Winter in Korea Day 2: Extremes! From Seoul's Café Dior to Jeju's Snow Storm Real Quick!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

On my first full day in South Korea, I vowed to spend the morning with my friend where I always stay whenever I am alone in Seoul. As a brief intro on our friendship, I've known Marj since we were still in grade school when we used our breaks playing volleyball or patin (how we call "patintero"). In high school, we both wrote the line "to have a fashion boutique with a friend" in our batch yearbook's ambition section--knowing that as early as 15 or 16 we will be each other's future business partners.

We parted ways in college as she took medicine and I went for journalism, but we're still in the same campus so we tried to meet up when our scheds permit it. We call our friendship "effortless" because we don't force anything from each other. Even with different interests and priorities and even personalities, we are amazed how we still see each other without thorough planning.

Marj went to Korea early last year to further her medicine studies in a hospital in Seoul. I was even with her in I think a coffee shop when she was browsing online for a condo unit where she will be staying for a year. I first visited Marj during spring last year, when I did my Kdrama tour. She was so busy at that time we seldom see each other, even when I get back to her place late at night she's usually still in the hospital. I am proud of her for surviving that one year of independence and hard work!

By the end of this winter trip, I realized that I was able to visit my friend in Korea 4x in total, covering all the four seasons including autumn--even when I had a packed itinerary with bloggers for the KTO Ladies Special campaign. We were amazed that it wasn't because she demanded it or because I was pressured, we just did it because we can and we wanted to. It's one of those friendships that doesn't try too hard but you know will last for years and years because although we value each other, we also let each other live our lives and grow on our own.

Our agenda for that morning is to visit the Café Dior in Apgujeong Rodeo. Aside from being my old friend, Marj is also my enabler when it comes to all things luxury.. HAHA! She's the first friend I traveled with (Bangkok), and the friend who convinced me to get a luxury bag. It's not an everyday thing for me a, but don't we all deserve a little of life's goodness from time to time? :)

Apgujeong Rodeo turned out to be a high-end fashion district in Gangnam area. I only know of Gangnam before (because of the song hehe), but when we got off the Apgujeong Rodeo subway station, the streets were lined with our favorite luxury brands from Gucci to Givenchy to MCM. I also saw the famous Kpop bears or the "Gangnamdol" standing from across the street. These dolls represent 10 Kpop teams from EXO, SNSD, BTS, etc.

Finally, we saw the pristine white Dior flagship store. Café Dior is located on the fifth floor. When we entered the shop, they lead us to the elevator. 

So happy that there weren't any lines that day!! While we were searching for the address online on our way there, we saw reviews that say we needed to make reservations since the cafe is usually full. On the way nadin naman kami so we just pushed our luck. Good thing we came early and on a weekday! I think only around 2-3 tables were occupied during our whole stay there.

There's a lounge area and a shelf filled with Dior coffee table books. We weren't able to avail this area, as they directed us immediately to our seats.

I love the feel of the cafe, everything's posh and white and seemingly spacious with the glass walls. Best part is the friendly and courteous staff. You just know you're in a fancy place. They also have a veranda dining area with huge, fringe umbrellas, but it was snowing that day so we opted to stay indoors.

I took out my camera and immediately snapped some photos and keber lang sila sakin. I've read somewhere that Café Dior must be one of the most expensive cafes in Seoul, and usual diners are tourists and even a few Korean celebs. I even saw two guys entering with caps and black face masks who sat in a far corner of the cafe, so I assumed they must be popular! But syempre, although curious, pretend din ako na keber lang HAHA!

True enough, the price range is steeper than the usual cafes in Seoul. Budget per head is around Php 1700-2500 for a coffee and a pastry. I think this is my most expensive brunch I've ever had! They have a hardcopy menu with the descriptions and prices, or you can also browse with the iPad with food photos and descriptions: 

Ahhh, everything looks aesthetically pleasing! I got the set with the Dior latte, a nice flaky croissant and a madeleine. Marj also got a latte and a dessert pastry with berries and cream filling. Everything's good and for me worth every penny we spent. We were even surprised that the cup of latte is bigger than how it looks on the menu!

