My Travel Map!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spring Sonata: Seoul, Korea..-May2011-

Annyanghaesaeyo!!This time around, our vacation destination is Seoul, Korea!!The land of the handsome/pretty boy. Well most people in Seoul are referring it as Korea anyways, so when people ask, I'll just say "ya, I've been to Korea"..(even though Seoul is part of South Korea only..ngeee).

I have never imagined myself breathing in the land of the famous Han Kyul and Eun-Chan (Coffee Prince characters, I just love them!), Rain, Song Hye Kyo, SUPER JUNIOR, I LOVE U GUYS!!!!, but I went there anyways! It was a trip with friends for 8 nights, 7 days and it was totally a new, great experience!

Ok, let's start this blogging with a big question mark on your head.."what Seoul can offer u as a traveller??"..I've asked the same question to myself, just before I go there. So I did some research,and the findings werent bad after all and we went there with bundle of joys (and I was thinking that this blogpost gonna read "Seoul is the new Tokyo")

MyeongDong Shopping Street
The best time to travel to Korea would be Autumn or Spring! Autumn, from mid September (greener) till October (falling leaves) is almost the ideal time to visit Korea,  as the sun stays low, and you got to see the beautiful falling leaves, just like what you can see in "Autumn in My Heart", my first ever korean series that I watched way back in 2002..haha..Spring, from April to early June, is another beautiful season, with warm temperatures and cherry blossoms in late April. Spring is the season to dress with brighter colours to blend with the blooming flowers, but dont come to late in May/June because the weather would be very hot

Accommodation...Since we're travelling in a big group, we should be staying in a place that can fits all 10 of us, and of course, apartment, guesthouse or hostel is a practical choice...(Kafri was still offshore and got to cancel at the very last minute..huhu). Top 6 hostels that caught my attention (and of course, they have great interiors);

  1. Lee &No Guesthouse - Top rated guesthouse, with nice owner, and only 5 mins to subway. Homestay style, as owner is staying on the 2nd floor, while guests staying on 1st floor. Average price: RM70/night []
  2. Stay KOREA - 10mins to subway, dormitory-style rooms. Nice interior. Average price: RM55/night []
  3. NAMU Guesthouse - Within 5 minutes walk from Hongik University Subway Station. Nice interior too. Average price: RM70/night[]
  4. JK House - Modern interior, full kitchen that enables you to cook. Within 5 minutes by walk Yonsei University located. Hongdae Area Average price: RM65/night. []
  5. BeBOP Guesthouse - Great interior, picked by Lonely Planet as the Best Hostel in HONGDAE! 2 turns on a short walk from  Hongik Univ. / Hapjeong Metro station. Complete with full kitchen facilities.Average price: RM65/night. []
  6. Bangrang Hostel - Korean style hostel, 2-3mins to subway (Cheongjongno station), new hostel, complete with full kitchen, laundry facilities.Average price: RM65/night. []
**Hongdae is a university/entertainment/clubbing area, so you'll expect a big Korean crowd!The area is home to hundreds of bars, restaurants, boutiques and nightclubs . Most bars are open long into the night to allow patrons to return home by subway at 6am. There is also a large collection of independent coffee shops/cafes in the area that attract the local young adult population. The area is also known as the nation's capital of the underground rock music community, and live music is widely available around the bars and clubs in the area

And why Bangrang? Well, its new, with a good deco (traditional Korean wood flooring/furniture), located very close to subway station,Chungjeongno station (중정로) ;hostel is within a 2-minutes walk to subway station (Take exit 5 or 6), offers good price, fully-furnished kitchen (well, we Muslims love kitchens when we travel overseas,haha), and very close to the city as well (Chungjeongno is only 4-5 stations away from the famous shopping heaven, Myeongdong).

