It was last February this year when my partner Mike and I packed our down jackets and scarves and braved the bitter cold winter of Seoul, South Korea. It was my first time to experience the global city of Seoul and with the short time we had, planning which sights to see was crucial. Good thing my adventurista cousin, Denise, know the city by heart as she stayed in the K-Pop City for a year while teaching English.
From Manila, we flew 4 hours to Incheon Airport via Cebu Pacific. If it’s your first time in Incheon, you need not to worry as the facilities are tourist friendly, signs are available in english so you will not get lost. We had to take the bus bound (KRW 10,000 or PHP 390) to Myeongdong to get to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Euljiro. I noticed that Euljiro nests industrial shops in its vicinity. Puro hardware ang nakita ko sa paligid which made me wonder if the location was not in our favor.
At the Holiday Inn Express Euljiro. It was literally at the center of everything essential for tourists like us visiting Seoul. Check out their affordable rates.
Boy was I wrong! During our first day, we followed Denise’s itinerary and granted my wandering feet a good 21,503 steps according to my pedometer. Everything in our first day was walking distance from our hotel. And by walking distance I meant, we didn’t wanna risk getting train-lost so we opt to get there on foot. Walking the city was bearable because of the cool weather of 4 Degree Celsius. Be sure to get moisturized and apply SPF, I know that you want to be Queen Elsa and sing that the cold never bother you (anyway), the freezing gentle winds can dry your cheeks and it’s not a pleasant experience, trust me.
First in our Day 1 (thanks Denise, super) is Cheonggye Cheon which is the stream/creek behind the hotel about a block away. I guess the Koreans are big in preserving natural resources while developing urban spaces, so they made a man-made stream.
and has small boulder bridges where you can cross to the other side. On a winter day, you will see icicles forming by the boulders.
It has small boulder bridges where you can cross to the other side. On a winter day, you will see icicles forming by the boulders.
I’m guessing everyone will agree that getting lost in a foreign land adds fun to the adventure. While wandering around, we spotted the Seoul Bell Tower called Bosingak. It was not in the itinerary so we indulged ourselves in checking it out. The guide hardly speaks English so if you happen to see Bosingak, please know that it was part of the empire grounds back in the day. It has a big bell in it which was rang when the gates are to be closed at the end of the day.
Due to the extreme cold, we had to stop by the next underground station which was Jonggak. Almost all train stations have underground shopping market so whenever you need anything be it food or extra clothing item, you can get down to the next station and get it. Mike bought an extra thick winter gloves for only KRW 13000.
It was almost over lunch when we arrived at our next stop and the power given by our smart-start breakfast from Holiday Inn Express Euljiro was then fading. Upon paying at the entrance gates of Gyeongbok Goong, (KRW 3000 each) we strolled inside the castle grounds and realized how big it was even from the outer layers. It was like in an RPG wherein your mission was to get to the main antagonist but you have to meander at different multiple levels. If you ever find yourself in Gyeongbok Goong, make sure that you have comfortable walking shoes.
We were starving after a few minutes of walking further in and the good news was, wait there was no good news! We weren’t able to spot any food stall inside. Good thing I brought bottles of water in my bag so we managed to stay hydrated.
We headed to Avenue of Youth to splurge on food. After rows and buildings of different stores offering different Korean dishes, we agreed to try Chef Guksoo because they offer a menu with pictures and in English. Ordering was pretty easy since you just point out the item and you’re good.
At the Avenue of Youth, in the morning it barely had stalls but when we came back in the afternoon, the street was full of different merchants offering food, socks, phone covers and many more. You’ll be surprised that your Won will get you plenty of beautiful things. =)
Continuing our walking adventure, we strolled back to Euljiro at around 4PM. Temperature was dropping down to -1c and it was unbearable for us so we take refuge in a quaint yet cozy cafe called Peggy Pie.
We proceeded to Insadong after downing the cups of hot beverages and re-warmed ourselves. Sitting down after walking all day gave our backs a nice break and I felt energized after.
Insadong was more of an artsy lengthy alley that houses stores specializing in all type of cute somethings. It’s like a whole street filled with Papemelroti stores. I bought a (frog on a water lily) figurine for KRW 14000. It was very cute, I gave in to the sales lady and its perfect for a friend who collects frog (Crissy that’s you!) There were food stalls as well inside mini- complexes. One that I remember sells poop bread. Its a poop shaped bread that was baked on the spot with red bead paste inside. It was terribly good at KRW 1000. I also bought specially carved wooden pens at KRW 5000 each. One design was a white owl with grey feather streaks and the other a winter bunny. They were so cute!
After Insadong, we headed back to the hotel. On our way back, we tried the street food stalls nearby and fell in love with them! Ang sarap at sobrang mura!
It was tiring first day, but like my officemate said, do you prefer being tired at work or being tired travelling?
Travel. Any day. Haha!