My Lunch Box at Seoul’s Tongin Market

Tongin Market is one of the oldest traditional markets located in Seoul. It was once a public market set up for the Japanese residents back in 1941 when Korea was under Japanese rule. Tongin Market is near Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Although, there are other famous traditional markets in Korea like Gwangjang Market, I chose to visit Tongin Market for a unique experience. It is famous for the Yeopjeon (엽전)  and Dosirak (도시락). Yeopjeon is a Korean brass coin with a square cut in the middle and was used during the Joseon Dynasty. Dosirak literally means lunchbox.

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After our tour at Gyeongbokgung, I asked my friends to come with me to Tongin Market for lunch. I was in a hurry because the Yeopjeon Dosirak is only available from 11am to 4pm. And take note that is it closed every third Sunday of month and the Dosirak Cafe is closed every Monday.

I was told that there’s an Ahjusshi who sells Yeopjeon at the entrance of the market but I didn’t find him maybe because it was already getting late. So I went to the Dosirak Cafe at the 2nd floor to buy the Yeopjeon. I paid ₩5,000 and the lady gave me an empty lunchbox and 10 Yeopjeon. Then I immediately went down to fill my lunchbox with variety of Korean  dishes and street foods. 10 Yeopjeon is enough to buy 5 to 6 kinds of foods. Most dishes are worth 2 coins and the others you can buy for 1 coin. It’s totally worth it. After spending my coins, I went back to the 2nd floor to eat and enjoy my filled lunchbox.

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Yeopjeon

I actually kept 1 coin in my wallet as a souvenir 🙂

If you are a foodie who wants to try out Korean foods when you visit Seoul, I recommend Tongin Market.

Getting there: Take subway Line 3 and get off at Gyeongbokgung Station, Exit 2. Continue straight for approx. 700m. The market will be on your left.

 

 

Korean Movies and Dramas Filming Sites

If you have been watching Korean movies and dramas, you are probably interested or already planning to visit the filming sites to reminisce or re-enact your favorites scenes.  In Seoul alone you’ll find many filming sites in different locations. But have you thought about going to that one place where you’ll be able to see not one but most of the sites you’ve watched in movies or dramas? Yes, there are several movie parks in Korea that are made specifically for filming.

I’ll introduce to you my top 3 movie/drama sets in Korea.

  1. Hapcheon Image Theme Park 합천영상테마파크

One place that I really wanted to see is the Hapcheon Image Theme Park in Hapcheon-gun.

I arrived a little early and it was still closed so I had to wait outside but it I didn’t matter coz at the parking area I  enjoyed the posters of some movies and dramas that were filmed there.

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Just by looking at this map in the gate, I can already picture out that the area is big.

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Part of theme park is owned by KBS and other part is owned by MBC. Two of the biggest broadcast channels in Korea. Now you might wonder why of all movie parks in Korea, Hapcheon Image Theme Park is one of my favorite? Well, it’s because of the Japanese colonial era setting. If you watched movies and dramas like The Botherhood of War, Age of Shadows, The Last Princess, Bridal Mask, Chicago Typewriter and many more, they are all filmed in Hapcheon Image Theme Park. Before I went there, I thought that the whole place is on Japanese setting. To my surprise, it isn’t. There are other interesting sites and the area is quite huge.

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How many times have you seen this train and rail road in dramas and movies? A lot I guess.

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Address: 757, Hapcheonhosu-ro, Yongju-myeon, Hapcheon-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do
Directions: At Hapcheon Bus Terminal, take a county bus headed towards Hapcheon Image Theme Park. (The buses are available at 08:10, 08:30, 09:00, 09:30, 10:30, 11:10, 12:30, 13:40, 14:20, 15:00, 16:00, 16:50, 17:20, 18:30, 19:30 and the trip takes about 15 minutes.)
Admission Fee ₩5,000

     2. Suncheon Open Film Set 순천 드라마 촬영장

Now this one is really exciting I have to say. The set consists of 3 villages representing different eras from 1950’s, 1960’s to 1970’s. Around 700 movies, TV programs and dramas were filmed in Suncheon Open Film Set such as Baker King, East of Eden, Gangnam Blues, Love Lies (2015), Running Man and others.

