Buddies in Seoul: An Autumn Stroll

My fascination with Korea started when Korean drama series dubbed in Filipino started airing on Philippine television. When I left Manila in 2004, I brought along with me dvd copies of these series subtitled in English, somehow my ears got accustomed with the Korean language and accent. No, I didn't learn Korean language but now I can easily distinguish Korean people from Chinese when I hear them talk. I mean, before I always associate chinky-eyed people with being Chinese.

Due to the financial crises the world is suffering from, I bowed that my itchy feet will not travel overseas this year up to maybe next year. But the travel bug has bitten so badly that its difficult to cure! Thanks to my sis who treated me to an autumn stroll in Seoul!

Korea has four seasons. Spring, from late March till May, Summer, from June to September, Autumn from October till November and Winter, December to February. According to Korea's tourism websites, Autumn is the best time to visit. Korea.net forecast showed that leaves will change colors from mid October to mid November. The Seoraksan mountain, 5 hour-drive from Seoul will have the best view of Autumn foliage.

VISA:  Filipinos who wish to visit Korea should first acquire a visa, gratis or free of charge for Filipino citizens. You may visit their office in Makati or Cebu (whichever is near) or have it applied through a travel agency. My sister chose to apply through an agent. The processing usually takes 4 days to 1 week or longer depending on the documents supplied. My sister got her visa without an interview within 3 days after submitting the application, according to the agent, it is because she already has a U.S Visa. She was to fly with Korean Air from MNL to LAX via Seoul and will stop-over in Seoul for 3 days from Los Angeles on her way back to Manila. I applied for my visa directly from the Consulate of Korea in Dubai. I was granted 15 days tourist visa valid for 3 months-single entry, 2 days after submitting my application. For visa requirements and consulate address read Korean Visa For Pinoys.

Since I, together with my sister and nephew only have 4 days in South Korea, we only explored Seoul, South Korea's capital city.

Day 1: My Arrival

on the picture: Bus Ticket---------------------------------------------------------------Airport Limousine

I arrived in Incheon International Airport at 4:30 pm on board Emirates Airlines flight 322, solo. This wasn't my first time to travel alone in a foreign land as a tourist as I did this before when I went to Singapore in 2006 but that time, I had to wait 5 hours inside Changi International Airport until my friends come and then we went all together to the hotel. But this time, I had to go to the city by my self, look for the hotel, check in and spend the first night all by my self. From the arrival hall, I followed the sign to public transportation and immediately saw the bus ticket booth. The best way to access Seoul from Incheon is through the airport limousines. Its a special bus that stops in every important areas in Seoul. I paid KRW 9000 and reached Syunkyunwan University area after 1 hr and 15 minutes. The guesthouse, Backpackers Mr. Sea which I booked through hostelworld.com was just exactly opposite the bus stop. I went down from my "apartment" to look around on my first night in Seoul and I was overwhelmed to see that the vicinity was surrounded with local and western restaurants and stores! There were plenty of youngsters too, as the place was near a university. Even at midnight people were still "alive"!

DAY 1 Expenses:

  • krw 9000- Airport Limo
  • krw 1500- Chicken Teriyaki barbecue (street food)

  • krw 1200-coke

  • krw 800- cup noodles

Day 2: My Buddies In Seoul

I woke up early to meet my sister and nephew who were arriving from Los Angeles. Since their flight is arriving at 4:30 in the morning and airport limos first trip would be at 6:15, I calculated that by 7:30 the bus will arrive. And it did! Exactly on time, while I was capturing the area with my handy cam, the airport limo ply by. So I rushed to the bus stop and shoot some pics and videos.

10am: We were dismayed that at 10am, the restaurants outside were still closed. We were planning to eat before embarking on our sightseeing tour for the day but the street was also still empty.

11am: We checked out Dongdaemon Market, explored Deuksugong Palace and strolled along Gwanghwamun Plaza. Unfortunately, at about 5pm our camera ran out of battery so we went back to the hostel to recharge the cam for an hour and then planned to go out again to try traditional Korean dinner. We all laid down in bed to rest for a while while waiting and got up only to find out it was already 12midnight! We ended up eating cup noodles and bread on our bedroom floor!

