I'd say, this Korean Autumn Trip will remain very memorable to me for a long, long time. I got my plane tickets from winning as the blogger partner during the AirAsia Travel Photographer contest. I'd like to think that I used my prize wisely.
Last year in October, I was dreaming and hoping to experience autumn in Korea. I even created a Pinterest album with photos of Korea during fall just to "attract" this. Long story short, I was back in the land of kimchi and K-Dramas to experience Korea during the season I've been dreaming of for over a year.
Do Min Joon welcomed me at the Incheon Airport!
I bought a single journey ticket and rode the airport train going to my first lodging. During Spring with Tracy, we took the airport taxi which costed us around Php 2500. For this option, I only had to spend Php 200! I should have bought a T-Card (reloadable card) but forgot about it.
Navigating Seoul is easy just as long as you have Internet connection and the right app. I bought the Seoul City Metro (by JC Multimedia Design) for USD 1.99 (or Php 100). This helped me navigate my way during the entire trip!
Meanwhile, I was also always connected because of my Flytpack router. I'll blog more about this service! They're my lifesaver.
It was also my first solo trip, I guess that's what made this extra memorable. It tested me in so many levels, and now I appreciate every person that I get to talk to along the way. During the in betweens, I compose my insights on my phone's notes. Here's a line taken from one of these travel journal entries:
"All five senses are at their peak when you travel alone. It can be stressful, but I know it's a good thing as I become even more aware of what's around me."
"I woke up that morning with lack of decent sleep, and conditioned myself that it's going to be a GREAT trip. My parents were on time, and brought me to the airport 30 minutes earlier from our estimate. I surpassed the jungle aka check-in, travel taxes, and immigration, and was even early for boarding I had the luxury of time to enjoy breakfast at a Mexican place near my boarding gate.
I am now on the plane, God knows how high above ground. I am nicely seated in Row 1E (first row, wow!), right next to a girl in Adidas sneakers and Anello bag. No small talks for us. Slowly gaining the peace in my heart that I needed, I now face this trip with courage and curiosity. Open Mind, Open Heart.
It's a bumpy plane ride, but at least it's heading to somewhere exciting."
I decided to book for the same Myeongdong place where Tracy, Paul, and I stayed for 7 nights last Spring. It had been months since, but I easily reached New Sun Guesthouse with just my Google Maps and Flytpack internet connection (again, lifesaver!).
It still looks the same as before: Simple, clean, complete, convenient.
After dropping off my things, and freshening a bit, I headed out right away to make the most of what's left for me for the day. Time was ticking during the whole trip, 5pm palang wala nang araw so you really have to strategize and move fast!
So my first meal was a cold pre-packed pancake from Korean convenience store CU. I ate it while on the train:
A "Train to Busan" ish view!
Saw a glimpse of autumn while waiting for the train.
I asked a middle-aged lady if it's the right track, and after confirming, she even tried to converse a little. She asked if I'll be meeting up with a friend, and even handed me with a new "heat pack" to keep me warm (I was freezing the whole time!). She went off at a university station, so I thought that she might be working as a professor. Again, for a first time solo traveler, I was a bit emotional to chance upon an angel during the first few hours of my trip.
My agenda for my first night in Seoul is to finally visit the Garden of Morning Calm during day time. Last spring, we went to Nami Island and Petite France, so when we reached the garden, it was already closing. Fate must be laughing at me as I tried my best to again arrive at the Garden of Morning Calm with daylight, but I was still late when I got there. Next time, first agenda na to sa umaga! Travel time is almost 2 hours from Myeongdong.
I asked the lady inside the tourist information cubicle near the Cheonpyeong Station if I'll be able to still go to Petite France or Garden of Morning Calm. She said that Petite France is already closed, huhu. She pointed me to the bus station for the Gapyeong City Bus (Gapyeong Day Pass costs 6000 Korean Won or Php 250). I asked if I can just take the taxi to save time, but the lady discouraged me as the fare might reach up to Php 700+.
Alright, so I waited for the bus for almost 30 minutes. In the cold.
For your convenience, check out Garden of Morning Calm Lighting Festival Shuttle Bus Ticket.
The bus was not even half full, but I went in anyway. At least there were a few people who still planned to go to the garden at night time. I even heard a couple laughing and talking in Filipino, "Ang layo pala nito! Garden of Night Calm nato!" Lol.
Paid the driver for my unlimited ticket for only 6000 Won (Php 255), which I used from the station to the garden, and then going back.
The heat pack from my first travel angel:
By the ticket booth is this tarpaulin, promoting the tourist place as one of the settings for K-Drama Moonlight Drawn By Clouds. I learned about this in one of the apps I downloaded for this trip (Visit Korea). Again, since our batch came in late, we had less than 30 minutes to explore the place. From 9000 Won, we only paid 6000 Won (Php255).
I might be late again, but at least they lighted up the garden this time!
Sharing some photos of this lighted wonderland:
It was a cold walk, and a little bit eerie. But over-all, I am proud of myself that I was there!
Saw a scary dark house, and thought it's time to go back to the entrance. My stomach was already grumbling by the time I reached the train station.
Looks unreal! Passed through this beautiful pink tunnel of lights going back to the bus station:
Instead of dropping off in Hoehyeon (the nearest station to New Sun Guesthouse), I maximized the night by heading to Myeongdong for some street food! To me, it's still the best dinner in Korea: To go around the street food stalls in Myeongdong and try everything that catches your eyes!
First bite: Gyeranppang (계란빵) or Korean Egg Bread (3000 Won). Very fluffy and warm!
My favorite, twist potato on a stick with cheese powder (3000 Won):
Baked cheese drizzled with condensed milk (3000 Won), nom-nom!
By the time I bought this strawberry covered with mochi and chocolate (2500 Won), I was already full! I decided to keep it inside my backpack, and eat it later on in my room while watching a K-Drama with no subtitles. Felt legit! It was extra cold that night (thus the gloves), but I continued walking aimlessly till my feet gave up. It was so satisfying that I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep that night.
Apps to download before going to Seoul:
1) Visit Korea - For currency conversion, weather, and travel tips
2) Seoul Metro (USD 1.99) - Bookmark-able subway routes, with exact time of train's arrival
3) Mango Plate - For recommended restaurants within your area
Where to stay near Myeongdong: New Sun Guesthouse (booked via Airbnb)
- Booked via Airbnb for only Php 1672 / night (with taxes and extra fees already)
- Bunk beds, with TV, basic toiletries, hair dryer, fast wifi
- Basic breakfast
- Super near Hoehyeon Station, just one station away and walking distance to Myeongdong
Blogged more about this guesthouse HERE.
Read more about my Korea Spring 2016 trip.