How many jeans can you buy for $5?
Ahh, Seoul, the shoppers paradise. Although great bargains can be had pretty much all over Seoul, don't forget to try the markets! They're fantastic. And how much were the jeans? I found a pair for $1 (U.S.) at the current exchange rate.
You will usually get a better deal in the markets if you have a friend who speaks the language. But don't worry if you don't. I've found some pretty good bargains using just a calculator and a lot of hand gestures. The people are extremely friendly and animated. The food is gorgeous (and spicy!).
I also enjoyed looking at the underground markets near the subway system. I could lose myself in them looking at all of the kitschy stuff. I never did reach the end. I think they go on for miles and miles... My friend and I stayed at a Yogwan which is a very cheap hotel. Most of the time, they're used for lovers or young couples, so ours had a condom machine in the room. Very classy, I know.
But the price was excellent. It was cheap and clean (and the sheets & walls were decorated in pink satin).
When we arrived at the Yogwan, the manager looked at us as if we were insane because we booked the room for 3 nights. But when we checked out, the manager (this darling little old man who didn't speak a word of English) shoved a bunch of souvenier postcards into our hands as a gift. They were standard pictures of Seoul, but it was so nice of him to give us a parting gift. You meet the nicest people in the most unusual places.
Chamsil Olympic Main Stadium.
CHAMSIL OLYMPIC MAIN STADIUM.
Symbols of Olympic Games:
Olympic Rings - blue, red, green, yellow & black interlacing rings on a white background, representing the union of 5 continents. Colors chosen based on the fact that at least one of these colors is found in the flag of every nation.
Olympic Flag - Length 3 m, Width 2 m. Motto -'Citius, Altius, Fortius,' meaning 'Faster, Higher, Stronger.'
Olympic Flame - First torch relay of the Olympic Winter Games at 1952 Oslo Games. Youngest person to light the flame is Robin Perry (a 12-year old) at the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games.
Try eating in any of the makeshift restaurants in Itaewon - there's a wide cuisine to choose from. The makeshift restaurants are usually white tents and inside there are plastic stools and tables.
Street food is everywhere and most notably found in the alleys of Namdaemun and Myeongdong. Korea's open-air markets are litter-free so I was encourged to try the tempura like food and put some mustard (didn't realize that was spicy !) Water please! No wonder they wash down everything with Soju.
There were also pork and chicken in barbecue sticks. I was not courageous enough to try that sausage like thing immersed in dark orange sauce boiling hot in cauldrons, it might be the pig's intestine they were talking about!
Apart from the makeshift restaurants, there are also Western bars and restos in Itaewon (this is their tourist area).
Itaewon Subway Station
Compared to Koreans, Americans...
Compared to Koreans, Americans are very casual when speaking with people unfamiliar to them. Like many other languages, the form of Korean speech/language goes from very informal to very formal. The younger generation is a bit more accepting of different customs and cultures--there are very inquisitive and curious, so try not to be offended when a question, which may come across very frank and tactless, is meant to be a friendly exchange. The younger generation is more accepting of public displays of emotions. However, there are other old-fashioned conservative individuals. To this day, Korea is very homophobic--there is a sizeable gay and lesbian population, most of which is in ITAEWON (near the US Army Base). Koreans dress more formal than Americans. Even during the humid hot summers, Korean men (young and old) continue to wear long pants. Women have a bit more flexibility--sometimes a bit too much. As Korea's population is homogenous, there remains a 'trend-based' culture. Individuality is starting to emerge, however there are many Koreans whom dress just like the person next to them. When shopping, people of thin frame small feet tend to fare best. A 'small' in Korea would be an 'extra small' in the U.S. (U.S. sizes 0-4), medium (4-6), large (6-8 or 10). Larger sizes may get lucky, but you'll have to look harder. For shoes, a size 8 (American) tends to be the largest size stores sell for women. You can order shoes to be made, they don't cost any more than what you'd pay if you had been able to purchase it on the spot. Men probably have more selection. The only other place that may cater to larger individuals is ITAEWON--land of knock-offs. When it comes to eating, Koreans do not tip, unless you are dining at a hotel. As with most other activities, many Koreans wait for the eldest to take the first bite. At a traditional Korean home, it may be common for (the older) Koreans to burp, on ocassion, during a meal. Although burping is accepted, sneezing/blowing your nose in front of others is considered rude. If you have to blow your nose, excuse yourself and go somewhere where they can barely hear you. Also, Koreans will usually knock before entering places, such as toilet stalls or one's office. If in a toilet, and you do not knock back or respond, the person will assume that it is not occupied and attempt to open the door. Koreans, particularly those residing in Seoul, can be pushy, aggressive and at times frustrating, especially if you come from a small town or suburb. If you're there for a while, as I was, you will get into that mode and be just as brisk, if not more. You will experience this with drivers (there is no concept of driving in the designated lanes) and walkers (although they do wait for the pedestrian light to flash 'go') bumping in and out of foot traffic. Although Korean society is constantly changing, there still exists a hierarchy--and this is apparent in most activities. For example, when eating and drinking with elders, it is common to offer (and pour) drinks to those older. However, one of the benefits is that the older individual usually pays. Koreans are very generous to visitors and guests--it is extremely important that they be good hosts.
Seoul is more formal
It is a good idea to bring more business type clothes. It is a formal country and most people will have suits or good Business Casual clothes. It is rare to see jeans and tennis shoes. With so many people in hte city, bring vitamin C, multi-vitiamins, any cold medicine.