Seoul, South Korea

(this is updated with new info re-post from the old blog)

South Korea was always on top of my list of places to go. I went to Korea in September 2012, for 3 weeks. If you you are looking for interesting East Asian country with rich history and stunning countryside, South Korea is great for it. To understand more about Korea, you got to immerse yourself in their culture. Not the most obvious destination in Asia but its one of the best. Generally speaking, South Korea is not an expensive country to visit. It falls right in the middle of the price spectrum when comparing it to Japan or Singapore. But its so much more expensive then Vietnam or Thailand. Dorm-style hostel rooms will be your cheapest option for when you’re staying in Seoul. If you’re looking to have a big night out with your friends, your bill can become rather large in most parts of the City.

Cool things TO DO in Seoul :

  • The 5 Grand Palaces.  Buy the Integrated Palace ticket for ₩10,000 (2012 price) and you will save a lot and you will avoid queuing every time. Changdeokgung Palace was my favorite with beautiful Forbidden Garden. Access to Forbidden garden is only granted with tour, so dont miss it and check time! Gyeongbokgung Palace (Most intact) was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty.
  • Korean food! its amazing and almost on every corner. I think I came back from Korea with extra weight. Korean BBQ is fun thing to do in the evenings and best with group of friends. And Bibimbaps is Korea’s most recognized dish after BBQ and Kimchi.
  • Shopping – The amount of shopping areas/departmental stores are shocking! I came up with a list of shopping districts that you must not missed in Korea.  My fav Dongdaemun had crazy number of fashion complexes that are open pretty much 24 hours/day. Doota! sells mostly Korean designers’ brands. Just beside Doota!, there is Migliore and Hello APM shopping mall. Make note that shopping malls are closed on Monday.  Myeongdong  has a lot of stalls set up on the road/outside the shopping mall. Namdaemun is one of the largest outdoor wholesale market in Korea. The whole place is filled with street vendor stalls and small buildings. Hongdae is a very popular place. Its famous for its urban arts and indie music culture and its a shopping paradise.
  • Lotte World is a major recreation complex and world’s largest indoor theme park which is open all year around. Worth One Whole Day trip.
  • Super fun coffee shops are a must see: Dog & Cats Cafes filled with animals, especially the Bau House in Hapjeong. Other fun types are Hello Kitty Cafe in Hongdae
  • Night life, shopping and food in Youthful Hongdae area. (near Hongik University)
  • Seoul City Tour Bus. great option for a solo traveler who is looking for something to do in the evening.
  • Namsan Seoul Tower. The highest point in Seoul feels very magical especially at night time. Take a bus to the top or hike.
  • Staying in Korean Love Motel, an alternative to the Hostels. Seoul hotel prices can be challenging for the budget backpacker.
  • Sleeping at a Jjimjilbang (a Korean bathhouse & sauna). This was my favorite discovery in South Korea. They’re 24-hour public bathhouses which allow you to board overnight and relax. Some jimjilbangs are huge and feature jacuzzi, multiple hot and cold bath, entertainment rooms and restaurants. Bathhouses are separated by sex and have to be done NAKED. Sleeping arrangements can vary and you will get a special pajamas. Yongsan Dragonhill Spa – Definitely a unique experience to try when coming to Korea. Busan: Shinsegae Centum City Spaland is just amazing. Feels like weird 5 Star Hotel experience.
  • Hanok Homestay. Its a a traditional Korean house where you can stay and learn about the Korean culture and lifestyle from local family.
  • Bukchon Hanok Village – not particularly easy to find if you don’t know the exact station and exit to get out of but is definitely worth it
  • Cookin’ Nanta Show – this show is top rated attraction in South Korea.

TIPS & TRICKS:

  • Buy a T-Money Card at the airport.  It can be used as a transportation card on metro and Insert the card in the machine to load it with credit. You can reload it later as well. Basic are: ₩3,000 and ₩5,000
  • International Airport in Seoul has amazing  Jjimjilbang!!! Its a great option if you want to relax waiting for your flight. Best airport in the world for me so far.
  • KTX trains are very convenient way to travel long distance.
  • You can’t avoid wireless access even if you want! WiFi in a  Metro is a standard there.
  • Call 02-120 from a cell phone or 120 from a landline. Any questions you might have will be answered, and for free
  • Don’t be offended by pushing. But avoid the subway during rush hours, which usually run from 7am to 9am and 5pm to 6pm. Koreans are always on the go.
  • Busses – When waiting for a bus at a stop you need to flag them down or they will not stop for you.
  • Figure out metro exit numbers beforehand. You will get out in right place without trying to cross to many streets or walk too far. get Metro App.
  • Some BBQ restaurants provide bags for you to throw your clothes in so they don’t stink up. Brilliant!!
  • Korean clothing markets – Don’t expect prices to be like other parts of Asia.
  • Myeongdong Gyoja !! its amazing food! I recommend it.

Top 3 fun gifts to bring back from Korea:

  1. Electronics. Korea is known for it’s technology and cutting edge when it comes to electronics accessories
  2. Metal silverware! Metal chopsticks & long-stemmed spoons.
  3. Beauty and skin care products. Real BB cream is a must. Paper Face masks.

Fun Facts:

  • Koreans love English signs and slogans
  • Koreans love to squat, everywhere!
  • The couple matching. Boys and girls wearing same clothes or at least similar, like twins.
  • They find it impossible to sit in a metro and just relax. Almost 95% of people I saw there, where on their mobile phones.
  • Just when you thought you’d had enough tasty desserts in Seoul there is Green Tiramisu with a hint of green tea. Yummy!
  • Couple couches at movie theaters!
  • Cable channels devoted to online gaming. Yes you heard me.
  • No tipping! Yes you heard me again.
  • Soju is cheaper than water. Dollar for a bottle.
  • Heated Floors – It looks like that’s how homes are heated by default.

Seoul
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Hope you enjoy it!

 

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Seoul, South Korea. Travel Tips

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