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Exciting, did I say?! Well, yes it is. You can rent an old-styled school uniform to wander around the film set and shoot your own movie or drama. It’s a film set anyway, so why not?! 🙂 Rental fee is ₩2,000 for 1 hour.

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I really enjoy doing this time-travel kind of thing. It’s like I’ve been transported back to the late 50’s after the Korean War. It’s also a nice way to revisit and learn about the past. Many other visitors were also wearing the same uniform and other styles.

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Address: 24, Biryegol-gil, Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do
Directions: From Suncheon Intercity Bus Terminal, take Bus No. 77, 99 or 777. Get off at Suncheon Drama Open Film Set. Or from Suncheon Station take bus no.77 and get off at Suncheon Drama Open Film Set
Admission Fee ₩3,000

    3. KOFIC Namyangju Studios (남양주종합촬영소)

I may be too late for sharing this because this studio in Namyangju already closed last June 1, 2018. I was lucky that came in May when they offered free shuttle bus ride and free entrance to the studio. I heard it is going to be relocated to Busan or other place. But anyway, check this out and visit it as soon as it opens again.

KOFIC Namyangju Studios is a film-making studio complex with an outdoor filming studio, indoor studios, recording studio, and various film-making equipment. It was the film studio closest to Seoul.

This studio features the replica of the Joint Security Area, the border area between the North and South Korea where you can see soldiers from and North and South standing face to face with each other. Since I still didn’t get a chance to visit the real one, this studio is enough for now.

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There were also Hanok sets which were the filming sites of the K-Dramas My Love from the Stars, Moon Embracing the Sun, Arang and the Magistrate and more.

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These are the film studios that I have visited so far in Korea and I plan to visit more next time. If you know movies and dramas that were filmed in this sites or if you have already visited these places, share your experience to us. 🙂

Haeinsa Temple and the Tripitaka Koreana in Hapcheon

Last year’s autumn, I planned on visiting both Haeinsa Temple and Hapcheon Image Theme Park in Hapcheon, but I ended up with only the Image Theme Park because of lack of time since I only had the whole day in Hapcheon. The Image Theme is huge and there are a lot of interesting places that’s why it took me almost the whole day to explore it. Hapcheon is not a big city, it’s a countryside in Gyeongsangnam-do so transportation is limited. I had to catch the last bus at 7pm going back to Changwon. I promised myself that I will go to Haeinsa on my next Korea trip and it happened.

This year’s spring, special thanks to our Korean friend who drove us from Changwon to Haeinsa, I finally fulfilled my promised. After a 1.5 hour trip, we arrived in Hapcheon. The way to Haeinsa was so peaceful as it is in the middle of a mountain. Haeinsa houses the Tripitaka Koreana, a collection of Buddhists texts engraved in over 80,000 woodblocks. According to a friend, many people believed that the Tripitaka Koreana protected them from the Japanese.

The Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks is recognized as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.

Before reaching the main temple we passed by this site which at first I honestly had no idea what it is about until our friend explained its story. That’s the good thing about travelling with someone who’s familiar about the place. hehe.

I was stunned by the dandelions. I don’t why, but it always cheers me up every time I see dandelions.

Haeinsa Temple

This the main entrance of Haeinsa. There are colorful lanterns in the temple since it was the during the month of May, the time when they celebrate Buddha’s birthday. Most temples in Korea are decorated by beautiful colorful lanterns usually every April to May for Buddha’s birthday.

Now we’ve reached the main temple. This is Haeinsa Temple. I have been to several temples in Korea but Haeinsa really captivates me. It’s too peaceful and the people who are visiting are devotedly praying.

sdrThe collection of the woodblocks or the Tripitaka Koreana is located at the back of the main temple.

Apparently, these woodblocks are precious cultural assets so they are stored inside and I didn’t get to see them up close.

This picture looks so real that you will really look like you are inside and touching the woodblocks.

Of course it’s spring and I spotted beautifully bloomed flowers in the temple. They add more color and appeal to the place.

Gaya Mountain

Haeinsa is located in the southwestern part of Gaya mountain. We followed this path to witness breathtaking scenery and fantastic landscape around the vicinity. It’s more than what I expected.

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A lady, who I bumped into and was staying in this place, told me to go up higher ‘coz the view is more beautiful so I did. Well, she’s right. It’s simply mesmerizing. No one is around but me.

