Country Jumping: To Incheon…and Beyond!

Summer is upon us and for many, that means a vacation is coming soon. One of the perks of living in abroad is the access to other parts of the world for a fraction of what it would cost from your home country. Fear not, for this article isn’t just for those living abroad. If you’re planning a holiday in Asia, it’s worthwhile to consider hitting up another country or two while you’re there. You never know if you’ll return to that part of the world again so why not save a little extra and maximize your experience?

Maps are fun! Myself and Sarah investigate Haesingdang Park.  Courtesy of Jon Collins.

Maps are fun! Myself and Sarah investigate Haesingdang Park in Gangwon province.
Courtesy of Jon Collins.

After some research I’ve come up with a list of top 5 places you can get to from Korea that won’t break the bank. To whittle down my list I kept the qualifying countries under 2,000 kilometres from Korea and under $500 (CAD) for a round-trip ticket starting from Incheon airport in Seoul. The months used for research were August and January as a little bit of off-season travel adds up to money saved.

In alphabetical order, here are the top 5 cheapest places to visit with Seoul as your launching pad:

CHINA

China is a huge country so I kept the search to cities near the coast such as Shanghai, Hong Kong and a little further in; Beijing. During summer or winter you can get to either of these cities for under $300 from Korea. China overall is known for its rich history, temples and landmarks. Hong Kong is famous for shopping and Shanghai for its architectural beauty from its heyday in the early 1900s on the Bund and surrounding areas. 

"The Bund" in Shanghai, China 2014.

“The Bund” in Shanghai, China 2014.

Busy streets of Shanghai, China 2014.

Busy streets of Shanghai, China 2014.

For more on my trip to Shanghai, click here for the Bund and here for the possible dangers of Shanghai.

JAPAN

Japan is another country with many destinations. I looked at northern, central and southern airports and all are doable in either season for roughly $400. Northern Japan is known for its lush forests and enchanted winters while central and southern Japan are known for their mix of traditional beauty and modern city life.

Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine in Kyoto, Japan 2013.

Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine in Kyoto, Japan 2013.

Dinner in Tokyo, Japan during fall vacation 2013.

Dinner in Tokyo, Japan 2013.

For more on Japan, check out my previous articles here!

PHILIPPINES 

The Philippines are made up of over 7,000 small islands so most people fly to Manila, then take smaller flights to whichever island through a domestic airline. My research was just to Manila but most domestic flights can be obtained for less than $100 CAD. Two of the most popular islands I know of are Cebu and Boracay but there are many more!

El Nido in Palawan, Philippines. Courtesy of thetravelen.com

El Nido in Palawan, Philippines.
Courtesy of thetravelen.com

Mount Mayon Volcano and the ruins of Cagsaua church in Albay, Philippines. Courtesy of philippinetraveler.com

Mount Mayon Volcano and the ruins of Cagsaua church in Albay, Philippines.
Courtesy of philippinetraveler.com

TAIWAN

Taiwan is much cheaper in the summer since it’s pretty hot there and less desirable to travel to but you can still make it in winter for just under $500. Taiwan has some beautiful temples and a rich culture everyone can enjoy. I was in Taipei 10 years ago and have never forgotten the mouth-watering street food that was out of this world. I ate like a queen every day and only sat down to eat a meal in a restaurant once. Buddhism is widely practiced in Taiwan so for vegetarians, you’ll eat well I promise.

Longshan Temple, rooster display for lunar new year, 2005.

Longshan Temple, rooster display for lunar new year, 2005.

Taroko National Park, Taiwan. Courtesy of flickr.com.

Taroko National Park, Taiwan.
Courtesy of flickr.com.

VIETNAM

Vietnam in August or January can be obtained for just under the $500 mark. In my experience it was cheaper to fly in and out of the northern region of Hanoi than the southern city of Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon). Vietnam is another country that covers a lot of ground and each region is very different from the next. Many fly into the north or south, then take small domestic flights to get around within the country for roughly $40-$60 a flight. You can take a bus or train for cheaper but it takes 8-12 hours to travel and to me, that’s wasting precious vacation time for the sake of saving $30.

