Random Updates of Seoul 2013

Been procrastinating a lot for this entry and now it has been 3 months since I’ve returned. Better late than never =p

SCOOT TO SEOUL

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Scoot has been getting into so so so so much publicity since it launched its tickets to Seoul back in March 2013. Through the launch promotion, I got my tickets at $465.61 return.  It felt really cheap back then as SQ/Korean Air flight could go as low as 600+ during off peak period. However, the tickets I got were for the national day/hari raya super long weekend and the price was really reasonable given the situation. HOWEVER, in recent weeks, all the budget airlines seem to went mad and prices were going as low as $300+. Oh Gawd. There’s so much temptation to resist in going to seoul again because of scoot.

*CONTROL – otherwise it will be my 4th trip in 4 years*

On top of the cheap tickets, Scoot is the main sponsor for kpop starhunt season 3. Their advertisement is so frequent on mnet tv 824. I guess this budget carrier is all out to make a big splash in the aviation industry!

So.. many of you might be worrying about the terrible flight timing that Scoot has which lands at 22:35 in Seoul. The most important question many might ask is, is there public transport out of Seoul at this timing?

According to the article I’ve compiled few years back and my own experience (Aug 2013), the last train out to Seoul is at 23:45.

Seriously Tipping on my crazy experience:

(1) Do check in early at the counter and beg (if you don’t wish to pay more) for a seat as front as possible. Even if you have to be separated from your friend, you have to get a front sit. It is extremely crucial.

(2) Pray hard that there isn’t any flight delay. Once the plane lands, pack everything quickly and stand by in ready position, all set to dash for the exit.

(3) Wear a good pair of shoes, you will need it for your mad dash. Even though you have to rush, please remember that safety comes first. If you think that this mad dash is very kiasu, I’m telling you that the Koreans do it too; or risk not getting on the last train out.

(4) Upon alighting the plane, follow the signs to “Arrival”. In most scenarios, you will be required to take a sky train to the main terminal. You have to be on the first train out!

(5) Observe the crowd and plan your route to weave through and stand in line in the shortest queue at the immigration counter.

(6) Pray hard that your officer is fast and efficient and that there aren’t any troublesome passengers in your queue.

(7) After immigration, look for your luggage belt number on the screen and go down the escalator.

(8) Position yourself strategically right in front of the belt where the luggage falls out.

(9) Wish that your luggage would be the first few to fall out or travel only with hand carry! (I haven’t found any pattern with regards to whether checking in early or late allows your luggage to fall out earlier)

(10) Always use a four-wheel luggage. You will need its four wheels to run faster,

(11) Once you have collected your luggage, proceed to the “Green Zone” custom declaration and hand over the declaration form to the person in charge.

(12) After exiting the final gate, make a dash for the escalator/lift which brings you down to the basement. Follow the signs to “Airport Railroad”.

(13) Run/Jog/Walk as fast as you can! This is an approximately 10 minutes walk towards the train station. This is why you should be using a 4-wheel luggage. You will be able to push your luggage in front of you and run instead of dragging it behind you.

(14) Try to loan a T-money card (ideally with money) beforehand. This way, you do not have to purchase ticket/top up card, ideally saving a few more minutes.

This means that once you get on the scoot flight, you have to pray hard that there is no flight delay.

My flight landed at 22:50 and I did manage to make it to the the train platform by 23:38 and it involves the effort of all the above that I have mentioned. You can read more details here. Let’s say if the last train option fails, you can consider the option of

(a) Taking the later train (00:00) to Digital Media City and cab to your hotel/hostel.

(b) Late Night Bus: http://www.airport.kr/iiacms/pageWork.iia?_scode=C1203010200

(c) Taxi (Share within your group or with random strangers traveling the same direction) – approx 65,000W

(d) Find an accommodation near the Airport:http://www.booking.com/airport/kr/icn.en.html

(e) Chill at the airport till the next morning train 05:24.
24 hours options – McDonalds, Lotteria, KFC, etc.

