"Fascinating South Korea's Modern/Traditional Mix" Seoul by Favzoz

Seoul Travel Guide: 3,050 reviews and 7,527 photos

Why visit the Land of the Morning Calm?

I am going to admit that I have some guilty pleasures. At my age, I don't really think that I should be feeling "guilty" about anything, but I am classifying these interests as: "things that only my closest family and friends know about me" (or maybe they don't-but will, now-if they read this).

About a year ago, I started watching Korean dramas. So, I am a little slow to jump onto the "Korean Wave," but I admit that I have become a drama addict. It was my initial encounter with a Korean TV drama series that sparked a curiosity and interest in the history, culture and land of South Korea. I watched all 62 episodes of the enthralling 2009 MBC historical drama, "The Great Queen Seon-deok." This got me to thinking about all sorts of things...like what is the Silla Dynasty? Who was Queen Seondeok and what was her impact on the history of Korea? And isn't it fascinating-the women of power in Korea at the time and what were their positions and roles, really? What do we know, historically, and how does it differ or resemble the fiction? All sorts of questions occurred to me. I got caught up in reading, researching, and thinking about "things Korean."

I am originally from Japan, but have never visited Korea-kind of interesting considering how they are in such close proximity. It's been a long time since I was in Japan, but late last summer I decided it was time to go back and visit my family...and since I would be in that part of the world, why not visit Korea? I added that extension onto my original plans and that's how I ended up visiting Korea!

Arrival at the Center of the K-drama Universe

Anyone who watches K-drama should know that the center of the universe is Incheon International Airport, where pivotal things happen. This was my arrival point. It's a beautiful airport, exceptionally well organized, and itself is a tourist attraction. It may well be my favorite airport!

I arrived at midnight and opted to take a taxi due to the hour and the fact that I had to be up at the crack of dawn to meet my guide who would be escorting me to Gyeongjyu for two days. The ride from ICN to Gangnam-gu, Seoul, was approximately an hour and the cost was around US$95. I stayed at the Imperial Palace Hotel, which I later kept seeing in interior scenes of several dramas that I have since watched after returning home. The hotel has a very elaborate, old-world style lobby, with ornate gold elevators and all sorts of antiquey-furnishings. Perfect for those movie shots portraying atmosphere, elegance and a sense of "royalty." I chose this hotel because I got a good price and that's the main reason. It's not really my style, but it was nice enough and the service was ok.

Cuisine and Traditional Markets of Seoul

I spent three days touring traditional markets and the cuisine of Seoul, along with participating in a cooking class. I learned a great deal about Korean cuisine-my previous knowledge was non-existent. Since I've returned home, I've learned a bit more and I've utilized a lot of what I learned on my vacation.

One of my most interesting tours was of Noryangjin Fish Market. I highly recommend anyone visiting Seoul to go there! It is amazing. There are so many kinds of fish and seafood; spectacular! One of the best meals I had was bought and cooked right there!

Besides the markets, I visited Bonguensa Temple and Dosan Park. Both of these places, situated in the hustle and bustle of a very alive city, offer a tranquil respite. There are places that contrast with the modernity of the oh-so-urban, contemporary fast-paced, ever-changing landscape of Seoul. I enjoyed Bonguensa so much that I visited twice during my four days in Seoul. You really do leave the "real" world for an introspective spiritual visit once you pass through the entry gate...or, at least, I did. Bonguensa Temple sits amid the backdrop of skyscrapers and the Coex Center. The enormous 75 ft. tall figure of the standing Maitreya Buddha (Buddha of the Future) presides amiably and beckons one to enter into another level of consciousness. I personally find something reassuring about these Buddhas who sit (or stand) in the open environment. Unfortunately, there are many such statues that are now housed in structures (for their protection) that are no longer in the open air.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:The food and traditional markets are great; it's an adventure!
  • Cons:Too many choices-be selective!
  • In a nutshell:There Are Islands of Tranquility Amidst Fast Paced Modernity in Seoul
  • Last visit to Seoul: Nov 2011
  • Intro Updated Mar 11, 2012
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Favzoz

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