Business trip: Seoul
Many of the best restaurants for business-class lunches or celebratory dinners are located in Seoul’s large western-style hotels. For example, Michelin-starred celebrity chef Pierre Gagnaire recently opened the opulent, Parisian-style Pierre Gagnaire a Seoul atop the Lotte Hotel in 2008. Similarly, the elegant Shilla hotel offers sumptuous buffets by day and an upscale French experience by night at its popular Continental rooftop restaurant. Most of the 21 upscale restaurants in the sprawling Seoul Finance Center -- including Western-style steakhouses, Indian cuisine, traditional Korean fare such as bibimbap (a warm mixed rice dish) and Japanese sushi -- are perfect choices for lunch or dinner with colleagues or clients.
Off the clock
To beat jet lag and get some fresh air, take a short trek to the 240m-tall N Seoul Tower on the top of Namsan Mountain, smack in the middle of town. The 360-degree views (best at twilight) will help establish your bearings among the urban sprawl. (Ask your hotel concierge about the best days/times to go to avoid crowds.)
After a few days in this hectic city, cool your heels and sooth your mind with a stroll along the serene six kilometre Cheonggyecheon stream, once covered over by development, but resuscitated in 2005 as an urban park in the middle of Seoul’s bustle.
Futurists with some extra time on their hands should check out Songdo, Korea’s “city of the future”, connected by a bridge to Incheon Airport. It officially opened in 2009 and is already home to 22,000 people. By 2015, the master-planned, sustainable city should have more than 1,000 new buildings.
To get a glimpse of what life is like for locals, do what they do: shop! During Seoul’s muggy summer or frigid winter days, spend some time in the city’s many urban shopping malls, most of which are conveniently located on top of key subway stations. The newest, flashiest mall is the enormous, light-filled, glass-roofed Times Square, which has an almost indoor/outdoor feel. The popular Lotte World mall is a combination shopping mall and indoor amusement park. Business travellers in town for conferences and exhibitions will likely find their way into the Coex mall — Asia’s largest underground mall.
At night, join in with the locals at Seoul’s diverse outdoor markets, such as Dongdaemun and Myeong-dong, both known for food as well as fashion. Namdaemun is the city’s oldest market — its stalls are packed with everything from electronics and clothing to pork and kimchi. If you are looking for the perfect souvenir, check out the Insadong craft market.
Don’t do this!
Do not assume your mobile phone will work as easily in Korea as it does elsewhere. While cellular phone systems in most countries now use GSM technology, South Korea uses the less-common CDMA platform, which may require renting a phone or buying a special SIM card. Be sure to check with your mobile phone provider before your trip to determine coverage.