Welcome to this page

Welcome to my blog!
I am sharing stories of my trips and providing some tips in case you also want to travel.
This is also a photo blog, so I hope you like the candid photos I have taken from different places!

Thank you for visiting my blog.

- CB (freezymenthol)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Seoul, South Korea - A Place Worth Coming Back

Trip to Seoul Times Two!!!

My first trip to Seoul back in November, 2011 was my most exciting and memorable trip of that year!  It was my first time to experience winter weather and had the opportunity to wear thick clothes, jackets, and gloves - I guess that's because I have spent my life in tropical weather.  As soon as I returned to Manila, I immediately booked a flight back to Seoul exactly the following year - November, 2012.

Remember Visa is required for Filipino Tourist Travelers

Before going to Seoul back in 2011, we first completed our visa requirements.  For the complete visa requirements you may refer to the information below:

South Korea Embassy , Philippines

122 Upper McKinley Road
McKinley Town Center
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig city 1634
Philippines
Phone:
+63-2-856-9210
Fax:
+63-2-856-9008
+63-2-856-9019
+63-2-856-9024
Email:
ph04@mofat.go.kr
philippines@mofat.go.kr
Website URL:
embassy_philippines.mofat.go.kr/eng/as/embassy_philippines/main/index.jsp

The basic tourist visa is free!  And the processing time varies.  If you already have an existing visa in OECD countries (e.g. US) the processing time would be about 3-5 days.  If you don’t have one, it would take 7 days.  Based on my experience, it’s see to get your visa approved.

Now, we knew the our trip would during the end of autumn and beginning of winter (last week of November) so we prepped up by buying warmers, jackets, sweaters, coats, gloves, and beanies.  We also bought a petroleum jelly to put on our face and lips so they won’t dry because of cold and dry weather.

True enough, when we arrived in Seoul, the temperature was -1 deg. Celsius.  And with thick clothes on, we could still felt cold and was shivering while waiting for a bus to take us in front of the hotel.  Make sure you put your gloves on or your nails would turn violet and a couple of minutes would feel numb.

Welcome to Seoul!!!

Book a hotel near Myeongdong or Dongdaemun

We booked a hotel near Dongdaemun which is a great place to shop even at 3am (more on that later).  Dongdaeumun is also two stops away from Myeongdong via MRT, and 10 minutes away via Taxi.  Myeongdong is also a very famous shopping and tourist district.

Western Co-Op Residence Hotel


The hotel that we booked is Western Co-op Residence (2011) and Co-op Residence (2012).  Both hotels have the same owner and are have very reasonable prices.  Plus their rooms are very spacious.  

Food is something you should also try in Korea.  This bulgogi soup and rice is really good.

City Tour: Sites for Free

Namsangol Hanok Village
Entrance is free at Namsangol Hanok Village
A 'Hanok' - Korean House

Kimchi Pots

We have visited two attractions that are for free and were a great tip-off of our Seoul Tour.  The first place we visited was the Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Park.  The park was just 10 minutes away from our hotel.  The Dongdaemun History Museum was for free so we decided to take a look.  The museum was very interactive and provided us an overview of the history of that section of Seoul.  Our only gripe was most of the recordings were in Korean.  There nice displays of pottery, old artifacts, and an old map of the city.

Dongdaemun Park
Dongdeamun History Museum
Dongdeamun Park
Interesting artwork at Dongdaemun Park






We took the MRT at the Dongdaemun Station and alighted at Chungmuro Station.  There, we visited the next free attraction which was Namsangol Hanok Village.  Hanoks are old Korean houses, and there were several replicas on display in the park.  The entrance to the park is free but each house has a particular attraction you could try for a very cheap price.  You can visit one Hanok and wear a Korean traditional dress (which is a great photo opportunity!  I suggest you try this).  You can also visit another Hanok and watch a reenactment of a traditional wedding.  Some houses let you create your own traditional Korean masks and kites!  And in the center ground, you can play some traditional Korean games.
You can wear the Korean Traditional Dress for a small fee at Namsangol Hanok Village



I visited those places on both my trips in Seoul! 

City Tour:  Gyeongbokgung Palace

We also visited one of the palaces in the heart of soul - Gyeongbokgung Palace.  The complex is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm.  Also schedule your trip so you could see the "change of guards", which usually happens noon time.  The entrance for the complex is KRW10,000.















Change of guards at the gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace


City Tour: N-Seoul Tower




N-Seoul Tower is a good place for lovers to go.  Make sure you bring your padlocks.





If you want a good view of the entire city of Seoul, head-up to N-Seoul Tower.  There are a couple of options to go there.  You can actually take a tourist bus with a very obvious signage that it's heading to N-Seoul Tower a few meters away outside Namsangol Hanok Village.  The bus stop is just in front of Popeye's.  Or you can walk and take the tram in Myeongdong.  This place is also a good destination for lovers.  Do not forget to bring a padlock and have your locked in one of the railings at the observation deck (pretty cheesy IMO).



