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Thoughts on South Korea? South Korea vs. Japan?

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Mar 14th, 2007, 08:50 AM
  #1
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Thoughts on South Korea? South Korea vs. Japan?

DH and I are considering a trip to South Korea (among other places) this October and I don't see much on here, with the exception of advice on what to do with a long layover in Seoul, so I thought I would post a new message.

We are avid Europe travels who are interested in visiting Asia. We will be using frequent flyer miles, and right now both South Korea and Japan are on our possibilities list, mostly because they both offer miles saver rates (50,000 miles) through American Airlines in October. I would love to consider other areas in Asia but these would eat up more miles than we are willing to part with at this time.

I did some research and South Korea looks like a fascinating country. I spent quite a bit of time on the tourism website (http://english.tour2korea.com/), which is very comprehensive and one of the better tourism websites I've been on, and I'm quite intrigued. We've also did lots of reading on Japan and it sounds equally as fascinating.

DH and I are in our late 20's and love history, experiencing new cultures, beautiful scenery and going off the beaten tourist path (our favorite countries in Europe are Croatia and Montenegro) when we can. Asia makes me a little nervous, mostly because I am an extremely picky eater (sad but true) and don't eat any seafood of any kind. I wouldn't not visit a country simply because of food, but its something I'm a little concerned about.

I posted a message on Japan several months ago and got lots of great responses that really helped. I'm hoping to get some input on South Korea now. Mostly what the impressions are, how easy it is to travel there (we are coming from the US and know none of the language), and what are some of the highlights. I would also love to hear from people who have been to both Japan and South Korea and how they compare.

We have about 10 days, which I fully understand is not a lot of time. We are hoping to experience something completely different from what we've experienced in the US and Europe (although we are also considering Romania as an option, but at this point I think Asia is going to win), even if its just a small taste.

If we fly to Seoul, we would more than likely include a night or two in Tokyo since most of the flights seem to layover there and we would get a free stopover with our award tickets. We would want to visit Seoul and the DMZ, mostly because DH and I find North Korea to be an interesting subject. We really don't know enough about South Korea yet to even know what else we would like to do, although we plan on hitting a book store or two this weekend to do some further research.

If we visit Japan, we would probably try to fly into Tokyo and out of Osaka and concentrate our trip on Tokyo and Kyoto, with side trips in between.

Thanks everyone for any help you can give!
Tracy
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Mar 14th, 2007, 09:02 AM
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personally i would spend the whole time in japan....there is plenty to see and do there...

we found korea rather boring, except for some good inexpensive shopping in seoul....we spent a few days there on our first asia trip and have regretted it ever since....

perhaps others feel this way too and that is why very little is written on it
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Mar 14th, 2007, 09:33 AM
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I'm also considering a visit to Korea (maybe both north and south) as well as Japan for this fall. From the Insight Guide it sounded like the countryside was well worth exploring. I'll be following this thread with interest.
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Mar 14th, 2007, 09:39 AM
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I have been to Seoul several times for my husbandís business, and itís hard to say this because I love to travel and always have a great time wherever I go, but Seoul is not a place I would go out of my way to visit again. If you like history and visiting temples and palaces, there is not a lot to see because so much was damaged in the war. The shopping is fun, but that doesnít make a destination for me.

I would spend more time in Tokyo and make at least an overnight via the bullet train to Kyoto (more time if you have it). It is a beautiful city with fabulous temples, and the Gion district is intriguing. Tokyo is fascinating and I would love to go back. I really loved it.

I visited a city (forgot the name) about 40 minutes outside Tokyo by subway, and they have over 20 original houses from all the different periods of history in Japan which was fascinating if you like architecture.

Iím sure other Fodorites could recommend other cities in Japan to visit, and maybe you could just spend 1 day in Seoul on a layover and then go to Japan.

As not to duplicate, I wrote some of my impressions in favorite places to visit in Japan? and Wedding in S. Korea which you might have already read.
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Mar 14th, 2007, 09:56 AM
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some stay in and around kyoto for their whole vacations...
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Mar 14th, 2007, 10:32 AM
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Thank you for your comments. That was exactly what I was hoping to hear.

