Thursday, 19 March 2015

Visit Seoul 2015: One week travel guide

Thanks to all the addictive K-drama, I was so into Korea for the past one year. I finally made it there with Panda earlier this year. Although it was a short, one week trip to Seoul, we covered pretty much everything that I've been aiming for ;p. I might have mentioned this in my previous post, but just let me say it again that Seoul is more for the food and shopping lovers in general (of course apart from those die hard K-celebrities fans). I'll share with you the summary of my trip instead of day to day itinerary because everyone might have different preferences in mind, hence, you can adjust the amount of time according to your interest; be it shopping, eating, cafe hopping or sightseeing :)

Novotel Doksan
Since Panda was on a work trip, we stayed a couple of days slightly away from the city central. For those on business trips in Doksan or vicinity, Novotel is definitely a good choice. Home plus, a departmental store and supermarket is conveniently located directly opposite the hotel. Panda specifically reminded me to mention on this 24-hour dining place which is located beside the hotel. This place offers rich, beef ribs soup much to the liking of Panda. He never ever misses this whenever he is in Seoul for work. I must say the soup here is really delicious, rich and flavourful. For those visiting Seoul as tourist, stick to hotels at city central to avoid far distance transportation as Novotel is located approximately 45 minutes from Seoul Station.
L: Beef ribs soup; R: Pork dumpling in rich beef broth
Nine Tree Myeongdong
We stayed a couple of nights in Myeongdong because this apparently is where all the hype is (well, at least for tourists). We were pretty sure we are not going to be in the hotel room most of the time seeing our tight itinerary, hence, we decided to choose a mid-range place. This hotel was definitely one of the best in terms of location; approximately 100 m from Myeongdong Station. We were even given a free upgrade to a family room :)

As it was peak winter in Korea and considering our tight itinerary, we spent quite a lot using cabs to move around. Cab prices are quite reasonable since there were 2 of us. We also purchase a T-money card, a rechargeable card that can be used in all transportation system. It's slightly cheaper than paying individual tickets and also allows easy transit (eg from one train line to another). This card is rechargeable from 1,000 to 90,000 won in ticket vending machines found in most subway station. However, not every station has the T-money machine to purchase the initial card. We bought ours from Seoul Station.

If you cant read or speak Korean, wifi is probably the most important thing during your visit. Although there are many cafes or wifi hotspots in the city, having an individual, portable wifi will definitely be much more convenient particularly for directions. I got my pocket wifi from Wifi-Korea for USD$3.99 / day; with $100 deposit and $5 one way delivery fee (or free if you collect / return it to the office yourself). Moreover, you will receive a 10 % discount if you use the referral reservation form where they are partnering with a few guesthouses and blogs. 

Things to do
Our trip was very much a food and shopping trip rather than a sightseeing trip. However, we managed to squeeze in some of the major tourist attractions such as Namsan Tower, Gyeongbokgung palace and vicinity, Insadong, and Bukchon Hanok Village. We also managed to catch an English movie in Megabox Coex Mall, Gangnam on a Friday night. The Ewha's Women University area was also a nice place to visit but preferably at daytime (to see the architectures). Don't forget the FREE hanbok experience at Myeongdong Tourist Information Centre (all-year round), M Plaza (all-year round) or Korea Tourist Information Centre (only in spring/summer). If you have time to spare, hop around the various cafes around the city~
From L to R: Gyeongbokgung palace gate, view from Bukchon Hanok Village
Insadong-A lovely, tourist-y place with various traditional items and food
Super chilly in the evening at Namsan Tower!
Ewha's Women University
Related blog posts:
Japanese food & movie night @ Coex Mall, Gangnam, Seoul

I had only my eyes on Korean skincare as I am already using some of their products. I was not really looking for any clothes or bags or accessories although these shops are available at every nook and corner of Myeongdong, Hongdae, Ewha and Gangnam. Gangnam Underground Shopping is probably my favourite for cheap and affordable clothings without the need to shop outside in the cold. For those looking for better quality items, Lotte Plaza and Coex Mall is quite a good place but be prepared to pay way higher prices as well. For those living in tropical countries, you might want to consider going to Korea in spring or summer so that there are better options of summer clothings on sale. Nothing much during winter except winter clothings!
Flagship Laneige store in Myeongdong. Not the cheapest place for Laneige!

Related blog posts:
My Korea shopping haul @ Seoul, Korea

Korean food fits my taste bud probably because of the spiciness of some of their dishes. Overall, you will not get bored with food in Korea because it is really a mix of cuisines with some being more Koreanized compared to others. Within 1 week in Korea, I was really satisfied with the variety of food that I've eaten. Check out some of the best food that Seoul has to offer in my blog posts below. 

Lotte Duty Free (basement food centre)
Seafood bibimbap from Lotte Duty Free basement food centre. Only 8,000 won and superbly good!
A variety of food are available; bakeries, pickled items, fried food, street food etc.
Two two Fried Chicken (chicken and beer 'chimek' is probably the best combination ever!)
Half chicken fried + half chicken in spicy and sweet sauce for 17,000 won
Conveniently located in Myeongdong. However, I felt the fried chicken was slightly over fried. 
Other food-related blog posts:

Overall, it was really a fun and satisfying trip. I will definitely be back in the future for a longer trip and to explore other provinces. My advice would be if you are planning to go to a lesser known place or if you get lost or on the verge of exploding because no one understands you, JUST GET A CAB. It's really convenient and saves lots of times. Also, if you've heard from others that the Koreans are not friendly, rude, etc….honestly, it doesn't really matter because in a country where hardly anyone speaks English, you are really just all by yourself. At the end of the day, your best friends will probably be your smartphone and portable WIFI ;p