Seoul Travel Guide
It's that time of the year again, the time when the year just plain ends. Alas, we can't just let 2013 go that easily, especially since travelers spent it both up in the air and up in arms over a crazy range of topics. Needless to say, we're ready to get going into 2014, but first we're taking a brief look back at the best of 2013 with the Jaunted Travel Awards,or as we fondly refer to themThe Jauntys.
2013 saw the rise of important new routes for three world cities in particular: Chengdu, China; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Seoul, South Korea. Just one can win for hosting the best new route of the year, however, and so we hope you packed plenty of 'Gangnam Style' for the launch of American Airlines' nonstop between Dallas-Fort Worth and Seoul-Incheon.
The classic pizza feud of New York vs Chicago is old news. These days, it's all about the Pizza Huts of China vs the Pizza Huts of Hong Kong vs the Pizza Huts of Japan vs...you get the idea.
Recently, the pizza place chain even made headline news in China for doing away with their salad bars and whether or not the trend of building salad towers had anything to do with that decision. For real though, we can't even imagine eating any salad at Asia's pizza huts because the pie varieties are just so darn indulgent, and in the case of South Korea's Camembert pizza, even opulent.
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Let's play a game of what's hot and what's not. What's HOT is flying to the other side of the world to land at Incheon International Airport, visiting Seoul, South Korea, and eating and shopping yourself silly in the city. What's NOT is...well, not doing these things, since Seoul is absolutely one of the global capitals on the cusp of everything cool right now. So while we definitely recommend making your stay longer than five days to even begin to scratch the surface, at least these do-not-dos will help no matter the trip length.
So without further ado, here is the Jaunted guide of What Not To Do In Seoul: The Top 5 Tourist Mistakes.
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South Korea is so much more than kimchi.
The Anthony Bourdain wannabes of the world consistently rank Singapore as the number one destination for true food adventures, but Seoul should be right up there as well. The eating's that good. It's so good that we couldn't narrow our favorite South Korean flavors to a list of 10 items, or even 20; nope, we have 31 must-try Seoul foods to share with you.
As always, we recommend taking this mantra to heart: If it looks ugly, it tastes awesome. Now you're ready to have your world rocked.
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No Seoul/soul jokes this week, guys. We're just going to tell it like it is in celebration of American Airlines' new route to Seoul, South Korea, a city so hugely underrated and yet so majorly cool. It's a city that comes with the Jaunted seal of approval many times over and for the next several days we'll be explaining exactly why.
Bibimbap. Bulgogi. Tteokbokki. We're not going to sugarcoat things; Korean cuisine can be just as confusing as attempting to correctly pronouce the name of a dish. Now, that's no reason to spend every evening dining at Lotteria (Korea's version of McDonalds, complete with a ramen burger); in fact, all the etiquette and ingredients and ceremony of a hearty Korean meal means diving in head-first and, yes, tasting the kimchi.
For first timers to Seoul or those who need a refresher, we recommend joining an O'ngo Dining Tour. Depending on your tastes (literally), O'ngo will take you out for Korean BBQ, to nibble from street stall to street stall in bustling Myeongdong, orwhat we bookeddown the alleys and into the local favorites around Anguk after dark. This one tour gave us the confidence (and pronunciation help) to continue devouring only Korean cuisine for the next 7 nights of our stay. Best idea ever, really.
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No Seoul/jokes jokes this week, guys. We're just going to tell it like it is in celebration of American Airlines' new route to Seoul, South Korea, a city so hugely underrated and yet so majorly cool. It's a city that comes with the Jaunted seal of approval many times over and for the next several days we'll be explaining exactly why.
Instead of several boring paragraphs explaining our love for this mega metropolis, we're kicking off Seoul Week by just putting it all out there in visuals, or Vines.
Vine, a social video sharing app, is best deployed for capturing the tiniest moments in travel, those which would be easily lost in the static menagerie of Instagram. Below are six examples, all shot while we tooled around Seoul for 9 days of perfect late spring weather:
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When we travel, one of our favorite things to do is to pop into a local grocery store and check out the food products and candies we'd never find anywhere else. So we're trying out this new feature, Foreign Grocery Friday, where each week we'll feature some of our (and your) favorite overseas treats. Got a recommendation? Let us know!
Walk through the super popular shopping district of Myeungdong in Seoul, South Korea and you're bound to see them. Strolling young couples take a moment to put away their smartphones and focus on the most impressive street food south of the Cheonggyecheon: the 32cm ice cream cone.
