South Korea, Travel News

South Korean Embassy announces new Tourist Visa requirements

The South Korean Embassy announced recently its new documentary requirements for those who would like to get Tourist Visas to South Korea.

I have written about the Requirements for Tourist Visa before during my first visit last 2012. But last February 17, the embassy announced new requirements which will take effect starting 01 March 2015. This means that all applications which will be received by the embassy from March 01, moving forward should have the following requirements.

Below is the screen shot I took of the announcement posted at the South Korean embassy website.

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It’s unfortunate that the embassy has become more strict and more thorough when it comes to their requirements. In a hindsight, they are actually asking for the same requirements like before, the difference is that they are more thorough and specific with the information that should be included in the posting.

For the Bank Certificate requirements, these information can be requested from the bank itself once you asked for the certificate. In my opinion, what is a bit tricky is for those whose bank account does not usually show a regular flow of savings or input of money. For those who maintain a regular savings account and regularly deposit in their account, any of the changes indicated by the embassy is not a big deal. My impression is that the embassy wants to make sure that there is a regular input of money or savings in the bank account, and not a one-time, big-time kind of thing.

For those who have regular savings account, you must now collate the account statements usually sent by our banks once a month. For BPI account holders, you can actually print this on your own if you have a BPI Express Online account. Again, my impression is that the embassy wants to see the regular input-output of your finances.

Lastly, a bit of a reminder for the submission of ITR. Sometimes, we have to verify with our respective HRs if the TIN numbers reflected in our ITRs are correct. For example, my good friend (who was with me during my last Korea trip) discovered that there is a discrepancy in her TIN number when she submitted her ITR certificate during her visa application. While it is not of her own doing, she had to personally verify with our HR (and yes, only to confirm that there was a problem in the inputting of her TIN) and sort the problem herself at the BIR office. Of course, in the end she was given a visa — but the bottom line is that this proves that the embassy thoroughly checks every document we submit.

On a related note, another announcement included in the SK Embassy’s Visa Announcement page explicitly indicates that a passport should be at least six months valid at the time of the Visa application. So, if you have plans applying for a tourist visa for South Korea and your passport has already barely a year left in its validity, might I recommend that you also take the opportunity to have it renewed prior to going to the embassy? This will save you time and save you from a series of “what if’s…”

Good luck on your Visa Application and just remember that after all the hassle of making sure your documents are in order — it’ll be all worth it as soon as you land in South Korea and you see just how beautiful and wonderful your experience will be.

SOURCE:
The Embassy of the Republic of South Korea – Manila

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South Korea, Traveling on a Budget

Seoul on Budget: DMZ + Final Expense Tally at 20,000plus!

I was able to check one of the items off my bucket list during my last Seoul trip: be in two places at the same time by having one feet in North Korea and the other at the South — thanks to the wonderful DMZ Panmunjeom (JSA) Tour I booked online.

This is when I was standing and looking at the boundary of the two countries:
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For our final day, we didn’t schedule anything anymore since we are certain that the whole day will be spent at the DMZ. The itinerary given to us also indicated that we will be returning to Seoul around 4PM, due to the hour and half drive from the border.

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I’ve written a more detailed description of our fourth day here.

For souvenir items, our guide told us about North Korean wines, BB and CC Creams, North Korean won, mugs and shirts being sold at the Panmunjeom Visitors Center. The waivers we signed prior to the tour was also handed back to us, with our guides noting that it would make a good souvenir for the visit — personally, I think it’s because the signed waivers really didn’t have any use at all at that point. After all, we emerged unscathed from the experience. So, aside from the DMZ shirt (for KRW10,000) which I bought my dad (who loves to collect shirts from the places we visit), the DMZ magnet currently in the fridge (KRW5,000) and a pair of Korean wooden wedding dolls (KRW5,000) I also bought a DPRK 100 won for KRW5,000. Both items I intend to frame one of the these days, but right now — still currently stuck somewhere on the top drawer in my room.


Our total expenses for the DMZ visit (day 4) include:
Payment for the tour (pre-paid): KRW95,000 per pax (PHP3,800.00) NOTE: This includes free lunch
Breakfast from convenience store: KRW10,000 per pax (PHP408)
Souvenir items: KRW25,000 (PHP996)
TOTAL KRW130,000 (PHP5,177.00)

After we were dropped off along the vicinity of City Hall, we just decided to pass time at Dukseogong Palace which is just right across the street and have an early dinner at the nearby Dunkin Donuts (KRW5,000). Then, we decided to hang out at Insadong, the artsy district in Jongno-Gu, with the intention to walk home and retire to bed early in time for our 12NN flight back to Manila the next day.

A famous hang-out place in Insadong is the Ssamzie-gil Mall Complex, composed of rows and rows of shops selling artisal crafts and products, organic cosmetics and food materials as well as artworks. I read somewhere that it’s one of the cool places to hang out in Seoul — where you can indulge in a bit of shopping (if you are the artistic type) or hang out in one of its many cafes. Maybe I’ve had too many coffees already while in Seoul or maybe I just found the items on the pricey side so I didn’t enjoy window shopping at Ssamzie-gil. What I did enjoy though was people watching and taking photos of the art works displayed.

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The next day, we checked out of Stay-In-GAM at 8AM in the midst of pouring rain. Kevin, ever the gentleman, gave me one of the umbrellas at the stand amidst our protestations and declarations of “we’ll be fine”. We walked to the opposite side of the road to catch the same bus (6011) heading to the airport.

We arrived at the airport by 1030AM, just in time to go through the whole check in process and grab a quick bite to eat at the Dunkin Donuts nearest the waiting lounge for the Air Asia flight back to Manila. I also made sure to drop by Starbucks to buy the requisite Seoul City mug.

Expenses (Day 5):
Bus fare – KRW10,000 (PHP408)
Dunkin Donuts – KRW5,000 (PHP204)
Starbucks mug – KRW10,000 (PHP408)
Total Expense – KRW25,000 (PHP996)

Here’s the final tally of all my expenses during the five day, four night trip:

final expense tally SK 2014

As you can see, we really didn’t pass up on the souvenir shopping and the endless eating. We know that we are on a strict budget but we also managed to maximize our expenses during the trip. Minus the air fare, the trip cost me only about PHP20,000 — quite a bargain already considering I went to a lot of places, had fun shopping and even fulfilled my long-time dream of seeing the DMZ. If you want to follow this itinerary, feel free to use the itinerary and information for booking the Nami Island tour bus as well as the DMZ Tour agency. Who know? You might be able to spend less than I did! I look forward to reading your itinerary.

