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Seoul

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Contributor:
Rebekah Joy
Rebekah Joy

Nobody ever really wants to go to Seoul, unless they are flying KE and have to do a stop over. If you are flying KE, (sucked in) your about to stop off at one of the most awesome cities in Asia.  Compared to the rest of the world, Seoul is an amazing and relatively cheap date. There is lots to see and do for about half the price of Japan. A good place to start is Namdaemun market, Korea's largest and oldest traditional market, its also open 24 hours (although not so great in the early hours of the morning). Much of the market is outside with stalls spewing every which way. Browse, bargain hunt or just window shop, you'll find one of everything here, from shoes and hats to dirty little toys or even Asian antiques. Stop and gawk at the people eating entrails on skewers or simply smell the unusual odor of silk worms roasting (a delicacy apparently). The market itself sits beneath one of the ancient south gates of Seoul which was damaged by fire in early 2008.

Another top treasure is Insadong, which is close to Namdamum. Full of quaint shops, traditional tea house and old antiques (over forty percent of South Korea's antique shops are located here) this is a great place to stroll away an autumn afternoon. Lovers stroll arm in arm, tourists come to take pictures and kids nag their mothers for traditional sweets being made at the stalls. While in Insadong try some of the local dishes, ‘kimichi mundu’ were and still are my favourite. These spicy cabbage dumplings warm the belly, spring onion  pancakes known as pajong hit the spot too. Of course Korea is home to some of the worlds best BBQ, and eating 'Kalbi' in Korea is like eating it no where else. Be prepared for tons of side dishes, and crazy little old ladies with scissors chopping up your meat in all directions, definitely a treat. Like anywhere in Seoul Insadong is pretty easy to get to. The subway is cheap and quick, the three closest stops are Onggak Station, Jongno 3-ga Station or Anguk Station. Last time I went there the taxis were cheaper than anywhere else in the world and most of them have a free translation service via an onboard telephone service.

If you’re only in Seoul for a few days you might run out of time exploring Namdaemum and Insadong alone. Head to a 'Jimjilbang' to ease away all those sight seeing aches and pains. This is the traditional Korean way of bathing. It’s cheap, different and you can get a body scrub that will leave you tingling all over. If you want stay over, although it’s a favourite haunt of little old ladies who like to talk and fart way into the night. If you do go to the bathhouse, there are a few rules. You do have to spend a vast amount of time meticulously scrubbing every part of your body before you jump into the communal pool. In Japan they pretend they aren’t watching you do this (when in fact they are) but in Korea people are much more blunt and their eyes will let you know if you haven’t washed behind your ears enough. Now a very therapeutic thing to do is have a body scrub. This involves being scoured so thoroughly that when the little old lady finishes there will be a big pile of your old skin beneath the table. After the scrub you are free to bath in the pools, have  a nap in the communal sleeping area or some bathhouses have restaurants. Don’t forget everybody is naked (men and women are segregated) but they will all be checking out your bits. It's the only downside to this amazing experience.

If you go to a bathhouse (which are all over the city) you probably wont feel like going out, however Seoul does have a fantastic selection of funky bars and clubs. Actually it is the only city I have ever been that is a 24 hour venue. Move over New York and London, Seoul truly never sleeps, you guys just say you don’t. So where to start? If your looking to hang out with the G.I's head to Itaewon. Everybody speaks English here and there are a fair amount of hookers on Hookers Hill. There are way classier places to go and meet people. Hongdae is where all the hip uni students go and there are a ton of bars and hang out places. If your wanting to make some rich people then head to Apkujong, the Rodeo Drive of Seoul (it’s actually called that). A word to the wise, watch out for the ‘soju’, you might hate it at first but mix it with some fancy juice and you’ve got a recipe for staying much longer in Seoul than you ever intended.

As a side note, Seoul Grand Park (a zoo) has just announced that their toilets now have views of Giraffes. Their website states: Toilet in Seoul Grand Park is designed to see giraffes strolling outside the windows while visitors relieve themselves. The toilet built in shape surrounding African building consists of four different sections; central section just below the dome, section on the roof for observation and relaxation, outdoor exhibition section and the toilet section with audio system and family room. Inside the rest room are collages of flamingo and giraffe made of tiles and the lighting is made by natural light. On the observatory on the roof of the zoological garden, you can see giraffe just in front of you.

Its enough to make me want to go back!

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