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We also passed by other places in Gaya mountain. My visit to Haeinsa and Gaya mountain was so worth the long walk. Haeinsa is one of the three jewels temples in Korea and they offer temple stay program. Something you might be interested about, check it out.  It’s really an amazing place.

Oil Tank Culture Park in Seoul

In 2017, Seoul introduced new public spots such as Seoullo 7017, Gyeongchun Forest Line, Seoul Battleship Park and the Oil Tank Culture Park which are part of the regeneration projects of the Seoul Metropolitan Government. It’s really amazing how these facilities were transformed into an environment-friendly sites instead of just knocking them down.

The Oil Tank Culture Park is within 500m distance from the Seoul World Cup Stadium. I got interested about this park because of the Korean Drama Hwayugi so I added it to my itinerary when I came back to Korea last spring. Getting there is easy. You can take the subway and get off at World Cup Stadium Station Line 6 and come out at Exit 2. You will immediately see the World Cup Stadium upon exiting. I was curious about how the stadium looks like and why people are coming in, I entered the main door and just saw the IMAX theater. I didn’t go in further. There was also a shopping area outside the stadium.

 

The park is connected to the walking path along Maebongsan Mountain. Follow the path and you’ll see signs which will lead you to the culture park.

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There are 6 tanks and the first tank I explored was T5 which is tagged as ‘Story Hall’. It was a good idea to see T5 first because it has the history of the culture park. The Mapo Oil Depot has been built to supply oil for future oil crisis and been restricted to public access for decades. It was shut down in the year 2000 when they started the construction of the stadium for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Later on, the existing tanks has been transformed into cultural facilities such as exhibit hall and performance hall. It was then opened to public in September 2017 as Oil Tank Culture Park.

 

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T2 has an open amphitheater for performances. The Glass Pavilion also known as the shooting location of the popular Korea Drama Hwayugi is located in T1. It appeared several times in the drama.

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The T6 is a community center. It’s quite spacious. It’s has a cafe and a meeting or lecture hall.

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After visiting this park, I realized that it’s not just because of Korean drama, but learning about the history of this culture park makes it an interesting place and I must say it’s one of the new must-visit places in Seoul for a unique experience.

Guide for First Time Travellers to Korea

Are you excited for your trip to South Korea but you don’t know what to do or where to go? Is it your first time traveling to Korea? If yes, read up and keep these things in mind.

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Gyeongbokgung Palace

1. Wear Comfortable Shoes

They say Koreans travel by BMW (bus, metro and walking). Wear your most comfortable shoes because will definitely do a lot of walking while in Korea.

2. Dress Appropriately

Korea has four seasons. Before traveling to the country, do some research on the weather. It’s freezing during winter season from December to February so make sure to wear something that will keep you warm. It is still cold in early spring, from March to early April. The weather becomes warm from mid April. Summer is from June to August. Summer in Korea can be really hot and it usually rains a lot. Autumn is from September to November. It becomes really cold from late October.

One more thing, girls can wear mini skirts or shorts but please avoid wearing revealing tops.

3. Download the Subway Korea app

The Subway Korea app is an offline app where you can find everything you need in taking the subway. You don’t need to connect to a wifi for it to work accurately. There are a lot of trains in Korea and the transfers can be confusing if you are not to used to their system. So get this app and don’t get lost.

4. Use T-Money Card

T-money is a transportation card which you can use in the subway, bus and some taxis. The train will be your main transportation while in Seoul since most tourist attractions can be reached by train. You can save ₩100 each ride by using T-money than purchasing single journey tickets. You can purchase the T-money card and charge it at any convenience store or subway vending machines.

5. Avoid traveling from midnight to early morning.

Subways are closed at 12 midnight. If you missed the last train and you don’t know which bus you have to take, you’ll probably be looking for a taxi. But taxi fare from 12mn to 4am is relatively high compared to regular rates. In my experience, when we went to Jinhae, we came back to Seoul at past 12midnight so we had to take a taxi to go back to the guest house and it charged us at around ₩26,000 for a 5-minute ride.

6. Tax-free for Foreigners

Foreigners can shop tax-free for a minimum purchase of ₩30,000. There are shops where you can get instant refunds. Some shops will require you to present your passport while others do not. In case you didn’t get instant refund, you can get the refund at Incheon International Airport before departure. Just look for the Tax Refund Counter at the airport and make sure you have the receipts with you.

