A Travellerspoint blog

To Korea we go

There were a few general facts we had to learn about Korea before our TravelerGirls adventure began.

For instance money. The Korean currency is the Won - $1CAD = 1,124.67KRW. We also tried to learn a couple of phrases in Korean, the official language, to help us out but that failed quite miserably. Speaking Korean is not something we'll be putting on our resumes anytime soon. Just to make things harder, there are different dialects in modern Korea. Apparently they are easy enough to decipher from one another but it all sounded the same to us. For now, all we need to know is Komawa! (Thank you!)

English is taught as a second language in most schools. In 2000 the government introduced a new phonetic system for transcribing Korean into English, changing names like Cheju to Jeju and Pusan to Busan.

For us to get there we need to have a valid Canadian passport and it must be valid until the date of departure. Foreigners are also required to register their biometrics (fingerprints and facial scan) upon arrival. No visa is required unless planning a stay longer than 180 days.

The capital of Seoul and the Seoul National Capital Area is the world's second largest metropolitan area with a population of more than 25 million. The city, established nearly 2,000 years ago, is now one of the world's top financial and commercial centres, home to conglomerates such as LG, Samsung and Hyundai-Kia. In 2008, Forbes listed Seoul as the sixth most economically powerful city in the world.

Unlike many Asian countries Korea's transportation for the general citizens consist predominantly of motor vehicles (cars/trucks), bus and subway. Motor scooters are usually used only by delivery people and bicycles are pretty much for exercise. Other than tourist transportation activities there isn't anything distinctly Korean in their transportation modes. It is a modern city for sure!

The Republic of Korea, or South Korea, consists of the southern half of the Korean peninsula in East Asia and many islands lying off the western and southern coasts. The largest island, Jeju, has the highest mountain in South Korea at 1,950 meters (6,398 feet). The terrain is mountainous, though less rugged than that of North Korea. While we were there the rain was heavier but they enjoy all of the seasons.

Map of South Korea

Map of South Korea

Religion in Korea is pretty evenly split with 26% Christian, 26% Buddhist, 1% Confucianist and 46% with no affiliation.

Before our trip we also thought it was a good idea to learn some of their manners and etiquette so we wouldn't unintentionally offend anyone:

At the table you wait to be told where to sit
• Eldest are served first
• The oldest or most senior person is the one who starts the eating process
• Don’t point your chopsticks
• Don’t pierce food with chopsticks
• Finish everything on your plate
• Refuse the first offer of second helpings
• Never place your chopsticks parallel across your rice bowl

Okay, I think we're ready...

Flag of South Korea

Flag of South Korea

Posted by jillandreajodi 08:31 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Seoul

So little time so much to do!

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There is so much to do in Seoul! I hope we have time to do it all. Seoul is a modern city and the center for business, education and modern culture in Korea.

Since we just arrived in Korea and are a little jet-lagged we decided to take it a little bit easy at first. Our first stop is the iconic Seoul Tower. The tower is 480 meters above sea level and affords amazing views of the city[/b]. It was so beautiful to see out across the city - the tall office buildings, condo towers and the wonderful hometown neighbourhoods.

The next stop was the Korean Folk Village via shuttle bus. If you are interested in ancient culture and traditions then this village is for you. It is a reconstruction of what the older Korean villages looked like with the houses, artisan shops and other buildings. The little shops there still make crafts in the traditional way. Great place for souvenirs! Some of the items we picked up included handwoven cotton shirts, a small rice-straw box, some pottery pieces and handwoven silk scarves. we need to beware, its only day 1.

It is only 15,000 wan to go into the village - about $13CAD. Is well worth the money. There are folk shows throughout the village to enjoy as you walk around. We watched some amazing acrobats on a tightrope and a beautiful equestrian show.

Acrobats at the Korean Folk Village

Acrobats at the Korean Folk Village

After a busy day of walking and touring we stopped in at a traditional Korean restaurant in the folk village to try the Kimchi. That is already more adventurous than Jill would normally eat so I guess so far so good.

We saw some beautiful temples and palaces today while walking but the day is done, or maybe just we are. We need to get some sleep because tomorrow is Lotte World!!

Posted by jillandreajodi 08:31 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Seoul...a child at heart

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Lotte World here we come! This packed theme park has about six million visitors annually. It made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest indoor theme park in the world. Entrance fee is 26,000 won which is about $23CAD. The best way to get there is by taking the subway which is exactly what we did.

The park is divided into 2 sections, the indoor and the outdoor section. The inside section is “Adventure Land” which covers many acres or different streets representing different countries. Each country represented has tons of activities, entertainment, restaurants, and shops. Keeps you quite busy. Inside there is also a Folk Museum for those people who didn’t quite get a fill of it yesterday - we did so there was plenty else to see.