How to get there from airport? Well, here's few options for you;

  1. Simply take a bus (bus number 6015) straight to Chungjeongno (one-way ticket costs about 10000KRW), and get off at the Chungjeongno, the 5th stop.Turn right (check out for a Chinese restaurant, XingChai on your left), and from here you can see the Chungjeoungno subway station. There's a street in between Exit 5 and 6, and you need to walk along the road, and you can clearly see Bangrang Hostel on your left. At the airport, go to the ticket office nearby (ground floor, arrival area, outside of the building) and buy a one-way ticket. 
  2. Take the subway as it is cheaper; take the Airtrain to Hongik station, and transfer to subway to get to Chungjeoungno station. Take exit 5 or 6, and there's a street (like a small alley) in between. Walk along this street and you can see Bangrang Hostel on your left. I think it costs only 5000KRW, but bear in mind, this option seems simple, but apparently it is not. If you are carrying heavy luggages, I advise that you take the airport bus instead, since subways in Korea are located 4-5 floors underground (and the lift services are usually not available), and transfer from one subway to another could take around 20minutes walking up/down the stairs (I maybe exaggerated a bit, but we kinda regretted our opt back then, since we're carrying super-heavy luggages).
Please be reminded, once you have arrived at the Incheon Airport, you have to purchase a T-Money (similar to our Touch n Go card), as this is the discount card used to pay fares for buses and subway and this card can also be used as cash when you buy stuffs from nearly all the convenience stores. If you pay fares in cash, you will ended up paying more. The card costs you 2500KRW, but you can charge approximately 20000KRW for subway usage for 7 days (in fact we always top-up since we use T-Money for purchases at the convenience stores). Do not worry as the unused money can be refunded (at the airport - last check point)

They were 10 of us, so we fit in nicely into a 6-beds for the guys and 4-beds for the ladies (air-conditioned and well-cleaned). All of us were staying in one floor, made it more convenient for us to communicate. The facilities are all arranged on the ground floor; lobby, storage room, washroom (yes, you can use the washing machine for free!), kitchen, TV room (a very cosy one) and a computer corner for free Internets! They have free Wifi too, so what else you could asked for? Free breakfast is offered every day which includes tea, toast and jam (everything is self-service ya).

We arrived quite late at night, so we didn't really bother exploring the city, just yet.So we had a simple home-made meals for dinner, and went to sleep. And we just couldn't wait for the sun to rise, as we couldn't wait to experience Korea!

The next day, we woke up quite early in the morning, and since there were only 2 bathrooms, we have to take turns (and it took some time..haha), and we left hostel quite late in the afternoon (as some of us need to prepare breakfast for 10 too!). But not to worry, we have all 7 days to explore Korea!

DAY 1 : Gyeongbukgong Palace, Yeouida Park, 63 City

Group photo in front of Bangrang Hostel - Day 1
Our first stop is Gyeongbukgong Palace, which translates to "Palace of Shining Happiness" in English. I just realized that this is a filming location for Princess Hours (but I didnt realized it back then, I currently watching the series and enjoying every moment!). I love Shingun!!!

Located in northern Seoul, Gyeongbukgong Palace is largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty. The entrance fees is 3000KRW, and it can be reached by subways from Bangrang (Gwanghwamun station or Jongno (3) Sam ga). One thing that you shouldn't miss is the " Royal Guard-Changing Ceremony" at the Gwanghwamun main gate to experience a rare traditional scene in Korea. There's also a place inside this palace, where you can try wearing Hanbok for free (next to the souvenir/tea shop). And don't forget to watch Princess Hours before you come here, and you'll appreciate every single corner..hahaa..Shingun forever!!

Among things that you can visit near/inside Gyeongbukgong Palace Area;
  • Gwanghamun Plaza
  • Gwanghamun Gate
  • Gyeongbokgung Palace
  • The Blue House
  • Samcheongdong Street
  • National Folk Museum
  • National Palace Museum
Traditional house inside Gyeongbukgong Palace
with the Royal Guard.yes, we are petites
candid, a nice one!
inside the traditional Korean home, located in the Gyeongbukgong area
And we went to Pizza Hut afterwards (at Insadong) for our lunch (actually we're supposed to find that Tofu House in Insadong area, but because we're so hungry and couldnt wait any longer, pizza is always the quickest option). RM300 for lunch (for 9 persons) would be expensive in Malaysia, but face the reality, thats how much it cost for a decent lunch in Korea.LOL

We took the subway to Yeouinaru station Subway Line 5 (Exit 4) to visit the Yeouida Park straight after lunch, to experience living like a Korean (among the place Korean visited to hang out to enjoy the nice spring weather) located next to Han River

The smell of Spring at Yeouida Park

As it's only a walking distance to 63 City from Yeouida Park, you dont want to miss visiting this cool golden skyscraper on Yeouido island,  also the world's tallest art gallery.

