Lonely Planet Korea 8th Ed.: 8th Edition Paperback – Apr 8 2010
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"Down to earth, accurate information for every budget, enthusiastically written." -- Travel and Leisure --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Simon Richmond's first gig for Lonely Planet was on the Kazakhstan chapter of their Central Asia guide. Having recently completed two books on adventure travel in Southeast Asia and South America, where he had, among other things, learnt to dive, hacked his way through dense jungles, paddled furiously along rapid rivers, climbed snow-covered, smoldering volcanoes and mountain-biked down perilously steep tracks, the British-born writer and photographer felt prepared to tackle a country more of interest to mountaineers and oil prospectors than your average backpacker or package tourist. A decade and a half earlier, Simon had honed his writing skills as a young journalist with 'Which?' before heading east to Tokyo with the vague idea that this hyper-kinetic city would be more inspiring than life insurance, tax thresholds, Euro MPs, and health food, all topics he'd researched for the UK consumer advice magazine. He spent two and a half years in Japan learning the language and working as an editor and writer for a major financial news organization on content that was drier than the Gobi, and only marginally more interesting. At the same time he travelled Japan (later co-writing an award-winning guidebook to the country, as well as to Tokyo) and Asia, scribbling notes and storing away ideas for travel features. He first came to live in Sydney in 1994 on a year-long working holiday visa and quickly found the local media snapping up those stories. Entranced by the country he moved back permanently in 1998 and joined Lonely Planet's merry band of authors a year later. Among the many titles he has since worked on his favourites include Russia & Belarus, Trans-Siberian Railway, Cape Town and the first - and only - edition of Istanbul to Kathmandu. His travel features have been published in newspapers and magazines around the world, including in the UK's Independent, Guardian, Times, Daily Telegraph and Royal Geographical Society Magazine; and Australia's Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Australian Financial Review Magazine and Vogue Entertaining + Travel. He's presented a travel documentary on Japan for BBC's Radio 4 and his blogs on St Petersburg and traveling the Trans-Mongolian route through Russia, China and Mongolia can be read here. Sydney, his adopted home, is his favourite place. His travel tip is one he seldom follows himself: leave at least half of what you've packed at home!
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
However this book is a new low and I can't recommend people away from it enough. Literally every single time I tried to follow the advice the book gave, the information ended up being incorrect or outdated or amazingly vague.
A quick example is the Sa Rang Chae guest house in Gyeongju - it didn't give an address, and the phone number didn't work, but the description and location on the map indicated a general area to look. When I got to this general area, the guesthouse was nowhere to be found. I later learned that the guesthouse had moved locations four years ago, and had been e-mailing and mailing LP for several editions, trying to get them to update their information. Similarly, the restaurants and cafes they recommended for that city were nowhere to be found - it was worse than useless.
Their maps are terrible, particularly in Seoul. They generally don't list street names on the map. They also tend to skip a large number of smaller streets - but without names, it's hard to guess if the street was skipped or not. So trying to use an LP map involves an awful lot of guesswork. Korean people were often very kind helping confused tourists such as myself, but they also couldn't understand the maps, because even if the street had names on it, there was no Hangul, only Roman characters.
Addresses were very rarely given. So finding their recommendations boiled down to trying to use a small map with no street names. If using this book, make sure to confirm every single destination with a google search.
The KNTO releases very excellent free travel books, they can either be ordered, viewed on the web (unfortunately it requires Active-X), or picked up at the information booth in the Seoul/Incheon airport - google tour2korea and go to "e-books." That and wikitravel (which is sparse and often vague, but at least generally accurate) is definitely a better option than Lonely Planet. Don't waste any money on this.
I reviewed the last edition, and cross referenced the new with old, and it has been thoroughly updated, accomodations, prices, eateries, and so on. No doubt this was aided by the fact that this was one of the first travel guidebook editions to come out in Lonely Planet's new format. A previous reviewer commented on the lack of personality (for lack of a better word) in this edition of the book, and I would have to say I agree with that assessment. The older edition is a little more personable. But hey, this one still does the job, and gets you from A to B. However, note that at the time of review (mid October 2005), the guidebook has been out for well over a year, and thus is already out of date. Realistically, it was out of date that day it rolled off the printing presses, things can change quite rapidly in Korea!
My own personal recommendation for Korea highlights is that visitors should try and do a tour of the DMZ, and make sure it includes Panmunjom - it's a surreal experience, and proves the Cold War is not quite over yet. Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul is definitely worth a visit, and make sure you visit the museum next door. Another must see is the Buddhist temple complex Bulguksa at Gyeongju.
Very different from the main part of the book are the informative chapters on culture and history. These chapters, particularly the one about the North, are fascinating and very well done. Read the history sections for great context.
All in all, this will get you through korea. But once there, utilize tourist information and any locals willing to give you a hand. And hold on to those subway tickets!!!
Secondly, this book breaks up the useful facts for the visitor into two sections. For example, the sections regarding health, money, food, embassies and visas are in a chapter called "Directory" at the end of the book. In most if not all other LP books that I have read, these items appear at the beginning of the book, before they start discussing the individual locations. I wish that LP would maintain some consistency.
Lastly, the index is incomplete. They do a good job of listing all the place names in the index, but many key words which you might be searching for are not present. For example, neither "electricity" nor "weather" are listed in the index. For electricity, I just gave up looking in the book, and found the answers on line.
In summary, I believe that this book contains all the information one needs to travel in Korea, but the information can be very difficult to find within the book.