Monday, May 16, 2016

TK's Korea Travel Itinerary

(This is for you, T.)

TK received a request from a friend who is traveling to Korea: where should she go and see?

This is a deceptively tough question. There are already plenty of excellent travel books of Korea out there. (TK's favorites are the two books from Seoul Selection, Seoul and Korea, both by Robert Koehler.) The New York Times--the New York Times!--seemingly runs a feature about traveling Korea every other month, and not just to big cities like Seoul. What could I possibly add to this, at this point?

In the end, what TK settled on is this: if I wrote a short exposition about Korea, what scenery would serve as the key illustration to highlight the points that I was making? What could one see to understand where Korea was, what it went through, and what it is now?

On this basis, a lot of the famous tourist attractions would be missing--partly because I felt that there are other places that tell the same story, partly because I do not know enough about a certain locale. The biggest omission perhaps is Busan, one of the most significant places in Korea that somehow is a big black hole of knowledge for me. Also, this itinerary includes Jeju simply because my friend asked me to include it. The whole thing is set for 10-11 days, but you will see that it involves fairly rigorous traveling. If you want to slot in a few "break" days in the middle, it could stretch into 14-15 days.

Long story short: this is just one guy's suggestion. Not the "best of"s, not the "must-see"s, just the places I would take you if we were friends. If that sounds good, off we go.

PART I.  SEOUL

Seoul metro area is home for nearly half of the population of the entire South Korea--the fifth most populous metro area in the world. It has centuries of history, and far too much to see. By my standard, seeing the city in a meaningful way would take around seven to ten days. But we will try to do the best parts in three days.

To do this itinerary, it is best to stay in the north of the river. Look on Google Maps to see if the hotel you are thinking of is near the palaces and a subway stop. If you like traditional Korean houses, Bukchon area has many guesthouses run out of traditional homes.

Day 1

Gyeongbokgung Palace [경복궁] , Samcheong-dong [삼청동] and Insa-dong [인사동]:  Walking tour of the Joseon Dynasty, phasing into early 20th century.

Start your day from:  Gyeongbokgung [경복궁] Station at Line 3 (Orange) or Gwanghwamun [광화문] Station from Line 5 (Purple)

Visit Gyeongbokgung Palace, the grandest of the Joseon Dynasty palace. So grand, in fact, that the re-construction of the palace in the late 19th century contributed to the fall of the dynasty. Built in 1395, the palace burned down in 1592 during the Japanese invasion (i.e. the Imjin War) and was reconstructed in 1865, in the twilight of the Joseon Dynasty (which ceased to exist in 1910.) This should take at least several hours. Tip: in this area, there are little stores that rent traditional dresses (hanbok 한복) that you may wear to stroll the palace grounds, to really get into the mood.

Advantage of hanbok rentals: the pictures are awesome.
(source)
Leave the palace and walk east along Sajik-ro, and turn north (left) onto Samcheong-ro, which puts you on the eastern edge of the palace. Turn right on Bukchon 5-ro, pass the Jeongdok city library on the right, until you hit Bukchon-ro. Turn left--you are now in Bukchon [북촌] / Samcheong-dong [삼청동] area, the Seoul neighborhood with the most well-preserved traditional houses (hanok [한옥]). Because of its proximity to royal palaces, Bukchon was the place where the noblemen lived, and the houses there reflect the history. Today, it is a hip neighborhood with many adorable cafes and restaurants nestled into the traditional houses. Pick a place for lunch here.

Walk south from Bukchon, tracing back toward the palace. Insadong-gil would appear on the left; turn left. Insa-dong [인사동] is where you can get your fix for all the little traditional trinkets--and unlike most other tourist traps in Korea, these trinkets are in good taste. Tong-In [통인], a renowned antique store at 30-1 Insadong-gil, is particularly worth visiting even if your wallet cannot handle their exorbitant price for some of their genuine articles.

Insa-dong is also a home for many tea houses and traditional restaurants. For the highest quality of makkeolli [막걸리, rice beer], visit Nuruknamu [누룩나무], 13 Insadong 16-gil.

(More after the jump.)

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.



