Other Stuff, Seoul
Favorite thing: There are alot of mosquitos from spring until winter. They are sneaky little #$&$%#'s. You can buy a plastic device with liquid that plugs into your wall to kill them automatically. There is also mosquito spray but you have to spray them directly and if you are sleeping that isn't possible. They will haunt you all night.
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.
I didn't use this type of public toilet but I took a photo of it for your reference. There are public restrooms that can be found in the underground shopping areas. See my warning tip on how to get the toilet paper.
I didn't see too many of these types of toilets but this one was located in the Namdaemun Market area.
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!
The Korean language uses 24 characters (or sounds). There are about 5 English consonants they do not have. Some are B, F, & V. But then, in the Korean language they have sounds that cannot be formed with our English consonants and vowels. So, example Jangsan - I would pronounce as jang (like bang, rang, sang, hang) and san (like ban, Dan, ran, tan). But it's actually more like jee-ang or gee-ang and za-eeng. It's very difficult to describe.
What I found helpful was to plan out where we were going and asked our concierge at the hotel to write down our destinations in Korean for us. So, if I needed to come back to our hotel, I had a piece of paper with "Hilton Hotel" written down in Korean. I wanted to go to the "National Cemetery" , I had that written down in Korean.
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
Favorite thing: Korea's MND is their version of the Pentagon in Washington DC, though much smaller and in multiple buildings. It is the headquarters of their military and includes their civilian defense minister and the joint chiefs of staff, along with all of their support staff. They are responsible for the defense of South Korea by utilizing the nation's 700,000 active duty troops and its 4.5 million reserves. The Korean MND is just across the street from the US and United Nations headquarters in Korea, underscoring the importance of their relationship.
Favorite thing: The city of Seoul has 10 million people in a compact 605 square kilometers area. The metropolitan area has some 23 million people, making it the second largest metropolitan area in the world after Tokyo. Seoul's downtown occupies the heart of the old Joseon Dynasty city, and is where you will find most palaces, government offices, corporate headquarters, hotels, and traditional markets. Gangnam (meaning south of the river) is the newest and wealthiest area of the city. Yeouido, a former airport, is the financial heart of the city, with the stock market, as well as the major television studios and the National Assembly.
Favorite thing: stay in a resort. You must opt to stay in a tatami room, where you sleep on the floor. It is an experience. Do not worry about catching a cold cos the floor is warm. The pillow is very lovely with the embroidery. It is slightly larger and flatter as compared to a tissue box (ehhhh Singapore standard :P). I like it so much that I bought one home.
Favorite thing: If you are looking for a bit of Sunday morning Church. I can recommend the Anglican Cathedral in the center of Seoul (on the side of Toksugu Palace and Koreana Hotel- opposite City Hall). There is an English service there at 9:30 in the small cyrpt under the main church. The Minister there is a Kiwi and gives a good message. The members of the chruch are extemely welcoming and good to talk to during the coffee after the service.
Favorite thing: If you wear grasses usually, or you want to try other unique ones, you can buy it by very cheap price. This is each 30000W including lenses, quality is also good! It doesn't need doctor's prescription because the shop person have special license for fitting grasses to customer. My favorite shops are on the underground at Myongdong station.
Favorite thing: Where am I?!! Never did I speak so much Japanese!!! Only at the Hilton did English come in useful. In restaurants, shops, sight-seeing spots: I used Japanese. Now, what has Praha got to do with any of this?! I don't know.... :))
Favorite thing: Shopping in Seoul asin other areas depends on the budget. if you go to high end areas like Myeongdong, be prepared to spend much and haggling is not done but if you go to budget areas like Namdaemun, Dongdaemun then you can haggle to your hearts delite buy YOU MUST HAVE A KOREAN INTERPRETER or TOUR GUIDE or FRIEND with you so you know if you are getting a good deal or not.
Favorite thing: English is not widely spoken or understood here in seoul and in south korea, so if you plan to use taxis or other local services like the bus or subway, it is wise to have instructions written down in Korean by your hotel front desk or receptionist as to not get lost!
When it comes to Free and Easy, planning is very important to me. Hence having a good tourist guidebook would be very helpful. To prepare this F&E trip, I visited major book stores like Kinokuniya, Borders etc and find that in general, in the context of Seoul, Chinese tourist guidebooks are far more informative than those English tourist guidebooks. And guidebooks that are from Hong Kong or Taiwan are some of the best. Hence, if you are someone who knows how to read Chinese, I strongly recommend Chinese tourist guidebooks about Seoul.
Well, one main difference about those guidebooks. Chinese guidebooks has lots of coloured pictures of the places, food, products that they recommend. Some even have prices and very details directions given.