After a seven-hour journey, we landed at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport. Then we took a two-hour long drive and arrived at Novotel hotel. All through the way the hustle-bustle of Seoul kept us on tenterhooks. The busy roads, the Korean kids, people returning back from office… all these reminded us of the Indian metro cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. A light drizzle made the road look more clean.
After resting for the night, we started our South Korea tour the next day. Our first meeting was with the media coordinators of Lock and Lock, a company which makes kitchen accessories. The coordinators, Jack and Ajaya, took us on their company’s visit.
Seoul Tower, the glory of South Korea
Seoul Tower which stands tall at 236.7 metre is a national monument. It gives a beautiful view; in fact the scenic beauty of the whole of South Korea is visible from this tall tower. It is one of the most spectacular towers in Asia. This tower is built on Namsan hill and opens at 10 am for tourists. We purchased the ticket and a cable car arrived at exactly 10.01am. It took us along with other 99 tourists on top of the hill. The experience was unforgettable. There are also lock trees exclusively for couples near the tower. According to Korean mythology, couples put lock on the trees and vow to protect their relationship from all evils. There is another eye catching spot, a revolving restaurant which houses a club-media centre and children’s centre.
South Korea is home to 408 different species of birds. Out of these, 90 are endangered species. Besides this, Chejudo island houses different species of mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes and other unique animals.
South Korea also takes utmost care to conserve and develop its traditional art and culture. This country also promotes architecture, painting, sculpture, music, dance, drama and literature. Korean families can be seen enjoying dramas and operas every weekend. We were also lucky to watch a grand performance of a jump theatre.
Buddhist people comprise the majority of the population. There are beautiful Buddhist temples.
Seokoguram Grotto, Bulguksa Temple, Changdeokung Palace and Jongmyo shrine finds a mention in the UNESCOs world heritage list.
Changdeokung Palace is a replica of beauty. It is the oldest of Seoul’s Royal Palaces.
Seokoguram Grotto was built in the 8th century while Bulguksa temple in 774 AD. The former houses a statue of Buddha while the latter boasts of the seven national treasures of South Korea, including Dabotap and Seokgatap stone pagodas, Cheongun-gyo (Blue Cloud Bridge) and two gilt-bronze statues of Buddha.
Incomparable Korean tradition
Wide roads, continental foods, majestic palaces, museums, islands, shopping centres, colourful cultural villages, all these make a complete package. It is a perfect blend of classic and modern art and culture.
There are beautiful gardens, pagodas and national parks. An aquarium in the city of Busan is home to 35,000 species and one can view them through an acrylic window. Besides this, there are amusement parks, theme parks and commercial centers. Ulsan is the commercial city of Korea. Hang park overlooking Han river is also one of the many attractions.
Special Korean cuisine
Korean people are fond of food and connoisseurs of traditional Korean dishes. They are very particular about the nutritional ingredients present in their food. Their food contains various types of spices, herbs and vegetables. We tasted Korean rice noodles, better known as Chapchae in Korea. Kimchi is the main traditional Korean dish which is fermented and made of vegetables and varied seasonings. South Korea’s Kimchi is now famous in other countries as well. Besides this, different fish dishes, grilled meats are also liked in Korea. Another Korean dish named Bulgogi is also famous there. This is considered as the second national dish after Kimchi. It is a dish that usually consists of marinated, barbecued beef, although chicken or pork may also be used.
Every Korean drinks soup before eating the main course meal. They place great importance on dining etiquettes. They pay more emphasis on culinary. They also believe in ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’. In Korean culture, everyone eats with the help of chopsticks.
Non-vegetarian food forms the main part of their cuisine. Rice-cake is a traditional after-meal dessert.
They are very conscious about table etiquettes and table manners. Serving food is an art for them. They believe in proper and sequence serving of food.
How to go?
Flights are available from a few Indian cities to Korea. However, direct flights are less in number. Besides Cathay Pacific and Air India, Korean Air, United Airlines and Northwest Airlines provide flights to South Korea.
When to visit Korea?
South Korea is situated towards the north of Korean peninsula. Normally, the weather is temperate. January is extremely cold. The temperature dips below zero degree centigrade in January. In fact, June, July and August are the rainy months. The best time to visit South Korea is from September to December. The hues of autumn and spring season here are mesmerising.
The national language is Korean. English is hardly spoken there.
The Koreans show their respect to the other person by bending a little, just the way we greet each other by bending a little and saying ‘Namaste’. They are so cordial that they hand over their business cards using both hands. They do the same when they exchange gifts.
During one week stay in Korea, we never ever heard any Korean talking at a loud pitch or quarrelling.
Shopping in Dongdaemun market
The shopping experience in Dongdaemun market in Seoul is unique. This market was built in 1905 and underwent a make-over in 1970. You can find all sorts of branded as well as local Korean dresses, fashion accessories, funky jewellery and western attire. The tourists just cannot miss the charm of this market.
This market offers everything at a reasonable rate. You can still try your luck through bargaining.