Let me start off by saying this: we’re not all too fond of the Korea Tourism Organization.

Some of you might have heard us say this before, but I don’t think that the KTO does a good job of promoting Korea. Whenever we see ads from them, Korea is always depicted in such a boring manner. “Come to Korea, where you can wear a hanbok and climb a mountain. Did you know Korea has four distinct seasons? Do you know Bee Beem Bop? Come, visit our temples and palaces!”

Now, for some people, this depiction of a very traditionally rich Korea is right up their alley. It’s not for us, though. We’re more interested in modern Korea. Show me the techy side of Korea. Show me the guys on delivery bikes in flip flops. Show me Hongdae. Show me drinking at a baseball game. Show me a night market. Show me where people live and work and walk and play and thrive; don’t show me a vestige of the past that people don’t use anymore. I want to see what everyday life is like in Korea; I don’t want to partake in the touristy stuff that regular Koreans don’t do.

This is one of the main reasons I’ve never been to Gyeongbokgung. I’m sure that it’s a lovely place, and that you can learn a lot about Korea’s history, but I just don’t like what it stands for lately. I’m not talking about what it stands for traditionally or historically; I’m talking about nowadays, as it’s mostly used as a tourist and school trap.

When I was 16 years old I visited my aunt and uncle in Poland, and as they drove me around Warsaw and showed me the monuments I was bored out of my mind. They’d always ask if I know who Piotr Polishinski or someone or another was, and I not only didn’t know, but didn’t care. I remember being scolded for not knowing enough history, for not being a good Polishman, and I know now that this is probably getting in the way of me going to Gyeongbokgung as a result.

Which is why Martina went instead. Yay!

To be fair, she feels the same way I do, but just not with as much conviction. She finally caved and went because of her friend Jackie who visited, and she wanted to see Gyeongbokgung, so Martina complied. Here’s the video they got out of it. As you can tell, they had an ok time, but it wasn’t smashingly fun, unless you have a big imagination and can be amused easily by it. We’re fortunate enough, the two of us, that you could put us in any situation and we’d have a fun time of it, simply because we’re easily amused. If we had the choice, though, we’d go places that have more options for playing.

But, this is just our opinion. We’d love to hear your take on it. When you go traveling, do you like going to the tourist sites? Or do you like getting thrown into the mix and being confused and figuring your way around? Whenever we go to other countries, pretty much all we want to do is go to busy places and eat the local food: is that just us?

Anyhow, Martina and Jackie have some bloopers from their adventures. Check em out here!


And, lastly, make sure you click on this fancy pants button below to make sure you don’t miss out on any more videos. Hooray!

  1. Thanks for the video tour of Gyeongbokgung, Martina! When I’m traveling I definitely like to see both the touristy things and the actual everyday life stuff, they’re both interesting to me. I love history, though, and one of the things that I love about places like the palaces and Hanok villages is that mixture of old and new architecture- I think it’s beautiful.

  2. officially my FIRST post as a premium NASTY~ Shouldn’t be this excited, BUT I AM~ lol

  3. Personally for me, I can’t really enjoy one without the other because I would feel like I don’t have a grasp on the culture. I’m Korean but grew up in America so I see what makes the two modern cultures unique and a lot of it leads back to history. Like for example: Korean food has Korean history dripping all over it (even the Americanized food such as Budae jiggae has an interesting story to it.) and it adds to the experience. Again, this is for me personally and I think it’s cool how everyone has their own way of enjoying the world! (:
    To answer the question though, I fall for tourist traps because I think they still have fun things to offer and I’ll also throw myself into the city and try to go experience the real modern culture.

  4. For me, it depends on where I am. Sometimes I like the newer, modern things and sometimes I like the historical sites. But when it comes to historical sites, I don’t want to be dragged to some old thing just because it’s old. I need to have some slight interest in the monument/palace/museum to begin with. A couple of years ago, when I was in London with my dad, I needed something to occupy myself while my dad was doing some college reunion stuff, so I chose Hampton Court Palace. Never mind the fact that I’ve been there twice before (but only on the Henry VIII side). I love royalty and history and it helped that The Tudors was airing around the time I was there. Next time I go back to London, my goal is to check out the other part of the palace that belonged to William III of Orange and Mary II.