Expenses for the day:

  • (via Seoul Metro)Fare from Hyewa to Dongdaemon - about 1000 won each.
  • Dongdaemon to Gwanghwamun- 1500 won each.
  • Deuksugong Palace entrance fee- 1000 each.
  • Gwanghwamun back to Hyewa Station-1500 each.
  • cup noodles and drinks average price each- 800 to 1200 each
  • cup cake average price each- 1,500
  • lunch in a fast food restaurant average price krw 6000 each

Day 3: Seoul Downtown Tour

To avoid time consuming metro rides we purchased a Seoul City Tour bus ticket on the next day.

At 8 am, we had our breakfast at the next door Dunkin' Donut before walking to Changdeukgong Palace where we started our Seoul Downtown Tour. Seoul City Tour bus is a hop on hop off bus that stops in certain tourist areas around Seoul, at 10,000 won each, good for the whole day.

10 am. We shopped at Itaewon. In most blogs that I have read, it is not recommended to shop at Itaewon as the prices here are more expensive compared to Dongdaemon and Nandaemon and the selection is limited. This too is the place in Seoul where you will see most of the western people in Korea as it is near the U.S Army camp so for tourists wanting to get to know the locals, this isn't the place to go. Some even said that the place is not safe. As for us, we didn't have any bad experience while we were there.

11:30 am. Myeongdong. A popular shopping district which is host to a number of fashion shopping malls and department stores. Most of the shops here are internationally branded boutiques and caters to a more upscale market. The ambiance is cool and lots of busy shoppers around. Loud popular Korean music on the street makes the place very much alive.
Myeongdong Fashion Street


11am. We didn't spend much time at Myeongdong since most of the stores here can also be found elsewhere in the world. By 11am we headed through to Namsanggol Traditional Village. This is the best place to see traditional Korean houses and experience the living culture of the Choseon dynasty. More photos on soon.
-----------------------Namsangol Traditional Korean Village-------------------
Lunch. We had lunch at the Foodcourt, Octagon Pavillon square at N Seoul Tower. The bus dropped us at the base of the mountain about a kilometer down the pavillon. We had to hike to reach the area. There is also a cable ride available at 7500 won from Namsan park and back.

It is best to visit N Seoul at night. There is a laser show every 2000 hrs. [More of N Seoul Tower on my next post :-) ]
From N Seoul we moved to Lotte World at 7pm. Read more about Lotte World here.

Expenses for Day 3: (excluding shopping)

  • Dunkin Donut breakfast (i'll post the amt soon)
  • 10,000- Seoul City Tour bus
  • Lunch at Foodcourt, Namsan Park( amt later)
  • krw 7000-N Seoul Tower entrance fee (discounted).
  • krw 14,000-Lotte World night entrance fee (after 7pm).
  • krw 1,500 ea-Seoul metro fare from Dongdaemon to Jamsil (lotte world).
  • krw 1,5000 ea -Fare from Jamsil station to Hyewa.
  • snacks

Day 4: Departure.

Before checking out, we spent the rest of our remaining time in Dongdaemon to shop for some souvenirs. Dongdaemon Fashion market houses 3 floors of ladies fashion alone!

My Travel date: 12-15 October 2009. Season: Autumn/clothing: light sweaters, sweat shirts.

Travel links: http://www.sparklingkorea.com/; http://www.korea.net/


Backpackers Mr. Sea- Seoul

I convinced my sister to experience staying in budget accommodation like I always do on my travels. The main requirement was that we want a private room with own private bathroom. I initially thought of Golden pond hostel as recommended by a friend but there was no triple room with private bath available. In the same area, I found Backpackers Mr. Sea.