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South Korea, Travel Diaries

Seoul on a Budget Day 03: Palaces, Secret Gardens and Shopping

On our third day in Seoul, we decided to travel back in time and learn more about South Korea’s rich history. We woke up on the third day to a rainy, cold weather — the kind of cold that creeps up to your bones, forcing you to consider hibernating on the warm room (courtesy of the ondol heating). But we were in Seoul and just outside the door, if we attempt to go beyond the bone-chilling rain, awaited another day of adventure.

So, after layering and procrastinating — we were finally out the door and into the ticket booth of Changdeokggung Palace. If you plan on spending a day palace-hopping in Seoul, I would suggest that you get the Integrated Admission ticket (4 palaces: Changdeokgung with entrance to Huwon (or the Secret Garden), Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace and Gyeongbokgung Palace) only for KRW10,000. This is a steal already, considering entrance to Palaces is usually pegged as KRW3,000 each plus a separate entrance fee for the Secret Garden at KRW5,000.  Since, we’re really not sure if we can visit all palaces during our stay due to the maddening rain and I really don’t want to commit myself, we ended buying the separate entrance rates (KRW3,000 + 5,000). We also availed of the English tour, which was offered at no extra cost.

I know I mentioned in one of my post that I am the type who shun away tours but I think for historical places like the palaces, it’s important to see the place through the eyes of someone who knew its history. If I were to go around the palace on my own, a bed room is just a bedroom, but joining the tour gave me perspective of how, one bedroom was used by the Widow Queen when her husband the King died. When he died, she moved out of her shared bedroom and went to another house nearest the Secret Garden because she can no longer stay in the room she once shared with her husband. Our tour guide was also kind and interacted well with her group so the tour was never boring.

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At the end of the tour, we were asked if we have separate tickets to the Huwon (Secret Garden) tour. We were then ushered to another part of the palace where another tour guide was waiting for us. Note — you can’t go on a tour of Huwon on your own. You have to be in a group in order to navigate the winding areas of the garden.

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A visit to the Secret Garden is a must-do for me. If you are in the Garden at the height of Autumn and Spring, expect a riot of colors out of the many flowers and trees inside the 78-hectare property. Originally conceived and developed for the pleasures of the Royal Family and the Palace courtiers, the Garden was originally off-limits to the public.

“The garden incorporates a lotus pond, pavilions, and landscaped lawns, trees, and flowers. There are over 26,000 specimens of a hundred different species of trees in the garden and some of the trees behind the palace are over 300 years old. The garden for the private use of the king had been called ‘Geumwon’ (금원, 禁苑, Forbidden garden) because even high officials were not allowed to enter without the king’s permission. It had also been called ‘Naewon’ (내원, 內苑, ‘Inner garden’). Today Koreans often call it ‘Biwon’ (비원, 秘院, Secret garden) which derived from the office of same name in the late 19th century. Though the garden had many other names, the one most frequently used through Joseon dynasty period was ‘Huwon’.” (WIKIPEDIA)

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The tour throughout selected areas of the garden can be a bit punishing, especially if you are like me who had bad knees and is an incurable klutz. Didn’t help that it was raining and some areas of the trail was slippery, but it was worth hiking through the forest.

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Because we were soaking wet by the end of the tour, we went back to Stay-in-GAM to change clothes and have a quick cup of coffee. The fact that their waffle, coupled with Matcha ice cream was delicious also helped replenish our energy.

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Re-energized and refreshed, we walked to Gyeongbukgung Palace where we decided to explore the palace grounds on our own. We were momentarily distracted by a cute guard who was dressed up in ancient warrior garb.

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We then went on a tour of Gwangwahmun Square and the King Sejong statue then raced to Myeongdong where we had hoped to have our pictures taken wearing Hanbok at the Seoul Culture and Tourism Office. Unfortunately, unlike my 2012 visit where I just dropped by and immediately accommodated, we were told that we had to set an appointment before we can have our pictures taken. We ended up hearing the 6PM Korean mass at the Myeongdong Cathedral and having early dinner at one of the chicken places in Myeongdong.

And then, we went shopping:

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I ended spending around KRW40,000 (about PHP1,600), including tons of beauty products, candies, socks and even a really cool bag which was on sale for just KRW10,000. If you plan on shopping in Myeongdong, it can be a bit of a stretch for your wallet, but again the trick is to know what you want and stick to a budget (if you have any). The numerous beauty shops lining the streets were offering a lot of good deals (70% from Nature Republic and about 50% off on selected Innisfree products).

Expenses: Palace Tours:
Tickets to Changdeokgung Palace + Hawon = KRW3,000 + KRW 5,000 = KRW8,000 (PHP322.00)
Ticket to Gyeongbukgung Palace = KRW3,000 (PHP120.00)
Waffle + Coffee = KRW8,000 (PHP322.00)
Dinner – KRW10,000 each (PHP403.00)
Pasalubong shopping = KRW40,000 (PHP1,600)

Day 3 total = KRW69,000 (PHP2,781.00)

Get more information about Changdeokgung Palace here

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South Korea, Travel Diaries

Seoul on a Budget Day 02: Nami + Petit France

This is the part 2 of the our budget breakdown for my Seoul trip last number (for part 1, go here).

Day 2: Nami Island, Petit France and Nandaemun Market
We woke up really early for our second day in Seoul because we decided to avail of the Nami Island Limousine, instead of embarking on a grand adventure like before (by taking the train). We decided to get a one-way ticket since we are planning to take advantage of Nami’s Proximity to Petit France and visit that as well.

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How to go to Nami through the Namiseom Limousine Bus
1. Go to http://www.namisum.com and look for the transportation information. Click “Online reservation” at the bottom of the page. This will direct you to a page that you have to fill out. Round trip fare, including entrance to Namiseom Island cost KRW23,000 for foreigners. Since we opted to take the Shuttle Bus for one way only, we paid KRW15,000 (PHP639) each — this already includes our entrance.

2. In our case, the bus departs in front of Tapgol Pagoda Park in Insa-dong, a 10-minute walk from our hotel. Since we were disoriented by the direction, we started walking in the opposite direction going to the park. Good thing we were able to realize the mistake immediately and had to run to Tapgol Park where we found the bus driver already checking passengers from his list. Note that the drivers are very strict when it comes to reservations, so it is recommended that you reserve a slot. We saw some people trying to buy ticket on the spot to no avail. You will pay on the spot, to the driver after you have checked your name on the list her carried with him.

