Sunday, September 9, 2012

N. Seoul Tower - When Locks of Love and Teddy Bears Collide

photo from
Been hooked to K-Dramas since "Saved The Last Dance" starring Eugene (which airing in ABS-CBN I already forgot),  I've seen Namsam Park and N. Seoul Tower as one of the locations of K-Dramas.  One that I still remember is "Boys over Flowers" scenes where Jun Pyo was waiting for JanDi for their date which was a bit heartbreaking with snowdrops in that cold winter night. 

The other one was when they were trapped inside the cable car and how I wished I trapped with Lee Min Ho as well. hehe!  I got a picture in a coffee machine where Ji Hyo had coffee with JanDi on their date.  Also, I read about the Teddy Bear Museum from "Princess Hours" (other location is in Jeju Island)

taking the shots to experience the BOF drama

I've shared here how we climbed our way to the Cable car terminal to N. Seoul Tower and how the queue to the cable station was so long that we spent more than hour.

the way to the the top
We arrived N. Seoul Tower past 7pm and it was getting dark already that made the Seoul skyline more beautiful.  We headed to the observatory deck, unfortunately, the Teddy Bear Museum was already closed.  I've taken notes of the schedule and what can we do in N. Seoul Tower but I was so absorbed of  the beauty of the view around me that we just did what we thought were fun doing.

the artsy and funky finds at N. Seoul Tower
the breathtaking view from the top
enjoyed the warm hug from Teddy
Some information about N. Seoul Tower
 - its 236.7M high from the peak of Namsam
 - built in 1971 as a broadcasting tower
 - with extension of the observation deck, it was made open to the public since 1980
 - on the 4th floor is a rotating deck for a full view of Seoul
 - there is also the teddy bear museum that re-enacts the development story of Seoul in teddy bears

For more info, check it out from their official website.

More than feasting my eyes to the best view of Seoul, I found that N. Seoul Tower is like a haven for lovers! Love is in the air everywhere and it could be awkward coming there alone - beware to single women, it's like putting some salt to an injury!  

     * Cheesy Message Board - you can write anything and in any artistic way or personal as you can
     * Locks of Love Tree - for lovers to lock or seal their love in seoul (i'm not sure if this is really effective huh!
Locks of Love - at that time I was just contented having a photo with it..
maybe next time,i'll lock my own love key. =)
how to get there:
1. chungmuro stn (subway line 3 or 4) then exit 2. take bus 2 (8:00-24:00/5min intervals) or bus 5 (7:30-23:50/15min intervals)
2. itaewon stn (subway line 6) then exit 4. take bus3 (8:00-23:00/10min intervals)

another tip: take subway line 4 to myeongdong stn and get out of exit 4 to the memorial plaza of no.3 tunnel. from there you can take the namsam omni elevator glass for free. you can enjoy the view until you reach the parking lot of namsam cable car
Our N. Seoul Tower experience will always be one of the memorable moments of our South Korea sojourn
For my 10-day-solo-travel on March 2013, though solo, I'd love to see N. Seoul Tower again

Day 3 in South Korea: The Royal Experience and At the Top of Seoul

Day 3 Itinerary:

07:00         Wake-up Call
08:00         Departure - Hongdae Hostel   
09:00         Tapgol Park
10:00         Breakfast in Mcdo near Tapgol Park
11:00-12:30   Shopping in the nearby Skinfood
13:00-15:00   Gyeongbokgung Palace
16:00         Late lunch in Myeongdong
18:00-22:00   Namsam Park/N. Seoul Tower
24:00         Lights off

We're supposed to go to Nami Island on our 3rd day in Seoul but the tiring itinerary of the previous day knocked us down! With our alarm set at Manila time(which is one hour ahead of Seoul), we woke up late for the 9:00AM shuttle to Nami Island.  So we all decided to change our itinerary for the day and slowed down a bit.

Sometimes, changing a plan is tiring and stressful but in traveling, that's the essence after all.
There's nothing to lose in changing the places to go because you'll still be seeing something new and experience something different!

One thing we're excited after our breakfast was for a quick peek at the nearby Skinfood store! But the quick peek turned out to almost one hour of shopping!  Who wouldn't want it! It's 50% -70% cheaper than the SkinFood stores in Manila! From nail polish to BB creams, from just an ordinary cotton buds to skinwipes! Since then, I'm on watch who's among my circle of friends is going to Korea and ask some favor to replenish my Skinfood stuffs. 
i think 50% of my total expenses were from the SkinFood purchases
Carrying our Skinfood shopping bags, we searched our way to Gyeongbokgung Palace, the nearest palace to Tapgol Park.  The supposedly 30-minute-ride turned to like eternity because of so many stops along the Seoul Station subway - we're striking a pose anywhere!

