Tuesday, July 06, 2010

How to cover Seoul in 4D3N comfortably

Annyeong Seoul! This trip was done via Asiana Airlines and booked through AirRelated Travel Pte Ltd (S$845). Eastgate Tower Hotel (S$806 for 5D4N) was booked online seperately due to the lack of rooms in Seoul.

Nevertheless, I cannot compliment Asiana Airlines enough for their stellar service. Despite it being a full flight and us being cramped up amongst a bunch of burly, rowdy and outright drunk Caucasians on a 6hr flight, the staff and service remained impeccable. Asiana has a 1-whiskey per person corporate rule onboard flights and thank god for that. Else, the men around us would be so drunk and absolutely rowdy during the flight.

Getting to Seoul from Incheon
This being a F&E trip, airport transfer was not included. Hence, we proceeded to take the airport limousine from Incheon International into Seoul. There are many airport limos heading into Seoul so you need to check the bus route online to see which one stops closest to your hotel. Ours being bus 6001, taken from bus stop 6A or 12B. Tickets can be purchased onboard the bus and should cost 13,000won. *Do print a korean version of your hotel location to show the bus driver. He'll alert you when to stop once he's arrived. After a 50min ride (no traffic jam), we arrived at the Uljiro Co-op stop and had to drag the bags a distance of approx 500m to the Eastgate Tower Hotel. The poor bags >____<~ floors are uneven so your bags do suffer some ill treatment.

Transport around Seoul
Travelling around Seoul is pretty convenient. You can purchase a T-card from the train stations for 3,000won (non-refundable) and top up the card subsequently. Seoul's metro system is pretty much like those of other well-developed countries; complicated, multiple lines and yet convenient. *Do grab an English metro map from the station prior to departure. Rides cost 900won once you enter and a top-up is deducted depending on the distance travelled.

Most stores open from 10.20-11am onwards, the exception being the cosmetics stores in Myeongdong (Subway Line 4 Exit 6) that open from 8am to cater to the early birds. All major Korean and international cosmetics brands and shops can be found in Myeongdong. Tony Moly, Face Shop, Nature Republic, It's Skin, Etude House, BSX, Adidas, Forever21, Zara and H&M (Noon Square). Idols endorsement is extremely rampant in Korea

Super Junior and SNSD for SPAO

Other malls in the Myeongdong area (walking distance from the cosmetics stretch) include Lotte Young Plaza (NII, BSX, Fila etc) and of course, Lotte Department Store (Gucci, MCM, LV etc). Lotte Department Store closes at 8pm and tax refund for tourists can be done behind the Gucci store on Level 1.

Baskin Robbins', 2pm for It's Skin and Rain for Nature Republic

Kim Hyun Joong for Tony Moly, CN Blue for Holika Holika

Ewha Women's University + Hongdae
Ewha's Women's University (Subway Line 2 Exit 1 or 2) as its namesake suggests is a women only university. To cater to the ladies here, a shopping community has blossomed and Ewha is predominantly good for shoe shopping.

Entrance to Ewha Women's University and the street-lined shops

Nice cafes all around Ewha

YG Entertainment
Kpop music is now spilling into other parts of Asia and 1 of the pre-eminent companies in Korea would be
YG Entertainment. YG is home to artists like Gummy, Se7en, Big Bang and 2NE1 and the YG Building was more like a pilgrimage and sightsee.

YG Entertainment directions:
397-5 Hapjeong-Dong, Mapo-Gu
Take Subway Line 2 to Hapjeong Station Exit 8. Turn right at exit 8 and you will see a SK gas station. Go straight on and you'd eventually see another SK gas station. Walk further straight onto the freeway and on the first right turn of the road, walk in another say 200m and you'd see the YG Building. There is a combi store right outside of it.

Ewha's many cafes and YG Building. G-Dragon's MV playing on the screen inside

Hongdae is Seoul's designated Hip Hop and R&B area in front of Hongik University (Subway Line 2 Exit 6). Hongdae houses many hip hop clubs and there is a vibrant artsy culture here. The Coffee Prince Cafe is also in this area but alas, we couldn't locate it despite walking around for a long time. Hongdae is also home to dozens of quaint shops and cafes that you can spend an entire afternoon in.

Chillin' in 1 of the cafes in Hongdae

Cheonggyecheon Stream
The Cheonggyecheon Stream that flows through the heart of Seoul and this cultural symbol is also the dating grounds for many locals at night. A laser light show is put up daily around 7-730pm, so do grab a good spot early.

In the day and many Seoul-ites dating, enjoying the breeze at night

Express Bus Terminal, Apgujeong
The Express Bus Terminal (Subway Line 3 Exit 7) place is a reminisce of Jeju Underground shopping mall. Clothes, shoes, accessories, household decorative items and flowers are sold here. Earrings are as cheap as 1,000won and t-shirts go for 5,000won. Bargaining is advised else just punch in figures in a calculator and say "CASH CASH" should there be a language barrier. CASH = discount!