3. After going onboard, you can start relaxing. Travel time going to Namiseom is about one and a half hours.

Since we already have tickets, we didn’t need to line up along with the other tourists who were all cramming to get to the approaching boat from Nami. (Note: if you are adventurous, you can cross the lake going to Nami by taking their infamous zipline).

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One thing we love doing while in Nami is buying instant coffee or ice cream in the convenience store and consuming it while sitting in the fireplace. Coffee is about KRW1,000. As indicated in my earlier blog post, Nami is the location for the famous Korean drama “Winter Sonata”, so there are a lot of attractions in Nami that is based or used in the drama.

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Before leaving, we decided to have a quick lunch at the newly-constructed food hall located at the middle of the Island. We chose a vendor selling udon noodles and literally had a hearty lunch that warmed our stomachs amidst the very cold weather.

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After enjoying the sights of Nami and playing with the many squirrels that were feeding on the dried nuts in the island, we decided to wing it and go to Petit France, one of the locations for the hot Korean drama, “My Love From the Star (You Who Came from the Stars”.” Jun Ji-hyun has always been a favorite since I first saw her in “My Sassy Girl” and her role as the bratty, clueless actress with a heart of gold, Cheon Song-Yi opposite the charming Kim Soo-hyun (Do Min-Joon) resulted to too many nights trying cramming episode after episode of the drama.

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After realizing (after tons and tons of research) that Petit France is located also in the city of Gapyeong, we made sure to make it part of the itinerary. The initial plan was to go to Petit France via the Gapyeong City Tour Bus, which picks up and disembarks passengers near the waiting shed just outside the outer gates of Nami. Fare for the whole trip is just KRW5,000 and you can hop in, hop off as you see sights of the city of Gapyeong. The initial plan was to go to Nami then to Petit France and then to The Garden of Morning Calm (another location for one of my favorite K-Drama, the kitschy, “so-bad-it’s-good” Full House 2) but since we were running out of time and we had no idea how far Petit France was from Nami, we decided to wing in and take one of the numerous cabs lined outside Nami.

I read somewhere that the two attractions are near each other, I guess I read wrong. We were traversing mountain sides, zigzagging across crooked roads as we go farther away from Namisum. Sometimes, there was barely another vehicle in sight (take note, this was only at 2PM) and clusters of houses are farther and farther in between. My over-active imagination, the one who watched too many slasher flicks started playing into overdrive – the driver was silent as he navigated the quiet, winding roads while my friend and I tried to fill the tiny cab space with nervous laughter. At first, I was curious if we were lost but the driver seemed to know the way by heart. I guess we were just another bunch of foreign fans who trekked to Gapyeong on a K-Drama pilgrimage. After what seemed like forever and with almost KRW30,000 registered at the meter, our driver finally stopped in front of a somewhat non-descript attraction betrayed only by the large tarpaulin in the entrance.

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Petit France is a little village constructed to look like a charming, little French village. The houses and the entertainment available are all French-inspired, carrying the timeless classic, “The Little Prince (Petit Prince)” as the central theme. Recently, this little attraction had a resurgence of visitors after it was used as one of the filming locations of “My Love from the Star.” It was also a filming location for another K-drama, Beethoven’s Virus. Entrance to the village is KRW8,000 for adults, KRW6,000 for teenagers and KRW5,000 for kids.

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Movie-magic has a way of making Petite France looks huge and spacious. Well, in reality it is not. You can see the whole village in less than 45 minutes tops, 30 minutes tops if you are the type who gets easily bored with gaily colored buildings. The site offers many “European” attractions like puppet and entertainment shows, there’s also a doll museum plus exhibitions dedicated to Antoine Saint Exupery, the author of The Little Prince. Images of the Little Prince and all the other characters in the book was scattered and depicted in every nook and cranny of Petit France. For K-Drama addicts, there’s a photo studio where you can pose with cut outs of Do Min-Joon and Cheon Song-Yi.

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While Petit France is a nice item to tick off your travel list while in Korea, it’s not exactly something that will blow your socks off. As someone who easily gets bored, even while traveling, there’s really not much to see in Petit France after you have visited the exhibits, oggled the houses, posed yourself silly to the many nooks and locations, had your fill of the Little Prince and K-Popped yourself to death. In our case, we decided to pass time in one of the little cafes near the entrance and sampled their strawberry waffle with a scoop of ice cream (KRW4,000).

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Honestly, if we were to rate the Petit France experience, it’ll be a 6 out of 10. Something nice to experience, but definitely something that can also be placed on the second tier of “must-visit” places in Gapyeong City. Since it was already close to 4PM, we had no choice but to miss “Garden of Morning Calm” and save it for another South Korea trip someday.

Going back, we decided to take the Gapyeong City Tour Bus which stops on the waiting shed just across Petit France. We paid KRW5,000 directly to the driver who kindly informed us that bus direction is going to Nami then to the Gapyeong train station where we hope to catch a train going back to Seoul. The driver, a kind elderly uncle quipped that we should have gone to Gapyeong at an earlier time so we could maximize the KRW5,000 hop on, hop off bus fare. He seemed to be worried that we were paying the full price for just partial of the trip. We assured him that we don’t mind and that we enjoyed looking at the country side.

We missed the ITX train headed to Seoul so we decided to take the regular trains and paid about KRW2,000 as part of the regular fare. At Seoul, we stopped at Nandaemun to window shop, then moved to Dongdaemun Design Plaza to hang out and people watch. We ended the night traversing the 10 kilometer Cheonggyecheon Stream, which cuts across Dongdaemun Fashion Town, Cheonggyecheon Stream Culture Center, up to the Gwangwahmun Square, and covers almost 10 subway stations.

Maybe we were crazy, or we were enjoying the cold Seoul weather so we didn’t mind the long walk or the many couples on full PDA-mode along the stream (can be a bit lonely if you’re walking on your own and you are broken-hearted). There are some parts of the stream that are a bit dark due to the foliage and bridges covering the area, but we felt safe and secure the whole time. Even if the stream is in the middle of busy industrial area, the water is clear and there was no unpleasant smell all throughout the 10-kilometer path. We ended the walking tour at the Cheonggyecheon Stream Plaza, a few meters away from the Statue of King Sejong. By this time , our hands were numb with cold and our feet were killing us, so we hightailed it back to our hotel.