Just recently, the Korea Tourism Organization announced that foreign tourists are eligible for a 10% tax refund on hotel accommodations. Click on the link for more details and for the list of the hotels.

7. Souvenir Shopping in Insadong

I prefer buying souvenirs in Insadong because it cheaper. Also, if you pay in cash you can get discounts and freebies.

8. Rent a Hanbok

To complete your Korea trip, it’ll be nice to experience to wear their traditional dress, Hanbok. For me, the best souvenir I can have for every Korea trip is a stunning photo wearing a Hanbok in a palace. I like wearing Hanbok because it’s comfortable to wear and it’s colorful.

Did you know that you can enter all 5 palaces, National Folk Museum and Jongmyo Shrine for free if you are wearing a Hanbok? There are Hanbok rentals shops around Insadong and places near the Gyeongbukgung. Rental fees start at ₩14,000 for 4hrs.

9. Eating in Restaurants

In Seoul, you’ll find restaurants in every corner. Most staff in restaurants cannot understand English but they usually have English menus. Take note, some menus require a minimum of 2 portions of order. So don’t get confused when they tell you that you cannot order 1.

When you are done eating, you don’t have to ask the staff for the bill like what we do in the Philippines. You pay on your way out. You should stand up and go to the counter to pay and then you can leave. The counter is usually located near the door.

10. No Tipping

You don’t have to give tips to restaurants, hotels or taxi drivers for their service. South Korea has a no-tipping culture. Koreans are nice and helpful.  If someone helps you to carry your luggage or even if someone’s gone out of their way just to help you, you can just sincerely thank them. You don’t need to give tips because they will refuse to accept it or they might feel offended.

But there are also situations where you have to give tips, like if you join group or package tours. Most of the times, you have to give tips to tour guides and drivers.

11. Discounts

There are discounts especially for foreigners. You can get discounts coupons when you arrive at the airport or you can get them online.

12. Do not put your powerbank or batteries inside your check-in luggage

This is just a reminder for a hassle-free travel. They scan luggages after check in, so wait until you are cleared to depart Korea. If they cannot reach you, they will open your luggage to remove your powerbank.

13. Respect the Culture and Tradition of the Country

It is a must when traveling to foreign countries. Every country has their own culture and tradition. And you cannot expect the locals to adjust according your needs and wants.

Is it safe to Travel to Korea?

Definitely Yes! I’ve traveled to Korea several times and I’ve never experienced being treated bad or being scammed. You can even leave your stuff in your table at coffee shops or at train/bus stations unattended. No one will be interested.

If you still don’t know where to go, here are the usual places that tourists visit when in Seoul.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

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Gwanghwamun Gate is the main gate of the Gyeongbokgung

Getting there: Gyeongbokgung Station, Exit 5 or Anguk Station and Exit 1.

Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon

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Getting there: Anguk Station, Exit 3. Walk straight from the exit (towards east) for about 5-min.

N Seoul Tower

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Getting there: Take the Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus or Cable Car

Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus
1. Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus No. 02
– Take the bus from the closest subway station: Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway Line 3, 4), Exit 2 (in front of Daehan Cinema) or Dongguk University Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 6.

2. Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus No. 03
– Take the bus from the closest subway station: Seoul Station (Seoul Subway Line 1, 4), Exit 9, Itaewon Station (Seoul Subway Line 6), Exit 4 or Hangangjin Station (Seoul Subway Line 6), Exit 2.

3. Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus No. 05
– Take the bus from the closest subway station: Myeong-dong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exit 3 or Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 2 (in front of Daehan Cinema).

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Get off at Myeong-dong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4) and Exit 3.
Walk for about 15 minutes following the street on the right side of the Pacific Hotel. The cable car boarding place will be seen ahead.

Credits to Korea Tourism Organization

Myeongdong

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Getting there: Myeong-dong Station , Exits 5, 6, 7 & 8.

Bukchon Hanok Village

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Getting there: Anguk Station , Exit 1 or 2. Go straight for about 300m.

Changdeokgung, Insadong and Bukchon are close to each other. So visit these places while you are within the area.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

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Getting there: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station and Exit 1.

Nami Island

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Getting there: Get off at Gapyeong Station, and take a taxi to Gapyeong Wharf or take the Gapyeong Tourist Bus.

