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/

Me and My Itchy Feet :)

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