Winter is coming! I never thought I would land in this country of K-dramas, colorful palaces, and tourist spots we only see on TV. With my (former) housemates, we planned roughly a year before our intended flight to make this happen. The day finally came when I saw a promo fare from Cebu Pacific and I immediately informed my housemate who had credit card to book for us 4. The roundtrip airfare summed up PHP6592.81 with seat, 20kg baggage papunta, 30kg pabalik)! That’s a great deal that time considering that regular one-way base fare usually costs 5K up.
Airfare booked! We shared ideas for our must-visit sites and finally went to Korean embassy one month before our flight for Visa application. I only have Php21000 show money from my payroll account but I took the risk. Booking an airfare prior to visa application was already a great risk. What if we get denied? We’re all nervous as first-timers but managed to submit complete requirements without any questions asked! A week after, we received our passports with visa! Can’t imagine the feeling that we’re good to go! Yehey! See you soon, Republic of Korea (대한민국 Daehan Minguk)!
Since we’ll go there on a winter season, we made sure to gear up on freezing temperature. Actually, I have no idea how cold is below zero temp so as a budgetarian (kuripot backpacker), I read blogs on what to wear and where to snag cheap, second-hand bubble jackets and coats. I’ve gone to Cartimar, Cubao, St. Francis Square and Marikina to search but the I’ve bought from the last two. Also, I bought Uniqlo Heattech innerwear and long johns. For the winter boots (actually mountaineering shoes for below zero temp), I borrowed from my brother. For travel suitcase, I availed one at SM Quiapo clearance outlet, where every items are on SALE!
Finally, with a year of preparation (of saving money for travel expenses..hehe) here’s how our Korean trip went:
Manila to Incheon, South Korea
Incheon to Myeongdong, Seoul
15:00 – ETD Manila (PHP1620 Travel Tax)
22:10 – Touchdown Incheon (KRW4750 Single Journey Card Incheon to Myeongdong)
00:00 – Touchdown Namsan Guesthouse
00:30 – Late Dinner at Two-Two Chicken with Beer (KRW12600)
Our arrival was delayed so our pickup service (KRW65000 one way for 4 pax) went already back to Seoul (they were super on-time as in Korean Time). I thought we’re doomed but we relied on an alternative that is to commute. We borrowed phone from airport concierge to inform the guesthouse that we had delayed arrival. They advised us instead to take the subway so we carried our baggage and bought Single journey tickets each at KRW4750.
When we alighted at Myeongdong station, we saw the subway keeper closing the gates as it was already 12am (lesson learned). It was already an adventure climbing and descending stairs with heavy luggages. Finally, we came out of the subway and took a taste of freezing temperature outdoors. Para akong naglalakad sa freezer….Brrrrrr!!!
We took a 4-pax room at Namsan Guesthouse (KRW118750 per pax for 5 nights) located few meters away from Myeongdong station. Reservation is by email only. No deposit needed. They’ll inform you a month before if the desired room is available. With free breakfast, wifi and other amenities fit for backpackers alike, you get the service. It was recommended by a friend and truly, a home within the Seoul. As late night guests, they even posted directions for our check-in.
Because we’re famished, we had out late dinner/midnight lunch at Two-Two Chicken. We ordered 2 sets each for soy chicken and classic fried chicken with Cass beer. Chimaek=chicken+maekju (beer), a combination Koreans love as we see them often in K-dramas.
Namiseom Island 남이섬 종합휴양지
Petite France 쁘띠프랑스
05:00 – Free breakfast self-service (noodles, butter toast, coffee, or tea)
07:00 – Start subway ride to Gapyeong Station (KRW3000 T-Money card + KRW20000 load)
09:00 – ETA Gapyeong (KRW4000 one way taxi to Nami Island Ferry Terminal; Nami island entrance is KRW8000)
12:00 – Lunch at Nami island (KRW12000 Beef Brisket Meal)
14:00 – Gapyeong Tour Bus at KRW6000 (Unli ride but with timetable)
15:00 – Petite France KRW6000 (Originally KRW8000 but we used KRW2000 discount coupons from airport coupon book)
17:00 – Gapyeong bus back to Gapyeong train station
19:00 – ETA Myeongdong Station
20:00 – Dinner at Tong Galbi in Myeongdong (KRW14000 per pax)
T-Money load is KRW20000 for whole stay in Korea which you can refund a most convenience stores before leaving Korea. You can also keep T-Money card (like our own BEEP Card) for future use, if you’ll go back to Korea or a friend will visit soon.
