Asiana Lounge Seoul

Asiana Lounge Seoul

The Asiana business lounge is located just after passport control on a mezzanine level overlooking the concourse. Initial impressions are good with a marble reception desk with friendly staff. If you enter to the right you will enter the new expanded wing.

The lounge itself is full of natural light in the daytime and at night when we visited had a nice intimate feeling despite being busy and a large lounge. Even though it was one big space, it had been cleverly sectioned with plenty of table seating to eat as well as relaxation areas, with even a grand piano in the center of the space. Think plenty of dark wood, earth colors and dark furniture to give the lounge a library kind of feel.

So with an impressive lounge environment we were looking forward to visiting the buffet, unfortunately here is where it went downhill. The selection of both food and drinks was very limited, with a selection more appropriate to a regional lounge rather than a flagship lounge in an airport and with an airline serving long haul routes.

They bizarrely had toast available for this late evening departure with what can best be described as a few snacks and nibbles, nothing substantial. Apparently there is more food available at main meal times but what is a main meal time? Airlines seem to be using this as an excuse to cut costs in lounges. Newsflash, meal time is whatever time zone your high paying passenger is on! Alcohol was also limited with a basic selection of 2-3 spirits and a couple of bottles of wine.

In summary, impressive design and well thought out but let down by the food and drink options!

Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul.

Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul.

Seoul. A city famous for its pop stars, high cost of living, and food. It’s also a city steeped in history. For the purpose of this article, I’d like to home in on a slice of its regal history; Gyeongbokgung Palace.

History.

Built in 1395, the palace is commonly referred to as the “Northern Palace” thanks to it’s location (further north than its counterparts, Changdeokgung and Gyeonghuigung). It’s the largest of Seoul’s five palaces, and the most beautiful. Sad to note, it isn’t the original structure; this burned down between 1592-1598 during the Imjin War. Between the years 1852 and 1919, all buildings were rebuilt by Heungseondaewongun during King Gojong’s reign.

But why was it built? Well it served as the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty, housing both the Kings and government. Of course, the palace was abandoned after it’s destruction, for two centuries. During it’s restoration and rebuild, 7.700 rooms were rejuvenated, and a total of 500 buildings were reconstructed, spanning 40 hectares. Today, a visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace can include a visit to the National Palace Museum of Korea, and the Folk Museum of Korea, both of which sit within the same grounds.

 

Visiting.

Don’t have a car? Take the train and you’ll find a stop attached to the palace, barely a two minute walk to the Main Gate. You can either choose to enter the first of six outer courtyards using the side entrance near the station, or you can walk round and go through the main gate, which I recommend as it is very beautiful. This will also put you right by the ticket office. There are fees for adults, children, and groups, and people who choose to visit in the traditional dress of Korea (the hanbok) can enter for free (there are plenty of rental shops close by, it’s fun but it’s not cheap). Once you have your tickets, cross the court yard and enter the main body of the palace. Having no prior knowledge (a friend recommended visiting), I was taken aback by how big it is. The best thing to do to enjoy all of it, is adopt a leisurely pace, choose a direction, stick to it, then meander the other way once you’ve covered that part.

It’s beautiful. The architecture is sympathetic to that of the palace’s original, and is exceptionally detailed. Stop for a moment to admire the intricacies of the paintwork, the lines of the roof patterns, and the way buildings seem to keep appearing the deeper you venture. A particular favourite for me was the banquet hall; it sits in the centre of a large lake, and appears to float serenely atop it. What a wonderful view it must have afforded its occupants. Due to its size, a full day can be spent here, especially if you factor in the museums. If not, a good chunk of it can be seen in a few hours, though I implore you to try and see all of it.

It’s open daily except Tuesdays, and times vary depending on season. They are:

November-February 09:00-17:00
March-May 09:00-18:00
June-August 09:00-18:30
September-October 09:00-18:00

Visitor fees are as follows:

Korean Citizens:
Adults (ages 25-64): 3,000 won / Groups (10 people or more): 2,400 won

International Visitors:
Adults (ages 19-64): 3,000 won / Groups (10 people or more): 2,400 won
Children (ages 7-18): 1,500 won / Groups (10 people or more): 1,200 won

Integrated Palace Ticket:
– Four Palaces (Changdeokgung Palace (including Huwon, Secret Garden), Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace) and Jongmyo Shrine. Ticket is 10,000 won and is valid for use for three months after purchase. Non-refundable once first place is visited.

I didn’t have time to take advantage of the Integrated Palace Ticket on my last visit, but if you do, it’s worth buying. It offers great value and convenience.

Want to learn more? Visit the official website here.

Oppa Gangnam Style!

Oppa Gangnam Style!

The name Gangnam is more than likely familiar to you, thanks to PSY’s catchy 2012 hit “Gangnam Style”, but did you know it’s actually not just a snazzy song, but a district in South Korea’s capital city? Join me in Gangnam Square for a look at this popular district!

For starters, Gangnam is the third largest district in Seoul, and is its fourth most populated. It’s also one of the more affluent areas, with a higher than average (for Seoul) standard of living, comparative with places like Beverly Hills! Seoul is already notorious for being expensive with regards to property, but Gangnam takes the prize, costing almost double compared to the rest of the city!

It’s safe to say that Gangnam is a happening area. It’s a glossy metropolis boasting eye catching skyscrapers, is a hub for business, and has a plethora of shops. It has several shopping arcades, as well as malls (COEX is the main one), making it a great place to splash the cash. I actually prefer the smaller, more local shops you find off the beaten track. If you venture long enough, you’ll come across “Gacha Shop”, a quirky shop consisting entirely of Gashapon (capsule machines). These are very popular and can be highly collectible, and some of them are downright hilarious (underpants for your phone anyone?). Even if you don’t bother with any, it’s worth a quick look. Another shop I really enjoyed was Art Box, which is a combination stationary, home, and beauty place. Lots of cool gadgets, edgy office supplies, and cute make up! I could’ve easily spent an hour in there. Finally, as a bit of a make up enthusiast, I couldn’t not check out some fine Korean beauty products. Aritaum has a wide selection of both make up and skin care, and it won’t entirely break the bank. Another brand worth looking for, with a slightly heavier price tag, is Etude House. Their pressed powder in particular is a new favourite of mine!

Gangnam is a veritable outside art museum, with interesting sculptures dotted throughout the district. My favourite is the large pointing person (kind of looks like it’s disco dancing!). There’s also a huge tribute to PSY outside Coex mall.

Hungry? You won’t be for long. As well as shops, Gangnam is packed with eateries. If you don’t fancy Korean food, you can also sample Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, and more! Yakiniku (BBQ style) is popular, and you won’t be hard pressed to find one. If you don’t want a huge meal, hunt down one of the trendy coffee shops and rest your feet with a warm cuppa! Gobiter is nestled away from the main part of Gangnam, down a small flight of stairs. It’s modern, cosy, and has the most delicious cake! I highly recommend a slice of their rainbow cake; it’s pretty big though, so maybe think about sharing (or not, no judgement).

Lastly, no visit is complete without a quick stop at Gangnam Square. There’s a little stage there, an art installation dedicated to PSY (it’s perfectly fine to recreate the dance moves, I promise), and it’s close to the subway station.

Overall, Gangnam is worth at least 3-4 hours of your time. You could spend an entire day (or longer) there, but if your trip to Seoul is short, a few hours is enough time to soak it all in.