Expenses (per person):

Nami Limousine Bus with entrance to Nami Island: KRW15,000
Lunch at Nami Island: KRW5,000 (Udon with a side of kimchi – best for cold weather!)
Coffee: KRW1,000
Taxi Fare Petite France: KRW15,000
Entrance to Petite France: KRW8,000
Snack (waffle + ice cream): KRW4,000
Bus to Gapyeong station: KRW5,000
Fare going back to Seoul: KRW2,000
Dinner/Snacking at Dongdaemun: KRW5,000 (we indulged in tteokboki, fish cakes and snow cones)
TOTAL: KRW60,000 (PHP2,405.00)

* We also went omiyage shopping at Daiso – I bought little bottles of Argan oil hand creams, aat KRW1,000 each. Spent about KRW10,000. This brings total expenses for Day 2 at KRW70,000 (PHP2,806.00)

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South Korea, Travel Diaries

Seoul on Budget Day 1: Mt Namsan, NSeoul Tower, Myeongdong

Finally had a chance to review my itinerary during my five day-four night stay in Seoul. We spent a total of PHP20,000 covering hostel stay, tours, food and beverage, sight seeing and even a bit of shopping in Myeongdong. What’s not included is the PHP8,000 RT air fare we got from AirAsia. At the Manila airport, we already paid about PHp2,200 for our travel tax and terminal fee.

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Photo above was one of our favorites. We are lucky to have caught the end of Autumn as Winter was just about to start.

Here’s the low-down of the Great Seoul Searching Trip, Part Deux:

Arrivals

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Our Air Asia flight Z2884 left Manila at exactly 7AM and arrived a bit ahead of schedule at Icheon International Airport shortly before 12NN. Flying time from Manila to Seoul is about 4 hours. Seoul is an hour ahead from Manila. From the passenger concourse of the Incheon International Airport, we were transferred to the Main Terminal which houses Immigration and Baggage Claim via the IATs (Intra Airport Transit). We were caught in a wide influx of passengers, all who arrived at the same time as ours — so train was crowded and lines to Immigration a bit long. However, the efficient management of lines, and quick arrival of the IATs made sure that we are out of the airport in less than 45 minutes.

Traveling to the City
There are numerous ways to get out of Incheon and to the city center (Seoul) but we will just discuss the Limo Bus since it’s the one we used to get out of the airport. Stay-In-GAM (our hostel) gave us directions on how to go to their hotel based near Insadong through the 6011 bus. Also included in the email is a voucher which was to be used to get a KRW1,000 discount out of the KRW10,000 bus fare from Incheon International Airport to the Changdeukgong Bus Stop which was just a few steps away from our hostel. However, as mentioned in my earlier post, this became irrelevant since the uncle bus drivers did not honor the voucher. We paid our fare the usual way, by dropping our crisp KRW10,000, fresh from one of the international ATMs using my BPI ATM card. Note that you can withdraw money direct from any international ATMs in Korea, this is way more convenient and with bigger exchange rate compared to changing money at the airport. In our case, we got our KRWs from one of the many ATMs lining the area near the Waiting Area (where people wait for their arriving families/friends).

Note: You may need to have the international withdrawal capability of your ATM activated at your local bank prior to departure. For BPI, we dropped by the branch nearest my office and informed the officer that we will be using my ATM abroad. You will be asked by the bank officer to fill up a form and voila — ATM is activated within 24 hours.

The 6011 Limo Bus is perfect for those staying the “palace row” – basically what we call the area which has the nearest cluster of palaces like the Gyeongbukgung Palace near Gwangwahmun Square, Changdeokgung, Unhyeongung and Changgyeongung. Deoksugung meanwhile was the lone hold-out, being located near the City Hall instead. 6011 will also take you to Insadong as well as the university area closest to the Gyeongbukgung Palace.

Expenses: KRW10,000 (PHP408.00) for bus fare

Accommodations

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We stayed at the amazing Stay-In-GAM Hostel for five days and four nights. Total bill is KRW248,000 or PHP10,118 for a twin room, includes TAX and breakfast. Individually, we each paid PHP5,059 (my friend and I split the cost of stay) or about PHP1,265 per night. Not bad for a room in a safe and secure hotel with comfortable amenities thrown in as well as free breakfast for all 5 days. Hostel is about 10 to 15 minute walk to the nearest subway.

Read more of my review of Stay-In-GAM here.

Expenses: PHP5,059.00 per person (5D, 4N stay)

Sight-seeing/Attractions

Day 1: Mt. Namsan, NSeoul Tower and Myeongdong.
After a bit of freshening up, my friend and I began our day by walking again to the Gyeongbukgung Palace to hang around for a bit near the palace gates, then took the trains going to Myeongdong. We opted to skip the T-Money and instead used the card dispensers everytime. Card dispensers in Seoul are very easy to use as there is both an English, Japanese and Chinese instructions. Once you get the hang of it as well as identifying destinations and transfers, the Seoul Metro will be your new best friend.

At Mt. Namsan, we took the cable car to the viewing deck nearest the tower. Fare for the cable car is KRW8,500 which you can purchase at the ticketing office located near the base of the mountain. If you are coming from Myeongdong area, you will have to take the sidewalk elevator located near the Namsan-3 tunnel. For K-drama fanatics, yes — this is the way to go up the cable cars where Gu Jun-Pyo and Geum Jan-Di got stuck during their supposed first date in “Boys Over Flowers” and to the same viewing deck where they had the KRW30,000 coffee.

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The elevator ride is free but you have to pay KRW8,500 for a RT ride to the cable car and another KRW9,000 as payment for entrance to the Nseoul Tower observatory. We paid KRW20,000 because we opted to get the Entrance + Drinks + large tub of popcorn for 2 package.

The viewing deck which you will see after alighting from the cable car houses the famed “Locks of Love” wall. The locks were actually located in different areas along the viewing deck. You can buy your heart-shaped locks from any of the vendors located within the viewing deck or from the NSeoul Tower Souvenir Shop. Locks usually retail from KRW5,000 to KRW10,000 — a usual design is a heart-shaped lock which sometimes came with a small frame (in case you want to include you and your beloved’s face – hehe!).

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At the Sky Observatory, you will be treated to a magnificent, 360 degree view of Seoul. Of course, it goes without saying that the best time to visit NSeoul Tower is at night or during sunset where you can see the changing colors of the sky as well as the night lights of Seoul coming to life.