Day 2

Changdeokgung Palace [창덕궁] , Gwangjang Market [광장시장], Cheonggyecheon Stream [청계천] - Walking tour from pre-modern to modern times, part 2.

Start your day from:  Anguk [안국] Station at Line 3 (Orange) 


Visit Changdeokgung [창덕궁], a UNESCO heritage site with its gorgeous Rear Garden [후원 huwon]. While Gyeongbokgung lay in ashes for centuries, Changdeokgung served as the main palace for Joseon Dynasty kings. Rear Garden is only accessible via tours, some of which are done in English. 

If you are still not tired of seeing traditional buildings, visit Jongmyo Shrine [종묘], located immediately south of Changdeokgung. Jongmyo is the Confucian shrine for all Joseon kings. There are re-enactments of the memorial ceremonies for the past kings--look up their times if you want to catch it.

Gwangjang Market
(source)
Keep walking south, until you hit the big Jong-ro street. (If you visited Jongmyo, Jong-ro is on the southern border of the shrine.) Turn east (left) and walk past Changgyeonggung-ro, at which point you will see Gwangjang Market [광장시장]. Gwangjang Market is the oldest continuously operating outdoors market in Korea, having opened in 1905. It is still a functioning market, but it is more famous for the lines and lines of street food filling up the pathways. All the typical Korean street foods (such as tteokbokki [떡볶이, spicy rice cake] and sundae [순대, sausages]) are available here, but the true highlights of this place are "drug gimbap" [마약김밥], yukhoe [육회, beef tartar] and bindaetteok [빈대떡, mung bean pancakes]. Grab lunch here.

Keep walking south, until you hit the lovely Cheonggyecheon Stream [청계천]. During Seoul's industrial development, the stream was covered up by a massive elevated road. It was not until 2005 that the stream was restored as an effort for urban renewal. Today, it is a lovely area to walk in the heart of Seoul's downtown. Walk west, toward the sunset. Tip: go off a block or two from the stream itself to catch a glimpse of gritty, grimy little hardware stores--which was how the entire area looked until the stream was restored.

Day 3

Namsan [남산], Myeongdong [명동], Hongdae [홍대] - bird's eye view of modern Korea.

Start your day from: Myeongdong [명동] Station at Line 4 (Light Blue).

Take Exit 4 from Myeongdong Station and walk south toward Namsan [남산]. a low-rising mountain that stands in the middle of Seoul. Hiking up takes less than an hour; if that sounds too strenuous, there is also a cable car that goes to the top. If you really want to see the view from the very top, you can pay to go up to the observation deck of Seoul Tower, located at the peak. But it really is not all that necessary--the view is phenomenal without having to go up the tower.

Myeongdong
(source)
Come back down, and get to the other side of the Myeongdong Station to hit up Myeongdong, one of Seoul's premier shopping districts. A favorite among Japanese and Chinese tourists, this is about the most tourist trap of a place that I would recommend going in Seoul. To its credit, it is a bustling place with great energy and a lot of interesting merchandise. If you need a bit of peace and quiet, stop by Myeongdong Cathedral [명동성당] at 74 Myeongdong-gil, a gorgeous Gothic structure that is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Korea. If you can brave the line, visit Myeongdong Gyoja [명동교자] at 29 Myeongdong 10-gil for Seoul's best noodles and steamed dumplings.

Walk north until you hit Euljiro 1-ga subway station at Line 2 (Green). Right west toward Hong-ik University [홍대입구] Station, six stations away. Take the Exit 8 or 9, and roam the Hongdae neighborhood. Located near Korea's premier art college, the Hongdae neighborhood is where you would find all the good live music venues with Korea's leading indie bands--like a permanent SXSW festival. (In other words: it's an idol band-free area.) If random exploration feels a bit daunting, start your visit at Sangsangmadang [상상마당], at 65 Eoulmadang-ro, a multiplex of cinema, live performance and art exhibits. If you are a true hipster who feels like Hongdae is played out, go one more subway stop to Hapjeong [합정] to find less crowded music venues and bars.

