Seoul-o Travels (Last day)

In the past few days in Korea, I was able to cover Korean pop culture, traditional architectures from the past, and natural sceneries.. For this last day, I decided to take a day tour that will give me more insight into the history of what this country has been through… The DMZ/JSA tour.

The tour took us to different locations showing the conflict that transpired between North and South Korea. It was an eye opener to me as to how bad the separation is between the North and South, and impressed at how South Korea was able to recover from the World war.

The Imjingak was the first stop in our tour, and here we saw remnants left of the Korean War. This is where the “Freedom Bridge” is, which the soldiers crossed to return from the north.

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Travel to Jeju Island (East Coast)

2nd day of my Jeju Island tour and I’m off to the East Coast of the island. First stop is to the Trick Art Museum.. the place is filled with art that you can pose with for optical illusions.. These are a few of my faves:

Next stop was a glimpse into the local culture of the place as we were taken to a traditional Seongeup Folk Village. Continue reading

Travel to Jeju Island (West Coast)

For the next 3 days in Korea, I was off to explore on my own. I didn’t know when I’d have the chance to go back to Korea again, so I wanted to make sure a visit to Jeju Island was part of my itinerary.

I don’t know much about this place, only that its always referenced in Korean series as a good vacation spot by locals. As I researched on Jeju Island, I got excited at the natural wonders to be seen there.

Since I’m travelling on my own and don’t speak Korean, I looked for tour groups that I could join so I won’t have to worry about transportation anymore. It’s hard because most tour providers have a minimum number of people required.

Luckily I found Yeha tours.. They offer affordable day tours both in the east and west coast, and you can also take it as a package with discounted accommodations at their guesthouse. Sadly the guesthouse was full already so I couldn’t take advantage of it.. So I just booked my own flights and accommodation, and booked 1 day for the east part of the island and another day for the west. There are specific accommodations that the tour provides pickups and drop offs to, so I based my accommodations on that list.. No more worries on transportation!

First day of the tour was the West course of the Island. Here are some of my personal highlights from the tour:

stone garden in Hallim Park

This statue is scattered all over Jeju island said to offer protection from evil spirtis

Dol hareubang

Views while in the Sueweolbong trekking

And my absolute fave of the west coast tour.. Locadio world!!! I love watching Korean series, and I love dressing up even more.. So this provided the best of both worlds as they allow you to dress up in different costumes from various Korean tv and movie sets.. Continue reading

Seoul-o travels (Day 3-4)

For the next 2 days in Seoul, we spent majority of the time exploring the famous shopping districts of Seoul.

The first was in Dongdaemun, popular shopping place for clothes, shoes, and other accessories.  Major shopping malls are Doosan Tower, Migliore, Freya Town and Hello aMpM. Check the opening times before you go here, we went on a Monday around 10 am, and we were surprised to find that a few of them were closed! If you like Korean fashion, this is a good place to shop.. However prices aren’t as cheap as I hoped, and the price range is comparable to clothes here in Australia.  To get here look for the Dongdaemun station and exit from there.  For more information look at this website.

After we’ve had our fill of shopping, we went all the way to Star Avenue, located near Lotte World theme park.  This is a bit farther away and took around 30-45 minutes by train.  To get here look for the Jamsil station exit.  If you’re into K-pop culture or K-dramas, then this is a good pitstop on the way to Lotte World to pass an hour of your time. Like the Star Avenue in Myeongdong, this area also has various displays of clothings and props of various famous Korean stars outside.

And inside, there are different activities that you could do to be a part of this K-pop culture.

Take pictures with a bevy of male Korean stars (even if its just cardboard cutouts)

The drama reading room for a chance to dub a korean series.  They offer a CD recording for you to buy as remembrance.

And other activities like horoscopes, quiz trivia, and writing a message for your favorite star.

Then our FAVORITE part of star avenue.. dressing up!! For a fee you get to choose one of the sets here, dress up in the costume for that set, and take pictures!  Unfortunately they don’t allow us to use our own digicam, so here’s just a shot of one of the sets here.

Afterwards it was dinner back at Dongdaemun.  We met up again with my friend from Korea, who ordered SUPER SPICY dishes for us.

It was yummy, but I kept drinking water each bite I took.  I forgot the name, but the dish was spicy squid and pork with the rice cake thingy called topokki. For a non spicy option we had mussels, and for sides the mint leave with fish eggs.

Next day we stayed close to Myeongdong for last minute gift shopping..

There’s lots of foreign clothing brands available like H&M, Zara, Uniqlo.. But what I found worth shopping here was cosmetics.

One of their popular items is the B.B. cream.  It’s sunscreen, foundation, concealer and powder in one.  For lazy people like me who just can’t be bothered to put all those different items in my face.. perfect makeup item to buy!  My friend whose sister is a makeup artist always buys the Missha brand B.B. cream.  So I tried and bought one for myself.  In Australia they sell it for around $36+ AUD, but here I got the same one for $12 AUD.. Yey to cheaper makeup!