Since it was almost winter, it was very cold when we went up Mt. Namsan. I mentioned before that I lost my jacket somewhere in Myeongdong on my way to the elevator. Yes, I was the only person that night crazy enough to stay on top of Mt. Namsan wearing nothing but a flimsy Joker-printed shirt, jeans, Chucks and my trusty beanie.

We grabbed dinner at Myeongdong where I introduced my friend to the wonders of Yoogane, which serves a mean combo of spicy chicken, rice and melted cheese.

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A single serve of Marinated Chicken Galbi, with fried rice is KRW6,000, add KRW2,000 for the Mozzarella Cheese. Yoogane offers unlimited servings of shredded cabbage salad, pickled radish and kimchi as sides. Plus, refillable pitchers of water which you will badly need especially if you have low tolerance to spicy food. When I first ate at Yoogane in 2012, I remembered requesting the server to temper the spice level. This time, I forgot to request to make it less spicy so you can just imagine the tears and the amount of sweat we had while trying to finish everything.

DAY 1 TOTAL EXPENSES:

Pre-departure expenses: PHP2,200
Limo Bus 6011 fare: KRW10,000 (PHP408)
Accommodations: KRW124,000 (PHp5,059) per pax
Sightseeing
Cable car ride KRW8,500 (PHP347)
Entrance + Food KRW10,000 (PHP408) each (Observatory)
Dinner at Yoogane KRW8,000 (PHP326)

TOTAL: KRW160,500 (PHP6,548) + PHP2,200 (pre-departure expense) = PHP8,748
Note: Based on latest exchange rates. Prices are rounded off.

This post is too lengthy already, to be continued for days 2-4


DISCLAIMER:
Prices indicated are based on the quoted price during my visit to Seoul last November 2014. Prices are subject to change, depending on merchant policies.

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South Korea

Bucket list item checked: A visit to the DMZ – Joint Security Area (JSA)

I am writing first about my visit to the Joint Security Area (JSA) because this is the most unforgettable part of my second trip to South Korea.

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For the longest time, I’ve always wanted to see the DMZ – blame it on my fascination with war movies, with history and a paperback novel set during the Korean War. So, when the opportunity to come back to Korea was presented last November, I made sure that a visit to the DMZ or the Demilitarized Zone and the Joint Security Area (JSA) is in order.

First: DMZ/JSA – A quick background

According to Wikipedia – The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ; Hangul: 한반도 비무장지대) is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula that serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea. The DMZ is a de-facto border barrier, which runs in the vicinity of the 38th parallel north. The DMZ cuts the Korean Peninsula roughly in half, crossing the 38th parallel on an angle, with the west end of the DMZ lying south of the parallel and the east end lying north of it. It was created as part of the Korean Armistice Agreement between North Korea, the People’s Republic of China, and the United Nations Command forces in 1953. (Source)

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To put it simply, the DMZ is the area between North and South Korea where military activity is prohibited in any area within 4 kilometers of the boarder. In spite its name, the DMZ is actually heavily-armed, with military patrols manning both sides of the fence at all times, as well as landmines planted along the boarder. True, while you can’t see any guns or tanks or anything that would hint the presence of weaponry in the area–there will always be a heavy feeling, like a feeling of being watched at all times, constantly and vigilantly

Within the DMZ is the Joint Security Area (JSA) also called Panmunjeom. This is the area containing the blue buildings (also referred to as the Conference Row). These is where talks between the two countries are usually held. Fronting the conference buildings are the Freedom Building (South Korea side – where you will stand during the tour to look into the North) and the Panmungak House in the North.

How do I get to the DMZ? Can I do it on my own?

If you want to go to the DMZ, you have to arrange for a tour with any of the affiliated-tourist companies in Seoul. This is if you are entering from the South Korean side. There are many tour companies, with almost the same rates and you can get in touch with them thru email to inquire or confirm a tour.

In our case, we picked Seoul City Tour, which is one of the trusted tour providers in the city. We also saw some good reviews regarding their service on the net, that’s why we chose to get in touch with them. You can send an inquiry online and they are known to answer immediately.A typical tour to Panmunjeom usually costs around KRW95,000, (about PHP3,800). Upon confirmation of your preferred date, the agency will send you instructions on how to complete payment online, as well as strict instructions to send them a scanned copy of your passport. Passport copies are usually submitted to the UN Security Council for their approval two to three days prior to your actual trip to the JSA. Note that some nationalities are prohibited from entering the JSA, including citizens of South Korea. The agency will also remind you of the strict dress code as well as somne do’s and don’ts during the trip.

The fact that North and South Korea is still, technically, at war; and that strict security measures has to be observed are just some of the reasons why a DYI-trip to the JSA is not possible.

The tour – what to expect

1. On the day of the tour, you will be advised by the agency to proceed to the International Cultural Service Club (ICSC) office located at the 6F of the Lotte Hotel in Myeongdong. At the ICSC office, I realized that regardless of which agency booked your tour, you will still be directed to the ICSC office which solely handles tours to the JSA.

2. At the ICSC, you will be handed a bus voucher, with strict instructions to find your assigned bus parked at the 2F of the Lotte Hotel. Proceed to the 2F and present the voucher to the tour guide inside your assigned bus. Your busmates will automatically become your group mates during the tour.

3. Travel going to the North Korean border is about an hour and a half. Along the highway, you will see barbed wires and fences along the sea. Our guide said that this is protection against defectors. It is also during the bus trip that the tour guide will share about the history of the Korean War. For a history buff like me, this is where I was all-ears even while some of my bus mates tried to catch some sleep.

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4. You will first arrive at Camp Bonifas where you will be asked to sign a waiver absolving the tour company of any liability should there a fight broke out between the North and South during the visit. After all, the both sides are still technically at war. But I assure you, this is just formality and the probability of war breaking out while you are enjoying the view is as possible as a zombie apocalypse breaking out while you are aiming your camera at the Panmungak.

5. From Camp Bonifas, you will be transferred to another bus who will bring you to the JSA.

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I don’t know how I can describe what I felt, seeing the familiar blue buildings I have only seen before in movies and in other blogs. To say that I was blow away is an understatement. Honestly, I just can’t believe that I was seeing it for real. The feeling was surreal – a mixture of fear (what if something scary happens) and awe (you are a few steps away from North Korea!). Your guide will usher your group inside the blue conference room for the requisite group photo and photo ops. Inside, you will see the conference table where discussion between the two countries are made. You will be invited to take photos with the dashing South Korean JSA guards stationed inside the conference room. If you are wondering where the North Korean guards are, we were informed by our guide that they usually leave the area when the South Korean side had tour guests and the South Korean side usually does the same when the North has their guests.