Leftover Seoul Sights

For other interesting places in Seoul, consider:

OGN E-Stadium.  Largest of the three stadiums in Seoul for e-sports.  Located in Digital Media City, near the World Cup Stadium. Access from World Cup Stadium Station at Line 6 (Brown).

Itaewon [이태원].  Once a seedy neighborhood for U.S. GIs stationed in Seoul is today's hip district with good beer and multi-ethnic food. Access from Itaewon Station at Line 6 (Brown).

Noryangjin Fish Market [노량진 수산시장].  All of Seoul's seafood comes through this massive fish market, where you would find the freshest seafood outside of a port. Plenty of restaurant and street food options. Access from Noryangjin Station at Line 1 (Dark Blue) or Line 9 (Gold).

Garosu-gil [가로수길].  Ugh, Gangnam. Aren't we sick of the song and this area already? But if you must visit a place in Gangnam (i.e. south of the Han River in Seoul,) TK found this area to be pretty tolerable. (Compared to, say, the mess that is Coex Mall.) Fancy boutiques, cute cafes, that sort of thing.

PART II.  A SOUTHERN JAUNT

As big and important as Seoul is, other parts of Korea have much to offer. After Seoul, we will do a tour of Korea's southern areas for interesting history and great food.

Day 4

Andong [안동], the heart of Joseon Dynasty's Confucian tradition.

Start your day from:  Seoul Station (train), East Seoul Terminal (bus) or Central City Terminal (bus)

Driving around Korea in a rental car is convenient, but is also expensive and not strictly necessary. Most tourist locations in Korea are easily accessible via trains and buses. From Seoul, the southeastern town of Andong takes 2.5~3 hours to reach. Ideally you would leave Seoul as early as you can (the first train and bus leave Seoul at 6 a.m.) to have a full day in Andong. 

Andong is a lovely town, and it would be worth staying a night in the town's traditional village. But that would require you to get up very early the next day. There are other traditional villages along this route, so plan accordingly. If you want an easier night's sleep, take a bus at the end of the day toward Daegu [대구], which is around 1.5 hour further south from Andong. In either case, try to make a reservation before you travel out of Seoul.

Byeongsan Seowon in Andong
(source)
Andong calls itself Korea's "capital of spiritual culture," and the slogan, though self-selected, is well-deserved. Though it is a quaint little town today, it was the regional powerhouse during the Joseon Dynasty--the home of the famed Andong Kim clan whose power rivaled none but the royal family itself. Today, most of the tourist attraction is concentrated in a small preserved village called Hahoe Village [하회마을], a UNESCO Heritage site. In addition to gorgeous traditional buildings (which include two schools and many noblemen's homes dating back to the 16th century,) the village holds re-enactments of traditional weddings, rituals and games. Although the village has two schools, the nearby Dosan Seowon [도산서원] school, one of the largest surviving schools of traditional Confucianism, is worth a visit.

Andong's food is phenomenal--a rare bright spot in southeastern Korea, where culinary delight goes to die. Try the heotjesabab [헛제사밥, the "fake jesa food"] and jjimdak [찜닭, chicken braised with soy sauce]. Wash it down with sips of Andong soju [안동 소주]--which is nothing like that industrial alcohol in a green bottle that is usurping the good name of "soju" in the rest of the country.

Day 5

Haeinsa [해인사], the jewel of Goryeo Dynasty Buddhism

Start your day from:  Daegu West Terminal [서부터미널] (Or Andong Terminal if you stayed the night in Andong.) Daegu West Terminal is accessible from Daegu subway Line 1, at Seongdangmot [성당못] station.

Buses from Daegu West Terminal to Haeinsa leaves every 40 minutes starting 6:40 a.m. It takes approximately 1.5 hours to get to Haeinsa. Once out of the bus, it takes a half a mile hike to get to the temple itself.

The magnificent Haeinsa, "Temple of the Ocean Mudra," is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Korea. Built in the ninth century, Haeinsa is the home to Tripitaka Koreana, 81,258 wooden printing blocks that represent the world's oldest and most comprehensive Buddhist canon in Chinese characters with no known errors in its 52 million carved characters. The Tripitaka was created in the late 11th century, by the hands of devout Goryeo Dynasty Buddhists who carved the wooden blocks as a prayer to repel the Mongolian invaders.

