A (LAZY) STRANGER IN SEOUL

Posted: July 17, 2013 in COUCHSURFING, SOUTH KOREA
Tags: , ,

General Info Busan * Gyeongju 

19 – 23 April 2013

The weather was a bit unfriendly (rainy, windy, stormy sometimes). I caught cold that I didn’t spend my 5 days like what I scheduled. I should’ve gone to Jeonju and Sokcho as well, but I finally decided to stay in Seoul. Other places to visit are Nami island and Jeju island.

My Korean friend said that everything are scattered in Seoul. Sometimes the famous places can be found in walking distance from a subway station. Sometimes they are just far away from the others. I will sort the details by area so it will be easier for you to arrange your itinerary.

ONE

DeMillitarized Zone (DMZ)

It’s easier and safer to take a tour by a travel agent to visit DMZ and Panmunjeom. A bit pricey, but worth to visit if you like something different. They usually hold the tours on weekends only. The official military travel agent is Koridoor, but you can also search others.

3rd Tunnel. North Korea keep digging tunnels to invade South Korea. This tunnel is one of the 4 famous incursion tunnels where tourists can also witness a part of Korean history.

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the 3rd tunnel

Dora Observatory. You can use the binoculars to see North Korea. My tour guide, Dora, told us that once North Korea and South Korea compete to build higher flagpoles. Then South Korea gave up that North Korea now has the highest flagpole in the world. But you have to remember that you MUST NOT take any pictures outside the yellow line. Otherwise, the North Korean soldier might assume that you are a spy and won’t hesitate to shoot you. When I visited this observatory, I thoght the South Korean soldiers have really tough job to keep the stubborn tourists obeying the rules.

Dorasan station. This station was built by Korail. They made a new route from Seoul to Pyong Yang since Kaesong factory operated. Unfortunatelly, an incident made the access closed in 2008.

Dorasan station

Dorasan station

I couldn’t manage to get the Panmunjeom tour as well, so at around 1 PM I must go back to Seoul already. If you visit Panmunjeom, you’ll be back at around 6 PM.

The bus stopped at a Korean Gingseng store. They said that 6 years old gingseng is the best. Gingseng will absorb the nutrition from the land where it’s planted. After 6 years, the land will have nothing left so it needs to be restored for at least 2 years before you can plant bean (least nutrition needed) or at least around 20 years to be fully restored that you can plant another gingseng. People usually use 2 years old gingseng to cook Samgyetang, the Korean chicken gingseng soup. I bought honey-gingseng made of 6 years old gingseng. It’s terribly expensive, but I thought about the benefits for my parents’ health. It costs about USD 250 for 5 pieces of gingseng.  I shared the cost with a Filipina, so we got 2 and a half pieces each.

My drop off was City Hall. I had no idea where that was, but I thought I could find tourist information booth somewhere.  The amazing thing was I found elders volunteering for the information booths! Lucky, I wasn’t that far from Gyeongbokgung palace. I really had no idea what to do, so I improvised. I looked around and found King Sejong Memorial Hall and Admiral Yi Sun Sin Museum. You’re free to enter both of them. I liked the Admiral Yi Sun Sin Museum. I learned a lot of his wisdom and there are attractions we can try, such as writing our names on Korean traditional paper with brush and ink!

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I was really lucky because the time I got out from the museum, I heard some noise from Gyeongbokgung palace. That was Changing Guardian Ceremony! I watched it, then I went to Hongdae for my guest house booking.

changing guard

changing guard

I still had plenty of time that day, so I decided to buy Cookin Nanta ticket and got 20% discount from Hongdae Guest House. I also asked about the nearest good Samgyetang restaurant. Pretty close from there so I could have dinner before watching Cookin’ Nanta show. Hongdae area is famous for youth as well. If you like shopping, it will be great to look around. Sometimes you will find street performances. It’s cool.

