I list out some of my bloopers while travelling in South Korea which I could remember. Hope it helps!
1. I didn’t activate my ATM card for international withdrawal
Before I depart to Korea, I did call my bank to activate my credit cards. (Make sure you have two cards at least, Visa and Master each) I also called to activate my ATM card ( I only have one saving account, bad move 🙁 ). The worst part was the card was not activated because I didn’t send a formal letter to the bank stating the reasons for international withdrawal. I didn’t know that I could not simply call the bank and get the card activated!
I had only around 50,000 won for 1 week in Seoul. The moment I went to the ATM machine in Dongdaemun, the card was rejected. I tried three times, it was still rejected. Hmmm..later that night I emailed my friend in Malaysia asking her sister’s help to activate my card. Luckily, she could uplift the block because she was the manager in authorization department.
I wanted to thank my good friend Hassan for lending me his money while I was in dire need for cash. May Allah bless you.
Moral of the story: Make sure you follow the correct procedure with banks. Don’t assume!
2. I went to the wrong bus terminal and picked the wrong date
Hanim and I decided to choose Gwangcheon for wwoofing. Since Seoul has 3 different bus terminals, I wasn’t sure which one to go. So I checked with the guesthouse’s owner. He said I should go to the Main Bus Terminal. We took a taxi because Hanim had a huge trolley bag while I had a 15kg backpack. We ruled out subway even though it’s cheaper. It was too much hassle going from Yaksu Station to Main Bus Terminal Station with heavy luggages. We paid around 10,000 won for the taxi.
Once we reached the bus terminal, the ticket officer told me that I should go to Nambu Bus Terminal instead. “What?!! Come on..you’re bluffing right?” so I thought. I had no choice but to take the subway and headed for Nambu. Aigoo.. I should have double checked and asked for second opinion.
To top on that, we had to wait almost 4 hours for the bus. There were so many people going back to their hometown because of public holiday. My mistake. Again and again. Should have picked another date instead of that day. Click the link here for our ticket to Gwangcheon.
Check this link for more information on Bus Terminals in Seoul.
Moral of the story: Get second opinion if you’re not sure and plan your itinerary well.
3. I didn’t check the review of WWOOF’s host
Before going to Gwangcheon I was a bit curious on the WWOOF’s host detail. It was stated in the WWOOF’s book that the host could accept 20 WWOOFers at one time. 20! Wow..so cool. I imagined that I could meet other people from around the globe volunteering there. I didn’t think twice and choose Gwangcheon.
It was different from my imagination. The farm was so huge and only the host,his wife, me and Hanim working on it. It means working your ass off from dawn to dusk. Harvesting is normally done during autumn. It was fun and bitter memories at the same time. Sometimes we received help from grandmothers living in the village. They were paid around 40,000 won for whole day. So cheap! I pity them.
By the second week, (I don’t know why I persevered. Maybe because I took it in good stride) I thought that this was too much and at that moment Yong Jun came to save us. Read the rest here.
Moral of the story: Try to Google for a review on the host before going. WWOOF is supposed to be a cultural exchange thingy where you trade working for 4-6 hours per day for FREE lodging and food. It is not slavery.
4. I didn’t rent/buy a handphone
Vandalism is pretty nil in South Korea so I refused to rent/buy a handphone and opting to use public phone instead. However, it is very hard to locate them sometimes and I could not contact my friends or WWOOF hosts when I had an emergency.
It wasn’t until the third month in South Korea that I decided to buy a used handphone. It happened by accident. I was on my way to Dongdaemun but I chose to drop off at Dongdaemun Stadium because I thought of exploring the area around there and later walked my way to Dongdaemun instead. After walking around 100 metres from the exit, I found a stretch of shops selling handphones but the advertisements outside the shop was written in Russian. I was curious. Hmm..maybe they sell cheap handphones for Russian workers?
I hit a jackpot. ^^. I barged into the shop and bought a used Samsung handphone for 15,000 won and prepaid reload for 10,000 won. There was a trick though. Normally they need your Alien registration card for proof, but I told them I hadn’t get mine yet and I wanted to rent the handphone earlier. My application went through. Yeay!
You could get a used handphone for FREE too but it doesn’t have much function. If you failed to rent/buy one, get your Korean friend to buy/rent for you once you reach Seoul. They could buy from GMarket too.
Moral of the story: Just rent/buy a used handphone. It’s cheap.
5. I forgot to bring medication
WWOOFing is not easy. I forgot to bring some analgesic cream or Yoko-Yoko for my sore muscle after a hard day farming ^^. Intentionally, I left my Tiger balm because I assumed I didn’t need it here. You never know when you need one. I had a severe stomach ache and I wished I had one with me at that time. If you are prone to gastric like me, prepare your prescription ahead.
Moral of the story: Prepare your medication ahead.
6. I didn’t learn sufficient Korean survival phrases
I know it’s hard to learn a foreign language. It’s much harder if the language doesn’t use the same English alphabet. Aigoo..Before going, I tried my best to learn Korean. But it wasn’t enough. I stumbled too many times for the first month but slowly I picked up the important daily sentences used by the locals. Some regions have their own dialects (Saturi). If you go to Busan, they speak totally different Korean from Seoulites. I love Busan saturi though. It’s like music to my ears.
Moral of the story: Buy one good Korean survival phrasebook like Lonely Planet’s.