What I love about traveling is seeing these global trends before we even absorb it here at home. In this case, it's the rise of extension cafes here in Seoul. First is the Innisfree Green Cafe in Myeongdong. In the middle of shopping for your favorite skincare and cosmetics on the ground floor, you can go to the second or third floor to rest and have a cup of coffee and a cute dessert before proceeding with your hunt.

There is also Style Nanda's Pink Pool Cafe in Myeongdong and Hongdae, a really well-thought-out bait for the girly-girls and those who just love pink and updating their 'gram! If you still have stocks of their makeup, Style Nanda is giving you another reason to enter their store just because of their Instagram-worthy corners and coffee served with a cotton candy!! You won't even hear a word from the staff even if you just take photos in the store!

I went to Café Dior's metallic silver restroom before we requested for our bill, and it was like entering a hotel suite's comfort room. There's a stack of white, neatly rolled towelettes on the sink, and a tray of two Dior perfume and a body lotion on its opposite corner that you can freely use. What a dream!

That afternoon, after repacking and resting a bit back in Marj's condo, I decided to just take the train to Gimpo International Airport for my night flight to Jeju Island-- aka the start of my Winter in Korea adventure!

Instead of my original plan of taking the airport bus, I took advantage of the train line that skips several stations so I can reach the airport on time or even earlier. It was rush hour, and dragging my luggage to escalators and train transfers is always a hassle, but minsan hinahanap hanap ko padin yung pagod nato, haha!

Check in with JejuAir was a breeze, I'm just glad to get rid of my heavy luggage. What I did not expect is that there will be flight delays for a Korea domestic flight. I later on realized that this must be because of the snow situation.

I walked to the immigration and then went to my boarding gate first before I decided that I can already chill (solo traveling tip: triple check and stay alert!). I think I saw two Dal.komm branches in this airport! I dined in the one nearest my gate, where they also serve sandwiches and noodles.

It was a almost 20 minutes with just my cup of latte when I realized that I think they forgot my kimchi noodles, so I followed it up even though my boarding time is already nearing. Buti nalang di ko cinancel yung order! I did not expect it at that time, but I will need all the energy for the upcoming series of unfortunate events that night. Looking back, I cannot imagine going through all that with an empty stomach, huhu!

Waiting by the gate for my delayed flight:

Boarded! The flight was far from smooth, sobrang snowing na pala.

It was late night already and I was rushing for the bus. I was pulling my luggage when I realized that my bag felt weird and wobbly. I looked back and saw an unscrewed wheel around 10 steps away from me! Haha nakakahiya! I picked it up and tried to put it back but it was more difficult without tools, so ni-let go ko nalang basta nahihila ko pa sya okay na yan.

After asking the person in the information booth, I took down the bus number which will stop in major hotels in Seogwipo (south of Jeju, where my hostel is located) and the gate number nearest this bus stop.

While waiting in line, I received this automated message on my iPhone and it was in Korean, so I sent it to Marj who gave me this translation. Jeju is currently experiencing some major winter troubles!

I think I waited for almost an hour in the cold before our bus arrived. Nung una nakakaaliw pa watching the snow and taking Boomerangs of the smoke that comes out of my mouth lol, but later on nakakainip na. Again, I did not realize it at that time but all the delays were all because of the heavy snowfall.

Punong puno yung bus, and may katabi pa ako. I knew the ride will take an hour and a half, so that's what I indicated in my hostel as expected time of arrival. But we were not even in the middle of our route yet, when our bus started to literally crawl. I wiped the fog from my window, took a peek and saw people standing on the side streets maybe waiting for a ride--their own version of stranded while commuting. The roads were all white and slippery so I said, owkay, slowly but surely. This will be a long night but as long as we're safe ......

..... *BUMP!* Then we felt a major hump, and everyone in our bus gasped, akala ko talaga may natanggal na na gulong yung bus!!!! Driver-nim stopped our vehicle and parked it on the side road for what felt like hours, and I was so confused every time someone stood in front to announce something in Korean. Ano daw!? I was scared that we might need to spend the night on the road, or that when I reach my hostel the check in counter will already be closed, huhu. I was preparing myself for the worst.

We struggled on the road, till the bus finally reached my stop. I went out feeling relieved that I am finally near my hot bath and clean bed, but the major struggle of the day is yet to happen.

