My Seoul A city bustling with places to work and play I travel to Seoul once or twice every year, as my organisation has its headquarters there. I was awestruck when I landed in Seoul for the first time. In the 1950s, after the Korean War, the country was one of the poorest; in 1960, its per capita GDP was $79. Now it has the fourth largest economy in Asia and the 11th largest in the world. The transformation speaks of the determination and hard work of the Korean people. The cleanliness, punctuality and ease of service in the city will remain in the minds of any visitor for a long time.
Recommendations By far the best property in town is the Four Seasons Hotel at Jongno-gu, the heart of the city. I would also recommend any place in and around Myeong-dong. The best shopping and food is found around it. It is centrally located and provides easy access to all places. Gangnam and Itaewon would be the other locations to stay at.
Seoul is about business and meetings, with the ideal meeting place located in and around Gwanghwamun. Most restaurants have closed rooms for having food and discussing official matters. Most hotels also have business lounges. Karaoke bars are a great place to end a successful meeting. The people of Seoul are passionate about food. Myeong-dong is a street with rows of food stalls, and I have tried dumplings, egg bread, fishcakes and prawns. A popular restaurant is Tosokchon, within walking distance from the Gyeongbokgung Palace. The most famous dish there is the samgyetang: A whole chicken stuffed with sticky rice, ginseng, and chestnuts in a smooth broth. For vegetarians, the temple food of South Korea is a must-have.
Getting around Seoul has an advanced public transportation system: The subway is extensive and highly efficient. Buses and taxis are easy to use and relatively inexpensive. Walking is a great way to see the city, and most of the locals prefer it.
After Hours From the finest restaurants to the best of pubs, the city has it all. If you like dancing, the pubs at Iteawon would be right for you. For good food, visit Gangnam or Gwanghwamun. Koreans love to spend their evenings at a local BBQ restaurant with fried chicken and soju (the local drink). Pubs, karaoke bars and BBQ restaurants are at Itaewon. Even if you are not a bar person, you should go there to feel its energy. Visit Insa-dong for a flavour of local culture and souvenir shopping. It is a nice walk among beautifully done-up shops and cafes. Myeong-dong is the place to shop for beauty products and formal wear.
Tips Seoul is a well-dressed city. So people in shorts and T-shirts could feel out of place. Also, don’t leave the hotel without its name and address written in Korean. Taxi drivers may not understand English. A word of advice for vegetarians: Even if a dish is called vegetarian, it would have egg and beef garnish. So please be specific while ordering food.
● The writer is CEO, Mirae Asset Global Investments (India) Pvt Ltd