We haven't even left Seoul yet but my friend, Pat, and I were already planning our return. We, along with some other friends, went there during autumn last November with the colors of yellow and orange accentuating the city. It made me curious how South Korea would look like during spring with other colors in bloom. Like I said in one of my previous entries about about Seoul, even before the halyu wave rose and even before I knew what "k-pop" meant, I have always been fascinated with the megacity. And true enough, I fell in love with it during our first visit.
|View from our room.|
I was so awed by my experience, I realized I've never really written a detailed blog entry about it. So while searching for promo fares that would take us again to my now-favorite city, I decided to do one based on a first-timer's experience since I've had friends asking me for travel tips.
I already wrote about all the lovely and unique cafes you'll find in Seoul (Read about them here). So I thought I'd write about some of the must-see places in the city.
|In front of the Gyeongbogkung Palace.|
"It was in 1395, three years after the Joseon Dynasty was founded by Yi Seong-gye, when the construction of the main royal palace was completed and the capital of the newly founded dynasty moved from Gaeseong to Seoul (then known as Hanyang). The palace was named Gyeongbokgung, the "Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven"." (via http://royalpalace.go.kr)
We were there around 10:00am and the place was already filled with tourists. We were lucky we made it in time for the changing of the guards.
Entering the palace gates was like traveling back in time. Aside from the throne room, inside the palace compound were different hanoks or traditional Korean houses.
|Right out of a time capsule. This particular area reminded of the Chinese film, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon".|
At that time, the temperature has already dropped to negative four degrees and I was tempted to cut our tour short so I could warm myself inside the cafe by the palace perimeters. I'm glad I didn't. Further into the compound was this majestic garden.
It took us about an hour and a half to explore the whole place. And it was when my friend Tonee, whose been to South Korea a gazillion times, showed me her photos of the Gyeongbogkung Palace during spring that made me decide I'm definitely going back to see how it would look like dotted with hues of pink, red, yellow, and blue.
Seoul-si Jongno-gu Sejong-ro 1-1
For more info: +82-2-3700-3900~1, 738-9171
March to October 09:00-18:00 / November to February 09:00-17:00
* Admission is available until one hour before closing time.
* Operating hours can be changable for cultural assets protection and visitors safety
Adults (ages 19-64) 3,000 won (USD 2.53)
Youths (ages 7-18) 1,500 won (USD 1.26)
*Age 6 and under are free.
1. Use exit #5 of Gyeongbokgung Station (Subway Line #3),
2. From Exit #2 of Ganghwamun Station (Subway Line #5), walk 400 meters
Since during our first day our trustee guide, Tonee, wasn't with us yet, we made the mistake of going to the NSeoul Tower at night.
"Seoul Tower opened to the public on October 15, 1980 and has since become a major tourist attraction. The 236.7m Seoul Tower sits atop Namsan Mountain (243m), Seoul Tower offers panoramic views of Seoul and the surrounding areas. The view is so stunning that many consider Seoul Tower the best tower in Asia." (via http://english.visitkorea.or.kr)
We barely reached the based of the tower when we decided to we couldn't stand the freezing cold. So we never really got a chance to go up the famous tower. But it's definitely one of the must-see places in Seoul. So I made a mental note: When you go back, visit the NSeoul Tower during daylight.
Before we left, though, I managed to bear a few minutes of cold to take this photo:
|The NSeoul Tower at night.|
Seoul-si Yongsan-gu Yongsandong
2-ga San 1-3
FOR MORE INFO
(Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Teddy Bear Museum: 10:00-22:00 (Last entry: 21:00)
Restaurants (n.GRILL/Hancook): 11:00-23:00
The place dining: 11:00-24:00 (Last seating: 23:00)
Teddy Bear Museum: 10:00-22:00
Chungmuro Station (Subway Line 3 or 4), Exit 2.
Take Bus 2 (08:00-24:00/5min intervals) or Bus 5 (07:30-23:50/15min intervals) to N Seoul Tower.
Itaewon Station (Subway Line 6), Exit 4.
Take Bus 3 (08:00-23:00/10min intervals) to N Seoul Tower.
*Exchange rate as of posting date:
1,000 KRW = USD 0.84
Lotte World is definitely a place where you can let loose the kid in you. If striped socks and conspicuous headdresses are normally tagged as weird, inside Lotte World, you'll feel right at home wearing them.
"Located in the heart of the city, Lotte World is the perfect spot for entertainment and sightseeing. It is a theme park filled with thrilling rides, an ice rink, different kinds of parades as well as a folk museum, a lake, and much more. About 6,000,000 visitors are welcomed every year, and about 10% of the visitors are foreigners. The structure inside makes use of the natural sunlight, and it is open for visitors all year round, regardless of the weather."
|A saleslady modelling one of the hairbands for sale.|
|The Minnie Mouse Club! Donning on our own headpieces :)|
It doesn't matter if you look a little eccentric or act goofy. All that matters is you're having fun! You could say we were the perfect example--enjoying the rides and screaming at the top of our lungs both from the thrill of the ride and the freezing cold!
|In line for our first ride!|
|The queue for the giant rollercoaster. We really wanted to try it but the line was soooooo long looping around the perimeter not only once, twice, but thrice.|
|One of the death-defying rides inside the Lotte World.|
And of course, if this fairytale-like sight doesn't make you feel like a kid, I don't know what will.
