Hey Seoul Sister – Beth Jenkins

I was so excited for my 24 hour Seoul Stopover and the South Korean capital totally delivered. Now most of my clients aren’t asking me to send them to Seoul, but the non stop IAD-ICN flight is a popular one for connections to other Asian destinations like Kuala Lumpur and Bali. Many times an overnight in Seoul is required … but even if it is not a forced overnight, I’m about to tell you why you should consider spending some time in the city.
Seoul is clean, safe, modern, and cultural. It’s a big city but easy to navigate. If you stay on the North side of the city at a hotel like the Grand Hyatt, you’re in walking distance to Itaewon (many shops and restaurants), Namsam mountain for walking, and the palaces. Streets and the metro are impeccably clean and the metro is very easy to navigate. It even gives you back your change after your ride if you don’t use the full fare (unlike DC which leaves you with a card with $0.35 on it!). There is very little crime in Seoul and walking around as a female traveling alone (both during the day and at night) I never once felt nervous or uncomfortable.  South Koreans are very kind and basically go about their business and I never felt like I was sticking out or calling attention as a tourist.  There are also many Americans in Seoul both for business and due to the large Army base here.
Gyongbokgung Palace
Gyongbokgung Palace

The Itaewon area is a shopping/dining district but is fairly commercial with lots of American and international chains.  However there are also plenty of boutiques and local restaurants and international cuisine. Since I arrived in the evening and realized I forgot my make-up (#wishIwasjoking #firstworldproblems) I was glad to be walking distance to Itaewon and thank God for Olive Young (Korean ULTA). After a little shopping and exploring I had a Korean dinner of bulgogi for one and then headed back to the Grand Hyatt to get some sleep and get my body in this time zone.

Namdaemun Market
Namdaemun Market

The next day I headed to Namdaemun Market with all kinds of stalls where you can find anything from pantyhose to purses. The market is located right at the Namdaemun gate which is the only remaining gate of the original 7 gates to the old imperial city. The gate was harmed by an arsonist in recent years but has been well restored. From there you can walk north up the main boulevard and you’ll find the Deoksugung Palace on your left, and finally the Gyongbokgung Palace at the head of the boulevard.  It’s very cool to see these traditional imperial palaces right in the middle of modern Seoul. And while the guards are as straight-faced as those at Buckingham Palace, you can have your picture taken with them … I think throwing up the peace sign is a requirement for posing for photos here.

Not to mention the amazing food. My neighborhood in DC boasts one of the best and most authentic Korean restaurants in DC so I was really looking forward to the real deal. Korean food is spicy, but not too spicy, extremely flavorful, and lots of veggies. Bibimbap and bulgogi are favorite dishes, and many restaurants bring your meat right to the table with a built in grill and you cook it right there to your liking.

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Finally I have to say a word about how I got here… on the Korean Air IAD-ICN nonstop.  It’s awesome to get halfway across the world in just under 15 hours. The plane is spacious and the service of the Korean crew was wonderful.  This was my first time flying business class on a long haul flight (and probably my last for a while!)…but the flat bed is the best thing ever.

So thankful for this opportunity for a quick Seoul Stopover… I hope to be back! Now off to Kuala Lumpur!

 

 

 

 

 

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Hong Kong at Night – Michelle Bemis

Hong Kong by daylight is thrilling, but Hong Kong at night is memorizing. First we walked along the Waterfront Promenade which is also Hong Kong’s walk of stars as we have in Hollywood. Since the Lunar New Year is approaching the buildings, always colorful are even more beautifully decorated. As you look out on the Harbour you can see the Star Ferries as well as the fishing and pleasure boats that are sailing.

Every evening Hong Kong puts on one of the biggest light shows in the world.  It is called a Symphony of Lights featuring decorative light and laser from 44 buildings across the Harbour.  To enjoy this I was able to cruise the Aqua Luna Junk in the Harbour seeing and hearing the performance.  

Temple Street is one of the liveliest places in Hong Kong at night.  It is a mixture of performers, fortune tellers, and stalls for food and goods.  This frenzy of light, color and crowds is worth the visit.

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