It has been 3 days since I’m back from my 12-day vacation to South Korea and I thought that I do a shoutout post to the readers or anyone who is keen to know what’s my take on the latest situation in Korea. I will be writing more about my experiences in greater detail over the next few weeks but if you have any burning questions, feel free to comment below and I’ll be glad to help if I can 🙂
I was in South Korea for
12 days 11 days
Well, it was supposed to be 12 days but my scoot flight was delayed (5hr 55 mins) so I reached Korea one day later so that makes it 11 full days.
Anyway, this trip was my longest single vacation since my 30-day grad trip to Europe back in May 2012. Since I started working, I was uncomfortable with being absent from my day job for such a long period of time so 12 days (8 days Annual Leave, 1 Public Holiday) is truly a luxury.
So.. why did I have to be in Korea for so long?
Well, the one and only answer – ridiculously cheap ticket prices from scoot (which was the reason for our almost 6 hours delay).
I paid $315.86 for my 2-way ticket to Incheon (via Taipei).
This price is inclusive of 2-way 20kg baggage allowance and credit card fees.
The tickets were bought during their 2016 post-Christmas sale where they had a 1-for-1 promotion. I had to choose my dates according to the promo prices and yep so we ended up with 12 days.
Well, for comparison sake, my 2013 scoot tickets during their pre-launch sale were $465 and a SQ ticket (direct flight) on promotion starts from $798 so I guess the price I paid was really a steal!
My flight was delayed for 5 hours and 55 minutes.
Dear @flyscoot, waiting and waited for your plane to start since 12pm.. Currently waited and still waiting for #dreamstart to #startflying ***** Anyway, this trip is pretty interesting because it 1) has been 4 years since my last visit to Korea (used to frequent it so often that my friends thought I visit yearly) 2) 1st time getting stuck in the airport for so long due to flight delay (still waiting for the reason) 3) taking the bus for boarding at changi airport, not the aerobridge. 4) my longest holiday vacation since my 30-day euro trip back in 2012. 5) I’m attending my second overseas wedding 6) the first time I planned so little for a trip. Despite typing this post for so long, there are still no signs of my aircraft moving. #wishmegoodluck #flyhoneystarstravel #seeyouinkorea #flyhoneystarskorea let’s go!
Since life is ‘fair’, there was a catch to my ridiculously cheap tickets that I was showing off to the whole world. My flight which had been scheduled to depart at 12pm was postponed to 1pm (when we were checking in), later on postponed to 3pm (while at the gate) and when we finally got on the plane, there was an announcement saying that the runway was down due to a hydrolic leak from a previous aircraft so when we finally set-off, it was 5:55pm. right. Insurance was only claimable if your delay is more than 6 hours.
I will be writing a more detailed post on my flight delay and experience with scoot but oh wells, like my brother says – “pay peanuts get monkey”.
I spent less than $2000 for this trip (all-in)
This should be somewhat shocking to most people who know me as I tend to overspend like crazy every single trip. Each of my Japan trip averages around $3000 and yet I spent less than $2000 including credit card expenditure and shopping for a few friends.
Detailed expenditure breakdown will be in a separate post.
We travelled during Korea’s ‘Golden Week’
The first week of May was pretty weird in korea. (Weird was a word my korean friend used.) 1st May – Labour Day; 3rd May – Buddha’s Birthday and 5th May was Children’s Day. Which means that you only go to work on Tuesday and Thursday for that week.
We did not have much choices for our travel dates as we were attending a wedding. Well, the lesson learnt is that pre-booking of accommodation is very important as you are kind of competing with the rest of Korea, especially when I’m visiting all the super local attractions. There were people everywhere and the worse wait we had was a 4-hour wait for the cable car up to Seoraksan.
I did a ‘No Repeat’ Korean Food Challenge
12 days of feasting and I did not repeat my food choices. Note: ‘Korean BBQ’ was not considered a food choice as I tried a different type of meat each visit.
