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KOREA - MW TOURS AND CHINA SOUTHERN AIRLINES

1st June – 8th June 2017

CZ flights from ADL-CAN

Check in is in the arrivals hall at ADL airport not the regular check in area.

The staff were very helpful and the 3 of us ex ADL were fortunate enough to be upgraded to business class and access the QF lounge.

Business class is lie flat with a choice of 2 different meals at each sitting. The food was mostly western with a Chinese influence so easy for all people to eat.

The alcohol beverage choice was very limited to beer and 1 red and 1 white wine. No bubbles. In flight amenity kit was good.

The visa application we were given for the transfer is no longer needed. a form is given on the flight to fill in.

A bus takes you form the plane to the terminal to process for immigration.

Very easy immigration clearance similar to AU. A CZ rep is available as you enter the immigration area to give STPC accom. The level of accom is based on the FB and booking class of the ticket.

We missed the bus and took a taxi. Hilarious. I don’t think the driver will collect any more blonde ladies EVER again. We were all laughing by the end though.

The hotel was a fair way out of the main city area but had good facilities nearby including 7/11 and some market and food stalls.

The area seemed very affluent with lots of security so very safe. One of the ladies went for a walk and had a staff member form the hotel shadow her to make sure she was safe.

The complimentary shuttle in the morning took us to the airport safely.

Re-entering the airport we all had to be corralled to be explosives tested. Everyone goes through the process.

The airport is fantastic but all the good shopping and food is pre-immigration so would advise to shop etc. on this side.

The hotel bar was well priced for drinks. The others had breakfast and said it was good with both western and Chinese food.

The rooms were very spacious and well app with a touch of luxury. Reminded me of the Sunway Lagoon in KL without the theme park next to it. For $100 per night it seems like a bargain.

Checking in though needed a passport.

Day 1, 1st June- Australia-Guangzhou-Seoul (-/-/-)

Note: BNE/ADL/PER agents will need overnight stay at Guangzhou airport at own cost

  • Overnight at the Holiday Inn

Day 2, 2nd June- Guangzhou-Seoul  (-/-/D)

The CZ flight was delayed for several hours leaving CAN so the arrival time was different into SEL.

The tour director was there to meet us when we arrived with the MW Tours sign.

  • Can I please suggest that we have the company logo on the sign as well not just the wording?

1355-1500 After arrival at Incheon International Airport

  • Meet & Greet at Incheon International Airport – Tour Director Yumi was awesome.

Money exchange at the airport is available. Cash only at the counter but ATM’s for cash withdrawal from a valid card. My card is with the ANZ bank and I was not able to withdraw cash from any ATM’s at all. This is the first country that I have had this problem. I tried savings, credit and Cheque but none worked.

  • Would be good to have this info for the clients to check with their banks prior to leaving AU re this.

Yumi allowed time at the airport to hire a SIM card. One of the agents paid approx $39 for 10 days of unlimited data and reduced cost phone call. I would strongly suggest this to clients. WiFi is available but I did get lost running on one morning and had to Google. Expensive.

1500-1600 Transfer to Seoul

  • This took just over an hour as we hit peak traffic. The scenery is very pretty and the traffic moved quite well so it didn’t seem to take long. SEL is divided by a river. One side is the old town and the other is the new region. There are lots of gardens and greenery in SEL and for a city of 10 Million people it is very quiet (you do not hear a lot of traffic noise etc.) and it doesn’t seem crowded in the streets like KIX is.

FYI – Gangnam Style as in the Si song refers to an area that was made for the Expo in SEL. It was previously farms and the farmers were made wealthy when they sold the land to the developers.

The song refers to the young new rich people who drove fancy cars and the girls were all arm candy.

1130-1230 Transfer to Seoul Visit N Seoul Tower

  •  Visit N Seoul Tower with lift pass

We were meant to do this with the lift pass from the bottom of the hill but with our flight being delayed Yumi altered the itinerary for us and we drove to the “almost there” mark and walked the last part of the hill. I would suggest if it were elderly clients they may not be able to do the last part of the hill but for our group it was fine. The normal tour with the lift pass would be suitable for most people.

