Uncategorized

Change of Plans: Hello again, Taipei!

As mentioned, the Hubs and I were supposed to go to Osaka for February — but after assessing his chances of getting a visa (Hubs work freelance), I decided that a better option is for him to get some stamps of his new passport first before trying out his luck in getting a Japanese visa. Since his old passport and his old travel stamps are not attached to the new one, I find it more strategic if he can show his frequency of travel as support to the Osaka trip.

Unlike me who can’t stay still in a year without going somewhere, the Hubs is contented staying in our room playing his RPG games and tabletop gaming pieces. So, when I suggested Taipei — I easily got his approval due to “one thing”

Confirmed!

Confirmed!

gw-rules-banner

…apparently, the Warhammer fandom is alive and well in the city of Taipei. In fact, the moment I confirmed our flight booking, he has already managed to find and communicate with one of the gaming stores selling Warhammer merchandise.

You see, there is a way to getting my significant other to travel with me — and that is (bless him) through his hardcore nerd heart 🙂

I have been to Taipei once in 2013 and is still raring to go back. Read some of my posts about Taipei here. There are still a lot of places that I have yet to see. Here’s my must-visit/must do places for November 2015.

Go on a morning hike at Elephant Mountain and see Taipei in all of its glory.

The view atop Elephant Mountain (photo not my property)

The view atop Elephant Mountain (photo not my property)

This view is really breath-taking. I am just looking at a photo but the vantage point is just so beautiful. Though the Hubs does not like hiking, he is always up to new adventures. Anyway, I still have three months to convince him to don his hiking shoes and go up the mountains with me. It’ll be worth it.

Beitou (photo credit to owner)

Beitou (photo credit to owner)

Enjoy Beitou. I managed to squeeze in some time to go to Beitou the first time I was in Taiwan — however, my sister and I arrived too late and the paths leading to the hot springs were already closed. In my mind, I am already convinced to do this first thing in the morning and reserve the afternoon to another destination that I also have yet to see. The Hubs said that he doesn’t like to spend the time but is more than game to going around the sights with me.

The Tamsui Lovers Bridge (photo credit to owner)

The Tamsui Lovers Bridge (photo credit to owner)

Here’s another place that I didn’t get to enjoy since we were like contestants with the amazing race and just kept on running from once place to another during our 2013 visit. Good thing the Hubs a more leisurely pace traveling and is all about chilling and enjoying the moment.

The trip will also serve as an early wedding anniversary celebration for the Hubs and myself. The trip is my way of giving back to him for all the times he has been a good sport and tolerated having a wife who can’t keep still. It’s also my way of making amends for the times I always left him whenever I leave to go somewhere.

One of the things we promised to each other this year is that we will work on experiencing new things together. The trip to Taipei is exactly just like that.

As always, mad researching commences again — from visa applications to new sights to see. Watch this space for new developments!

PS: Beautiful Taipei! I can’t wait to see you again!

Advertisements
Standard
Japan

Next stop: Osaka

credit to owner

credit to owner

If you can DREAM it, you can ACHIEVE it.

This early, I am already claiming this blessing. Finally decided to stop pining and stalking SkyScanner like mad without doing anything at all. Mad planning for Osaka begins now!

Some background information about Osaka (other than it’s the location of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter):

“Osaka is located on the main island of Honshu, roughly in the center of Japan. Osaka City, which was incorporated in 1889, has a population of 2.6 million and an area of 221 square kilometers. Osaka Prefecture, which includes Osaka City (its capital) and 42 other municipalities, has a population of 8.8 million and a total land mass of about 1,890 square kilometers. Although Osaka is Japan’s second smallest prefecture by size, its population represents 7% of the entire nation, making it the second most populous prefecture after Tokyo. Furthermore, 15.6% of all non-Japanese residents live in Osaka.”– from www.osaka-info.jp

Goal settings for this trip:

1. Fare for the Hub and I – budget for the plane fare should only be PHP9,000 all in per pax, return; for a total of PHP18,000
2. Length of stay – goal of one week (in order to have time to see Kyoto, and if the Hub will get enticed, fly via Peach Airline to Tokyo and stay there for 3 days)
3. Accommodation – AirBnB or hostels along the central area, with a budget of PHP3,000 per night for a full room = PHP21,000
4. Target sights – take advantage of what is offered through the Osaka One-day or Two-day pass:

Obvious destinations include: Universal Studios Japan for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; Osaka Castle, Tombori River Cruise, Osaka Zoo, among many others. Also includes quick jaunts to Kyoto and nearby areas.

5. Budget for two persons for 7 days: PHP70,000 (or PHP35,000 each) excluding airfare!

Let the planning begin!

I will make you possible! (credit goes to owner)

I will make you possible! (credit goes to owner)

Standard
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:
DSCN6435

DSCN6445

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.

DSCN6451

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.

DSCN6596

DSCN6601

DSCN6606

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.

Standard
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.

??????????

??????????

??????????

??????????

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.

??????????

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)

??????????

DSCN6271

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.

DSCN6279

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.

DSCN6305

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.

DSCN6315

DSCN6337

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:

1422641_982359101779627_4986157311619280083_n

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

Standard
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.

??????????

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).

??????????

??????????

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.

??????????

??????????

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.

??????????

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.

you-who-came-from-the-stars-in-Petite-France

913

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.

DSCN6128

??????????

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.

10302455_984804804868390_4825421619882763859_n

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.

??????????

??????????

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).

??????????

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)

Standard
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.

??????????

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

IMG_4105

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

stay in gam

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.

kkot4-076

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!).

??????????

??????????

DSCN5788

DSCN5805

??????????

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.

DSCN5859

DSCN5861

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.

Standard
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.

??????????

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

stay in gam

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.

??????????

??????????

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.

??????????

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.

??????????

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.

DSCN6427

DSCN6445

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.

Standard