Tripitaka Koreana
(source)
TK has traveled the world extensively, and I can confidently say that the Tripitaka is as mind-blowing as anything you would see in the world. Just think about the level of civilization required to create something like this--tens of millions of characters, all hand-carved in beautiful and uniform calligraphy, with no error at all.

If you reserve ahead, it is possible to stay the night in Haeinsa as a part of the Temple Stay program
If not, take the bus back to Daegu and stay the night there.

Days 6-7

Jeonju [전주], where all good Korean food comes from.

Start your day from:  Daegu West Terminal, the same terminal you used to get to Haeinsa, or West Daegu Terminal [서대구 터미널]. Confusingly, "Daegu West" terminal and "West Daegu" terminal are not the same places; in fact, they are on the opposite sides of the city. The buses leave West Daegu less frequently (every two hours as opposed to every 1.5 hour at Daegu West,) but they are slightly faster and more comfortable than the ones leaving from Daegu West. Also, make sure not to confuse Jeonju, your destination, with Jinju [진주]--a nice place in its own right, but not the one we are going for.

This is one occasion where a rental car could be handy, since we are traveling west. If traveling by car, you can simply leave Haeinsa (which is located between Daegu and Jeonju) and drive westward toward Jeonju. But unfortunately, because the only major city that is connected to Haeinsa via public transit is Daegu, we have to make a roundabout trip going west (to Haeinsa,) east (back to Daegu,) and back west again (to Jeonju.) From Daegu, Jeonju is around three hours away.

Jeonju is a lovely little city with good sights, but make no mistake--you are in this city to eat. Your stomach space is a precious resource here, because there is so much good food to eat. See, most of the Korean food that you have tried before (such as bibimbap) comes from this city, and the original is just so. Much. BETTER. Really, it just does not compare. Even a random snack bar in Jeonju has better food than 90 percent of restaurants in Seoul.

But first, the sights. Take a quick 15 minute cab ride from the bus terminal to the hanok village, the section of the city that has the traditional houses. Don't get too excited--these traditional houses are modern reconstructions. But they are still nice to look at, and many lodging houses are located there--a good place to spend the night. (Make sure to make the reservation before coming to the city.) The village also has a number of art galleries and cafes that you can poke around. Nearby, check out the Jeondong Cathedral [전동성당], Gyeonggijeon [경기전] (memorial shrine for the first king of Joseon Dynasty) and Jeonju Hyanggyo [전주향교] (traditional school).

Ready to eat? Here are the places to go. All of the places below are either a leisurely walk or a 5-minute cab ride from the hanok village. They will all be very crowded, so brace yourself.

Seongmidang [성미당], 31-2 Jungangdong 3-ga. The absolutely original version of Jeonju-style bibimbap is from this restaurant. True Jeonju bibimbap uses raw beef (which gets cooked rare after you mix it with rice) and hwangpomuk [황포묵], a yellow mung bean jelly. Be warned: you will never be able to enjoy any other bibimbap again.

Sambaekjip [삼백집], 22 Jeonjugaeksa 2-gil. It is the quintessential Korean experience to visit a restaurant that only has just one or two items on the menu--as if to say, if you don't like what we serve, find another restaurant. Sambaekjip serves only three items, all of which is some variation of soup with rice in it. The one you want is kongnamul gukbap [콩나물국밥], the soup with bean sprouts. Try with moju [모주], a very low alcohol drink (3% alcohol) that pairs fantastically with the soup.

Jo Jeom-rye Nammun Pisundae [조점례 남문 피순대], 2-198 Jeondong 3-ga. This place is inside the Nambu Market [남부시장], which is an attraction in its own right. Think a slightly smaller version of Gwangjang Market that we visited already in Seoul, but with more interesting artwork and better food. The Chungnyun Mall [청년몰], located inside the market (look for a staircase going to the second floor,) is a fun collection of young Korean people grafting their own sense of food, fashion and art into the traditional market. The market opens late, so save this for the sundown.

But first, the food. Pisundae is literally blood sausage, and this place has the best blood sausage that comes in two forms--stand alone, and in a soup. (You can order both.)