Having a spot of lunch @ Express Bus Terminal and tea @ Coffee Bean in Apgujeong

Apgujeong (Subway Line 3 Exit 2) is the Beverly Hills of Seoul.Tthis street houses all the major international labels and has private valet services for celebrities to shop in privacy. To get to Rodeo Street, turn left at Exit 2, walk all the way straight down till you see Uniqlo in the near distance. Rodeo Street is just 1 street before Uniqlo.

*Don't be surprised if you see girls with bandanged noses or chins wearing a cap and surgical mask. They are probably still recuperating from their plastic surgeries and shopping at the same time in Apgujeong.

*SM Entertainment is 2 doors down from Galleria for all you Suju, SNSD, f(x) fans.

Shops @ Rodeo Street

Huge Galleria store with LV and Goyard!

3.1 Philip Lim, MCM, Tory Burch

Jenny House, Ferragamo, Cartier

LV, D&G, 10 Corso Como

Dongdaemun's Hello aPM (Subway Line 2 Exit 14 Dongdaemun History and Culture Park station) offers midnight shopping. This has seriously got to be the best place to shop in Seoul. Things are cheap, plentiful, you can bargain in almost all the shops in this 7-storey complex. Best of all, they open from 10.20am - 5am. Other malls in the area include Doota and Migliore (similar to aPM).

N Seoul Tower, Namsan Cable Car
1 of the sightsees done on this trip would be to Namsan Hill and N Seoul Tower (Subway Line 4 to Chungmuro Station Exit 1, in front of Daehan Cinema). Walk a little ahead to the bus stop in front of Daehan and take bus #2 all the way up to Namsan Hill. You'd pass Dongguk University and The Shilla on the way. After alighting from the bus, follow the crowds up an ultra steep slope and you'd arrive at the N Seoul Tower. Admission is free but locks cost 10,000won each should you wish to write a message with your loved ones and leave them here on the tower.

The Namsan Cable car costs 13,000won each and tickets can be purchased from the vending machine. Ride is about 10mins and to get off Namsan Hill, make a left once exiting from the carpark at the base of the cable car station. Take the stairs down and walk all the way down the hill to Myeongdong. Walk takes 20-25mins so wear flats as it is steep.

Climbing up Namsan Hill, N Seoul Tower and the cable car tower

Many lovers' locks on N Seoul Tower, hello aPM <3, Doota

Enter6, Gwang Hwa Mun
Enter6 (Subway Line 2 to Wangsimni Station Exit 5) has exactly the same concept as Odaiba Venus Fort in Tokyo, Japan; Venice-style architecture and central fountain. Nothing much to see at Enter6 so no loss really.

Gwang Hwa Mun (CBD area of Seoul) is home to the American embassy (heavily fortified) and the location of the NZ and Aus embassies. Gwang Hwa Mun is also the site for the filming of Korean drama, IRIS and 2 of Korea’s most famous statues- Admiral Yi Shin and King Sejong.

Gwang Hwa Mun (CBD area), King Sejong and historical relic

IRIS filming site, heading into the Ginseng chicken restaurant and Seoul at night

**IMPT TO NOTE** This is one thing I cannot stress further. Do give at least 2-2.5hrs prior to flight departure time to head to the airport. This is to buffer for multiple stops by the airport limo and also traffic jams towards Incheon. We almost missed our flight back as we only arrived 30mins prior to flight departure. The poor Asiana airlines girl was so flustered and unsure if we could even check in our bags. But, we did manage to toss our bags in as oversized luggage (despite the 57kg weight for 2) and ran all the way to the gate. Needless to say, we were breathless when we reached the gate and did not manage to find time to do tax refunds :( So lesson learnt everyone!!! Do leave your hotel much earlier. Thanks to Ms. Monica Jung from Asiana Airlines on OZ751 30th June at the travel counter for her EXCELLENT service.

Thank you Seoul, I will be back! Sarang-hae

Hotel: Eastgate Tower Hotel (above the Cerestar shopping mall in the heart of Dongdaemun)
Hotel Review: Fantastic apartment style hotel with clean sheets, clean toilet and English/Japanese speaking staff. There is nothing to fault with this place as rooms come with daily housekeeping, kitchenette, washing machine, ironing board, complimentary tea and coffee and 2 bottles of water everyday. If I were to head back to Seoul, I would definitely want to stay here again. Unless of course, someone pays for my stay at The Shilla
Weather: 19-29c (19c in the early mornings and 29c in the afternoons)

Clean hotel toilet and twin bedroom
Posted by fongie on 7/06/2010 10:24:00 AM in , , , ,