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Let’s Go Korea! BIFF Square, BOF 2017, Jeongdong Theater, Gyeongbokgung Palace, K-Style Hub

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This is the second (final) part of the “K-pop International Fan Network Fam Trip” where we explore and introduce the latest attractions in South Korea.

Day 3

It was another hectic day for us on the third day. By 7.30am, everyone had to assemble at the hotel lobby after breakfast and room check-out for the bus departure from Yeosu to Busan. The journey was shorter this time and we reached Busan before 12pm for lunch. After lunch, we had our free time to explore the BIFF Square, one of the main attractions that solidifies Busan’s global status as the next international cultural tourist city after Seoul.

BIFF Square

Only in Busan, there is a street dedicated to be the home of Korean films. The humble beginning started back in 1996 when South Korea held the inaugural Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) in the city to introduce new films. Over decades, the evolution of BIFF has seen significant milestones and improvements, one of which was the designated area of Nampo-dong for films that is known today as BIFF Square.

BIFF Square

A walk-down of the bustling BIFF street will remind you of many famous local and international movie actors and actresses with their handprints casted on the ground. But that’s not all.

A food stall at BIFF Square

BIFF Square is filled with numerous restaurants and street food stalls for the ultimate gastronomic experience of Korean foods.

A shop selling K-pop merchandise at BIFF Square

Should the shopping bug bite you, there are plenty of outdoor market stalls, local shops and shopping malls scattered all over the district, selling all sorts of made-in-Korea goods, from clothing, shoes, caps to K-pop albums and merchandise.

A shop selling caps at BIFF Square

Besides, BIFF Square is also located between Korea’s largest seafood market Jagalchi Market and Gukje (International) Market, creating the unique atmosphere of Busan that you could hardly find elsewhere.

Opposite side of the road at BIFF Square facing Jagalchi Market

Address: 20, BIFF gwangjang-ro, Jung-gu, Busan / 부산광역시 중구 비프광장로 20 (남포동6가) 일대

Busan One Asia Festival (BOF)

The stage at Busan One Asia Festival before the opening ceremony

Right after that, we went to Busan Asiad Main Stadium for one of the grandest festivals in South Korea – Busan One Asia Festival (BOF). Into the second year, BOF 2017 was no less spectacular compared to last year, with its positive goal to become “Asia’s number one cultural festival that presents opportunities to witness the city’s vibrant cultural scenes and the Korean Wave to young people from around the world.” We also got informed that BOF 2018 would be an upgraded format!

Read More: Why Busan One Asia Festival (BOF) Is A Must-Experience Event In 2018

 

Day 4

It might be a hypothetical deduction but time especially went faster whenever I am in Korea. Sadly, it was already fourth day after we began our K-pop fam tour and the program would end tomorrow. Still, everyone was making the best of our time here, immersing the cultural experiences of the Korea that we love.

To enrich our traveling experience in this fam tour, KTO did not take the most easiest way out of simply stuffing us into a bus back to Seoul. Instead, we (38 participants) actually took the KTX from Busan Station back to Seoul! Now that I think back of this, KTO staff really did a superb job in the coordination of the program, managing such large group with a lot of details and time schedules to follow.

Photo taken outside of Busan Station

Busan Station? gulp Scenes of zombies (of the hit movie Train To Busan) instantly flashed back to our minds but hey, the fact that this article could be written now is the best proof that there is no more stray zombie lurking now. chuckle But still, I am much looking forward to a sequel of this story, only if Gong Yoo still plays the lead.

 

Korea Train eXpress (KTX)

Launched on April 2004, Korea Train eXpress (KTX) is one of the primary modes of transportation to travel around South Korea today. It is a high-speed rail system operated by Korail, the national railroad operator in the country.

Photo taken outside the train cabin at Busan Station (No zombie spotted)

Depending on budget and comfort, KTX offers two types of tickets for commuters: First Class and Standard Class. Needless to say about Standard Class but First Class ticket features single seating (oh my gosh), cozy and wide deluxe interior, served with complimentary drink, newspaper, earphones and wet tissue. For most normal global citizens like me who probably can’t afford First Class on Korean airlines, First Class on KTX is a good consolation.

Visit Korail website.

 

Jeongdong Theater & Janggu Experience

Upon arrival at the Seoul Station from Busan, we alighted and had a hearty buffet lunch nearby. We moved to our next destination of the day – Jeongdong Theater.

Photo taken at the entrance of Jeongdong Theater in Seoul

The opening of Jeongdong Theater in 1995 was significantly important in Korea as it strives to be the restored Wongaksa, the first modern theater in the country history. Over the years, it has successively become one of Korea’s representative traditional arts performance theaters.

For the fam tour, KTO arranged us to take part in the Janggu Experience program. You may ask, what is Janggu?

k-pop

Janggu is the most widely used drum in traditional Korean music. It is recognizable by its unique hourglass-shaped body with the two heads made from animal skin. While the two heads produce different timbres, they are said to represent the harmonious relationship between man and woman when played together.