Yongjinjip [용진집], 14 Geomasan-ro. This place is slightly farther from the hanok village, so you almost definitely want to take a cab. Yongjinjip is located in a neighborhood called Makkeolli Alley [막걸리 골목], which is exactly what it sounds like. At Yongjinjip, all you order is makkeolli--it's just that they give you free food when you order makkeolli. Tons of free food. Insanely good food, pairing perfectly with makkeolli.

This is what you get if you order two kettles of makkeolli at Yongjinjip.
(source)
On the afternoon or evening of Day 7, take the bus or the train back up to Seoul. The bus takes around three hours; the KTX train takes 1.5 hour.

Leftover Southern Jaunts

For other cities you could stop along the way, consider:

Ulsan [울산].  Curious about how Korea industrialized? Visit Ulsan, also known (jokingly) as Hyundai city. The industrial port town is home to massive steel mills and shipyards, the stuff that made Korea rise in the 1980s. Ulsan is also one of the few places in the world where you can try eating whale meat.

Busan [부산].  Second largest city in Korea. Incredible glass high-rise condos gleaming on top of beachfront cliffs. Great nightlife around the beach and fantastic seafood. Or so I'm told--sorry, I don't know a whole lot about Busan. I'm sure it's nice.

Gyeongju [경주].  We covered Joseon and Goryeo Dynasties. Wanna travel further back in time? Visit Gyeongju, the millennial capital of Shilla Dynasty. (Seriously, it was Shilla's capital for a thousand years.) Check out the incredible Buddhist temples that survived for two thousand years.

Tongyeong [통영].  Gorgeous blue sea dotted with little islands, around which you could take a little cruise. 

Boseong [보성].  Three words: green tea farm. Beautiful green field as far as eye can see.

Note that we did not cover the eastern or central part of South Korea at all. There are great places to visit in those areas also, but just not as much payoff compared to the southern parts.

PART III.  JEJU

Jeju Island [제주도] is primarily known as a tropical resort island, but it is more than that. Separated from the mainland, the island has its own distinctive culture, unusual and interesting food, and above all, incredible natural beauty.

It may sound strange, but the easiest way to reach Jeju is to fly from Seoul. (Make sure to use Gimpo Airport, as opposed to Incheon Airport through which you probably flew into Korea.) There are flights to Jeju from other cities in Korea that are farther south than Seoul (such as Cheongju or Busan,) which would technically make a shorter flight. But flights from Seoul are far more frequent (and therefore cheaper,) and it only takes an hour to fly there. While you are at it, you can experience how even the budget airlines in Korea have incomparably better service than major American airlines.

This is a place where you would benefit from renting a car. Hiring a driver and a car is also a possibility, but the bills would add up quickly. Bus is a decent option, but they do not run as frequently as you would want them to.

Jeju's food is also quite unique. Make sure to try the seafood (abalone is the local delicacy) and the pork from the native black pigs. For the adventurous, horse meat is also available.

Day 8

Jeju -- the eastern half.

Start your day from:  Jeju International Airport, where you would touch down.

Jeju-do has two (relatively speaking) major cities:  the city of Jeju [제주시] on the northern coast, and Seogwipo [서귀포] on the southern coast. The airport is in Jeju, while the major resorts are in Seogwipo. There are lodgings everywhere in the island, but it is more convenient to stay around these two cities. I'll assume we will be around Jeju.

Seongsan Ilchulbong
(source)
Grab your rental car (which you should have reserved) from the airport and drive along the coast eastward on Highway 1132. Near the eastern tip of the island is Seongsan Ilchulbong [성산일출봉]--an awesome crater of a dormant volcano. It takes about an hour to hike up to the top of the crater, where you can look down into the sunken caldera. The hike is somewhat steep, but the entire path is paved. If you are used to waking up early, save this place for the next day so that you can see the sunrise from the peak.

Keep driving along the coast. On the southeastern side of the island is the Jeju Folk Village at 631-34 Minsok Haean-ro. I generally try to avoid re-created villages because they can get hokey very quickly, but this place is an exception. It's still somewhat hokey, but Jeju is an island with unique culture and history and it is difficult to get a sense of it elsewhere. Take a careful look at how the architecture adapted to the windy climate.

