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Insights on Seoul

Insights on Seoul

Old Mar 27, 10, 12:46 pm
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Insights on Seoul

I have to remind myself how luck I am more often as I just confirmed a trip to Hong Kong & Seoul in late Sept. so wanted to ask forums regulars who've been to Seoul for any insights they can offer about transportation, museums, must-do sights, interesting off-the-beaten-path options, currency, language and other info for a first time visitor to Korea.

I've been to the Orient previously with visits to Hong Kong a couple of times, Osaka, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and wanted to experience Seoul for myself so am staying 6 nights at two different Marriotts; the first four nights at an almost new Courtyard in the Yeongdeungpo district and the other two at the Renaissance which is in the Gangnam business district. The Courtyard was offered at such a low travel agent discount that it's too good to pass up bu the max stay at that rate is 4 nights, hence the need to move to the Ren for the last two nights.

I speak zero Korean but am not sure whether Seoul is an international enough city that many things are signed in English and whether I'm likely to encounter many language barriers.

Anyway, just curious to hear some feedback about Seoul from the experts here on FT as I start planning this trip.
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Old Mar 31, 10, 4:42 am
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Originally Posted by tcook052 View Post
I have to remind myself how luck I am more often as I just confirmed a trip to Hong Kong & Seoul in late Sept. so wanted to ask forums regulars who've been to Seoul for any insights they can offer about transportation, museums, must-do sights, interesting off-the-beaten-path options, currency, language and other info for a first time visitor to Korea.

I've been to the Orient previously with visits to Hong Kong a couple of times, Osaka, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and wanted to experience Seoul for myself so am staying 6 nights at two different Marriotts; the first four nights at an almost new Courtyard in the Yeongdeungpo district and the other two at the Renaissance which is in the Gangnam business district. The Courtyard was offered at such a low travel agent discount that it's too good to pass up bu the max stay at that rate is 4 nights, hence the need to move to the Ren for the last two nights.

I speak zero Korean but am not sure whether Seoul is an international enough city that many things are signed in English and whether I'm likely to encounter many language barriers.

Anyway, just curious to hear some feedback about Seoul from the experts here on FT as I start planning this trip.
Surpisingly your post has not been responded. There were petitions about setting up Korea as a sub-forum! I wonder where are the Korean supporters!

I went there once in 2005: Most signposts have English (as well as some Chinese characters for roads). Lot of international shops. In terms of language it can be hit and miss: Some speaks English (broken to good ones) and some have no idea.

Subway is good and comprehensive. Food can be quite cheap there too! But you would need to do some finger pointing at some cheap places.

I will be going there next month for 1 night on quick stopover, and is planning to stay in Myeong-dong (at Ibis, which somehow actually rated number 2 hotel in Seoul in tripadvisor!!!!!) where there are a lot of things happening. Gangnam is a business district so I am not sure how quiet it is at night. You will certainly need to catch the subway to go out at night.

I suggest you read Visit Korea website as below:

http://www.visitkorea.or.kr/intro.html

Seoul Main Attractions:

http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/...jsp?cid=256001
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Old Mar 31, 10, 4:45 am
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Also I suggest you learn a few words in Korean, it would really help if you say hi in korean then follow up in English:

http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/...N_1_5_13_1.jsp
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Old Apr 1, 10, 11:57 am
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I personally think Seoul is under-rated and that those that dismiss it are missing out. Language can be tricky (think similar to your Osaka visit in terms of English usage). Street addresses are a nightmare - even the locals have no idea where something is sometimes.
I'd recommend taking the hop-on, hop-off bus tour for half a day or longer. You don't need to get off at every stop, but you can visit some of the palaces, museums and the Seoul tower is interesting and gives you an idea of the massive size of the city. Plus it is strange to see the signs at the top of the tower showing direction and distances to other cities and realising how close Pyongyang is.... And speaking of which, I'd also recommend a DMZ tour - I think there are a couple of threads on the various options.
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Old Apr 2, 10, 8:00 am
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Originally Posted by edison View Post
I will be going there next month for 1 night on quick stopover, and is planning to stay in Myeong-dong (at Ibis, which somehow actually rated number 2 hotel in Seoul in tripadvisor!!!!!) where there are a lot of things happening.
Thanks for the input.

I had looked at that Ibis having stayed at a few in Europe but since I was getting the much nicer and almost new Courtyard for slightly less it seemed the better bet despite its location. I'm okay with subways and usually figure out how things work the first few times.

Originally Posted by Captain Schmidt
And speaking of which, I'd also recommend a DMZ tour - I think there are a couple of threads on the various options.
^ I'm making this one of those must-do activities.
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Old Apr 6, 10, 9:10 pm
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The subway has better English signage, than the metro in Osaka, but English ability/signage on the street is comparable. Of course, at the tourist attractions/tourist areas there will be more of an international presence, therefore more English, but if you are staying in Yeongdeungpo, expect there to be much less English than say Kangnam, or Myungdong.

I recommend looking over
http://wikitravel.org/en/Seoul

Despite what people will tell you, avoid Itaewon, its a foreigner ghetto. If you want to see Seoul, Itaewon isn't it.

If you have any other questions, just ask, I live in Seoul, so I can answer alot of questions.
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Old Apr 7, 10, 4:13 am
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Let me just say outright... getting around Seoul by subway will NOT be a problem. Stations are sequentially numbered so you don't even need to pronounce or remember the subway stops. Signs and maps are clear and plenty. People are helpful and most youngish people speak some English, enough to get directions if you ever get lost.

