Finally this year, I made it to Korea after my travel blunder 2 years ago due to some delays and katangahan getting my visa which I told on my previous blog (click here). South Korea is one of the countries which is rich in culture, very polite people, has a satisfactory knowledge of the English language, and has a great influence in the Philippines (due to KPop and KDrama).

Pre-Departure Preparations

You need to prepare a lot of things ahead of your visit to Korea. After your panic booking due to seat-sale, which I bought mine for ₱4,409.02 round trip and an additional ₱2,498 for baggage to and from, you need to prepare your financial documents for you visa. Visa are now processed through travel agencies due to high volume of applicants. Visa application fee through agencies would cost around ₱800 to 1,500. You can also check my blog how I prepared for my visa.

You cannot use the full functions of Google Maps in South Korea aside from transits. Other functions like walking guide, travel via car, and offline maps are not available. You need to download Naver Maps, their local version of maps, for Android and iOS devices. Before you can use the maps, you need internet signal, no offline available. Medyo madamot yung maps nila and I still use it side by side with Google Maps because sometimes, I cannot find it in Naver, I would search it via Google Maps and pin it on Naver Maps.

Most of my itineraries were booked through Klook. You may also opt to book through KKday, just compare their prices to know which has better offers. I would recommend Nami Island and DMZ tour to be purchased online because Nami Island has very expensive transportation when done DIY and DMZ (Demilitarized Zone border of North and South Korea) can only be done through travel agencies. I only brought ₱9,900 (₩180,000), which I exchanged for ₩1 = ₱0.055 in Cubao. It is kinda expensive, while others still offer as high as ₱0.07 per won. I would recommend to exchange most of your money in Myeongdong, near the Seoul Post Office because they offer as low as ₩1= ₱0.044.

Day 1 Arrival

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I am used to traveling alone because I don’t want to wait for someone to be with me before I can travel. I have already traveled alone in Cebu, Bohol, Batangas, Bicol Region, and in Sentosa Island, Singapore. I was lucky to be alone in my row on plane going to Incheon. I arrived 10:20pm at Incheon International Airport, Airport Express (AREX) train closes at 11:00pm. But since I still needed to be cleared from immigration, wait for my baggage, get my KT sim (for ₱1,052 for 5 days of unlimited data) booked through Klook, and bought T Money card for ₩4,000 without load (I just loaded it with ₩10,000) which you can use on Bus, Trains, and cashless transactions on stores, I was forced to ride a bus to Seoul for ₩10,000; because AREX was already closed by the time I’m done with my errands and finally figured out what to do. Train to Seoul from Incheon would only cost you ₩4,250 and vice versa. After buying my bus ticket to Seoul, I immediately went to the bus station of #6002 between gates 5 & 6 and queue, bus ticket can be bought inside the airport.

Accommodation

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Living room of Yakorea Hostel

I booked my accommodation in Yakorea Hostel in Dongdaemun, Seoul via Agoda for ₱2,128.25 for 5 nights (₱425.65/night), bunkbed together with other guests with free locker for your kayamanan and deepest dark secrets in life. You can also book directly in their hostel for ₩10,000 a night. I am not picky to my accommodation because I only stay there to sleep and rest for the night after a day of traveling. Their receptionist and manager, Junhee, is very nice and hospitable which made my stay there more fun and less worries. He is really really nice to lend me an adaptor, because their power outlet is different and weird, for free even it says there that I must pay ₩6,000 to rent it. They also offer kitchen to cook your own food, refrigerator to stock your food, and Wi-Fi for your internet needs.

Yakorea Hostel Dongdaemun is just near Cheonggu train station which is very convenient for travelling. It is also walking-distance away from Dongdaemun History and Cultural Center where they have a night market and a meeting place if you plan to join the Nami Tour from Klook or KKday.

Day 2 Hanbok Rental

I rented a Hanbok at Hanboknam Gyeongbokgung Store through Klook for ₱1,190 for the themed Hanbok (King’s outfit, character costume, etc.) for the whole day (9:00am to 7:00pm). I arrived at the shop around 11am, I rented out the king’s costume. I paid an additional ₩3,000 for the headdress. I didn’t realize that whole day is very long to wear a costume. It is really tiring. I guess, 4 or 6 hours is already enough.