  5. When I wake up in the morning
    The alarm gives off a warning
    I don’t think I’m gonna make it on time
    By the time I got my books and I get myself a look (?)
    I’m at the corner just in time to see the bus fly by
    It’s all right, ’cause I’m Saved by the Bell
    When the teacher pops a test
    I know I’m in a mess and my dog ate all my homework last night
    Write low in my chair, she won’t know that I’m there
    If I can hand it in tomorrow it’ll be all right
    It’s all right, ’cause I’m Saved by the Bell

  6. All I could think of was… Martina’s friend has extremely blue eyes HAHA I hope I don’t come off as weird

  7. I actually just finished visiting Korea this past week with a friend of mine. We did go to the National Palace, but I personally was not expecting that much. I have traveled a lot with my family so I am used to seeing palaces, and other famous landmarks. I figured it would mostly be empty like a container or shell. For these locations, they are mostly for pretty photo opportunities. Though some places are really good at giving tours which can make the visit worthwhile.
    For our week in Korea, we tried to make it a mixture of visiting touristy spots and landmarks, and visiting the other sides of Seoul and trying to integrate into the culture. Which I think it is difficult to do without someone who lives there. One night we met up with a Korean friend of mine, and she showed us Yeouido Hangang Park. We ordered chicken and beer, sat on the grass, and talked the night away which would not have been possible without her help. (We also went to a noraebang, where my friend and I thought we could do ourselves but afterwards we realized we would have been completely lost without a native Korean)
    I was really surprised that there were so many mainland Chinese at the tourist locations. I saw a lot of Japanese, but Chinese were the majority. Also all the shop workers were very very good at speaking Chinese. Many times I gave up with English and just spoke to them in Chinese because they were better at it.
    Eating local foods was a big part of our curriculum though haha. At every opportunity we had, we would try a local dish and love it!

  8. Its a mix with me I agree that I like to see the more modern tourist areas where I can see the young hip people lol but since I actually love history I love seeing the past of where people have lived, I think it all depends on how people market since it sounds like you guys don’t like the way Korea advertises their traditional tourist areas when they could do so much better. I could get easily bored if the tourist guide doesn’t make things exciting so usually I’d go by myself and do it on my own since it seems more fun that way haha :P

  9. You and Jackie made a great video!! The style with the music between scenes was hilarious and different, too!! Loved it!

  10. It’s usually much more interesting look at these traditional architectures in context. I recommend listening to the guide recordings that they offer at the ticket window. Personally, it was much more interesting to visit kyung bok goong after watching episodes on tv show, 1night 2 days, which was aired longtime ago. They had a professor who studied this architectures with passion for his entire life explain some perspectives that you(as a tourist) would never realize on your own. It was amazing to learn that every piece in this palace has meanings and was built for a reason. Like, when you were walking on the stones that make up the pathway/track did you notice that there are three separate ways with the middle one slightly higher which is meant to be used only by the king? I just think that you can find night markets and baseball games in other parts of the world too but you can only find things like hanbok and gyung bok goong only in korea. These are the things that make korea not just different but also unique. It’s too bad that these things do not appear as attractive to some and the promotions are not doing a good job, but as a korean these are the things that make me proud.

  11. It’s usually much more interesting look at these traditional architectures in context. I recommend listening to the guide recordings that they offer at the ticket window. Personally, it was much more interesting to visit kyung bok goong after watching episodes on tv show, 1night 2 days, which was aired longtime ago. They had a professor who studied this architectures with passion for his entire life explain some perspectives that you(as a tourist) would never realize on your own. It was amazing to learn that every piece in this palace has meanings and was built for a reason. Like, when you were walking on the stones that make up the pathway/track did you notice that there are three separate ways with the middle one slightly higher which is meant to be used only by the king? I just think that you can find night markets and baseball games in other parts of the world too but you can only find things like hanbok and gyung bok goong only in korea. These are the things that make korea not just different but also unique. It’s too bad that these things do not appear as attractive to some foreigners and the promotions are not doing a good job, but as a korean these are the things that makes me proud.