Even after 12 days, we still have a long list of korean food that we did not manage to eat. Perhaps I can try it for 30-days in future. I hope to do up a special feature on my challenge but for now, you can scroll my instagram feed for an eye-feast.
Seoul is getting expensive
Contrary to me spending lesser, the cost of living in Seoul has increased rather significantly, at least for public transport.
Back in 2011, basic fare was only 900W. It increased to 1050W in 2012 and by June 2015, it became 1,250W (subway). That’s like a 38.8% increase within 7 years. The seoulites are not even complaining.. why am I complaining as a tourist. hurhur.
Taxi fare starts from 3000W in Seoul and 2800W in the outskirts. I can’t remember what it was previously but I’m quite certain that it went up.
Apart from public transport, I’ve noticed that the prices of street food in Myeongdong is ridiculously expensive. I remember the lobster costing like 15,000W and some fish pancake costing 3,000W and I’m like are you seriously kidding me. Some of the pricing is even more expensive than Japan. Then again, myeongdong is a touristy spot so I guess they charge premium prices.
Foodwise, the basic snack “O-daeng” price has increased from 500W to 700W. Not sure if it was just that one shop I saw though. The price of my banana milk went up too! It is now 1,300W at convenience shop.
Myeong-dong is slightly quieter
As much as I hate visiting touristy places due to the crowd, I still had to visit Myeongdong because of the money changer and the sure-to-find korean cosmetic brands that are on your friends’ shopping list. I visited Myeong-dong once on a weekday and it felt really weird as the shops were quite empty. It is quite stressful to enter shops where the sales assistant outnumbers the customers. You may be ‘targeted’ and be introduced to every single product your eyes lingered more than 1 second. As a result, I chose the shops I wanted to enter carefully and as expected, fell prey to their gimmicks and always end up buying more than planned.
Well, there is a significant drop in the visitors from mainland China ever since the missile issue last year and yes you feel the difference significantly. Throughout my vacation, I only heard two other groups of tourists from Mainland China (I believe that I am able to differentiate them from Hongkong, Tawian people). On the other hand, I see an increase in the number of Thai nationals, Indonesian/Malaysian malays and of course the usual Singaporeans which can be identified easily the moment they speak. We even heard Singaporeans at the super out-of-the-way cafe in Buam-dong.
K-pop was not on my agenda this trip
Unlike my previous trips, I did not attempt to visit any music show, excessive drama filming spots nor watch a single concert in Korea. Perhaps the timing was really off as it was Korea’s ‘Golden Week’ holidays and my favourites were either inactive or not in Korea. I did not even visit a single entertainment company (yay, maybe I’m outgrowing it, like finally) nor attempt to ‘stalk’ anywhere. I did toy with the idea of going for M-countdown the day we ‘landed’ as there was a special stage by produce 101 but it was just a fleeting thought. The closest K-pop activity that I did the whole trip was to watch Produce 101 ‘Live’ on Friday nights and re-watching the other episodes during their nightly repeats.
I stayed in 8 different accommodations
So basically, I stayed 2 nights in Seoul, 1 night in Cheongju, 2 nights in Gunsan (2 diff places), 1 night in Anmyeondo, 1 night in Seoul (back to wash my clothes), 2 nights in Chuncheon (2 diff places), 1 night in Sokcho and the final night back in Seoul.
We basically changed hotel every night except for the first two nights.
We used the Seoul accommodation as a base where we put our luggage (we brought a luggage since we had 20kg allowance anyway) and we returned somewhere int he middle so i could wash my clothes. Anyway, as it was springtime, you technically don’t sweat as much so re-wearing clothes for multiple days is perfectly fine but.. I’m still more comfortable with washing them. It cost me 7500W (washing+drying) and a 1 hour wait at the laundry machine shop which was 5 mins walk away.
The Seoul accommodation we stayed in (ROINhome – Read My Review or check prices) was really convenient as it was walking distance from both Mangwon (Brown, Line 6) and Hapjeong (Green + Brown Line). It was easy to push our luggage around and the slight slopes towards Hapjeong were quite negligible. There were escalators and lifts at the stations as well and this is not common for all stations.