View of N-Seoul Tower from Namsangol Hanok Village



City Tour:  Shopping Galore



Of course, Seoul is also a great place to shop!  Myeongdong is the first place you need to go.  There are a lot of branded shops you could see along the streets here.  Also, you will see tons of Korean cosmetic shops around like Face Shop, Nature Republic, etc.  And the good thing about that is they give free samples.

Myeongdong Shopping Center
Myeongdong Shopping Center
Myeongdong Shopping Center
Myeongdong Shopping Center







But if you really are a shopper until the wee hours of the morning, then head out to Dongdaeumun.  They have malls open until 5:00am in the morning.  In comparing the prices in Myeongdong vs. Dongdaemun, the latter have cheaper selections.  There is also a section here where you can buy souvenirs.  
Dongdaemun shopping district at 2:00am
Pretty tired of shopping until 5:00am



Shopping at Dongdaemun at 2:00am
Shopping until the sun came up at Dongdaemun
One of the shopping malls at Dongdaemun

Between two, my personal preference would be Dongdaemun.  Even at 3:00am, you'de still feel like you are shopping around 8pm because there are still a lot of locals there!  

After shopping at Dongdaemun, there's a local shop across Doota that serves the best coffee!!!

Dare to cross North Korea?

Another interesting trip is to have an opportunity to go the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) and take a peek at it's neighboring country, North Korea.  

I did some research in the internet on how to visit to DMZ.  We have to book online about 2-3 weeks in advance since the tours are very limited.  The complete whole day tour costs about Php5000.00.  We signed up with the USO Tour (http://affiliates.uso.org/Korea/default.cfm?contentid=347).  Based on reviews, the USO tour was more organized because it would be US servicemen who would facilitate the tour.

In the morning, we went to Camp Bonifas for an orientation on what and what not to do in the DMZ, and then we rode an army bus leading into the Joint Security Area.  This is where we saw up-close a North Korean building a few meters away.  We also entered into one of the conference rooms in JSA, and crossed the border for a couple of meters.

In the afternoon, we went to Imjingak, 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, and the Korean War Memorial to name a few.  We also went in an observatory overlooking North Korea's nearby city and industrial complex.

Taking a peek in North Korea was really the highlight of my second trip in Korea back in 2012.

Wired fences along the way means we are near the DMZ

The join security area.  The gray building across is already part of North Korea
North Korean guard

North Korean guard

We went inside one of the JSA Conference Rooms.  I am standing on the North Korea side (the South Korean soldier behind me is guarding the door exiting to North Korea.
The train station leading to North Korea's capital Pyeongyang.


Everland Theme Park and Korean Folk Village

Of course, we also went to a theme park in Korea called, Everland.  It is about two hours outside Seoul.  For directions and fees, you may refer to Everland's website (http://www.everland.com/web/multi/english/everland/resort/about/about.html).  When we went there, the only ride I was able to experience was the T-Express.  It is dubbed at the tallest, and steepest wooden roller coaster in the world.  I thought it was a pretty boring ride (because it's a wooden "old school" roller coaster) but when I saw how steep it was, it was really scary.  In fact, it's now on top of my list as the most exciting roller coaster I have ridden so far.

Winter theme at Everland Resort

Experiencing Christmas Winter at Everland
The tallest and steepest wooden roller coaster in the world

Entrance of Everland Resort

Apart from that, I never had a chance to experience other rides, that is why when I go back to Seoul, I will definitely visit Everland again.

Korean Folk Village is near Everland Resort.  This is where they shot Jewel In the Palace.  It a really good place to see old houses, experience the old Korea.  It is very much similar to Namsangol Hanok Village only bigger and more comprehensive.  But unlike Namsangol Hanok Village, Korean Folk Village has an entrance fee.  For more details about this place you may check this website (http://www.koreanfolk.co.kr/folk/english/index.htm)

Nanta Show!  You should see this one

If you are in Seoul, you should definitely see one of the Nanta Shows.  My cousin advised me to watch this show went they went to Seoul as well.  So I decided to go online and book.  Please note there are several theaters spread across the city so just select which one you want to watch the Nanta show and the preferred schedule.  





The show was really entertaining!!!  Worth every penny.  Since photos are not allowed, you an just refer to the website for more details (http://nanta.i-pmc.co.kr/nanta/Main.aspx)

Definitely worth coming back...

There's still a lot of places I haven't been like Nami Island, Lotte World and bringing a special someone at N-Seoul Tower and putting a padlock in one of those handrails and throwing out the keys (cheesy).  Korea really fascinates me and if you're going to ask me the best time to go there - try end of November, so you get to experience the start of winter!!!

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