Gyeokbokgung Palace

Gyeokbokgung Palace is just near Hanboknam, one tumbling and kembot away. It is one of the 5 palaces you can visit for free if you are wearing a Hanbok. Don’t get too excited because Gyeongbokgung Palace alone is tiring and you wouldn’t want to see the other palaces anymore because you can sense it that they are all the same. You can have your photo taken with guards at the gate of the palace but be sure not to get too close to them or touch them because you will get reprimanded by the guard of the guards. Hahaha! It was drizzling during the time I visited the palace, so I needed to carry an umbrella, a tripod, and a phone camera to have a decent photo. It was really taxing and exhausting to do things alone while traveling. I had to call my siblings via video conference just to relieve my stress. Hahaha!

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This is my favorite photo in Gyeokbokgung Palace because I passed on the sides to enter the platform, one of the guards of the palace where reprimanding me in Korean, so I wasn’t able to understand. Later I realized that we are prohibited to step in the platform and I wasn’t able to see the sign because it was behind me. Hahahaha! I am sorry.

Hanok Village

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You can walk from Gyeokbokgung Palace to Hanok Village or ride a bus in your costume. I don’t know why some of the tourists where taking photos of me. It is not unusual there to see people walking around in their Hanbok. But I guess, it is rare for them to see men in Hanbok, especially in king’s costume and complete with headdress. Hanok Village is a preserved cultural village with traditionally-designed houses which are private residences of Koreans but at the same time a tourist destination. Be sure to always keep your noises down and avoid disturbing the residents with unnecessary door knocking. It wasn’t really fun to wear costume while it is raining and still Summer in transition to Autumn. It’s really hot and uncomfortable, all my sweat are tracing down my body.

Day 3 Everland (Epic Fail)

I booked a ticket to Everland through Klook for ₱1,595. The problem with Klook is that their voucher has a date on it when you scheduled to go, they did not mention that you can visit the park anytime the voucher is valid. If I knew it earlier, I would have postponed it and visit the park the other day. It was really raining terrible and all the rides were closed. They should have closed the entire park rather than let us in and do nothing inside. I have messaged Klook regarding the issue and they have not replied to my queries.

To get there from Seoul, you can ride the subway and you need to transfer to a bus going to Everland. Just use your Naver maps to give you directions going there.

Everland Safari

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They have a mini safari in Everland where they have several African penguins in their pool, 2 Bengal tigers in their mini paradise with falls, 2 giant pandas from China, a red panda, and a monkey that looks like a human who just woke up.

It wasn’t my first time to see giant pandas, my first time was in Macau, but I am still fascinated with them. It was my first time to see them playing though.

Korea University

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Korea University is one of the premier university in Korea and I am proud to say that one of my friends from my previous work is a scholar studying there due to KOICA. The school is established in 1905, just a little ahead of University of the Philippines. Their buildings are classically designed and their school mascot is a tiger which reminds me of University of Santo Tomas, the same old designed buildings and tiger mascot. I am really to glad to see her in Seoul, it just feels better to have someone with your travel.

After our tour in Korea University, we got hungry and decided to have our dinner at Premium Jjimdak near the university. It is a chicken like adobo with barbecue sauce and the price starts at ₩18,000 for small serving good for 2 to 3 and an addition ₩3,000 for cheese on top of the chicken. It was really delicious and very satisfying. What’s better, itis my friend’s treat! I was saved for a night.

Day 4 Petite France

I was able to buy a tour to Nami Island ang Petite France for ₱1,662 through Klook. I tried checking other blogs if it’s possible for DIY, it is possible; however, it will cost you more because you need to ride a taxi going to and from.

Petite France is a private-owned tourist destination outside Seoul. The owner was very fascinated with France that’s why he built a village similar to the classic houses found in France. There’s nothing really spectacular with the place, unless you like these kind of vibe and you like seeing antique furniture inside the house.

Nami Island (Naminara Republic)

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We arrived near the dock going to Nami Island around 11am and decided to have our lunch first near the dock. Our tour guide, Jennifer already distributed our ticket/visa to Nami Island before our lunch. The food is very expensive, you have a choice of grill or frying. Pork or chicken per serving with lettuce costs ₩12,000 and only good for 1 person, it’s not even unlimited like the samgyeupsal here in the Philippines. I ordered kimchi rice for ₩7,000. Ang maharlika! Nakakaloka! They restaurant has a photo of Luis Manzano and Jessie Mendiola dining in. I think, a lot of Filipinos come there to dine in. I am thankful for Ms. Anna and her daughter Colleen for letting me join them and I wasn’t alone in Nami.

