S. Korea (Seoul+DMZ tour+?), 1 week in mid-May

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rupalb9
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S. Korea (Seoul+DMZ tour+?), 1 week in mid-May

Post by rupalb9 » Sat May 06, 2017 9:44 pm

Hello,
My wife and I are headed to Seoul and vicinity for a week's vacation on 5/14. I have been making a list of what to see and where to go based upon two travel guides borrowed from the library.
Besides Seoul and DMZ tour, are any day trips worth doing?
Any suggestions for must-see sights, hotels, restaurants, etc.

Thank you.

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Nate79
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Re: S. Korea (Seoul+DMZ tour+?), 1 week in mid-May

Post by Nate79 » Sat May 06, 2017 10:06 pm

I travel to Seoul, South Korea on business multiple times per year for the last 10 years (office and hotel near Gangnam). For food I really enjoy BBQ and chicken pot. Otherwise personally I find S Korea one of the most boring countries, especially compared to almost every other Asian country I travel to (Japan, China, Taiwan, Singapore so far).

SrGrumpy
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Re: S. Korea (Seoul+DMZ tour+?), 1 week in mid-May

Post by SrGrumpy » Sat May 06, 2017 10:29 pm

I found South Korea fascinating for geopolitical reasons. The food is lousy, but there are few other western tourists. DMZ is obviously a highlight. I also liked the war museum in Seoul. Hiking is a national passion. The whole city clears out at the weekend for nearby trails, e.g. Bukhansan. We did a bunch of stuff on the east coast, incl. the captured NOK submarine near Gangneung and a vast display of phallic sculptures at Haesindang Park.

P.S. Are the guides you borrowed from the library the most recent editions? I realize that even the latest editions are potentially obsolete as soon as they hit the stores, but if you're going to spend the big bucks on a foreign trip, it won't kill you to fork over an extra $15 for your own LP or Rough Guide, etc.

eurosceptic
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Re: S. Korea (Seoul+DMZ tour+?), 1 week in mid-May

Post by eurosceptic » Sun May 07, 2017 9:10 am

Wow, Korean food lousy? I think it's a highlight of a trip to Korea. It's worth investing some time to learn about it before you go. With a week, you won't have time to venture too far from Seoul, especially with a day spent at the DMZ. You might try a day trip to Suwon fortress and a day at the Korean Folk Village. The subway reaches out there and busses are frequent. I always enjoy both when I go.

naha66
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Re: S. Korea (Seoul+DMZ tour+?), 1 week in mid-May

Post by naha66 » Tue May 09, 2017 9:22 pm

eurosceptic wrote:Wow, Korean food lousy? I think it's a highlight of a trip to Korea. It's worth investing some time to learn about it before you go. With a week, you won't have time to venture too far from Seoul, especially with a day spent at the DMZ. You might try a day trip to Suwon fortress and a day at the Korean Folk Village. The subway reaches out there and busses are frequent. I always enjoy both when I go.
+1 Korean food is great.

TravelGeek
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Re: S. Korea (Seoul+DMZ tour+?), 1 week in mid-May

Post by TravelGeek » Wed May 10, 2017 10:38 am

I booked the USO DMZ tour six years ago.

http://usodmz.com/bbs/board.php?bo_table=dmz_tour

Also took the train to the Hwaseong fortress (UNESCO World Heritage site)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hwaseong_Fortress

Both highly recommended.

plumberboy
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Re: S. Korea (Seoul+DMZ tour+?), 1 week in mid-May

Post by plumberboy » Thu May 11, 2017 7:16 am

I think you are a brave soul traveling to this part of the world at this time.

likegarden
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Re: S. Korea (Seoul+DMZ tour+?), 1 week in mid-May

Post by likegarden » Thu May 11, 2017 7:52 am

You do not need to be brave. South Korea lives with the threats from of those Northern dictators for now 65 years. I remember a business meeting in 1992 where the Koreans were joking that North Korean helicopters could come over the forests to the North of their windows. I liked to go to South Korea.

retirementbound
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Re: S. Korea (Seoul+DMZ tour+?), 1 week in mid-May

Post by retirementbound » Thu May 11, 2017 9:03 pm

It has been about 7 years but lived there for 18 months.