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It’s just a simple conference room, with wide windows where you can see the demarcation line between the two countries. Inside was a framed poster showing the flags of the countries who assisted the South during the Korean war. After about 20 minutes, you will be again ushered outside, asked to line up on the steps leading to the Freedom Hall where we are given the go-signal to again use our cameras to take a picture of the conference row and the Panmungak behind it. At the Panmungak, a lone North Korean soldier stands. According to our guide, usually the NK soldiers appear when there are tours from their side but since it is quiet when we made our tour, we can only see a lone soldier standing at the beginning of the steps of the Panmungak.

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We were reminded again and again to focus our cameras ahead only and to not take photos of the other buildings to our left or our right; but seems one of the Japanese tourists didn’t hear this. Our minder from the JSA corps saw him taking photos of other buildings, so he was admonished and asked to hand over his camera where the soldier (presumably) deleted his other photos.

After the photo op at the steps of the Freedom Hall, the bus will bring you to the Bridge of No Return where you will be invited again to take photos. The Bridge of No Return is called as such because exchange of prisoners of wars (POWs) was usually done here. Once the prisoner chose which side he preferred and he chose to cross over, he can no longer cross over to the other side.

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The tour usually ends back at Camp Bonifas where you can buy souvenirs, including North Korean won, North Korean liquor and the requisite shirt, cap, mugs paraphernalia. Usually, tour packages come with a lunch option — usually held at a pre-chosen Korean BBQ restaurant in a town on the way back to Seoul. By 3PM, we were dropped off back to the Lotte Hotel – a bit tired but thoroughly happy that we chose to include DMZ as part of our itinerary.

Would I recommend this attraction?
Definitely. If you have 4 to 5 days in Seoul, I will recommend that you allot a day for a trip to the border. This is one of the best decisions you will make. Plus, imagine ticking this off your bucket list. You actually get the chance to lay your feet on two countries at the same time.

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South Korea, Travel Diaries

The Great Seoul Searching Trip for less than PHP20K

Sorry for the long absence, but as usual, life gets in the way of a good wandering.
I still owe you my dispatches from my Seoul – Part Deux trip.

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But here’s a quick summary:

Air Transportation: AirAsia
I don’t know how to write this without being offensive or insensitive, given the light of the current tragedy involving the airline. But I have nothing but fond memories of my MNL-SEOUL-MNL trip aboard AirAsia. Our flight was without any hassle, and the crew was attentive and efficient all throughout the four-hour trip. We left Manila and arrived in Seoul ahead of schedule, while our return flight was a bit delayed due to airport congestion at the NAIA.

This very positive experience is what I carry with me as I send prayers to the the families and friends of the passengers and crew lost onboard the QZ8501 flight from Indonesia to Singapore.Thus, I pray that AirAsia will be able to bounce back from this tragic incident and may all those lost on board be reunited with their their loved-ones.

Accommodations: Stay-in-GAM Hostel

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Read my full review here
Bottomline? Worth it!

Itinerary
Since I am accompanying a good friend who is a first-time in Seoul, I made sure to show her the best of the city without breaking her and my budget.

UPDATE: Here is now the detailed breakdown of cost of the trip. With the plane fare included, total expense is almost PHP29K. Hotel stay, itinerary and places to visit, transpo, food and souvenir shopping all achieved at just PHP20,000.

final expense tally SK 2014

UPDATED: Itinerary list now updated to include links to complete travel report, with expense breakdown

Day One – Mt. Namsan, NSeoul Tower and Myeongdong
Or to be remembered as the day where I roamed atop Mt. Namsam in just my flimsy t-shirt, jeans and beanie because I lost my jacket along the way. I was able to stay there roughly for about 4 hours tops before finally begging for mercy and descending away from the Mt. Namsan fog and the biting cold.

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Day Two – Nami Island, Petite Prince, Dondaemun and the long walk along the Cheonggyecheon Stream
I mean, whoever goes to Seoul without seeing Nami Island. The island, regardless of the fact that some trees have been laid bare and wilting already due to the incoming winter, were still magical. Because of the fact that I spent sleepless nights watching “You Who Came from the Stars”, my friend and I threw caution to the wind and rode a cab across winding mountain roads just to see Petite France (my review to be posted later). In the evening, we stayed at Dondaemun for a bit before traversing the length of the Cheonggyecheon Stream, from Dondaemun to Gwanghwamun Square. A word of warning: if you are broken hearted, do not by any means walk the whole 10.7km length of the stream — your heart will be further broken by the sight of young (and not-so-young) lovers whispering sweet nothings along the strategic nooks and crannies along the stream. However, if you are in that situation, save your aggression and release it by throwing a coin on the wishing well located at Cheonggye Plaza.

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Day Three: Palace Tour: Changdeokgung Palace, The Secret Garden, Gyeongbukgung Palace, Gwanghwamun Square, Monument of King Sejong, City Hall, Changing of the Guards at the Deoksugung Palace, Myeongdong

What I loved best about our third day was the opportunity to Tour the Secret Garden located inside the Changdeokgung Palace. I know I said before that I hated taking tours when I travel but for some weird reason, I took the opportunity to avail of the English-language tour being offered by the palace and we were matched with a very graceful and kind lady who showed us the different attractions inside the palace. I learned of the sad love story of its occupant and the presence of “Biwon” or the Secret Garden especially commissioned for the enjoyment of the King and Queen. We visited Biwon at the tail end of Autumn, leading to Winter and the sights were just too beautiful, the colors of nature were just too much. Yes, even if at one point, it was raining like crazy.

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Day Four and the highlight of the trip: Journey to the Joint Security Area/DMZ and the Imjigak Peace Park.
The best part of the trip so far. I am leaving you with just some photos because I want to write more about this as part of a longer dispatch.

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We didn’t do anything on the fifth day because we had to catch an earlier flight going back to Manila. However, the four days in Seoul again made me miss the city more. Someday, when I finally had kids, I will bring them back to Seoul and finally experience Winter in Korea with them and the Hubby.

