Seoul: When Ancient and Modern collides

Posted in Culture & Tradition, Food & Beverages, Other, Travel, Travel & Recreation on March 22, 2018
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Looking for your next travel destination? How about finding your soul in Seoul?
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It has been said that Seoul, South Korea is now one of the "it" countries for young millennial travellers like me. The place has its unique way of blending ancient history and modern structure that somehow I was left wondering how they amazingly preserve it up to this day. I admire how locals adapt to the fast changing world and still practice and promote their culture and tradition.

To all self confessed K-drama fans, I somehow envision South Korea base on the k-dramas that I've watched. However, it was all way different from what I was expecting. From the list of places to visit down to the food and the locals, I must admit, I was more than at awe when I first step foot in their beautiful city.

I know you want to know how I get my visa and the pros and cons of traveling to Seoul. So hear my story below to have a better view of the things you should do.

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS and FEES: I went and visited the Consulate of the Republic of Korea in Cebu last September 5, 2017, their office is located at 12/F Chinabank Corporate Center, Samar Loop cor. Panay Rd., Cebu Ayala Business Park. For more information, you can call their office from 9AM-4PM at 032-2311516 to 1519. I filled up the form for a visa application and presented my current BIR 2136 (Income Tax Return), statement of account (request it from your bank) and certificate of employment (secure it from your Human Resource office).

I was then scheduled to go back and claim my visa 5 business day after. I got a 60-day entry permit and it was more than I need. Take note, visa application is free of service fee. What you have to pay though are the terminal fee of P750.00 and P1,620.00 for travel tax.

TRANSPORTATION and ACCOMMODATION: My flight from Cebu-Incheon was in the afternoon around 4PM and the travel time was 4 hours. To my surprise, we arrived 10PM instead of 9PM. It was then that I realize that Seoul's time zone is an hour ahead of the Philippine time zone. We took the airport limousine (to my surprise was a luxury bus). Fare is at 10,000 KW (around P480.00) from Incheon to Hongdae.

I stayed at Kimchee Hongdae Guesthouse and the rate is very much affordable at a minimum per head of P600.00/night in a 4-person shared room. The place is decent and the staffs are accommodating. They can speak in English very well and the area is very accessible. The rate includes breakfast (egg, coffee and toasted bread), wifi connection, shampoo and liquid soap. A pocket wifi is available on rent at 13,000 KW per day and laundry service for 3,000 KW.

I would recommend to download the app: Seoul Subway- Metro map and router planner before you travel to have a better route planning using their subway. Based on my experience, if you are planning to take a taxi/cab, please be careful in hailing one because there are cabs intended for tourist (drivers can speak English) and their are those that are for locals (zero English communication skill). Riding in a bus or using the subway is more convenient and fare ranges only from 1,000-3,000 KW.

MUST TRY and VISIT: The best food that I have tasted was the traditional Korean ginseng chicken soup and to my surprise again, rice was inside the belly of the whole chicken meat. Kimchee on the other hand tasted differently there too. A full meal price will range from 5,000-15,000 Korean won. Vegetables is something that will never be absent in their menu. Some restaurants are opened even at the wee hours.

For alcohol lovers, this place will be your haven. People there can really hold their drinks!

I crossed-out EVERLAND for our first destination. Entrance fee will only cost you 22,000 KW (just present your passport to avail for this special price). Their rides are uniquely fun and entertaining and the parade at the end of the day is a must see.

Next in the list are their famous palaces. The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place at 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 between Gwanghwamun Gate and Heungnyemun Gate. It was really fun to watch because they look exactly the same in those drama characters.

Moreover, I did not missed out on saying hi to Admiral Yi's stone statue situated in the heart of Jongno District. The 2014 movie THE ADMIRAL will show you how this man become an icon in the history of Korea.

Palace entrance fee is at 10,000KW but you can get it for free if you wear their Hanbok (traditional dress). Hanbok rental will range from 20,000-40,000 KW. You can easily find hanbok stores in front of the palace's entrance. On my list were: Bukchon Hanok Village, National Folk Museum, President Blue House, Samcheongdong, Changdeokgung palace and Insadong. My last day was all about hopping from stores and shops for our pasalubongs (giveaway souvenirs/gifts from Korea).

TIPS and COMMENTS: For a better travel experience, wear comfortable shoes (not sandals) since most of the time you will be strolling/walking around the city. The weather in September is perfect, temperature will only go as high as 25C degrees in the morning and as low as 19C degrees at night. 

If you are badly needing a direction when navigating their streets, don't hesitate to ask. Most people understand the English language and majority of them can speak in English as well. You will never find it difficult to roam around their city at any time of the day. The locals are polite and courteous. We did not feel intimidated or scared because everyone are just approachable.

The trip was indeed short but I would say that I had enjoyed every minute of it. I will surely recommend the place to anyone's bucket list of the must-visit country in Asia. Travel to South Korea today, a must visit one!