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South Korea

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Suggestion sought
11 years ago, October 5th 2008 No: 1 Msg: #50856  
We are a retired couple who wish to travel around South Korea for 1 month.

Presently, we are at the planning stage and will appreciate some suggestions, before we take the plunge.
We would enjoy historical stuff, temples, scenery and not much into shopping (except, perhaps ginseng).
would like to know..........
1)Best season/month to visit.
2)Suggested itinerary/places of interest/must visit sites.
3)Is it difficult to visit those places using public transport?
4)Is there is any significant communication problem?
5)Suggested budget accomodation/home stay/backpacker around places of interest.

Thank you so much.........hope I'm not asking too much.
Reply to this

11 years ago, October 6th 2008 No: 2 Msg: #50955  
Hi Yan,

I spent a few years in South Korea, so I can give you a few answers:

1) best season to visit: NOW. The best season to visit Korea is Autumn (fall). October and November are terrific - the weather is cool and crisp, the trees are changing color, and the natives are happier. Second best is spring (April) when the flowers are cherry blossoms bloom and weather again is pretty good. Winter is cold and snowy, but creates beautiful landscapes and sets off the temples pretty well. Summer is sticky and humid. Avoid it.

2. Itinerary. Best thing to do is go to a travel agent that does group tours. You don't have to join the group tour, but you get some good ideas from it. Must see places include Kyongju (the ancient capital), Seoul (palace, temples), Busan (fish market). The rest are pretty similar, depending on your interests. Personally, I love the fish markets on the coast and the mountains. Another place of interest is a small town whose name I have forgotton which lives in the traditional way. It draws a lot of local tourists, but not many foreigners. Avoid the touristy one near Suwon though - it's nowhere near as good.

3. Public transport is really good in Korea. Go by train to most towns, and you will find a tourist information booth, or at least a tourist map in English. You will find that Korean maps are usually in English and Chinese charaters, so I you can read Chinese it will be a help. You will find accommodation in towns near places of interest and can do day trips to where you want to go. Korea is a tiny country, so distances aren't a big issue. And taxis are cheap.
Also, for trips around Seoul, check out the USO. This caters largely to US defense force personnel, but isn't limited in any way. Probably the best way to go to Panmunjom.

4. There is a significant communication problem and the Koreans try their best to overcome it. Me, I'm white, so there was never an expectation that I speak a word of Korean (even though I do). If you are Asian, you might not be spotted as a foreigner immediately, and will have to be a bit patient. Having said that, Koreans really do love showing off their country and talking about it, so it's surprisingly easy to get by. Target the younger people when asking directions or information because their English is way better than the previous generation. As far as electronic communications go (internet), you'll usually be within 100m of an internet cafe anywhere in any commercial district.

5. Suggested budget for hotels. You'll need to spend $30-$50 a night minimum at most places. Korea isn't exactly a backpackers' Mecca, so dirt cheap accommodation simply isn't available. On the other hand, for $30-50 a night you'll get a small clean room with ensuite, TV, aircon, heating etc. These small cheap hotels are available in any town and you can usually get a room any time. Make sure you avoid Chusuk and Chinese New year though, because the whole country mobilizes and transport and hotels are booked out.

Reply to this

11 years ago, October 9th 2008 No: 3 Msg: #51259  
Hi Peter,
Thank you very much for replying.
It's really informative and will certainly help in overcoming our anxiety.

Got it.....avoid Chinese New Year and Chusuk...I know about Chinese new year but when and what is Chusuk?
Korean celebrate Chinese new year too? or it is the Chinese tourists invasion during that period?

Mrs is hooked on Korean soaps and is bent on visiting....however, I've had an unforgetable stay in Korea, many years back while on a job assignment.

While it was plain sailing going offshore via Busan( hotels and transport being organised by the company ), I was on my own on the return trip. The hotel which I initially stayed was fully booked, and it was a nightmare trying to get help from the front desk......mostly communication problem.
Eventually with bastardised sign language, I managed to check into a "local" hotel.
It was a novelty sleeping on the floor, except, I did not know how to operate the floor heater ( I'm from Singapore, near the equator ) and was practically being roasted lol.

Looking forward to staying in "local" hotel again.

Hopefully, as you've said, the younger generation will be able to converse in English better.
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11 years ago, October 14th 2008 No: 4 Msg: #51614  
Oh, and one more thing.

When asking for directions or help, it's best to poll a few people, even if they speak perfect English. The locals lose face if they can't give you the info or directions you are asking for, so will make up answers rather than say they don't know.

A simple phrase book with your most common ten questions bookmarked will probably be enough to get you into a Yogwan (local hotel) and find the closest tourist information place or station.

Chusok is in September or October some time, which is a period, along with Chinese New Year, when Korean make an annual migration to their ancestral homes and clog up the infrastructure.

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10 years ago, December 14th 2008 No: 5 Msg: #57435  

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