CONTRIBUTED BY STACI
It’s always nice to have several perspectives on a travel destination. Take a look at our sister site, Korea Ye, for tons of details about traveling to – and staying for awhile in – South Korea.
1. How long was the flight?
We flew Korean airlines from Tokyo to Seoul (Incheon airport- which by the way is a very modern and cool airport). It was about a 2 hour flight from mainland Japan (Fukuoka to Seoul).
2. How much was the ticket?
Not sure about the cost from Okinawa. Perhaps you could space a it to mainland- and then fly commercial to Incheon (Seoul).
3. Where did you stay?
Dragon Hill Lodge, Seoul, Korea. You can book your hotel as well as check avilibility on the site. It’s a GREAT hotel! Check it out!
4. Did you rent a car or use public transportation?
Taxis are inexpensive, and easy to flag right off base. They are everywhere. Seoul is a great city to explore by foot. They also have a bullet train much cheaper than the one in Tokyo in case you want to see different parts of Korea. We also took the hydro-foil boat from Fukuoka, Japan to Pusan, Korea. So there are many methods of traveling between mainland Japan and Korea.
5. English-speaking friendly or hard to communicate?
In Seoul, it was easy to get around. A lot of English was spoken. I did a lot on my own (my husband was working) and I felt very safe. I spent an entire day with a list of things I wanted to see- maybe I spent around 20.00 Total) on cabs. I found the locals to be very proud of their country- and they really wanted to show you around. Most of the cabbies were anxious to help you out- or to take you to all the good spots.
6. Is it small kid friendly or better to wait?
I think it’s a great family vacation spot. It’s relatively inexpensive to travel in Korea- shopping, foods, taxis are cheaper than in Japan. The Dragon Hill Lodge is perfect for families.
7. Highlights? One thing you MUST see.
The DMZ tour, was amazing. It was an experience that I will never forget. The fact that you are at a live, active war zone is so intense. Check out the USO Facebook Page for Seoul. You have to scroll down
for DMZ tours.
8. Best meal?
Bimbia, Kimchee! Love Korean food.
9. Best thing to buy/tourist item?
I loved the colorful textiles (I bought a few cool pillows). My husband actually bought a bucket of kimchi- the airline wouldn’t let him carry it on to our flight back to Japan. The smell! The smell! (they motioned).
10. Are you able to do laundry there? (Should you pack light?)
The Dragon Hill Lodge is similar to The New Sanno- Has restaurants, laundry, stores, a tailor (my husband
had a few suits and shirts made), salon, etc.
11. What was the weather like at the time of year you went?
We went in January-very cold, but just bundled up.
12. Did you have a tour guide or did you “diy” (do it yourself)?
We did it ourselves. The DMZ tour is arranged through base and the USO. The website mentioned above gives all the details. There is a dress code as well as a briefing before you head out. The neighborhoods of Seoul are easy to maneuver- just hop in a cab and say Insadong one of my favorite districts (the art and pottery area).
13. Did the area have a big city feel or an untouched feel?
Big lively city. When I left, I remember saying, “It’s a bold, bright spicy place!”
I was in Korea for 3 1/2 years and would kill to go back. It is such a worth-it trip. The DMZ tour is pretty cool, but you can check with MWR before you go over and see if any of the other wonderful trips they offer are happening when you plan on going over. One of the ones we took was white water rafting and it was quite the trip.
There are also multiple tailors in Itaewon, which is just outside of Yongsan, on which the Dragon Hill Lodge sits. If you go out to Itaewon and go underground there to the marketplace, you will find many tailors who can make you suits from literally just a picture from a catalog or magazine (some make dresses, as well, I had many made). This will be infinitely cheaper than the guy at the DH. Also, go crazy with the food! It’s wonderful! There is a little restaurant that’s hopefully still open. If you walk down the main street in Itaewon (the one that passes Yongsan main gates), on the right side is a door that opens onto a staircase. Try the restaurant up those stairs – you will not be disappointed! Order some bulgogi for me… Just a thought, just inside the gate to Main post between Itaewon and the main gate is the Katusa Snack Shack. It’s a good place to eat if you’re not venturing out for whatever reason and it’s mighty cheap. It’s also just steps from the door of MARFOR-K (whose shirt I happen to be wearing tonight!). Posts in Korea are possible, but I believe it was only 61 marines on peninsula while we were there. Great duty station!
Also, when I was there, MAC flights were available from Osan (where the shopping is incredible, don’t go to Korea and not take a bus – cheap through the base – to Osan) to Okinawa. The Man informed me that currently the only flights from Oki to Osan are C-130s, but I’m fairly sure military can ride them over and it’d be interesting to know if dependents can ride over if they provide their own kevlars… Anyone able to find that out? I’d love a free ride over!
Wow, thank you! I am even more excited now!
Inside the dragon hill lodge they have tailor. My husband had a suit made for about 250.00 (pants, jacket,shirt) and it was really high quality. He also had a long wool jacket made (trench-200.00- we were moving to Maine). They will even keep your measurements on file should you decide on more shirts or suits in the future. My husband still thinks his suits made there were of higher quality than other places he has been (Thailand, etc). If the suits are not finished by the end of your trip- they will mail them to you. Good deal!
OH I love Seoul. We lived there for two years. It was so awesome.
The subway system is so easy to figure out and travel on. I used it all the time with four kids. The bus system as well. Very easy.
It is such a safe place. I would say, hit the fabric market if you sew, namdemoon and dangdaemun fun fun markets, then the accesories market it great too! Seoul tower is a must, and very close. Insadong, really nice. Oh geez I could go on and on.
NEVER pay the price they first tell you. They will not be offended. Thats the name of the game there.
Cathryn, you will love it. We cannot wait to go back and show my 5 year old where he was born!
Oh, and where did your husband have suits made for him? I have heard this often, that people are able to buy nice clothes for much less money…but where do you do it relative to the Dragon Hill Lodge? My husband is in NEED of a new suit (or 2) if they are that cheap!
Ohhhh…That Kimichi looks yummy!!!
Thanks for the info on Seoul and the DMZ. We are heading there in 9 days!