I would recommend the hike up to Seoul Tower and dinner at the top. There is a set price menu for ~$100 per person which was delicious and the tower rotates at night. I think it was worth the price. I think the yellow sand is starting right now so that may affect your visibility.

If you find a "beef and leaf" Korean BBQ type restaurant they were really good. Basically you order your meat and cook it on a table grill with a bunch of sides. Fairly reasonable.

If you can catch a baseball game it is very interesting. It is in the olympic area which is an interesting stop in itself. The stadium is split by team and Koreans are really into the sport.

While using the subway look for Manjoo. They are little cream/custard filled donut type things. Get them fresh. They are delicious.

Myeungdong is the shopping district which is kind of interesting if you are into that but they have this huge ice cream cone from venders which is really cheap.

If you like the bar scene Itaewan and Hongdae are popular. There was a bar in Itaewan that was like going to a beach. Think hammocks, sand, and wood boardwalks connecting the isolated areas. The meat skewers were excellent and the atmosphere was interesting.

Getting to any of the castles and historic sites are great.

I am sure you will have a great time. There is a lot to do, the subway system will get you anywhere you want to go and is easy to navigate. Just be careful crossing the streets. Red lights do not mean anything in that country.

retirementbound
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Re: S. Korea (Seoul+DMZ tour+?), 1 week in mid-May

Post by retirementbound » Thu May 11, 2017 9:10 pm

It has been about 7 years but lived there for 18 months.

I would recommend the hike up to Seoul Tower and dinner at the top. There is a set price menu for ~$100 per person which was delicious and the tower rotates at night. I think it was worth the price. I think the yellow sand is starting right now so that may affect your visibility.

If you find a "beef and leaf" Korean BBQ type restaurant they were really good. Basically you order your meat and cook it on a table grill with a bunch of sides. Fairly reasonable.

If you can catch a baseball game it is very interesting. It is in the olympic area which is an interesting stop in itself. The stadium is split by team and Koreans are really into the sport.

While using the subway look for Manjoo. They are little cream/custard filled donut type things. Get them fresh. They are delicious.

Myeungdong is the shopping district which is kind of interesting if you are into that but they have this huge ice cream cone from venders which is really cheap.

If you like the bar scene Itaewan and Hongdae are popular. There was a bar in Itaewan that was like going to a beach. Think hammocks, sand, and wood boardwalks connecting the isolated areas. The meat skewers were excellent and the atmosphere was interesting.

Getting to any of the castles and historic sites are great.

I am sure you will have a great time. There is a lot to do, the subway system will get you anywhere you want to go and is easy to navigate. Just be careful crossing the streets. Red lights do not mean anything in that country.

jrtexas
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Re: S. Korea (Seoul+DMZ tour+?), 1 week in mid-May

Post by jrtexas » Thu May 11, 2017 10:59 pm

Do you really want to go to South Korea now? I would find another place. Not with Trump's finger on the trigger. And justifiably so.

Topic Author
rupalb9
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Trip Report. was Re: S. Korea (Seoul+DMZ tour+?), 1 week in mid-May

Post by rupalb9 » Tue May 30, 2017 12:20 am

1 USD = 1,124 W
We left California on 5/14/17, had a very good time and returned home safely on 5/21.

Our Asia travel background:
We had lived in Singapore for a little over three years and had traveled to Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur, Fraser's Hill), Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket), Indonesia (Bali, Yogyakarta, Jakarta) and Hong Kong during our time there. I also had a chance to visit Sri Lanka and see the beauty of its hill towns like Kandy and Nuwara Eliya.

Korea Experiences
The weather was sunny in the day time and cool in the evening. The daytime temperatures were rising a bit every day that we were in Seoul.

After arriving at Incheon Airport, took out W200,000 at a ATM from my Charles Schwab Checking account. ATM fee W3,600. I was guided to buy 2 T-money stored money cards for W50,000 each for travel on local mass transit and taxis. An Airport Bus took us to our hotel in Myengdong which turned out to be last stop on that route. W14,000/person fare deducted from the T-money card.

We stayed six nights at the hotel in Myengdong which was very close to a subway stop. We paid under $90/night.