Hmmm...I'm thinking that maybe we should chose Japan over S. Korea. I do like to shop, but to be honest I don't base my vacations around it and would prefer to spend my time doing other things, with the exception of maybe some light browsing for souvenirs or to see how different the grocery stores or depeartment stores are from home. So basically I don't want to go to S. Korea if it only offers some good shopping and not much else!

DH wants to visit Tokyo. I personally wouldn't mind skipping it in favor or Kyoto and the surrounding region. I'll have to call American about using miles to/from Osaka because on their website if I imput Osaka it says that there are no flights to that airport, although I don't think it will be a problem. I would prefer to go with an Asian carrier anyhow, so that hopefully won't be a problem.

One more thing; I'm a little nervous about the really long flight. We have never flown business class and I'm trying to decide if maybe now would be a good time since we have enough miles to cover round trip business class tickets for each of us. On one hand I think it would make the flight a lot more comfortable; on the other hand, the extra miles spent on business class could be used for two more free tickets to Europe during off season! Any thoughts?

Thanks!
Tracy
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Mar 14th, 2007, 10:45 AM
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Tracy...although I am planning to visit South Korea soon, I would have to agree that Japan is probably far more interesting. I am going to Seoul to visit a relative who is living there. I will have more information about the city after I return home in mid-April.

I have been to Japan twice and agree with the others here that it is fascinating and you will never run out of places to go within the country and things to see.

I also debated about getting business class and decided to go for it. But the flights is actually not all that long as compared with other destinations in SE Asia, if you fly direct from the US to Japan or Korea. I would go for the two free flights to Europe, or save the business class when you are taking an even longer flight. Just my own opinion.

By the way, if you have interest in North Korea, you can visit that country on a tour to see the Mass Games; not from Seoul, though, but from Beijing:

www.koryogroup.com

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Mar 14th, 2007, 10:46 AM
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One more thing. I know that this was a post mainly about South Korea but since I had a few responses I will go ahead and ask. I have always heard how expensive Japan is. I know that its all relative and that each person thinks of expensive as something different. I know that in the past we've been able to do a pretty good job of keeping the costs down while still managing to have a great vacation by doing a little research. I guess I'm just trying to figure out what to expect.

Thanks!
Tracy
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Mar 14th, 2007, 12:10 PM
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The DMZ is okay, and I don't know that I would base a destination on it.

Japan is very expensive and we were in Tokyo and Kyoto. Even just buying sushi in little unknown restaurants is not cheap. We stayed at the Intercontinental, and I know that hotel restaurants are usually more expensive in general, but a bento box meal was over $100 per person. I was living in San Francisco at the time, and we have a great Japantown, and didn't feel that it was that much more special at 5 times the price.

I would definitely go ahead and book business class. It's the only way to fly!!!!!

Don't skip Tokyo. It is amazing and invigorating. The people are wonderful, and the orderly chaos has to be seen to be believed. Great trip!
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Mar 14th, 2007, 12:36 PM
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While I would agree that with a choice of Seoul or Kyoto or Tokyo, I'd go to Japan, it looks to me like there are interesting places to see in Korea outside of Seoul. Anyone visited any of the National Parks?
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Mar 14th, 2007, 01:40 PM
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Get a guide book, they have lots of tips on how to eat inexpensively.

We NEVER paid that much for any meal - unless it was the night the 4 of us drank 3 bottles of wine with our dinner.

We ate at the train station - a really good breakfast, bakeries have savory and sweet goods, and there are always several nice restaurants inside a department store.

We had 4 people who ate at a conveyor belt sushi place. The portions of sushi were at least twice that in any stateside restaurant. We had 50 plates between the 4 of us and our meal totalled less than $50.00.

You just have to look. We splurged a few times, but averaged about $25.00 a person per dinner with drinks.
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Mar 14th, 2007, 07:29 PM
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I agree with the last poster - I live in NYC and certainly did not find Tokyo or Kyoto that expensive. When I went to Tokyo in 3/04 I stayed at an inn for about $65 a night and last year in Kyoto I spent about the same in a business hotel. I think my most expensive meal was about $30 and I usually ate for a lot less.

As far as South Korea, I am an avid watcher of Korean dramas which often take place in and around Seoul but I have no real interest in visiting there.

I am looking forward to my next trip to Japan....

