Some people have to travel for work. Some people GET to travel for work. I am definitely in the second group. Anytime an opportunity to travel comes up, I happily volunteer. This trip offered me two fresh stamps in my passport from a continent I’d never visited before. I was in!
Tip: Do this before you go!
- What to See. When I’m traveling for work, I try to fit in as much as I can in the ‘off’ time. This helpful guide to Seoul broke out sites by how much time you have.The dining guide, sorted by restaurant type (vegetarian, late night eats), was also a hit with my team. How inventive!
- Food. Have an idea of what you’d like to try when you’re there. That way, when you see it on the menu, it is easy to pick out. Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming to just wing it, especially when you don’t speak the language.
- Currency. I typically go to the cash machine (at a bank) while traveling if I need cash for street vendors and open markets. Most restaurants and larger stores will take credit cards. Know your exchange rate, and make sure to notify your bank/credit card company that you’ll be out of town.
- Language. Learn a few words in the native language. I find Hello (on-yung-hassa-yo) and Thank You (kam-sam-ni-dah) are the most important. Basic Yes (ye) and No (an-i-yo) are also super useful. 🙂
Business Class Rocks
I was lucky enough to be able to travel business class for this journey. The flights were surprisingly inexpensive. It’s worth looking into if you’re paying personally.
The flight is 11 hours from Seattle, so I was super thankful for the luxury. Lay-flat beds… thank you very much Delta! 🙂 I was joking after the trip that I might just book the flight, so I could have a nice meal, watch movies without interruption, and get a good nap!
Don’t forget to look out your window from time to time, too. Otherwise, you could miss some really spectacular scenery. I caught these flying over Alaska.
We landed at Incheon Airport in Seoul at about 5 pm local time and caught a car to the hotel.
I stayed in Myeong-dong area at the Westin Chosun, mostly because it was close to the office. I would absolutely stay there again. The rooms were very comfortable, and they cater to western travelers with such luxuries as coffee machines and power outlets that fit your phone charger. It was close to the palace, dining options, and the shopping was excellent. More on that later!
Tip: Uber is the best travel app. Just put in the address to where you’re headed, and it comes up on their system in their language. No more struggling with maps. Use it! You can thank me later.
The city is beautiful. Just walking to the office in the morning was spectacular. Starting at Kyobo Book Store, this downtown walking street along the Cheonggyecheon Stream keeps pedestrians out of the traffic and enjoying the crystal clear water. Makes a great running path, too, if you need to shake off a bit of the jet lag.
Tip: This may be the best travel tip I ever received. (Thank you, @seevuplay) If you get lost walking around, stop at Starbucks! The baristas at the counter speak at least basic English – worldwide! I used this a few times in South Korea, and was never disappointed. They got me right back on track.
Wow. It is amazing to me the size of the grounds, and the sheer number of intricately carved buildings associated with this palace. This is a must see in Seoul, and don’t skip the museum! I learned so much before I toured the grounds, that would have been a bit of a mystery otherwise.
Bukchon Hanok Village
This area very near the Palace is a Korean traditional village composed of lots of alleys, and is preserved to show a 600-year-old urban environment. The traditional center allows you to experience the atmosphere of an old dynasty.
It is interesting mix of old and new. You could definitely feel the timelessness of the culture, but were constantly reminded of progress, as seen here in this combo view of the traditional village and the Seoul Tower.
Make sure to venture down random alleyways… there are architectural gems everywhere. Check out the doors and gateways… the craftsmanship is amazing.
Namdaemun Market & Myeongdong Shopping District
Shopping! There is a LOT in Asia. There is everything from $4 Nike’s in Namdaemun to very high end Prada bags in Myeong-dong. Be sure to not get these confused as you might come upon what you think is a $25 Prada bag in Namdaemun, and upon further inspection, it might have the logo, but actually say “Pretty” instead.
The streets are very crowded in the evenings. The street food vendors line up from tip to tail the entirety of Myeong-dong. The smells were amazing!
While you’re at it, check out the creative English-version names of the shops. One of my favorites was a shoe store simply called ‘with.’
My absolute favorite shopping was for Korean Skin Care & Beauty Products. O MY! There were so many lotions and potions… makeup and accessories. I am absolutely addicted to the Innisfree products I bought while I was there. Thankfully, I can buy them online when I run out. If I had it to do over again, I would buy as many as I could fit in my suitcase!
I think that’s enough for round one. Check out Part II. 🙂
See you then.