The new international airport is far from Seoul, though you can get to the centre of Seoul easily by public transport. As we arrived late, we stayed in the part of Incheon one stop away from the airport. There are lots of hotels, restaurants, shops here. There was also a pleasant walk over a recreation area where people dried food in the sun. The trees in this area were beginning to turn pleasant autumnal shades.
The Dongsibjagak Watchtower stands at The Southeastern Corner of Gyeongbokgung Palace. When the great palace was constructed, watchtowers we constructed at the two southern corners to defend the approaches along the city streets. During the Japanese occupation, some of the original palace walls were removed to make room for wider streets, including the walls extending to Dongsibjagak. Today this watchtower stands alone in the middle of a busy intersection. The matching southwestern watchtower was demolished by the Japanese in 1923.
Today the watchtower marks the corner of Gyeongbokgung, the entrance to the traditional Bukchon neighborhood, and the road to the National Folk Museum.
I think Itaewon is one of the worst places in Seoul. It is overrun by foreigners. It is full of bar girls looking to make a quick dollar any way they can. It is dirty, full of graffiti, and the prices are high.
Nonetheless, I also think Itaewon can offer a few unique sites and "off-the-beaten-path" destinations. I loved the alleys of Itaewon. In the wee hours of the morning, I used the alley to sneak home past the military police that were always out to give everyone a hard time. The alleys also offer better shopping and better food than the main streets. Finally, the alleys provide a quiet, almost secluded spot to snap some unique photos...
Pimatgol (피맛골) is a narrow allow in Jogno that runs through Insadong. The name Pimatgol is literally translated as "avoid horse alley" because it was too narrow and confined for horses. This meant the alley was a huge draw for the working class people of ancient Seoul, because here they could avoid constantly bowing to royals and noblemen who rode their horses on the main street.
The alley was created during the Joseon Dynasty, some 600 years ago, and much of this passageway survives today, still lined with small restaurants, bars, and inns.
The historic alley is in danger as sections of it are destroyed occasionally to make room for new skyscrapers in the ever-growing city of Seoul.
I almost forgot to mention about this unexpected experience as we made our way out of Changdeukgong Palace. We were surprised to see crowded people on a small stall of waffles. The stall's just located near the exit of the palace. My friend and I were curious about it so we tried to taste this blockbuster waffles. The waffles were sold for 1,000won. The posters on the stall say "Naan" (a popular indian bread) and a waffle for sale.
There were 2 kinds- heart and circle shaped bread. Actually it's kinda weird because "Naan" is a flat bread but when we bought the 2 kinds of bread, both just looked like waffles. Well, both tasted good so the bread's history doesn't matter now, haha.
If I can remember it right, the heart shaped was stuffed with something like a strawberry filled (but actually it's sugar filled) while the circle shaped had only a spread of like a whipped cream. Both waffles were very tasty! I bought two just to know its difference. I liked the circle shaped than the heart shaped because it's less sweet. Another thing I find the stall amazing was the vendor, he's a deaf male. I admire him for his courage and perseverance to make a living despite of his condition; seems like he goes with the saying, "If there's a will, there's a way." He doesn't understand English so we just did hand signals.
The weather at that time was very cold and I find the hot waffles very applicable as we walk in our hotel. I used to watch Korean films and I remembered a movie about this waffles stall which was owned by a deaf vendor. I can't say that this was a similar stall from what I've seen in the film. Oh well, who knows... maybe I need to remember the film's title so I can research about it:)
The Myeongdong Cathedral is said to be the biggest church in Seoul. There are 10 Masses held every Sunday, all in Korean except the 9 am one which is in English.
Take line 4 and get off at Myeongdong station, get out through exit 6. Walk all the way down the pedestrian street past the vendors for about 4-5 blocks then turn right when you the Woori Bank branch on the corner. The church is almost at the end of this road on your right (you should see the steeple as you near).
Chongdong Theater was established in 1995 and has been working as a bridge between traditional and modern culture in Korea ever since.
Built as a reproduction of Wongaksa, the first modern theater in Korea, Chongdong Theater has been upholding the spirit of the previous theater as the only Korean theater solely devoted to staging performances.
What to expect?
Two hours of traditional yet modern performances of Korean music and dance.
