“Seoul Sisters” part 1

As much as possible, when I’m given a chance to travel, I’d like to go to places I haven’t been.  I like experiencing different cultures, food, way of life, etc.  This time, I had a choice between going to Vietnam or Korea.  I chose Korea because of the cold weather and the Korean telenovelas I’ve been watching. I was just so curious how the places featured on TV looked in real life.  And so let me share with you my experience visiting Korea with my “Seoul Sisters”.  We only had 4 days for this trip so we concentrated on exploring Seoul.  We were able to get discounted Cebu Pacific tickets which was also the reason for leaning towards Korea.  This is the first time I flew Cebu Pacific longer than 2 hrs.  Apparently, they have games for passengers during these longer flights.  And yes, my sister and I participated…seriously participated.  Therefore, we won!

Cebu Pacific round trip ticket to Seoul, Korea for only 17,000 Php.
Cebu Pacific round trip ticket to Seoul, Korea for only 17,000 Php.
Flying Cebu Pacific was fun.
Flying Cebu Pacific was fun even if it was a budget airline with no food, drinks, or other amenities included.

After almost 4 hours, we finally reached our destination.  As soon as we got out of Incheon International Airport, it was freezing! The best way to our hotel was through the Bus Limousine which costs KRW45,000 (around $45).  There’s a kiosk outside the airport where you can buy your tickets.  Luckily, our hotel, Holiday Inn Seongbuk, was part of the Limousine Bus stops.  So just a 30-45 min. bus ride and we were able to settle down.

Touchdown Incheon International Airport.
Touchdown Incheon International Airport.  Limousine Bus was very spacious and comfortable.

We arrived our hotel at 10pm.  Everything nearby was closed so we just ended up having dinner in the hotel cafe.  Right after filling our tummies up a bit, my mother stayed at the hotel to rest and call it a night.  But my sister and I wouldn’t let any rain, cold, time of night, or hunger keep us from exploring the shopping markets of Dongdaemun.

No snow, cold, rain, time of night, or hunger could keep us from shopping.
Here’s Dongdaemun market.  It’s several buildings in one area with shopping stalls open until the wee hours of the morning.  Some buildings only sell wholesale but there are some who also do retail.

The first building we entered (lower middle picture above) were full of winter caps, hats, scarves, and socks.  We didn’t want it to be a lost cause, so we ended up buying several packs of cute socks.  Ten pairs/pack for KRW 5,000-10,000 ($5-10) depending on the style and size.  These were great for gifts.   We then went to the next building where all the clothes were.  Went around for 3 hours until we realized it was almost 4am and our bodies and feet were saying it was time to go home.

Little did we know that during this time, it was very difficult to look for taxis that wouldn't charge an arm and a leg to take you home with all the huge shopping bags.
Little did we know that during this time, it was very difficult to look for taxis that wouldn’t charge an arm and a leg to take you home with all the huge shopping bags.  We wouldn’t budge, so we just waited and waited and ate street food until a decent taxi would come.

We were standing & waiting on every corner, RUNNING after taxis that would pass by that would take us back to our hotel.  There were several other people we were competing with.  Normal rate back to our hotel was KRW10,000 but they would charge us KRW50,000.  They say coz it was difficult to drive with the snow on the road plus the fact it was very early in the morning.  After waiting for 30-40 minutes, we were going to give in to KRW40,000 just to get home, but we were blessed to get a taxi offering only KRW20,000.

We were so happy to get back to the hotel that we were still full of adrenalin.
We were so happy to get back to the hotel that we were still full of adrenalin from shopping.  We decided to try on the stuff we bought and pose like my little girls do.  As we were laughing our hearts out while doing these poses, our mom was in la la land peacefully sleeping.  In these cases, it’s nice to have a sister!

Whenever we travel, we always like taking the Hop On-Hop Off bus to have an overview of the city.  We take note of the places we want to go to or go back to.  Our 2nd day was about exploring Bukchon Village, Namsan Tower, Myeong Dong, Dongdaemun, and other stuff we see interesting along the way.  As we were waiting for the HOHO bus, we walked around and found Dongwha Duty Free.  They were on sale and we were able to get a couple of bags for ourselves (yipee!).  I was already happy with my purchase and we haven’t even started exploring!

Duty Free
Duty Free Dongwha.  You’ll find several signature brands at the basement, cosmetics & watches on the ground floor, and a money changer/bank on the 2f of the building beside it.  Take note:  Duty free shops here are only “one-way”  so make sure you don’t lose each other as you’ll have to go out then in the store again if you need to find anyone.  Trust me, I learned the hard way.  There are several Duty Free shops in Seoul, so make sure you research where they’re located to save time.
HOHO (hop on hop off) bus
HOHO (hop on hop off) bus took us around to get a feel of the Downtown part of Seoul.  We had the bus all to ourselves as you can see.  It’s also a great way to get around without paying too much on taxis.  We would have used the MTR but we didn’t want our mom to get too tired walking.

We chose the Seoul Tiger Bus for our HOHO bus.  Why? Coz it was the nearest one to our hotel’s shuttle drop off point.  We weren’t able to research on the best HOHO bus but fortunately we had a good experience with this one, not much waiting on each stop.