Located in Myeongyun 2ga Jongrugu, Seoul, I followed the direction found on the website. From the airport, I looked for the airport limousine just outside the arrival hall, from exit 11 you will immediately find the bus ticket booth. I paid KRW 9000 and waited for bus number 6011. Airport Limousines are available from 6:15 am up to midnight. On the 7th bus stop was Syunkwunwan University. I got down and just across the bus stop I saw Charles Salon and Gakuya Salon, between these is Backpackers Mr. Sea. From the road you will not find any sign to the guesthouse. Just head inside a small alley in between the Salons and there you will find a glass door. At first, I was hesitant to proceed inside since there was no sign at all. It just looked like a typical receiving area of a house but since I can't see anything else in between Gakuya and Charles Salon, even with a doubt I went on inside and asked. Mr. Sea was there and I handed over to him the remaining balance of krw 186,000 for the room which I booked online. From hostelworld.com, upon reservation, I paid a deposit of 20 USD. I booked a triple private room with private bath at KRW 23,000 per room per night.

The private room was actually an apartment on the 3rd floor. Inside you'll have a washing machine, a cooker with kitchen utensils and a pan. There is also a fridge. The bathroom is very small though. You'll have to access the apartment from outside and you will be given a password to enter the area. I find it very convenient since in other hostels, there is usually a curfew imposed. Here you didn't have to bother anyone even if you come late. The surrounding area is very busy. Since it is near a university, you will see a lot of young Koreans around and a lot of shops and restaurants too. From coffee shops like starbucks, dunkin donuts, to fastfood chains like mcdonalds, kfc, TGI Fridays and bars too! Of course not to outnumber are thev local restaurants serving Korean food. Street food karts, convenient stores are present everywhere within walking distance. The Hyewa station is also just 5 minutes away from the guesthouse. Dondaemon, where you will find a lot of cheap buys is only 1 station away. Changdeukgong Palace is a walking distance, about 10 minutes. Insadong and Gyungbukgong Palace are also very nearby. If you are looking for a hostel without the frills, I recommend Backpackers Mr. Sea.

Backpacker Mr Sea Amenities

Included In Price:

  • Linen
  • Parking
  • Internet Access
  • 24 Hour Reception,
  • 24 Hour SecurityWeb Acces
  • WiFi Access,
  • Internet AccessGeneralBreakfast,
  • Luggage Storage,
  • Parking, Iron/Ironing BoardFood / DrinkGuest Kitchen, BBQ Area
  • In RoomAir Conditioning,
  • Security Lockers,
  • Key Card,
  • fun things to do in Backpacker Mr sea: Common Room, BBQ Area

    Around the area at night...

    early morning around the hostel.....

Korean Visa for Pinoys

Filipinos who wish to visit South Korea should first acquire a visa, gratis or free of charge for Filipino citizens. You may visit their office in Makati or Cebu (whichever is near) or have it applied through a travel agency. My sister chose to apply through an agent. The processing usually takes 3 days to 1 week or longer depending on the documents supplied. My sister got her visa without an interview within 3 days after submitting the application, according to the agent, it is because she already has a U.S Visa. She was to fly with Korean Air from MNL to LAX via Seoul and will stop-over in Seoul for 3 days from Los Angeles on her way back. I applied for my visa directly from the Consulate of Korea in Dubai. I was granted 15 days tourist visa valid for 3 months, single entry, 2 days after submitting my application.

Address in the Philippines:

South Korea Embassy , Philippines
10th Floor, The Pacific Star Building Sen. Gil Puyat corner Makati Avenue
Makati City
Metro Manila

South Korea Consulate , Philippines
Mezzanine Floor, UC-ICTC Bldg., Gov. Cuenco Avenue, Banilad

South Korea Embassy , United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi
PO Box 3270
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

South Korea Consulate, Dubai
Villa # 39 Street 42 B Area 342 Jumeirah 2 Dubai tel no. 04 3449200.

Requirements :

  1. Salary certificate/ Letter from the company (if you working).
  2. Bank Statement for at least the last 3 months.
  3. Valid Passport
  4. 1 Passport size photo.
  5. Application form.


