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bootlegga Seoul - A travel report by James
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Seoul,  Korea, South - flag Korea, South -  S÷ul
8523 readers

bootlegga's travel reports

The best kept secret in NE Asia

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Seoul is the capital of South Korea and a wonderful city to visit. The city has a tremendous sporting legacy from both the 1988 Summer Olympics and the 2002 World Cup, as well as a fascinating history.

A very colourful building at Changdokkung
A very colourful building at Changdokkung
A city of about 10 million, Seoul can be a lot of fun. While it does get crowded sometimes, the city is full of palaces, temples, markets, all sorts of great things to visit. Over 600 years old and intersected by the Han River, it became the capital of South Korea after the Korean War. Due to its great density and population, it has become one of the world’s most ‘wired’ cities. It has an excellent train/subway system and one does not need a rental car to get around. One thing most people don’t know about Seoul is that it is a shopper’s paradise. Scattered all over town are markets selling goods of all kinds. And because a lot of what is produced in South Korea heads to North America & Europe, it is the exact same as what you will find at home, except at 1/3 the price. The climate varies wildly, from warm humid summers to cold winters where the temperature can drop below –15 degrees Celsius. The best time of year to travel to Seoul is in the Septmeber/October, after the summer heat has dissipated and before winter arrives. Check out this excellent Seoul website;

Favourite spots:
The statue in front of the Memorial
The statue in front of the Memorial
The National War Memorial. You will be hard pressed to find something more touching than this place. Out front is a massive statue of 2 brothers in a loving embrace, symbolizing how the war tore families apart. The legend states that it is based on an actual event, where a Captain in the South Korean Army encountered his brother, a Private in the North Korean army, on the battlefield.

The museum has 2 massive halls on either side of it, with the names of everyone who died fighting in the war, including ALL the UN allies. One of the best exhibits is the Combat Experience exhibit. It simulates night fighting with sound effects, lighting and vibrations. The museum is incredible. The yard surrounding it is filled with actual war machines of all types, from a B-52 bomber, to tanks and artillery, to a mini-submarine! Inside, the museum are five floors of incredible exhibits and displays dedicated to Korean martial history.

What's really great:
A very busy intersection in Seoul
A very busy intersection in Seoul
Seoul has two really great things going for it. It has both an amazing history and incredible shopping. So there should be something for most everyone, no matter your tastes.

Guards in ceremonial attire in front of Changdokkung Palace
Guards in ceremonial attire in front of Changdokkung Palace
One must see is Changdokkung Palace. This palace was built during the Choson-era hundreds of years ago and was where the royal family lived until they were murdered by invaders. Unlike most buildings in Asia, Korean palaces and temples tend to be very colourful. I think the coolest thing was that they had staff dressed in ceremonial guard when I visited.

Very close to Chanddokkung Palace is Chongmyo Shrine, the oldest and best preserved of the Choson-era shrines. Ritual ceremonies with music, song and dance still take place there, following a tradition that dates back to the 14th century.

For those interested in liberty and freedom, stop in Tapkol Park. It was here on March 1, 1919 that the Korean Declaration of Independence was read, followed by a series of nationwide peaceful demonstrations against Japanese colonial rule.

The roofs of houses outside the Emerald Hotel
The roofs of houses outside the Emerald Hotel
While I was there, I stayed in a couple of smaller hotels downtown. Neither was great, but both were cheap and clean. We first stayed in the Greenfield Hotel, which for some reason had 2 fifth floors. It was clean, but had no elevator and the rooms were small, with only a double bed.

Later, while wandering around the area, my buddy found the Emerald Hotel, which is what we had originally looked for on our 2nd day in Seoul. We moved there for the rest of our stay, which turned out to be a mistake. For more info, take a look at my travellog and you’ll find out.

