MUSLIM-FRIENDLY SEOUL & INCHEON

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Published on November 13, 2017 with No Comments

New attractions and a new direct flight makes the cities to see now!

Words ANIS RAMLI
Images KOREA TOURISM ORGANIZATION

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Jongno Tower. Credit(s): Korea Tourism Organization

 

In the last few years, the global tourism landscape has changed tremendously due to many factors. Foremost is the demand among Muslims for leisure travel that is growing concurrently with the burgeoning Muslim population worldwide. The importance of the Muslim Travel market segment is already being realised, and numerous countries around the world are capitalising on the pent-up demand of Muslim travellers for halal tourism.

South Korea is joining many other Southeast Asian countries in responding to the growing number of Muslim tourists it welcomes every year. Its State Food Agency launched “HALAL Korea”, an app that provides information on halal restaurants, allows users to scan bar codes on food products for its permissibility, and locate nearby prayer facilities.

The number of halal restaurants has also increase. In Itaewon, where previously halal food was only confined to Middle Eastern restaurants, tourists can now savour authentic halal Korean food, such as bibimbap, bulgogi and many more. Itaewon too is a popular stop for Muslim travellers because this is where Seoul’s largest mosque is located. Its strategic location high above Itaewon’s highest point provides an interesting vista of a section of downtown Seoul.

Prayer places too have sprouted in many areas where tourists are likely to visit. One of these includes K-Style Hub in downtown Seoul, a place that every Hallyu fan and enthusiast of Korean culture should visit. Spread across 6 floors, K-Style Hub is a once-stop centre for all things Korean. And you will likely spend a couple of hours here because this place is more than just sourcing travel advise and taking free brochures.

Visitors can play dress up with a traditional hanbok and take pictures, get a free health reading at the Medical Information Centre and sample the local herbal tea best suited for your lifestyle, design their own herbal pouch using local Korean herbs and spices, partake in a cooking class, and – thanks to virtual reality – experience every corner of Korea before actually getting there. For Muslim guests, there is a separate male/female prayer room including an ablution area.

Seoul is also fast re-establishing itself as a new megapolis, redesigning old spaces and re-thinking city living, setting examples for other megacities to learn from. One of its newer attraction is the Garden Bridge that perfectly reflects the city’s passion for pursuing public urban interventions, the Seoullo 7017, which is also within the vicinity of the downtown area. This new pedestrian walking experience has been likened to New York’s High Line that re-uses an existing structure to give depth to an otherwise stoic city living.

The bridge connects places near the main railway station and, following several self-guided walking itineraries, can take you to gardens of palaces, areas of hanoks (traditional Korean homes) and centuries’-old artisan shops and buildings.

Along the bridge are scattered a variety of facilities, including an information centre, cafes, gardens and stages. There are also various plants, shrubs and trees arranged in 600 different-sized pots to give pedestrians a distinctive feel when they walk along the bridge. It’s a great way to view the city’s skyline and definitely a place to visit since it is opened 24 hours.

Seoul is adept at balancing the old and new, which will power the imaginations of guests who visit.

For a look at traditional Seoul, there is no other place that captures the charm of an old traditional Korean Village than the Bukchon Traditional Village. With 600 years of Korean history, the area is also known as the centre for Korea’s heritage, arts and culture. Many traditional trades can be found here, such as at the Haneul Mulbit Workshop where fabrics are still dyed the traditional way using natural colours and an embroidery museum. Or simply wander into the alleyway to look at beautifully-restored architecture features like small courtyards, traditional door knobs and decorative outer walls to really understand this living, breathing traditional village.

More cultural immersions can be found in places such as the local markets. At Noryangjin Fish Market, one of Korea’s largest that dates back to 1927, the seafood auction still continues in the early hours of the morning. It’s lively, chaotic, and you can see local chefs and restarauteurs at work competing to get the best catch. Once the action is over, you can visit the various vendors and bargain your way through the best seafood because upstairs from the wet area is an entire floor dedicated to restaurants that cook your purchase fresh for you. Many of these eateries are Muslim-friendly but when in doubt, get your seafood steamed for the freshest taste and you’ll never go wrong. For advice on Muslim-friendly tours to Seoul and other cities, contact Sinar Tour at +673 241-8888.

 

Royal Brunei Airlines flies Incheon 2x weekly. Discover things to do in Seoul in www.muhibah.com.bn

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