  12. Would you please do WANKs at the Chicken Art Museum and the Gyujanggak Cartoon Museum? Thanks!

  13. I do both. I stayed in Korea and of course enjoyed the college life (studying there), the night life, and just going around to places and living out my days as if I lived there. However, I did do a few touristy things, as well, since being in Korea was my dream. I wanted to see more of the rich history and culture. Plus, I visited one of my “families” there and they brought me to Gyeongbokgung. It was beautiful. So I think it’s always good to at least find good balance in traveling. :)

  14. I would love to see the palace. It looked serene and beautiful.

    I was wondering…how do Koreans view foreigners wearing hanbok? Do they feel it is totally inappropriate? Do they like to see it happening?

  15. I like nature, give me trees, water and birds and I will be as happy as a clam! I guess you can say I’m not overly social… I like calm places.

    I once lived in a touristy area, it was pretty useful to practice my English with Asian tourists. But now that I don’t live there, I basically never go there anymore even though I still live close.

    I think old things can be interesting to see/visit. I like to see how things were done before all the modern inventions we have. Granted, where I live nothing is really old like in Europe but I still think it’s interesting. I don’t really like new things, maybe that’ why. I think it stinks. Like the smell of a new car… I hate plastic and old things are never made with plastic. Ok sorry for the rant…

  16. You guys did totally wrong choice … It’s not ancient! There is at least three of Korean royal palaces that opened for public now and 경복궁 is one of the most recently built and preserved ,as much as 덕수궁, most of buildings were built only about 100~200 years before. Probably the garden and pavilion is only thing really ancient. I love the place, but I would recommend you 창덕궁 or 비원. Though these places are totally limited to access.

  17. Get the audio guide. Going around unguided isn’t a great way to go, in Korea or in any other country.

  18. I enjoy both, but I like that you guys do more videos on everyday Korea versus the tourist spots. While the historical stuff is very interesting and I love it, I can find information about it easily. The hidden places that are behind an alley or tucked in somewhere, are not. Those are the places that I want to see because it takes time to find them and a lot of people who will visit Korea won’t have the time it takes to stumble across many of these. I enjoy the history of Korea because I love learning about how people lived back then, so I think it is important to experience and learn about present life just as much as the past. I don’t want to wait until it becomes history to learn about it…if that makes sense. Anyways, love your videos! Thank you for all you do and I look forward to watching more :)

  19. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been draging my family to monuments, archeological sites and museums all over Europe. I love just getting to know the vibe of a city as well, but for me a holiday is not complete without sightseeing. I’ve always loved history, it’s kind of like a real-life fantasy setting. I want to see where and how people live now, but even more so I want to see were and how people used to live.

  20. I get both perspectives. When I was in Korea, I definitely had all the palaces and ancient monuments mapped out on my radar. And I went to several of them. And they were really interesting and beautiful. But after a while, they all began to look the same.

    My favorite moments from my trip involved the more urban, day to day stuff. Grabbing coffee from the cute shop down the street from my hostel. Buying food from the stalls. Experiencing the nightlife in Hongdae. Taking the subway system and just *watching* the people. I want to go to another country to experience the people and their way of life. Seeing only tourist attractions places a type of distance between me and the citizens. I begin to feel like an outsider- rather than realizing that we are all the same and simply live different lifestyles in different locations.

    I still think that emphasizing the rich cultural history of a country is very important. These palaces and monuments helped shape the country into what it is today. It’s a way to understand the personality and outlook of the people. But it shouldn’t be the only thing a tourist organization focuses upon.

    I feel like Korea is still relatively new to major tourism- especially from western visitors. Korea is still probably trying to figure out how to market itself. I mean, when I went to France- all I could think about was the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, etc. It’s what immediately comes to mind when I think of France. But while I was there, I got to experience a whole new side- the wine, the art, the food, the shopping.

    Every country is going to have its massive selling points. Korea just has to figure out what is truly its heart and soul.

  21. Oh and since someone else mentioned a zoo, that’s the only “touristy” thing I do on a regular basis because come on guys, cute animals are totally worth it.

