Welcome to Seoul, South Korea's vibrant capital of high-tech gadgetry, glittering skyscrapers and scrumptious eats. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6:00pm on Day 1. Look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where this meeting will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Your insurance details and next of kin information will be collected at this meeting, so please have these details to provide to your leader. A modern Asian metropolis that blends bold futuristic intentions with strong links to the past, Seoul is one of Asia's great cities. After the welcome meeting, head out with your trip leader and be immersed in Seoul's sights, sounds, smells and, of course, tastes! Start your Food Adventure with a taste of the local KFC – Korean Fried Chicken – known locally as chi-maek, short for chicken plus maekju (the Korean word for beer). Don't pass up the opportunity to try Soju, Korea's national alcoholic beverage. Your leader will be able to verse you in the etiquette involved. After dinner we take a walk to a local market for a food insight tour plus a spot of dessert.
Take the metro to Yongsan Station and pick up breakfast from station vendors selling everything from coffee and pastries to kimbap (Korean sushi rolls). Travel by KTX Train to Jeonju, then take a private bus to your hotel. For lunch head to a restaurant famous for its bibimbap and dozens of house specialty side dishes. In the afternoon, learn to prepare the iconic Korean side dish, kimchi. Afterwards, take a stroll around the town, where there are many hanoks (traditional houses) to admire. If you're keen for one more 'real food' experience, for dinner your leader will take you for locally brewed, cloudy rice beer which is served with yet another array of side dishes. If you order another round of drinks, more food will come out. If you order a pitcher - then you’ll get a surprise! Note: On the October departure, the cooking class will be replaced by a visit to the Jeonju Bibimbap Festival.
This morning you'll have the opportunity to start your day with a breakfast of Kongnamul Gukbap – a hot soup of soybean and sprouts – in a local restaurant hidden in Nambu Traditional Market. From here, travel by bus to Sunchang Gochujang, a village famous for the production of gochujang (a traditional red chilli paste). Taste local varieties of soy sauce, bean paste, red chilli paste and Korean pickles, then see how the chilli paste is made during a demonstration. Enjoy lunch at a restaurant that specialises in fermented bean soup, then take a stroll around the base of Mt Gangcheon. Return to Jeonju, and catch a public bus to Gyeongju, arriving by early evening. Tonight is free for your own exploration, although your leader will have plenty of great dining tips.
The city of Gyeongju is an area rich with temples, tombs, pagodas, and palace ruins (many of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites). Start your day with a stroll through the local market, learning about the ingredients and produce that form the building blocks of this amazing cuisine. There should also be time to explore some of the royal tombs - conspicuous grassy hills which punctuate the landscape around the city. Lunch will be a tasting of Korean comfort foods, including hotteok, tteokbokki, chicken on a stick - not to mention red bean bread, a specialty of this region. In the afternoon drive to the Bulguksa Monastery for an overnight temple stay. The monks at this temple practice a specific type of martial arts known as sunmudo. Be treated to a sunmudo display, then enjoy time to wander around the tranquil temple surrounds. Dinner will be vegan, in line with monastic custom. In the evening, choose to be guided through a martial-arts style meditation and yoga session or simply settle in for an early night's sleep.
Your life as a monk continues today with a 4 am wake-up for a memorable morning meditation (you can opt out of it, though, if early mornings are not your thing!). Following breakfast, learn about the spiritual values and beliefs of Korean Buddhism over tea with a resident monk. Leaving the monastery, drive on to a local farm for an insight into agricultural life. After a walk around the farm, you'll be treated to some home-made snacks. Returning to Gyeongju, the rest of the day is free to explore the city and its many UNESCO-listed sites. Note: In the case of bad weather, the farm visit will be replaced by an alternate activity.
Drive on to the bustling port city of Busan. Visit Jalgalchi Market (an enormous seafood market situated by Busan port), then savour a clam bake lunch overlooking the ocean. In the evening, head to a local craft brewery for a behind-the-scenes tour and a tasting. South Korea’s craft beer scene is exploding all across the country after a rise to popularity in Seoul. Busan boasts a fairly formidable range of brewpubs itself, many of these offering a fantastic range of beers with delicious food to boot. Local IPAs such as the Doljianchi are crafted with special yeasts that give off delicious peach highlights, surprisingly lacking in punch for a beer with 9% alcohol content. Local sour beers also make for a fine drop, some of these coming with a sting that needs to be pushed past in order to truly appreciate the unique flavours.
After breakfast at the hotel, travel by Korea Train Express back to Seoul. The afternoon is free to wander around Gyeongbok Palace, marvel at the views from Namsan Tower or check out Seoul’s most eclectic neighbourhoods of Sinsadong and Gangnam. For your final feast, head to the Majang Dong Beef Market and pick out some top-grade cuts of Korean beef for a mouth-watering Korean barbeque.
Your South Korea Food Adventure comes to an end this morning.