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kja or others ... HELP!!!

Old Mar 29th, 2016, 06:18 PM
  #1  
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kja or others ... HELP!!!

I've had more time off from work in Seoul than I expected and have seen all the amazing highlights. Starting tomorrow (Thursday, 3/31) I will have 3-1/2 days off before I fly out 5:15pm on Sunday. I'd love to leave Seoul and see scenic areas with natural beauty.

I was thinking either Jeju Island or Mt. Seorak National Park. My preference would be to take a guided tour because I have no idea what to see -- or how to get around -- once I arrive. But ... there are no tours available on my dates.

The thought of taking a flight or a train to a place where I have no idea what to do or how to get around once I get there is more than a bit intimidating, especially because of the language barrier.

Any suggestions???
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Old Mar 29th, 2016, 06:27 PM
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One more question...
I saw this itinerary online. If I were to do this trip would I stay in one location as a base (i.e., Sylvia's guest house where kja stayed) or are the distances too far?

How would I get to these places? Are there tours? Or would I need to rent a car?

http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/...sp?cid=2365584
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Old Mar 29th, 2016, 08:50 PM
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That link recommends renting a car. You might consider Gyeongju, I had no trouble getting around there by public transport.

https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...oric-gyeongju/
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Old Mar 29th, 2016, 09:11 PM
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I propose 3 options:

1. Mt. Seorak. I didn't go there, and so can't give any advice. I've heard the scenery is remarkable, although some of the hikes sounded a bit strenuous to me.

2. Jeju-do, but not (I think) with the tour you linked -- too many things of little interest, too much time hiking in the middle of the day (when it can get HOT), too little time in some places, a lot of "herding" if the schedule is to be followed (and Asian tourists do, IME, follow their guides no matter what!), etc. Just my take.

I enjoyed my time in Jeju-do (the "-do" means island), but it is a bit of a honeymoon destination for young (VERY young) South Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese tourists, and a LOT of the activities there are targeted to that age bracket and that tourism bracket. Language shouldn't be a major problem on Jeju-do, but if you still don't have a guidebook, I think you would need to be willing to spend a substantial amount of time with knowledgeable people about YOUR interests and how to meet them. When I was there, I found the people at the tourist information desk in the airport to be very knowledgeable, fluent in English, and very patient and helpful. That said, I'm not sure you know what to ask them, and because buses circle this island in clockwise and counterclockwise directions (and it takes HOURS to complete the circuit -- 4 or 5 hours at a minimum, IIRC), and you then might need to take separate transportation to go to the place you actually want to see, I'm not sure how easy it would be for you to come up with a plan that didn't mean spending a LOT of time sitting on a bus, only to spend all too little time actually seeing the things of greatest interest on this island....

So, if you opt for Jeju-do, I think you might be best advised to hire a car and driver. They are readily available (and your hotel probably already has some they recommend), but they are, IME, MUCH more expensive than anywhere else in South Korea. But again, you need to be able to tell the driver what YOU want to see, as they are likely to be most experienced with the interests of young honeymooners.

I would be extremely surprised if you were able to get a room at my lodging -- not only did I book MONTHS in advance for that tiny place, but they don't accept people who simply show up. If you do go to Jeju-do, I would recommend staying in Seogwipo rather than Jeju City -- I think you'll have more options from Seogwipo. JMO.

BTW, you've expressed an interest in South Korean scenery. Jesu-do is scenic, but not typical of the rest of South Korea -- it is a volcanic island, quite unlike the peninsula itself.

3. Busan. Take the high-speed train, which runs frequently, to and from Busan. You'll see some spectacular scenery en route (and, depending on where you go) you'll see some stunning scenery there, too. Depending on your interests, stay in the area of the city where I did -- Seomyeon (good central location with easy access to lots of different transit lines) or by Haeundae Beach, where there is a very well established tourist infrastructure and hotels with English-speaking staff, etc. Use booking.com to find your lodging. The area by Haeundae Beach will, IME, be a bit (just a bit!) less convenient for local transportation, but would, I think, be much more manageable for you.

Visit the magnificent temple of Tongdosa, and plan on a long (several hour) visit there. Visit the memorable fish market at Jigalchi Market -- and be sure to have a meal there. If you want to hike a bit, go to the Geumjeong Sanseong, the fortress above the city from which you will see some absolutely breathtaking views, and then walk down through Beomeosa. Consider visiting Yonggungsa, Busan's unusual sea-side temple. The Busan Museum is worth a visit, IMO, as is the United Nations Cemetery. There is MORE than enough to keep you busy in Busan. See my trip report for MANY details about these places, how to get there, etc.

Note that there is a very good TI office along Haeundae Beach somewhere near the aquarium, staffed with several very helpful people who speak English extremely well. Even though its been a couple years since I was there, I'm confident that there will be staff there who will help you figure out what to see and do and HOW to do those things.

