If you stan a KPOP idol or group, binge-watch several K-dramas, fall head over heels with your favorite oppa, follow the Korean skincare method, or just plainly amused by the Korean food, culture, and tradition, surely you’ve been hit by the Hallyu Wave or Korean wave. If you have experienced any or all of these then you’ll agree with me that being ecstatic might still be an understatement when I visited South Korea on November 27 – December 3, 2017.
Before I bring your attention to this long overdue post, it’s my honor to share with you a little history of our travel. Originally, our booked trip was scheduled November 14-21, 2017 but my friend and I decided that we weren’t still prepared to visit South Korea (even though we booked the flight a year ago), we decided to rebook our trip to a later date. It was a blessing in disguise as it was also the week of ASEAN Summit and possible delay of flights might occur (nonetheless, our flight was also delayed).
The trip was supposed to be a total of seven days but since we arrived in Incheon Airport at around 12 midnight and the flight back to Manila was two in the morning, the trip was shortened into five days. Even so, we surely made the best out of that week.
Here is our itinerary for our #KoryahPembaryah trip (roughly translated as “Korea, give us alms”). You also might want to consider this itinerary once you visit SoKor.
|November 27, 2017||Departure from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)|
|November 28, 2017||Arrival at Incheon International Airport (IIA)
Bukchon Hanok Village
N Seoul Tower
|November 29, 2017||Haneul Park
Digital Media City
Grevin Seoul Museum
|November 30, 2017||Lotte World|
|December 1, 2017||DMZ/Panmunjom Tour
Myeongdong Shopping District
|December 2, 2017||Strawberry Picking
|December 3, 2017||Departure from IIA
Arrival at NAIA
The Royal Palaces
Your trip to South Korea wouldn’t be complete without visiting any if not all of its five royal palaces namely, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, and Jongmyo Shrine. We only visited 2/5 of the Royal Palaces: Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces.
You can enter the palaces either of the two ways:
- Rent a hanbok (Korean traditional attire) at any rental stores nearby the palace or underground stores and your entrance is free in all palaces or;
- Buy the Royal Palace Pass for 10,000 KRW, inclusive of all palaces and Huwon Secret Garden inside Changdeokgung Palace.
I don’t know why we didn’t bother to rent a hanbok and rather opted the Royal Palace Pass but it’s fine for us since we have limited time and most visitors were also wearing their jackets on top of their hanbok because the weather was terribly cold. Anyway, we can do it the next time we visit SK.
Changdeokgung Palace was the first palace we visited on our first full day of touring (November 28, Tuesday). I suggest you come there early for you to take nice pictures sans the photobombers. I know it’s winter already but we were still lucky to see those autumn trees blazing with orange and fiery red colors. We took photos and after a while we joined those who were also in tour for Huwon Secret Garden. We were accompanied by a tour guide during our mini trip to Huwon Secret Garden. Brace yourself for a little hiking experience but it will surely be worth it because of the picturesque landscapes and majestic hanoks (traditional Korean house).
We wanted to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace right after Changdeokgung Palace because it’ll just take a few minutes to get there but it was closed every Tuesday. We decided to visit it on another day (November 30, Thursday) since the expiration date for the Royal Palace Pass is until three months of purchased. Gyeongbokgung Palace was where the king resides so expect it to be a huge place to roam around. But we didn’t explore the palace that much because our legs were still sore from yesterday’s trip (more on that later).
Bukchon Hanok Village
It’s visually refreshing for the eyes to see old-fashioned houses from the usual concrete jungle of the city. Somewhere in modern Seoul is where you can find traditional houses of Bukchon hence the name, Bukchon Hanok Village. What was once the residential quarter of high-ranking government officials and noble people, now became one of the favorite tourist attractions. Today, there are still families reside in the neighborhood along with numerous shops, cafes, convenient stores, etc. While there were sites that were being renovated at that time, there are still perfects spots to take your pictures and to flaunt your cutest hanboks or OOTDs.
Side Trip: National Folk Museum of Korea
Side Trip: Gwanghamun Square
This is just across the main entrance of Gyeongbokgung Palace so you need not to worry for a long travel time. Here you’ll find the statue of the King Seonjo of Joseon/Chosun Dynasty.
N Seoul Tower
Right at the top of the Namsan Mountain is where you will find the iconic love lock tower. Aside for being featured in several Korean dramas (Boys Over Flowers, My Love From Another Star, etc.), N Seoul Tower is widely known for its bird’s eye view of Seoul. We got lost on our way to Namsan Tower from our previous location (Gwanghamun Square) since they are pretty far from each other or really, we’re just getting tired at this point. We walked a little uphill before we board up the Namsan Ormi or the inclined elevator. Now, you can either climb the mountain or ride a cable car to reach N Seoul Tower. Certainly, we went for the cable car which holds the capacity of more or less 20 people. The price of the ticket varies on your preference since there are other activities inside the tower like Ssentoy Museum and Hello Kitty Island.
