If you’ve been reading my travel story so far (thank you!❤), you’d know that my sisters and I went to Seoul last year. We were there for about 10 full days towards the end of November and got to experience a whole lot of things – from immigration scares (see my predeparture post you if want to know about it a little more), first autumn, first snowfall (coming from a tropical country and knowing how magical it is to experience that in Korea, this HAD to make my bucket list!), to my first winter. Without further ado, here’s the first day (and the day before that – when we arrived in Seoul) of our 10-day itinerary in Seoul. Better get that popcorn ready, this is going to be another lengthy one~
This itinerary below covers only the full days we were in Seoul. I decided to exclude the very first and the very last days (other than a couple of paragraphs of the things that transpired on those days) in the day count of this itinerary since these were spent entirely in getting to and from Korea.
The flight we booked back in May was for a direct flight to Incheon from Manila in the late afternoon via Cebu Pacific. Considering how difficult it is in my country to get to the airport, we were on the road as soon as the rush hour was through and got to NAIA with time to spare.
All ready for baggage drop!
We did a web check-in on the road, while we are on our way to the airport. It takes away the hassle of being in the queue longer, so we only had to line up to pay for the airport tax and the baggage drop. As of November 2017, airport tax rates are at Php 1,620.00 for Philippine passport holders (a different rate applies to foreign passport holders). Alternatively, some airlines offer to include this in the amount you pay at the end of your flight booking (of course chargeable to your credit card – or whatever mode of payment you choose) for a stress-free experience at the airport. Done with the payment, we went to the baggage drop at the airline counters, got our boarding passes and went straight to immigration. This is where we had a bit of a situation so it’s definitely good that we got to the airport more than a few hours earlier than our departure time. After all security checks (and a late late lunch), we got on the plane for our flight to Incheon.
Manila to Incheon direct takes about 4 hours, with Korean Standard Time (KST) being one hour ahead. As usual, we had to go through immigration and get our luggage after landing and before proceeding to the arrival gates. Upon exiting the arrival hall, you can buy or reload Tmoney (reloadable money cards) in CU just at the right side of the exit, which can be used to pay for the subway, bus, and taxi fares, as well as for purchases in convenience stores. Oh, and don’t forget to grab a Seoul map in one of the information counters around the airport! You’ll definitely find it useful in getting around the city, more so when you don’t have readily available wifi at hand.
Travel tip: BUY TMONEY! This can easily be the most used item you’ll have during your stay (apart from wifi egg and your phone). Having a Tmoney means you also get discounts for your subway rides, which is automatically computed upon entering the station gate. Korea Tourism Organization is also promoting the 2016-2018 Visit Korea Year campaign, and holders of Tmoney cards with this print called “Korea Tour Cards” would get discounts from selected partners. At the end of your stay, you may have the remaining balance refunded at convenience stores, subway stations, and banks (or keep them for the future when you come back to Korea ㅋㅋ). Note though, that the card price (KRW 2,500 for the normal Tmoney and KRW 4,000 for the Korea Tour Card) is non-refundable.
Seoul is easily accessible from the airport. All it takes is one Korea Train Express (KTX) ride (with transfers – and maybe a few minutes walk, depending on your chosen hotel/hostel/BNB location) and you’re at the doorstep of your home for the next couple of days. And for you who’s wondering: no, Seoul is not the same as Incheon. But they’re next door neighbors. 😉
Travel tip: Download the Subway Korea app from the App Store or Google Play before your trip so you can also check the important details like what time is the first/last train, how much it costs from one station to another (lowest fare is at KRW 1,250 and add 100 increments on farther stations, depending on distance), and what time the next train will arrive at your station. This app saved us from more than a couple of spaced out moments (i.e. when we got on the wrong side of the station and there is no connecting part where we can get to the side going to the correct direction) and failed research on which exit we should take (“but this site said that place is near Exit 2!” *facepalm*).
By past midnight, we get to our AirBNB in Gangnam and we did what any tired and hungry traveler does: drop our bags at home and immediately go back out to the nearest convenience store to grab a couple of instant ramyeon (instant Korean noodles), triangle kimbap (I wonder what is it really called?), a big bottle of milkis (carbonated milk and yogurt drink) for the night and a couple more banana milk for the morning. Then return home, eat, and get our things ready for the next day before calling it a night.
DAY 1 ITINERARY: YEOUIDO PARK, HONGDAE, MYEONGDONG
Yeouido Park (여의도 공원) was the first thing on our list of places to go in Seoul. I completely forgot how we decided to go here first (perhaps because it was the route we wanted to take on the first day), but it was completely breathtaking. I’ll give you a quick minute to appreciate the view in the photo below.
Beautiful line of trees upon exiting Yeouido Park
Beautiful, isn’t it? 😉 Yeouido Park is situated in Yeouido Island, just south of Han River. If you’re taking the subway, you can choose to get off in one of two nearby stations:
- Line 9 (Brown) or Line 5 (Purple) – Yeouido (여의도) Station, Exit 3 (this is a connecting station thus the two train lines)
- Line 9 (Brown) – National Assembly Station, Exit 1 or 6 (according to my research, this station is better during spring, as it’s near the cherry blossom trees – I’ll credit the site when I find it again)
We got off Yeouido Station and walked about two blocks to the park. It was a cold windy day at the park. Emphasis on cold, since it’s so near the river. We took a lot of photos here (among the first of a couple thousand shots), saw and went inside a retired C-47 plane, watched a couple of schoolboys playing basketball (in this chilly weather?!), found King Sejong’s statue somewhere near the middle of the park, got greeted by a friendly security person making his rounds on his bike, tried public exercise machines, saw fall foliage for the first time (IT IS SOOOOO PRETTY! The reds, yellows, and oranges~), and shot my maple leaf and boots leaves-as-many-as-the-stars photo which I use on some of my posts on this site. Best thing of all? It’s free! No entrance (or environment) fees for the park.