  22. I live in Washington DC these days and work in one of the museums and I was really surprised to find out that DC is actually a really big tourist spot for not just Americans (which I expected) but international tourists and whenever I run into a local at work they’re there either 1. Because they have friends/family from out of town and are doing the tourist thing or 2. Because we have a special event that day and they’re bringing their kids in to have a good time. And funny enough it’s doing all of that which makes me appreciate how the neighborhood I live in ISN’T a tourist spot, after dealing with crazy crowds for the cherry blossom season (and we’re coming up on summer which means it’ll be even worse oh my goooooood) I’m always so happy to get off my stop and just see “normal” people around doing their things instead of having to deal with people who don’t even know how to use an escalator right (no seriously, at work one of the jokes I have with some of my coworkers is “do you have escalators where you come from? WE DON’T BELIEVE YOU”)

  23. I went to Gyungbokgung a few weeks ago!! my boyfriend was visiting korea and was interested in traditional stuff and wanted to go there.
    actually i loved it and had a great time! it was a beauuuuuuuuutiful day and the cherry blossoms JUST started blooming that weekend so everything was pretty and picturesque and perfect.

    oh also, i kept imagining scenes from historical kdramas taking place throughout the palace grounds and that made it much more interesting haha

    my favorite part of the day was the part when randomly, chinese tourists kept coming up to me and asking to take a picture with me. why? ‘hey look at the crazy curly-haired american we saw in Korea’s Royal Palace!?” lol. it was very very strange but very funny so i welcomed it. has that ever happened to you guys? it happened to me both in korea and japan, but at least in Japan i was dressed in full kimono gear so it seemed more plausible for people to want a picture…

  24. I like visiting the traditional historical places but only once. Just to say “I’ve been there haha”. I went to Rome to see the Colosseum, it was alright. The highlight though was the Colosseum cat! Must’ve been a stray but it was cute :3 There were also a lot of stray dogs at pompeii that followed us around. It was interesting learning about the place but the highlight were the dogs xD one of them followed us all the way back to the train station. It looked so sad when we got on the train :(
    On holidays I mainly like exploring the local area, eat at a café, listen to how the language sounds. And to see the local animals! :3

  25. Personally, I’ve always been a bit disappointed in the past that you haven’t had more history related material. Don’t get me wrong…you’ve done a fantastic job showing the world that Korea is a modern, unique place with a lot more to offer than ancient relics. And I also suspect that certain landmarks and historical attractions could require explanations that might touch on some sensitive areas that could bring trouble from internet trolls.

    But I’m a history buff, dang it. You two have made me want to visit Korea. And it’s because of you that I’ve started reading up on Korean history. So when I do go, sooner or later, I’m going to end up at a palace. So it would be pretty cool if I could know what to expect and whether some of the bigger sites kinda suck or might be worth my time.

    I honestly don’t know what the Korean Tourist Board is or is not pushing. Maybe they are pushing the palaces and historical sites, but everyone I know mainly knows Korea based on the images portrayed in Western media: technology, plastic surgery, consumerism and k-pop. Most people I know could easily visualize historical sites in China, Japan, Thailand, India, etc. But they couldn’t easily visualize a Korean historical landmark. And keep in mind that Korean history doesn’t have to be all about palaces, either. There are natural landmarks, festivals and cultural museums.

    I am not saying that you need to change your style, or become some sort of tourism mouthpiece. You are all about modern Korea and what is awesome in the here and now. But the occasional historical feature does add some variety. And I think you’d be surprised how many people might be interested, even if poor Simon is not.

    • Very true! I love all your videos, but they haven’t really made me want to go to Korea. I just love your sense of humour and watching you guys interact. Through your videos I got this image of Korea being a pretty dull looking place, just another big city but without the beautiful sights you get in Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, London, New York, Paris,… I haven’t seen much nature either that would make me go to Korea in your video’s. Not saying you should change your style of video’s though, if you guys are not really enjoying yourselves I don’t think it would be that much fun to watch. Just that after several years of watching your video’s, Korea’s pretty low on the to visit list. You guys did make me become a teacher in Asia though, I graduated in july and moved from Belgium to Malaysia, and I’m loving it! So thank you guys so much for inspiring me to do that.

