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A Citizen Reporter 'Does' Seoul
A photo essay about Seoul taken during the 2007 OMNI Forum
Rajen Nair (rajennair)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2007-07-16 14:59 (KST)   
An invitation from OhmyNews to attend the International Citizen Reporters' Forum also meant a godsend -- being able see this majestic city of Seoul! When I landed at Incheon International Airport near Seoul, only 15 km (9.3 miles) from the Port of Incheon, I was spellbound to see how its design harmonizes a massive structure with the refined trappings of an ultra-modern world-class facility. No wonder it셲 considered one of the world셲 top five airports.

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I was soon transported in a Korean Air limousine to my hotel in the heart of Seoul. We whizzed past the scenic mountains, a vast stretch of the Yellow Sea and then along the River Han. On entering the city I was greeted with tall buildings dotting the landscape and a fleet of Hyundai vehicles racing past.

Korea, a peninsula, offers a large variety of fish and sea food, which are staples in the Korean diet. There are plenty of flat lands, which means Koreans are rice eaters like most other Asians. Kimchi, a spicy mix of lettuce and cabbage, is another favorite dish but is so 쐆ot it can catch foreigners unaware.

Downtown Seoul showcases several impressive palaces, such as Gyeongbokgung in the north, Changdeokgung (the 쏱alace of Prospering Virtue) to the east and the walled compound of Deoksugung, which is located across from City Hall in south Seoul and blends in with the skyscrapers in the background.

The shopping district of Itaewon, considered as a home from home for the international community, is a popular site for the tourist. It offers a wide range of shopping as well as fast-food and restaurants with table service. As most signboards are in English, which is mostly understood by the locals, one can readily navigate without encountering many language difficulties.

Deoksugung palace
©2007 rajen nair
Myeongdong is known as the fashion and financial district of the city. All along the narrow streets and byways are rows of glittering shops selling casual wear, garments, sportswear, leather shoes, fancy bags and accessories. There are many hotels and restaurants catering to all tastes. It is home to four large department stores, including Lotte셲, where there are duty-free shops on the 10th and 11th floors selling brand-name garments, shirts and trousers, bags, shoes, chocolates, gold and diamond jewelry. Bubbly Korean salesgirls are on the spot to lend efficient service to customers.

Namdaemun Market by "the great southern gate" of the city is another prominent place for shopping. It is a 24-hour open-air market displaying wares of all types. Be prepared for some hard bargaining to fetch a good buy, although by Asian standards the cost of living here is quite high, with the average cost of a meal here not less then 3,500 won (US$3.81).

The city's subway system offers the cheapest mode of transport. It is advisable to use the subway if you intend to save on transport cost. The service is on time and comfortable.

Throughout my stay in Seoul I observed how Western culture has made deep inroads in Korean lives. Business attire for most male office workers is a Western-style combination of suit and tie, whereas most women can be seen wearing mini-skirts and tops. Moving around Seoul generally entails language difficulties as most Koreans understand little English in addition to their own native language and hangul script.

Fortunately there are sign boards written in English at every street corner, so one can find one's way back to the hotel with out much problem. The Korean people are very warm, polite and helpful.

I visited Seoul during the monsoon season in June, so the steady rain may sometimes have to be planned for in your itinerary. Sometime in Fall or April would the ideal time to make your trip to Korea.

I include images taken of Seoul tourist spots during my recent visit there.

Near Seoul City Hall
©2007 rajen nair

Korea house
©2007 rajen nair

Rock show by a Korean band near Seoul City Hall
©2007 rajen nair

Fish sold in Myeongdong
©2007 rajen nair

Night street life
©2007 rajen nair

Guards at Korea house
©2007 rajen nair

Author posing with Korean women in traditional dress at Korea house
©2007 rajen nair

Korean style drumbeat at Korea house
©2007 rajen nair

Kids enjoying a water fountain near Seoul City Hall
©2007 rajen nair
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Rajen Nair

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