There are 4 tours to choose from. We opted for the Downtown-Palace tour.
There are 4 tours to choose from. We opted for the Downtown-Palace tour.  It costs KRW12,000 per person for the tour.  It would normally take 2 hours to complete this tour.  You have an option of going down and hopping  back on the bus at any stop you wish.
The HOHO buses even had the popular telenovelas on.
The HOHO buses even had the popular telenovelas on.  My mom and I are suckers for Korean Dramas 🙂
First stop: village
First stop: Bukchon Hanok Village.  This is a place where you can see preserved houses to give you a feel of how the Koreans lived 600 years ago.
Trying to get some photo op when a security man approached me saying we couldn't go up the house.  Oooops!
Trying to get some photo op when a security man approached me saying we couldn’t go up the house. Oooops!
I apologized and just asked him to do a photo op with me and act as if he was scolding me and I'd cry.  But due to the communication barrier, he was the one acting like they one being scolded.  Hmmmm...
I apologized and just asked him to do a photo op with me and act as if he was scolding me and I’d cry. But due to the communication barrier, he was the one acting like the one being scolded. Hmmmm…but nonetheless, it was such a laugh trip!
A lot of things made our visit to this place too funny.
A lot of things made our visit to this place too funny.  Their signs for instance.  So we just made the most out of it and followed 😛
In the village, it has a stage for their shows in the earlier years...I guess? ...But we made a show of our own now!
In the village, it has a stage for their shows in the earlier years…I guess? …But we made a show of our own now!
Different spots for some picture taking.
Different spots for some picture taking.
Aside from the funny things we encountered, this village gave us a real feel of their culture back in the day.
Aside from the funny things we encountered, this village gave us a real feel of their culture back in the day.  It was something nice to personally see and experiencing walking through the village.
As you walk out of the village, you'd find several types of street food.  Whenever we come across one that's interesting, we try it out.
As you walk out of the village, you’d find several types of street food. Whenever we come across one that’s interesting, we try it out.
This is similar to the ones in Manila wherein you'll find either chocolate, red bean, etc. inside the bread.
This is similar to the ones in Manila wherein you’ll find either chocolate, red bean, etc. inside the bread.
A few more yummy street food.  I didn't even bother asking what it was, as long as it looked good, I went for it.
A few more yummy street food. I didn’t even bother asking what it was, as long as it looked good, I went for it.
As we were waiting for the HOHO bus, we stayed in one of their popular coffee shops, Holly's Coffee.
As we were waiting for the HOHO bus, we stayed in one of their popular coffee shops, Hollys Coffee.  You wouldn’t see a lot of Starbucks, but you would see this in every corner.  Their coffee was pretty good.  We noticed that they are very big on keeping their own brands which was really admirable.
Outside the village, across Hollys Coffee, I saw a pharmacy and just looked around.
Outside the village, across Hollys Coffee, I saw a pharmacy and just looked around.
Of course I saw some neat stuff!  These are mosquito ointments and cute Pororo bandaids.
Of course I saw some neat stuff! These are mosquito ointments and cute Pororo bandaids.  One of my girls loves bandaids and so I got this for her.
Next stop: NAMSAN TOWER.
Next stop: NAMSAN TOWER.  This is like their Eiffel Tower, Empire State, CN Tower, Taipei 101, etc.  I think you get my point.
If I could just carry my mother, I would have!
It’s quite of a hike going up, If I could just carry my mother, I would have!
Nevremind the long hike up, the view from the top was breathtaking!
Nevremind the long hike up, the view from the top was breathtaking!  Pardon my pic— camera phone.
You'd also see the love bench and trees covered with love locks.
You’d also see the love bench and trees covered with love locks.

At first, we put our locks on one of the trees.
At first, we put our locks on one of the trees.
Bring your own locks or buy from them for KRW20,000 per piece.
Bring your own locks or buy from them for KRW20,000 per piece.  We brought our own.
There's an upper deck where you'd find more love locks.
There’s an upper deck where you’d find more love locks.
We transferred ours here since it seemed more permanent than the pine trees.
We transferred ours here since it seemed more permanent than the pine trees.  Yes, we joined in the fun.
Everyone was joining in on the fun :-)
Everyone was joining in on the fun 🙂   You’re far away from home, so might as well, right?
After the Namsan Tower, we went back to Dongdaemun to do more shopping and let our mom experience the place.
After the Namsan Tower, we went back to Dongdaemun to do more shopping and let our mom experience the place.  This building is 7 floors full of clothes and accessories for men, women, and children.  Be sure to bring with you your haggling skills.
I wanted to take these cuties home for my kids but they were just darn too expensive.
I wanted to take these cuties home for my kids for school U.N day costumes but they were just darn too expensive.
7 floors of shopping is real business.  I couldn't take it anymore and I just had to sit down on one of the empty stalls!
7 floors of shopping is real business. I couldn’t take it anymore and I just had to sit down on one of the empty stalls to rest my poor legs and feet.
We always ended our day with some yum!
We always ended our day with some yum!  This is one of the popular restaurants they had which I’d be talking about in a separate post.  And yes, big servings to fill very hungry shopped out ladies!

So this fills up our first 24 hours in Korea.  I hope you were able to have a glimpse of what we experienced through these pictures.  Actually, there’s really nothing much we did but eat, shop, and sight see.  Not much activities here as the ski slopes are a few hours away.  For this trip, it was more of a relaxing trip for us.   I’ll be posting a continuation of this in “Seoul Sisters part 2” real soon.

2 thoughts on ““Seoul Sisters” part 1

  1. Gahhh!!! Dongdaemun. we wanted to visit that place but we found ourselves wandering around seoul. We got lost. anyway, I will be back next year and will definitely go there. Thanks for sharing.

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