  26. I was just here last weekend! I went to Seoul for the first time and while I wanted to see one palace only (I like history, but like you guys I’m more interested in contemporary Korean culture), but my friend who I was with insisted on trying to go to all five. I put up with two before I put my poor, blistered foot down. I liked Gyeongbokgung well enough but after that point of walking for hours I was 150% done! Seeing you have a similar experience made me feel better for not being as into it as my friend was, at least!

  27. I like to do both, I think the trip would feel incomplete if I didn’t go to the historical places. It’s like go to Paris and don’t go to the Versailles, only because it’s boring, the History brings a lot to people, we learn from the past, and apreciate what they thought or how the saw the world… When I went to China it was really fun go to the Palaces and historical places, however in China they have english signs with explanations about the place and informations… So I guess, Korea needs more informations in this places, or as a tourist you would have to go with a book, or something… (but this is good to know, someday when I get to go to Korea I will bring some books to help me…) XD

  28. Funny. I was just visiting korea and all of the places I chose to visit are all from the KTO website. I visited the palaces but I do admit that it became a little repetitive. I did the palace package thing where it costs $10 for all palaces. Besides the palace, I went to the national museum of korea, the street by gyeongbokgung, Korean folk village, Bukhansan mountain (Baegudae peak), hongdae, dongdaemun, changgye-something stream, a bunch of malls, N Seoul Tower, lotte world, gangnam and maybe pretty much all of Seoul has to offer. Let me say that I probably kept in shape by walking a lot. I enjoyed both the historical/tourist places and the tech/shopping/modern korea…

  29. Hey guys! As someone who travels a lot I might have a lot to say about this so… Here it is.
    I never do the touristy stuff where I live. Like every legit Parisian I have never been up the Eiffel Tower. I mean, maybe one day I will, why not. I’m not opposed to it. I just have better things to do.
    When I lived in Japan, I visited a lot of shit. Kyoto is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen and in my year there I made sure to get soaked in the atmosphere of the city. It starts with the temples and shrines. I’m very attracted to pretty places so I could spend hours just wandering around a temple, looking at all the details on the roof, the flowers in the trees and all. But I had an awesome time going karaoke or shopping, cycling by the river or drinking under the bridge, just as I had learning about the ancient history of Japan.
    When I lived in Malaysia, to be honest, I mostly ate, hiked and dived. Except for Penang where I really enjoyed the old Chinese house and clan mansions. Kuala Lumpur doesn’t have much to offer in that respect. Not a big museum person. Never went up the Petronas Towers.
    When I went to Korea, visiting this palace is one of the first things I did. And I loved it. It’s gorgeous. I spent an entire afternoon there with no regrets. I’m also a photographer so I had a sweet time. But I also wandered around Hongdae! Ate food! Stopped at a cute coffee shop every 5 minutes! And just walked around the city, which is one of my favourite activities, ever.
    I’m always looking for the complete experience. How people used to live and what they wore. What they do in their free time today and what they eat. What the weather and the wildlife is like. What I can do, see, eat, drink, buy, experience there that I can’t have anywhere else. Everything!

    I understand, though, that different people have different ways to travel and experience a place. Which is why you can only travel with people who travel like you.
    Needless to say this W.A.N.K. was really disappointing to me. But a lot of them gave me ideas on places and activities to do in Seoul, like the doll painting which is haunting my dreams, so I’m not compaining!

  30. I agree that I prefer to skip touristy/historical places. When I was in Korea last October, my travel friends went to this palace. I skipped it and *gasp* went to Hongdae to check out the EYK Nasty Studio! I definitely know which was more fun.

  31. So because the Korean Tourism Organization does not promote what YOU like, you are not fond of the organization? Honestly guys that is not very fair. I do not find it boring at all and the rich traditional culture of Korea should be valued for its beauty and whatnot. I understand that you like the modern side. I like it to, but to say that the KTO is boring because they do not promote what you specifically like is…self righteous.

