The sky is black. Stars are twinkling in the darkness like cats’ eyes. Neon signs from shops make the city brighter at night than in the daytime. For the shops, it’s now the peak of the day. Welcome to Seoul, a city with a mobile population of over 100 million people a day, a city that never falls asleep. Seoul is the capital city of South Korea, a small country located in the northeast part of Asia. Korea used to be called ‘the Land of Morning Calm.’ However, this is often no longer the case. Especially in Seoul!
Seoul is a city that contains both cultural sights and cutting edge technologies in one place. As we in Auckland have the Sky Tower as our landmark, Seoul has the Seoul Tower, which can be viewed from almost anywhere in Seoul. It is located on the top of Namsan Mountain, which is approximately 500 metres high. At the base of Namsan, you will find Seoul’s most famous traditional folk village, Namsan Hanok Village. What is unique about this attraction is that some parts of the folk houses are made of real materials that were actually used in the past. The village includes many activities for visitors, such as wearing Hanbok, the traditional Korean costume, and making Kimchi, Korea’s world-famous staple vegetable.
Whereas Hanok Village at Namsan provides ancient Korean buildings, In-sa Dong is a place where you can have a taste of Korean culture that more closely matches peoples’ lives. In-sa Dong is Seoul’s most traditional shopping district with a full range of souvenirs from fans to masks. Also there are many healthy Korean meals there (Korea is famous for its “well-being” food).
Have a walk around Gwang Hwa Moon to see statues and skyscrapers. In Gwang Hwa Moon square, the newly made Han gul (Korean official language) Day King Se Jong’s golden statue awaits you. Beside the statue stands another statue of the most famous general in Korea, General Lee Sun Shin, who invented the ‘Turtle ship’ to counter the Japanese invasion in 1952. Walking 20 minutes from these marvelous statues past the skyscrapers, you will come to the largest bookstore in Korea. Kyobo bookstore is a ‘heaven for booklovers’ as it has 9,000 square metres of books. The number of visitors to Kyobo bookstore is over 5 million per day. It stocks 350,000 Korean and 150,000 foreign language books, for a total of 500000 volumes.
In contrast to its historical relics of the past, Seoul has cutting edge technologies and transport systems that are world-class. As long as you have your transportation card with you, there is no place in Seoul you can’t go to. Either a bus station or subway station is only 15 minutes away from wherever you are. So anywhere, anytime, there is no need to worry if you don’t have a car or get lost. Go into your nearest station and just check the map!
Looking forward to shopping? Seoul is the best place to get the highest quality clothes at the lowest prices. Apgujeong, Hong Dae, and Itaewon are the three most popular shopping paradises. These shops feature not only a wide fashion range from hand-made vintage clothes to suits, but also hair salons and beauty clinics. At Apgujeong, you can find the latest styles of luxurious trendsetters. This area is known as Korea’s Rodeo Drive because of its expensive designer clothes. Korean celebrities are frequently found here. Hong Dae is named after Hong Ik University, Korea’s best university for art. As it is, Hong Dae has a number of unique street walls and buildings with fabulous paintings and designs. Even when you’re not shopping, time flies by while you simply walk through the streets. Itaewon is a special shopping district for foreigners, where you can get brands at lower prices. (The tax rate in Itaewon is lower for tourists visiting Seoul). Not only are there things to wear, but also there are many restaurants from all over the world. If you start missing your “fish and chips”, look no further than Itaewon. An interesting point about Itaewon is that it is full of fake brands. Have a go at tricking your friends with your new, fake Chanel bag!
Seoul is an active city that is full of energy at all times. Throughout the world, it is hard to find a similar city which reconciles both traditional culture and new technologies. It’s no wonder travellers say that Seoul is the ‘secret pearl’ of Asia.
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