Translated as Sky/Heaven Park, the way to get here is the total opposite of its name! Kidding aside, it is really confusing and tiring BUT worthy of its view. Being the spontaneous people that we are, we actually rented bicycles just because we knew we’re going to a park. Lo and behold, when we asked a stranger for directions going to Haneul Park, he advised us not to bring bikes. Thanks to language barrier, we thought bikes are only rented within the area of the stadium. We’re glad we listened to the stranger because it’s another hiking experience we didn’t sign up for!
But once you reach the top, you’ll then realize the park is upright of its name. It is a serene, breath-taking view of tall grasses swaying with the wind. At that time, we shared the peaceful moment only with few people. No wonder it’s also a favorite K-drama spot (Another Miss Oh, Introverted Boss, etc.) and prenup photoshoots (Anne Curtis/Erwan Heusaff).
We took a lot of beautiful pictures before we realized we were hungry as we haven’t had any decent meal for the day. Good thing we saw an e-shuttle bus which you can ride for 2,000 KRW (why didn’t we see this when we’re going up the park???). As I was searching for a description of Haneul Park, I happened to know that it was once a wasteland turned into a beautiful ecological park. Daebak!
Digital Media City
A few stations from World Cup Stadium station is the Digital Media City station. Just bear a few minutes of walking and you will see complex buildings of digital technologies and various broadcasting networks which boasts a number of Korean hit dramas. Big networks like KBS, SBS, and MBC offer what it’s like behind camera and other interactive activities. Aside from that, they are found near one another and the thought of your favorite K-idol might be there somewhere is purely amazing.
We also enjoyed hunting the names of Korean stars in the Hallyuwood Walk of Fame. Here are some:
Grevin Seoul Museum
Why only see Korean celebrities when you can have VIP access to Hollywood stars, professional artists, and influential people in their waxy figures? The museum lets its visitors experience fun activities like taking a quiz from the genii Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein, playing basketball with the legendary Michael Jordan, and making your own take on wax figure. First of its branch in Asia, Grevin Seoul Museum certainly sprinkled it with a Korean touch from the pioneer of Gangnam Style, Psy to Korea’s Queen of Ice, Kim Yuna.
It’s nice to take a break after days of walking and hiking, and what other way to do it is to take a trip to an amusement park. Even before our travel, we’ve been contemplating between Lotte World and Everland; after taking things into consideration, we ended up going to the former. One thing we considered is the weather. Our Korean friend suggested going to LW rather than Everland in the winter season since the former has indoor rides and we can wait in the line without freezing to death. Another is the travel time; LW is just within the Seoul while Everland is located in Gyeonggi Province which will take about three hours to travel. Due to our time constraints, of course we opted for the nearest one. As much as we wanted to enjoy LW, we weren’t able to do it because our legs were still sore from Haneul Park and some of the rides were under renovation.
Side Trip: Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)
We stayed in Dongdaemun in our whole trip in Korea and we would not want to missed the opportunity to see one of the most modern plazas in the area. I haven’t seen such abstract and futuristic kind of plaza in my entire life so I was definitely amazed on how DDP was designed. It holds various cafeterias, boutique shops, multi-function halls, etc. My friend definitely enjoyed staying there because we saw SM Entertainment’s Sum Café where it caters numerous K-pop goodies. Plus, DDP had been our meeting place and drop-off place for most of our tour packages.
For me, this was the highlight of our South Korea trip! Even though it’s my personal favorite, I can’t hide the fact that it was also the most tiring out of all, even tiring than Haneul Park. But before we get there, we got our DMZ Tour from Klook because this isn’t just a typical tourist attraction (it wasn’t a tourist attraction to begin with) where you can just freely enter on your own. You need to book your trip in advance from a licensed tour company. We were even surprised that our tour guide is/was a soldier (not sure if he is still in the army). Definitely, this is a strict tour. You have to listen carefully and follow all the rules once you get there. If not, chances are, not only your passport will be confiscated; you might even put in bigger trouble. It’s a long way drive to get to the location so be sure to take a rest.
The tour started with an audio-visual presentation of Korea and how were they divided. Afterwards, you’ll be asked whether or not you’ll join the long walk down the Third Infiltration Tunnel. Of course, I opted to go because why not? But my friend was feeling under the weather so she just stayed in the waiting area/cafeteria, along with those who didn’t join. Definitely, no gadgets were allowed inside the tunnel. We were also told to wear safety helmets and remove our jackets/sweaters since he said it’ll be hot down the tunnel. Boy was he wrong! It was still chilly and even though the walk down the tunnel was easy-peasy; you still need to control yourself not to slide down and not to bump your head since the pathway was slippery and small.
