2017 South Korea Tour Day 7 & 8. Friends, Cheonan, Goodbyes

I’ve always loved learning different kinds of culture. You must be surprised but because I am a sageuk (historical) drama fan, I came to know many of the historical figures in Korea.

For this post, let me show you my last two days in SK.

Day 7
– Visited my friends in Cheonan
– Independence Hall of Korea

Day 8
– Jongmyo Shrine
– Ginseng at Lotte Mall Duty Free Shop

 

Day 7

Independence Hall (Cheonan, South Korea)

It was literally a long walk but a good one. I was in awe and I felt how grand it was. This place is too big to walk around. There are 7 exhibition halls and I got to enter each one of these halls. It was an educational walk starting from the pre-historic Korea up to the liberation from Japanese regime. It was very organized that I wish I could see one in my country.

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The Grand Hall.

The Independence Hall of Korea displays Korean historical documents and relics from the past to the present, focusing on the independence movements of the Japanese Colonial Period. Originally the interim Government Building of Korea in China, the building was brought over to Korea after the nation was liberated from Japanese colonial rule on August 15, 1945. The Independence Hall officially opened on the anniversary of Independence Day on August 15, 1987 and now boasts seven exhibition halls, the Circle Vision Theater, and other facilities commemorating Korea’s struggle for freedom. (Source: Visit Korea website)

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Monument of the Nation

The monument to the nation which expresses the soar of the nation resembles the wings of a bird flying up in the sky and the hands folded to make a prayer. It expresses the perpetual spirit of the nation in the past, present and future. It also holds the will towards sovereignty and independence of the nation. There is a sculpture carving of the althea and Taegeukgi on the front and back. There are mosaic pieces that symbolizes the four faithfuls, Cheongryeong, Baekho, Jujak and Hyeonmu, on the four sides in the monument. It is a large structure that is 51m high. (Source: Independence Hall of Korea website.)

 

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The Statue of Indomitable Koreans

 

Meeting friends

It has been 10 years since I last met them. It’s always amazing to have friends from other parts of the globe. I love them both! Meet my friends Freddie and Joanne. They were very supportive and I found out we are recently crazy about one Korean TV drama: Goblin. She gave me a photo book!*cries*

 

 

Day 8

Jongmyo Shrine

My flight back home was 4:00 in the afternoon. I still have half a day to go around. Plus, I had to go back to Lotte Duty Free in Myeongdong to buy fresh ginseng for my parents. Since the store opens a bit late, I decided to go to Jongmyo Shrine. I was lucky to witness a ceremony.

Jongmyo is the supreme state shrine where the spirit tablets of the deceased kings and queens are enshrined and sacrificial rites are performed for them based on Confucian principal.

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Hall of Eternal Peace
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Fish Head protecting the houses and buildings
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King’s carriage. I am not quite sure if it is a real one. When I looked at it closely, I just thought it was too small… hehe
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Walking around Jongmyo.  I love the colors. It’s just spring so I wonder how it looks in fall.
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Things used during the ceremonies

Travel tips:

1. I didnt know I could get to Cheonan for a lesser cost. I worried that my T money was not enough to cover for my fare so I reloaded. Then after reloading, I’ve learned that I could go to Cheonan without using the KTX! In fact, it was just one ride without transfer from my hotel. Cool~

2. It was a relaxing trip. By the way, I didnt buy any agency package. I planned and researched all the places I went to. So, I didnt have to force my self to wake up very early. I can travel at my own pacing.

3. I am a regular viewer of a top Korean travel variety show 2 Days 1 Night so I already have ideas on which places i’d like to go to.

4. My flight back to Aklan was 4:55 in the afternoon Philippine time. I took the subway to Seoul station. By 1:00 I was already traveling back to the airport. It was my first time to be in SK and the airport is too big that I had to take shuttle train inside the airport. I was just right in time because I just waited for around 30 mins before the boarding.

5. The decision of taking Aklan International Airport instead of going to manila was for convenience. First, the queue in the immigration is not that long compared to that in Manila. You can check which departure point is convenient for you. Second, it’s cheaper! I had more or less 3k CEBPAC promo fare going to SK (cheaper than flight Manila-Incheon), and a bit over 7k back via Airasia (It’s summer in the Phils that’s probably the reason why the fare back is more expensive.)

6. I just dont like airbnb because it is expensive. Their site didnt give me exact amount in the search. I learned that they are adding more charge if you are traveling with others. Agoda.com gave me good deals.

7. Agoda mobile app is better than the PC version. There are some deals which are cheaper in mobile app but expensive in web version.

Useful Sites:
https://www.rome2rio.com/
http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/
http://english1.president.go.kr/tours/information.php
http://www.letskorail.com/
http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/TRV/TV_ENG_3_7.jsp
https://www.agoda.com/ ( As I know Agoda has special arrangements with hotels.)

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2017 South Korea Tour Day 6. Palaces Tour

My whole day was spent walking because my hotel was near Gwanghwamun square.

– Sejong Dae Wang Monument
– Sejong Dae Wang exhibition hall
– Gyeongbukgung
– Cheong Hwa Dae (Blue House, Official Presidential Residence)
– Changdeukgung
– Changgyeonggung
– Cheongyejeon

Cancelled Tour:
– DMZ & Joint Security Area Tour
– presidential Rresidence Tour

 

Sejong Dae Wang Monument (King Sejong’s Monument)

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King Sejong Monument

Above is King Sejong’s monument with his distinguishing achievements during this reign. Some of the changes he initiated during his reign was the 1.) Ban on lawsuits against public administrators; 2.) Maternity Leave on Bondwomen 3.) Opinion Survey on Farmland tax system 4.) Financial Aid to Poor Bachelors to Help with Matrimonial Prospects. (Isn’t that amazing?!) Underneath this monument is a museum where one can learn more about this great King.

