Taiwan or South Korea (in Sept/Oct.)?

Jul 14th, 2009, 05:33 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2
Taiwan or South Korea (in Sept/Oct.)?

Hello and thanks for taking the time to read this!

We're a young, married couple (late 20's) planning our first trip to Asia. We have 5 weeks to travel in September and October and we're flying into/out of Hong Kong.

In addition to HK, I've been researching Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

(Keep in mind my husband is hoping to do some electronics shopping for a new laptop, cell phone and who knows what else. I've read prices aren't as low as expected. Still.)

My rough itinerary looks like this:

Hong Kong ~ 1 week -x * (not too interested in Macau)
Japan ~ 2 weeks (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka + ?)
Taiwan ~ 1 week (Taipei + Taroko Gorge + ?)
South Korea ~ 1 week (Seoul + Gyeongju + ?)
*x days to be reallocated as needed

1) Is this doable? We want to make the most of our time but don't want to be too rushed. We'd rather err on the side of *slow travel.*

My sense is that this itinerary seems to be stradling the edge.

2) Should we cut out Taiwan or South Korea and reallocate that week elsewhere? I'm leaning towards keeping South Korea but I'd appreciate suggestions from those who know better.

3) Is one week too much time for HK? We're thinking of skipping Macau because we're not interested at all in gambling...is that a mistake?

4) We would like to relax in one place for the 3rd week so that we don't burn out. Normally we prefer the mountains to the beach but we want to rest our feet during this break. We'd like a quiet, peaceful place to rest. I had to rule out Okinawa and Jeju-do because of weather concerns. Any ideas?

5) Any suggestions for must-see places I've failed to mention? I'm still reading about things to do/see in each country so I know I've only begun to scratch the surface.

Some background info:

Our ideal visit balances spending time in the city and villages. We're interested in seeing what sets the culture and nation apart.

When visiting cities we tend to divide our time between visiting museums, important landmarks and trying new, local food. We're not big on night life or local markets/bazaars.

Thanks in advance for all your help!
escadabelle is offline  
Jul 14th, 2009, 06:44 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,988
First of all, about electronics shopping... If you are from the US, you'll find better prices in the US, especially online. And buying electronics in Asia means you need to make sure it comes with an international guarantee. And of course, you'll need to get rechargers that have the correct plug for the US, which probably means buying them in the US. About the only reason I can think of to buy electronics in Japan or Hong Kong is that sometimes you can get new models that are not yet available in the US.

A week is not too much for Hong Kong. I would recommend a day trip to Macau. It still has some charming areas of old shops and such, and some really excellent restaurants with prices much lower than Hong Kong. We have no interest in the casinos, but loved our day trip to Macau.

I've been to Taipei... not as much there to see and do as I expected. The one must-see is the National Museum. They have a really stunning collection.

I'll let others comment on your other destinations.
Kathie is online now  
Jul 14th, 2009, 07:09 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2
Kathie, thanks for writing in. We live in Europe so I'm not sure how prices compare. We'll see. Maybe we'll just wait until our next trip to the states to buy new gadgets.

I'll read more about Macau. Perhaps it warrants a day trip but only if I'm certain it's worth losing a day elsewhere. I'm sure I'd go without reservation if I were living in the region.

Thanks for the Taipei input. The Nat'l Museum is at the top of my list if we go. But I wouldn't make the trip if there's not a whole lot else going on. Good to know.