Inflation in Seoul 

When I was in Seoul last Oct 2012 during my free trip, I noticed that the standard train fare has increased from 900W (Summer 2011) to 1,050w. That’s a 16.7% increase in prices! This increase had been introduced back in Jan 2012, 5 years since its previous increase =/

Myeongdong Cosmetic Shops freebies reduced significantly

For people who have been to Korea 2011 and earlier, back when the K-wave wasn’t such a mega phenomenon aka pre-gangnam style, I’m sure you would have remembered how fantastic it is to shop at myeongdong. You can literally just weaved in and out shops, collect free masks, cotton pads, samples like CRAZY. Finally, when you do make a purchase, they will throw in a lot of samples or idol related items into your shopping bag. *beams in joy* It made me really happy and I often recommend Myeongdong as the place to be whenever you visit Korea. Back then, I often ask my friends if they need any cosmetics as it was such a pleasure to shop for cosmetics. The freebies increases exponentially with your expenditure =p

However, when I visited Korea this year, I was very disappointed with the promotions and freebies. One significant shop was the Laneige outlet in Myeongdong. If I didn’t recall wrongly, they were having a 20 or 30% store-wide discount which attracted me to make more purchases. To my surprise, no samples were dropped in my shopping bag despite me asking for it. They told me straight in my face, saying that promotional items are not eligible for samples. *bullshit* why? Few days later, I headed over to the Laneige counter at Lotte Departmental which had similar promotions too and they gave me samples with my purchases even without asking. Of course, I asked for more and the sales staff willingly threw in more! Then, I hovered around and bought even more.

The increasing popularity of myeongdong among the tourists has transformed cosmetic shopping in myeongdong to become less enjoyable. Sadly, I can’t blame them either. If majority of the customers are like me, I guess the shops will go broke giving away samples especially the masks!

Thus, I have channeled my cosmetic purchases to the less popularized outlets in the suburbs. One place which I really enjoyed shopping at is the Etude House outlet at Incheon Airport. It is situated at the basement, at the walkway between the terminal and the train station. The amount of SHINee freebies they give (with and without asking) is always a surprise! To add on, the shop is usually very empty and there’s usually only one or two sales attendant. UNLIKE the myeongdong shops which has so many sales staff that tailgate your footsteps. Yes I am glad to receive your utmost attention but gosh I need some space and pressure-less shopping!!! My ideal shopping experience is to have sales staff near me doing stock taking or staring into space, being easily approachable and not scrutinizing my every movement =/

Despite Myeongdong’s shortcomings, it still has its merits too. Rest assured that there will be no language barrier when you’re shopping at Myeongdong! They have staff that can converse in foreign language in almost every shop and you will not find yourself stuck in a situation of lost in translation. You will be able to find most brands, except Hanskin (the only outlet remaining which I found was at Edae/Sinchon).

Haircut experience in Seoul

I always enjoy the full-service hair cutting experience overseas. So far, I had very good experience in both Taiwan and Seoul. For this trip, I visited ja3 hair salon at Myeongdong. For exact directions, look for your nearest KTO info centre as I can’t exactly remember the way.

The shop is situated in the basement and it looks quite big. Perhaps it can accommodate 10+ people. As I could not really converse in Korean, the staff directed me to sit down on the sofa first. She gave me a menu to choose my drink. It wasn’t the boring options like coffee or tea. They actually had Iced Green Tea Latte on the menu!!! Even though it was probably a powdered-sachet, the fact that they even have it in the menu amazes me. For a moment, at the back of my head I was wondering if I had to pay for it… Anyway, after choosing my drink, she asked for my shopping bags and brought them over to the locker area. I didn’t even have to move an inch. Then, she returned with the key. My drink came and not long after, an english-speaking hair stylist by the name of Eva came to serve me.

She snipped approx 2 to 3 inch off my hair. I’m not too much of a particular person so after the hair blow my hair looks not bad. Only to be screwed up by the hot and humid weather that day =/

After my haircut (approx 20-30k), I can’t recall the exact price, the staff took my locker key and walked over to retrieve my items out from the local. PLUS POINTS FOR SERVICE! It was so enjoyable. If I were to go back to Korea again, I would definitely go for another of such full-service hair cut again. Probably might even try out more of their services aka dye or highlight!

Upgrade and Extension of Subway Line and Station

Yes this is probably one of the best thing that I love about Seoul now. Now, there’s this new ever line which brings you to Everland and Caribbean Bay! However, I’ve read a couple of reviews which says that the bus route is probably a much faster option though.

