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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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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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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":
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After about a year of back and forth and fight after fight, Asiana flight attendants have bucked their dress-code and can now rock up to work wearing a smart pair of pants to serve passengers. A South Korean human rights group has deemed the skirt-only rule for cabin-crew discriminatory, as it is far too gender specific.
For the first time in 25 years, any one of the over 3,000 flight attendants can wear pants to work without a slap on the wrist. The revised 10-page guidelines for what the female crew can wear gets as detailed as how big their earrings can be, what color their hair can be and which type of eye makeup can be worn.
When British Airways launched their new route to Seoul on 2 December, we were disappointed that they didn’t seem to have made a big deal out of it (other than the amazing launch fares, which they released last month). Turns out they were waiting until this week to do a proper launch – a huge party in Seoul, with cabin crew doing Gangnam Style dancing to send off the flight packed with BA’s great and good, and half the UK’s business press.
The crew were led by Ola Jordan, one of the professionals on Strictly Come Dancing (the UK verson of Dancing With the Stars). But forget Ola and her fetching red dress – we’re in love with the guy on the far left, who looks like he’s having the time of his life. Put him on our next flight, stat!
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Finally! We've been saying it since August (when we pinpointed the locations from the music video), but finally Seoul Tourism is using Psy's "Gangnam Style" song to advertise the capital city as a fun tourist destination.
The last few days have seen the introduction of a tourism board video that mimics Psy's dance moves, but splices in mini-interviews with foreigners in Seoul as they deliver one-word descriptions of the district of Gangnam-gu, the most fitting of which we'd say is "trend." Not gonna say "toldnya so," but yeahwe kind of did.
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Kickin' back in Club World between London and Tokyo
When Psy's music video "Gangnam Style" went viral at the end of the summer, our first thought was "oh man, this is going to be awesome for Seoul tourism." Seriously. We're geeks about this stuff, okay? Anyway, it's holding true as British Airways just announced a huge fare sale with the headline "Get to Gangnam in Style."
Brilliant, BA. Our cursor is already hovering over the "purchase" button. What's even better are those sale ticket prices for the 9.5-hour flights:
London-LHR to Seoul-ICN* on a Boeing 777:
In Economy (World Traveller): £377/$600 roundtrip (45% off)
In Premium Economy (World Traveller Plus): £577/$918 roundtrip (40% off)
In Business (Club World): £777/$1235 roundtrip (70% off)
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Doubtless by now you've seen the music video taking the internet by storm: Psy's "Gangnam Style." As we write this, the YouTube version (posted above) is edging near its 70 millionth view, a staggering number considering it's only been online since July and sits pretty solid atop the YouTube Top 100.
For the uninitiated, Psy is a South Korean pop star though he's also been called a rapper. In this song and video, he pokes fun at the style 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, asserting that he is Gangnam-style and wants a girl similarly so, but there's always a twist; scratching the gilded surface reveals the generic reality.
For all Psy's trendy costumes and big dance moves, the locations happen to steal the show and, though we've been to Seoul in the past, "Gangnam Style" had us yearning for a return visit. Will it impact tourism? There's a very good possibility, but first you've got to know where to go to film yourself mimicking the horse riding dance moves.
Five real-life locations from Psy's music video, "Gangnam Style":
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They just keep on coming! (Not that we're complaining). Two more international city badges on location-based social network Foursquare have just dropped, in time for your late summer travels!
These newest city badges go to: Seoul, South Korea and Perth, Australia
How to get the badges: First, follow 4sqCities, and just to be safe, it wouldn't hurt to also follow the individual city lists: Seoul (list) & Perth (list). Then travel to the cities and clickety-click to check-in to the places on the recommended lists. Five places earns the badge.
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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!
American amusement parks and state fairs could learn a thing or two from the way South Korea has mastered hot dogs. They're available in every way, including spiral cut, wrapped in bacon, stewed in a curryish chili paste, and nearly tempura-ed with vegetables. Even some rice cakes, like Ddeokbooki, imitate hot dogs. Still, our personal favorite remains the infamous french fry-coated corn dog.
These deep-fried snacks usually figure into visitor's breathless descriptions of Seoul, a little like this: "The palaces! The shopping! And the ice cream cones...they were this tall. And and and the corn dogs were covered in french fries!!"