In Myeongdong station, there are various stalls selling food and fashion items. There are money changer shops with good exchange rates than airport’s. I exchanged my USD and PHP bills here for extra pocket money. Buy earmuffs for as low as KRW5000 if your ears are sensitive to tolerate cold. Parang nakaheadphones ka…hahaha
We initially planned using ITX train for faster ride (Myeongdong Station (Line No.4)->Seoul Station (Line No. 1/4)-> Yongsan Station take ITX go to Gapyeong station) but we didn’t make it. Instead, we opted for subway since were already at Yongsan station.
Arriving at Gapyeong, walk directly to waiting shed then flag a taxi to Nami terminal. Alternatively, you can ride a Gapyeong bus if you can wait. In less than 15 minutes, we arrived at Nami ferry terminal. I opted to buy tickets for us so we can queue already for ferry ride. I paid at cashier with their passports because discounted rate for foreigners is 8K Won only. Expect the long queue.
We spent most of our time exploring the island and searching for picture-worthy spots. Tiring but worth the walk at midst of freezing temperature of -5 degrees Celsius! You can see the water in a fountain is already frozen. Tiis ganda as they say para may pampost sa social media…lol
Restaurants are concentrated in the center of the island. Meals are expensive but we felt numb and hungry already so we went inside. We had budget anyway.
We left Nami in the afternoon then queue in line at Gapyeong Tour Bus pickup point. We prepared for exact amount as the bus driver issues the tickets himself.
Arriving at Petite France, I bought tickets for our group with discount coupons torn from coupon book. We saved KRW2000 each!
After Petite France, we didn’t push going to Garden of Morning Calm as it was getting darker and we’re already exhausted! We waited in less than an hour to ride Gapyeong Bus back to train station.
Due to exhaustion, we hadn’t thought where to take dinner. One old man approached us leading to a narrow alley within Myeongdong. We were lead at Tong Galbi Restaurant, ordered Budae Jjigae (spicy stew with noddles and spam) served with banchan (side dishes) and Tteokbokki (rice cakes) good for sharing and added soju for each. At winter, I never felt the alcoholic kick of soju. Wala palang tama sa sobrang lamig. Parang tubig lang…lol We were already full and very satisfied with our meal. We’re also overwhelmed with freebies like snack, yogurt drinks, etc. Tanggap lang ng tanggap! We didn’t mind the KRW14000 per pax for the dining experience we had. Korean hospitality it is!
Sumunjang (Royal Guard) Changing Ceremony
Gyeongbokgung Palace 경복궁
Bukchon Hanok Village 북촌한옥마을
Changdeokgung Palace 창덕궁과 후원 [UNESCO World Heritage]
Namsan Cable Car 남산 케이블카
Namsan Observatory/Namsan Seoul Tower 남산서울타워
Cheonggyecheon Stream 청계천
Insadong (인사동) Souvenir Shopping
07:00 – Free Breakfast again!
09:00 – Subway Myeongdong to Gyeongbokgung
10:00 – Changing of Guards Ceremony
11:00 – Roam around Gyeongbokgung Palace (KRW3000 entrance)
12:00 – Walk from Gyeongbokgung to Seoul City Hall
13:00 – Lunch at Myeongdong Kalguksu (resto underground near City Hall) Mandu Soup at KRW7500
14:00 – Subway City Hall to Anguk station
14:30 – Picture taking at Bukchon Hanok Village
15:00 – Taxi to Changdeokgung Palace (KRW4000 one way divided by 4pax)
15:10 – Changdeokgung Palace (KRW3000 entrance)
16:00 – Taxi to Namsan Cable Car (KRW5200 one way divided by 4pax)
16:20 – Namsan Cable Car Roundtrip ticket at KRW8500
17:00 – Namsan Observatory (Used 10% discount coupons from bought T-Money cards)
19:00 – Back to Namsan Cable Car
19:30 – Taxi to Jongno (KRW4200 one way divided by 4pax)
20:00 – Walk along Cheonggyecheon stream
21:00 – Dinner at YOOGANE DAKGALBI (KRW4625 per pax)
22:00 – Taxi back to Myeongdong (KRW3500 one way divided by 4pax)
We woke up late due to exhaustion from yesterday’s activities. We gave ourselves time to chill. Ansarap kasi matulog pag mainit ang higaan (Heater is life). After breakfast, we prepped up for our next adventure. This time, within Seoul only. From Myeongdong Station, we alighted at Gyeongbokgung station to catch the 10am Sumunjang (Royal Guard) Changing Ceremony.