Seoul subways have so much inside to the delights of the tourists and locals

When we were finally out of the subway, we ran with too much excitement when the famous palace came in view! I've had seen the palaces in Bangkok but Gyeongbokgung makes it different! Perhaps it's because of the weather or I relate it to Princess Hours (one of the K-dramas that I've watched).  It's like the Joseon Dynasty that I just heard from the K-dramas dwell with Seoul's sophistication at present time.  The palace sits at the center of the vibrant Seoul and make it picturesque with the beautiful mountain as a backdrop.

We'd witnessed the Changing of the Guards Ceremony, the Royal Parade, got a 10-minute feeling of how is it as a Royal Guard by wearing their suit and just did what tourists should do -  taking snapshots of every moments worthy to remember.  Know more of my royal experience here.
English description "Palace Great Blessed by Heaven", Gyeongbokgung Palace indeed a name for it. Situated at the center of Seoul with the mountain as a backdrop. Seoul reserves their history amidst the innovation of the modern world.

When we had enough of Gyeongbokgung Palace, we headed to Myeongdong for an intent of a decent meal. The first tastes of streetfood, kimbap, and others felt exciting at ONCE but not TWICE, THRICE for the last three days of my vacation in Seoul. I had difficulty finding good food in Korea because  I don't fancy spicy food that much, plus, it's hard ordering from a menu not in English (even more without a picture to refer to it!). Find out more of my gastronomical experience in South Korea here.

the uniqueness of Chicken and Beer vibrant with artsy of Seoul

The search for a resto to eat is like finding the exits of the subway! Thank God we stumbled upon Chicken and Beer because of the obvious reason that it spells C.H.I.C.K.E.N! I finally fed myself a good meal!
not in English but the picture helps!
Our sumptuous meal in Seoul for KRW 48,000 only (for the five of us!)

Fully recharged, we headed to N. Seoul Tower for the best view of the whole of Seoul.  Read it from blogs that the best time to go there is towards dusk where you can see Seoul on daylight and eventually when lights started to brighten the whole city.

Following the vivid directions of going up to the N. Seoul Tower Cable Car Terminal, we took there on foot! It was like climbing the highest mountain! But I enjoyed the way up - this is how i saw it on K-dramas!

Our time was spent most in queue for the cable car to the N. Seoul Tower.  But it was a time well worth waiting! The view from the top was amazing - from the party atmosphere to the cuteness of teddies in Teddy Bear Museum, from the "how-i-wish-i-can-lock-mine" Locks of Love trees to the "how-i-wish-i-have-someone-to-write-to" cheesy post-notes, and highlighting the trip at the observation deck.  I'd say N. Seoul at night is like a lovers-lane but that did not discount for girlfriends like us who enjoyed the "Love is in the Air" ambiance at N. Seoul Tower.  Read more about my post on this.

We had so much fun and relaxed moments at N. Seoul Tower that we forgot to mind the subway schedule.  We reached the foot of Namsam Tower almost midnight and did not make it to the last trip of subway to Hongdae. 

Gathered some grit, we headed towards the nearest bus stop and searched for the bus number that would pass along Hongdae or stop by near Hongik University or anywhere near Hongdae Hostel.  It was another unplanned adventure that made me realized that with all the faith, you can find your way back!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Day 2 in South Korea: Kimchi and Everland (A Good Combination)

Day 2 Itinerary:

05:30       Wake-Up Call
06:30       Departure Hongdae Hostel
07:30-10:00 Yeouido Park and National Assembly
10:00-12:00 COEX and Kimchi Museum
12:00-02:00 Est. travel time Everland
02:00-22:00 Everland
22:00-24:00 Est. Travel time back to Seoul
01:00       Lights Off

a snip of our daily detailed itinerary with screenshots from seoul subway and some notes from the guidebooks and blogs

how to get T-money by following instructions in English, figuring the subway exits (which is which?), asking the locals for directions, it felt like it was my first day in school!  we obviously looked at lost but seemed not so serious though because we were giggling!
a customer service agent who approached us and assisted us 
typical Filipino, we're kind of  shy to ask for directions, or rather felt shy after being rejected for several attempts. i finally understood! some koreans are not actually rejecting, but it's because of the language.  but after some time, there were some who had the confidence to answer back in English. 

