A general tip about eating in Seoul:
I suggest to go around and try any of the numerous Korean restaurants along the street. It's one of the best ways to experience the distinguished flavours of Korean dishes and will provide you with an unique experience... but don't expect to find an English menu!
Also, whether it's Chinese, Italian or German, every dish has more or less been "Koreanized", i.e. don't expect to find hometown spaghetti or fried rice. In Itaewon, however, are some quite authentic restaurants from all over the world.
As Koreans can not survive without their traditional Kimchi, you can expect to find Kimchi as side-dish in any sort of restaurant... I even found a Kimchi-Pizza... simply everywhere.
Nevertheless, Seoul offers almost everything... check-out the following web-site to find your favourite dish: http://www.wguides.com/city/81/subsub_92.cfm
I hate the lable "Favorite thing about Seoul." It totally doesn't apply.
Anyway, one of the key things to remember about Korea is that it is in many ways backwards from America. Have an emergency? Don't dial 911, here it is 119. Information? not 411, but 114.
There are many hospitals that have English speaking staff. The best bet for this is the Seoul National University Hospital, if you are on the north side of town. Other places probably have people who can speak English too though, or can get someone who does quickly in case of an emergency.
For non-emergency doctors, I have found that the best place to go is to the International Clinic in Itaewon. It wouldn't be my first choice if I were back in the states, there is definately an aspect of traditional asian medicine that goes with the modern science, and the bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired. But, the english is good, and if you are down and out with a virus, it is a good place to see a doctor about some antibiotics. Plus, being in Itaewon, it is in close proximity to a place where many have picked up there first STD. So in a sense, it is a little bit of one-stop shopping for those people!
Fondest memory: The international clinic's web page can be found here. http://www.internationalclinic.co.kr/
One of my favourite things in Seoul is seeing the traditional Korean costumes or hanbok.
You can see them in parades in Insadong, in traditional folk music and dance performances, at weddings, at New Year and on display at the National Folk Museum. You can also buy them in many shops in Insadong.
Favorite thing? Not really...
Favorite Korean beer? Definately.
The majority of Korean beers taste like they've been brewed from rotting monkey asses.
And then either had formaldehide mixed in (Cass Red) to give it some kick, or watered down (OB) to make it quaffable for those who like to drink weaker American beers.
The one exception I've found is Stout. A dark beer, Korean Guinness knock off?
Cheap, too, as most Koreans don't really like it. You are able to find cans/bottles in most 7-11 and Family Marts for 1600-1900 Won.
I don't know the local name but it is pretty popular around Seoul. You may find stalls by the street especially along Insadong. The bread is delicious. It is filled with red bean, prepared while you wait and served hot. Very good whether you take it with hot tea/coffee or ice cold soda.
Look and taste is a combination of the "hopia" and "butchi" back home.
1 ( il )
2 ( i )
3 ( sam )
4 ( sa )
5 ( o )
6 ( yuk )
7 ( chil )
8 ( pal )
9 ( gu )
10 ( sip )
100 ( baek )
1000 ( cheon )
10000 ( man )
43500wom: saman-samcheon-obaek won
An-yeong-ha-se-yo: Hi! Hello!
Gam-sa-ham-ni-da: Thank you
Eol-ma-eip-ni-kka?: How much
Yeogiga-eodi-eip-ni-kka?: Where are we now?
Chee-qe...Cheeke...whatever! Korean Language could be so tricky...but I am talking about their delicious stews.
I tried Sindupu Chee-qe (soft tofu and egg stew) and Twin-chan Chee-qe (spicy shrimp and veggies stew). Two kinds of dishes so that if I didn't like the first one then I have a second choice. The verdict...Korean food is great! Both dishes are delicious and I fell in love with it the first time. The tofu melts in the mouth and the spices are just right. I like the Kimchi and the other side dishes too.
Fondest memory: Word of advice:
Eat with a friend and share. Koreans serve big servings of everything!
Ga ( Street ) : Jongno 2-ga, Toegyero 3-ga
No or Ro ( Road ) : Jong-no,Toegye-ro
Dong ( Administrative Unit ) : Myeong-dong, Insa-dong
Gu ( District ) : Gangnam-gu, Dobong-gu,Jongno-gu
Si ( City ) : Seoul-si, Sokcho-si, Suncheon-si
Do ( Province or Island ) : Chungcheongnam-do,Jeju-do
San ( Mt ) : Seorak-san, Nam-san
Cheon ( stream ) : Cheonggye-cheon, Naerin-cheon
Gang ( River ) : Han-gang, Nakdong-gang
Gyo ( Bridge ) : Hangangdaegyo, Seongsandae-gyo
Hang ( Harbor or Port ) : Busan-hang, Incheon-hang
Yeok ( Train Station ) : Seoul-yeok, Busan-yeok
Ji-ha-cheol ( Subway )
Jeong-yu-jang ( Bus Stop )
Gung ( Palace ) : Gyeongbokgung, Deoksugung
Jeon ( Hall ) : Geunjeongjeon, Jiphyeonjeon
Jeong ( pavilion ) : Hyangweon-jeong
Sa ( Temple or Shrine ) : Bulguk-sa, Hyeonchung-sa
Tap ( Pagoda ) : Dabotap, Seokgatap
Mun ( Gate or Door ) : Dongdaemun,Namdaemun
Seoul hosted a very colorful and successful 24th Summer Olympics Games in 1988. It was however boycotted by North Korea and Cuba.
So there are still venues of Olympic stadiums that can be visited and relive some of the Olympics highlights.
