Tag Archives: seoul searching

The great Seoul-searching trip: Discovering Seoul and Ms. Congeniality

(my thoughts before I fell asleep on my earlier post)

I have always been anti-social, and is happily comfortable with the few friends I managed to make in this lifetime. I don’t talk to strangers and would be glad to be happily left alone, without prying questions or people wanting to make “small talk”.

In Korea, I morphed into a very upbeat version of “Ms. Congeniality” — smiling all the time, exchanging pleasantries with the natives and striking up conversation at the slightest provocation. In the seven days that I have spent in Seoul and Busan, I probably chatted up more people than what I have chatted up in Manila in my lifetime.

I can’t help it. Koreans–in spite the first world awesomeness and their to-die-for beautiful skin–we found out, are a very friendly and amiable bunch.

The Queen and I got lost so many times than we care to admit, but in each and every instance, there will be someone who will not hesitate to talk to us (language barrier be damned!), whip out their smart phones to search for the nearest landmark or the easiest route, or if in doubt, even call another friend to ask for directions and when needed, personally march the sister and I to the place.

I also had a great conversation with a girl who was visiting Nami Island on her own. She borrowed my ballpen and started telling me about the time she’d been to my country about five years ago, as well as some personal issues she had these past few years. This after telling me that she doesn’t speak or understand English, while I was explaining to her that I understand Korean either. While waiting for the train at the Dongdaemun subway, the Queen and I were chatted up by a bunch of grandpas and grandmas who seemed to be amused that two girls from the Philippines were answering their questions.

different languages

It’s impossible to get lost in Seoul. As long as you have the Seoul City Map (you can get one at the Seoul Culture and Tourism Office, located at the 5th Floor of M Plaza in Myeongdong), your korean won (or T Money) and basic common sense, you will not get lost. And if you do, there is always a kind soul who will be very much willing to help. In our case, it’s the aforementioned artistic looking guy in Busan, Key who helped us in Gangnam, Song Hae who helped us located the street nearest the Coffee Prince and the ajumma who helped us find Exit 6 in Busan.

The subway is easily accessible and is very manageable as all signs are printed in English, Chinese, Japanese and of course, Korean. There are also on-air announcements inside the trains, as well as on the subway station.

When going to Gapyeong station and you made the mistake of riding the ITX when you are holding a regular subway ticket (like what happened to the Queen and I on our intended visit to Namirara Island), there are train stewardesses inside the ITX who will sell you the appropriate tickets. No problem, just inform them before hand and they will approach you prior to the end of the trip to sell the tickets.

that's me...freezing at the Gapyeong station

Here’s our itinerary for the blissful six days:
First day:
Arrived in Busan, checked in at the Toyoko Inn 1 (read my review here) and checked out the surroundings. Unfortunately, we got scared by hobos and a lot of drunk guys within the vicinity of the station so we hightailed it back to the hotel as fast as you can say “Lee Min Ho”.

Second day:
Traveled to Seoul, went up the N Seoul Tower and visited the Teddy Bear Museum and Observatory, posted my contribution in the Locks of Love perimeter fence below the N Seoul Tower and went around Myeongdong.

Third day: Our Cultural Day
Went to M Plaza in Myeongdong to visit the Seoul Culture and Tourism Office and posed wearing hanboks, we also picked up a map of Seoul. After a very spicy lunch, we went around Myeongdong and the City Hall area, visited the palaces and the Museum of the Great Sejong. In the evening, we decided to check out Banpo Rainbow Bridge, but it got too late and we had to veto going down on an abandoned tunnel just to see the bridge up close. Anyway, we were able to eat street food in Gangnam. Developed a particularly fond affection for “Odeng” — these are fish cakes skewered on a long stick and served with hot soup.

Fourth Day: The visit to Winter Sonata’s Namirara Island
Spent a day in Namirara where aside from the shoot locations for “Winter Sonata”. Then we spent the day shopping in Myeongdong and pigging out on various street foods we can lay our hands on.

this is where the Winter Sonata first kiss happened

Fifth Day: What is Korea without K-Pop?
We spent the day looking for The First Shop of Coffee Prince”, located in Hongdae. Since this shop is located from the usual hub of activity, the Queen and I got a bit lost until we met Song-hae on the street and veered us towards the right direction. Then, we went around shopping for cosmetics and stuff to bring back home. We also started the day hearing mass in Korean since we missed the English service. The funny thing is, in spite it being in Korean — it was a good service and somehow, I managed to translate the messages inside my head.

Sixth day: Finding Sam-soon’s stairs and Saying goodbye to Seoul and Busan
Went around Mt. Namsan (again) and finally finding the God-forsaken stairs which was featured at the ending of “My Name is Kim San Soon”. MY sister has been looking for this set of stairs for the last four days and we’ve almost circled the rest of the foot of Mt. Namsan until we finally found it before we leave for Busan. Oh my God, I don’t know if I will hug the railing (which is likely dirty with sweat and what not) or find a danged jackhammer and blast the stairs to pieces so that I will not have to visit it again when I come back.

Incidentally, my sister marked her 30th birthday during our last day in Seoul and she celebrated it with a huge lunch at this over-priced resto in Namsan. Apparently, the restaurant was featured in some of Korea’s top TV programs hence the heavy price tag.

…on my next post, how much did I spent for the six day trip? Let’s say, it’s less than what you think.