Those were just some of the popular places in Seoul and nearby places. You can add more to your itinerary if you have enough time in Korea. Enjoy your trip!

 

My 4 Seasons of Happiness in Korea

Like other countries, Korea has 4 seasons and all of them have made me always long to travel back to the country. You will never run out of places to visit and activities to do as there are festivals happening all year round. I have been asked several times what is the best season to visit Korea and I couldn’t pick one season to recommend because honestly I like them all. Let me share with you some photos of my trips and recommended places each season.

SPRING

Autumn is really beautiful but I think spring is my favorite. Mainly because of the weather. The temperature is getting warm and it’s easier for me to wander around. Of course, the flowers are blooming which makes the surroundings romantic. Though I’m not a romantic person but I find spring to be the most romantic of all seasons. You’ll see couples strolling around wearing couple outfits and families are having picnics at the parks. They are out having fun after hibernating during the freezing winter. It’s like a start of new life, as what my Korean friend said.

Now you might wonder what’s with spring? What you can expect to see in spring? It’s cherry blossom season. Cherry blossoms only last for about 2 weeks. They usually start blooming on late March and at its peak on the first week of April in some places. If you want to catch the cherry blossoms check out the forecast that’s being announced by the Korea Tourism Organization.

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This photo was taken at Gyeongbukgung Palace in Seoul

Jinhae Cherry Blossom festival is the biggest cherry blossom festival in the South Korea. Jinhae is a district in the city of Changwon in South Gyeongsang Province where over 350,000 cherry blossom trees bloom during spring. The festival is being held every first week of April.

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The 2 famous spots in Jinhae Cherry Blossom festival are Yeojwacheon Stream and the  Gyeonghwa Station.

The Yeojwacheon is also famously known as the Romance Bridge because it is a filming location of Korean drama “Romance”.

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Get your cameras ready when approaching the Gyeonghwa Station. You’ll be passing the cherry trees lined rail road.

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Getting there: If you are in Busan, you are less than 1 hour away from Jinhae by bus. If you are coming from Seoul, traveling via KTX is the best option. There is no KTX line in Jinhae Station though, you have to transfer Mugunghwa Line in Masan or Changwon Station. And take note that train to Jinhae Station runs only during the festival.

If you don’t have time to go Jinhae, head over to Yeouido in Seoul for the Yeouido Cherry Blossom festival.

Getting there: Get off at Yeouinaru Station (Subway Line 5), Exit 1. 20 minute walk.

In case you miss the cherry blossoms, don’t worry. There are other festivals to look forward to in spring. There’s the Yuchae Flower festival in Daejo Eco-Park along Nakdong River in Busan. Also known as rapeseed or canola flowers. You can see these flowers by mid April.

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Getting there: Get off at Gangseo-gu Office Station and go out exit 1 or 3

Another highlight of spring is the Taean Tulip Festival in Taean-gun, in South Chungcheong Province. I believe it’s one of the best tulips festivals in the world.

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Check out my previous post about the Taean Tulip Festival 2017 for more info.

AUTUMN

Who wouldn’t fall for autumn? It’s the most colorful season. You can spot autumn foliage everywhere in the country. Nami Island is beautiful all season and it’s stunning in autumn.

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The Ginkgo Tree Avenue is Asan is also one of the best places to witness the beauty of autumn.

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More details about my trip to Ginkgo Tree Avenue here.

If you don’t have time to go to other places outside Seoul, it’s okay, you can still have a wonderful autumn experience in Seoul. Don’t forget to visit Deoksugung, it’s a palace that’s famous for autumn foliage.

I also spotted this huge Ginkgo tree inside Gyeongbukgung Palace.

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WINTER

Winter in Korea can be really harsh. Most people hate the freezing winter. But since I live in tropical country, I enjoyed winter so much. It’s a dream come true to experience snow. Gangwon province is the most popular during winter season. There are a lot of ski resorts in Gangwon-do. It’s the host province of the 2018 Winter Olympics which will be held in Pyeongchang this February.

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One of the most accessible ski resorts is the Elysian Gangchon Ski Resort. It’s near Nami Island.

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Getting there: Get off at Baegyang-ri Station. A complimentary shuttle ride is provided from Baegyangri Station to the resort.