Korean is a very hard language for a native English-speaker to learn. I have managed to pick up a few phrases, but it's a lot more difficult than Spanish to try to improvise your way through a conversation.
Luckily for people like me, all Koreans learn English in school. This doesn't mean that everyone is fluent, but it does mean that people in the service industries are likely to have that language as their second language of choice. I have found very few Koreans who can speak French, but almost all educated Koreans will have some English.
In fact, you may get accosted by students of English from Ehwa Women's University who want to interview you in public. This happened to me in Insadong and to a friend of mine at Gyongbukgung. The first questionthey asked me was why I came to Korea. "For the bulgogi" was my answer.
Of course, it's still useful to be polite and use the Korean terms for hello "Anyanseyo", thank you "kamsahamnida" and you're welcome "Chanmaneyo". Put your emphasis on the first syllable and you will always get a smile from the people of Seoul.
Favorite thing: I have been visiting Seoul for over ten years and one of the striking things I have noticed is the change in the overall attitude toward North Korea. The regime in Pyongyang is no longer considered the monstrous bully that it once was -- even as it continues to pursue nuclear weapons. I guess the people of Seoul have lived so long under the threat of massive artillery bombardment that they no longer believe it will happen. Sure, the older generation has no love for the North: they remember the war, the attack on the Blue House, the Rangoon bombings. But the Sunshine policy has allowed many Koreans -- especially the younger ones -- to imagine a unified Korea once again, so they have a more positive view of North Koreans, though maybe not of Kim Jong Il himself. This is probably helped by a rather large number of North Korean refugees who now call Seoul home. Therefore, there is even a move afoot to annull the National Security Law that prohibits travel to the North, communist literature and contacting North Koreans among other things. Certainly, things are more relaxed. A tent like the one pictured would have been enough to get someone arrested in the old days of military rule.
Favorite thing: Whenever you wander about Seoul, don't fail to enjoy the melange of 19th and 21st century views. As the Korean government focuses energy into restoring its past it also pushes the country relentlessly toward technological advancement. Therefore, you see odd scenes such as the changing of the guard at Gyeongbukgung overseen by a flatsceen video advertisement or a statue of 16th-century Admiral Yi coughing in the fumes of rush hour traffic. While it may srtrike the visitor as odd, it's no less jarring than in Boston or Philadelphia. It would be nice if the entire historic core of Seoul were preserved like that of Bruges or Venice, but it's too late for that now. So enjoy Seoul the way it is, quirks and all.
YOu can get a Goodwill guide that can take you around Seoul for free. Here's the link.
You do have to pay for their admission to events and for lunch or whatever you do. They speak your language and can help you out however you wish ex. getting around, language, shopping areas, etc...
Hand on heart - who didn't associate the Korean script with the Chinese or Japanese language?
Almost everybody who sees pictures of Korea for the first time asks me the same question: "How difficult is it to learn these characters?"
Well, be ready for a surprise:
The Korean language does NOT use characters but a (relatively) simple alphabet.
While hangeul may appear to be logographic (like the Chinese characters), it actually is phonemic, a so-called writing system which was invented by King Sejong and introduced in 1446 in order to decrease the rate of illiterates (which used to be extremely high due to the previously used and difficult-to-learn Chinese characters (Hanja)).
The Korean alphabet consist of 24 basic Jamo (자모 = letter), 14 consonants and 10 vowels, all of which are equivalent to a letter of the Roman alphabet. Adding to the 24 come another 27 jamo, which are clusters of two or three letters.
As opposed to the Roman writing, the jamo are not written in succession but in square blocks. Each block contains at least two and up to 5 jamo. You begin reading from the top left part of each block and continue reading in a Z-shape.
The picture shows you the basic jamo with its respective Roman letter next to it.
The alphabet is relatively easy to learn and helps you a geat deal when vacationing in Korea (also refer to my Tourist Trap_Language Barrier).
Even though Hangeul is used across the Korean peninsula, the Korean Chinese characters (Hanja) are still partially in use, especially in upper class newspapers. This is mainly to emphasize the meaning of a certain word in a context where the Korean Hangeul might not be clear enough.
Fondest memory: Korean writing
You will easily notice the different spellings for words while cruising the web or strolling through the streets of Seoul (e.g. Gangnam vs. Kangnam; Hangeul vs. Hangul). This is mainly due to the fact that Korea has more than one form of romanization:
a) McCune-Reischauer Romanization:
This sytem was developed in 1937 in order to represent the phonetic pronunciation for the Hangeul (Hangul). It was slightly amended in 1984 and officially replaced by the Revised Romanisation of Korean in the year 2000.
b) Revised Romanization of Korea
This system was developed by the National Academy of the Korean Language starting in 1995 and was released as the official romanization to the public on July 4, 2000. It eliminates many of the previously used special character (e.g. hyphen). The main reason for the reduction of special characters was to eliminate difficulty of entering diacritics on computers and, more importantly, rationalize Korean language with the plain ASCII text of internet domain names.
Favorite thing: South Korea is the most wired country in the world. There is more bandwidth here per person than any place on earth and all it takes is a walk around Seoul to see it. Everywhere, people are accessing internet content via their cell phones, talking or text messaging. My friends and I see this so often that we consider it the South Korean national posture. There are internet cafes everywhere, often advertised by long vertical flags containing the letters "PC" in the Roman alphabet plus "bang" in Hangul. There are hot zones in many Starbucks. If you need to get on line, you should have no problem in Seoul.
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