The best part? I spent less than PHP30,000 only for the whole trip, including air fare, hotel accommodations, entrance to sights, lots and lots of eating and a bit of shopping. I can’t wait to go back.

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South Korea, Travel Diaries

Review: Stay-in-GAM Hostel, Jongno-Gu, Korea

I always say that I am the kind of “no-fuss” traveler. I am not choosy when it comes to hotel accommodations and actually prefer staying in B&Bs and hostels if that would mean I will be able to save more money. I am the type who loves discovering cheap accommodations offering superb services, like the amazing CityInn Plus Ximending in Taipei, Taiwan and the quaint K’s House Tokyo Oasis Asakusa in Tokyo, Japan.

So, imagine my pleasant surprise to discover another amazing (and affordable!!!) accommodation in Seoul, South Korea during my second time in the city last November. I found Stay-In-GAM Hostel after a random search at Booking.com which has become my go-to place for quick hostel bookings. After reading a lot of wonderful reviews onsite and on Facebook (because I can be a stealthy tracker like that), I decided to throw caution to the wind and book Stay-In-GAM maybe about 2 months prior to the trip. After getting confirmation from Booking.com, Stay-in-GAM almost immediately got in touch with me through my email to confirm the booking and to send additional info on what limousine bus number to take and where to get off going to the hotel.

We were charged KRW248,000 or about PHP10,118 for a 5 days, 4 nights stay for a twin accommodations room — a steal when you think about it, considering we only paid about PHP5,059 per person for four nights, or about PHp1,265 per person per night for the room stay. And we are staying in central Seoul, a stone’s throw away from Insadong and two MRT rides away from Myeongdong.

“Yes, my WanderingGirl — your hostel stay is cheap, but is it worth it?” you ask. You have no idea.

But first, let me give you the basics:

1. Directions and how to go there

If you are landing at the Incheon International Airport, the easiest and most convenient way to go to Stay-in-GAM is to take the 6011 Limousine Bus stationed just outside the airport. Stay-in-GAM gave us vouchers for a KRW1,000 discount, but it was really of no use for us since the drivers did not honor it. When you find the 6011 bus, just hop in and don’t forget to drop KRW10,000 on the payment counter right beside the driver’s seat. There is room for luggage on the front of the bus, but if you are carrying the equivalent of a small house, the efficient bus driver will store it in the bus luggage compartment. I wish I can say that the drivers are friendly, but they are a bit grouchy.

The email from Kevin (of Stay-in-GAM) indicated that we are to get off the Changdeokgung Palace bus stop, which is just a block away from the hostel, but maybe I was too sleepy or too excited that me and my friend got off the bus not at Changdeokgung (as instructed) but at Gyeongbukgung Palace drop off which is still a 20-minute walk away from the hostel. While it was a bit inconvenient walking the whole way, it was also an opportunity to soak the sights of Seoul and people watch while dragging my heavy luggage with me.

The email from Stay-In-GAM indicated that we are to turn right on the next street after the Nescafe Cafe just right past the Changdukgung Palace–and true enough, there is Stay-In-GAM all warm and cozy as expected!

2. Our Stay

The room is cozy for two people, and comprised of two single-sized beds, outfitted with the most comfortable and softest comforter, aircon, mirror, a bed table, lampshade and a hair dryer. Our room is a part of a three room grouping, located in one corner of the hotel where we shared a common area, toilet & bath, a bench and a cabinet to keep our shoes. Yes, shoes are not allowed inside the room, instead the hostel will issue a standard home sandal for your use.

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The best thing about Stay-In-GAM is that the rooms will look exactly like the pictures on its website. In short, you won’t have the experience of expecting a really nice room only to find something below what you are expecting. Outside our corner is the hallway leading to the elevator and where the common PC, lockers and a phone that can make international phone calls are located.Right across from the elevator is the common kitchen, outfitted with a water dispenser, ref, microwave, stove, sink, table and chairs as well as cooking utensils are located. You are welcome to use them, provided you will clean after yourself after use.

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At the first floor is the reception area and the Stay-In-GAM cafe which served probably one of the best waffle and mochi ice cream combinations. The reception area/coffee shop is also where the free breakfast spread is served every morning. Breakfast is usually bread (with strawberry and butter spread options), steamed egg, steamed ham, bean sprout salad, OJ, milk and coffee. I read some reviews bemoaning the fact that it is the same breakfast over and over again (it is) but I kinda think it’s ungrateful to bitch about something that is given for free, considering the affordable cost of staying in Stay-In-GAM. If you’d like to have some variety during breakfast, I recommend you pick-up ramen, egg or cheese from any of the neighboring convenience stores.

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Decorating the walls of the reception area were messages from the people who stayed there before. Before we left, the friendly and efficient manager, Kevin asked us to also write our messages along with the photo he took of us. Reading through the many messages, to say that Stay-in-GAM has a lot of satisfied customers is an understatement.

The hostel will also issue you your own key for the room (no key card yet) as well as they key code to punch in for the main door. There are no curfews and you can come in anytime you like. The neighborhood is also relatively quiet and very peaceful. In fact, we actually tried walking around the neighborhood at 12MN just to see how it feels like and I swear there’s literally no one there to disturb the peace, except us two crazy Filipinas who probably scared the neighborhood.

3. Any Rants?

None really, well — maybe except the fact that our room has no TV inside. There’s also no television in the common area or even at the reception area. But this is very minor actually, I mean — who would go to Seoul just to watch TV?

Our verdict?
If you are planning to go to Seoul and would like to save a few bucks, consider booking a room at Stay-In-GAM. The place is really nice and Kevin, the manager, is very efficient and accommodating. It is also located just right across Changdeokgung Palace where you can also tour the Secret Garden (do not miss this!), plus walking distance to the Subway, the Bukchon Hanok Village as well as the trendy area of Insadong.

Read more reviews, including mine, on Trip Advisor.

