Sunday, July 10, 2011

South Korea Itinerary 101

for travelers like us who make our own travel plan, prior to our trip, there are things that you need to check first!


i did a research for good location to stay considering the three c's - comfort, cheap and clean.  there are a lot to check in the net based on the travel blogs, tripadvisor, etc. best is to ask from colleagues and friends who had been to South Korea already.

i first inquired with friend's house but they were fully booked already. but it was a blessing in disguise that we booked at hongdae guesthouse instead. it was very convenient from the airport to its location - airport bus stop is located just across the building!

what's good with hongdae:
1. convenient location - bus stop at the front of the building and with elevator access to seoul mtr hongdae stn
2. safe area with lots of nearby food chains and restos
3. walking distance to other tourist zones like hongdae walk and coffee prince
4. affordable price - best for group travelers or family
5. decent place - ours is a 6-bed dormitory type room with free wifi, computer, drinking water, blower, washing machine. they offer breakfast of jam, bread and coffee but we did not avail for it as it was only available @9am and we usually left as early as 6am with our amazing race like itinerary. =)
6. friendly owner - mary even waited for us till 11pm when we checked in and allowed a little extension when we checked out

on our last day in Seoul, we transfered to bukchon village and checked in @ bukchon guesthouse to experience a hanok stay (korean's traditional house). 

what about bukchon:
1. a few meters walk to subway station but quite far from the airport bus stop- not ideal though if you have lots to carry but with trolleys could be fine. overall - it is still manageable!
2. surrounded with restos, coffeeshops, noodlehouses and special artcrafts stores
3. nearby tourist zones like the Changdeokgoong (palace).
4. free breakfast (cook what you want from the ref!)
5. reasonable price too and comfy and homey

places of interest:

next is a list of what you want to see and visit in south korea! for us, i consider the following:
1. hangang river park where we can see cherry blossoms (but unfortunately, it was way past the season already!)
2. drama setgrounds (full house, nami island, 63 building, coffee prince)
3. museums, palaces (seoul has five palaces!) and appointed unesco heritage sites
4. themeparks (everland)
5. shopping! (flea markets and malls!)

so if not all, we tried to squeeze these must-see! places in our itinerary.

Day 1: 
11:00PM- Arrival (korea's streetfood and soju experience)

Day 2: 
AM - Yeouido Park, COEX, Kimchi Museum
PM - Everland

Day 3:
AM - Insadong, Gyeongbokgung Palace
PM - Dondaemun, Myeongdong, Namsam Park, N. Seoult Tower

Day 4:
whole day - Nami Island
night - Dondaemun Night Market (Doota, Migliore)

Day 5:
AM - Si-do/Shindo Island (Full House Setground)
PM - Bukchon

Day 6:
whole day - Nandaemun Market
7PM - Departure

seoul mrt subway and transpo system

being a DIY traveler, you need to understand the country/city's subway and transporatation system. south korea has the most complicated subways for me with seoul's 9 lines connected to subway stations of major cities like incheon, bundang, jungang, airport road and gyeongui. but if you have tried hongkong and singapore's subways, i think you can manage seoul's too.

my advice if you will make your own itinerary is to check first the direction via subway going to a certain place and take note of the exit #s. you might be going out to a different street/road.

from there, use seoul mrt site and input the "departure station" and then the "arrival station" and the website will show you if there's any transfers or which line to take, the estimated travel time and most of all, the fare.

an example, if you're going to gyeongbokgung palace and you're staying in hongdae hostel. the nearest station from the hostel is hongik university which in line 2 and gyeongbokgung is in line 3.

Options in going to gyeongbokgung palace:
1. gyeongbokgung station, exit 5 (line 3)
2. gwanghwamun station, exit 2 (line 5)

so if you'll take option 1 above, that is, from hongik station to gyeongbokgung station, the smrt website will show you this:

copy and paste this in your detailed itinerary. i tell you, this is more helpful and reliable than figuring the subway map on your own.

an important key in traveling is to enjoy the trip - it doesn't matter if you get lost along the way or ordered a wrong food or missed out one place in your list. remember, there's always time to come back! what matter more is the experience, the fun and the adventure. loosen up a bit when travelling - you'll never have a perfect itinerary and on the dot travel time! so just enjoy every minute and every place!

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