 

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He is best remembered as the inventor of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet. It is one of the most scientific language/system of writing. I remember the historical drama “Tree with deep roots.” A heart-warming story of how the King came up with the idea of creating Hangeul.

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The screen which shows the sun, moon, 5 peaks and waves is generally placed behind the throne during the Joseon Dynasty period.

 

Gyeongbukgung

Gyeongbukgung is the main palace. It literally means “The new dynasty will be greatly blessed and prosperous.” It is a heaven for photographers. I’ve taken lots of pictures but it cannot fully tell the awesome feeling i had when I walked through the area. It was like walking through the same path the people in Joseon era did.  I just love it!

I remember the drama “The Great Seer”, which retells the story of the great King Taejo (Lee Seong Gye), the first King of Joseon dynasty. If my recollection is correct, Gyeongbukgung is built based on geomancy. So, it is perfectly situated where it is. The beautiful view of the mountain and the sky was just splendid to my eyes. It was a feast!

 

Changdeokgung

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It is the most unique of the palaces as it was built in harmony with the landscape. It is very spacious. It is used a secondary palace during the Joseon Era

 

Changeonggung

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This palace is built for the elders of the Royal Family to live. I remember that it has a beautiful garden and a pond inside. The Grand Greenhouse inside this palace is Korea’s first modern conservatory built in 1990.

 

Cheon Hwa Dae

Since I am around the area, I did not miss a chance to pass by the Cheon Hwa Dae. Known as the Blue House, it is the residence of the Korean President.

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Tongin Market and Doshirak Cafe

Facing Gyeongbukgung, you can walk towards the left of the palace to the direction of Cheon Hwa Dae. I think it was around midway that I asked people around of Tongin Market. I had a lot of walking. There were many cafes and restaurants around the area because there were many public and private office there. However, I decided to look for Tongin Market to experience doshirak cafe. “Doshirak” literally means lunch box. You can exchange your 5000won to some brass coins to experience buying the traditional way. Well, there are lots of selection there but I only had what my stomach can handle.

Cheonggyecheon Stream

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I got lost in Seoul that evening. But, I ended up passing by the beautiful Cheongyecheon stream. I just wish I had better camera to capture it.

Boshingak

Another discovery when I got lost is the Boshingak Bell Pavilion.

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Travel tips:

1. Wear a comfortable shoes these places take a lot of walking. I basically visited almost every area of the 3 palaces. Sorry but you’ll see lots of houses because i love them. These are major palaces so I could not imagine how I managed to do it.

2. I paid for a combined palace tour so I didnt have to wait in line whenever i go to other palaces. It also saved me money.

3. There is Tongin Market on the (viewer’s) left of Gyeongbuk Palace. (just wall and ask people) There you could experience buying using the traditional brass coin, and eating at Doshirak (lunch box) cafe. There were many students during my visit. The food was very cheap. It’s my first time visiting a traditional market and eating there..

4. There is a tour at the Blue House. I even managed to book for my cousin and I on April 8. However, we were not able to attend it due to conflict of schedule. I tried booking again around 2 weeks before my flight to Sk but there is no slot anymore. If you plan to go there, better manage your schedule well.

5. April 13 was supposedly a DMZ & JSA tour. My tour agency has already confirmed and it is with Cosmojin (http://cosmojin.com/). Blame it to North Korea, the UN decided to ban all tours temporarily. I was so excited but maybe that was not the time for it. This gives me reason to go back.

6. I booked a tour inside the Presidential residence but was not able to make it there. If you are interested to visit, you can check http://english.president.go.kr/

7. My last place to visit was Changgyeonggung, from there I learned how to commute by bus. Bus No. 150 passes through Jongno 3(sam)ga and the Sejong Daero area.

8. If you are planning to visit Secret Garden you have to book early. They only sell 100 tickets.

9. Rent a Hanbok, if you really want to feel how it is living in the past

10. There is a locker inside Changdeukgung where you could leave your heavy luggage. You just need to insert 100W coin to lock it.

My South Korea Tour Day 4 – Seoul City Tour

Itinerary

Busan ==> Myeongdong ==> Lotte World (Duty Free) ==> Heo Joon Jae’s House (Lee Min Ho’s house in Legend of the Blue Sea) ==> N Seoul Tower ==> Myeongdong Street Food & more shopping ==> Jimjilbang experience

 

Accommodation:  Khaosan Seoul Insadong Guesthouse. 56 Gwansu-dong, Jongro, Seoul, South Korea.

 

Fresh Ginseng and Souvenir at Lotte Duty Free

We left Busan with a heavy heart. We felt that we could have had more fun had it not for the weather. After breakfast, we fixed our things and went to Busan KTX station. We arrived earlier than our schedule in the station so asked the ticketing officer if we could change it for an earlier schedule, and they allowed. By the way, we booked our hostel (Khaosan) for April 10 and 11, 2017, thinking that we have enough time to leave some of our luggage but we were not able to do it as we went straight away to the Seoult KTX station to wait for our train to Busan.

This is basically our first day around Seoul because we mostly went to places outside the metro. Our first stop of the day was in Myeongdong tourist information center. Hehe  We were not very familiar with the area, and we didnt want to waste time searching for places without any hint. In the tourist information center they gave us instruction and map… several maps of Seoul and Myeongdong, actually.

Myeongdong was like a wonderland to us. Indeed, it’s a shopping haven.  There’s sale everywhere! (However, my student told me that products are always on sale there.)  LOL The shopping district was still busy despite the news on fewer number of tourist after the ban on group packages from China.

