Monday, November 20, 2017

What it is Like to Experience Winter in South Korea

Making my way downtown...

Growing up in a tropical country where it is perpetually hot and humid all year round, snow is an alien term to me. When I was ten, I always see it in movies and some photos of my friends who went to the US. They have one thing in common -  they all enjoyed it. Their smiles were infectious and genuine. It's a smile that I can't have even if I bask in the heat of the sun and try to enjoy the beach while lying on the sand. It's not fun when you're pretending sand as snow.

Earlier this year, I traveled more than a thousand miles to the north, a journey that I wouldn't forget.

South Korea wasn't part of my travel plans for 2017. It all started last year when we got bumped off from our Denpasar-Manila flight. Since we were voluntarily bumped off by the airline, we were transferred to the next available flight to Manila plus we got a free one night stay at the airport hotel (Novotel, by the way, is a good hotel), and the best part was a free roundtrip ticket to any regional international destinations. The voucher expires in six months, and I only have until February 2017 to avail this.

Testing (Iced) Waters

I had so many places in my mind, but it all narrowed down to Busan and Seoul, South Korea. Since I'm fully booked until December, I had no choice but to book a flight in January - right in the middle of their winter. Prior my winter trip, I have extensively researched about the winter conditions in Korea. I have even watched numerous video blogs about it on YouTube. As we exited the airport terminal of Gimhae, the cold was unbearable. At -3C, I was freezing. The cold blast of winter slapped me into reality. It wasn't snowing that time, but right away, I thought it is not cute to look (and feel) at. I grabbed my bag and hurriedly wore my thermal gloves. It was too cold that I can no longer feel my hands and ears.

Five layers of clothes on the beach? Why not?

Oryukdo Islands, Busan, South Korea

The following day, it got colder at -5C albeit the sunny weather. I thought my body had already acclimatised with the cold, but I was wrong. I was already wearing five layers of clothes, but I was still freezing. We explored different key spots in Busan. Around 4 in the afternoon, as we walked to the Gamcheon Cultural Village, my right leg started to hurt a bit. It was an uphill climb, so I just shrugged it off, thinking my feet were too tired from walking.

A day after, we traveled to Seoul by bus. It was a four-hour trip with two 15-min stops in between. On our way to the bus station, it began to snow. The first five minutes was cute until it became very cold. I'll take it back, I fucking hate snow. With feelings. We arrived at Seoul Station around 1PM, and we immediately felt the bitter winter cold. The streets were all covered in snow, making it more difficult to walk since it was slippery. Seoul was colder than Busan because of its geographical features.

Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Let it go, let it go.

Nami Island. White Christmas.

It got colder and windier as night approaches. For some reasons, we got lost on our way to N Seoul Tower. It became more difficult to walk because of the pain I felt on my right leg, especially when climbing or descending the stairs. The struggle is fucking real. My travel buddy accompanied me all the way to our guest house. I was cursing a lot after passing subways with no escalators.

I wished I had explored more of Seoul that time, but my leg and the super cold weather didn't allow me.

In Retrospect

Because of Korea peninsula's location, their winter is colder than Japan (except in the Hokkaido Prefecture). When we went there last January, Korea was experiencing one of the coldest winters of the century. I just can't believe that I survived their frigid winter!

The cold really bothered me, anyway.

Here some tips for you to survive their cold and bitter winter:

1) Uniqlo's HeatTech clothes were truly a lifesaver when I went there. From their pants, leggings, socks, to scarf... you name it.

2) The highest temperature when we went there was -5C (it gets colder when it's windy), and it plunged down to as low as -15C at night. Wear protective accessories like earmuffs and thermal gloves.

3) Bring a moisturizer and a lip balm. This will keep your lips and face smooth and supple. Winter can be harsh on our skin, making it dull and dry.

4) Don't forget to hydrate yourself! Just because you don't feel hot doesn't mean you'd skip a glass of water. The air during winter is dry, so drinking water is a must.

5) Enjoy the trip while you can. You only experience this once in a while, unless you live in a temperate country.

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