Seoul: more than a TV drama

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For many Zimbabwean’s experience of South Korea has been honed by the country’s television dramas, aired on local television.

Travel with with Dusty Miller

In fact, there is more to the Asian country than reaches our screens.

Travel to Seoul
Flights to Seoul arrive at Incheon International Airport, 70km west of Seoul.

Public transport options are superb, and travellers can take a high speed AREX train to reach the city centre.

Trains leave every six minutes for the hour-long journey which intersects in several places with the Incheon Subway and Seoul Metropolitan Subway.

Visitors can also take a bus to their destination: ‘limousine’ buses shuttle passengers directly between airport and major hotels, while public buses connect with travel hubs after Seoul flights.

About Seoul
Travellers can enjoy ancient architecture with the city’s five royal palaces. Wander the landscaped beauty of the ‘secret garden’, discover traditional ‘hanok’ houses in Bukchon, or shop for wonderful arts and craft souvenirs.

In 1950, during the Korean War, Seoul was almost completely destroyed. South Korea’s Seoulites revived the city from the rubble, and rebuilt it so extensively that today it is one of Asia’s largest and most modern metropolises.

Seoul is a sprawling conurbation of contemporary skyscrapers and historic buildings, divided by the Han River bisecting the city from east to west.

A quarter of South Korea’s population lives in Seoul; hence the capital is the country’s foremost economic, political and cultural centre.

Special in more ways than one, Seoul is a patchwork of distinct neighbourhoods, each exhibiting its own quirks and characteristics.

The city offers a dizzying array of sights and sounds – from Unesco World Heritage Sites to karaoke bars — and is a major transportation hub for East Asia.

Attractions
The ancient seat of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty, Seoul features five royal palaces, the grandest of which is Gyeongbok-gung. Its vast grounds now house the Joseon Palace Museum and the Korean Folk Museum.

Another superb palace is Changdeok-gung in Jongno-gu: a Unesco World Heritage Site built in 1405. In addition to its well preserved buildings, it features a 78 acre “secret garden”, the Huwon.

For a look at ancient Korea, head to Bukchon, the collective name for a number of tiny suburbs near Gyeongbuk-gung and Huwon. Seoul’s historical heart, Bukchon is where Korea’s ruling elite built their traditional ‘hanok’ houses.

Take a step back in time and wander one of the few places in Korea where these original hanoks — 900 of them — have been preserved.

South of Bukchon is Insadong, a street featuring Korean arts and crafts. This bustling market loved by visitors for its many souvenirs: wooden masks, hand-painted wall hangings, paper goods, ceramic tea sets, sculptures and calligraphy.

Other traditional shopping areas include Namdaemun Market, a 24-hour shopping paradise. It is adjacent to Namdaemun Gate, the ‘Great South Gate’ to Seoul which has been designated the nation’s number one treasure.

Dining and nightlife
Much of Seoul’s social scene revolves around dining out, and accordingly the city is packed with restaurants.

Seoul has numerous Chinese and Japanese restaurants, and a sprinkling of Western or European restaurants, but for the best introduction to the Far East, sample Korean street food: ddeokbokgi (rice-cake sticks); hoddeok (pan-fried dough cakes); gimbap (rice rolled in sheets of seaweed); and beung-uh bbang (cookies filled with red bean paste).

Traditional restaurants serving Korean barbecue can be found in Samcheongdong, while Insadong’s family-owned Korean restaurants and tea rooms serve great value food. Beware: Koreans don’t differentiate between breakfast, lunch or dinner; expect to be served rice all day with little besides noodles to break up the monotony.

Non-Korean reading tourists might prefer to head to Itaewon, Seoul’s ‘international’ district where Western-styled restaurants are tailored for English speakers – no pointing at menus needed here.

Other Western-friendly dining areas include upmarket Apgujeong where well-heeled beautiful people throng amongst designer bars and restaurants.

Seoul comes alive when the sun sets and there are numerous areas renowned for nightlife. Enjoy the cafés of Myeongdong, contemporary nightlife in Dongdaemun, upscale and exclusive bars in Apgujeong-dong and nearby Sinsadong, or Western style clubs in Gangnam.

A young, hip crowd can usually be found in Daehangno, Shinchon and the student district of Hongdae where noraebang ‘singing rooms’ (otherwise known as karaoke) is the order of the day.

Beyond Seoul
Thirty minutes south of Seoul is Suwon, home of Hwaseong Fortress, a Unesco World Heritage Site. Built at the end of the 18th century, the fortress comprises four magnificent gates and is encircled by a 5km wall.

For a break from the city, head to the beaches of Yeongoing Island, where restaurants and karaoke bars line the shore. Don’t miss Eulwangni Beach’s weekend fireworks.

From Jamjindo, on the southwest of the island, you can take a ferry to Muuido, with its fishing village, bargain seafood restaurants and quiet Hanagae Beach.

A daily Dubai-Lusaka-Harare Emirates service is operated by a 777-300ER aircraft with 354 seats in a three-class configuration offering eight luxurious First Class suits, 42 seats in Business Class and generous space for 304 passengers in Economy Class.

Throughout the aircraft, passengers can experience the airline’s award-winning ice in-flight entertainment system with a choice of over 1 400 channels on-demand as well as meals prepared by gourmet chefs.

Emirates is also known for its award-winning service from its international cabin crew recruited from over 100 countries around the world.

Emirates operates twice-daily flights to Seoul from Dubai using a state-of-the-art fleet including the Emirates A380.

EK 713 departs Dubai every day at 09:25, arriving Harare 17:10hrs. The return flight EK 714 leaves Harare at 18:50, arriving Lusaka 19:50. It leaves Lusaka at 21:25, landing in Dubai at 06:40 next day.

Fares from Harare to Seoul start at around US$1 986 return.
For visa information contact the South Korean Embassy, 3rd Floor, Redbridge, Eastgate Building, 3rd Street/ Robert Mugabe Road, Harare. Tel: (263-4) 756541/4; E-mail: admirok@zol.co.zw.

Book at your favourite travel agent, at the Emirates office in Avondale or online at www.emirates.com/zw

dustym@zimind.co.zw

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