To be able to explore this urban jungle, we filled our stomach with several servings of samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly) and some soondubu jjigae (soft tofu stew). Then, we went around to look for a ginseng store but we could not find a store that sells ginseng in the bottle. Then we headed to Lotte Duty Free… and we found a ginseng store. It’s just that it’s not in the bottle. The sales manager instructed us how to make our own ginseng inside a liquor bottle. I did not buy anything yet as I will be staying longer than them. Plus I’d like to stroll around with my hands free. My phone, camera and shoulder bag was enough. I bought my ginseng on my 7th day. I placed it in a bottle with wine instead of soju and gave it to my parents. I’ll take pictures of them when I go my parent’s house.

 

Heo Joon Jae’s House (Legend of the Blue Sea)

Did I mention that my cousin is an avid Lee Min Ho fan? Well, she is and she is recently watching LOTBS. I remember I was tagged by my younger sister of a blog. This was seen by my cousin and she particularly saved it. Thanks to it, we were like teenagers in front of their crush’s house. It was very accessible. It’s just on the nearest stair on your right when you go to Namsan Tower.

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Ommo!

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Namsan Tower (N Seoul Tower)

We reached N Seoul Tower by cable car. But, going up to the cable car station was like a Holy Week hike. It was a tough climb for us who are not used to hilly places. However, the perseverance paid off because we were just right before the time the influx of tourists arrived. There was a queue but it moves fast. After few minutes, we were already on top…to be surprised of several more climbs. LOL

The temperature was dropping, added to the fact that we were on a higher altitude.

 

Myeongdong Street Food

My being foodie enjoyed exploring Myeongdong Street food. My friends loved it too. In fact, we didn’t get to have dinner because we stuffed ourselves a lot from fruits to bread and spicy stuffs. I did not and I could not take pictures because my hands were full. While my friends were looking for more souvenirs, I stopped over several stalls and bought snacks for us. I love the bread with egg on top.

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Some of my favorite Korean food. Fish cake & Fried Dumplings
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We had a chitchat with the ajusshi selling fish cake and dumplings. It was fun and our laughter added to the noise of the district. The ajusshi was actually teasing me that I should not eat there with my friends because I bought my fish cake from another stall. LOL

 

Jimjilbang Experience

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Tada! We just became a certified Korean fan.

When you finally had a chance to visit Korea as your dream tourist destination, you’ll probably regret not being able to visit a sauna. At this point in time, it was already like 11:30 in the evening. But, it was my cousin’s last night (My other friends already left for the airport. They had early morning flight and they could not risk missing the plane.) We decided to ask out hostel employee if there is a nearest sauna. We were just happy to know that there was one nearby… and so, off we go!

Philippines do not have a public bath culture. More so, naked people in the same place. I have expected this but still it shocked me. We just want to experience the culture. However, since it was already late at night, some places were already dark, the lights were turned off. So, kept on looking for a good place just to have our picture taken. We also searched Youtube for a video instruction on how to fold the towel. LOL

Korean Sports Massage

It was one of the most memorable experience I had in Korea. I love having a massage. In fact, I make it a habit to have it at least once a month. Massage is perfect to loosen up our muscle. And sports massage was perfect for me that that time. My entire body, particularly my feet were basically tired. The massage therapist was very good at hitting the right point. It felt really relaxing that I was able to sleep well. I’m definitely going to try it again when I go back. (I just wish I can find it here in my City.)

 

Travel Tips:

1. From our guesthouse we took the subway to Myeongdong. We went to Lotte Duty free to buy Ginseng and “pasalubong”. To get there, we went to a tourist information office and got free maps. Yes, maps are free and detailed. I got plenty of them. Myeongdong’s pretty big and there are many cosmetics shops. Actually, there are similar shops in every corner. Tourist information offices made our tour a bit easier.

2. Since we want to go to N Seoul Tower while there is still sun, we decided to stop shopping first and walked from Myeongdng to N Seoul tower cable car station. Just head to the direction of Pacific hotel. There is a bus going there from Myeongdong but since we were short of time, we just walked uphill…It was like a Holy Week sacrifice for us! LOL

3. Our exhausting climb seemed nothing when we came across Heo Joon Hae’s house. Yes, you read it right! it’s just near the stairs before you reach the N Seoul cable car station.

4. Since this is a popular tourist destination, expect long queue. We just got lucky because when we arrived there weren’t much tourist before us. But after few minutes, the station was already full.

5. If you expect all the climbing stops when you take the cable car, forget about it. LOL. There’s more climb to the get to the top. Plus, it’s unexpectedly chilly too.

6. Back to Myeongdong, we didn’t have dinner because we had so much of gastronomic delight from all the street foods.

7. There is tax refund. So, if you want to get it, you have to make sure that you inform the salesperson and request for a receipt you can use to claim it in the airport. In my case, I had regular receipt. I wasn’t aware that I had to exchange it for another one. So, it cant be scanned in the airport.

8. There was a jimjilbang near our guesthouse so, of course, my cousin and I took chance to experience it.

9. We had sports massage there for like 30,000W. I am not sure if it is cheap or not. hehe all I know was that it was a relaxing experience after all the walk.

My South Korea Tour Day 3. “2D1N in Busan”

Itinerary

 Pyeongchang ==> Seoul KTX Station ==> Train to Busan ==>  Jagalchi Market ==>  BIFF Square ==> Yongdusan Park ==> Gwangan Beach & Bridge

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In the original plan, we should leave Pyeongchang before 7 o’clock in the morning. But, it would be rude to just leave the deliciously prepared breakfast by our lovely host couple.  Look at those beautiful colors! We were definitely full and ready for the long trip down south. We left our holiday home later than expected.

 

Busan Tour

To complete our Korea tour, we decided to take KTX train to Busan. Nope. We did not have zombies on board. But, surely we had a lot of funny, memorable and not so memorable experiences on this trip.

