Wedged between Japan and China, South Korea is one of the most overlooked nations of the East. The 2002 World Cup may have helped put the country on travelers' radar, but it remains largely a stop for businessmen. And in the news it's all politics; you rarely hear about the flourishing nightlife, fabulous shopping, and excellent cuisine. Seoul, the capital (population 10.3 million), has become so high-tech that you sometimes feel as if you have journeyed to the future, where everything is wireless and multimedia. Yet history holds strong, like the centuries-old pagodas that stand among glittering skyscrapers. What has emerged is a culture at ease with both the traditional and the avant-garde.
Take Seoul's newest boutique hotel, the Park Hyatt. The all-glass building is unremarkable, but the minimalist interior has striking Asian touches (and spectacular views from the floor-to-ceiling windows). Each bathroom, equipped with a flat-screen TV, features a wall of granite quarried in Japan and China; a sit-down shower incorporates the traditional way of bathing. At the hotel bar, Timber House, glass cases hold weathered calligraphy books, and miniature water-filled hangaris (earthenware jars) adorn the tables. The contemporary vibe comes from the chic clientele and the jazz band that plays nightly.
The year-old W Seoul-Walkerhill aims straight for the cutting edge. In the lobby is the Wooden Mirror, a series of panels that undulate as you walk by (which you'll likely do twice). The rooms are full of high-tech innovations such as a home-theater system and a customizable aromatherapy scheme. The dishes at the hotel's Namu include Korean bouillabaisse, a twist on the traditional spicy codfish soup, and yukhweh (Korean beef tartare) with garlic, onions, and chiles. At the multilevel WooBar, Seoul's fashionistas sip soju martinis while sitting in egg-shaped chairs.
You'll see the same crowd in the happening neighborhoods of Apgujeong- and Cheongdam-dong. The Galleria in the former is the place to find D&G and Prada, as well as popular Korean labels like System and Mine. At Cheongdam-dong's Mue, a three-story shop whose translucent wall projects 20-foot-high images, clothes by Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga hang sparsely on mechanically controlled racks. Get ready to bargain at Dongdaemun, on the other side of the river, a district best known for flashy night-market "malls" such as Doota. The gorgeous handmade jewelry, home goods, and trendy clothes there are hard to resist.
If Korea is famous for one dish—other than kimchee—it's barbecue. Samwon Garden, renowned for its mouthwatering galbi, is the place to grill your own meat (that's the Korean way). When the owner's daughter, six-time LPGA victor Grace Park, wins a tournament, your meal is half price.
If you're seeking authenticity, head to Insa-dong, where the historic alleyways are lined with gift shops and home-style restaurants (stop for some sundubu-jjigae, a hearty tofu casserole). Urisegae sells lovely silk pillows and placemats in subtle colors. Bordering Insa-dong's main strip is the small but significant TapGol Park, home to the 540-year-old Wongak Temple. Plenty more national treasures are on display at the sleek Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art. The complex buildings designed by Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel, and Rem Koolhaas contain an impressive collection of Buddhist art in addition to works by Nam June Paik, Hirst, and Rothko. The museum lends out PDA guides that sense what you're looking at and explain accordingly. Near-obsessive modernism in the service of culture: a perfect emblem of Korea today.
PARK HYATT From $445 to $4,165. 995-14 Daechi
W SEOUL-WALKERHILL From $460 to $7,150.
SAMWON GARDEN Dinner, $100. 623-5 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/548-3030;
DOOTA 18-12 Euljiro 6-ga, Jung-gu; 82-2/3398-2386
GALLERIA 494 Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam-gu;
MUE 93-6 Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu;
URISEGAE 33 Gwanhoon-dong, Jongno-gu;
LEEUM, SAMSUNG MUSEUM OF ART Fee, $10 (reservation required). 747-18 Hannam-dong,
TAPGOL PARK 38-1 Jongno
Reprinted with permission. Departures May-June, 2005 Issue 99. American Express Publishing Corporation.
|With the International Airline Program, Platinum Card members receive:
Book a First Class or Business Class ticket on Continental Airlines to any of their destinations in the United States, Central America, Mexico, South America, Caribbean, Asia and Europe and receive a complimentary companion ticket.