Adventure Land

Adventure Land

The outdoor section is “Magic Island”. This part will remind you of Disney World with a fairytale castle, rides, walking trails, and laser shows.
For those out there who enjoy feeling like you are falling from a building, then Lotte World has the rides for you. Super thriller rides with steep drops. Not my kind of ride for sure but I know Jodi and Andrea had a riot on those rides.

After all the excitement on the rides Andrea and Jodi needed a break so we decided to go skating at the indoor rink. It may not have been such a great idea... Jodi and Andrea especially had a hard time standing up on their skates after the earlier excitement. Let’s just say that skating did not last very long so instead we went to the Folk Museum. Andrea’s favourite place so far on the trip - we know how much she loves history.

Walking around the museum, Jodi was soaking up all the information and learning stuff while Andrea and I were not as interested. It must have been the long day we had because normally Andrea and I would have been all over that history. No worries, we'll just ask Jodi later.

Better rest up for tomorrow because more excitement awaits us at Everland!

Lotte_World.jpg

Posted by jillandreajodi 08:31 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Seoul...our last day :(

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Everland is a huge park that is divided into five different sections: American Adventure, Magic Land, European Adventure, Zoo Topia and Roller Coasters. It cost 40,000 won to enter the park which is about $35CAD.

Near the entrance of the park there is a Global Fair which is a bazaar that is decorated with imitations of castles from France, middle eastern countries, Spain, India and Russia. Many different time periods throughout Europe and also different architectural styles to look at. What a great way to start off a park.

As we made our way further in the park, we made our way to Safari World. This is like the zoo part of the park where we saw white tigers, lions, bears, and more! Lucky for us, in April 2010 Herbivore Safari opened so we were able to get close to giraffes, elephants and ostriches. So cool!! There are also pandas at this zoo! They were so super cute! I wanted to bring one home but Jodi being logical told me it wouldn’t be such a great idea, "too big for the suitcase". After a bit of a walk, throughout the park we decided it was time to try some rides.

We left the park around dinner time so we had a bit of time to do our souvenir shopping before leaving Seoul. Myong-dong is the main shopping area. It has so much in it that it reminds me of New York. While we were there we didn’t buy much but I ended up getting a folding fan, a cell phone charm that was decorated and of course who could forget chopsticks! After all the time in Korea so far, I still have problems with them.

Souvenirs

Souvenirs

After that our time in Seoul was over. I wish we had more time here because there is still so much to do! Oh well, that just means we will have to come back one day. :)

Posted by jillandreajodi 08:31 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Panmunjon, the DMZ, and a glimpse at North Korea

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We are having a great time in South Korea and have seen so many interesting sites so far. We decided to take a day trip up to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea to experience “the most heavily guarded border in the world.”
The division of Korea happened in 1945, after World War II. This division ended Japan’s 35 year colonial rule of the country and was the result of a decision made by the victorious allies. The U.S.A. occupied the southern part of the 38th parallel, and the Soviet military occupied the North. Tensions grew as free elections failed to take place, and North Korea became a Communist state and South Korea adapted a Capitalist government. On June 25, 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea in one of the first armed conflicts of the Cold War. The Korean War continued for three years until an Armistice Agreement was signed by the United Nations Command. There was no peace treaty signed, and this was considered the end of the war. Unfortunately, more than a million people were killed in the war.

Today, the DMZ is considered very safe, and hostilities rarely take place. So we paid our 77,000 won and off we headed to get a glimpse into North Korea and the tension that lies between them and South Korea. First stop was a security checkpoint in which all of our passports were checked at Panmunjom. We continued along on the “freedom highway” which is about six lanes wide with no lines on the road. At about 10:30 am we arrived at Camp Bonifas, which is a camp close to the border. We were then given strict security instructions and protocol procedures for the rest of the tour. We proceeded to see the conference room where North and South Korea hold negotiations. There are three microphones that form a line down the the conference table. This symbolizes the physical divide between North and South Korea. We were given strict instructions not to smile, wave, or show any emotion to the North Korean guards that stood guard on the other side of the room as it can be turned into propaganda. We were tempted to make faces at the grim faced guard but we overrode this idea. After the observation room, we were able to go view the North Korean infiltration tunnel, and the military camps set up near the border. We were warned that there were still land mines in the area so when Jodi started to wander off to take pictures, we were very quick to grab her arm before she wandered too far! The tour took the morning and we were back in Seoul for lunch time. It was definitely an eye opening experience, and a good insight into the history and current situation between the two countries.

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Negotiation table between North and South Korea

Posted by jillandreajodi 08:30 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

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