 

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KTX to Busan.

 

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KTX to Busan. We booked our Korail Pass night before our trip. Since we are traveling in group we decided to book a 2-day flex group saver pass so we could save from our transportation expense.

We were pressed with time to redeem our voucher for the KTX ride. We kept running here and there. My cousin and I were the younger ones that could move fast so we decided to facilitate everything. We knew that tickets should be printed but still we took our chance to just show a soft copy along with our passport and credit card used to book it. When we arrived at the KTX station to redeem our reservation, we were advised to have it printed. Good thing there is a public computer that gives access to internet and printer inside the Seoul KTX station. We used our tap card to pay for it.

We had a bad experience on this machine station though. Ahead of  us were 2 Thai males who didn’t seem to figure out how to use the machine as well. Realizing that the queue was already long, they stepped aside. When we took over and paid our part. Then, they offered to “help” us. Unfortunately, they just tricked us! They used our money and time for their own use, printed their own ticket and left. Charged to experience. Thank goodness we made it in time. It was crazy! Come to think of it. We finished everything in less than 30 minutes and we had still 15 minutes before our train arrives.

TIP: We confirmed our ticket back to Seoul in Seoul KTX station so we didn’t have to take the queue in Busan KTX station the next day.

Assigned Seat. KTX has pre-assigned seat. It was funny but probably due to excitement to take our seat and eat our kimbap (it was past 1 o’clock in the afternoon, by the way.), we didn’t even remember to check our seat number. When we saw four seats facing each other (and with a table) I know our eyes dazzled as if we found a treasure. LOL! We did not hesitate to take it. It was until our first bite, when the ticket inspector asked us, that we wished we could hide ourselves from embarrassment. (^_^) Good thing my cousin took the tickets with her in the toilet. We made an excuse and he left. We surreptitiously moved to our assigned seat laughing.

Internet. Yes. Our fingers have been itching to post an update in social media site. We were finally on board train to Busan! Thankfully, we had good access of free internet en route to our destination.

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And we were finally here! #BusanKTXStation

When we thought that Busan is warmer because it’s in the south, we were actually caught unprepared. The weather was rainy so the wind was chilly. Later on, my Korean friend who grew up in Busan told me that it’s actually a “rain city” because it often rains there. (Just like my hankies, I think I lost 2 umbrellas with me here. LOL).

 

 

Popcorn Hostel Nampo

South Korea, Busan, Jung-gu, 자갈치로47번길 6-1.

This hostel is very cheap and ideal for backpackers. I booked it through Agoda. We paid like 550pesos each. Not bad for overnight stay. (Upon updating this blog, I saw the website of Popcorn Hostel. It’s a great improvement because I think they didn’t have it when I booked it (or did they?)

 

BIFF Square

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Our hostel is located conveniently within the city center. It’s pretty near the Jagalchi Market (smaller arc behind me) and the BIFF Square.

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BIFF Square is just right across our hostel. At the entrance, we were welcomed by these food stalls. It was rainy yet many people were still strolling around. While taking pictures of each other, one ajumma called our attention and told us to move while murmuring. It turned out that were covering her stall from prospective customers.

 

Going around BIFF Square

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Yongdusan Park (Busan Tower)

A lot of our plans in Busan got cancelled due to rain. So, we just decided to explore nearby tourist attractions. A leisurely walk brought us to a Buddhist temple beneath a hilly slope, then we found a stair, which seemed to be never-ending. Our curiosity on what’s there to see brought us on top of Yongdusan Park. We only realized it when we’re already up there.

 

 

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Few steps more to Busan Tower. On this day, my phats were crying. LOL
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Citizen’s Bell

 

 

 

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This could have been a better view had we gotten a chance to enter Busan tower. The place was already close when we arrived. The buildings behind us were actually skyscrapers, but we only got this view.
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Flower clock, General Lee Soon Shin’s Monument and Busan tower in my background.

 

 

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Busan Tower Upclose

 

 

 

Gwanganlli (Gwangan Bridge)

When in Busan, one should not miss to see the waters. Either you go to Haeundae or Gwangan Beach or both. In our case, however, we just visited Gwangan Beach. Aside from the fact that we could see the beautiful diamond bridge, we wanted to have seafoods for dinner too, but we just could not find one because it’s hard for us to navigate our location.

 

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Gwangan Bridge at night.

 

Gwangan Bridge (popularly known as Gwanganlli to many tourists), is a suspension bridge located in Busan, South Korea. It connects Haeundae-gu to Suyeong-gu. The road surface is about 6,500 meters long, with the bridge as a whole spanning 7,420 meters. It is the longest bi-level bridge over the ocean in Korea. In addition to providing a quick way to get around, the bridge offers breathtaking views of nearby attractions such as Oryukdo Island, Hwangnyeongsan Mountain, Gwangalli Beach, Dongbaekseom Island, and Dalmaji Hill.

We were able to witness a firework’s display when we got there. It was just short as it was almost ending when we got out of the restaurant.

