Sorry if it took me longer than I intended to write the details of my trips to South Korea. Let me first talk about the first time I went there.
17 October 2015 – 25 October 2015.
The plane arrived at 9:00 PM, Korea time, at Incheon International Airport. I was amazed by how big and beautiful their airport was. It deserves to be on that “most beautiful airport in the world” list. Before leaving the airport, we bought a SIM card because I need to always be connected to the internet. You can also use the roaming service of any network provider in the Philippines. The cost is relatively the same though.
We took the subway to Seoul going to where our guesthouse was located. It was Fall, and being there for the first time, everything looked so beautiful for me. We were walking along Sejong-daero Street, just in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace, and I noticed the beautifully adorned lampposts. At first I thought the flowers weren’t real, but they were. Call me anything you want but I curiously touched the petals. ☺
We finally arrived at our guesthouse; the name of the guest house was Woo Guest House. We did our booking online via hotels.com. It was a really nice guest house located perfectly beside the main Palace, Gyeongbokgung.
We only rested for a few minutes because I was starving. Since there were no open restaurants near the palace we took the subway again going to the shopping district of Seoul, Myeong Dong, where I had my first taste of Korean street food.
There is a variety of food you can choose from but I settled on a Sundae, which is a Korean blood sausage. It has a really bold flavor, and although it wasn’t the best, it wasn’t bad at all.
We walked some more and finally found an open restaurant, It was already past midnight. After eating, we headed back to our guest house. The subway was already closed and it was difficult to get a cab as everyone is trying to get home. There were also very few taxis at that time so we decided to just walk. We downloaded the App “Daum Maps” to guide us back but since we didn’t really know how to read and speak Korean, we got lost. After about 20 minutes of walking around we decided to take a taxi.
Waking up to the beautiful scenery around the palace was the best thing ever. The view outside our window was perfect, and was filled with colorful trees and the flowers that I couldn’t get enough of.
We checked out early from the guest house, and the owner was willing to keep our luggage safe until we could come back at around 4:00 pm after our palace tour. The owner was nice our entire stay and speaks good English.
We bought the combination Tticket for the palaces because we were planning to visit other palaces aside from the Gyeongbokgung Palace. The ticket includes entry to four different palaces including the Jongmyo Shrine. But you have the option to buy single entry ticket for each palace and shrine.
I took a bunch of photos. The Palace was really beautiful inside with all, again, the trees and flowers, and the different pagodas. I like how detailed the paintings and carvings in the walls and roofs of all the buildings inside the palace were.
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We went inside the National Folk Museum of Korea. It is a museum on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace, and it features over 4,000 artifacts on display. The Museum features three permanent exhibits along with two special exhibits, an open air exhibition and a children’s museum. A souvenir shop is also located inside the museum. There is no additional fee collected to go inside the Museum. Do not be confused with the nearby National Palace Museum of Korea which is also located on the palace grounds. We were not able to go there because we didn’t have enough time.
There was also a marching band playing inside the palace. I’m just not sure if they do that every day, but don’t miss the Changing of the Guard ceremony as it is one of the highlights inside the palace. You can also wear a hanbok and be a Korean Princess/Prince for a day.
There are shops in Seoul where you can rent it. If that’s too expensive for you or if that’s not your thing, there are people wearing hanbok inside the palace who are also tourists that you can ask to have a picture with.
Another city in Korea that we went to is the city of Yeosu where I spent most of my 9 day trip. We took the fast train (KTX) going there and, honestly, I am starting to admire Koreans even more because of their transportation system.
In Yeosu, there is a nice little island called Odong (Odong-do). We explored the Island and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. There’s also a cable car going to Dolsan Island. We decided to wait until evening because we wanted to see the beautiful bridges lighted in different colors from up above.
Another place that we went to is a temple on the southern part of Dolsan Island that was built on the edge of a mountain, the Hyangiram Temple. You have to climb up the mountain before you can get to this temple. Near the temple is a marketplace for all kinds of kimchi and seafood that I simply call “kimchi village”.
Other foods to try: Kimbap is a dish made with steamed white rice and other ingredients, rolled in dried laver seaweed; dalkgalbi is a stir fried marinated diced chicken; bulgogi usually consisted of a grilled marinated beef; and more street foods ☺
After a long Yeosu exploration, we went back to Seoul. This time, our guest house was located in Hongdae, a university and arts district in Seoul. The name of our guest house was DW Design Residence which we booked on hotels.com. This time, free breakfast was included.
We didn’t have enough time to visit another palace because we lost track of time while walking and shopping around. We also went to COEX to see the Hello Kitty store because I just can’t say no to my goddaughter’s request.
Hongdae is also a good district for bar hopping and clubbing. We went out to check some bars and it was cool. After a few drinks, we decided to walk around some more and see what’s on the street at night. There were still some shops open even after midnight, and some sidewalk vendors. I found myself playing “throw-a-coin”; the coin should land on one of the square tiles for a prize. I won two stuffed toys and realized I didn’t have enough room in my bag.
Our last day in Korea was spent “pasalubong” hunting. We could have bought souvenirs from the shops inside the Palace but it was kinda expensive. I was already going to give up because there are so many stores in Hongdae but not a single one of them sells souvenir items. Luckily, we had to meet a friend in Itaewon for lunch and found sidewalk vendors selling fridge magnets that say “Korea” and some cute rubber figures wearing hanbok.
SUMMARY (sort of)
Most people in Korea don’t speak English, it is better if you have internet connection on your phone so that you can show them pictures of, let’s say, the place that you are trying to go to when taking a taxi.
South Korea is a safe place for travelers.
Make sure to exchange your money to local currency.
Buy a T-Money Card for riding buses and subway trains. It is more convenient if you have one. You can buy and reload it at any convenience store anywhere in Korea using cash.
Most guesthouses have a common kitchen and living room area.
If you are only planing to explore Seoul for a few days, you don’t need to buy a SIM Card because there is a good WiFi connection in most public places.
Budget/Expenses: (Seoul+Yeosu, 9 days)
Airfare: this depends on what airline you are going to take. It is better to buy a ticket a few months ahead. Cebu Pacific and AirAsia both fly to Incheon and offers airfare on a promotional rate. For this trip, I flew with AirAsia.
Guesthouse: there are other guesthouse that offers cheaper prices.
Food: streetfood prices start at 1000 kwr to 3500 krw. Meals at decent restaurants usually start at 10,000 krw. But there are other small restaurants that offer food for less.
KTX: the train I took going to Yeosu.
Palace Ticket: You have the option to buy a single entry ticket for each palace or a combination ticket.
- Airfare – Php 8381.00 (RT)
- Travel Tax – Php 1620.00
- 20 kilos Baggage – Php 1600.00 (RT)
- Guesthouse 1 – Php 5000.00
- Guesthouse 2 – Php 3000.00
- Food – Php 5000.00
- KTX (fast train) – Php 2000.00
- Bus / Subway Fare – Php 2500.00
- SIM Card – Php 1000.00
- Ticket to the Palace – Php 500.00
- TOTAL – Php 30,601.00s