"They Call It Autumn-Winter"

20th of November 2008. One day before my trip to Europe..I woke up with a heavy fever...I refused to believe it was happening to me. Not this time when its only one day before my MUCH AWAITED trip to Europe! I can't be sick. I prepared myself as needed for work at 2pm, but this time I took taxi to work as I felt that my body was so weak. I ignored whatever I was feeling. At work, I started chilling. I bought 17dhs fresh orange juice which I don't usually do on 'normal' circumstances as I am so tight when it comes to money spent while on duty, but this time I had to, to prevent my condition from getting worse. I went to pharmacy and bought 36 dhs medicine for fever. I told the pharmacist I cannot get sick! At 10pm, right after my duty, I was already so weak. I slept right away. I had to rest. By 2am, I got up feeling worst! This time I had given up my travel plans...I was too weak to go. I took 2 capsules again and went back to bed....I woke up at 5am and changed.




By hook or by crook, I reached Munich, Germany at 45 past 12noon with my friends Maricel and Arlene. Arlene and I planed this trip up to early morning during and after our work, almost everyday, searching the net for the best deals. I can't let this chance pass by just like that!
----------------------------------------------------------Munich International Airport

Just a few minutes after our arrival, as we wander through the train station, we started feeling cold. One old lady even reacted upon seeing my "shoes" seemingly amazed, then i realized that everybody was wearing boots or at least closed rubber shoes. Their clothes weren't also same as ours. We looked for a corner and opened our luggage and took out "additional clothing", and this is not only for the purpose of blending with them but because we felt it was necessary as it was freezing cold!
-------------------------Inside the train going to downtown Munich from the Airport

----------------------------------------------------------------At Marienplatz

From Munich International Airport we took the train at 8.50 euro each to downtown Munich. The Wallis Hotel Munich was just a walking distance away from the train station. Check in process was very quick. We were given a room on the first floor, it was a cute green room for 3 persons and a bathroom with a bathtub. Not bad for 113 euro a night including a buffet breakfast of breads, cereals, fruits, coffee, tea and fresh juice!
--------------------------------------------------------Buffet Breakfast at Hotel Wallis
Immediately after dropping our luggage in our hotel room, we moved and explored marienplatz and the old town residence, although just a walking distance away we didn't manage to walk back to the hotel as it was freezing cold! We decided to take a taxi at 6.30 euro, split into 3. It was always a relief whenever we are inside a room or any closed space as there are heaters installed there . After gaining back enough"courage" to face the cold weather outside, we again went out to eat dinner in a Chinese restaurant just across our hotel. We ordered 2 platters of fried rice, a bowl of hot soup each, and stir-fried beef, which we didn't finish as it was too much for the 3 of us. We paid 38 euro split into 3. Before our first order was served, our excitement heightened by the sight of snow fall! Yes, coming from a tropical country Philippines, and a residence of sunny Dubai, it was our first time to see snow falling from "heaven".
---------------------------------------------------Our first sight of snow fall!

-----------------------------------------------------------It's Winter Time!

------------------------------------------------Strolling along the Old Residence
----------------------------------------------------Winter window display!
----------------------------------------------------Shopping area along Marienplatz

---------------------------------------------------Christmas is almost here!

------------------------------------This is the site for the Christmas Market 2008

We left Munich and boarded a train to Frankfurt to catch our flight to Denmark via Scandanavian Airlines.
---------------------------------------Waiting for the train to Frankfurt
-----------------------------------------------Inside the train, enjoying the view.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------A view from the train.

We had reserved seats with a table at 87 euro each. Frankfurt is 3 hrs by train from Munich.

-------------------------------------------------------Arrival In Frankfurt-Main
--------------------------------------------------------------Frankfurt Train Station
We wanted to explore more of downtown Frankfurt but the temperature outside has become unbearable so we decided to leave and wait at the airport for our flight to Denmark.
http://www.hotel-wallis.de/ ; http://www.emirates.com/; http://www.bahn.de/

...of apple trees and snowflakes.

Surprisingly, we didn't pass through the passport control in Copenhagen International Airport. Before we knew it, we were already in Denmark! Maricel's father and uncle, both based in Copenhagen fetched us from the airport. In only 5 minutes or so of drive, we reached her uncle's home and our "home for two nights"

Since we have a host family in Denmark, we felt very relaxed. There, we didn't have to carry a map, asked for directions nor plan where to go. We experienced "serviced de luxe"! Thanks to the Matunog Clan.

