Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When in Seoul: Experience

For my 300th post, Im happy to share my Seoul experience! It is the capital of South Korea and let me tell you, 5 days & 4 nights are not enough to explore this city!!! Our DIY itinerary is a good mix of cultural immersion buwis buhay and KPop fangirling =))

When In Seoul: Experience

Seoul Metro Subway
Although we have a 12midnight curfew, the subway is certainly the most efficient way to get around Seoul! The 11 interconnected lines was confusing at first glance but it was a life and won saver! After getting our checked in bags at the airport, we immediately bought an M-Pass card at Seoul Travel Information Center (1st floor, exits 5&10). We chose the 5 day pass for foreigners (47,500won/PHP1700) and it was sulit because we traveled by train all the time! We can even refund the remaining balance but we decided to keep it as a souvenir!

Point to point ang napuntahan namin
Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) tour: from Camp Kim USO
It was last to be added on our DIY itinerary but it turned out to be one of the best experience ever! What is the adjective for quiet but intense? That's the word to describe the experience of touring DMZ which is often dubbed as the "most dangerous place on Earth". To give you a picture, we went on the buffer zone between North and South Korea so we had to sign a waiver that has "they are not responsible if I get shot" or something to that effect. We were escorted by a neutral American soldier and there were NoKor and SoKor soldiers around us. While on a bus tour to explore the area, we were told that there were active land mines on the restricted areas! We booked the tour thru Camp Kim USO for 98,000 won/PHP3,700.
Freedom House @ DMZ

Panmunjon or Joint Security Area (JSA) tour
JSA is located in the middle of DMZ and it provides the road that connect both countries.
A glimpse of NoKor's Propaganda Village at Dora Observatory
The station that once connected North & South 
Lotte World. 40,000 won/PHP1600

If you have a few days to spare on your Seoul trip, you can skip Lotte World! It is an indoor theme park comparable to our very own Star City. We actually researched for the recommended rides but it was Valentines Day  when we went there, thus the long lines. Our strategy was to try anything that we see, as long as it doesn't have long queue. We enjoyed monorail, 4D adventure, we even dared to watch a play where everyone was hysterically laughing except us (because it was in Korean)! We weren't able to try the skating rink but we ended up in a buffet at Iron Bull which served American & Italian cuisine! It was the only time that we veered away from local food & unli side dish. I was really looking forward to shopping at Lotte Mart but it was on a separate building! The saving grace are the laser light show and the entertaining KPop show ala Korean High School musical!
Lotte World at Jamsil Station

JJimjilbang @Golden Hill Spa: Yongsan Station

I have to mention that Yongsan Station is the best and biggest station in Seoul Metro that we've seen! I already tried Wensha, a Korean style Spa in Timog so I already know what to look forward at a public bath. We were too tired from DMZ and Lotte World tours so we just dipped on the hot Jacuzzi for 5 minutes, masabi lang na natry! We went back to the heated room to sleep on the floor just like in Koreanovelas :))

We tried the night package for 12,000won /PHP450

Winter wonderland @ Everland: Gangnam Station Exit 10 then Ride bus 5002 to Everland

Yay for foreigner discount! From 40,000 won, we only paid 32,000won/PHP1200! Everland is massive like HongKong's Ocean Park! We needed to ride cable cars & Skyway to go to different areas. Its sad that due to our packed schedule, we weren't able to see the Zoo or try the snow rides! You should allot at least 1 day to explore Korea's version of Disneyland.
Jess, Gem, Mei with solo traveler, Mia, from Indonesia
Coffee Prince Cafe: Hongik University Station
Unfortunately it's under construction :(
Coffee Prince Cafe
Gwanghwamun District
In ancient times, it was the main gate of Gyeongbokgung palace but these days it thrives as the business district in Seoul.
Cute police station =)

Double Decker bus tour

Its actually my first time to try a bus tour, we paid 12,000 won/PHP450 for a one and a half hour palace tour. We were supposed to try the Downtown tour but ended up doing the Palace Cheonggye Tour.

Our route: Gwanghwamun-> Deoksugung->Insadong -> Changdeokgung Palace -> Changgyeonggung Palace-> Seoul Folk Flea Market -> Cheonggye Plaza
Press 1 for English

Hangang River Cruise: Tuekseom Resort Station
Bad news: There's no ferry cruise because its winter! No one blogged about that :(
Good news: The view was amazing! We also saw the aerial view of Han River when we rode the train to go to Namsan Tower!
Hangang River

N Seoul Tower or Namsan Tower: Chungmuro Station
Its definitely the best place to see a panoramic view of Seoul with Namsan Mountain on the background. We used the cable car (roundtrip fare 4,000won/PHP150) to go to the tower the bought the Teddy bear museum + observatory package for 15,000 won/PHP570!
N Seoul Tower + winter <3


Locks of love = JunPyo & Jandi's date!