And, of course, any amusement part wouldn't be complete without the grand carousel.
And if you're lucky, you just might catch one of their mini-concerts. (K-pop, of course.)
Seoul-si Songpa-gu Jamsil-dong 40-1
(Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Mon - Thu : 09:30 - 22:00
Fri - Sun : 9:30 - 23:00
Jamsil Station, Subway Line 2 & 8, Exit #4 (Direct access from station)
*Exchange rate as of posting date: 1,000 KRW = USD 0.84
Bukchon Hanok Village
It was by accident that we ended up in Bukchon during our first night. (READ: We got lost. Haha.) We made the most out of it by eating at this quaint Italian restaurant then decided to go back the next day. And when we finally did, I was charmed by the lovely village. If I were to live in Seoul, this is one of the areas I would like to settle in.
"Surrounded by Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine, Bukchon Hanok Village is home to hundreds of traditional houses called 'hanok' that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. The name, 'Bukchon,' which literally translates to 'northern village,' came about as the neighborhoods that the village covers lie to the north of the two significant Seoul landmarks, Cheonggyecheon Stream and Jongno. Today, many of these hanoks operate as cultural centers, guesthouses, restaurants and tea houses, providing an opportunity to experience, learn and immerse in Korean traditional culture." (via http://english.visitkorea.or.kr)
It's actually a residential village. But the houses are so beautiful, it's like an outdoor urban museum.
BUKCHON HANOK VILLAGE
Seoul-si Jongno-gu Gahoe-dong,
Jae-dong, Samcheong-dong, Gye-dong, Wonseo-dong
Anguk Station (Line 3), Exit 2.
Go straight for about 300m to arrive at Bukchon Hanok Village.
The Namsangol Hanok Village
For a peek at the traditional Korean culture, the Namsangol Hanok Village is another must-see.
"On the side you will see five traditional houses. These houses were rebuilt after the traditional houses of Joseon Dynasty and belong to those of various social classes, ranking from peasants to the king. The furniture in the house is situated to help guests understand the daily life of the past, and the clean, traditional houses and their antique items provide a great photo op."
|By the village walls.|
|Inside: a re-enactment of a traditional Korean household.|
|Feeling the culture. Me trying out the turo, Korea's traditional game of arrow throwing.|
NAMSANGOL HANOK VILLAGE
Seoul-si Jung-gu Pildong 2(i)-ga 84-1
• 1330 tt call center: +82-2-1330
(Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
• For more info: +82-2-2264-4412 , +82-2-2266-6923(Korean)
(English, Korean, Japanese, Chinese)
Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway Line 3 or 4 Exit 4
Walk along Hanongmaeul-gil st. for 5 minutes.
Take Bus 104, 105, 263, 604, or 7011.
Get off in front of at 'Twegye 3 (sam)-ga Hanongmaeul'
Walk to the exit4 of Chungmuro Station, then along Hanongmaeul-gil st. for 5 minutes.
Another one of my favorite areas! And we were lucky enough that the guesthouse we were staying in time was just a stone throw's away from Hongdae.
"The area surrounding Hongik University, or 'Hongdae' (홍대) as it's affectionately called, is the center of Korea's youthful nightlife. Many of Seoul's idiosyncratic clubs that draw the younger set are clustered in the area, and on the last Friday of every month these clubs host a 'Club Day.' " (via http://english.visitkorea.or.kr)
While the area is known for it's nightlife, a stroll down the strip in daytime is a treat in itself since the Fine Arts students of the Hongik University have made its walls their canvass.
In Hongdae, you can while away your time reading or having a good conversation in one of the charming cafes in area.
Hongik Univ. Station 홍대입구 역 (Seoul Subway line No.2), Exit No.6.
Like I said before, our visit to Seoul was one of those trips I wasn't able to fully research on. But during our five days in the city, I was able to pick up some pretty useful tips:
Always bring a map or your hotel's business card with you. While they are very helpful, Koreans speak very little English. So when finding your way or riding a cab, it would be best if you point the place you're going to on the map or show your hotel's business card so they'd know where to take you.
Buy a Seoul T-Card. The Seoul Metropolitan Subway or Metropolitan Subway in is one of the most efficient ways in exploring the city. T-Cards (or transportation cards) are used as tickets for the subway. You may purchase a T-Card, load it up with money, and then later on consume the remaining credits in stores where they honor T-Cards.
Plus, Seoul T-Cards have the cutest designs ;)
You can use your credit card to pay for your cab. All cabs in in Seoul have GPS devices and credit card swipe machines. So in case you need to take a cab but haven't had the chance you change your cash to Korean Won yet, you may use your credit card.
Always have a small bottle of petroleum jelly in your bag. Cold weather = chapped lips. 'Nuf said.
Street food are a must try! Don't be fooled by how weird they look. Take one bite and you'll definitely want more!
Learn the basic Korean phrases. I believe learning the local language is a must for any trip abroad :)
So there. With all that said, I'm ready to my next trip to Seoul. Now, back to hunting for promo fares. Annyeonghi-gaseyo for now!