Some useful Korean keywords and phrases when visiting for the first time:
- Yogio – here, used when asking for attention in a bar or restaurant. It’s like the Japanese equivalent, Sumimasen.
- Juseyo – please, in Japanese – kudasai
- Mul – water
- Fahjunshil – toilet
- Fahjunshil odiminika – where’s the toilet
- Mashisoyo – Delicious, in Japanese – Oishii
Korean food you must try:
- Marinated Ghalbi – Yamyom Ghalbi – Think Korean BBQ
- Toppoki in Chili sauce – It’s basically pounded rice into a thick substance. Very good! You can get it in restaurants or from street vendors
- Lamen (Ramen) – Korean Lamen is cold noodle soup. Very good and spicy!
- Samgyopsal – pork BBQ
- Sundobu – It’s a hot soup with vegetables or meat and you add rice to the soup and eat little by little.
Areas you definitely want to check out:
Hongdae – A college town with cool shops, restaurants and bars/clubs. This place gets wild at night, very good vibe. It’s very young but there are people in their late twenties and thirties around. But definitely worth a visit to see. Daytime – good for shopping and checking out the small shops, and at night on the weekend it’s packed with bar hoppers and club goers.
Suwon – about 40-50 minutes from Seoul. It’s a historic city which is completely walled. I took a lot of really cool photos. They have all the military stuff from ancient times still setup so you can see it. The photos that I saw of the place in winter time (with snow on the ground) were really cool. Very old castle looking. Worth a day trip if you have time. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suwon)
Lotte World – If you have enough time, a trip to Lotte World would be a great experience. Lotte world is like a knock off Disneyland, no seriously, the rides are comically very similar with even pieces in the rides that look like they were stolen from the Disneyland factories that make them. But it’s amazing as HALF of the theme park is indoors, in a HUGE dome. It’s the world’s largest indoor theme park. And will only cost you about 25 bucks for a half day evening entrance. So you could go 5pm to 11pm. It’s located on the other side of the river from all action, depending where you are in Seoul, probably a 15-20 min subway ride.
Itaewon – Similar to Tokyo’s Roppongi, but much better. Why? Because they have Taco Bell! hah, in Asia, finding Taco Bell is not something easy to come by. There are tons of shops that line the streets and a large spread of food from all over the world. Indian, Mexican, Turkish, Egyptian, and others. Plus tons of American fast food chains, like Quiznos, Taco Bell, Roti Boi, Pizza Hut, Outback, and Burger King. At night this area comes alive with tons of bars and clubs catering to the foreign population. It differs from Hongdae and Roppongi differs from Shibuya.
Myeongdong – A hip shopping area filled with young people, eateries, and street vendors and tons of name brands. Really cool streets and a great vibe. Here is what Wikipedia says – “Myeongdong is one of Seoul’s main shopping districts featuring mid-to-high priced retail stores and international brand outlets, including Lacoste, Polo Ralph Lauren, Forever 21, Bulgari, Louis Vuitton and Nature Republic. “. This is where we NEED to open one of our stores. I would compare it to Shibuya with a mix of Harajuku or Omotesando.
Dongdaemun – This is a cool area with A LOT going on. It’s several street blocks wide with everything open 24/7. I’m talking 8 story mega complexes with tons of shops inside operating 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This area never sleeps and there are nightly events going on, department stores throwing outdoor concerts, amusement rides. It’s nuts! I stayed here for 3 days and loved it.
Some other cool areas I was informed about from locals were: Chamsil, Apku, Seocho gu, Ihwa Dong. However I didn’t get time to visit them.
Subways are very cheap in Seoul, costing roughly 70cents to a 1 USD to get from point A to point B. And very clean and efficient, like the subways in Japan. Taxis are also very cheap, usually only cost from 5-10 bucks for a trip.
The subways have these great touch screens for tourists with recommendations on places to go, a train map to tell you how to get from point a to point b, and current events happening around town that would be worthwhile to visit. I recommend using the train every now and then just to get a chance to use these great tourist kiosks. They can give you a good idea of what you can do in a given day.
Here are some web sites I found that have additional information about Seoul and can be useful to plan places to visit and events to go to.
http://www.seoulstyle.com They also have a great monthly English magazine, you should find one in.