In October 2008, on our way to India, my wife and I stopped in Seoul for four nights.
We enjoyed our visit except for the 60-kilometer taxi-ride from Incheon Airport to our hotel, in the heart of the city.
After getting our luggage around 8:00 p.m., we headed for the taxi-assistance booth. While waiting in line for our turn at the booth, we were waylaid by someone, who claimed to be an authorized tax- driver.
Several blocks before we reached our destination, he demanded payment, an dtried to drop us, along with our four suitcases and hand luggage. We insisted that he take us to our hotel, and refused to pay before we got there.
When we reached our hotel, he demanded $150. After several minutes of loud arguments, we settled at $95. (The reurn trip to the Airport, arranged by our hotel, cost us less than $65). Fortunately, other taxi drivers we came across during our stay in Seoul, as well as other people were quite polite and helpful.
Next morning, we went to Insadong, a tourist-paradise, where shopkeepers and vendors speak English, and the main street is closed to motor-vehicles on Saturdays. One can easily spend hours enjoying Korean folk-cultural performances,
sampling traditional foods,
In the afternoon, we visited Changgyeonggung Palace. Set in a park-like setting, it was originally built as a summer palace, but later became one of the five grand palaces. These days more people come here for a stroll or family hangout, than for sightseeing.
Next day, we went to see Gyeongbokgung Palace, the country's prinicipal royal residence for 200 years till the end of the 16th century.
In 1592, the people of Seoul set it afire, in a fit of rage against the royal family and aristocrats, who abandoned the city to escape the invading armies from Japan. The palace was rebuilt 300 years later, but was abandoned again after 30 years, when a Japanese assassin killed the Korean queen in her royal bedroom.
The 15th century guard-changing ceremony is re-created six times a day, six days each week, with great pomp and show.
Paid admission to the Palace allows free admission to the nearby National Palace Museum and the National Folk Nuseum.
In the afternoon, we went to Myeongdong, the favorite hangout of the fashion-conscious young people looking for brand-name clothes and accessories, and to savor unusual Korean snacks sold by the street vendors. We enjoyed a vegetarian pizza at a popular restaurant on the main street.
Next day we were ready for our evening flight to Mumbai.