We saw a flock of tourists and young Koreans wearing hanbok (Korean traditional costumes). It turned out that wearing them will grant you FREE ENTRANCE to all 4 palaces within Seoul (Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Deoksugung, Changgyeonggung). Maybe next time I’ll try…lol Walking down south from Gwanghwamun, we saw protesters occupying the square and nearby monuments of King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sun Shin. I opted not to take pictures to avoid conflict. We just walked directly to Seoul City Hall then looked for restaurant at subway station for lunch.
Before we exit Anguk station, we saw a thrift shop selling FLEECE JACKETS at KRW10000 only! My friends bought each for their OOTD. What a great steal! After quick shopping, we walked up to Bukchon Hanok Village for some photoshoot…lol
After roaming around Bukchon, we flagged a taxi bound to Changdeokgung palace and paid KRW4000 one way divided by 4pax.
If for a wholeday, you want to visit those four Palaces (Changdeokgung Palace (including Huwon, Secret Garden), Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace) and Jongmyo Shrine, ticket is KRW10000 won and is valid for use for three month after purchase. Secret Garden Tour is separate at KRW8000 with specific schedule so if you have time, grab it.
Along tourist spots like in Bukchon, there are Seoul tour guides in red with ‘i’ symbol scattered. They can help you flag a taxi like we did. We took again taxi bound to Namsan cable car minimize long walks. Korean taxis are great! Di ka tatagain…lol
Descending from Namsan using the same cable car, we took a taxi to Jongno for a night walk at Cheonggyecheon stream. At a tourist center nearby, I hoarded guide maps for future use.
We walked until we reached Yoogane restaurant famous for their Dak-Galbi (Spicy Stir-fried Chicken with rice). It rained hard when we get there.
Insadong is just few meters away so we checked one shop to buy some souvenirs. It was raining hard so we took a cab. We dropped off at Myeongdong station because we don’t know our guesthouse’s address in Korean hangul (lesson learned). Before going to sleep, I asked our innkeeper to write it so for next time that we’ll take a cab, I’ll show it to them.
06:00 – Free Breakfast!
SEOUL (Myeongdong Exit 2) – EVERLAND (ROUNDTRIP)
Line 4 SkyBlue = Myeongdong to Dongdaemun History & Culture Park
Transfer to Line 2 Green = Dongdaemun History & Culture Park to Wangsimni
Transfer to Bundang Line Yellow = Wangsimni to Giheung
Transfer to Yongin Ever Line YellowGreen = Giheung to Jeondae Everland
Alight from subway station then take the shuttle bus (free of charge) from Yongin Ever Line and go to Everland
09:00 – Everland ticket at KRW36000 (Used 30% discount coupon for 4 pax from visitKorea site)
18:30 – Back at guesthouse then bought noodles, egg and banana milk at 7-11 convenience store (KRW3600)
20:00 – Subway from Myeongdong to Seoul Station for Lotte Mart Shopping
24:00 – UBER limousine of 4pax at KRW20000 back to guesthouse
Good to see the countryside from train as almost no one is outside due to extreme cold weather. Once you arrived at Jeondae Everland station, descent from the platform and follow the directions to Everland shuttle bus.
If you have time left, do check Hologram show at Everland varies per day at any given time. Nakaka-amaze talaga!
After going back to guesthouse from Everland, we decided to have dinner of noodles bought from 7-11. Then since we have time to spare before midnight, we went to Lotte Mart for pasalubong shopping.
Lotte Mart Shopping 롯데마트 at Seoul Station was super enjoy! Andaming items on sale! From Pepero to cookies, candies, noodles, cosmetics, etc! There’s automatic tax refund when your reach KRW30000! Always bring your passport mo, as they scan it then automatically reflects discounted amount in your transaction. Laking tipid!
Take note that packaging of your bought items is self-service. Just get box that will fit your goods then arrange them and secure using packaging tapes on tables around. Boxes and tapes are FREE of charge. Make sure your packaging is good enough for your check-in baggage at airport. Keep in mind of your limit. In our case, 30KG per person.