 

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Samgyetang.  It means ginseng chicken soup. It is consists primarily of a whole young chicken – filled with garlic and rice, scallion and spices, among them jujube and Korean ginseng

 

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Our exhaustion searching for Korean seafoods restaurant in Gwanganlli brought us in this restaurant. There were actually many restaurants in the area but they were Japanese. The Korean restaurant we saw had many people drinking and they don’t serve dinner. Personally, I was glad to have been here. I’ve always wanted to try eating samgyetang. It was very delicious. It seemed to rejuvenate my tired body from walking. It was my first time eating something with ginseng. (When I got home, my mother was laughing whenever I talk about ginseng because she said we have a ginseng plant at home. She even showed it to me. Oh well, Korean ginseng is different from our ginseng. hehe)

On my 3rd day traveling around Korea, I realized that the side dishes vary according to area. While we were served mountain vegetables in Pyeongchang, we were served seaweeds, and I think spicy fish anchovy, in Busan. The owner probably realized that I was curious about ginseng so she gave us 2 baby ginsengs to be eaten fresh. It’s my first time so it tasted weird to me but it was not bad, and I finished it

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After eating, we decided to go back to our hostel in Jagalchi. We asked for direction from the restaurant owner. We had 3 options, subway, bus and taxi. We took the easiest and fastest: taxi. There’s a very little difference in terms of cost since we are four, and we can divide the cost. It was a good decision, and our driver was very trustworthy, only that he drives really fast. He went over 100kph so I had to tell him to reduce speed. Thanks to my limited Korean, he was able to understand me.
Taking the taxi was a very good decision. We were able to see the downtown of Busan at night. We also used the beautiful Bukhang Bridge. It was another new information to me.
 
Bukhang Bridge is the 2nd longest cable-stayed bridge in Korea. It was completed last 2014 so it’s a new attraction. It would have been nice if we were able to see the daytime view of the sea from there.

 

Breakfast at Jagalchi Market

We woke up early with hope that the rained had stopped but unfortunately it didn’t so we had no choice but to just have breakfast and prepare for our trip back to Seoul. We decided to go to Jagalchi Market for some local food. The marketplace is perfect to experience local culture.

Jagalchi Market, located on the shoreside road in Busan’s Jung-gu, is Korea’s largest seafood market, selling both live and dried fish. After the Korean War the market solidified itself as a fish market. Most of the people who sell fish are women, so the vendors here are called Jagalchi Ajumma, “ajumma” meaning middle-aged or married woman in Korean.

 

This market represents Busan and is famous throughout the country. If you visit you can eat fresh raw fish right at the market.

We did not walk further as the rain was pouring.  When an ajumma called us to eat at her restaurant, we checked and decided to have our breakfast there. She was kind enough to offer fresh towels to us. It was sealed. Good service! Anyway, since it’s rainy we opted for something with soup. She offered a hot-pot of eel soup and we went for it. I love spicy food so it was perfect for me!

While waiting for our food to be served, it felt like I was in a Korean drama. LOL! There were several regulars (probably). There was also a big TV monitor showing a replay of Korean dramas. She also offered us pajeon and, later on after meal, a cup of coffee!

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Travel Tips:

1. If you are traveling in group, I suggest making an online reservation through your credit card for a Korail Group saver pass. You wont be deducted until you redeem it. In our case, we are 4 so we booked at least a day before. We bought a 2 day flex pass. (http://www.letskorail.com/ebizbf/EbizBfKrPassAbout.do) from 102,000W to just paid 91,000W each. Ok, so basically we spent more money in Busan just to experience KTX ride ^_^.

2. Have your Korail pass printed. If you were not able to do it, there is a machine for printing in Seoul KTX station. We had a bad experience from Thai travelers though. We thought they are going to help us but instead they printed their own, and I paid for them. Let’s charge it to experience.

3. Be at the KTX station at least 30mins to 1 hour because the queue may be long.

4. Don’t forget to check the weather. It was raining when we arrived in Busan. On our way, we just checked the sunset because we were planning to go to Gamcheon Culture Village but we failed to check the weather. Days after, my student said it always rains in Busan TT TT.

5. The downtown Busan is like a typical city in Seoul with many cosmetics shop too. As for the weather, it was pretty cold because it was raining.

6. Gwangan is famous for its diamond bridge and its beach. However, the area is less busier than Haeundae beach which is also a famous tourist place in Busan. We want to eat seafood that time but it’s too late so we just had Samgyetang in Busan! -_- It was delicious though. One whole chicken for each of us. 

7. We used our tapcard for Taxi! it was like 10~12000W from Gwangan beach to our hotel in Nampo. Not bad for the 4 of us chipping in.

8. If you want to Go to Gwangan beach, don’t go to Gwangan station because it’s far from the beach and takes a lot of walking. Instead get off at Geumnyeonsan Station. It’s much nearer.

9. By the way, in KTX Station in Seoul we already booked our return ticket so we didn’t have to wait in line in Busan. Also, when we arrived at Busan KTX, we were able to change our travel time to a much earlier one. This is possible.

10. Subway Korea app also has a map for Busan. ^_^

My South Korea Tour Day 2 – Bukchon Hanok Village and Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do

 Itinerary

Bukchon Hanok Village ==> Constitutional Court of Korea ==> Baek In-je House Museum ==> Pyeongchang, Gangwondo ==> Yongpyong Ski Resort ==> Alpensia Ski Resort

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Bukchon Hanok Village

This day started with a short visit to Bukchon Hanok Village.  According to our hostel staff it is just near our place. We can just take around 20 minutes walk to go there. However, since we were not very familiar with the place and we didn’t want to be too late for the bus trip in Gangwon-do, we took the subway from Jongno 3(sam) ga to the next station, Anguk station. Just take a walk for few meters. You can ask people around where Bukchon Hanok Village is and you will know it’s pretty easy to find. There were also some brass signs giving direction on the pavement. We didn’t see it until we stepped on it on our way home. So, don’t just look up for direction, try to look down (literally!). You might have stepped on it already.

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“Court” Ladies from Philippine SC to the Constitutional Court of Korea.

The Constitutional Court of Korea. In search for Bukchon Hanok Village, we took the street along the Constitutional Court of Korea. They say that lovers who pass this area end up being separated. (This is because this is the place where people get final judgement for divorce.) I have noticed that government offices in Korea have plenty of flags surrounding it. (Well, in the PH we mostly have just one, unless it’s independence day.)

