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Love a Little Seoul

March 13, 2012

Tags: APPT, Seoul, Korea, Travel.

I've just arrived home from my first-ever trip to South Korea. I've been to a lot of airports over the years and a few have impressed me, but I must say that Incheon Airport blew me away. I was a little reluctant to head to the airport five hours early for my flight, however when I discovered last-minute that many places closed on Monday in Seoul, particularly my destination of choice for my free day - Dungdaemun Market (a collection of 26 malls, housing over 30,000 retail stores, mostly catering to women's fashion. Also known as heaven on earth, and also known as the place I never got to visit), I decided what the heck and joined the rest of the team on the early bus to the airport. I couldn’t be more thankful that I did, as I actually ran out of time after exploring everything this place had to offer! From the endless shopping, to the lounges, to the public toilets, massage and nail salons, Incheon Airport is nothing less than awesome.

Anyhow, the appreciation for Seoul certainly doesn’t stop the airport. Seoul is a fantastic city, and quite a beautiful one too. The APPT was held at the Paradise Casino Walkerhill, which is set on the edge of a riverside mountain, surrounded by trees, opening up to a stunning view of the intense city. I did venture out twice during the week, however it was always on a bus headed downtown, so on our last day, fellow PokerNews-er Donnie Peters and I went for a walk “down the hill” to check out the area that we had been living in for the past six days. We walked in the freezing cold along the eight-lane highway, which every road seemed to be, passing giant building after giant building. Despite being 10km outside of downtown Seoul, a distance that you would usually assume to find yourself in a quiet residential neighborhood, everywhere in sight was still full of skyscrapers. Seoul, and many other big-cities in Asia, is a totally different world to what I'm used to, one where everyone seems to live in the sky.

The view from Paradise Casino Walkerhill.
The view from Paradise Casino Walkerhill.

This was Angel's first time to ever visit Asia, and my only other city of comparison from personal experience was Macau... which really is a world of its own. So despite the minimal expectations that we had, we were amazed within the first 30 minutes of touching down. Koreans are not only technological geniuses as one would expect, but their warm and gentle natures really make you feel welcome.

At the airport we stopped by a stand that was renting out portable WIFI routers and found the Olleh Egg. This was one of the best finds of the trip, allowing for seven devices to connect at the bargain price of around $8 USD per day. For the first-time ever I was able to tweet to my heart’s content while touring around the city.

The Olleh Egg
The Olleh Egg

The city tour began on the subway. If you thought London’s Tube was intense, you’re in for a shock when you see the underground system Seoul has got going on. Not only was it ginormous, it was outstandingly efficient. Just like the city bus tour that we took – not once was anything ever late. Everything here works on time, to the exact minute. The city bus tour offered over 30 stops at landmarks throughout the city. With just one afternoon to play, we had to limit our choices. We started at the moving Korean War Memorial where the struggles of the divided country were evident, along with so much hope of reconciliation.

The Korean War Memorial - The statue resembles North and South Korean soldiers who are brothers reuniting and reconciling in hope of peace. The crack down the middle of the dome resembles the divide between the north and south of the country.
The Korean War Memorial - The statue resembles North and South Korean soldiers who are brothers reuniting and reconciling in hope of peace. The crack down the middle of the dome resembles the divide between the north and south of the country.

Next was the romantic N Seoul Tower. The tower is positioned on top of Namsan Mountain, a huge mountain in central Seoul. At first, it just looks like any other city tower that has an observation desk, but once you reach the top of the hill, and the base of the tower, you’re faced with nothing but love. Hundreds of thousands of couples have declared their everlasting love here, by securing padlocks, together with love notes, to the fences surrounding the tower.

Padlocks of love at the N Seoul Tower
Padlocks of love at the N Seoul Tower

We then went to the quaint, preserved town known as Bukchon Village, for a taste of the true local culture. We sat in a tea house where I had the most amazing Pumpkin Rice Punch tea. You can see all of these stops, plus more, in the following PokerNews video.

Our second night was spent at Ark Lounge in downtown Seoul for the PokerStars player party. Every table had it’s own VIP bottle service with Absolut Vodka flowing freely. As you could imagine it didn’t take long to get the dancefloor started, which was then overtaken by some serious breakdancing. Check it out:

Our second last night in Seoul was quite a long one, with Day 2 of the APPT Main Event not finishing until after 1am. On dinner break only around 30 players were left in the Main Event, and one of them was Angel’s friend from Panama, Jose Severino. So a few of us whisked Jose away for some Korean BBQ on dinner break to Myongwolgwan, a restaurant next door to the casino. It felt like a sauna inside the restaurant with all of the tables each having stoves built into them, but once we adjusted to the heat, we then indulged in one of the best meals I think I’ve ever had. I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone looking to splurge on some of the finest Korean BBQ in the country with one of the best views over the city.

Our chef cooking up a Korean BBQ feast at Myongwolgwan
Our chef cooking up a Korean BBQ feast at Myongwolgwan

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