A couple of friends in front of a shop in Insa-dong
A couple of friends in front of a shop in Insa-dong

There are probably a dozen different market areas in Seoul, and they are all pretty good. If you are looking for native artwork or handicrafts, stop at Insadong market. There are also many Korean teahouses in the area where you can get tea in traditional Korean fashion.

One of the most interesting markets was the Chungbu market. My travel buddy and I found it by accident after leaving the Ulchiro 4-ga train station from the south exit instead of the north exit. Along the streets we walked were shops selling all sorts of home improvement items. Down one street was 6 shops selling only door knobs, followed by 4 selling toilet seats. Down another was 4 or 5 selling windows, with the next 10 selling taps and faucets. In one alley, we found 8 stalls selling sewing machines. While some may say we wasted a morning in here, I had a thoroughly good time and enjoyed the walk.

A very cool building downtown
A very cool building downtown
If you want to find a good pub, my advice is simply get off at one of Seoul's downtown subway stations that has a university nearby and follow the hordes of students. You're sure to find something both affordable and fun.

No, it's not a sunburn, the food was spicy!
No, it's not a sunburn, the food was spicy!
There are 2 big choices here, Korean or Western food. Personally, I preferred Korean food. If you are on a budget, try eating in one near one of Seoul’s many universities. They are filled with students and usually have great prices.

Most Koreans eat kimchi for all 3 daily meals, so it can be found everywhere. My personal favourite were Kal-bee, a dish with beef or chicken, kimchi, and vegetables, sautéed on a hot plate built right into the table. Toss in a generous helping of spicy red paste and you have some good eating. After you’ve finished maybe half of the Kal-bee, they will bring you a bowl of steamed rice, which you dump into the hot plate and fry up with the meat and veggies. This is called Be-bin-bop and also excellent.

If Western fare is more your style, near most major train stations, you can find Burger Kings, Dunkin Donuts, KFCs, and Baskin Robbins, as well as the occasional Domino’s.

Other recommendations:
dongdaemun Gate
dongdaemun Gate
Other popular sights in Seoul include Seoul Tower, a giant free-standing tower in Namsan park. While it might not be as tall as Toronto’s CN tower, the view of Seoul at night is spectacular.

For the shopper, no stay in Seoul would be complete without a visit to Itaewon. While most Koreans shun this market, it is very popular with tourists. Almost everything tourists find popular is here, from clothing to luggage to knick knacks. I found a hockey jersey here for $15 US, back home it would have cost me $60 US. Many designers and clothiers have factories here and these items are identical to the stuff you buy back home, just without the costs of international shipping and customs duties.

Dongdaemun, the East Gate, dates from the Choson Dynasty and is a well known landmark. Nearby Dongdaemun market, is one of the largest in the city and has hundreds of stalls and shops. Here you can find everything, from camping supplies, to books, to pets to home appliances.

Published on Monday November 15th, 2004

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Mon, Nov 10 2008 - 06:28 AM rating by gloriajames

i was there too! brought back great memories!

Fri, Dec 02 2005 - 08:06 PM rating by jorgesanchez

so funny! there are so many koreans living in Sakhalin island where I am now writing you, and in Russia!

Sun, Oct 30 2005 - 12:43 PM rating by isaacmolina

I read your reports to learn how to improve my pwn second report better

Mon, Jan 03 2005 - 11:52 PM rating by janeyee

Hi James! Great Report!!

Sat, Nov 27 2004 - 10:59 PM rating by fieryfox

Yet another informative and well written report. Keep up the good work.

Wed, Nov 17 2004 - 08:47 AM rating by bineba

Really enjoyed your report. I like it when people mix info and own experiences in their reports. Adds a bit of colour.


Tue, Nov 16 2004 - 10:01 AM rating by mistybleu

Hey James, yet another great report. I found it very informative and I liked links you provided

Tue, Nov 16 2004 - 07:14 AM rating by magsalex

Great report - informative, nice pics. I think i need to visit!

Tue, Nov 16 2004 - 03:28 AM rating by downundergal

Wow, heaps of info - great report.

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