We would have to drive north to getting back to the city of Jeju. Take Highway 97 toward north, then west on Highway 1112, then north (right turn) on Myeongrim-ro. After about 45 minutes after leaving the folk village, you would hit Jeju 4.3 Peace Park [제주 4.3 평화공원]. The 4.3 Incident (named so because it occurred around events centered on April 3, 1948) is one of the many black marks on modern Korean history. South Korean government, having just been established after the liberation from Imperial Japan, massacred as many as 30,000 civilians in Jeju on the suspicion that they were communist sympathizers. The park has a museum explaining the massacre.

Day 9

Jeju -- Halla-san Mountain [한라산] and the southern coast.

Start your day from:  Jeju-si, near the airport.

We will be mostly in the southern part of the island. There are several highways that go north-south. Take Highway 1139 southbound, which would take you to the entrance of the Halla-san Mountain [한라산] hiking trails. The highest mountain in South Korea (and the second highest in the Korean Peninsula) is a gem of nature with ancient fern forest. Hiking to the top would require 9 to 10 hour round trip; for this itinerary, a quick 30-minute stroll near the trail heads would be sufficient.

Keep driving south on Highway 1139 until you hit the southern coast and the Jusangjeolli Cliffs [주상절리대]. This spectacular black volcanic cliffs look like they are straight out of a sci-fi movie, with massive hexagonal columns standing over the water. Very close to the Jusangjeolli Cliffs, on the westside, is the gorgeous Cheonjeyeon Falls [천제연폭포]. It is close enough to walk between the two locations, and it would be less than a 5 minute drive. Cheonjeyeon is actually a system of three falls, and there is an arch bridge over the falls where you can get a fantastic view.

Jeongbang Falls
(source)
Get back in the car, drive eastward along the southern coast on Highway 1132 until you hit the eastern side of Seogwipo. (The city goes on for a while, so don't turn out too early. Go past the World Cup stadium.) From Seogwipo's Jungang Rotary (roundabout,) take the southeastern road toward Dongmun-ro. Drive all the way south until you hit the coast and Jeongbang Falls [정방폭포]. Jeongbang Falls is one of the rare waterfalls that empty directly into the ocean. If you are still not sick of waterfalls yet, the nearby Cheonjiyeon Falls [천지연폭포] is also beautiful.

Drive back up to Jeju. Catch the evening flight out back to Seoul. If you have to fly out of Korea the next day, it is easier to get a hotel near Gimpo Airport--there is a shuttle bus that goes between Gimpo and Incheon Airports.

Leftover Jeju

Hyeopjae Beach [협재해수욕장].  I get it--you are on a tropical island, and you would just like to lie on the beach for a while. Do it at Hyeopjae with its clear, emerald water.

Geomunoreum Lave Tubes [거문오름 용암굴].  Jeju is a volcanic island, which means it has miles and miles of lava tubes. This is one of the best preserved lava tube systems in the world with awesome stalactites.

Udo Island [우도].  Wait, I thought we were already on an island? Udo is a smaller island off the coast of Jeju with perhaps the best beach in the island system. This is the place for outdoor adventures with bikes, ATVs and horses.

Olle Trails [올레길].  Olle Trails is a prime example of how just one person's inspiration can transform the experience of millions. Former journalist Sun Myung-sook set out to plot the walking paths around Jeju Island that would hit all the sights of the island at a leisurely pace. It is very easy to find a pamphlet that lays out all 19 trails total (with a few more optional branch-offs.) Each trail takes around 5 to 8 hours to walk.

Hope you enjoy the trip.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

20 comments:

  1. Thank you! Now, if a person was going to follow your suggestions, while in Seoul, what area should they stay? I want to find a place that is not too expensive but is not dirty either. Also, I don't mind staying in a Korean hotel (as opposed to the Hyatt or something along those lines).

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    1. Somewhere north of the river. I will add that info in the post also.

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    2. One word: AirBnB!

      Some places are really quite reasonable and a great bang for your buck.

