A March 2005 trip
to Seoul by neworleanstraveler
Quote: On my first trip to Asia, Seoul, South Korea, was my final destination. I wasn't disappointed. Seoul is a blend of old and new. A harmonious mixture of ancient customs and fast-paced urban metropolis, all within an hour's journey of the tense border between North and South.
However, highlights are always my interactions with the locals. While having a nice dinner of Gimchi in a quaint restaurant in the Myeong Dong district, we were interrupted by the waitress trying her best to tell us something. We weren't quite sure what to make of the situation, but went about finishing our meal after nodding to the waitress. When our plates were cleared, an aging, small Korean man in a chef's hat with a cigarette comes to our table and sits with us. Our Korean chef, he introduced himeself as John and proceeded to visit with us for over half an hour. He was former military and had lived and trained with the U.S. on several occasions as a young man. He told us about his military exploits, the old, pre-war Seoul, and a tale about how he used to be the lead chef on one of Aristotle Onassis's yachts (I can't confirm or deny the validity of this last one!!). John would be a highlight any day of the week and will be a memory always!
I would be remiss to not advise all to visit the National Folk Museum, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace (Site of the Secret Garden), Tour of the DMZ, and of course, shopping at Insadong and Namdaemun!
A suggestion that will inevitably save you time and money is before setting out on a taxi ride, use the translation service that some of the taxis in Seoul utilize. You sit in the back seat, and there is a phone that connects you to a translator who will give the driver the location that you want to go to in his or her language. What a fantastic idea! If only I had figured this out the first two times I was driven aimlessly around Seoul!
Also, carry tissue with you--public restrooms in the underground shopping/subway are usually not the cleanest and rarely have any paper products.
This having been said, do not hesitate to use the network of subways and taxis that Seoul offers. They are very inexpensive and not complicated once you have the stops (get an English subway map at your hotel) or find the translator phone in your taxi.
Once inside, the lobby is small and unimpressive, but the service is very satisfactory and pleasant. The front desk staff were all helpful and very speedy in making check-in easy. They also provided suggestions for sights and restaurants in the area.
Our room was #818--small, which was not unexpected, and comfortable, but not stocked with the expected soaps and shampoos that are customarily expected (just bring your own). The temperature is adjustable and the climate of the room was very nice.
The TV reception was fuzzy and the best reception was for the US military channel, which was announcing the planned Korean protest march at the US base at Itaewon. The protest march was to begin at 3pm and end promptly at 3:45pm (even the protest marches are tightly organized)!!
The bathroom was small but adequate, with good towels and water pressure. On the third floor of the hotel is a men's only Korean bath. Didn't try it out, but some others in my group did and said that it was very relaxing.
The included breakfast was very good. Traditional Western items and the additional kimchi, salad items, and french fries. The business center is to the right of the front desk, and Internet access is free for half-hour blocks of time.
The Myung-dong area is very compact with tons of shopping, restaurants (tons of Western eateries like Burger King, Starbucks, and Popeyes) and historical sights.
Great area for a hotel!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 22, 2005
Seoul Royal Hotel
6 1 KA MYUNG DONG
Seoul, South Korea
82 2 7714500
The setting is priceless. A spectacular group of buildings house the complex, with an ample gift shop and courtyard for drum demonstrations. The garden is tranquil and calming, and wedding ceremonies can be housed there if you're ever interested.
The main building, which was at one time a private home (and a magnificent home it must have been), is used as a small reception area, dining facility, and the performance venue.
After being entertained in the courtyard by the drum demo, you are ushered in to the Korean feast. It's a visual delight of all things Korean--roasted, barbequed meats, kimchi, salads, marinated veggies, and many sweets till your heart and stomach cry "uncle!" from the delights.
As if this wasn't enough, the dance and musical performance follows! The colors, movement, and lyrical melodies were truly a delight. I was in awe of the rhythmic dancers and their visual masterpiece with their fans. Such perfection and grace is rarely seen. I couldn't have expected a more perfect first venture into Korean culture.
Sure, the Korea House is a mecca for tourists, but so be it. I would recommend it to all and would be happy to go again if ever in Seoul.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 23, 2005
80-2 Pil-dong 2-ga
Seoul, South Korea 100-272
+82 (0)2 2266 9101
Attraction | "The National Folk Museum of Korea"
The National Folk Museum is a grand facility that has massive amounts of information for its visitors. Located within walking distance of two subway lines (lines 3 and 5), it is an easily managed tourist destination that is well worth your time. The museum and grounds are impeccably kept and the exhibits are visually stunning. Most exhibits have English translations, but some have piecemeal information provided; regardless, the presentations are many times self-explanatory.
The exhibitions are broken up into three Exhibition Halls that depict the (1) The History of the Korean People, (2) The Lifestyle of the Korean People, and (3) The Lifecycle of a Korean from Birth to Death. I found the second exhibition of the lifestyle to be the most interesting, but they all had very detailed models and displays. Of special interest was the fully realized model of the ancient capital of Gyeongju. It was extremely well done, and having visited the city earlier in my trip, it was a great reminder of my previous days trip.
Much is also displayed of the traditional dress and how it has evolved in Korea. The textiles and clothing of Korea are well presented and provide a splash of color that is one of the great surprises and joys of the exhibit. As in most museums, at the end is the gift shop, but in this museum they sell more than just your trinkets and touristy souvenirs. Beautiful celadon pottery, tapestries, and metal chopsticks are all available.
In addition to the exhibits in the museum, outside of the exhibit halls there are other things to see and do. A plaza for photos, a water mill, millstones, a vegetable garden, and a display of tomb guardians are all within eye shot of the museum doors.
I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours at the National Folk Museum. Admission was a reasonable 700 won for adults and they open at 9am (closed on Tuesdays).
All in all, I found the museum to be a gem in Seoul!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on December 18, 2005
National Folk Museum of Korea
1-1 Sejongro Jongno-gu
Seoul, South Korea 110-050
+82 (0)2 3704 3114