The Tower has a great view of the city and puts it into perspective. It is very hilly with lots of trees, parks and gardens and very wide streets, especially for an Asian city. It is the cleanest Asian city I have ever been to. There was not any litter and it smelt beautiful.

The buildings are all well maintained. Yumi said there has been a lot of construction over the last few years and modernisation.

SEL Tower has the normal restaurant, gift shop and bar as well as some other stalls at the base. At the top of the tower is a toilet and you have glass walls to look at the view of SEL from.

* Well worth including to have a great overview of the city.

1900-2000 (Dinner)

  • Yumi chose a local restaurant that we walked to. We had Korean Hotpot and cooked it ourselves at the table. There was beef and lot of vegetable with small plates of pickled vegetables and sauces. The local restaurants all sell beer and Soju which is like a Korean Vodka. No wine or other spirits. There is no Diet Coke ☹ only Pepsi and Cola. I did find a 7/11 that had Coke Zero.
  • 2 night stay at Lotte 7, Myeongdong Boutique Hotel

This hotel is new and really funky. For those that know the Q Resorts in AU it has a similar theme.

There is a lot of bleached wood and a slight industrial edge. Reception is on the 3rd floor and a fantastic rooftop bar but the bar is very expensive. A rum cocktail was about $30AUD and a bottle of bubbles (not champagne) was $90. Wine was about $30 a glass. Other parts of the hotel were less expensive. I did learn that the roof top bar is not owned by thee hotel.

The rooms are reasonably small but not squishy. The décor is funky with a minimalist look. The shower was amazing with a big area but the bathroom on whole was small. All the power outlets are able to take AU plugs without an adaptor. I found this to be the as in most of the hotels we stayed in including CAN.

*some of the rooms had showers that were open to the room. These would be great for couples but definitely not recommended for twin share especially fams or group tours.

The location is great. I ran in the morning to the base of the SEL Tower an felt perfectly safe doing so. There are a lot of bars, restaurants and shops in the area including Zara, H&M and lots of boutiques.

Breakfast was on the 4th floor and was quite good with a mix of Korean and Western offerings buffet style.

I would highly recommend this property especially to the younger (or young in the head) market. For older clients, I would suggest for couples.

*Lotte L7 Myeongdong Boutique Hotel, 137 Toegye-ro Jung-gu, Seoul L& Myeongdong

Phone +82 2 6310-1000 Fax +82 2 6310 1004

Day 3, 3rd June - Seoul (B/L/D)

0700-0830 Breakfast at leisure

0830-0930 Transfer to Yong-in

0930-1600 Everland Theme Park

  • Everland Theme Park with day pass ticket to a wonderland of animal, rides and festivals

Everland is part of our FIT offerings. It took about an hour to get there by coach and it is a theme park for rides, animals and has a Panda Park.

The rollercoasters were appreciated by the adrenalin junkies. It has the highest wooden rollercoaster in the world in operation.

The Pana Park was really good with great viewing of the pandas. Free Wifi throughout the park as well.

There is a Safari that you drive through either on a bus or a 4WD for a small group.

*personally I did not like this part of the park at all and the animal fanatic in me disproves of how the animals are kept. There were a lot of bears that did tricks in front of the bus for food. Also, it is touted as a free-range zoo but all of the animals are fenced off. I would have visited other parts of the park if I had known what this was like beforehand. I think our free-range zoos are much more animal friendly and people friendly. We lined up for an hour to get on the ride. It did not seem like it was that long though.

We were given a food token to purchase lunch. If you had the option to sell a food token with the ticket or just buy what you want when you get there I would opt for buying my own. The selection was limited to 1 choice at each venue and the food areas are very spread out. There were many different choices and I had food envy when I couldn’t try something else.

*my recommendation would be for children or theme park geeks. Also try to go midweek and the lines will be shorter. The parade was good for children. Lots of colour and characters but not known to me.

Samsung own this park as they do many other Korean things ie supermarkets, car companies, electrical goods, apartments, hotels.