When the bus left us for its last stop, I felt like I am in a horror movie. The streets were white and deserted. Those who went out of the bus with me were already gone, walking fast to their own hotels.

My "I don't know what to do next" face, haha:

I was left with my broken maleta and my Google maps. It's still a long 15-minute walk to my hostel but that's sans the snowstorm so make that 30 or so minutes. Then my iPhone who cannot take the below zero temperature decided to turn off! I had to plug it on my power bank before it opened again so I can navigate with my maps.

I struggled all the way through the slippery roads with my wrong shoes, held on to my phone and my sudden 3-wheel luggage with numb hands, and midway the unending walk, I felt a bit hopeless that I might not be able to reach our hostel because of the cold and almost cried for help huhuhu.

I saw this when I was almost ready to give up:

I took these hostel photos the next day. I decided to stay in Slow Citi Hostel in Seogwipo, an area in Jeju Island that's near major tourist attractions. I've learned my lessons from my first trip in Jeju when I stayed near the airport, which is more than an hour away from the must-visit sites!

Slow Citi Hostel is one of the most highly ranked Jeju hostels in Agoda with a really good price. I think I only paid Php 2000+ for my FOUR nights stay. I was supposed to be in a four-bed women's dormitory room, but was given a solo room with a bunk bed and own restroom. I waited for a roommate on the succeeding days by always fixing my stuff before leaving the room, but never ako nagkaroon. I just realized now that maybe it's because I was the only solo female traveller at that time kaya wala silang maitabi sakin haha.

Ahhh.. The warmth of staying in a hostel! I should have placed a Philippine flag there before I left hehe:

We always take off our shoes before entering the building:

On that night of my arrival, I thought that everyone's already sleeping. I still went in to at least leave my heavy bag and sleep on the kitchen or something. Then an old man came out from the counter, and asked (in Korean) if my name is Ana Gonzales, huhuhu. I apologized for being so late and tried to explain the bus fiasco and the snowstorm, and although he only partly understood English he even looked more apologetic that I had to go through all that, and again--HUHUHU.

We then argued about paying for my rent since I thought I already paid for it prior the trip by inputing my credit card in Agoda, but later on I found out na he was right pala na it was not yet charged. He just said that why don't we settle everything in the morning, get some rest first and call it a night.

Ahjussi (or mister in Korean) took my heavy luggage to the third floor to my room, and I thanked him endlessly since I am used to carrying naman my own things whenever I stay in a guesthouse but he still took the initiative. Hotel treatment for the price of a dormitory stay, I highly recommend this place na. I later on learned that the old man owns this hostel, grabe talaga when I think of it.

That's my bed, with a small flat pillow and a comforter. It is comfortable enough for me, and I slept well every night.

I also like that they have lots of electrical outlets to charge my gadgets, and rods to hang my clothes:

There's also a vanity desk with a wall mirror, two small towels, and a hair dryer: 

The restroom is so spacious and the best part is it's all mine! It is complete with big bottles of body wash, shampoo, conditioner, a toothpaste, a bar of soap, a roll of tissue, and of course a hot shower which I maximized every morning and night during my whole stay there:

I love my room. Even though it's nothing fancy, it felt nice, safe, and warm. On that first night in Jeju, I took my sweet time with my hot bath, making sure I use all of the free Korean bath toiletries, and even spoiled myself with a face sheet mask after. What a day! I took the lower bunk of the bed, and didn't even have to think too much like I always do every night. And what felt like the first time in years, I was immediately transported to a dreamless, satisfying sleep ~~~

Watch my Winter in Korea Day 2 IG Stories:


  1. Wow, hats off for being able to document the experience and take photos despite the weather :D Waiting for the next post :)

    1. HAHAHA! I know this will sound so millennial-ish but talking to my phone kept me going that night while feeling hopeless in the middle of nowhere hahahaha! :D

  2. Your travel posts are really something to look forward to. I mean, it's one thing when I watch it on IG stories pero iba rin talaga pag binabasa mo na with additional narrative. :) Hehe!

    1. In a word that prefers vids / vlogs.... I appreciate this! Thank you!!!! For reading!!!


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