My Son hindu temple ruins in Da Nang, Vietnam.

My Son hindu temple ruins in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Outside of Sung Sot Cave on Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.

Outside of Sung Sot Cave on Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.

For a recap on my adventures in Vietnam, click here!

Whether you’re living in Asia or just planning a holiday, it’s worth it to take a look at some neighbouring nations in your travels. Considering it costs around a thousand dollars (CAD) to get to South Korea from most places in North America, you may want more bang for your buck!

Dusk on Halong Bay, Vietnam.

Dusk on Halong Bay, Vietnam.

Until next time Dear Readers; be well, stay hydrated and remember – somebody out there loves you.

Canada Day in Korea

The best medicine for a homesick heart is a celebration of home. For Canadians abroad, that day is Canada Day. Technically Canada Day is July 1st, but for the sake of the weekend, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Korea (a.k.a. CanCham Korea) hosted this year’s Canada Day event on Saturday, June 27th and what an event it was!

Myself and Kamila enjoying the festivities.

Myself and Kamila enjoying the festivities.

CanCham is a non-profit organization founded in 1995, with intentions to promote the Canadian community in Korea through networking and social events. They are also big advocates for the Canadian business community abroad so if you’re a Canadian businessperson thinking of branching out in South Korea, get in touch with these guys. Anyway, back to the party.

20150627_12144920150627_141957

Tickets were 35,000 won (approx. $38 CAD) and a ticket got you into the venue, a commemorative Canada Day t-shirt, a delicious home-cooked burger and more.

The staff work hard to feed all the Canucks.

The staff work hard to feed all the Canucks.

20150627_122623

20150627_12271220150627_122734

People were lined up to get some grub.

People were lined up to get some grub.

The ticket fee also included two pints of beer, courtesy of Craftworks Brewing Co. and Maloney’s Brewing Co., your choice of several maple flavoured snacks and other great treats from numerous sponsors.

20150627_123023

Craftworks and Maloney's  staff serving beer to patrons.

Craftworks and Maloney’s staff serving beer to patrons.

Maple snacks!

Maple snacks!

There was a live band called Radmobile; a duo originally from Halifax but currently living in Busan, South Korea. They played for two hours in the heat, paying homage to a multitude of Canadian rock legends including Neil Young and the Tragically Hip. Their tunes definitely gave the event that added home-grown touch of Canadiana.

20150627_121339 20150627_130813

Lululemon was there doing a yoga session (in the heat! No thanks, I’m good.) and there was also a pretty badass kids play zone with blow-up bouncy castles for the little ones.

I made a friend and gave him one of my flags :)

I made a friend and gave him one of my flags :)

The Canadian Embassy also had a “moose naming contest” for their moose mascot dressed in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniform. There were lots of Canadian souvenirs for sale as well. Canada fans, caps and frisbees to name a few. Thanks to my recent care package from my friends back in Ontario (thanks Bal, Kim and Sil!) I had a lot of Canadiana on hand already but I ended up buying a hat because it made me happy.

20150627_142113

Some Canadian loot from my friends back home.

Some Canadian loot from my friends back home.

I also met a dashing Korean gentleman who had some pretty sweet bagpipe skills. He told me he lived in Calgary for 10 years so I guess he learned to play while he was there! (I didn’t have time to ask as he was helping to serve lunch.) Himself and his partner did two songs and each time was beautiful.

IMG_20150629_1 20150627_130806

I thought it was appropriate to share this story of how the CanCham organization brought a piece of home to us expats on Canada’s actual birthday. According to CanCham, over 350 people attended and they hope to see more next year! So if you’re an expat living in Korea (you don’t have to be Canadian to attend) and you reckon you’ll be around this time next year, check them out at www.canchamkorea.org, like them on facebook and you’ll be in the loop for next summer.

20150627_141507

To all my friends, family and readers back home, I wish you all a very happy Canada Day. Be careful with those fireworks!