Thanks again and please keep the comments coming!
escadabelle is offline  
Jul 20th, 2009, 06:56 PM
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 10
All those countries are different yet similar in a way.
They are all well developed. Why don't you add Thailand
or Southern China, such as Guilin? You will get to experience the diversity of Asia. Or try to go to the country side instead of staying big cities like Seoul or Taipei.
DO NOT buy any electronic gadgets in Asia because you can't tell if it's "authentic", and there is no warranty. What happened if it's somehting is wrong? It's extremely difficult to find someone to take the responsiblity after the item is out of the store.
KSHofCA is offline  
Jul 21st, 2009, 02:43 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,689
Some random thoughts on your questions:

1. If you really want to include Japan, then you might look into flying there first or last from your home country. The flying time between Hong Kong and Japan is actually a fair bit (just over 5 hours not including the travel time to Narita airport which is quite a bit), but more importantly most flights are during the day, which means you will “lose” a day in transit each way. I think it would save you time to do Japan first or last as an overnight flight to/from Europe (and of course then Korea if you decide to include that). You can usually get “open jaw” tickets which allow you to fly into one country and out of another for the same price as a return ticket to just one destination. Do some checking.

2. I live in Hong Kong and would opt for coming here in October if you can. The weather improves about the second week in October, you can almost set your watch by it. Temps and humidity drop and the rains stop. September can be rainy, is hotter and there can be typhoons.

3. I personally don’t think a week is too much in Hong Kong. We have mountains (OK just pretty big hills when compared to say the Alps) and beaches and villages and great food. You can do a day trip to Macau if you want, there is the old colonial part which is interesting actually, and you can avoid the casinos altogether. It has a different feel from Hong Kong. Or skip it ansd spend time exploring more remote parts of Hong Kong.

4. For an in-between week you might consider Hainan Island, which is the “Hawaii” of China --a bit of a stretch perhaps -- but still quite a lovely island with very pretty beaches. (Note that you would need a PRC visa). Of course you have many options from Hong Kong like magical Bali, the lovely islands and beaches of the east coast of Malaysia (easily combined with a short trip to Singapore) or even Vietnam (watch some rain issues there, see weatherbase.com and other websites for information). All are a relatively short flight from Hong Kong (Vietnam will require a visa, obtained in advance). Or if you want to go inland to hills, you could consider areas of the PRC in Guangdong province like Crosswaters Lodge outside Huizhou, which is about 2 hours from Hong Kong. It’s in a lovely mountain area with birding, hiking and visits to local Hakka villages. See http://www.crosswaters.net.cn/ Or you can go further into the PRC to places like Kunming and the Lijiang area (now those are some mountains!). Or beautiful Guilin. Again, you would need a PRC visa for these trips, but this should not be a problem to obtain either before you leave or when you are in Hong Kong. (I am leaving out places like Beijing, as you seem to want smaller places in the countryside. I am also omitting very interesting cities like Bangkok which are also easily reached from Hong Kong or Tokyo – although the latter is again a longish flight.)

5. Personally, I am not that crazy about Korea, but find the bits of Taiwan I have been to be to very interesting. Besides Taipei with is great museum, there is really interesting different food (e.g. stinky tofu), small traditional towns and then places with hot springs, etc. It’s really not that well touristed by Western tourists. They practice a somewhat different form of Buddhism than other parts of China which makes it interesting as well. Weather in those months should be quite nice too, although again they can get typhoons in September. (In fact if you could move the trip a bit to start in October you may be better off all around.)

6. I am not sure that you will find electronics to be that much cheaper here than Europe, but do a good bit of comparison shopping at home first to make sure you know a bargain when you see it. I would concentrate on buying in Japan and Singapore (if you go there), where you can be sure of getting an authentic item and a world-wide warranty (read the warranty before you buy). Or go to reputable shops in Hong Kong like Fortress, see http://www.fortress.com.hk (click on “Eng” on top), they give prices for some items. Or try the DG Lifestyle stores which are licensed Apple dealers, see http://www.designergroup.com.hk/newDG/index.html. (They don’t give a world-wide warranty for all their items.) I have not shopped for electronics in Taiwan so can’t speak about prices or quality.
Cicerone is offline  
Jul 21st, 2009, 07:33 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,172
I was in China, HK and Taiwan a similar time last year (Oct?) for work and I actually enjoyed Taipei. Japan was wonderful and HK really interesting and fun to me. I love getting lost and wandering around cities. S. Korea is on my work agenda this year but I have not heard much to make it worthwhile as a tourist. Why not do as cicccerone stated and go to S. China or a nearby place instead. I do think 1 week is more than enough in Taiwan. 2 weeks is great for Japan and i wish i had more time last trip as it was so interesting and I found it a beautiful place. for some reason Osaka really hit the note for me I liked it a lot and felt really relaxed there.
SiobhanP is offline  
Jul 25th, 2009, 12:42 AM
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Having been to all, perhaps I'll like to share some suggestions:

1. Perhaps you can consider flying back from Japan instead of Hong Kong. Narita (Tokyo) and Kansai (Osaka) in Japan both have many direct flights to Europe.