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The great Seoul-Searching trip, Part 1

Here comes the overdue post about the great Seoul-Searching trip. One thing you have to understand is that the sister and I were the types of people who prefer to travel on their own, without a travel agency directing our every move. This preference (and the fact that we don’t want to spend money on tour arrangements) has made me a research hound, exhausting all possible informing online, through forums and blogs about South Korea.

I made a solid itinerary, good for six days and booked our lodging online–an overnight stay at Toyoko Inn No. 1 in Busan and a six-day stay on a non-sharing guest house run by Zaza Backpackers located at the busy Myeongdong area.

We arrived in Busan just as it was getting colder, after all it was already past nine in the evening when the plane landed in Busan. We looked for the limousine bus (headed for downtown Busan and Nampadong area and the Busan Train Station), almost got lost but was kindly given assistance by an artiste-nerdy type guy who was also taking the same night trip to Busan station area. We encountered many angels during our seven-day trip…that guy was the first one. After a very quick dinner at the Lotteria across the street (Seoul’s version of McDonald’s, with a more interesting menu line-up), we retired to our room at the efficient and comfortable Toyoko Inn No. 1 directly across the Busan Station since we had an early trip tomorrow going to Seoul and we were dead beat due to the flight. Personally, I was exhausted due to the fact that I was still working and doing last-minute projects at work prior to catching the 4PM flight out of Manila.

Arriving in Seoul

one of the many entrance to Mt. Namsan

My sister and I took the 8AM KTX trip going to Seoul. The trip took roughly two hours and 45 minutes, and the legs of the trip end exactly at Seoul Station, the gleaming, high-techy train station located right at the heart of the city. In our third-world trained eyes, the train station looked more like our country’s airport. Immediately, the small wonders never failed to amaze us: how the KTX had train stewardesses dressed in impeccable uniform and cute flower hair clips; how the station seemed to be an endless hum of activity; our jaws dropped seeing office girls with their equally cute boyfriends in tow flaunting gorgeous dresses and shoes-to-die-for!

Welcome to the first world, girls!

After our quick check-in at Zaza Backpackers, we headed to Mt. Namsan to try the cable car, to see the N Seoul Tower up close and most importantly, drop my contribution to the Locks of Love perimeter fence below the N Seoul Tower. I bought this miniature lock on my building’s resident 711 for PHP65 (USD2) and carried it from Manila to Seoul. I quickly wrote me and the Hubby’s name on one side and then the name of my whole family (i.e. mom, dad, bro and sis)on the other side. I guess, if I can’t bring my whole family to Seoul…then I am bringing their names with me.

…to be continued

My Week in Seoul in Photos (Days 67-71 of Project 365)

You do know that I have lots to tell you about Korea. How it was one of the best places I’ve been to. 

Granted, Seoul and Busan are beautiful places with nary any trash in sight (lots of cigarette butts though) and wide roads and amazing sights. 

But the best for me is discovering how kind and warm Koreans are. We have been saved from being utterly lost in the streets of Busan and Seoul by kind strangers who in spite the language barrier, helped with all their heart. They even called friends to check on directions and insisted on accompanying two lost people to wherever direction they might be going. 

I always thought that Koreans were a bunch of good looking people, apparently–their beauty go beyond the physical. Kamsahamnida and Saranghae, Korea!

 

Day 67

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Day 68

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Day 69

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Day 70

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Day 71

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Weekend photos (Day 60-61 of Project 365)

it's gonna be co---o---oooold!
Day 60

Do you wanna know how I look like when I am stressed with work?
Day 61

Still with last minute preparations for the great Seoul Searching trip happening this Wednesday.
These pictures were taken Thursday and Friday while I was working non-stop. Thursday, on a last minute event that made me cry out of frustration and Friday–where I had to be stuck in a whole day meeting while answering e-mails in between. (Yes, my strategy was to sneak out of the meeting by pretending to be on a “pee break” then head straight to my desk where I will answer emails in between).

Yes, I am such a freaking good employee.

As you can see on my picture for Thursday, weather in Seoul is between 10 degrees to a negative 2, thus I am planning to visit my friendly neighborhood ukay-ukay to look for cold-weather clothes. As much as I love to stay in Seoul on a long-term basis, being stuck frozen on the banks of the Han River is not included in my agenda.

Infinite Seoul!

A quick update on the great Seoul Searching trip.
Zaza Guesthouse finally confirmed our reservation. But as part of their process, I have to email them thrice within the span of two weeks (between now and before date of departure) to inform them that yes, we are coming. It’s one of their requirements apparently to finalize reservation. Given that they do not require their guests to deposit any money to confirm their reservation, I would gladly email them everyday.

Just checked online and apparently, my Blackberry will not work in Korea. I have a Blackberry Curve 8520 and apparently it’s still 2G so no dice 😦 Just when I managed to buy that danged fone a new case with purple kitty ears.

We still do not have a complete itinerary. Hopefully, I’ll get to finish it within the week since we’re just two weeks away from the trip. Managed to also submit my Leave Form notice while “gomenasai-ing” on the powers that be. After all, I will be out of the office for three days and I already dread the possibility of seeing my office email with all the unopened email notices.

From researching and reading online, I am getting a feeling that the sister and I will be walking great distances during our 6 day stay. Not bad for me since this will be my exercise while I’m there. Can’t wait for the first week of March!