Hotel Details:

Stay-in-GAM Hostel
21 Waryong-dong
Jongno-Gu, Seoul 110-360
South Korea
+822 7642052
www.stayingam.com

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Asia, South Korea

The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince Cafe: Is it worth it? (The Great Seoul Searching Trip Day 6)

First, a short summary on the drama, “The First Shop of Coffee Prince”

Coffee Prince is a South Korean drama aired in 2007, starring Yoon Eun-hye from Princess Hours, Gong Yoo from One Fine Day, Lee Sun-gyun from White Tower and Chae Jung-an. It is based on the novel of the same name written by Lee Sun-mi. It was first broadcast in South Korea on Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) from 2 July to 28 August 2007. The drama is a love story between a tomboyish woman pretending to be a man and a young food empire mogul. Go Eun-chan played by Yoon Eun-hye decided to work for Choi Han-kyul (Gong Yoo) in order to support her mother and her annoying younger sister. After getting an ultimatum from his grandmother, Han-kyul takes over a rundown old coffee shop, later renamed ‘Coffee Prince’, to prove his ability, both to his grandmother and to his ex-girlfriend Yoo-joo. In order to attract female customers, he only hires good-looking male employees. Eun-chan, desperate for money, continues to hide her gender to get a job at Coffee Prince.(SOURCE)

The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince
(waffle guy and Min-yeop+ forever!)

This place is included in our itinerary because my beloved sister is a BIG Gong-Yoo fan and I myself liked the drama…and the cute guys that starred in it. My favorites are Lee Dong Wook who played the Japanese-Korean waiter who was discovered by Han-kyul selling waffles and Lee Eon (R.I.P.) who played Hwang Min-yeop. Sadly, Lee Eon passed away a year after “Coffee Prince” aired due to a broken neck he sustained from a motorcycle riding accident. His funeral was attended by his friends from “Coffee Prince” and Gong-Yoo even filed for leave during his military service in order to hold Lee Eon’s memorial tablet during the funeral. 😦

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Anyway, it was an opportunity to relive this wonderful drama, so on our second to the last day in Seoul, my sister and I trekked to Hongdae, the university area of Seoul, just to go to Coffee Prince. Finding the cafe was a challenge, it was located in the farthest end of Hongdae and if you are not familiar on how the cafe looks like, you might miss it. Fortunately, I did my research before we left for Seoul, thanks to this very efficient blog.

Here are the directions we followed:

1. Take the subway going to Hongkik University Station and get out on exit 8 – the blog used to say it’s exit 4 so we went out on exit 4 only to be miserably lost. While walking towards exit 4, we ran across a cute and furry creature:

“Pikachu Girl” is giving away hugs! Seemed to us like a harmless college org or sorority prank. We are, after all, within vicinity of Hongkik University, one of Korea’s best arts schools. Since we took the wrong exit, we got lost walking aimlessly around the Hongdae area. The first two people we met seemed like they don’t have any idea what Coffee Prince is, until we met Song-hae who kindly showed us the way to Seven Springs restaurant, which is the landmark to the street leading to the cafe.

2. Upon seeing Seven Springs restaurant, turn right and go straight until you see a big center island. Turn left into the junction, until you see a small, bushy round-about. Then turn right (look for the Dduk Takk restaurant, when you see it you will be turning right soon) then just walk uphill.

3. Just continue walking until you’re about reach a T-Junction. To your right, you will see the “1st Shop of Coffee Prince.”

Coffee Prince Hongdae

Surprised that it didn’t exactly like the one in the drama?

And here is the part where I will try to manage your expectations. Let’s go first with the positives. Obviously, a trip to this cafe is perfect for those who loved K-Dramas. If you are looking for a gourmet coffee experience, then this place is not for you. But if you want to drink nice coffee and yummy cheesecakes while daydreaming that one of the princes will come and serve you, then by all means, do visit. It’s an experience that is nice to have especially if you’re into the Hallyu Wave. It has all the memorabilia from the drama as well as personalized messages from the cast. The interior is pretty nice and cozy too — like a very hispter, youthful cafe with dose of attitude. And did I mention how good the cheesecakes were?

Upon entering the place, you will be immediately approached by a barista (a girl!!!) who will ask you to order first before you sit down. Probably, to ensure that there won’t be people inside the cafe who’s just there to gawk at Coffee Prince photos.

Coffee Prince Hongdae

Sorry no princes here — only princesses. And a chef, who looked far from being a prince.

Whatever you do, do not order on the Menu written on the board on the wall. Yes, the prices are affordable, but it’s also the prop menu from the drama. A taped sign says so. The real menu is propped in an easel. Nothing there is below KRW7,000.

A very pretty barista and the “make-believe” menu

My sister and I ordered two coffees each (KRW7,000) and the New York Cheesecake (KRW7,000) — I tell you it was the most expensive coffee I ever had in my life. Coffee is cute, but not exceptional while Cheesecake is probably the best cheesecake I had in Korea. Or in the Philippines, or anywhere for that matter. It was worth the KRW7,000 price tag!

The most expensive coffee we ever had

Everywhere you look, there is something to remind you of the drama:

Memorabilia and souvenir items — of course, we didn’t buy anything

Signatures from the cast of Coffee Prince

A good place to read or relax

Bring your friends and spend hours reminiscing the scenes from Coffee Prince here

Now, here are some of my observations:
1. The place now needs some serious repair. The walls are already peeling, outside looks depressing and there are a lot of areas in the wall covered taped with black paper.
2. A lot of the area in the cafe is out-of-bounds. Specifically, the areas highlighted in the drama. Access is prohibited for the second floor, too.

Sorry, off-limits!

3. Did I mention that coffee was expensive (well everything was!)

The highlight of any trip was the opportunity to post at the so-called mural “painted” by Gong-yoo in the drama. When we were there, all tourists will immediately gravitate to the wall as soon as it’s available. I hate to burst your bubble, but that mural is not exactly a painting. It’s a sticker. And the edges are already peeling 😦

My sister posing in front of the “Gong-Yoo” mural

Anyway, we had fun visiting the Coffee Prince cafe. I really wish they will restore it and fix some of the areas in order to ensure that it will remain attractive to other tourists. Coffee Prince was aired in 2007, so they have to make the coffee shop really attractive and relevant, especially since there’s a lot of really good restaurants and coffee shops in the area.

Coffee Prince meets KamikazeeGirl

My sister at the cafe front steps. A funny thing happened before this picture was taken.

Before the above picture was taken and just when my sister had posed for the shot, we heard a voice from behind us shouting, “No…no…no…no!” It was the pretty barista shooing us away, having mistaken us for fan girls out to take pictures but not about to buy anything inside. When my sister turned around, the barista recognized us as the Filipina girls who were inside earlier and bowed low, while saying “sorry…sorry…sorry” (cue SuJu music here).

Are we in anyway offended? Not exactly — pretty barista is just following orders and besides, business is business. If they will allow all tourist to stop by and just take pictures, the cafe will not earn anything and might close down.

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