I did the Panmunjom bus tour with guide (rather than the DMZ) and enjoyed it. Be forewarned: It's a full day tour with a lot of dead time due to drive to/from. When you get there, there's more dead time because your group has to attend a UN briefing then transfer to UN tour bus for the actual tour. I'd say the actual "meaningful" parts of the tour add up to no more than 2 hours tops.

My brother did DMZ and didn't enjoy it as much. YMMV. You can also do both in one full day tour but I don't know how harrying that would be.

I stayed at the Park Hyatt which is located supposedly in the heart of the Gangnam area. Much as I love the hotel, I would not stay there as a tourist because the area is almost indistinguishable from any financial or business district at any world-class city. The downtown areas north of the river appears to be more interesting from a tourist's perspective.
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Old Apr 17, 10, 2:39 am
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I had a great visit to Seoul recently. Compared to many countries in Asia there isn't a lot of English spoken, though. My one suggestion is if you are a foodie, learn to read the hangul alphabet otherwise you will not be able to eat at most restaurants. The alphabet is incredibly easy to learn, I just made some flashcards and had it down in a day. This only works if you know the name of some Korean dishes, but those are also very easy to pick up.

The subways are very easy to get around. I also did the hop on hop off bus and thought it was worth the price. A lot of the museums in town are really interesting. War musuem was good and I don't usually go in for that sort of thing. My favorite was the kimchi museum. Some of the larger temples have tours in English, but you really don't need a tour. I also took a cooking class at the Institute for Royal Cuisine that was great. If you like cooking, I'd highly recommend taking a class somewhere because Korean food is amazing!

DMZ tour was B-O-R-I-N-G. It really felt like a huge American propaganda piece (I went with the USO) and I left feeling ripped off and wondering why I had woken up so early on my holiday.
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Old Apr 18, 10, 3:48 pm
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Originally Posted by giblet View Post
DMZ tour was B-O-R-I-N-G. It really felt like a huge American propaganda piece (I went with the USO) and I left feeling ripped off and wondering why I had woken up so early on my holiday.
Yikes, I just booked that trip for May 6th! Should I go ahead and just get a refund? What was so bad about it?
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Old Apr 19, 10, 9:49 am
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Originally Posted by glenny84 View Post
Yikes, I just booked that trip for May 6th! Should I go ahead and just get a refund? What was so bad about it?
I think this is a case of YMMV. I thought it was fascinating.

I didn't use USO but I would imagine their tours are geared towards US military and their families so are perhaps not suprisingly going to be pro-American. If you think that military propaganda is an issue for you, find someone else to take you.
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Old Apr 19, 10, 10:56 am
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Re: the DMZ tour

I guess maybe it wasn't my thing, and I can see that other people would find it more interesting than I did.

I just didn't find the tension "palpable" as they like to say, over and over. I found the tension rather contrived, in fact. Basically they just take you to a few buildings where there are a bunch of North Korean soldiers facing you from a ways away.

They have a room that they take you in where they do all their negotiating, but this was closed due to swine flu when I was there. So basically we were just getting walked around in the rain and then taken to a couple of gift shops. We also went into the tunnels but it was just a long line of people crowding into a very long tunnel. It's a pretty long bus ride from Seoul and because it was winter when I went it was a very long, freezing cold bus ride which made me pretty cranky.

I said it was American propaganda just because it did feel very contrived. If the American government felt that it was even half as dangerous as they make it out to be, they definitely would not be giving tours there.

I find the situation between North and South Korea very interesting but the tour wasn't even nearly as interesting as watching the Vice Guide to North Korea video series. Just my opinion, obviously.
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Old Apr 21, 10, 6:42 am
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As with most forums there are already some very good threads on the subject you are asking about, search function is your friend !!

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/asia/...urs-seoul.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/asia/...ood-korea.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/asia/...tms-seoul.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/asia/...oul-korea.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/asia/...-bad-idea.html

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Old Apr 21, 10, 9:49 pm
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So this is how you mastered your savvy Korean tourist expertise???
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Old Apr 21, 10, 10:07 pm
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I visited Seoul in 2007, so here are my two cents.

I am very obviously not Korean. While walking around, every time I stopped for more than five seconds to try and comprehend a subway map or sign, some random local would walk up and try in earnest to help me, even though they didn't speak English and I don't speak Korean. I was amazed - I've never encountered this level of helpfulness anywhere else in the world.

I'll second the advice to learn the Korean alphabet. It really is easy. Heck, you can learn it on the plane ride over. Keep a quick reference card in your pocket or on your phone or something if you like.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the DMZ tour and I did get to visit the negotiation room and step across the border inside the room. I didn't do the USO tour. But I am especially interested in the history of the Korea split, and having read up on that enhanced the experience because I didn't really need to listen to the tour guide. If you are not as interested in the history and politics I can see how it might be boring.
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Old Apr 22, 10, 6:52 am
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Originally Posted by skchin View Post
So this is how you mastered your savvy Korean tourist expertise???
ha ha, Flyertalk info helped greatly:-:^:-:

As usual no need to re-invent the wheel, good threads alredy exist, we loved Seoul, heading back late this year.
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