, you know I love theme parks. I don't know what it is about them, I get lost in the magic and excitement of it all. To me it's like entering a new world - the only sad part is realising it has a closing time.
It was amazing - the time spent there was short lived, so I went back with Adrian the next day.

After Lotte World, we made our way for lunch and then to the Buzz Korea Awards. On the way to the awards, I made sure I had re-arranged my handbag and thrown everything I needed into my cute Betts Clutch.

I gathered my change of clothes and headed for the awards. I have never walked the red carpet before and I was a little upset that I wasn't able to wear the clothes in my bag down the carpet. Once inside, I separated from the group and made my way to the bathrooms. In the dimly lit bathroom, I quickly changed into my H&M red dress - red was the colour of the awards.
I was so glad that I had bought this dress, it has come in so handy on so many occasions.

Walking out I started to feel more comfortable, not having to lug around my bag with a change of clothes was relieving. I met my group upstairs and as all good bloggers, we took photos of ourselves and the venue.
Grabbing a water, I noticed just how much detail and effort had gone into planning this event. The food was beautifully displayed and the drinks were flowing!

The second half of the awards was exciting, I was called up to receive my Rookie of the Year blogger award. It was an amazing feeling - getting recognised for all the effort I put into Fox and Mint.

The night was wrapped up with a lovely Korean style BBQ dinner and drinks, we all said our goodbyes, exchanged emails and images.

I hope you've enjoyed my massive blog post if you've read it! It took me a while to write!

Love you all,

-Olivia. xx


  1. Congratulations Olivia! You're so lucky to be flewn over to the beautiful Korea! ヅ

    P.S. Thanks for following ur blog.
    Glad to follow back on GFC#43.

    How about following each other thru Bloglovin, Look Book, Facebook, Pinterest and
    Twitter too? ヅ

    1. Oh! <33 Thank you! :) I'll get onto following you on the social media too! x

  2. you're so lucky! X

    1. Oh! :) Thank you! It was really exciting to win the competition. It all feels like a dream now!

  3. This sounds like such an amazing experience; all that writing was worth it because it showed what a cool time you had!

    1. Thank you! I was worried no one would read my big post! haha :)

  4. Love your photos of Korea - Seoul looks amazing!

    steph /

    1. Thank you, that means sooo much! :) It was a great place! If you ever get the chance, you should visit. :) xx

  5. beautiful trip to korea! very peaceful and fun :) now following xx


    1. Thank you Natalie! :) It was great! PS: Love your blog! xx

  6. Oh wow!! I am totally jealous hehe!! Seoul is really amazing isn't it!! It's like this hidden gem of a country not many people think of visiting~ but totally worth it!! I'm always happy when I see people have had such a wonderful time in Korea because I remember the amazing time I've had there!

    Great post!

    Talyssa xx

    1. Talyssa,
      It was an amazing trip! I will definately be going back to visit Korea again. I miss it now that I'm back home.
      I'm glad my post made you remember your time there! :)
      Thanks for commenting!
      PS: Your blog is really cute! :) xx

  7. The real comfort of travel is given by small little things not by luxurious things..........Indian Travel Agents & Indian Tour Operators