1815-1845 Jogye Temple

  • Jogye Temple, the birthplace of Buddhism in Korea

The temple is in the middle of the city and one of the few left in SEL. It is in use all the time so people can pray if they desire.

1700-1800 Insadong Antique street

  • Insadong Antique street-Seoul's most traditional shopping street

This was a fun street to wander along with stalls and shops selling lots of souvenir style products. Was open into the evening with cheap places to eat and drink. There was some street performers and artists here as well. English was spoken in many of the stores.
1800-1900 Dinner – Another local restaurant for quick bite before the show. It was another version of the steam boat style dinner
2000-2130* enjoy the Bibap Show

  • Be prepared to laugh and enjoy a show about cooking, Rapping, Dancing and more?

One of those “only in Korea” moments. This is an interactive show with Rap, singing etc. There is audience participation as well. The show is theatre style and does not serve drinks or food. The Bibap and food is not really cooked on stage and definitely not for consumption. A good fun show. I think if they had it with canapes and beverages it would be even more fun. The show is about to tour AU next year as well.

The show definitely appealed to the AU sense of humour.

*Lotte L7 Myeongdong Boutique Hotel, 137 Toegye-ro Jung-gu, Seoul L& Myeongdong

Phone +82 2 6310-1000 Fax +82 2 6310 1004

Day 4, 4th June - Seoul (B/L/D)

0700-0830 Breakfast, check out hotel.

09.30-10.30 Pass by the Presidential Blue House,

  • Drive to downtown and Pass by the Presidential Blue House

This gives a background into the political and historical details of the struggles that Korea has faced through different wars and invasions etc. Seems they don’t mind talking about the hardships and how they have become a modern country.

then visit Gyeonbok Palace

  • Visit including watching Guard Changing Ceremony

The changing of the guard ceremony gives a good insight into the customs of old Korea and when it was a kingdom. The ceremony happens on the grounds and is not overly crowded. I would suggest that to visit the Gyeonbok Palace you wear clothes with sun protection or take an umbrella and sun screen. It is open and hot without much shade. There are lots of young Korean girls and a few of the boyfriends dragged along all dressed in traditional costume and they love to have their photo taken.

It was very interesting but the tour did go a bit too long.

Two of the party became separated and were a bit miffed but it is a very large area with lots of sections. Another guy ended up with some Korean students who were practicing their English and taking people on tours.

The history of it was really good to hear but a condensed version for the AU market would be good.

One agent suggested a headset with the narrative on it?

1200-1300 Lunch – Korean BBQ in the nightlife area. This was a Sunday so there was a lot of “the night before” still in the streets. Lots of bars and eating places quite cheap/well priced. Hello Kitty was here and we had a quick look at it. ONLY for small kids although there were some “romantic” Korean couples having tea.

1400-1500 Practice in Kimchi Cooking and

  • Learn and Practice Kimchi Cooking wearing Korean traditional costume. Great group photo opportunity

The Kimchi making was over quite quickly but it was great to see how the seaweed is processed and how the Kimchi is made. Unfortunately, you only get to rub the mixture on the cabbage and fold it up so not really any cooking/making at all. You can buy the seaweed in all the different flavours including strawberry and grape!

I think this would be disappointing if you were looking or thinking it was a cooking school but it is fun for what it is. I think the older market or kids would love it.

The dress up was fun. Not usually my sort of thing but the staff were really funny. I am not sure if they meant to be funny but it was hilarious. One of the Korean ladies dressing us and taking photos with our own phones was like a mini Hitler and was telling us off and taking squillions of photos.

It was a good giggle.
1430-1730 leisure time at hotel, free shopping time at Myeongdong St.

  • Shopping at Myeongdong Street a mecca of shops, market stalls, street food. Everything from high end to traditional products and great for people watching in the evening.

There are a lot of shops here in this area from chains we know here in AU to European stores and local Korean stores.

I did find that the prices were very similar to AU so for cheap things you were disappointed unless you found a good sale. There were a lot of the brands that had ranges and items we done have here in AU yet so if you wanted to be ahead of the trend you would be buying what we are going to be wearing next year now for the same price you would buy the items here for later.