Nanta stage

Nanta stage

Finally bought T-money. Should’ve bought it earlier.

What I missed in Hongdae: Trick Eye Museum. It’s near the Hongdae Nanta Theater. I saw it, but I passed because I was too busy finding the Nanta Theater.

TWO

Unhyeongung palace. I should’ve seen a royal wedding ceremony performance there, but they changed the schedule because of the weather. I decided to rent hanbok, the traditional Korean dress, and look around this former royal residence. Felt like living in an old time.

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Jongmyo shrine. There should’ve been Jongmyo Jerye, the royal funeral performance, but I didn’t know why they said there wasn’t. I read it on visit Korea website. Maybe they canceled because of the weather as well.

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Insa-dong. It’s a vehicle free area, where you can find traditional goods.

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Changdeokgung palace and Changyeonggung palace.

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Tips:

Get free English tour with official tour guides. Check the schedule on the information desk or on the official websites. Sometimes there are Goodwill booth, where some university students volunteer to be your guides.

Use Seoul City Tour Bus if your itinerary match their route.

THREE

Namsangol Hanok Village. It’s a traditional Korean house village located in Namsan valley. They moved some hanok from the other provinces there. You’ll also find a time capsule they will open after a thousand year. There usually a REAL wedding ceremony been held there on Sunday.

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N-tower. If you watch Korean movies and see them put love locks, it’s probably here. I saw thousands of love locks around N-tower area. There are also souvenir shops where you can buy love locks and other couple stuff. Lots of Korean young people wear couple shirts, couple caps, even couple shoes…

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love locks

Itaewon. It’s like an international area of Seoul.

an Indonesian restaurant I found in Itaewon

an Indonesian restaurant I found in Itaewon

If you still have time, go to Gangnam area. The happening modern area which once PSY made it famous with “Gangnam Style” song and dance. There are lots of cosmetic surgery clinics as well.

FOUR

Yeuido park. Beautiful park near Han river.

a part of Yeuido park

a part of Yeuido park

Chonggyecheon stream. Someone told me that this stream separated the lower and upper social class. I didn’t see the different though.

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Gyeongbokgung palace. Visit the official site of Gyeongbokgung and maybe you can be one of the 80 people of the day who’ll enter the Hwangwonjeong Pavilion.

Hwangwonjeong Pavilion

Hwangwonjeong Pavilion

National Fok Museum of Korea. Located on the Gyeongbokgung ground, so you can directly visit it after Gyeongbokgung.

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If you still have stamina, visit Namdaemun market and Dongdaemun night market.

Final Day: 23 April 2013

I took subway to Incheon ariport. It’s a really nice airport, but if you don’t want to miss your flight, spare some time because the gates can be so confusing. Like usual, without any information desk.

Expenses (KRW)

19

Subway tickets

3,450

336,950

Taxi

15,000

DMZ tour

46,000

Dorasan station

500

Gingseng (share)

118,700

Snacks (donut, snickers, drink)

4,800

Hongdae Guest House (female dorm, 4 nights)

88,000

Cookin’ Nanta ticket

40,000

Dinner (samgyetang)

13,000

T-money & reload 5000

7,500

20

Unhyeongung

700

25,500

Hanbok rent (inside Unhyeongung)

3,300

Snacks (Daiso)

3,500

Face masks (Etude House)

10,000

Lunch (bibimbap)

6,000

Korean hotdog

1,000

Jongmyo

1,000

21

Reload t-money

5,000

17,100

Changdeokgung

3,000

Changgyeongung

1,000

Snacks (C&U)

2,300

Dinner & snacks (7-11)

5,800

22

Gyeongbokgung

3,000

37,000

Korean barbeque

14,000

Cosmetics (Etude House)

20,000

23

reload t-money

2,000

10,000

Breakfast

8,000

LINKS

General Info Busan * Gyeongju 

Comments
  1. I miss this place so much!
    I need to go back there again soon.

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