After we were briefly introduced to our Janggu trainer (unfortunate that I couldn’t catch his full name), we then had our hands-on experience with our assigned instrument set right in front of us. We were taught with five most basic rhythmic sets of Janggu playing. It wasn’t hard but it wasn’t easy either. Because the pitch of each head sounds different and you have to play certain beats with accent, there is no way to smoke through without knowing you (the odd one) are playing the beat wrongly.

During Janggu Experience program inside Jeongdong Theater in Seoul

As we got comfortable playing the Janggu gradually, the trainer also increased the tempo. Of course, most of us started to find it challenging to keep up with the intense coordination between our hands and the drum. The biggest and final challenge was then to play the five rhythmic sets in one accord, and that really caught us all.

Towards the end of the experience session, our trainer shared his rich knowledge about Janggu. He also revealed that this traditional drum forms an important part of the origin of K-pop. As K-pop fans ourselves, we self-consciously know it better than anyone else that the genre, no doubt, evolves from traditional Korean music.

The trainer then showed us first-hand of how a professional Janggu player performs. As we watched on, it was just as if he and the Janggu became harmoniously one together in spirit with incredible speed and perfect coordination. I swore my drumstick would have flown out of my hand at least 100 times.

And if you listen it carefully again and again (like I did), you might be able to relate how melodious the sound can go together with K-pop. For example, think about the current hits like BTS’s “Mic Drop”.

Watch how a professional Janggu player performs in freestyle:

Address: 43, Jeongdong-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul / 서울특별시 중구 정동길 43 (정동)

Want to have a taste of the origin of K-pop? Book the Janggu Experience program today!

Gyeongbokgung Palace

For the last destination of the day, we visited the Gyeongbokgung Palace. To be honest, having visited Korea at least five times to date, I myself had been to the Gyeongbokgung Palace for probably three or four times. In fact, most of us in the group had visited the palace at least once too. However, like the others, I still chose to go again. I think I won’t ever find it boring to visit there over and over again. Gyeongbokgung Palace has to be one of the most representative Korean tourist attractions in Seoul.

Exterior of Gyeongbukgung Palace

As the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty, I still find it intriguing to visit again and again. One possible reason might be the influence of period K-dramas which are often set in Joseon era, for example the most recent historical time-travel drama Deserving of the Name starring Kim Nam Gil and Kim Ah Joong. It is a good drama. *Chuckle

Official ranking position starting from the first highest rank.

And yes, it’s true that if you wear Hanbok to the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the admission will be free! So for this tour, all of us went to one of the most popular Hanbok rental studios Hanboknam located in Bukchon (10-minute walk away from Gyeongbokgung Palace) to prepare our imperial self as we make our royal visit to the palace as some of the most imaginative historical figures in Joseon Dynasty. *Chuckle

Exterior of Hanboknam at Bukchon

Do you know that there is a legendary creature that stands guarding the Gyeongbokgung Palace? And it is a friend of Girls’ Generation? Read More: Introducing Haechi, Gyeongbokgung’s Guardian & SNSD’s Friend

Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul / 서울특별시 종로구 사직로 161 (세종로)

 

Day 5

This was it. The final day. To round off 2017 K-pop International Fan Network Fam Trip, we went to the most must-visit place for all foreign tourists – K-Style Hub.

A wall showcasing Hangul at K-Style Hub

In fact, if you are the first-time traveler, it would be highly recommended that you first take a trip down to K-Style Hub. Even if you are a frequent visitor, you can always stay informative with the most up-to-date information of travelling the country at the center.

Lee Min Ho standee at K-Style Hub

K-Style Hub was just recently opened in April 2016 with much fanfare and publicity, graced by the appearance of the then-President Park Geun Hye and famous actor Song Joong Ki. As what its name suggests, K-Style Hub is a centre for everything that is in Korean style. Indeed, it is.

Due to time constraint, we were only able to do a brief tour around the K-Style Hub. I am sure for a comprehensive tour around the centre, it could probably take at least half a day or more. There are really many fun things to do and explore as you also get to learn more about the Korean culture such as food, costume and traditions.

Before cooking of Bulgogi experience program

As part of the experience program (and for our lunch), we took part in the Korean cooking class, making our very own Bulgogi for lunch.

The instructor during cooking experience program

With the detailed easy-to-follow step-by-step instruction guided by the instructor, it was not that hard to prepare Bulgogi actually! After the hard work, we finally rewarded ourselves with our own cooked dish for lunch before we all headed to the airport for our respective flight back to our home country.

Bulgogi cooked by our participant (It’s edible!)

Address: (2nd – 5th floor) 40, Cheonggyecheon-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul (04521)
Public hotline: +82-2-729-9457

How to get to K-Style Hub (credit KTO):
Subway Line 1: Jonggak Station Exit No. 5. The KTO Building is located across from Youngpoong Books.
Subway Line 2: Euljiro 1(il)-ga Station Exit No. 2. The KTO Building is in the direction toward Cheonggyecheon Stream.
Subway Line 5: Gwanghwamun Station Exit No. 5. The KTO Building is in the direction of the Dong-A Ilbo Building


This story is presented for 2017 K-pop International Fan Network FAM Trip from 20 October to 24 October 2017, organized by Korean Tourism Organization, with special thanks to KTO staff Miss Kim So Yeon ~

Reporting by Adrian Cheng

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