We had problem going back to guesthouse because there was no taxi to flag at midnight. Then we each had big boxes to bring with. Suddenly, a black limousine passed before us! The driver wore an American suit. He opened his window and talked to our friend. The deal was KRW20000 and we’re skeptic if he’ll take us with our big boxes and said, “Ok! Ok!” We happily agreed and showed to him the piece of paper with our guesthouse address in Korean Hangul. Di na kami choosy sa bigat at pagod ng pamimili. He helped us carry the heavy boxes in the limousine. It was our first time riding on a luxury car so we’re overwhelmed! Sa Korea pa talaga namin maexperience. 20K Won lng naman at hati-hati pa kming apat. Sulit na sulit uber!
Heunginjimun Gate 흥인지문
Dongdaemun Design Plaza 동대문디자인플라자 DDP
Ewha Womans University 이화여자대학교
Cheongdamdong Fashion Street 청담패션거리
Hallyu K-Star Road 한류스타거리 K-STAR ROAD
07:00 – Free Breakfast!
08:00 – Myeongdong (Line 4) -> Dongdaemun (Line 4)
09:00 – Dongdaemun History & Culture Park station (Line 2)
-Dongdaemun History & Culture Park (Line 2) -> Ehwa Women’s Univ. (Line 2)
11:00 – Lunch Pork Bone soup at Onedang Sinchon
13:00 – Bus ride from Sinchon to Insadong (free ride from our friend’s sister)
14:00 – Shopping souvenirs at Insadong
16:00 – Subway from Jongno 3-ga to Apgujeong Rodeo Station
16:30 – Walk along Cheongdam Hallyu Street
17:00 – Chill at Starbucks Dosan-daero
17:30 – Bus ride from Cheongdam Bus Station back to Namsan Tunnel 3 station
18:00 – Walk back to Namsan guesthouse
We had few places to visit this day because we’re meeting our sister’s friend who came from Cheonan. Took some pictures at Dongdaemun then rode subway to Ewha University. Upon meeting her, we had lunch at Onedang then accompanied us to Insadong.
We settled for free noodles and bread from guesthouse for dinner as we had snacks earlier. We packed our things before sleep.
Myeongdong Cathedral 천주교 서울대교구 주교좌 명동대성당
Myeongdong 명동 Shopping District
Myeongdong Tourist Information Center 명동관광정보센터
Namdaemun Market 남대문시장
Flight back to Manila
06:00 – Free Breakfast (Last na ‘to!)
07:00 – Walk towards cathedral to attend mass
09:00 – Cosmetics shopping at Myeongdong streets
10:00 – Souvenir photo shoot at tourist center
12:00 – Lunch at Onedang (Bibimbap for KRW7000)
13:00 – Long walk to Namdaemun (Divisoria-like shopping)
16:00 – Long walk back to Namsan guesthouse
17:00 – Airport shuttle service to Incheon Airport
19:00 – Dinner at the airport then check-in
21:00 – Boarding gate
00:40 – Arrival at Manila
ACTUAL EXPENSES (excluding airfare and souvenirs/pasalubong)
TOTAL (1KRW = PHP0.043) PHP16308.80
* You can refund your T-Money load at subway stations and convenience stores like 7-11. As much as possible, spend all your coins to buy souvenir, foods, etc.
* My friend had tax refund at airport so she followed the directions how to claim it. You can have extra money to spend or save.
* Take advantage of DISCOVER SEOUL PASS for attractions within Seoul. There’s also KLOOK app and discount coupons from T-Money and Gyeonggi-do Coupon book.
* You have MANY WAYS to save costs for trips, transpo, atractions, food, etc. Just choose what’s convenient for you. In our case, we splurged a bit on dining because we had times we wanted not to skimp and enjoy Korean food. You have the chance to eat delicious dishes so why not spend a little more? It’s up to you anyway. (n_n)
* Web check-in at least a day before flight. Even with no printed copy, as long as you have electronic copy of boarding pass in your smartphone mo, it will work!
* Download apps available now like KLOOK (for promos), VisitKorea (for guides), MAPS.ME (offline map), Korea subway (trains) and Korea Transit Guide (bus route) to not get lost. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if needed. Koreans can speak English (sometimes broken English) but understandable. Don’t forget to say “Kamsahamnida!” as sign of gratitude.
* Most importantly, Enjoy your Korean trip!