Teddy Bear Museum
It was featured on my favorite series ever-> Goong!!! Its an amazing idea to use cuddly bears to showcase the history and present life in Seoul!

 Ground floor of N Seoul Tower
Bukchon Hanok Village: Anguk Station Exit 2
This is where they shot Lee Min Ho's Perfect Match!! This is a village where traditional houses were restored to preserve the original atmosphere of the area. The tourist information officer gave us a map, there were marks on houses where certain dramas were filmed. are actual families living here so silence should be observed.

Fortunately, no dogs on the vicinity!

KPop Store
You'll definitely spot this store at Bukchon Hanok Village
Amidst all that old school look and feel, there's a KPop store heaven for fanatics!  It sells everything KPop from calendars, photo books, posters, shirts and even cellphone cases! Ahjuma doesn't speak in English but she know's Japanese AND if you mention the name of your KPop idol, she'll show you all the available items. My friend Jess even managed to get discounts =)) I happily bought a Girls Generation calendar for my cousins.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

In English  it means "palace greatly blessed by heaven", for Koreanovela fans, its "Jewel in the Palace" palace =)). After entering from Gwanghwamun, the main gate, we passed thru 2 gates before reaching the courts like the queen's quarters, palace of the crown prince, king's throne hall and seemingly endless halls. I'm fascinated by monarchy, fiction and nonfiction so it was a fascinating experience to walk on halls where possibly a king once walked too!

the palace on topmost photo is called Guenjeongjeon, it is where the king receives his foreign guests!
We weren't able to see the Blue House, Nami Island, Silent disco @Hongdae, Cooking Nanta or Jump musical! That's 5 more reasons to go back to Seoul!

When in Seoul: Stay in Hostel Korea 10th

Sunday, February 24, 2013

When In Seoul: Shop

What I like about shopping in Seoul is that the shopping areas are very organized! There's a place for bargain shopping, big brands and local crafts! 

Dongdaemun Night Market: Exit Dongdaemun Station (Line 1 & 4)
It was our first night in Seoul and we found out that we don't have free towels from the hotel. Fortunately, it was on our itinerary to explore Dongdaemun Night Market. It was only few kilometers away from our guest house so we leisurely strolled along Cheonggyecheon stream until we reached the yellow tents of open market. It sells everything from shoes, underwear, winter clothes to accessories but no sign of towels =)) 
Stall at Dongdaemun
After having our late dinner, we were surprised that Doota mall was still open! The floors were categorized by product theme so it was easy to explore.  We roamed around until 2AM and ended up with a few bags of souvenirs and towels!!
Doota @ Dongdaemun
Convention and Exhibit (CoEx) Mall: CoEx Mall Station Line 2 of Samseong Station Exit 5 or 6 
You can find the international brands here and did I mention that its rare to find StarBucks cafe compared to HongKong, Thailand & Philippines so I grabbed the chance to buy my Seoul mug!

On the small Lotte Duty Free, Jess & I were about to buy a discounted LongChamp but it turned out that we have to pick it up at the airport. It was complicated, so we begged off. *Sigh, I already imagined myself using that bag! Meanwhile, Gem happily came home with a pair of violet DocMartens!
My destination-->Zara!
Myeongdong: Myeongdong station, line 4
I was already tired from non stop walking tour from Bukchon Viillage to Namsan but after I got out of the underpass and saw the shops, I'm good as new =)).  This is also the area where my favorite "street kiss" scene from Goong was shot so Im a happy fangirl!

The streets are filled with fashion and makeup shops, I was supposed to buy a bag for my mom on Lacoste but it closed by the exact time that we got there!  Luckily, H&M saved the day! 
Insadong: Anguk Station, line 3
This is the best place to buy local crafts and souvenirs! I bought chopstick, shot glass and framed souvenir items here! I was about to buy a miniature set for 40,000won but when I converted it I realized that I shouldn't spend a thousand pesos for it!
Insa dong - local products heaven!
traditional culture & arts ba kamo?

When in Seoul: Eat

I've been blogging about my Seoul vacation for months and now that its over, its time to blog! "Amazing" is the word that would sum up the entire trip! I'm lucky to experience winter again, I can say that I have a love and hate relationship with this kind of weather like any other weather. It is lovely to see snow covering the streets and homes. I dress up in layers of winter outfit but it can still be a pain for a lamigin like me! I kid you not, invest in an ear muff, it saved my life OA! The coldest temperature was -10 degrees Celsius at NSeoul Tower but I'm sure that what we experienced at Everland, which is located on top of a mountain, wasn't far behind. During the entire trip, I sacrificed my right hand to take photos  thank you Apple and I have the scars to prove it! Its just too bad that I didn't see an actual snowfall to complete the Korea winter experience!

