The Seoul of Asia: Notes From My Fall Trip to South Korea

Originally published on Endless Horizons; travel series commissioned by Fadzrul
 
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In fall 2013, I ventured to Seoul with my fiancé to celebrate the end of the year and mark the close of my first adventure as a freelancer/entrepreneur. While four days wasn’t quite long enough to take in all of Korea, we did see a lot of sites thanks to the city’s walkable neighborhoods and extensive transit network. Here are a few things I enjoyed during my trip.
 
1. Cheonggyecheon
Running through a majority of the city, the Cheonggyecheonis a perfect escape from the urban hustle of Seoul. Its lush greenery and running water are a nice compliment to the urban world at both of its sides. The most endearing feature I found about this area is its ability to create an almost uninterrupted walkway.
WARNING: Don’t try to bike it! I tried during my trip and was politely asked to leave my bike on the streets above.
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2. Korean Food and All the Sides
Diets are ill-advised during a trip to Seoul. From hot noodle soups to traditional bulgogi beef, the options are endless and the flavors robust enough to satisfy the appetite of most eaters. It’s worth mentioning however pricing varies greatly depending on the neighborhood you’re in. During the last night of my trip I ate in Myeongdongand experienced sticker shock. Price for Korean BBQ and other staple foods were vastly more expensive than outlying areas.
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3. Urban Fabric with a Bit of Natural Thread 
Often travelers are forced to choose between uber modern metros and more humble historic cities. Seoul is one of those rare places which effortlessly ties the two together. Traditional temples and homes sit adjacent to modern skyscrapers with looming mountains and trees lining most backgrounds.
Two of the most fascinating examples include Bukchon Hanok Villageand Gyeongbokgung. Both are close to the city, yet thanks to careful planning don’t feel foreign or out of place within modern Seoul.
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4. Forget the Disconnect
People looking to “get away from it all,” will get a quick reality check once entering Seoul. The city oozes technology; automation is almost at every turn. Glitzy signs direct visitors to nearby shops, live transit updates are provided via monitors in the subway, and WiFi is literally everywhere – even deep underground. I was personally impressed to see WiFi transmitters aboard subway trains and installed on phone booths. If you take a moment to look up, you’ll often see many Seoul residents on their smartphones.
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5. Hospitality
From our host at our Hanok outside of Insadong to local shop owners and everyday people, Seoul is an incredibly friendly city. Most residents are also extremely accommodating to Americans or Southeast Asians who don’t speak a lick of Korean (PERSONALLY GUILTY).
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Seoul and would return in a heartbeat. No additional travel plans booked for the rest of 2013 but looking to add some US destinations to my schedule for the New Year. I’m eagerly waiting for my next trip.
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