Our Thanksgiving Weekend Trip to Seoul, South Korea
Seoul, South Korea was my final Asian destination this year. And what a way to end a travel-filled trip this year than to go to this famous Asian City!!! We booked our flight through one of Cebu Pacific Air's ridiculous seat sales early this year. The good thing about following US Holidays even if you work here in Manila is that all of their holidays are usually long weekends. I booked online via www.cebupacificair.com, and our travel date was set - November 24-27.
If you are a Filipino citizen, you still need to apply for a Korean Tourist visa. For more information about the requirements, visit Korean embassy's website or drop by their office at McKinley Hill. We went to the embassy last October to submit our requirements. If you have a US Visa or any visa from the OECD countries with arrival stamps, processing time is much faster - only 3 days. Anyway, all of our visa's were approved on time, so we book a hotel.
As usual, I went to www.agoda.com and www.asiarooms.com to book for a hotel, and we chose Western Co-op, located across Dongdaemun Shopping district.
One of the things that you need to be aware of is that when you plan to visit Korea during the last quarter of the year, it's already autumn-winter season so be sure to pack the right clothes or else you won't enjoy your trip to there.
We arrived in Seoul, South Korea pass 8pm (local time), and as soon as we went to the bus stop we immediately felt the chills of cold winter breeze. It was -4 deg. Celcius that night. We purchased a ticket for KRW14,000 each and boarded bus 6001. Good thing Western Coop is one of the bus stops. So all we just dropped off and checked in - it was very convenient.
Western Co-op is a very nice hotel, packed with basic amenities and they even have wifi in every room. The reception area is very cozy. I have also noticed that they have kitchen utensils were you can cook. Be sure to bring a plug adaptor as their power outlets are different than the ones we have here in the Philippines. There's also a convenience store right beside and is also a walking distance to famous Dongdaemun Shopping District. Overall, for the price that we paid, which is KRW150,000/night, this was already reasonable.
The next morning we decided to go to Namsangol Hanok Village. We just took the subway and with two stops we were already there. There's no entrance fee and it's a nice place where you would see locals both young and old stroll. This place also features traditional Korean Houses called "Hanok" and you also get to wear costumes and experience local stuff for a cheap price. We wore costumes for KRW3000 each and took some photos as well. Unfortunately, we were not able to catch a staged wedding ceremony which normally happens after lunch. Overall, this was a good introduction to the early culture of Korea.
After that, we ate at a local Korean restaurant and tried Bulgogi. The good thing about local Korean restaurants is that they have unlimited side dishes - so you can have all the Kimchi you want! Then we headed to Gyeokbokgung Palace. We were able to catch a glimpse of "Changing the Guards" Ceremony. The palace is a big complex where you can see the main throne room, other big structures, folk museum and some Hanoks as well.
Then we headed at Mt. Namsan and drove our way to N Seoul Tower. It is best to go to this place during early evening so you can appreciate the night lights of Seoul. There is a revolving restaurant, museum, gift shops and observation deck. A lot of couples go to this place to lock their padlocks at the railing of the observation deck - cheesy act, but a lot really do it!
We went back at the hotel around 9pm, so there's still time to roam around Dongdaemun Market. The night is very alive here! Even until 2am, the malls, department stores, and flea market is still alive and a lot of people are still flocking even at the wee hours of the morning! You can get good bargain on clothes and accessories here in Dongdaemun. You can definitely bargain here. Be sure to check out APM Mall, Doota, MaxStyle.
The following day we went to Everland, which is a theme park outside Seoul. The resort complex also houses a Water Park, which was closed during our visit because of the Winter Season. Entrance fee for groups was KRW24000. The theme park has a zoo, runs a regular parade show and houses dozens of rides including the tallest and steepest wooden roller coaster in the world, which is T-express. When we visited, Everland celebrated their first day of Winter Season so we caught the first Christmas Parade!
Around 4pm, we visited Korean Folk Village. This is the place where they shot "Jewel in the Palace". It's a whole complex featuring early Korean communities with Hanoks. There's also a river where you can experience riding their traditional boats. This is park, just like Namsangol Hanok Village, is all about knowing the early culture of Korea. This is a good place to stroll and immerse yourself with the traditional Korean culture.
Of course, the last night is all about shopping - so we dropped by MyeongDong and Dongdaemun until 3am and went straight to the airport!
We had a lot of good times in Seoul. I still missed a lot of places like Stars Avenue, Lotte World, Nanta Theatre and more, which means another trip to Seoul is warranted.