SUMMER

Summer is not a new season to me. I grew up and still living in a country where it’s like summer all year hehe. Summer in Korea is really hot but not humid. It can also be considered as the rainy season in Korea.  It’s the season when I traveled to Jeju Island. I was lucky it didn’t rain too much during my trip. I like the bright green leaves of summer.

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Because it’s summer, it’s time to sunbathe. Haeundae Beach in Busan is also a must-visit place during summer to enjoy the sun.

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I don’t claim to be an expert, there might be some things I’ve missed but I’m glad I’m able to share the things I learned from my trips because it’s always been a fulfilling experience to travel around Korea whatever season it may be.

Now it’s up to you to decide in which season you would want to travel to Korea. Let me know if you need more information.

Happy travels everyone!

 

 

 

Green Tea Field in Boseong-gun, Korea

Hey green tea lovers! I’ve got something for you.  Have you heard about the Green Tea field in Boseong-gun? It has always been on my travel bucket list and I finally got to visit  during my recent trip to Korea. I know not everyone likes green tea but I’m pretty sure whether you like or not, you’re gonna fall for this place. In Korea it’s called 녹차밭 (Nok Cha Pat). The name of the green tea field is Daehan Dawon. As far as I know it’s the only tourist tea plantation in the country.

I’ve been to several places in Korea and I must say this is one of my favorite.

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In case you are interested to visit the place, here’s how I got there. Boseong is a county in Jeollanam-do. I came in from Gwangju. I purchased a intercity bus ticket bound for Boseong at U-Square Terminal. Travel time is 1.5 hrs. When you arrive at Boseong Bus Terminal, check the schedule of the buses posted in the wall. The schedules are all written in Korean though. The terminal is quite small and there are only few buses. The bus to the Daehan Dawon runs only every hour. You might want to check the schedule first to save your waiting time. Since it was my first time and I didn’t want to get lost, I asked all the  drivers if it’s the bus going to 녹차밭. Most of them understand English. So don’t worry about communicating with them.

While walking towards the field, you’ll pass by these woods. So beautiful. It was a very nice day.

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Entrance fee is 4,000 won.

Did you know that this field has been a shooting location for some Korean dramas and movies?  They’ve labelled each area where the particular drama or movie has been filmed. The latest drama I’ve watched that’s been filmed here is The Legend of the Blue Sea starring Lee Min Ho and Jeon Ji Hyeon.

There’s the autumn foliage and some autumn flowers.

Follow this path to arrive at the observatory.

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First you’ll see the view of Boseong and if you go up further, you’ll find a refreshing view of the ocean. Meaning you are already at the top of the mountain. Nice hike!

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After the hike, try out the green tea ice cream and green tea tteokbokki. Yes, you read it right, it’s green tea tteokbokki. A must-try when in the green tea field.

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Going back to the Boseong bus terminal is also easy. Just cross the tunnel and find the bus stop. The schedule is also posted in the bus stop. Remember to be mindful of the bus schedules as not so many buses run in Boseong.

 

Ginkgo Tree Avenue in Asan, Chungcheongnam-do

We all know that Korea has four seasons and each season have their own charms.  Autumn is definitely one of my many reasons to visit the country again. The yellow, red and orange fall foliage can be spotted everywhere. Nami Island is the most visited place outside Seoul especially for first time travelers to Korea. But have you also heard about the Ginkgo Tree Avenue in the city of Asan? If you try to look for the best places to visit in autumn, this place would always be on the list.

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It’s a 2km ginkgo tree-lined road. During autumn, the ginkgo leaves turn into golden yellow color. I went to see the ginkgo avenue on the 4th of November and it was a little early as most leaves are still colored green. The view is still amazing though.

I didn’t expect to see a variety of beautiful flowers in full bloom beside the lake.

Say Hello to the Cosmos flowers 🙂

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There were also chrysanthemum, sunflowers, silver grass and others.

It’s like autumn meets spring in Asan.

To go to the Gingko tree Avenue, via metro subway, get off at Onyang Ocheon Station (Line 1). Or via KTX, get off at Asan-Cheonan Station and transfer to Line 1 and get off at Onyang-Ocheon Station.

Upon exit, cross the road to find the bus stop and take bus #900 , #910 or #920. Or take a taxi, it will cost around ₩6,000.