      Delete
  2. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

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  3. Thank you for this itinerary. How do you think about Hwaseong Fortress? Would you recommend to visit there as well? I read somewhere it's quite a challenge to go around it in one day.

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    Replies
    1. Hwaseong is very cool. But you will have only so much time in Korea, so prioritize.

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    2. As someone who lives in Suwon (where Hwaseong Fortress is), I wouldn't make a special trip to see it if your trip to Korea is short. The fortress is very scenic, but most of it has been rebuilt, which takes away some of the charm. Hwaseong Palace is completely rebuilt and very underwhelming, especially compared to the palaces in Seoul. Of course, the fortress is definitely worth checking out if you're going to be in Suwon anyway for some reason, but don't go out of your way for a daytrip. Also, you can walk around the whole fortress wall in less than 4 hours, but it starts to get repetitive.

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  4. I heartily endorse Myeongdong Gyoja. I'm not a foodie but the soup was incredible. I can add one tidbit about Busan. We went to a seafood restaurant right on the docks; so fresh was the fish we were eating that it was still moving (!) as we ate its guts as sashimi.

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  5. What, what!! No Gyeongju? Way better than Jeonju. YMMV.^^

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    1. Gyeongju should have been on the leftovers list--I corrected that. Better than Jeonju though? Nah. The food alone makes Jeonju one of the top places in Korea to visit.

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  6. Would you mind writing that 10 day Seoul guide, as well? :)

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    Replies
    1. Yes, please. In addition to these suggestions, I'm interested in walking the neighborhood of a "regular" Korean--the school, the park, the corner store. And doesn't TK hail from Gangnam? Is there something south of the river to recommend?

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    2. @ C.R. --

      You really don't need a guidebook to find a "regular" neighborhood. At least 80% of Seoul is made up of residential neighborhoods. However, what is a "regular" neighborhood in Seoul probably doesn't look regular to a lot of westerners. In any event, you would be hard pressed to find a place in Seoul that isn't surrounded by "regular" neighborhoods. Just start walking ... and before you know it ... you'll be there.

      Having said that ... I think the novelty of regular neighborhoods will wear off very quickly. It's pretty much a "once you've seen one, you've seen them all" sort of thing (at least - in my humble opinion).

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  7. Follow updates from Herald Korea here. Read latest news on heraldk here.

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  8. As a former denizen myself, I was delighted to see that Ulsan got a shout out. :)
    This city is a hidden gem, with most of my visitors (foreigner and Korean) declaring, "It's much prettier than I expected!"

    (Even if the South-East is where cuisine goes to die!)

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    Replies
    1. I agree. We had a great time there, and it was MUCH prettier than I expected.

      Delete
  9. Leaving Seoul tomorrow, headed for Jeju and then Singapore. We tried to cover as much of this as possible, including Ulsan and Busan.

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  10. during your trip in korea were you able to see markets selling dog and cat meats? or dogs being abused in the the streets?i hooe u can find time to answer cause this really bothers me.

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  11. We loved Korea. I wish I could go back and live there for a while. We did not get to do everything on this itinerary, but we sure tried! This is what we did:
    Seoul
    Jung-gu
    Dongdaemun
    Namdaemun Market
    Namsan
    Seoul Foreign School
    Yonsei University
    Hongdae
    Gangnam
    Itaewon
    Bukchon
    Andong
    Ulsan
    Busan (including Haeundae Beach)
    Haeinsa
    Jeonju
    Seoul
    DMZ
    Jongmyo Shrine
    Blue House
    National Folk Museum
    Gyeongbokgung Palace
    Ginseng Center
    Insa-dong
    Changdeokgung Palace
    Gwangjang Market
    Jeju Island
    Seongsan Ilchulbong
    Jeju Folk Village
    Geomunoreum Lava Tubes
    U-do
    Jusangjeolli Cliffs
    Hallasan
    Cheonjiyeon Falls
    Cheonjeyeon Falls
    Hyeopjae Beach

    Oh, and:
    Singapore (Peranakan Museum, Night Safari, Chinatown, Botanical Gardens, Raffles Hotel, Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay)

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