What is Bukchon Hanok Village?

The word Bukchon literally means “north” in Hangul. It was named as such for being the northern village of Jongno and Cheonggye Stream. This is a residential village of the high-ranking officials during the Joseon Dynasty. Bukchon has several neighborhoods Wonseo-dong, Jae-dong, Gye-dong, Gahoe-dong and Insa-dong.

Bukchon Hanok Village represents the 600 years history of Seoul. It lies between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung. This area was not created for tourism. It remains to be a residential village. However, with features from TV shows and dramas like Personal Taste, it has become a top tourist destination for many. In fact, there has been a rapid increase in coffee shops, galleries, restaurants and other tourism facilities in the area. People are advised to tone down their volume when walking on this area because it is the home of many Seoulites.

Baek In-je House Museum

Baek In-je House Museum. Baek In-je’s house is a representative hanok during the Japanese occupation. It reflects a modern hanok style house. It has a land area of about 2460sqm. The house is composed of sarangche (men’s quarters), anchae (women’s quarters, and byeoldangche (detached quarters) It is said that unlike the old hanoks, this house has unique attributes such as that the men and women’s quarters are not detached. Also, the anchae rooms  was built in two-story structure.

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Anchae (front)
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Byeoldangchae (Detached Quarter)

 

 

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At the back of Anchae

 

 

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A closer look at Anchae

 

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Empty condiment jars.
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A typical kitchen

 

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At the garden

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Living room inside sarangchae (men’s quarter)

 

Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do Tour

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With out host, Howard.

Holiday Home. Terrace on the Cloud.  (5413, Gyeonggang-ro, Hoenggye-ri, Daegwallyeong-myeon, 25341 Pyeongchang , South Korea).

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Photo © Terrace on the Cloud

It took us about 2 hours and a half to get to our destination in Pyeongchang. However, as it was our first time to have an out of town tour, it was full of excitement and anticipation. As Philippines is a tropical country, we don’t have a chance to enjoy cold weather. We left the Philippines in the middle of summer so going to a cold country such as Korea is a good escape. Yes, when everybody took a picture of their summer bods in the beach, we bundled up and went to Gangwon-do.

Before our trip to Korea, we kept constant monitoring if, really, there is still snow in Pyeongchang. We used the webcam of Yongpyong ski resort to monitor it.

Alpensia Ski Resort

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Our First stop was the Alpensia Ski jump. For  KRW15,000 fare, Howard offered to take us to our destination. On our way, we passed by Alpensia Ski Jump stadium. Alpensia will be the host of this incoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympics 2018. 

 

Yongpyong Resort (Dragon Peak)

Our holiday home is well situated near Yongpyong and Alpensia Ski Resorts. When we arrived at Yongpyong Ski Resort, Howard brought us to the ticket counter for gondola ride. At that time Yongpyong gave discount to VISA card holder. However, they only accept certain cards. We were so lucky because our host lent his credit card to us and we got around 30% discount. We paid only KRW48,000 for four (4) pax! We just carried over the expenses to our billing. He was the best! He made everything convenient to us.

 

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Taken from our gondola going up.

It was April 9, 2017 when this photo was taken. The snow was already melting so we were so happy to see it before it’s all gone. Our fear of heights was overpowered by happiness brought by the beautiful view we saw.

 

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View from the top.

It would be really stunning to see this in winter when the area is painted white by nature or spring and fall when it is painted with different colors.

 

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Smile though your hands are going numb.

 

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Pardon my scarf. I didn’t really know how I was wearing it. I just need to keep my self warm in any way because my hands were already going numb.

 

 

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To end the day, we had a sumptuous early dinner at Yongpyong Dragon Valley hotel. It was a bit pricey because we chose grilled beef. Gangwon-do is known for Hanwoo beef, the best quality beef. (I will have different post for the food I’ve had during my trip.)

 

K-drama Moments

At this point, only K-drama fan of my generation could probably relate. LOL! So… our gondola ride took us to Mt. Balwangsan. Here, you would see Yongpyong Dragon Peak which is a famous site for many Korean drama series such as Winter Sonata, and most recently, Goblin. My cover photo for this blog post actually shows the fence near the area where Kim Shin hugged Eun tak.

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#WinterSonata
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#JunSangMyLove

 

Going Around Yongpyong

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Travel Tips:

1. Hanok Village. There are so many places to experience Hanok Village. I can think of Jeonju and in Korean Folk Village in Yongin. However due to time constraint, we decided to go to Bukchon Hanok Village.

2. Winter Olympics 2018. Pyeongchang is the host City for the 2018 Winter Olympics. It is said that by the end of the year the railway connecting Incheon International Airport and Pyeongchang (and Gangneung) will be completed.

3. Activities. Pyeongchang is home to Samyang Ranch (Asia’s largest green pasture) but we were not able to go there. 

4. Side Trip. You can also have a day tour to Gangneung which is a city facing the east sea.

5. Hanwoo Beef. When in Pyeongchang, don’t forget to try Hanwoo beef, Korea’s best quality beef from the cattle raised in the highlands of Gangwon Province. It’s a bit pricey but it’s worth the taste and experience.

6. Bus Fare: as I can remember I think it’s just 12500W (one-way)

7. Terrace on the Clouds. Howard, our host picked us up from the bus terminal in Heonggye-ri to the hotel for free but we paid him around 15000W to Yongpyong resort. From Yongpyong to Alpensia we spent KRW13000 for taxi fare. Tap card is accepted. Also, you can ask the taxi hotel lobby if you want to get a cab.

8. Gondola Ride. If you have VISA card you can get 30% discount for gondola ride… so we paid only 48000W for the Gondola ride. By the way, Howard used his card to pay for us and we just added it to our bill ^^.