I really would have loved to stay here and just eat all the street food and not have dinner included on this night. There were stalls everywhere with some really interesting food that was very cheap.


1800-1900 Dinner – Korean Fried Chicken or KFC as the group referred to it as. We dined outdoors in a cool street.


1930-2100 continue night shopping at Myeongdong.

* Overnight: Nine Tree Premier II Myeongdong, 28 Mareunnea-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul.

Phone +82 2 6967 0999 Fax +82 2 2179 2709

This hotel was fantastic. I would rate 5 star. Very large rooms with really good facilities. It is only new so the shopping mall under it is not open yet and the bar is not open yet either. When these are finished it will definitely be a great place to send AU clients wanting a bit of luxury, especially the older market.

The taxi drivers do not know it yet so advise clients to take the address and hotel name with them. It was only walking distance to the shopping district and pretty much on the same road past the hospital.

I did run in the morning and became lost because the roads are a little confusing in the area.

There were at least 3 people who tried to help me but they didn’t speak English and my Korean is non-existent.

Day 5, 5th June - Seoul-Andong-Busan (B/L/D)

0700-0830 Breakfast at Leisure

The breakfast was quite good again with both Western and Asian food.


0830-1130 Travel to Andong Hahoe Folk Village.

The scenery is beautiful. The roads really good and the traffic moved really well. I was sceptical about the length of this day and the possible challenges but we stopped after about 2 hours at a Service station and there was a good selection of food outlets, clean toilets.

Mentioning toilets and being the “wee girl” I found the toilet facilities in Korea to be of a high standard and some better than public toilets I have been to here in AU.

1130-1300 visit Andong Hahoe Folk Village

  • A UNESCO World Heritage site. Learn about the culture and history of a village where the residents have lived for more than 600 years.

This was a great stop. The village still has Koreans living in it. Not like many places where it is employees and actors etc.

There are streets and lane ways and they still farm some crops etc. The original house still stands at the centre of the Village, of course with addons to it.

The village is almost surrounded by water like a moat.

We managed to participate in a few activities like “Ironing” and the villager were laughing lots. I think both with us and at us.

 
1300-1400 Lunch – Local restaurant just at the village entrance. There were floor sitting tables as well as regular. The locals were eating here as well. Good food. Lots of chilli but basic ingredients that were sourced here.
1400-1630 Travel to Haeinsa Temple

1630-1800 Haeinsa Temple in South Gyeongsang

  • The name "Haein" originates from the expression Haeinsammae of Hwaeomgyeong (Buddhist scripture), which means truly enlightened world of Buddha and our naturally undefiled mind. 

I felt this was a MUST see temple built in the 6th century

You did need to be able to walk up a really big hill and then there were lots of steps but it is the temple to “enlightenment”

Monks live here and you can do a retreat here as well.

The Buddhist scriptures are housed here. Incredible.

It is one of those places that makes you “feel”.  I loved it.

During the Korean war, It was spared because a pilot refused to bomb anyone in the area. Lots of history and a good story.

If you only visit one temple make it this one.


1800-1900 Dinner – Our restaurant tonight was a local Vegetarian one. The food was surprisingly good.

A local Korean lady heard that we were Australian and bough us some of the local alcoholic beverage because she loved Australia. Whatever it was we drank was definitely not to my liking…lol.


1900-2130 Continue journey to Busan

Busan is like the Surfers Paradise of Korea. Arriving to the area we stayed in reminded me of Cavil Ave with the beach at the end of it. There is a lot of construction at the moment and new hotels are being built. I think we need to make certain that the clients know it has a great atmosphere but like OOL the properties have been well stayed in and it is having a bit of an update like OOL has been experiencing over the last 10 years.

The beach area is quite protected and has a great walk way and recreational facilities.

Many local Koreans catch the High Speed Train to visit the area for the weekend. 3 hours from SEL.

* 2 nights Busan Best Western Haeundae Hotel 42, Gunam-ro Haeundae-gu, Busan, 48094, South Korea

Phone +82 2 8066 2490

This hotel was touted as 4 1/5 star but It isn’t, especially after SEL.

