The worldwide popularity of Korean popular culture, often known as the “Korean Wave“, has increased international tourist arrivals to Seoul, the city capital of South Korea. According to Wikipedia, In 2012, 11.1 million foreign tourists visited South Korea, making it the 20th most visited country in the world, and the 6th most visited in Asia. Situated in the East Asia region, Republic of Korea (ROK), spans from the southern part of the Korean Peninsula and lying east to the Asian mainland.
My friend convinced me to go to Seoul, South Korea by finding the cheapest fare available. She knew I have not included this place in my bucket list, so she promised to take care of things on my behalf. Basically, I just needed to show up and take care of the photo taking when we get there. I was too busy that I did not do any research at all and prepare. Heck, I even reached there with only one set of winter clothes, planning to buy everything else while I am there – luggage, thermal pants, gloves, etcetera.
We arrived at Seoul–Incheon International Airport which is the largest airport in South Korea, the primary airport serving the Seoul Capital Area, and perhaps one of the largest and busiest airports in the East Asian region.
My knowledge about Korea is limited though. I didn’t really pay attention even to Korean dramas and KPop music and stuff. So when I had the chance to visit, I observed a few things that stood out for me:
1. When you see people inside the subway run, they are literally chasing time.
2. The interconnections down the subway require your full strength and good cardio. You will have no choice but to do very long walks and endure staircases, as most exits do not have escalators. If you have a bad foot or a bad knee, you are in deep trouble. We saw two elderly men on two separate occasions take a fall while walking on a straight path. Most likely due to exhaustion.
3. Taking cabs is not advisable. They are expensive and confusing. We witnessed Korean passengers argue with a Korean cab driver as the latter did not know where they want to go. Our personal experience – even if we gave the driver the hotel address, he was clueless about where it was. And they do not speak English.
4. The younger crowd were so helpful and accommodating. There were a few times that my friend and I struggled with reading maps and instructions. All we needed was to have this panic look on our faces, and without saying a word, they would approach you to help.
5. We rarely saw children – until we went to Nami Island.
6. The shopping districts reminded me of Taipei. They are almost too similar.
7. It was difficult to find trash bins that at one point, my friend had to carry her empty plastic cup inside her bag until we reached the hotel.
8. All foods are too pretty to eat and perhaps very nice to elevate your Instagram game.
9. The police station at Myeongdong shopping district is also cute. On one of our outings, two of their K-pop looking officers were on real horses in front of the station.
10. They have some complications on their menu. On two separate times, waiters did not allow my friend to order certain items together. Why? We would not know. They did not speak English. But the food is great. You just need to trust them.
11. They have too many varieties of beauty products. You will never run out of things to try.
12. They are obsessed with facial masks. They sell these in bulk and in special packages. Even souvenir shops will throw in several packs of facial masks when you purchase a certain number of key chains.
One last Important thing. For tourists from a tropical region, be advised that winters can be extremely cold with the minimum temperature dropping below −20 °C (−4 °F) in the inland region of the country. During non-winter seasons though, South Korea tends to have a humid continental climate and a humid subtropical climate and is affected by the East Asian monsoon, with precipitation heavier in summer during a short rainy season called jangma (장마), which begins the end of June through the end of July.
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Travel Guru Stories – South Korean Republic