Nami Island or Naminara Republic is an imaginary world created. It has declared its cultural independence from the Republic of Korea, it has its own diplomatic and cultural policies. It has even its own currency and central bank in the island itself. The Island was famous because of the Korean Drama, Endless Love-Winter Sonata which was shown in the early 2000s. The place is said to be pretty during autumn and winter. So, during summer, it just looks like La Mesa Ecopark in Quezon City Hahahaha! They say, Koreans don’t visit the island and I don’t know why. The ferry, to and from Nami Island, leaves every 20 minutes and the travel time is 10 minutes.

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Nami Island has an International Children’s Library which was funded by UNICEF. The design of the library is pretty amazing, they’ve stacked up same-sized books to create a pillar at the center. We were talking among ourselves that these Koreans have so much time to be creative because they don’t even have to think about poverty in their country.

Dongdaemun History and Cultural Center and Night Market

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The Night Market in Dongdaemun is famous for fashion and knocked-off brands for a cheaper cost under the yellow tents. Most of the stuff they sell there are fashion clothes and beauty products. You’ll always see Innisfree and you’ll be inis na. Dongdaenum is famous for wholesale of clothes and fashion accessories. You would be amazed that many people go there with their suitcases for easier transportation of their bought goods.

Their streetfood in Dongdaemun is pretty expensive. They cost at least ₩3,000 each. I tried the cheesecorn. It is a mozarella cheese covered with flour similar to corndogs. It’s good since I am a cheese lover but still expensive for me. I could get a regular meal for ₩6,000 and I am already satisfied for it.

Day 5 Myeongdong Market

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Myeongdong is the place to be for shopping and currency exchange. They offer the best price for your currency compared to airport and in Cubao. It is the Divisoria of Korea. They have different brands of clothing, accessories, beauty products. But the best place to go in Myeongdong is the underground market near the Lotte Theater going to the subway. It is where I bought my souvenirs for a cheaper cost compared to the market above it. They also sell there knock-off KPop goods which are kinda expensive. Don’t be surprised that every corner in Myeongdong has Innisfree, because they really love beauty products. Bawal ata panget sa Korea.

Starfield Library, COEX Mall, Gangnam

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Since my trip to DMZ got cancelled, I needed to reroute and find some other place to go. Starfield Library is a place to go if you have an extra time. It is really huge and nice and it’s inside the COEX Mall in Gangnam. But we don’t think it’s a pretty nice library for reading books because it is quite noisy due to a lot of tourists coming in and it is inside the mall. All of the books there are real but most of them are in Korean.

Bongeunsa Temple

Bongeunsa Temple is just near the COEX mall. It is a Buddhist temple which has greatly propagated in the East Asia as they influence each other a lot. I am fascinated with the Buddhists because they love having large statues of Buddha in all the Buddhist places I have been to. It is an alternative place if you’re like me who got cancelled my initial itinerary due to the typhoon.

Day 6 Departure

My flight back to Manila was 1:10am and arrived at NAIA around 4:20am. I was still able to get back to Marikina before going back to my work in Marinduque.

Expenses

ITEM  KR₩   PH₱ 
Airfare MNL-ICH RT  ₱          4,409.02
Check-In Baggage RT  ₱          2,498.00
Travel Tax  ₱          1,620.00
Visa Fee  ₱                       –
Accommodation 5 Nights  ₱          2,128.25
Everland Ticket (Klook)  ₱          1,595.00
Nami Island + Petite France (Klook)  ₱          1,662.00
Themed Hanbok Rental 1 day (Klook)  ₱          1,190.00
Headdress for Hanbok  ₩           3,000.00  ₱              132.00
KT Sim Data 5 Days  ₱          1,052.00
Bus Incheon to Seoul  ₩         10,000.00  ₱              440.00
T Money Card  ₩           4,000.00  ₱              176.00
T Money Load  ₩         23,000.00  ₱          1,012.00
Lunch at Nami Island  ₩         19,000.00  ₱              836.00
Cheesecorn  ₩           3,000.00  ₱              132.00
Food for 6 Days  ₩         27,400.00  ₱          1,205.60
Souvenirs  ₩         40,000.00  ₱          1,760.00
Letter to Manila  ₩           3,600.00  ₱              158.40
TOTAL  ₱        22,006.27