The Seoul of Asia
The saying is typically, “I heart New York City”, but apparently, world travellers are enamored with Seoul, Korea. Tourists, rankings, and mainstream media have listed Seoul, as their favorite world city three years in a row. As the title of this article cheekingly points out, Seoul is the Soul of Asia. Who would think of Seoul as a world-renowned travel destination? Apparently it is, so let us find out why?
Seoul remains one of the most crowded and largest cities in the world and is also regarded as one of the world’s top ten commercial and financial centers. Though Seoul remains a teeming city, it is beautifully connected via numerous subways and one can find people of different origins thronging transportation. In Seoul, you can comfortably shortcut through the extensive subway network at any time and reach most destinations within a very short span of time. Many beautiful palaces, delicious food and great nightlife have enhanced Seoul’s reputation as a truly urbanized, multicultural and cosmopolitan Asian epicenter. The perfect blend of East Meets West, Seoul encompasses modern skyscrapers and neon lights to Buddhist temples, palaces and pagodas. On the other hand, the headquarters for some of the world’s largest corporations have also been built up here.
Korean culture is considered one of the world’s oldest cultures encompassing modern and traditional art, lifestyle, fashion, food, architecture, religion, and nightlife. Royal Shrines of the Joseon Dynasty is a favourite tourist destination as it holds the famous spirit tablets of the ancestral kings and queens of Seoul. You can visit the main hall Jeongjeon, which has 19 rooms containing 49 tablets. Later, you can walk to Gyoeongbokgung, also well known as Gyeongbok Palace, which is a star tourist attraction and is the main royal palace in Seoul that was built by King Taejo of Joseon Dynasty in 1394. This palace was built in the northern part of Seoul and it remained the most favoured palace of many princes throughout the Joseon Dynasty.
In Changdeokgung, one can visit the popular Changdeokgung Palace or Changdeok Palace. Deoksugung Palace, or Deoksu Palace, which is a walled compound of palaces in Seoul, is where several Korean royalties resided at one time. It was originally the residence of Prince Wolson. Jongmyo Daeje, the royal ancestral rite, takes place in Jongmyo Shrine every year in the month of May. It enshrines the spirit tablets of Joseon kings and queens and still holds a lot of significance in the heart of the local people. If you seek more of the ancient culture then you should visit Cheongwadae or The Blue House that serves as the office of the president of South Korea. Blue tiles were reserved for kings and still denotes a place of authority at Cheongwadae.
Moving on from the history of Seoul, you can visit the Hang-Gahng or Han River Park that has served as a place of leisure for the citizens of Seoul for centuries. After strolling along the park, a visit to Daehangno, a colorful theatre district of Seoul, is highly recommended due to its picturesque performances. In the evening, neon signs are lit one after another and the streets are filled with people visiting all sorts of places of interest. At Daehangno, various types of performances are held in the various forty large and small theatres throughout the year.
Many tourists throng Seoul to visit Insadong – this locale is very famous as a traditional street to both foreigners and locals and contains the culture of the past and the present. You can visit the Insadong shopping area, which has many art galleries and shops that sell antiques and handicrafts. There is an enormous collection of antique artifacts and authentic traditional artwork and handicraft at the Korean Antique Association, which is also located at the Insadong shopping area.
Namsan Park is another interesting place for the tourists in Seoul. Mt. Namsan is a mountain located at the centre of Seoul. Various facilities are available at the top of this mountain including a cable car to the top or walk up the stairway path. Touted as a historical site, Mt. Namsan was once the centre of capital defense. If you seek to rejuvenate yourself then you must visit the traditional Korean village – Namsangol Hanok Village. This village is renowned for its beautiful location between tall sky-rise apartments and buildings. Taking a walk around this village is a great way to connect with the rural aspect of Seoul.
As Seoul has been attracting tourists throughout the world for years, many good hotels have been established for business in Seoul. There are many outstanding quality luxurious hotels as well as average hotels. Park Hyatt Seoul, The Shilla Seoul, The Westin Chosun Seoul, Lotte Hotel Seoul and Marriott Executive Apartments are some of the most exclusive hotels to stay at in Seoul.
Seoul is very well connected with the rest of the world and has two airports, which carry all the major airlines having direct flights to Seoul. This is the reason why getting to Seoul by air is the most convenient option. Seoul is also linked to most of the parts of South Korea by an extensive rail network. If you go to Seoul by train, this will give you a great opportunity to enjoy the magnificent landscape en route. Seoul has a very good bus network too that is connected to the all corners of South Korea. Therefore, you can reach Seoul at very low cost if you go there by road.
If you want to check out the local food joints then there are lots of restaurants, eateries, cafes and food corners all around this bustling metropolis. All types of regional foods are available in these shops. Delicious pork items are considered a popular and tasty Korean delight. Korean dishes are largely based on rice, noodles, vegetables and meats. If you are a non-vegetarian, you will still have the opportunity to indulge in all kinds of regional food served in Korea. Korean dishes have many side dishes to accompany the main course such as the classic, Kim-chi.
If you want to take back something as souvenir after experiencing this truly unique and soulful destination, then you must definitely try out the Hanbok. As the traditional dress of South Korea, the Hanbok has dominant vibrant colors and simple lines without pockets. It does not follow the actual style as worn in Joseon dynasty and has undergone some major changes since the twentieth century for practical reasons – purchase your very own Hanbok and other traditional Korean wear from COEX Mall, which is an underground mall located in Gangnam-gu. This mall is considered to be Asia’s largest underground shopping mall and is definitely a must-visit.
Seoul lies in the border area between a humid sub-tropical and humid continental climate. Here, summers are generally humid and hot. The East Asian monsoon generally takes place from June to July. August is the hottest month of the year, while the winter months are very cold and are generally much drier than summers. An average of twenty-eight days of snowfall takes place at Seoul every year. The best periods for a visit to Seoul are between the months of October and January. If your aim lies in getting away from the daily hectic schedule of your life into the freshness of traditional Asian culture, cuisine and picturesque beauty, Seoul is undoubtedly the number one choice.