1 To receive a complimentary companion ticket, complimentary upgrade, special class fare or discounted fare, if applicable, the Basic Cardmember must purchase a full-fare non-restrictive ticket or an eligible ticket in first class, business class, or other eligible class of service on a participating airline for an eligible flight to and from a designated gateway and charge the purchase to The Platinum Card. Subject to availability on participating airlines' eligible flights and
2 Service fees may apply. Fees vary according to type of service required. Service provided by Amex Canada Inc.
3 American Express Travel Services locations in Canada are independently owned and operated.
|Experience new heights in comfort and style with Air France. Book your Air France Business Class ticket* between November 1, 2005 and January 31, 2006 with Personalized Travel Services of Amex Canada Inc., enroll in the Flying Blue Program by Air France, complete an online coupon and you can receive an Air France exclusive lounge wear.
Designed exclusively for Air France in plush cotton piqué, this lounge wear lets you relax in comfort without sacrificing your style. Both men's and women's style feature drawstring pants and zip up jackets. The women's jacket also features a soft hood. Available in 4 sizes, Men's in charcoal grey; women's in mocha.
*Departure from Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto. The ticket must be issued and paid for in Canada through Personalized Travel Service using the American Express Platinum Card in reservation class Z, D, C, J, F, or P. IAP tickets are eligible for the offer. This offer is non-transferable, has no monetary value and cannot be combined with any other offer. Reward tickets as well as tickets for infants and children do not qualify. Allow 4 to 6 weeks after your return flight to receive your gift. No online coupons will be accepted after January 31, 2006. Promotion available while supplies last. Air France reserves the right to send a different size of loungewear if the one chosen is no longer available. Effigi is the official supplier of promotional goods for Air France.
|Your home away from home should be as comfortable as possible. With the Fine Hotel & Resorts program from Amex Canada Inc., consider your wishes granted. As a guest at any participating hotel or resort, you'll enjoy first-class service and special perks thanks to your
Once you have selected your destination you can make reservations through the the Personalized Travel Services of Amex Canada Inc. by calling
|A charming café, a cutting edge designer boutique, a scavenger hunt for your kids. These are just some of the unique things you will discover with the interactive Inside destination guides created exclusively for our most valued American Express Cardmembers. You will have access to local knowledge about shopping, kid friendly activities, cultural activities, and other helpful tips. The guides can be downloaded to your PDA so you can take the audio walking tours or language lessons with you.||For more information on the Destination Guides contact Personalized Travel Services of Amex Canada Inc. at
|$100 Travel Certificate for every 10,000 points redeemed.
You can redeem points for Membership Rewards Travel Certificates that can be used towards travel of any kind on virtually any airline, hotel stay, car rental, cruise or vacation package. Simply book through Personalized Travel Services or any American Express Travel Services location*.
So, whether you want to have a quiet romantic getaway in P.E.I., join a Himalayan adventure tour or live it up at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean you can make it happen with Travel Certificates.
Travel Certificates can be used for virtually:
Plus, enjoy the convenience of:
* American Express Travel Services locations in Canada are independently owned and operated.
International Airline Program
Airport Club Program
Fine Hotels & Resorts program from Amex Canada Inc.
Personalized Travel Services from Amex Canada Inc.
The Cruise Privileges Program from Amex Canada Inc.
Starwood Preferred GuestSM Gold Preferred Membership
Hertz #1 Club Gold®
Avis Worldwide Discount
LIFESTYLE / ENTERTAINMENT
Platinum Card Concierge
Front Of The Line®
Fine Dining Program
American Express SelectsTM
Click here for more information about The Platinum Card.
Membership Rewards® Program
Points Accelerator® Service
Online Account Access @ My Account
Year-End Summary of Charges
Supplementary Cards (Optional)
Automatic bill payments using the Card
Dedicated 24 hour Platinum Card Customer Service
Emergency Card Replacement
Car Rental Theft & Damage Insurance
Flight/Baggage Delay Insurance
Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance
Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance
$500,000 Travel Accident Insurance
The Purchase Protection® Plan
The Buyer's Assurance® Protection Plan
Travel Emergency Assistance
Note: Please refer to your Welcome Package for details.