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If you miss the Ginkgo tree avenue this year, don’t worry, it’s never too early to plan for the next autumn. So, let’s start planning. 🙂

 

 

Day trip to Damyang county in Jeollanam-do

I was told before that there’s nothing much to see in Damyang so I skipped it last April during my spring trip. But then, I felt like my trip was not complete because I missed Damyang. Then I planned another trip to Korea, this time it’s autumn. One of the best seasons to visit Korea. I decided to stay in Gwangju, it’s the closest city to Damyang-gun. From Gwangju, it takes less than an hour to go to Damyang County.

On my way to Damyang, I only had 3 places in my mind. First is the Bamboo Forest and second is the Metasequioa-lined road. The 3rd one is the Geumseongsanseong Fortress, which is a bit far so I know I won’t make it there.

How to go to Bamboo Forest from Gwangju? Take Bus #311 in the bus stop in front of Gwangju U-square bus terminal. Tell the driver you are going to 죽녹원 (Juknokwon). Get off at Juknokwon bus stop. Travel time is about 45mins.

This is the kind of view you’ll see the moment you get off the bus.

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Entrance fee is ₩3,000.

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This is so relaxing. It was too quiet. There were only 2 or 3 people during that time because it was early.

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The sound of the bamboo leaves as it dances with the wind made me want to fall asleep in this hammock.

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The rear entrance of the Bamboo Forest looks like this in autumn.

While walking towards the Metasequioa tree-lined road we passed by another scenic spot, the Gwanbangjerim forest.

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Finally,  I’ve reached the famous Metasequioa tree lined road in Damyang. It’s also a filming location of some K-dramas.

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Beside the Metasequioa trees, there’s the Kids Provence Metasequioa Land.

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Make sure to try out these traditional meal while you are in Damyang. I always like Korean food and I enjoy them every time I visit, but this one is one of the best meal I ever had in Korea.

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There is a Tourist information center near Juknokwon bus stop, which is on the opposite side of the Bamboo Forest. I was surprised when I got the tourist guide map that there are so many beautiful places to see in Damyang. Too bad I only allotted 1 day. Now there’s more reasons to come back.

 

 

 

 

Budget Travel Tips for your South Korea trip

Every time I go on a trip, I always get feedback from friends and family that I am rich and that I have a lot of money because I can afford to travel. I actually don’t like it because I am not rich, how I wish I am. Lol. Money is not everything you need when you travel. It also requires an open mind and a lot of courage. Well of course I need money to travel but I always travel on a budget. If Korea is your dream destination but there are things that are holding you back from traveling, these tips I will share might help you achieve your dream trip to the Land of the Morning Calm.

Be aware of the airline promos

It all starts with the promo fares. You can book a round trip ticket to Incheon or Busan for as low as P4,900. It does not include baggage allowance yet but you can just add later on. Cebu Pacific, Air Asia and Jeju Air have direct flights from Manila to Incheon. I follow their Facebook pages and I’m subscribed to newsletters for updates.

Find an affordable place to stay

So you already have a plane ticket. The next thing to do is to look for an affordable place to stay. There are a lot of guesthouses, pension houses and hostels in Korea which you can book from P800-P1,200 per night. If you don’t mind sharing a room with strangers, you may look for a dorm type room which is way cheaper. Plus you’ll get to meet new friends. I always book at Booking.com for rooms with free cancellations. What I like about it is that you’ll have to pay directly at the property upon check in. And by the way, I’m already a Genius member in Booking.com, which means I get additional discounts in some properties. I don’t know how I unlocked that stage but maybe because I booked 5 times in a year.  Well, loyalty really leads to discounts and perks.

Visa application

Applying for a visa can be very stressful especially for Filipinos, I understand it very well. You have to prepare all the documents, go to the bank and to your HR. Sometimes while your visa is on process, you can hardly sleep thinking what would be the result of the application. But Korea visa is probably one of easiest visa to apply for. It is free if you are applying for a tourist visa which is a maximum of 59 days of stay. You don’t have to pay thousands of pesos unlike other visas. But if you are going to apply through a travel agency, then you might have to pay for a service fee. No need to set appointments, just go to Korean Embassy to submit your papers. Easy, right? Just make sure all your documents are complete before going to the embassy.