What to pay?
Reservations can be made on spot or placed via telephone or their homepage.
There are two categories of tickets available:
S: 30,000 KRW (middle section)
A: 20,000 KRW (front, back and outside sections)
Personally, I think the show is extremely good and provides visitors with an insight of the Korean culture. A visit to Chongdong Theater is part of every itinerary of family and friends who visited me in Korea.
Where to go?
Chongdong Theater is right behind Deoksugung Palace in downtown Seoul (City Hall subway station). Take exit no.12 and keep walking alongside the Palace's stonewall for around 5 minutes. Check out the below website for more details.
If you're looking for a special way to enhance your visit to Seoul or simply like to surprise your partner with a lasting experience, try the new movie experience at "Charlotte".
Charlotte is a separate section of Lotte Cinema in Myeong-dong area, just next to Lotte department store.
What's special about Charlotte?
- private waiting lounge
- ticket price includes two drinks per head: one is served in the lounge, one in the theatre
- spacious movie theatre with 34 seats
- leather armchairs that can be electrically adjusted to almost horizontal lie-flat position
- huge screen with latest sound technology
25,000 - 30,000 KRW (depending on show time)
The below website is Korean only and you might just wanna have a peek at the pictures. For tickets, the easiest way is to just drop by the Lotte Cinema ticketing counter at the 6/F of Avenuel department store (right next to Lotte department store) in Myeong-dong. There is a separate ticket counter only for Charlotte customers.
How to get there?
Subway line 2 (green), get off at Euljiro-1-ga station and take the escalator to Lotte department store. You can either walk through Lotte (go to the 7/F (!) and walk over the sky bridge) or walk alongside Lotte on street level and take the cinema entrance beside Avenuel.
It's a great place for birthdays, anniversaries, etc. or simply for having an unforgettable experience with someone you like...!!!
I went hiking the other day, in the mountainous area behind my new apartment.
Was exploring, just to see where the local trails went...
Imagine my surprise to find one of Gyeonggi-do's Tangible Cultural Treasures among the local trails!
"Tangible Cultural Treasure of Gyeonggi-do #102", to be exact.
It is a cliffside Buddhist temple/shrine, and is very old.
On the cliff's surface is carved the figure of Buddha sitting cross legged, the posture he took when practicing Zen Buddhism.
There are 14 other carved areas, on which short passages are inscribed. According to these passages, this place was visited by the kings of the latter Goryeo period and the early Joseon period, to pray for the well being of his kingdom and people.
An interesting place to visit.
Now... how to get there?
If you look on a topographical subway map (like the maps at the subway station treain platforms) you can see that the pink line and yellow line meet at Bokjeong station, split and run on either side of a mountain area, and then meet again at Moran station.
The temple is in the mountain area south of Bokjeong. Yellow line runs along the west side of the mountain, and pink line runs along the east side.
Easiest way to get to the trails: Bokjeong, exit number 2. Walk straight (south) for about 3 minutes, untill you see a Family Mart on your left, along the side road. Turn left and go past the Family Mart (get drinks/snacks here). Keep walking straight. The road will curve to the right, and eventually get to an area where there are greenhouses and trees growing on your left. There is access to one dirt road, follow it up! The road is your trailhead, and will turn into a trail up the ridgeline.
Follow the ridgeline south, over three gradually taller peaks. At the top of the third peak is a forest-fire watchtower, and many bamboo plants. Take your next path right, that will take you down to the Buddhist temple.
Up, exploring, and back, will take about four hours from the trailhead.
Watch out for deer! I saw a small one.
The autumn colours in Seoul and the rest of South Korea is very beautiful and not to be missed. If you want to see the autumn colours at their best, a good time is to visit during the first week of November.
When I was at Seoul and other parts of South Korea on the first week of November 2008, the autumn colours are very beautiful, with bright red, yellow, orange coloured trees all around. However, the weather will be cold during this time so be prepared.
More photos of the autumn colours are at the travelogue section of this VT page.
If you are a bit into the history of Korea, a DMZ Tour might be something for you. Though, I have to say that usually the Korean Tourguides give you only their view of the topic. It almost seems that they have been brainwashed too in their youth. Who can blame them?