Travel tip: Did you check the weather when you left home? Be sure to wear appropriate clothing – it was near freezing in my opinion when we were there (between 6 and -3 degrees Celsius) and our bodies have not yet adjusted to the climate that we really have to wear multiple layers of normal clothing (I had on two camis, a sleeveless top, and two pairs of leggings under my turtleneck dress), outerwear, and gloves. Do not forget your head and neck! Be sure to bring a scarf to wrap around your neck and a beanie or earmuff for your ears and head.
Paid activities include roller skating and biking, since you have to rent the equipment. The rental locations are situated at different sides of the park (but we did not go there anymore). From my research, bike rental is at KRW 5,000 per hour. Not bad, since I’ve seen more expensive bike rental fees during our trip.
When you’ve had your fill of nature for the day, you can head to the next location in our itinerary: Hongdae (홍대). Hongdae is accessible through Hongik University Station (the recorded announcement on the train is Hongdae-ipgu – 홍대입구), a station that connects lines 2 (Green), AREX (Airport Railroad Express), and the Gyeongui-Jungang Line.
- Trivia: Hongdae is shortened for Hongik Daehakyo (홍익대학교, Hongik University in Korean).
I forgot what exit we went out of. Haha. I think it was Exit 3. By the time we got here, it was well past lunch time and our tummies were rumbling, ready to take in authentic Korean food. After a long walk where we passed by numerous restaurants, some coffee shops (one student even approached us to try their coffee), and more stores selling clothes, we decided to finally eat somewhere. Sadly, the choice we made did not do us well (we were unsatisfied with the food) and came out of the restaurant feeling less than satiated. What we found nearby though, is a different story~
Pokemon toy crane in Hongdae!
Pokemon toy cranes! We found an entire room full of them, but we did not have enough change so we were satisfied with just looking (we wanted to get one of those Bulbasaur stuffed dolls though for my sister left at home) – for now.
We went back to that coffee place where we promised the student we’d try their coffee after lunch, and found ourselves enjoying our hot cups of joe (and warming our hands) while walking. If you’d like to try, the coffee place is Corco (코르코). They also sell items made of cork wood (we’d have bought some if we had more Won on hand). Here’s their instagram if you’re interested. 🙂
This is one place we did not get to walk around much, apart from the park towards the next subway station holding cups of steaming coffee and taking more photos.
Here’s my happy sister (임한나) with her coffee. 🙂
The last place to visit but definitely important on our last day is Myeongdong (명동). By this time I was running out of Won (I only had KRW 50,000 between me and my youngest sister since we arrived), so we really had to exchange our dollars for more Won.
Myeongdong is probably one of the hottest destinations for any tourist visiting Seoul. Why? There are two words that spring to mind upon reading (or hearing) the word “Myeongdong“: Shopping and Street Food. To get here, take the subway and get off Myeongdong Station Exit 7 or 8. Take your time underground, as there are numerous stores to kick start your shopping spree.
Travel tip: There is signage in English inside the stations when you forget what exit you’re supposed to get out of. It’s not so easy to get lost in Seoul, even if you don’t understand Korean. 😉
We initially got out of a different exit and bought our first street food: gyeranppang (literally egg bread, this is steamed bread with a whole egg on top!) and had our money changed to local notes. We were supposed to take the cable car going to Namsan Seoul Tower, but our tummies were having a thunderous revolution (maybe because of the deadly combination of unknown food, coffee, and egg bread?) so we had to move it to another day or scrap the location altogether.
And so we settled for just dinner and shopping for the night. I kid you not when I say that the beauty stores here are literally one dime a dozen: a gigantic Nature Republic store (their main branch) greets you upon getting out of the subway. Get your fill of k-beauty products here (or hold it in until we get to a less crowded and cheaper location), have tons of street food, and enjoy the ecstatic energy (maybe even have a massage after the long day?) Myeongdong has to offer. 🙂
Street food (potato tornado!) with my youngest sister. Yum!
ADDITIONAL ITEM FOR ITINERARY:
Like I said earlier, we had to forego taking the cable car going to Namsan Seoul Tower. The tower observatory is open all days of the year, at specific times. There are fees for these attractions, though, so you need to consider the additional costs: cable car – KRW 8,500 (adult)/KRW 5,500 (children) round trip, and observatory entrance fee – KRW 10,000 (adult)/KRW 8,000 (children). There are also packages if you’re going for more than just the observatory. More details can be found on the Visit Korea website.
Congratulations! You made it until the end of our arrival and day 1 itinerary. Thank you also to the friends who have encouraged me after reading my first post. Until the next step, let’s explore the land of the morning sun together! 🙂
Story by Justine Lim from J Day in a Life