Koreans are friendly, pleasant people. On a few occasions, older folks attempted to strike up conversations or expressed genuine interest. A guide at the Bukchon Traditional Culture Center saw us entering the center, gently asked us to wait for him to finish what he was doing and then spent a long time giving us a detailed overview of Korean history and Hanok houses.

Metro (subway) signs are also in English also but language was still a big issue in the country. It was hard to find people who could provide very basic assistance in English. Whenever we rode local buses, we ended up getting off too soon or were too stressed about missing our stop to enjoy the views outside.

Coffee and Breakfast: I very much want to start my day with a good-sized mug of black coffee. We ended up at McDonald’s each morning for breakfast with their decent size mug of coffee being the main draw. After 4 days, I learned that I could buy a small cup of coffee at 7-Eleven for W1,000.
Coffee shops, including Starbucks, are everywhere in Seoul but a brewed cup of coffee was around W4,000.

Food: We had neglected to get familiar with Korean food in California. It did not turn out to be an issue. We ate Korean food at almost all lunches and dinners while we were there. One dinner was at Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese chain that is very popular in California. I did not miss or look for any other cuisine while in Korea.

I liked that tipping for service in not common in Korea.

Highlights
Day 1: Changdeokgung Palace and gardens, Bukchon View Walking Tour.
Day 2: We took a tour to the DMZ run by USO. Cost W96,000 plus lunch (W10,000 or vegetarian: W,7000). It was a highlight of our trip.
Day 3: Namsan Circuit: Walk along mountain pathways. Older Koreans, including many blind folks, were out in large numbers walking at a rapid pace. Very impressive. The view, the greenery and the vegetation were very enjoyable.
Day 4: National Museum. Stunning modern building. Free admission. Great exhibits.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza - modern architecture. Not much to see.
Cheonggyecheon Stream - relaxing oasis in the middle of the city.
Day 5: Were looking forward to spending the day in Suwon. Upon arriving, we learned that the English language tour had either been canceled or we had missed it. We walked around Suwon town, found it to be very crowded, saw just one historical building. It was a wasted day.
Day 6: Walked around Insadong shopping for handicrafts. Visited the very impressive Jogeysa Buddhist Temple and got to watch and hear the monks and the congregation chant. Very uplifting.

Tips
We should have spent the first day taking a hop-on hop-off type bus tour of the city. This would have given us a context and an overview of the place.

Credit card were accepted at every place that we shopped or ate at. Some merchants swiped while others inserted the card into their terminals. We were never asked to provide a PIN for our CapitalOne Visa or Amazon Visa (from Chase) cards. Both credit cards had no foreign transaction fees.

I had borrowed recent editions of Lonely Planet and Rough Guides books on Korea from the library to prepare for the trip. Half way through our stay there, I happened to ask directions of a tourist guide who was standing in the middle of a pedestrian-only street eager to help tourists. I was pleasantly surprised to have her give me copies of very good guides with excellent maps. These maps were better than any that I had seen before.

Once more T-Mobile data plan worked for us very well. We have experienced free data and text in Japan, New Zealand, India, Abu Dhabi and now Korea.

infotrader
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Re: S. Korea (Seoul+DMZ tour+?), 1 week in mid-May

Post by infotrader » Tue May 30, 2017 11:50 am

Good report, rupalb9
I was in Seoul twice.
I found the train from Incheon to downtown very easy to use.
On my last day there, I had an evening flight to LAX. I left my hotel in early morning. Took a taxi to Seoul Station and checked in all my luggage and passed the immigration at:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seoul_Sta ... t_Terminal
I spent the whole day in the city, and returned to Seoul Station to catch a 5pm train to ICN. It only costs W5000 and goes directly to the terminal.
Never seen this anywhere else in the world, and it is super convenient.

caffeperfavore
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Re: S. Korea (Seoul+DMZ tour+?), 1 week in mid-May

Post by caffeperfavore » Tue May 30, 2017 2:01 pm

For anyone else looking for things to do, I highly recommend the Seoul food tour (done by O'ngo). It's a great intro to many types of Korean food, which I think is awesome - I can't fathom how anyone could think otherwise unless you do it all wrong. Also, highly recommend the street food and night markets around Seoul. The town really comes alive at night.

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