Anyway, I would like to introduce this really good iphone/android app called Subway aka Jihachul which is very useful in planning your travel route. All you have to do is to put set your start location and end location and it will help you route out the shortest journey time! Also, if you have access to wifi or data, you can even use it to check time timings of train arrivals too! I was using the app at the airport to track whether I still could catch the last train to city. They also tell you the price of the journey and the data updates really often! Also, the information is also usable without wifi or data (except for the real time timings).

The next best thing that happened since the last time I was there was the renovation of Myeongdong station! There’s now escalators on most exits (especially important in exit #3). I’ve stayed at Namsan Guesthouse twice and I feel that it is the most value for money and convenient place. (Sadly, the price has increased approximately 5,000W since 2 years ago)

With this escalator, it means that it is more convenient to travel with your luggage. It is even more useful when you are so tired from shopping and you have the luxury of just resting on the escalator rather than climbing the stairs =p

FURTHERMORE, there’s even a NEW traffic light outside Hotel Prince which brings you to the airport limousine bus stop. Previously, it was uber inconvenient and the only way to get across was to carry your luggage down and up the stairs via the metro underground mall. This is how much the government is doing to improve the tourist experience in korea. to the extent of erecting a traffic light to facilitate tourist transport. wow!

Hongdae Hostel – Twin Rabbit 

For many, Hongdae might seem like the perfect option to book your accommodation as it is an airport express station which makes it is a convenient place. From my experience, you will reach Hongdae station at almost 1am if you take the 23:45 last train from incheon airport. Thus, if you don’t wish to cab at such late hours (FYI midnight charges are only 20%), you should seriously consider getting a Hongdae accommodation.

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The hostel we stayed in was 100,000W for 4 people in a room with attached toilet and 2 bunk beds, a mini kitchen and a washing machine. We had a 5% discount (I don’t know why). I stayed there was 3 nights. The good thing about this hostel is that it is really cheap (25,000W/night) if you can find 3 other people to share the room with.

However, it is not exactly a hostel as it does not have any common area for people to mingle and chill. Basically, it was more of a no-frills room at very affordable prices. Another bad thing about the hostel is that it is approximately 10 minutes walk from Hongdae station and that there are no lifts inside. You will have to carry your luggage up the stairs (4 storeys max) and I think I almost died on the last day when I had to assist to bring my crazy friend 30kg luggage =/ Random comment – even though there’s a washing machine, there was no place or equipment for us to hang the clothes. On the last night, I brought my clothes to a nearby self-service machine laundry shop to use the dryer.

Conclusion: Unless you’re a light traveler, travelling in groups of 4 and love walking, you shouldn’t choose this hostel. There are many other hostels which are nearer to Hongdae station.

Food & Drinks Recommendation

(1) De Chocolate Coffee

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If you’re a Kdrama fan and that you have watched That Winter the wind blows, this coffee should look a little familiar to you! THEIR CHOCOLATE DRINKS ARE SO AWESOME. Do not leave korea without trying a cup. I’m serious.

(2) Noodles Shop at Myeongdong

Directions
Main Branch
Myeongdong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exit 8.
Upon exiting the station, turn left onto Myeongdong 10-gil Road.
Go straight about 150m to arrive at Myeongdong Kyoja (명동교자) on the right.Myeongdong Kyoja Branch No. 1
From Myeongdong Station (Exit 8), turn left onto Myeongdong 10-gil Road.
Go straight about 280m to arrive at the restaurant on the left.

 

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This Kalguksu (Knife cut Noodles) shop was recommended by my korean friend and it was really crowded! The best thing in this shop is not the noodles or the dumplings, but the delicious FREE FLOW KIMCHI. Apparently this shop is extremely popular with Japanese tourists.

(3) Pop Container @ Sinchon – the tallest pakbingsu 

Address: 5-11 Changcheon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea 

This place is so freaking popular that I actually have to queue more than 30 minutes to enter! It is probably the most expensive (13,000W) and tallest ice dessert I’ve ever eaten. Oh wells, for the novelty and amusement, it was worth it!

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“My New Favourite Choice at convenience shops!

For people who have been following my entries, you would have realise that my favourite breakfast is Kimbab and Banana Milk (Tofee Nut is my current favourite flavour).

However, I discovered another awesome and new burger -> The Bulgogli Burger!
You should totally try it!

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That’s all for now. Don’t really have much to update on Seoul as more than half of my trip was spent outside Seoul =p

For all my dear friends/new readers who are venturing to Seoul soon, good luck and do remember to drop a comment or email if you need any help =)

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