Generally, vacations revolve around 3 activities 1) Eat 2) Shop and 3) See/Experience and that's how I will share my Korea Valentines adventure with my friends Jess and Gem!

When in Seoul: Eat
Another advantage of a winter vacation is that since we are covered in layers of clothes, we can definitely eat to our heart's content without worrying about the muffin top =))

* Eat on a tolda/ local restaurant: We accomplished it on our first night!
tolda at Dongdaemun = authentic Korean food
It turned out that they don't have an English menu, that's why we just looked around the other tables and ordered the safest choice-> Ramyun! We also courageously pointed another dish to Ahjuma, it turned out to be a good choice! It was yummy and spicy, we learned that its a rice cake called Ddukbokkie.

Ramyun, Kimchi & Ddukbokkie
Ramyun became the go to order when all else failed =)). Jess and I ate on another local restaurant on Gwanghamun and treated ourselves to another version of ramyum. Aside from the ever present kimchi, we had Danmuji as side dish! I never thought that a pickled radish can be so delicious!!
@ Gwanghamun local restaurant
Bibimbap and Bulgogi (I was too hungry to take a photo)


Dakgalbi: Stir fried chicken & beef + chili pepper paste  + cabbage + noodles + mozzarella. Solb!
Good Restaurant at Gangnam - yup, that's the name!

We ended up on this BBQ place at Hongdae after walking for about an hour and finding out that Coffee Prince Cafe is under construction. But feed me good and I'll be fine--> Korean pork belly meat (Han-don) served with a special sauce, kimchi, bean sprouts, lettuce wraps and soju!

Ahjuma cooked the pork for us!
Dip the pork on sauce then wrap on lettuce

After giving up on our search for Jajamyung at Insadong, we stumbled upon this traditional restaurant where we need to remove our shoes and sit on the floor, Koreanobela style! =))
Arirang Restaurant @ Insadong
Rice wine + Sundubu Jigae or Tofu stew for Jess and Ox tail for Me!

Unli side dish

Jajamyun is the food that Coffee Prince's lead Go Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye) eagerly eats - of course we had to find and try it! 
Comfort food ang Danmunji & Jajamyun
Breakfast at local cafes: There are a lot of coffee shops at Seoul and most of it are local franchises with homey atmosphere and big servings!
Spot Jang Guen Suk =))
Tea time!
Traditional tea @ Insadong

Korean street foods are to pila for! Yup, most of the time there are long lines to buy these cheap but super yummy pancakes & fish cakes! 
Street food at Hongdae + Gangnam + Insadong!

Friday, February 08, 2013

Anticipation and Aftermath..

One of the items on my personal to do list is to blog at least once a week, in short, this post is long overdue=). Unfortunately, I cant think of a specific topic to write about that's why i decided that like Romz, I'll just blog about random things that I dove into on the first week of February. But come to think of it, all the randomness can fall to one theme-->

 "Anticipation and aftermath are usually worse than the actual thing!"- @Gangbadoy

Korea, Korea, Korea! 
Ok, this trip is 5 months in the making CEBUPACIFIC SEAT SALE and finally it will happen next week! People around me are probably sick of hearing about it hahaha sorry!! Its just that I'm a big fan of Korean culture KDRAMA and I never really imagined that I can go there. Of course, the 1st week of February was spent on planning the itinerary with my travel buddies Jess & Gem. My main concerns for now ASIDE FROM MONEY since we're expecting a really cold weather, are 1) what are the perfect and compact winter sleepwear and 2) how do I handle my constant CR breaks. Are there enough accessible CR in the city hehe? So mundane, no? Well, it helped that  I already downloaded all FREE Korean related apps, from converter to train and city guides plus everyone has blogged about their Korea travels. I've done my intensive research but no one mentioned about those 2 =))

Dream BIG
Sometimes I feel like I've been stuck so when I finally had a new found dream, it was exciting but terrifying at the same time. The possibilities are endless and can lead me to a better place but consequently, I need to become selfish.  I dont think that I have to break ties because there's a way to do that without burning bridges or stepping to someone else's toes. That's all I can say for now because I'm going to face this once I get back from vacation!

Life and timetables, both concepts usually linger on my mind on my PMS days BUT SOMETIMES OVERSTAYS. I always have to remind myself that although there are ideals that SOCIETY DICTATES I think I should have by the age of 27. On the otherhand, there are also a lot of unexpected things, people and experiences that I did not even imagine to come across.

Note to self: Its better to be thankful and enjoy the whole experience instead of stressing myself on those that I cant control.