I flew direct on AA from JFK to Tokyo Narita and back. When I went to Kyoto last year I had to change at DFW to fly in to KIX Osaka.
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Mar 15th, 2007, 12:54 AM
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wow: South Korea or Japan? Aren't you lucky!

We spent 10 days in South Korea and I thought it was a great country. The people are vivacious and fiercely proud of their heritage (though they'd probably kill me if I described it as a mixture of China & Japan).
Seoul is buzzing - interesting restaurants and bars around the university area. (And no, I didn't do any shopping). We also went to Busan - one of the key ports and fishing cities - and Gyeongju: a very cultured and historic town.
We didn't go to the national parks as...well not really my thing. But Koreans have told me that the countryside is beautiful.
It was really convenient to get around: they have bullet trains and highclass buses. Our lack of Korean language was no problem. The food rocked : barbeque meats, lots of tiny side dishes... all in all I thought South Korea was well worth visiting and have fond memories of the trip.

On the other hand... Japan is a fascinating country and as one poster has said, you won't run out of things to do there. And we were on a budget and had a fine time. It's a bit more genteel than South Korea.

I didn't want to confuse your decision further as it sounds like you'll go to Japan - which is great. But I did want to redress the balance a little and say that South Korea has a lot to offer too.
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Mar 15th, 2007, 05:23 PM
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Thank you again for everyone who replied. I greatly appreciate it!

Well, DH and I talked a lot about it while walking the doggie last night and decided that Japan would be the best choice at this time. So....I called AA last night and booked our tickets! We leave October 19th and I'm so excited! This weekend we will pick up a few guidebooks and start doing some research.

Thanks again!
Tracy
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Mar 15th, 2007, 08:14 PM
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Good choice. I've been to Korea twice, and Japan many times. I much prefer Japan. In addition, Korea has a lot more 'third world aspects to it, which you might find difficult on a first trip to Asia. Aslo, in Japan you'll find all sorts of food- French Italian, spanish, american are all available everywhere, while Korea had less variety available on the street, at least 10 years ago when I was last there.

Japan is easy, safe, clean and interesting. There is absolutely no reason to have to pay outrageous prices for food. Start reading trip reports here for some ideas, then you'll have a good sense of what to expect.

Happy planning!
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Mar 18th, 2007, 09:28 AM
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I lived in Japan for 2 yrs. Best guide book was/is-- Gateway to Japan (Kodansha Guide) (Paperback)
by June Kinoshita
Have fun.
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Mar 18th, 2007, 11:42 AM
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I actually posted a message below about Seoul because I was planning to visit there this August. Would all of you recommend no more than 3 days 2 nights max?

Anyone visited Osaka? Would 3 days, 2 nights be enough there as well?
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Jul 4th, 2007, 06:15 AM
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I lived in South Korea for two years and it is a very fascinating country, very advanced technologically, but also very proud of their traditions. There are a few interesting thing to experience in Korea, such as Korean food, which is unique, shopping until 5am, Korean saunas, the DMZ, palaces and museums, exploring the traditional markets and more.
You can take a look at this website for a foreigner's perspective on South Korea www.seoulkoreaasia.com
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Aug 28th, 2007, 09:20 PM
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I am a Japanese living in Tokyo.
tcreath I'm so glad your coming to Japan. (Though I love to travel to Seoul!)
If you're a sushi eater, I suggest to go to a high end sushi restaurant around Ginza (a name of a place in Tokyo). It will cost you around $200~250 a person, but you'll get to eat the REAL sushi.
For me(and most of the other Japanese), sushi at a conveyor belt sushi place is something else..like a fast food restaurant. maybe you'll have a fun experience though.

And another thing, I would go for the business class. I don't know where in US you're flying from, but you'll get a bad jetlag if you don't sleep well in the plane.
Hope you have a nice stay!
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Aug 29th, 2007, 05:40 AM
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mako, thank you for your response! We leave in less than two months and I'm very excited! We have our hotels booked and have been at least attempting to learn some Japanese.

Unfortunately we are flying coach. We went back and forth but ultimately decided to use the extra miles that would have been spent on business class to get ff tickets to Europe. We are heading to Switzerland and northern Italy in April/May. But I have my Ambien, which I find helps me tremendously, so hopefully I won't arrive too jetlagged!

Thanks again!
Tracy
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