Though I relied on Lonely Planet for a lot of my sightseeing in Seoul, I couldn't have lived without "Seoul's Best 100" a free 80 page booklet, published by the Seoul Metropolitan Government. It has good maps of the popular neighborhoods, lists of the top attractions (and it doesn't stop at 100 -- for example, item 40 is "Parks", and it contains a sublist of the top 10 parks in the city), and helpful hints on shopping, eating, festivals and other events. It is a must for any visitor, whether in Seoul for one day or one year! You can find Seoul's Best 100 at most information booths, including Itaewon and Gwangwhamun.
When you think about Korea, you probably don't think about scrumptious delicacies but there are many wonderful sweets for the sweet tooth. There are numerous store bought cookies, cakes, and other goodies made for export but it's the things that are mainly bought on the street or in restaurants that really taste fantastic and cheap (prices start at 300 won) and see my pictures and local customs page for other pictures of yummy korean sweets!
Hangul: The Korean Script.
One of the coolest things about this country is its script, Hangul. Could you imagine if Korea still used only Hanja (chinese script), oh life would be difficult.
Anyway some guff: Hangul script is attributed to King Sejeong (the fourth King of the Lee/Choson Dynasty). And by decree it became the 'Script of Korea' in 1440. But because of the Yang Bang (Noble) class the script was only adopted by the lower or common classes. The noble classes continued to take those long winded chinese confucianist exams, and learn chinese calligraphy, and poetry etc ad nauseum. Perhaps You could say I am too egalitarian for my own good, but this was done to reinforce the chasm between noble and common, Just like the use of French and Latin in Medieval England.
What is amazing about the Hangul script (called Choson Muntcha in North Korea) is that it is soooooo easy to learn and use. It contains only 24 letters (14 consonants and 10 vowels) so learning it is easy. It is used like the Latin alphabet, with letters in combination. And what is more, it is phonetic. So how the word is written EXACTLY how the word is pronounced (an Improvement on the latin alphabet). It is is possible to learn this alphabet in a week, and once you can read hangul, have the battle is won....
You can navigate, find the toilet, read the menu, and begin to learn the Korean language (Hankuk Mal) word by word on your own.. NOW HOW COOL IS THAT.
Oh By the way, The Korean people still use Chinese characters too.. :o( (Its called Hanja). Because some words descend directly from the yangbang (noble) class, some of these words can be interchanged some can't. For instance the common word for 'Person' is 'Saram' (a Korean word) but if you write in using the Chinese (Hanja) character the same word is said 'In'.. which is distinctly korean pronunciation, but it is used similarly in Japan and China. ie. 'In' Korean and 'Rin' Mandarin. Hmmmmm!
Korean Strawberry White Chocolate
Since Korean Strawberries are very sweet and juicy, they make dehydrated whole strawberries enclosed in either whiteor dark chocolate and they sell it by boxes and a small box (12 pieces) costs 6,000 won; a medium box at 9,000 (16 pieces) won and large boxes (24 pieces) at 12,000 won! Available in department stores and duty free shops.
Mountainbiking --> Acha-san
Achasan is a chundery, exposed granite goddess, eager to thrash you if you aren't wary.
No roads up, hence no shuttles. You earn your runs on her.
Runs are steep and technical. Not for beginners, or XC riders.
You see hikers, but they get out of the way and cheer you on.
City's english newspaper sent a reporter and cameraman up with us once, for pics and a story. A fullface lid and pads are a must, unless you like leaving flesh on the trail to show where you've ridden. Bring a full camelback and munchies. In summer and fall you can usually find an Ajuma selling food, soju, beer, and ice-cream at the top of one of the ridges, but not always.
Is rideable all year, if you come prepared.
Summer is hot and humid, watch out for the odd monsoon. One hit us the day we took pics, we are all soaked.
Winter is usually clear and cold. Best season to run her is spring or fall.