The DMZ Tour usually includes a visit to:
a) Imjingak Park
Has some monuments and the Freedom Bridge. But this place is mainly used to change buses (from your tourbus to the official DMZ bus).
b) The Unification Bridge
Nothing spectacular to see, but there are some interesting stories behind this bridge. The one I like the most is the one about Jung Ju Young. He was the founder of Hyundai and was actually born in North Korea. In his youth, he stole the only cow of his family to build up what was to become one of the biggest companies in Korea. He felt guilty, though, so in 1998 he sent 1001 cows over that bridge to repay his debt. That is why this bridge has the nick name "cow bridge".
c) The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel
The North(?) Korean built various tunnels from the North to the South to be able to invade the country. 4 of those tunnels have been discovered so far. Now, the South Korean say that the North built it and show proof (drill holes in a certain direction, etc.). Well, the North would probably say the opposite. Anyway it is an interesting piece of history.
d) Dora Observatory
If you get there on a sunny day, you will have a great view over to the North, the Flag Poles, Kaesong Industrial Zone and even Panmunjon. If they is bad, you only have a miniature of the area.
e) Dorasan Station
The most northern train station of South Korea, which is supposed to link the two railways. At the moment (2008), all train rides between the countries have been suspended.
You can pay 500 Won and get access to the platform. Not much to see though.
f) Amethyst Center
Sadly, the tours have started to include Tourist Traps such as the Amethyst Center. This is the last stop before they drop you off in Itaewon. So, you might as well get off around the Amethyst Center.
Sometimes, especially if you have a lot of Chinese Tourists on board, the bus will stop at a shop in a small village. Make sure to grab something special in the shop: North Korean Beer for 4'000 Won and North Korean Soju for 3'500 Won. They import it via China, so you won't get it anywhere else in South Korea, I suppose.
South Korea produces the world's best super copy on designer goods such as Louis Vitton, Escada, Gucci, Prada, etc. China makes inferior quality counterfeit goods. Hence when in south korea, you can buy super copy designer goods virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. where to find it? go to Nam Dae Mun Market where you can see stalls than offer poor quality fakes but once you go inside and ask for "super copy" or "class 4a" designer bags, they will get the super copy good from the hiding areas (since good counterfeit goods are illegal in south korea) and show you the latest catalog of the designer goods. be ready to haggle and if you find lots of japanese tourist beside you also haggling then be sure that the copy is really "super copy".
Korean people can hardly imagine a meal without kimchi. Kimchi is the basic side dish at every Korean food and is eaten with every meal. It is made of salted cabbages or radishes mixed with red peppers, garlic and pickled seafood. Kimchi is spicy yet sweet, and rich in seasonings, making refreshing to any meals addition. Kimchi contains the Korean spirit and, through the devotion and care it takes to make, embodies much of what Korean is. That can be stored for a long time. There are now more than 160 kimchi varieties, most of them quite spicy. Kimchi is the basic side dish at every Korean meal; it is also an ingredient in other popular dishes such as kimchi stew, kimchi pancakes, kimchi fried rice, and kimchi ramyeon (ramen noodles). Kimchi is being widely tried in various ways in an effort to create new tastes and flavors. These days, kimchi is gaining popularity worldwide for its nutritional value and disease-prevention properties.
Anything any gourmet could ever want to know about Korea’s famous pickled condiment is here: history, variations, nutritional information and the fermentation process. (Closed on Monday)
Inside COEX MALL. Subway line 2 Samseong stn exit 6
Located in Songpa, in Pangi-dong.
Easy walking distance (5-10 minutes) from Pangi subway station on the purple line. Follow the brown coloured street signs.
There are eight tombs located here, situated in two geoups of four.
Five were discovered in 1975, and three discovered in 1976.
A park was made to protect them, and they were restored in 1988 for the Olympic crowds.
There is no entrance fee, and is a nice area to walk around in.
Check out the event hall where it provide access to information about many korean drama,movie and music.There are also life-sized pictures of the artistes so that you can take pictures with them.
There is also information on tourist attractions,accomodation etc...
You can also make sure of the free internet access there.
The tourist information center is located at the basement of KNTO building. It is open daily from 9am to 8pm.
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