Well, what can be found in 63 Building? There are Sky Art, Sea World, IMAX theatre and Wax Museum, and the admission fee is quite reasonable (~32 000 to enter 3 attractions)  but we chose to visit the Sea World only since we were quite tired from walking (this was when we learnt that it's quite a distance to walk from one place to another once you've taken the wrong exit from subway station. So do your research before you come!)

If you happen to stay at that area until sunset, don't forget to experience the Hangang River Cruise

63 Building
My husband and I at the SeaWorld

DAY 2 : Namsan Tower, Nandaemun Market, Myeongdong

Group photo -  Day 2
Namsan Tower, a communication and observation tower located in Namsan mountain, can be reached by bus, taxi and subway. If you take the subway (the most convenience of all, especially if you travel in a big group), it is a roughly 30 minutes walking distance from both Myeongdong Station (Exit 3) or Nandaemun Market - Line no 4. At exit 3 Myeongdong Station, you have to walk towards Pacific Hotel and then straight to Namsan Cable Car Station. It is open from 10.00am to 11.00pm the fee for one-way ride is 3 500won and round trip is 5 000won

Dont forget to make a stop to eat Cold Stone ice cream once you are up there, and visit the Teddy Bear Museum

Admission / Participation Fees

Teddy Bear Museum
- Adults (19+): 8,000 won
- Teenagers (14-18): 6,000 won
- Children (13 or younger): 5,000 won

Observatory Package (Teddy Bear Museum + N Seoul Tower Observatory)
- Adults (19+): 12,000 won
- Teenagers (14~18): 8,000 won
- Children (13 or younger): 6,000 won

Since Namsan Tower is located very near to Nandaemun and Myeongdong, you can decide whichever place to visit first. As for us, it was easier to go for sightseeing first then shopping. You don't want to carry all your shopping bags to walk up the hill to go to Namsan cable car station. Ketibas! 

Namsan cable car ride
Another group photo at the Namsan's peak!
Love chains overlooking the Seoul city!
Our next stop was Nandaemun Market, the biggest traditional market in Seoul (since there's a halal kebab stall we love so much, and its lunchtime!). There's a lot of stuff you can find in Nandaemun Market, among them are souvenirs, local household products, clothing, accessories and many more. One thing to remember is Nandaemum Market closes at 5, so I would definitely suggest going to Nandaemun before Myeongdong.

Entrance to Nandaemun Market

The kebab stall with super spicy sauce we like so much!
Myeongdong is all about shopping! There's a lot of shopping malls in Myeongdong (such as Lotte Department Store, Shinsegae, etc.) and also cool street malls! Myeongdong has something for everyone, and who doesnt like Korean fashion line right? There are many stores around; from well known stores such as Zara and Topshop to local fashion store (which I prefer due to its cutting). My friend, Su did the most shopping, Skinfood particularly. She said, the product costs half in Seoul, and she was so determined in getting a year stock..hehe

Myeongdong shopping street

Skinfood, loads of it!
DAY 3 : Olympic Park, Itaewon, and cat cafe at Myeongdong 

Group photo - Day 3
We didn't plan to visit the Seoul Olympic Park, as our initial plan was to visit Bukhansan National Park. Since it was quite late in the afternoon when we leave the hostel, we thought we should skipped the initial plan. (We thought we can experience real spring by going to the mountain..:P)

This park, was built to host the 1988 Olympics, and other than the Olympic competition facilities, there are few other attractions you can find in the park, and who doesn't love group photo?
  • Korea National Sports University
  • Mongchon Fortress
  • Olympic Sculpture Park
  • Olympic Parktel Hotel
  • Olympic Hall
  • Seoul Olympic Museum
  • SOMA Museum of Art
  • World Peace Gate
  • Rose Park

In front of World Peace Gate

Not sure what's this though.hehe

It was quite hot even though it was still spring time, but the flowers still blooming (and the ticket price was not that expensive), so yeah its a trade off if you were thinking of visiting Seoul in the late spring. It was lunchtime, so we headed straight to the Muslim area in Seoul; Itaewon, where you can find mosque and a lot of halal restaurant around.

We went to Muree restaurant as it was recommended by other bloggers, but at this time (2011), Muree did not include Korean dish in their menu yet, so we've ordered pratas, tandoori and few other dishes (2014: Muree has now included Korean dish in their menu, and of course, its halal Korean dish, yeay!)

Walking to Muree Restaurant from subway station

Indian foods for lunch!

Got to write more very soon since I left my travel diary at home...later ya!