It is a Best Western…. While it has had a refurbish and looks quite fresh I would say 4 only and that is because of the refurbishment. The floors are all laminated wood boards and the furniture is similar. The bathrooms are quite nice and new with a shower over the tub.

The reception is on the 3rd floor. They do call the ground floor level 1.

My room was on a corner and was like 2 small triangles. One of the other rooms our group had was massive and large enough for a family to fit easily.

The hotel was quite full when we checked in and noisy but I think most had checked out after the weekend.

I thought my room would be really noisy when I checked in as it faced a row of clubs and bars but it was all quiet by 11pm and the room was quite sound proof.

Day 6, 6th June - Busan (B/L/D)

0700-0830 Breakfast at leisure

The guys said breakfast wasn’t up to scratch.
0900-1000 Yongdusan Park (Busan Tower)

  • Yongdusan Park (Busan Tower), which forms a major landmark in the middle of downtown.

The tower was closed but we went to the base of it then wandered around the markets below it. These markets and shops allow price negotiation and have some cheaper things to buy.

It is also the place where the film and music industry have their launch parties. Like the Cannes of Korea.

If you wanted to shop this was the place we would have found the best bargains. But again it still is not cheap like other Asian cities


1000-1100 Jagalchi fish market,

  • Jagalchi fish market, the largest fish market in Korea. These are a short stroll from the tower and are very authentic. There were lots of produce that I have never seen before.


1200-1300 Lunch – At the fish markets in a local restaurant.

I did find the smell really bad and personally didn’t enjoy this part.


1330-1430 visit Dongbaek island and Nurimaru APEC

A spectacular building purpose built to hold the APEC meeting in 2005

The gardens around here are very pretty and the view out to sea and of the harbour were really pretty. The island is attached by a bridge and you can walk back to the area our hotel was in. APEC display had some interesting displays.

1500-1600 Explore BUSAN AQUARIUM (complimentary)

  • Explore Busan Aquarium

Kids would love it or adults who have not travelled much. The team were commenting that they had been to many aquariums and this one was only on the “ok” level.


1630-1800 hotel at leisure

1830-1930 Dinner –  Farewell Dinner – we walked to another local Korean BBQ. The food was again great.

A few of the guys went to a bar and had drinks. There was a lot of night life here. The bars seemed to have themes and where you would expect them to sell all types of beverages they seem segmented. We visited one and wanted to have a G&T and a red wine but the bars either sold spirits or wine not both at one place.

Day 7, 7th June - Busan-Guangzhou-Australia (B/-/-)

  • Free at leisure until transfer to Busan Int’l Airport for your departure flight

The day was very rainy. I ran on the beach for the last time in the rain.

The transfer to the airport was reasonably fast.

Check in was easy and they didn’t have ht esame rule with the 100ml. WE only had to take out laptops not bottles etc.

Final toughts.

Korea exceeded my expectations.

I really liked the country and the people.

To compare it to Japan. I feel Japan is pretty and has some very interesting cultural experience and thigs to see and do but I did feel in Japan that you were an observer. With Korea I felt like I was experiening the culture  and the people are very warm, open and friendly. Even thought there is a language barrier it was still easy to get around. I think firsts time visitors shoud do an organised tour either lots of day trips with guides or a complete guided ittinerary but I would feel comfortablle myself doing a self drive.

It is very clean  and felt really safe.

Running every day was a good way to see some of the local areas around the hotels we stayed in and I felt perfectly safe running on my own. There didn’t seem to be a lot of polution even thought there are so many people living there.

 

I would recommend the destination to everyone. I do not see it being limited to a certain age group or type of traveller.

It wouold be good to experience and learn more about the snow skiing and have some price comparisons for our clients.

Special tips

  • Take some cash with you. There were not a lot of ATM’s and definitely not in airports
  • Don’t be afraid to try the food. The cleanliness of Korea is wonderful.
  • Pack your sense of humour. They are very funny
  • K Pop is Korean Pop music
  • They love plastic surgery and want to have a second lid?