Double-decker Tour Details
- Departure Location: In front of Dopngwha Duty Free Shop in Gwanghwamun area (Exit 6 at Gwanghwamun station on subway line 5)
- Departure Hours: Daily (except Mondays) at 10:00 a.m., 12:00 (noon), 14:00, 16:30, 19:00 (One tour takes approximately 100 minutes to 2 hours to complete, depending on traffic.)
- Maximum capacity: 74 people (20 on the first floor and 54 on the second floor)
- No double-decker bus tour on Mondays (service is available however on holiday Mondays)
- Tour fees: 5,000 won for adults; 3,000 won for high school students or younger
- Trained tour guide service to be provided during the ride
Fondest memory: http://www.visitseoul.net/english_new/index.htm
My personal opinion is YES, most definitely. Korea is a very safe country, and Seoul is relatively friendly and quite easy to get around. I never owned a car while there because the public transportation was about among the the best I have seen in the world. There is a lot of history and culture in the city from modern theater and amusement parks to ancient palaces and temples... no excuse for getting bored unless you are too lazy to leave the house. Koreans generally treat westerners very well, and there are many, many other westerners there due to the US military, US corporations, US/UK/AUS/NZ English teachers, and of course other foreign students. This is a very modern country with the highest cell phone usage and high-speed internet usage in the entire world, not to mention the modern subway and brand new express trains. To me this is a great opportunity that would be hard to pass up.
The negatives? People tend to do a lot of drinking over there, and the drinking age is ... uh, I don't know if there is a drinking age, maybe 19? Drugs are relatively common among the university crowd, but certainly less than at any American university. Korean men are less "inhibited" than most Americans when it comes to things like prostitution, then again, so is the rest of the world (I think the Korean government just officially closed down the last red-light districts last year). Finally, remember the Korean War never ended...each side has 1 million people in uniform just in case. The odds of anything happening are slim, but Seoul is only about 15 miles from the border between the two countries.
In a nutshell, Korea is a great country, and 99% of the problems I mentioned are problems you will find anywhere else in the world if you hang out with the wrong people! It would be a great chance to learn a lot about another culture, while still enjoying many of the comforts of home. Like most experiences, you will enjoy it if she keeps an open mind. I highly recommend it!
Favorite thing: Korean is a hard language for native English speakers to learn, but there's no reason why visitors to Seoul shouldn't learn the alphabet. Like Russian and English, Korean script is made up in letters, though the letters are combined into blocks of syllables tat may look like characters to the inattentive. Once you learn the simple rules for what sounds these symbols represent (rules with many fewer exceptions than English) you can read (but not comprehend) any Korean word. This is useful when finding subway or bus stops and may allow you to pick up a few Korean words that you see written everywhere (hajinshil == toilet is one equation I learned from reading). Furthermore, there are many Korean words that come from English (banana, ice cream) that you'll be able to read. So take the time to learn! Literacy is a great tool!
The United States has maintained an enormous presence in Seoul since the end of the Korean War. Though initially welcomed as an ally who helped ensure the country was free from communism, the US is no longer welcomed by many Koreans. Now that Korea's military is well trained and well established, the need for our military is gone. The US soldiers in Korea often cause trouble from drinking too much to the occasional vehicular homicide. And of course the area around the base caters to the miltary, while going against traditional Korean values.
Yongsan is the largest US installation in Seoul with some 7,000 people stationed here. It is the HQ for the US forces in Korea as well as the United Nations Command.
Favorite thing: The government seems to be making a concerted effort to promote Seoul as a tourist destination -- especially since South Korea co-hosted the 2002 World Cup. There seems to have been a marked increase in tourism-related construction and an outlay in tourist-related won. The refurbishment of the palaces and the number of changinng of the guard ceremonies everywhere are evidence of thais. THe newest manifestation of this apparent movement (I only know of it from what I observe) is the relandscaping of Namdeamun (Great South Gate). It used to be in the center of a traffic circle (see the picture I posted under Things to Do) but in between January and July 2005 they eliminated one quarter of the roadway so now you can walk in a park like setting right up to the gate. Even more surprising, they have posted 15th Century guards! Do they have a changing of the guard ceremony here, too? Let me know if you find out.
The Walker Hill show! Great food, awesome music, mindblowing choreography. The best blend of local traditions and contemporary global culture.
Super romantic place to take your date.
Fondest memory: Live jazz music at Once in a Blue Moon!!
And of course, the Saturday nightlife in Itaewon!
And DVD shopping at the Electronics market!
For more about our adventures in Seoul, read this:
Favorite thing: One of my favorite things about Seoul is internet access. It is everywhere. Korea is one of the most wired places in the world and Seoul has got to be the most wired city. There are "hotspots" everywhere and if you don't own a computer, you can go to any of the thousands of PC rooms (PC bong) and use one of their computers to access the internet or play your favorite video game for as little as $1 US per hour. Also many of the PC rooms offer sandwiches and beverages for a nominal fee while you use their equipment. If you are into computers this is the place to be.
One look at these street special and I said to myself "I want those yummy-looking sausages with tomato sauce"...so a friend bought me a serving. Imagine my surprise when I learned that those were not sausages…and definitely not tomato sauce! Those were rice cakes with chili sauce… sooooooo spicy!
Try it while in Seoul (or maybe in any part of Korea...I'm not sure)...you'll be craving for it once you went home to your country.
Be sure to have water at hand...the cakes are so spicy and it would surely bring tears to your eyes.
When I wrote the outline for my Korean Journal, I noticed that 2 words dominate the pages...delicious and yummy ;0) Guess that explains how much I love Korean food.
A friend let me try Bibimbap in one of Insadong's cozy restaurants (unfortunately, I forgot the name of the shop). It is rice with lots of toppings like veggies, pork and noodles. According to him bibim means "mix" and bap means "rice". You need to put some chili paste to complete the mixture. It didn't look appealing at first (imagine kaning baboy!) but it is delicious. I love how the different textures compliment each other. And I love the chili paste though not too much because I couldn't tolerate its spiciness. With it, several complimentary side dishes were served; there is something that looked like "dilis" in spicy chili sauce, monggo sprout, radish, and the traditional cabbage Kimchi.
Fondest memory: I'm not sure if it's called Mak geol li....a kind local rice wine. It is milky white in color and served warm. It is very light and not as intoxicating as Soju. For a non-drinker, I can say this wine is very nice and has a delicate flavor. Very good partner for those hot chili paste.
Word of advice:
Eat with a friend and share. Koreans serve big servings of everything! Look at how big the bowl of Bibimbap was. My friends got bored waiting for me to finish it all up ;0)
Before going to Korea, I have made quite a detailed plan; where to go, what to do, what to eat, where to shop, what to bring and all the essentials. But I have found out that the best suggestions and informations come from the locals and from the visitors who have done the same trip as you are.
The picture shows the little note on how to get to the Seoul Bus Station. A Japanese lady offered me this when she found out that I wanted to go to Gyeongju alone. It saved me a lot of time, effort and anxiety in going there. And best of all, I made a new friend!
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