we met mr. kim, a retired government employee, who was then working in a non-government organization at that time. he was kind enough to accompany us to the yeouido station's exit. he gave us his calling card just in case we'd be needing help during our stay in Seoul.
with mr. kim, our good samaritan =)
after some joint efforts, we finally know how to read the 8-lanes (in 2010) of Seoul Metro Subway.  i studied (a heavy word for that) Seoul Subway months before the trip but it was different in real lifehere i share my preparation of our trip in Korea.
we read, agreed, then explored
going out of Yeouido exit and after like a lifetime struggle how we could come out from that seemed like a tunnel subway, we felt hungry! we stumbled upon a tent selling gimbab.  barely four hours from our first taste of authentic Korean streetfood, we fed our stomach to start the day right (somehow)!

we just strolled along Yeouido, full of admiration of the beautifully manicured landscape, amazed with the flowers that we saw for the first time in our lives, striking a pose anywhere, stopped by at a starbucks and some of the funky buildings and just feeling the breeze of late spring. it was sunny but cold.

the colorful COEX
By 10am, we left Yeouido and headed to COEX, just in time for the mall's opening.  we enjoyed the route - it felt like finding the light at the end of the tunnel. every opportunity, we continued striking a pose. after a quick look at the mall, we decided to take our brunch and then headed for some learnings about Korea's famous fermented radish in kimchi museum.

check my blog here for our morning activities.

joining the koreans on the street
after lunch, we took the subway again to Gangnam station to take the bus going to Everland.
it was like going to a place of nowhere again. finding the landmark that i got from a blog and KTO was a challenge. the landmark that i was looking was somehow small for a "landmark". anyhow, we enjoyed walking along the streets, our heads turning left and right from the malls to the restos, and our eyes stopped for a while at the bargains and cheap finds along the streets.
cheap finds outside Gangnam exit near bus stop to Everland
the ride to everland seemed like forever! we saw the direction signage "Everland" but the bus kept on going. i counted the travel time - seemed like beyond than what i expected but i hold on to my notes and kept trusting that i got it right! this bus should surely bring us to Everland.

and so the avatar brought us to Everland! check my blog here.

the avatar tree in Everland

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Day 1 in South Korea: Arrival Seoul and First Taste of Korean Streetfood

May 19, 2010

Flight 5J 194 Manila-Incheon
ETD: 15:55 NAIA 3
ETA: 20:55 Incheon

It was actually a four-hour flight to Incheon but the flight details counted five hours with KST time (GMT +7) one hour delayed from Manila.  We were all excited so we all agreed to meet on our set assembly time.

Our Day 1 (Arrival) Itinerary:
12:30  Assembly Time - Departure Hall NAIA 3
15:55  ETA NAIA 3 Flight 5J194
20:55  ETD Incheon International Airport (SK Time)
21:30  Expected check-out of Airport
21:30-23:30  Estimated Travel time to Seoul
23:30  Check-In Hongdae

True enough, we arrived Hongdae and checked-in at Hongdae Guesthouse at around 11:30PM.  It was a fun and unforgettable experience being our first time to travel to a four-season-country! Philippines is a tropical country and we only have as our basic clothing that only fit for rainy or dry (hot & sunny) season. The coldest we can experience depends on the temperature that an air condition unit can set!
Looking at my travel buddies, where do you think they're going??!!
Aside from the cherry blossoms, we also prepared for our clothing best-suited for spring/winter season. That means - winter jacket, trench coat, thermal clothes, cardigans and inner tops for layering get-up and most of all - boots!  It was my first time to wear boots that I had it ordered directly from Korea through an online shopping.  Funny though - I only wore it at NAIA 3 to Incheon and was not able to bear the sore anymore! It was a little bit elevated (maybe a half-inch but I'm used of wearing ballet flats) that I had to stow away my boots for the rest of my South Korea trip! Good thing I brought one of my flats. =)
me and my boots

Our trip is also the chance to get a feeling of how it is in a cold country, the fashion style, the chance to wear trench coat and boots!

Without a doubt, we're too excited to wear that style that we had it on while in Manila ignoring the sweats!  I think that made us looked weirdos at the airport that one of my travel buddies, Vivian, was summoned for more interrogations by the Immigration (upon check-in, on her way to CR and before boarding!)  We then figured out that probably it was because of her trench coat and the boots!hahaha!

Vivian on her Seoulish-fashion-look at NAIA 3
Finally, we arrived Incheon and felt, "We belong!". =)

It took us a while to reach the Immigration and luggage belt because of "striking a pose" episodes anywhere inside Incheon Airport. Anyhow, we managed to get out thinking that Mary from Hongdae Hostel was waiting for us.

When we reached Hongdae, we were like happy fans too excited to see the places that we saw in K-dramas - the tent cottages along the street! Too hungry and too cold (our version of winter get-up was underrated! we should have brought much thicker jackets!), we all agreed to just leave our things after checking in and headed to the streets where we saw the haven of Korean foods were waiting!