I have been in Korea for about three and a half years now and I have spent most of that time in the way anyone would expect of a KAIST student: busy. Like most of you fellow students I have a tight schedule, starting in the morning with lectures and going all the way through the night with recitation classes and reports. Meals are often accompanied by a laptop or a notebook and pen, and needless to say it built up some stress in me. But when you stop and think about it, most of the international students’ goal in coming to Korea is not only to improve their academic skills, but also to get to know the country and see what it has to show in cultural diversity, to which I am no exception.
Then comes the vanilla sightseeing, which most of the people do when they come to visit Korea for short trips. This does not mean that one should not go to Gyeongbok Palace or Bulguksa Temple, both of which I in fact highly recommend. But if you have only been visiting temples, you will inevitably get the feeling of sameness after a couple different ones. And the food; well, most of us ate pretty much all the flagship dishes within the first couple of months, and personally I am not of the boldest kind when it comes to trying out weird food. I am in my mid-20s and I have plenty of energy to spend, not to mention my taste for nature and adrenaline. There are many landscape features which are unique to this country, and there is so much to learn about the country when you dare to venture into the wilderness. Four years is a long time and I wanted to dig deep into all that Korea had to show me. Looking for a different course of tourism was how I got to know the adventure tours: bike touring and rock climbing.
Although many of us can ride a bicycle, few have opted to explore Daejeon on two wheels and even fewer have tried biking to other cities or mountain biking. Gapcheon, the river in front of KAIST, is a nice start. For people with more energy, they can try biking to a nearby city like Gongju, which is only a couple hours’ ride by bike, or maybe even ride all the way to Busan. It may sound crazy, but when you are on the countryside roads, you get to experience things that even your Korean classmates never did. If you need people to ride with, go to Pedal Power, the bicycle shop by the west gate and ask to join their riding clubs. If not owning a bike is your excuse to stay at home, regular city tours are within everyone’s reach thanks to the U-Bikes (called “Tashu” by the citizens of Daejeon), which have become even more convenient with the three rental stops on our main campus.
Now, if you want to travel deep into nature, rock climbing is the right choice. I mean legit rock climbing, not hiking. While hiking trails are usually packed with weekend enthusiasts, when you go vertical the way is almost always clear. There are some people who use KAIST’s indoor wall frequently for practice (me included), which is a good start. However, if you know nothing of rock climbing but still want to go up, I would suggest contacting a guiding company. “IGuideKorea” is a solid choice. For a very accessible price you get transportation, gear rental and a professional guide concerned primarily with your safety 100% of the time. Fun is guaranteed, as well as astonishing landscape views and the feeling of having done something different.
So if you have been in Korea for a long time and thought that you had already seen and done everything here, I would suggest reviewing your touristic guides. Stop spending your vacations or weekends on campus doing nothing, put a helmet on and face the challenges. Contact the pros for help - they will definitely guide you to the places at which you can maximize the excitement within your skill level. I’m sure that you will then have some really good stories to tell when you go back home, not to mention great memories of Korea.