At the end of the tunnel is a tiny window where you can see the barrier between North and South Korea. It might not sound amusing but the reason behind those walls is a big part of our world history. If you’re not a hiker like me, nor have been working out for the past few months, walking your way up from the tunnel may not be in your favor. IT WAS SO STEEP that it’s hard to catch breath. I almost didn’t think I would see the light at the end of the tunnel. Gladly, I’m still alive but that was definitely one for the books!
After a short rest, we proceeded to the Dora Observatory. This is where you’ll see from afar the land of North Korea. You can rent a tower viewer to see it closely for 50 cents. Next was another bus ride to Dorasan Station. This train station will be the common station when unification will happen someday. For the last leg of our tour, we went to a Ginseng museum where we knew the history of ginseng and how Korean ginseng is different from other ginsengs. Finally, we proceeded to the place where we eat lunch that was included in our package. The tour packages in Klook vary depending on your choice. The others still proceeded to the Joint Security Area (JSA) while some left earlier than us.
Seeing snow for the first time is something to look forward to for someone living in a tropical country. Namdaemun Market is memorable to us because it’s where we first saw the snow. On top of that, it’s the first snow of December! Anyway, we truly enjoyed shopping our pasalubong (souvenir) in this market because it’s way affordable than Myeongdong. We were able to score good quality bags, t-shirts, socks, and even beauty products with pouring freebies.
Myeongdong Shopping District
Myeongdong is just next to Namdaemun Market so it is definitely a shopping galore. It’s a favorite tourist spot so expect it to be crowded. You’ll never get hungry as there are rows of street food in every corner. Also, Korean fashion and beauty products are what Myeongdong is known for so be sure to check it out once you visit. Although I must say, some Koreans tend to be aggressive when giving freebies just so people can visit their shops.
Strawberry Picking + Nami Island + Petit France
Our last day in Korea was dedicated to another Klook tour package (of course not sponsored but I hope it was, LOL). The tour started with strawberry picking in a farm managed by two old couple. We were given a container where we can put the strawberries. It’s included in the package so we filled the container with the sweetest and freshest strawberries. They also offer strawberry jam in the regular and spicy variant and it’s a must-try!
Next we went to Nami Island. One of my favorites as well because I was able to experience two seasons in one place! Our tour guide gave us an ample time to explore Nami Island. It was a walk down memory lane because the hit Korean drama, Winter Sonata was filmed in this place. Even the Filipino film, My Exs and Whys had scenes taken in Nami Island.
Another K-drama location was our next and last destination. Petit France was widely recognized in the drama My Love from the Star. They even have several standees in the vicinity. Likewise, it surely rings a bell for book enthusiasts as the Petit France’s concept is widely adapted to the French classic novel, Little Prince or Le Petit France. Museums, galleries, and even a memorial hall to the author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery is also present in the village.
To cap it all off, here are some tips on traveling to the Land of the Morning Calm, South Korea:
- Have your passport with you at all times. Given that it’s important for identification, you will also need it to refund taxes from the items you bought from shopping.
- To start your South Korea journey, secure yourself a Korean visa. If you’re planning to DIY-ing it, these are the two most important things to remember:
- Complete ALL the requirements as stated in the Korean Embassy website and;
- Go there as early as possible because they have a cut-off time of 11 AM, sometimes as early as 10 AM if the queue is very long. The afternoon is for the releasing of visa.
- Have your currency exchange before your travel but avoid exchanging it in the airport because the currency rate might be higher than the usual. As for our case, we exchanged ours in a money changer somewhere in Malate.
- It’s better to know beforehand the weather on the country you’re traveling to as it will greatly affect the kind of clothings you need to bring. Surely, you don’t want to compromise your comfortability and OOTDs while traveling, right?
- It’s also nice to load up your phone with apps that will be useful in your travel. Google Maps, Google Translate, and Subway app were just few of the apps we’ve commonly used in our trip.
- Of course, internet connection is a must-have as well but most public places in Korea have free wifi already, although we haven’t tried it because we always bring with us a wifi egg (portable wifi) which we bought at Klook. It’s convenient since we don’t have to reconnect while traversing to different places.
- T-Money card is truly essential in this travel as it didn’t only pay for our train passes but also to our convenient store needs. Actually, this was the first thing I purchased in this trip.
When are you planning to visit South Korea? What other places and activities will you recommend if ever I come back to Korea? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.