9. How to get to Hoenggye: From Jongno 3(sam) ga, take a subway to Gangbyeon Station. Upon arriving in Gangbyeong station, walk across to Dong Seoul terminal Platform 1-3. You can tell the driver to drop you off at Hoenggye-ri /hwing-gyee-ri/.

My South Korea Tour – Day 1 Suwon & Yeouido)

Itinerary

Arrival   ->  Suwon Hwaseong Haenggung   -> Yeouido Cherry Blossom Picnic Festival  ->  LG Headquarters (LG twin Towers) -> Han River

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Touchdown at Incheon International Airport. Cannot contain my happiness ^^.

Philippines and South Korea has 1 hour difference. We left Kalibo International Airport (KLA) in a red eye flight (around 1:50am) Philippine time and arrived at Incheon International Airport a bit earlier than scheduled. Unfortunately, this was also the time when the influx of international tourist arrived so we spent over 30 minutes to around 1 hour in the immigration.

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Incheon International Airport Jongno 3(sam) ga via Gongdeok Station

HOSTEL. Khaosan Seoul Insadong Guesthouse, Gwansu-dong, Seoul, South Korea. According to the instruction sent by our hotel it is just 30 steps away from Jongno 3(sam) ga station, which is true indeed. From the airport, we went to our hostel directly. We have contacted them for early check-in and they were OK. However, as it would be Saturday morning, our hostel emailed us that it’s going to be difficult to have a vacant room to leave our luggage.. They told us to just leave our luggage in the receiving area, and the valuables in their office. (With emphasis on “We have CCTV.” LOL) And, it was safe indeed. The Staffs were very accommodating. In this trip, we basically planned to spend most of our time outside and just go home to sleep. Our room was comforting for me so I have no complains.

Suwon Hwaseong Haenggung

Jongno 3 (sam) ga to Suwon Station
Jongno 3(sam) ga going to Suwon Station

Traveling to Suwon City. From our hostel, it was very convenient to go to Suwon because it took us only 1 ride.

Please see below for more information from Subway Korea Mobile Application.

Fastest Route: Line 1, Blue Line
Time Required: 1hr 9mins

Stations: 25 stations
Transfer: None
Fare: 1950 KRW (Tap Card); 2050KRW (Cash)

Suwon is a beautiful City located in Gyeonggi-do (Gyeonggi-Province), and there are so many places to visit there but we were only able to visit the Hwaseong Haenggung.

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At AK Food Hall we had Bokkeumbap with beef patty on top (I forgot the exact name.)  for KRW9,000

Lunch at AK Food Hall. We arrived in the Suwon around lunchtime so we were limited in our activities. Plus, we were also thinking of going to Yeouido afterwards so we can’t really stay longer. Meanwhile, we opted to have a lunch at AK Plaza. The food hall of this shopping center can be accessed from the Suwon Station.  There are a lot of food selection but it was hard to find a table for four of us.

Bus to Hwaseong Haenggung. After lunch we decided to go to Hwaseong Haenggung. From Suwon Station, don’t forget to go to the tourist information center. They have a very helpful tourism officer there. He advised us to take bus numbers 11, 13, 36 or 39. The fare was around 1300KRW
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What is Hwaseong Haenggung?

Hwaseong Haenggung is the palace where King Jeongjo used to stay when he paid respects at Hyollungwon (Present day Yungneung). It is the largest Haenggung (Temporary palace) in the Joseon Dynasty with 576 rooms, and was normally used for government office. We went to every nook and cranny inside partly out of curiosity and partly looking for our friends ^^. Prepare your feet.

 

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(Top) Park just in front of Hwaseong Haenggung (Bottom Left) Front gate of Hwaseong Haenggung (Bottom Right) A picture with some Korean students.

 

I love that the park was filled with families enjoying their time together in a beautiful spring weather. This was the first historical landmark that we visited so I was very amazed. The busy people in the palace rehearsing for the next day’s activity, and these beautiful ladies in Hanbok here brings me back to the past. For sageuk drama fan, it was really an achievement for me.

 

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Remembering Prince Sado

While strolling around the palace, I came across this rice chest. It instantly reminded me of Prince Sado who was imprisoned and made to starve by his father (King). He died inside this chest. It was too small that I wondered how he could fit in here. Such a sad story of an estranged father and son relationship.

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Make A Wish.

Zelkova Tree. Don’t forget to make a wish.  According to them, this tree is more than 600 years old and very sacred. It has stood and protected Suwon City since before the construction of Hwaseong Fortress.

 

 

Yeouido Cherry Blossom Picnic Festival

Yeouido Cherry Blossom Picnic Festival. This was one of the most culturally shocking experience for us. We are used to enjoying festivals in my country but this one is different because the main and the most convenient (inconvenient at that time) form of transportation was subway. We took the Yeouinaru Station route from Suwon so we could get to the festival much closer but we didn’t expect the number of tourist in the area.  The place is enough for the number of tourist but the entry and exit points of the subway were not. We were shocked and scared that there might be a stampede as it was very difficult to exit on the subway stairs and people keep pushing us. Good thing I had enough strength against falling, otherwise people might just step on me. Nonetheless, it was a memorable experience for us.

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Cherry Blossom Picnic Festival, April 8, 2017

Yeouido is home to KBS station, National Assembly, IFC Mall and YG Republique restaurant but I was not able to go there.  We arrived in the area around 5:30PM and the temperature was dropping. We opted to enjoy the street food, cherry blossom and the Han River.

