To the world, Seoul is a city with bright lights, modern technology, and mountains of Kimchi. On the contrary, Seoul is also an amazing city of the past and the modern, and a welcoming destination for travelers – that’s where I was just recently!
Just so you know, I was seoul so excited about flying to Korea with AirAsia X!
Weeks of anticipation finally ended and I found myself walking along the streets of downtown Seoul – the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. Let’s recall the places I’ve been to during my stay.
Seoul has five royal palaces where kings and queens used to reside. Some of the grand palaces of Seoul we visited were Jongmyo Shrine, Changdeokgung Palace, Changyeonggung Palace, and the renowned Gyeongbokgung Palace.
These palaces used to be the center of power, but today it remains as the center of culture – with the government’s initiative of restoring destroyed buildings and structures.
Besides that, markets in Seoul are top places to visit as well. Street markets like Myeong-dong, Insa-dong, Namdaemun, Dongdaemun and Itaewon are common ones – the first two are my favourites. :)
With boutiques and art galleries, street vendor selling traditional snacks, and stores of souvenirs, strolling through the markets in Seoul is customary for all tourists.
Yes, there are various modern mega shopping malls around, but they aren’t as vibrant as traditional markets. The shopping malls don’t defer much from the ones in Malaysia anyway.
In order to have a taste of traditional Korean culture, we dropped by the Namsangol Hanok Village.
This village is made up of traditional Hanok houses that offers a glimpse into the lives of the Korean ancestors. Cultural activities such as wearing Korean traditional costumes and experiencing Korean tea ceremony are held in the village.
Being typical tourists, we ‘signed up’ for the Korean traditional costumes activity – where I could dress up as a Korean emperor! More on that later. ;)
On one of the nights, we watched the Banpo Bridge Moonlight Rainbow Fountain performance along the Han River.
Located on the Banpo Bridge, it’s the world’s longest bridge fountain and it’s programmed to play different shows during the day and night.
Another main location is situated 63km from Seoul – Nami Island, where it’s famous for its beautiful Korean pine tree lands and a shooting location for the Korean drama, Winter Sonata.
As a mini amusement park, it has possibly one of the most beautiful views you can lay your eyes on. Tall pine trees and wide grassy gardens make Nami Island a lovely place. Definitely a must-visit!
Back in Seoul and standing on the summit of Namsan Mountain, the N Seoul Tower is currently the world’s 10th tallest tower.
Up on the observatory deck, visitors can get a panoramic view of downtown Seoul. It also has a gift shop and revolving restaurant at the top of the tower.
Lotte World is a complex that incorporates a theme park, hotel, departmental store, and museum. Among them, the Lotte World Adventure is the world’s largest indoor theme park.
Since we are adults already and have no interest towards the theme park, we only went to the departmental store. Well, it’s like a common shopping mall, nothing interesting unless you’re a shopaholic.
I wish there was a theme park for adults though, if you get what I mean. ;)
Recently made famous by the hit song “Gangnam Style” by Psy, the Gangnam Station area is one of Seoul’s hot spots.
By day, it’s an area of technology and design. By night, the nightlife begins with clubs around Gangnam Station. Also, large displays of multimedia content are prominent at night where all the buildings are lighted up.
On a related note… HEEEEEYYY SEXY LADY! OP OP OP OP OP!
OPPA GANGNAM STYLE! :D
Anyway, the War Memorial of Korea was also one of our destinations in Seoul.
The museum is based on the Korean War that occurred on the Korean Peninsula back in 1950s. It has 6 indoor exhibitions, which exhibit the background of the war, and an outdoor exhibition of military aircraft and vehicles.
It’s fascinating to see how people from the same background has two extreme ideologies. Foreign powers must have had strong influence over the two disconnected nations.
As a football fan (not a hardcore one though), I decided to drop by the Seoul World Cup Stadium too.
Served as a major stadium during 2002 FIFA World Cup, it used to be a popular attraction. But its appeal diminished over the years – even the souvenirs are dated 2002.
So yeah, that pretty much sums up the places I’ve been to in Seoul. It was surely fun to be able to discover this city, although I wish I had stayed longer. :)
Anyway, our accommodation in Seoul was Namsan Guest House. A quick research on the Internet states that it has good recommendations – and I concur.
Good facilities, friendly staffs, and located close to Myeong-dong subway station and market area – it’s really convenient to travel and shop for souvenirs. Furthermore, the N Seoul Tower is just around the corner!
To get around Seoul, there are a couple of methods – either by bus, taxi or subway. The latter was our preferred mode of transportation.
Also known as Seoul Subway Line, the subway consists of more than 10 different routes. Looking at it for the first time can be daunting, but it gets easier to interpret once you know your destinations.
Within Seoul, you can arrive at various destinations with the subway itself. In fact, stations are situated close by and you can literally walk from one station to another.
To make the journey convenient, we purchased the T-money Card.
According to locals, T-money is more costly than the single journey tickets if we’re only using it for a few days. Nevertheless, I considered the extra cost as “convenience fee” since manual purchase of tickets were not needed whenever we took a subway ride. :)
Besides that, one distinct feature about Korea is the emphasis on its cultural heritage. Seoul is a city where long history and culture is preserved within its city centre.
Here in Seoul, we were exposed to a unique culture from the past. The signs are obvious as there are constant public cultural performances, and even educational tours for young Koreans at palaces and museums.
Another significant example is the government’s effort in restoring cultural locations, such as destroyed palaces and gates.
Despite the global perception of Korea’s modern technology, plastic surgery and K-pop invasion, Seoul definitely stands strong in treasuring its traditional culture.
Just by looking at how Koreans portray themselves gives me the feeling that they’re a flamboyant society – they’re proud of who they are, and appreciate their tradition.
As we went around Seoul, there are various treats to savour – from traditional dishes to street snacks – the city is abundant for such.
Mini marts are a good choice if you’re looking for packaged food, but the authentic Korean food and delicacies can only be acquired at Korean eateries.
Some restaurants can be expensive, therefore we prefer small eateries where prices are moderate and the essence of local Korean cuisine is still integral.
Amongst the commonly known must-eat Korean cuisine are Kimchi (not for me!), Bibimbap, and Bulgogi. Of course, there are more exotic dishes available for those on an adventurous culinary expedition.
For me, a visit to Seoul is more of a sightseeing trip – therefore the coverage on food is rather limited. Personally, I think the taste of Korean food in Seoul is very much similar to the ones in Malaysia.
One of my favourite has to be the Kimbap. It’s something like Japanese sushi, but it’s a Korean version.
Normally sold at mini stalls and wrapped in an aluminium foil, the Kimbap is definitely an on-the-go food. I can munch on it as I walk.
Or for something more exceptional, there are Hello Kitty Cafes in Seoul. Here’s one located near Hongik University at Hongdae area.
Once you step inside, you’ll be amazed by its interior – it’s so pink in there that I’m not even excited. Yay~
Also, getting souvenirs from Korea should be an easy task. From bookmarks to key chains, clothes to handbags – you’d be spoilt for choice.
A common “souvenir” from Korea has to be masks, be it facial or foot masks. Apparently it’s cheap over there.
Therefore, we got quite a number of it…
I know masks can help rejuvenate and refresh the skin and all, but I’ve never tried one before in my entire life.
Since I’m in Korea where beauty is everything, I got a little curious of how it would feel like. So I decided to put one on…
Know what… it really does make me feel beautiful. Compliments please!
Anyway, do stay tuned! There will be more Korean invasion coming your way on kenwooi.com! :D