Holiday advice for Korea
May 23, 2017 11:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm leaving on Saturday for a spur of the moment trip to South Korea. It's proving a bit challenging to find information and would appreciate some advice, specifically on visiting DMZ and recommendations for places to stay outside Seoul.

(1) We are considering visiting the DMZ from Seoul. Questions about it:

Is the DMZ worth visiting? We are not Americans and have no particular links to the peninsula, though one of us is a modern US politics buff and both are fairly well informed.

For a pair of very confident travellers is it necessary or desirable to take a tour? If we should take a tour, is there a particular company you recommend?

(2) We would appreciate recommendations on places to stay in Jeonju, Gwangju and Gyeongju.

We value beauty, peace, culture, good breakfasts (if available), style, personality and a pleasant or interesting local environment. We don't mind smallish rooms or sleeping on the floor. We dislike dirt and would prefer not to share a bathroom. We'd like to stay in a nice hanok where possible. As for preferred price range - obviously lower is better, but we're thinking about the 50k-100k won per night range.

We are especially struggling with Jeonju.

For all three cities and especially for Gyeongju, recommendations on areas of the city to target would also be appreciated.

If the advice is to 'show up in town and go to the tourist office who will do the booking for you' that is also ok. If the advice is 'xyz site is the place to look', that is also ok as TripAdvisor hasn't been massively useful.

(3) Bonus question: any recommended app (any platform) for getting around in Korea? Ie a translation app that is better than Google Translate, or a map app that is better than Google Maps?
posted by tavegyl to Travel & Transportation around South Korea (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
1) I've never been so I can't say whether it's worth it, but you can only see the DMZ with a tour group.

2) I'm curious about the trouble you're having with Jeonju. If you want to stay in a hanok, their hanok village has literally no shortage of options all of which were in your price range when I arranged lodging there last October. What websites are you using?

3) For apps, I recommend Naver translate. I'm pretty sure that has English options. Similarly, Naver or Daum maps are much more accurate than Google, but they're Korean only so their increased usefulness is tied to how much you understand Korean and/or your level of comfort at figuring out apps in a different language. Getting around Seoul will be much easier with the Subway Korea app.
posted by FakePalindrome at 11:29 PM on May 23, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks, FakePalindrome. Regarding Jeonju- the difficulty was not so much in finding places to stay as in picking out the nicest ones. So I was hoping for recommendations of specific hanoks, though if they are all much of a muchness that would be good to know.
posted by tavegyl at 1:26 AM on May 24, 2017

I've been to the DMZ (as mentioned, with a tour group), an hour's bus ride from Seoul. You pass through a North Korean Guard Post, will be told not to gesture or speak to the guards, You'll end up on a small plaza, you'll go into the small building where peace talks are held, you'll see, in the distance, the "Bridge of No Return" and you'll look at the seemingly (but not) huge North Korean building on the other side of the official border. This video pretty much sums it up.

It's an interesting trip, but, given the choice with limited time, I would spend time exploring palaces and museums instead.
posted by HuronBob at 9:16 AM on May 24, 2017

AH okay okay. I thought you were having trouble actually finding places, which should be the last thing you need to worry about in Jeonju!
I've only been once so I can't compare, but when I went I stayed at a place called Dukmanjae because you could book it easily on western sites. It was a beautiful place and the owners spoke enough English that communication wasn't a problem. Breakfast is a little sparse (just some jam and toast in a tiny shared kitchen) but overall it was a pleasant enough place at the price point. It's a little on the outskirts of the hanok village, so if you have people with mobility problems, you may want to find something more central.
I hope you have fun! One more Jeonju tip, Jeonju is famous for bibimbap. But another specialty is their moju which is sort of a mulled rice wine that's a lovely treat and you're not likely to find it widely available anywhere else. And if you can, make it down to the traditional market at night. If I recall, it's not too far from the Hanok Village. It's crowded for sure, but definitely something to see if you're into that kind of thing. Here's a naver blog with an idea of what you're getting yourself into. There's also an arty part of the traditional market (The Chungnyeon Mall) that's still worth seeing if you want to skip the hectic-ness of the night market.

Oh and I have the low down on a few tea houses and restaurants in Seoul. IDK what you guys are into or anything but if you want a few recs let me know.
posted by FakePalindrome at 6:41 PM on May 24, 2017

I really enjoyed just wandering around Jeonju (I lived in Seoul for 5 years, so getting to slow down was great). This blog overlaps with some of my experiences.

10magazine (expat-run) was around in my time and is still publishing - poke around in their archives for ideas?

Robert Koehler's photo Tumblr is mostly Seoul focused but I vaguely recall he did a trip to Jeonju that may be helpful as a research resource.

Lastly, I did a temple stay through my MA program in Korea and thought it was worthwhile.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:09 PM on May 24, 2017

Response by poster: Many thanks, all.

FakePalindrome, recommendations for restaurants and teahouses would be great! Thank you!
posted by tavegyl at 6:36 PM on May 25, 2017

Google maps is useless here. Waze is the anglophonic go-to.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 8:55 PM on May 29, 2017

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