For this day, we also found a sort of traveler’s treasure (well, that’s just for me)… the LG Twin Towers (LG Electronics Headquarters!) We were just in search for a place to freshen ourselves. At first, I was hesitant to ask if my friends and I could use their toilet. Gosh! It’s for our survival, unless we want to embarrass ourselves in the crowd. Anyway, upon entering the building, we found a big LED monitor advertising LG. We didn’t mind it because after all LG is a Korean brand. However, I just could not stop wondering. I thought I had to speak my mind and and ask my question to the security so I could sleep well.  LOL Indeed, it was LG’s building… and we were at the back (^_^) So, we didn’t miss a chance to take pictures.

 

 

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A sculpture (left) and a bas-relief (right) at the back of LG Twin Towers.
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In front of LG Twin Towers

Han River Experience

I Seoul U ❤

To complete the evening, how about a walk in the area and be amazed by the different randoms street acts of aspiring singers and dancers… maybe future K-pop stars! Who knows you could also experience the fireworks display we saw ala Cheong Song Yi style. LOL

Travel Tips:

1. We bought T money Card for 4000W and have it reloaded with 50000W. We paid a total of 54000W (This is refundable) It saves time from reloading. You can use this tap card when taking a subway (Seoul & Busan) & Taxi.

2. Download Subway Korea App. It’s very helpful!

3. SK is tourist friendly. There are many tourist information centers in the area. Never hesitate to ask them questions.

What do you think of this post? I hope it could help you. Just message me for questions!

2017 South Korea Tour Day 5. Bonding with Korean Friends

Itinerary

Shilla Stay Hotel ==> Shinsegae Department store ==> Hadongkwan Restaurant ==> Deoksugung ==> Myeongdong Gyoza ==> Dinner at Jokbal Restaurant

 

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Copyright. Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun

Accommodation: Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun, 71 Sambong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

– Shinsegae Department store
– lunch at Hadongkwan – (www.hadongkwan.com)
– Deoksugung Palace
– walk along Seoul City Hall Area
– meal at Myeongdong Kyoja (www.mdkj.co.kr)
– Dinner at a Jokbal restaurant

I can say that on this day I had a gastronomic adventure. I always eat Korean food in the Philippines but on this tour day I satisfied my cravings for traditional Korean food from 40 to 70 years old restaurants.

I started this day transferring from my hostel to my hotel in Gwanghwamun area. I had to do it because my friends told me they are going to pick me up around 11 o’clock in the morning. Actually, my check in time was 2 o’clock in the afternoon but upon calling Shilla Stay they allowed me to just leave my luggage on their care.

 

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Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun (c)theygetaround.com

Shilla Stay Hotel (Gwanghwamun)

I had a very comfortable stay in this hotel. This is in a very good location. I can walk to Myeongdong, Cheonggyecheon stream, Jonggak station, Insadong, etc from here. Also, it is very near the palaces and Gwanghwamun Square. The staff were very helpful as well. The area is very safe that I can just walk comfortably alone in the evening.

 

 

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Shinsegae Departent Store

I’ve always been curious about Shinsegae because I always hear this from my students and some Korean dramas too. So, I was speechless when my friends brought me there. Actually, it was one of the nearest place to park my friend’s car to Myeongdong. We got a chance to go around its farmer’s market, and I loved it. I get to have dried persimmon and Jeju oranges from there. Bucket list checked!

 

Hadongkwan Restaurant

If you are interested at traditional food which are not spicy, please take note of the following:

a. Hadongkwan. This 70-year old restaurant is a must-try for tourist who do not like spicy food. It’s a popular Gomtang Restautant that you have to line up during lunch time. They  sell only 2 items – Gomtang and Suyuk in their menu and when the food they prepared were all served they close the store. We were lucky to have chance to eat there. It was said that the ingredients is top secret to the family. In the past, their Chef asked for their recipe but they did not give it. One of their chefs tried to copy the recipe and open a resto in Gangnam but people still go to the original for it has a distinct taste.

b. Suyuk. My friends were surprised that I could eat this food. So, I told them in the Philippines we also have this. From dinuguan to callos.

 

 

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(c)hadongkwan.com
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(c)hadongkwan.com

 

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Suyuk

 

 

Deoksugung

This palace is very near the Seoul City Hall. In front of it is a beautiful fountain. It’s pretty near a very busy intersection. Literally, Deoksugung means “palace of virtuous longevity”.

 

 

Myeongdong Kyoja

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Kalguksu and garlic kimchi

This is a 40 year old restaurant near Myeondong Cathedral. They are famous for Kalguksu which is a knife-cut noodles. Their serving is too big (maybe normal for Koreans) that I could not imagine how I could finish my food. They serve garlic kimchi, which is new to me so how could I say no to a new taste of Korean food? hehe (It’s like an oversize lomi which is a noodle dish in the Philippines. It’s bigger than the biggest serving of batchoy in Iloilo)

 

Jeokbal

I’d like to introduce my friend Joe. Ok, so we both gained weight. It has been years since I last saw his face. We’ve grown matured. Now, we are really adult. He is still as cool as he was. We met in the evening because he had work. I wish his wife was with us but he said she’s shy. He brought me in this jeokbal restaurant. He thought I dont eat pig’s feet. LOL. This was very delicious. It tasted like pork asado.  I had dinner with him and we had some suju. I told him I can drink but not that much because of my allergy. I believe we had dinner somewhere in Insadong.

It was definitely a day worth reminiscing. I had a lot of fun. More than that, I was so happy to meet my friends.

 

Travel tips:

1. Get your hotel’s phone number. You can ask if you could do early check in. My friends said they will pick me up from my hotel at 11am. So, I had to call my hotel. The earliest they could give me was 1pm but they told me I can leave my things to them for safekeeping if I arrive early. So I went there around 10am.

2. A pair of comfortable walking shoes is a advised. Seoul takes a lot of walking.