Okay so it's not technically a grocery, but you wouldn't want to buy this at a supermarket anyway. Available in several basic flavors as well as a mix, the ice cream is served up by a few skilled workers who pull the soft serve from sun down until past midnight, depending on the strength of the crowds. The allure of the foot-high cone is simple: it's cheap, it's quick, it's cooling after a warm early summer day, it's a treat, and it's an ideal subject for photos posted to social media.
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If we were to tell you that American Airlines only just began flying to Seoul, you'd probably say "what, they weren't flying there already?!"
As crazy as it seems, it's the truth. Prior to May 9, any traveler wanting to fly American to Seoul would actually only get as far as Tokyo, where there'd be a connection to a Japan Airlines flight onward to Seoul-Incheon (ICN). Furthermore, this new route means some very nice competition for airlines to Korea and some fresh service enhancements from American (like the bibimbap!).
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We have all had a terrible meal on a flight before. In fact, we have shown you some of the sadder trays slid in front of us. With this new series of amazing airline meals, we can revel in the airline culinary delights and give kudos to the airlines that got it right.
16 hours in the air is nothing to take lightly. That's three mealtimes, plus several naps, plus a movie or two and some general spacing-out-while-staring-at-clouds time. Thus, when it came to our nonstop in Business Class from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Seoul, South Korea yesterday on American Airlines, we knew we had plenty time to enjoy filling up on food.
AA 27 was actually the very first flight by AA to Seoul, a momentous occasion on which we'll go into deeper depth next week. Still, because it was an inaugural to South Korea, it would be the first time American has offered the Korean dish of Bibimbap on a flight. How could we pass it up?
While our seatmate tucked into his chicken order, the flight attendant presented us with a printed "How To" sheet on properly mixing the ingredients together, as bibimbap is actually rice with a plethora of colorful additions (carrot, zucchini, cucumber, shiitake, spinach, egg, tender beef bulgogi and pepper paste to taste). Even though this was an airline meal, presentation and quantity didn't suffer in the least.
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At Seoul's Gyeongbokgung Palace
Forget "Gangnam Style" for a moment and consider what influence the tiny country of South Korea has on the planet. Own anything by Samsung or LG? Ever tried Taekwondo or tasted Red Mango yogurt? These are all Korean contributions to the world. Finally more airlines are figuring out that Seoul is awesome enough to warrant nonstop flightslike American Airlines' nonstop from Dallas-Ft. Worth starting tomorrow (May 9).
If you're not scared off by North Korea's threatsand you shouldn't be because everything is progressing normal as pie in South Koreaand you're hopping a flight to ICN soon, then there are a few steps you can take to prepare for a trip to Seoul:
· Register with the State Department's STEP Program
STEP, or "Smart Traveler Enrollment Program," used to by the less jazzy title of "State Department Travel Registration," but its function is still the sameto make the US embassies to which you're traveling aware of your presence. Should there be a weather disaster, civil unrest, or other emergency occurrence, the embassy will have your contact information and know that you're likely in need of assistance along with other American in the country. In times of peace and sunny weather, the program occasionally sends an email with the latest travel alert news on the destination.
We actually register with STEP for any trip we take lasting over one week, or to any country with even the least bit of weirdness.
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CNN reported earlier this week that Psy has been named South Korea's new tourism ambassador. To which we immediately thought: ummm...he wasn't that already? Who were they using for tourism advertising instead? Because apparently it wasn't the really popular guy whose music videos have been viewed by billions of people in the recent past. And while we're not experts at this sort of thing, it seems to us like maybe they should have been using the really popular guy whose music videos have been viewed by millions of people in the recent past.
It turns out there's an answer to that question. Since October 2012 the tourism ambassador of South Korea has been Kenny G. No punchline. We're just going to let that hang there with no comment. The face of South Korean tourism for the last 6 months? Kenny G.
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It's craxy to think that it's already been 9 months since the South Korean hit song "Gangnam Style" began its viral spread and climb from K-pop success to international movement. Just as crazy is the fact that the music video holds the record of being the first YouTube video to be viewed over 1 billion times.
Last week, Psy released the sequel song and video to Gangnam Style, called it simply "Gentleman." To say it was highly anticipated would be a gross understatement, but we're happy to say that Psy hasn't let us down one bit; in fact, it's reignited our love for Seoul.
For the uninitiated, Psy is a South Korean pop star, though he's also been called a rapper. In this song and video, as in Gangnam Style, he pokes fun at the style and assumed swagger of Seoul's Gangnam-gu, a flashy district with high rents, high expectations and a focus on the high-status lifestyle. Psy traipses about the city as he thinks a gentleman would, although he's unable to part with his un-gentlemanly ways until he finds a girl who puts him in check. No amount of money or indulging in what's construed as classy can fix his pranking ways, but love can.
Without further ado, here's 5 real-life locations from the music video, "Gentleman":