One question I get a lot is about the how much show money do you need in your bank accounts. The Korean Embassy doesn’t really require an amount or a show money. You just have to have enough money to fund your whole trip. Check out their site for the requirements and updates.

Save up

How do I fund my trip? Months before I travel, I set aside a portion of my salary every payday and every day I put a small amount to my travel fund if I have a extra money. As little as P50-P100 per day.

Annyeong Korea!

Now you already have a plane ticket, booked a place to stay, you have your visa and your pocket money, it’s time now to fly to Korea. I always have a detailed itinerary every time I go to Korea. Shopping areas and amusement parks are not on my list. Those are the places where you’d most likely to spend huge amount of money. The fact that I’m not a shopaholic and I don’t enjoy those crazy rides,  I’d rather spend my money on food.

When it comes to food, it is usually expensive in popular areas such as Myeongdong, Gangnam and Dongdaemun. I always stay in Dongdaemun area, but I have found some affordable restaurants and cafe’s. You just have to explore the place. That’s what you are there for in the first place, to explore. You’ll find them in the not so crowded area and some narrow alleys. When I was in Myeongdong I had my favorite caramel macchiato in one of the cafe’s there which costs around₩5,000. But then, there’s this cafe near the places I stay in Dongdaemun, where I got the my caramel macchiato for only₩2,500. That’s exactly half the price. If you are really on a tight budget, there are what they call “lunch boxes” in convenience stores which cost around ₩2,500-₩5,000. It’s already a complete meal, including rice, meat, veggies and side dishes.

Going around Korea is very easy and convenient. You don’t have to take taxi all the time because their transportation system is very efficient. Most places can be reached by subway or bus. Use the T-money card instead of purchasing single journey tickets. You can save ₩100 each ride by using T-money.

Popular places in Korea, particularly in Seoul and Busan have no entrance fees. If there are, it’s only minimum amount usually from ₩1,000-₩5,000 except for theme parks which are more expensive.

Here are some popular places you can visit for free:

SEOUL

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Gwanghwamun Square is just across the Gyeongbukgung. You can see the statues of King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sun Shin. You can also try wearing a Hanbok for free.

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Ihwa Mural Village is in the area of Ihwa-dong. It is the most popular mural village in Seoul. You can find paintings on the walls of the houses and art installations.

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Naksan Park is near the Ihwa Mural Village. You can see the Seoul Fortress Wall and a stunning view of the city.

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Take a relaxing and romantic walk through the 10km long Cheonggyecheon Stream in downtown Seoul.

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Bukchon Hanok Village is the most popular hanok village in Seoul. 

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Namsangol Hanok Village is another hanok village in Seoul which you can visit for free. 

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The Namsan mountain where the N Seoul tower is located is also entrance free unless you want to go to the observatory, you’ll have to pay for ₩10,000 admission fee. 

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Yeouido Park and Yeouido Hangang Park is a recreational area near Han River. Don’t miss this place during spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

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Another place to catch the cherry blossoms on spring is on the 15km long Yangjae Stream. 

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The Hall of Peace in Kyunghee University is an event’s place where a variety of events are being held regularly.

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The K-star road in Gangnam is a must visit place for all K-pop fans out there. Most talent agencies of your favorite K-pop stars are located within the area. 

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Haeundae Beach is the one of the most visited places in Busan. 

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Gwangalli Beach is my favorite place in Busan especially at night. 

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Gamcheon Culture Village is village of colorful houses and you’ll find painted murals all over the place. 

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Unlike most temples in Korea which are located in the moutains, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is in northeastern coast part of Busan.

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Dongbeak Island is an island in Busan where you can see both the Haeundae and Gwangalli beach. 

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Nurimaru APEC House is situated in Dongbaek Island. You can go inside for free.

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The Busan Tower is situated at Yongdusan Park. There are also more to see in the park such as the statue of Admiral Yi Sun Shin, a flower clock and stunning view of Busan.

Find out more about these places for you to be able to save more on your trip. Korea is not all about K-pop and K-drama, the country has a lot to offer.

Travelling to Korea doesn’t have to be that expensive.  But it still depends on how you travel. For me, travelling is about learning, not only about the places you see but also learning about yourself.

Check out https://maewanderer.com/2017/06/11/essential-tips-for-your-south-korea-trip/  for more travel tips. Enjoy exploring Korea as much as I do!