    • I have to agree with that. I also would like that they promoted modern korea more (specially hongdae and all the mapo area ’cause it’s freaking awesome) but disliking the organization because of it? seems like a negative approach

    • It’s not about them not liking traditional Korean culture, but about how KTO does not promote its modern side well enough. And let’s be real – in terms of traditional culture Korea does not have as much of an appeal internationally as Japan and China. Many people (esp. here in Asia) feel it’s just really similar to its neighbouring countries and don’t feel particularly drawn by Korean traditional culture. So KTO should really be promoting its modern culture harder. But instead they always put out really “forced” and cringe worthy commercials with a guy with an American accent saying “Come to Korea and you’ll be amazed by our fascinating culture!”

  32. It is true that all the Korean tourism ads on Australian TV depict Korea as a really traditional country, I never noticed XD

  33. I find that tourist attractions can be hit and miss – some are amazing and some boring and lacklustre. But still, I’d rather take my chances and check it out anyway. You need a balance when travelling, you definitely want to try the local food and see how people live. But it is nice to check out some tradition and history too.

  34. omg after watching “Lets eat” I was drooling for Korean food even though I’m not a foodie and very picky. I honestly dont like touristy places that are promoted well unless its good for artistic reference I’ll go once to get pics but I seriously love being dropped off in a really strange place and have to navigate without a guide. I got to do that in Tokyo for school. Our professors were just like OK GO BACK TO THE HOTEL and we all stood there bugeyed. But we managed even though we only knew a tiny bit of Japanese. I just love finding places that are cool on my own or recommended by people who know the area. Plus the techie and more lived in places I love, its wonderful for art reference on how to draw buildings and homes. Exploring is the best.

  35. I’m much more adventurous and my cousin happened to be a travel agent in Vietnam. So when we went to Vietnam to visit family, he basically booked this tour where we got to ride a rollercoaster down a mountain, see large waterfalls, eat crocodile meat, and ride an ostrich. So my experience happened to be a good one. :) I like traveling and doing weird things that people don’t usually get to experience or do. :D

  36. I love historical stuff like this if there was more interaction. If you saw a bunch of people dressed traditionally walking around who could at a drop of a hat give you cool information or something (errr… can’t think) I think it would be really interesting. I’m a little bit of a history junkie if there’s interaction and direction in those type of scenarios. Gyeongbokgung looked gorgeous, but like you said not a lot of playing options. You’d have to create your own fun.

  37. I live in such a tourist city, and I have yet to do a lot of things. But they are on my bucket list… Just never find the time to do so, and am too cheap. I actually like doing tourist stuff in foreign countries. I usually like the more modern tourist stuff, but the historical stuff has some fun parts too, depending on the place.

  38. I don’t mind going to historical monuments, but I have my limits. I’ve been to some in Taiwan, and I love going to the major temple in Hong Kong. But if there’s one thing I HATE, is being in tour groups. I went on one in Taiwan, but it was one I wanted to go on because it was just a beautiful park, a hot spring, and a tea shop. Also, there was only my family, and another woman. The one I went on in Macau, was deathly boring and a huge tour group. I don’t care about seeing some flower monument or whatever other monument and waiting for people slower than molasses to stop taking pictures and move. I want to see this stuff at my own pace, and have a choice on where I want to go.

    Worst monument I’ve been to was some legislative buiding in the US. I don’t care if I’m a political science major, if I’ve been to the Parliament building in Ottawa, I don’t need to see another in a country I don’t live in. I don’t even know why my aunt wanted to go there…Luckily when my parents and I go to the US, they avoid the American monuments because they believe that because we live in Canada, we don’t need to see them.

  39. I would love to travel with you guys. I am not a big appreciator of museums, they bore me tremendously. And I like art just not art galleries. I remember going to the Colosseum when I was 17. It cost 8€ at the time and I felt like it was just a rip off- there was nothing to do but see the crumbling once grandiose building. But I do have this thing about seeing some super touristy things just to say that I went and did them. Things like famous palaces, cathedrals, towers are among them. I’ve been to Gyeongbokjung and let’s just say that once you’ve seen one Korean palace you’ve seen them all. They all look the same and they all have the same exterior colouring. And my favourite part about a trip is hitting the beach, going to traditional markets and the food! On my last trip to Mexico, I had esquite (corn kernels with salt, chile, lime etc) and fried plantain for dinner it was seriously the best meal I had that whole trip.

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