Furthermore, the brown line is significantly less crowded than the blue (line 1) and green (line 2) line. Frequency may be slower too but I’m not 100% sure as we traveled on the public holidays which could possibly affect the frequency. The rooms are pretty small but everywhere else is equally small but it’s definitely new and clean. I’ll do a proper review of the accommodation in a separate post.
I didn’t plan much for my trip
I am kind of getting lazy in the aspect of planning or perhaps I just like it that way. I just starred many locations I potentially wanted to visit on Google Maps and we never had a plan or a timetable. The only thing that was fixed in our itinerary was my friend’s wedding in Cheongju and everything else was pretty random.
The only hotels we booked prior to our trip was the nights in Seoul, 1 night in Cheongju (the wedding), 1 night in Anmyeondo (cause it was a public holiday) and 1 night in Sokcho (Public Holiday too). The remaining 4 nights were not booked, so as to allow flexibility in the trip.
During the trip, we almost couldn’t find a place to stay on the 1st unplanned night in Gunsan as it was the saturday of their long weekend and the booking websites showed very little options. The ones left were either too expensive or had too low ratings. We had to walk-in to random motels in the area (we were in a district where there were old school adult discos) and we found a room (last room for that motel) after our second try. So I guess it wasn’t too bad after all.
Eventually, we pre-booked all our remaining accommodations in Gunsan and Chuncheon with the few remaining accommodation. I guess traveling during Korea’s Golden Week is pretty insane as the domestic travel market is very strong too. Furthermore, the places that I visited were all on the outskirts so I guess a tip for those that love to do impromptu travel, please make sure that you do not clash with their public holidays.
I used 5.1Gb of Data this trip
In this new age of free and easy travelling, staying connected is pretty much a necessity rather than a want. Back in 2011, I survived on a korean phone number and a lonely planet guide book but this time round, all I need was a mobile data sim. Here are the various apps that I used during my trip.
- Google Maps
- Kakao Maps (previously known as Daum Maps) and Naver Maps
- Google Translate App (Can consider “Papago” by Naver too)
- Instagram ‘Search nearby’ function or location hashtag to discover gems.
- We found a few nice cafes from Instagram and visited them!
- Instagram Story (2.1Gb)
- I diligently recorded most of the important details of my trip on instagram story, download it every night/morning and posted it on my Facebook page.
- It takes a lot of patience to finish my entire 12-day series which is 41 minutes long. Thankful to the 200+ views I have for the series. I always feel puzzled as to why people bother to watch my lifestory. heh.
- Facebook (1.1Gb)
- I guess.. I was scrolling my newsfeed a little too much during my trip.
- Hotel booking apps/websites – Hotels Combined, Hotels.com, Booking.com, Agoda.com, Airbnb
- We were pretty desperate and we searched everywhere to find suitable rooms. I even downloaded a korean accommodation booking app “Yogi Oddae” to widen our choices.
- Spotify – yes I paid for premium too
- #musicislife especially when you are taking long bus rides daily to commute from city to city
The only activity that I wanted to do was closed
While planning for the trip, I deliberately chose to focus on west coast Korea, instead of going down south as I wanted to try the Sky Cycle experience at Daecheon Beach. Sadly, this activity does not have any website or social media page and I was totally unaware that it closes on Monday. Furthermore, the ferry that we were suppose to take at the terminal was not operating due to tidal issues and it was released as a notice on their fully korean website. Furthermore, none of the korean blog posts we read warned us against these potential ‘tidal issues’ plus it was not exactly a ferry catered to tourists, more for the local residents so.. I guess my adventurous spirit was no match for the harsh reality. We wasted more than half the day de-touring and doing the longer route by bus in order not to forfeit the accommodation which we had already paid for. It’s kind of funny how the only activity that I planned to do did not work out.. #life
That’s all I have for my random thoughts and summaries of my trip. Do check back for more updates of my trip and feel free to comment below if you have any questions or requests =)