2. As for Macau, there are more than just casinos. There's lots of good food there to, which includes Portuguese cuisine infused with some Chinese influences. There's also a historic distric in Macau with lots of old colonial buildings which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And even if you don't gamble, you could take time to admire the architecture of the casinos, which is actually quite pleasant.

3. While you're in Hong Kong, take some time to explore the countryside, and you might find some quaint villages and beautiful scenery. While most might associate Hong Kong with endless rows of tall, unsightly buildings, you might like to note that more than 70% of Hong Kong's land is rural, since it is mostly mountainous and unsuitable for building. And be sure to grab some Wife Cakes from Hang Heung in Yuen Long.

4. Consider extending your time allocated to Hong Kong and explore the whole pearl river delta. In fact, a suggested itinery will be to cross the border from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, spend a day or two there, then head up to Guangzhou, the third largest city in mainland China, by train to spend a couple of days there. Following that, take a bus or train down to Zhuhai, just across the border from Macau, and spend about a day there. After that, cross the border to Macau and spend another day or two there. Finally, head back to Hong Kong by ferry, and leave for your next destination. Note that US, Australia, Canada, NZ, UK and other EU citizens require a visa for mainland China, so be sure to apply for one in advance if you want to attempt this itinery.

5. Taiwan is definitely worth a trip there. In fact, if you can afford to, I would say allocate at least 10 days. The Taroko Gorge is really scenic and you shouldn't miss that, but it is near Hualien on the East Coast, which is about 4-5 hours train ride from Taipei. On the West coast, there's also Kaohsiung, Tainan and Taichung. Kaohsiung also has a nice night market with pretty good food, while Tainan is known among locals as the food capital of Taiwan, so if you are a gourmand, Tainan should not be missed. Taichung is famous for its Chinese bakeries, and you should consider grabbing some Sun Cakes from Sun Pattiserie. There are many imitations of the shop, so be sure to look for one with a sunflower mosaic on the wall in it. As for Taipei, it is a very vibrant and modern city, and along with Hong Kong is one of the main centres of the Chinese pop industry. Other notable landmarks in Taipei include the Martyr's Shrine where you can view the changing of guard every hour, as well as the Sun Yat-sen Memorial and the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial

6. For Korea, allocate at least 2 weeks. You should consider going to Seoraksan National Park, which is in Gangwon province on the east, and has some rather scenic views. Chuncheon is also pretty nice, and while your there, visit Nami Island, which has pretty romantic tree-lined boulevards. Of course, if you have time, maybe head to Jeju island, which I heard is very beautiful. Of course, there are also lots of other cities like Busan, Korea's second largest city and many others, so take your time to explore. Seoul is a very dynamic and vibrant city, and should definitely be on your plans. While in Seoul, visit some of the old Korean palaces like Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung. There are also many museums which are worth a visit.

7. Perhaps allocate an extra week to Japan and head to Hokkaido. There are lots of scenic places to appreciate in Hokkaido, and not to mention nice hotspring resorts if you don't mind getting naked in front of others (sex-segregated of course). The seafood there is also rated by many as the best you can find in Japan. And don't miss the Miso-ramen while you're in Sapporo. The only downside is that it is quite a distance from the other major cities, and it's about 1 hour flight to get from Tokyo to Sapporo. Also, while you're in Tokyo, perhaps you can head to Nikko and Kamakura, where you cans see many nice temples.
god_of_gambling is offline  
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