The front yard of the house was covered with snow. There were apple trees too! Since autumn had all the leaves gone, winter didn't keep us from seeing green apples hanging on the apple tree. Though the house was typically Danish outside, inside of it didn't hide the Filipino look.
While walking along this area, there was a man (some kinda beggar) playing violin that made the ambiance somewhat like you are in a sad-romantic movie....

------------------------------------------------------------The Tivoli Garden

Ever heard of Christmas Market in Europe? Though it was -3 degrees, we headed towards the Tivoli Garden and experienced our winter wonderland Christmas!Entrance to the Tivoli Garden was 12crooner each, rides are paid separately. Only Maricel and her cousin Mikey tried the rides though, as we thought it was too cold to manage.

Tivoli (in English also called Tivoli Gardens) is a famous amusement park and pleasure garden in Copenhagen, Denmark. The park opened on August 15, 1843 and, except for Dyrehavsbakken in nearby Klampenborg, it is the oldest amusement park in the world.
6 am, waiting for the bus to take us to the Copenhagen International Airport.



"Amazing Race?"

Nah, this is not my version of Lovers in Paris. Ours was actually like an Amazing Race. We were in Paris only for 2 days. We got to Paris via Air France. We flew at 10am and arrived after almost 2 hours. We checked in at Perfect Hostel, in a private triple room at 75euro a night after a train ride where we saw Paris "not at its best". Vandalism was everywhere. I don't know if it was part of their expression being known to be artistic or just plain rage. Whatever it is, i didn't find it nice. Unlike our first two stops, Paris was more diverse. Much like London (the first European city I've visited). But like in Germany, to speak to them was a challenge! Not much speaks English. They speak only French. But anyway, we managed....

Walking from our hostel to the nearest tube station, Anvers....

After a short subway ride, we reached The Louvre Museum at about 3pm... ----------------------------------------------------------------The Louvre Museum
General Admission was 9 euro each....

Of course, a visit to Paris is never complete without seeing the Eiffel Tower. After having dinner in one of the Restos in front of the Louvre Museum, where we ate pasta at 6.50 euro each plus a slice of pizza, we passed by to a souvenir shop then headed to the Eiffel Tower by train at 1.50euro each. But due to slight rain and windy night, we decided to leave...
-------------------------------------------------------Morning shot of the Eiffel Tower.

---------------------------------------------------------Eiffel Tower day and night.
So the next day, we came back to see the Eiffel Tower then rushed back to the hotel to check out and left our luggage in the train station for 9euro and proceeded to Disneyland Park Paris!
It was a long train ride to Disneyland Paris. The train was old and the view was n't very pleasing to the eye, either. Then you'll see a huge castle like building and you knew it would be time to get off the train! Entrance to the park was 49 euro each.
----------------------------------------------------------------Disneyland Parc Paris!

My second visit to Disneyland Resort still left me disappointed, for again I didn't get to fulfill my dream of getting a souvenir photo with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck!
“They call it Autumn-Winter”

Strolling along the streets full of yellow orange leaves scattered on the ground, a very cool breeze kisses the skin, or pearly white snow showers the ground, yes this is what they call autumn winter. Now, after soooo long, on an autumn winter day, Ive been there....


Travel Information:
Tour date: 21-26 November 2008, late autumn-early winter
Clothing: Thermal Jackets, winter coats. boots.
Currency: euro (1 EUR = 5.19208 AED/ 1 EUR = 1.41366 USD/1 EUR = 66.6034 PHP
Visa: I applied for Schengen Visa at the German Embassy since Germany is our point of entry. There is an interview for Filipino citizens when applying for Schengen visa for the first time, unless if you have already travelled to any EU member state as in my case. Waiting period took 12-14 days. In addition to the usual requirements, you also have to submit a valid travel insurance.

Me and My Itchy Feet :)

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