Gift shopping for friends was easy as there was so much cheap yet cute cosmetics everywhere.. from lip glosses, hand creams, and perfume sticks.

After our shopping, it was time for my cousin and her friend to head back home, while I travelled solo to Jeju Island!! (to be continued in the next post)

Seoul-o travels (Day 2)

First in the itinerary today was to see traditional Korean houses.. One of the places you can go to nearby for this is the Bukchon Hanok village.. Just take the train and exit at the Anguk station.

The village is smaller than what I expected, but still a wonderful example of ancient Korea.. This is a great backdrop for photo shoots… Here are some pictures of the village..

Since the area is quite small.. even with the time spent taking pictures, we were already done in less than 2 hours..

I don’t know which path we took, but while heading back to the train station, we passed by this traditional tea house. Perfect chance to see these traditional houses from the inside and have a tea break.

We each ordered different teas.. I forgot the exact names, we just asked the lady what their best sellers are.. Lovely presentation and refreshing for the warm weather.

After this it’s another train ride to the National Museum of Korea. To get there look for the Yongsan station. Another popular tourist destination, but again since we’re not really history enthusiasts, we didn’t spend a lot of time here and just took a few pics to prove we were here before heading back to Myeongdong.

After it was back to Myeongdong just looking at the different street food in the area..

If you’re into Korean series or K-pop stars, near Myeongdong is Star Avenue in Lotte town.

It’s just this walkway where they show videos and displays of a few popular Korean actors/actresses. And they have a wishing star wall where you can write a wish/message to your favorite Korean star.. and if picked your wish will be granted!

Then we were finally ready for dinner and decided to go to Itaewon, an area with streets lined with a variety of restaurants/bars… I didn’t really care for the place since there was more international cuisines offered than Korean restaurants.. But for those craving for something non Korean, this is a good spot to go to.

*** Note: Again our itinerary for today was very relaxed and we started the day late already. For those that want to pack more sightseeing in, from Myeongdong my friend told me it’s possible to walk to the base of Namsan Seoul tower, then take a cable car up. You can also take the bus, but I don’t know what bus exactly. Also in that area you will find the Teddy Bear museum, and the place with the locks for couples..

See here for the next 2 days in Seoul!

Seoul-o travels (Day 1)

After the hectic business trip in SG, it was time to relax and head off for a holiday! This time I went to Korea for a 1 week vacation.. 4 days in Seoul, 2 days in Jeju Island, and back at Seoul for the last day..

I was tavelling alone but met up with my cousin and her friend who were in Seoul for the first few days, plus met up with another friend living in Seoul..

I was worried about traveling by myself.. especially to a country where English isn’t commonly used.. But for travellers out there who like me, want to explore without joining a tour group, Korea has made a lot of effort to accommodate foreign tourists..

First thing I suggest you do upon arrival at the airport is rent a local mobile phone.. The airport offers those at 100won per day, and you can return it at the end of your trip.. This is especially handy because there is a number you can dial where they can interpret english to korean in case you need someone to translate for you..

Next problem was how to get to the hotel..

I looked for the info booth in the airport to ask, and there they have ppl who can speak english, japanese and chinese so don’t worry about the language being an issue..

You can always take a taxi, but there’s a cheaper alternative they suggested which was to take the airport bus.. My hotel was located in Myeongdong near Ibis hotel, so they told me to take the 6015 bus which costs 7k won, a taxi would probably have reached up to 30k won..

My friend recommended staying at Myeongdong area because of its proximity to shops and restaurants.. Its also walking distance to a lot of the tourist-y locations, plus you can take a train if you want to go further away..

The hotel we stayed at was Metro Hotel.. I highly recommend it, its a bit cheaper compared to Ibis hotel, but still just a short walk from the bus stop and trains.. Rooms look new, well maintained and modern.. Breakfast is included, Wifi is free, and the ladies at the reception are accommodating and can speak English..

First thing in the agenda.. Lunch! I met up with my friend and just asked that he take me somewhere where I can try an authentic Korean dish. So for lunch we had a local fave Pork Bone Stew (called Gamjatang). Yummy dish with potatoes, noodles, pork and different kinds of veggies.

After lunch it was time to go exploring.. From Myeongdong you can just walk to the train station, at the Eujiro 1-ga stop.. A lot of the places we went to from this stop are around 1,500 won one way. Make sure to keep your train card because at the end of the trip you can deposit it back to the vending machines at the station and get your 500 won deposit back.

We got off at the Gyeongbokgung station and saw:

Admiral Yi Sun Shin statue

King Sejong statue

Gyeongbokgung palace

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