I found navigating Busan extraordinarily easy -- and if you are willing to stop at TI desks, ask for help at your hotel, etc., you should have no problem. I think it would be your easiest option, and one that would offer many great benefits. The downside is that it is another city, but it is IME quite different from Seoul...


Re: a car: All of my South Korean friends tell me they refuse to drive -- or even ride in a car! -- when they return to visit family and friends -- the accident rate is simply too high. That's consistent with what I read, and really, there is no need. (But I note that another Fodorite, shelemm, has said that renting a car worthwhile.) Remember that taking public transportation is a wonderful way to observe local people in "their natural habitat" -- you'll see far more of their life by riding a bus or metro than by sitting in a park visited by other tourists.


My impression, songdoc -- and I could be wrong -- is that each of these options will feel a bit out of your comfort zone. So be it! Even if a few moments are a bit uncomfortable, you might find some awesome benefits to stretching your wings a bit -- and honestly, I don't think Busan will be that much of a stretch.

Hoping this info helps, and with best wishes for a good experience. Please tell me what you end up doing and how you found it.
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Old Mar 29th, 2016, 09:13 PM
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thursdaysd responded while I was composing my answer. I agree the Gyeongju is well worth considering.
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Old Mar 29th, 2016, 09:46 PM
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Given that I was delighted to visit Gyeongju, I’ve been trying to think why I didn’t immediately identify it as one of your options. I think the reasons are:

(a) I didn’t find it as scenic as Busan (and I had in mind that you wanted to see South Korea’s magnificent scenery) – but you would likely see some wonderful scenery en route. Since I didn’t actually take that route, I can’t say for sure.

(b) I didn’t find Gyeongju as easy to visit as Busan – English was less widely spoken, TI desks were a bit less helpful, etc. But that could just be my experience, and it certainly didn’t strike me as particularly difficult to explore. And

(c) Your available time, even once you subtract your time for traveling to and from Seoul, would be a bit much for me in Gyeongju itself (which I thought quite easily seen in about 2 days). But you could, of course, use the extra time to see some delightful places nearby.

There certainly is a lot to see and do in and around Gyeongju, it would provide a nice contrast to Seoul, and OMG, you would see some amazing sites that are, IMO, well worthy of the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation!

Thanks, thursdaysd, for keeping my remarks on track, and again, best wishes, songdoc!
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Old Mar 29th, 2016, 10:28 PM
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Another vote for Gyeongju. So much to see and easy to get to by train. as thursdaysd says, it is easy to get around by public transpor. The language wasn't too much of an issue either.
Some of the sites we visited there last year on our blog http://accidentalnomads.com/category/south-korea/
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Old Mar 29th, 2016, 11:16 PM
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Thank you all SO much for your help. Unfortunately, I just learned I have to work very late tonight and I won't know until I'm through whether I can really leave tomorrow. If I don't let the hotel know in an hour, I'll be charged for the room. GRRRR...

To be honest, I am not a big city person, and after twelve days, I'm ready to leave--but it looks like I'm going to stay. I've seen some amazing things in Seoul and have gotten wayyyyy out of my comfort zone riding subways and eating God-only-knows-what, not to mention spending the day naked at an incredible spa.

I can do a tour to the DMZ on Saturday and go to the Folk Museum tomorrow or Friday--if I don't have to work.

So, again, thank you SO much for all your help, but I don't think it's worth it for me to uproot--and have to get back to Seoul for my flight--just for two days .
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Old Mar 30th, 2016, 05:13 AM
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Pity. (Care to share the name of the spa?) Oh well, this is useful for me. I am considering a short stop in South Korea on the way to Japan, and was thinking about Jeju-do. But I don't want to drive and I don't want to be surrounded by crowds of young honeymooners. Maybe I will just visit Busan.
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Old Mar 30th, 2016, 07:06 AM
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The spa I went to is Dragonhill Spa. It's the top rated spa and it's massive -- 6 stories. I'll do a trip report -- probably on the plane ;-).
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Old Mar 30th, 2016, 05:11 PM
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So sorry, Songdoc, that your work was extended, but glad that you have spread your wings a bit. That's awesome!!!

The Korean Folk Village might be a great choice for you. The Ho-Am is another nice option. You can find information about how to get to each in my trip report -- and don't worry when you see what I did after the Ho-AM: You can just retrace your steps instead of going on to Suwon. And, of course, Suwon is another choice, and you can reach it directly from Seoul rather than visiting the Ho-AM first....

Or, if your timing permits, Gyeongju might now be a particularly nice option -- sounds like your available time (2 or 3 nights) would now be a much better match to the time it would take to see it.

Enjoy!


@ thursdaysd -- there is absolutely NO need for a car on Jeju-do, and -- depending on your interests -- you can generally avoid being surrounded by crowds of young honeymooners. It takes a bit of advance planning, a willingness to travel independently rather than with a tour, and a willingness to be a bit flexible. My understanding is that you've got those qualities in spades!
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Old Mar 30th, 2016, 05:29 PM
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@kja - thanks, lol. Will reread your TR when I start planning that bit.
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