Hooray, I’m off to Seoul again. This is my second visit to Seoul and while I am visiting a few places I’ve been before, most of the places I’m planning on going to will be new so it’s still an adventure.
My flight was at 1:10 am so the airport was pretty quiet. I’m not sure why but whenever I fly out of Changi Airport I always seem to get a gate right at the end of the terminal which is usually far from the shops lol and it happened again this trip lol. One thing you’ve got to love about Changi Airport is that the shops and food places never close so I happily walked around killing time. One good thing about taking this late night flight is that I arrive in Seoul early in the morning (but not too early that I can’t do anything) and gives me practically the whole day there.
I usually have a hard time sleeping on the plane. I’ll sleep for like an hour or so and then wake up and go back to sleep so it’s a pretty restless sleep. This flight was no different but while I was actually relatively comfortable in my seat (surprisingly enough), what actually was waking me up was the person sat next to me. She was trying sleep sideways in the chair (why she even thought it was physically possible given that we were in economy) which ended up with her sticking her butt into my hip. Too close for comfort for me, ended up putting my blanket between the armrest and me – her butt was slipping under the armrest. I guess it was kindly of lucky that I was in the window seat so I managed to lean over to that side as much as I could.
Eventually gave up sleep at about 6.30 in the morning, I peeked out the window to catch the sun.
Before they served breakfast, I quickly did my wake-up routine which seemed to intrigue my neighbour who had also woken up given that I was “washing” my face and putting in contacts all from my seat lol. I’ll write another post later on what I do to make a long or night flight enjoyable.
After landing, getting through immigration and getting my suitcase, I headed out to get my ticket for the airport bus. As there was a slight queue, I decided to have a seat and sort out my cellphone. My usual cellphone is my iPhone 5 but when I travel I like to use my Samsung Galaxy S4 mini which a dual sim phone.
About a week before I left for my trip, I went online and booked a prepaid sim card from http://www.egsimcard.co.kr/. I received the sim card within 3 days and after logging in to my account, I added a data plan to it. When you order the sim card, you pay 5,000 won for the card and there’s a minimum value of 20,000 won to be added. The 20,000 won is actually the amount in your voice account but you can utilise that to sign up for your data plan. I opted to get the 1GB one month data plan for 15,000 won which worked out to be about S$18 which was pretty good given that my telco would have charged S$15 a day for data!
So getting back to my cellphone, I set it up to use my Korean sim card and got it working fine but seemed to have a problem connecting my Singapore sim card so that I could receive calls on that one. It later dawned on me that even though I had dual sim when I was in Hong Kong, I couldn’t have that in Korea because unlike Hong Kong and Singapore, Korea uses a CDMA network rather than a GSM network and my cellphone wouldn’t allow me to have both my sim cards accessing a 3G network at the same time, so I messaged anyone who I thought might call or SMS my Singapore number that I would not be contactable via those methods but no problem reaching me via Whatsapp given that I had data from my Korean sim. I think in future, whenever I travel to Korea, I’ll have to carry two phones lol.
By the time I had gotten my cellphone up and running, there wasn’t a queue at the bus ticket counter so I quickly got my bus ticket and headed out to catch the airport bus. There are a number of buses from the airport going to different parts of Seoul, I’m lucky in that there is one bus that stops right outside my hotel so I don’t have to drag my suitcase too far lol.
The bus ride from the airport to my hotel usually takes about 45 – 60 mins but I get to see some nice scenery on the way.
It was almost 11 am by the time I got to the hotel but unfortunately my room was ready and wouldn’t be ready till 1pm which meant I had 2 hours to kill. So after I finished with the registration, I left my suitcase with the concierge boys and headed out. My hotel is located in Myeongdong so I figured I’ll just walk around there. I love walking around Myeongdong because there is so much to see, to shop and to eat!
My first stop was Daiso! If you don’t know what Daiso is, well it’s a Japanese chain store that sells just about everything for cheap. In Singapore, everything is S$2 while in Korea, the prices of items vary but they are still cheap, usually between 1,000 – 3,000 won (about S$1.20 – S$3.70 or US$1 – US$3). My main purpose for heading to Daiso was to look for cute stationary and I managed to get some cute stickers and post it flags for my Filofax and some washi tape too. From there I headed over to one of the many The Face Shop stores to get some stuff one of my friends had asked me to get for her – it’s available in Singapore but was like half the price in Korea! One thing about buying beauty products in Korea is that they always give you free samples without you even having to ask, no matter how much you spend, they always give you samples which more often than not are face masks. I checked out a few more stores, like H&M, and then headed back to the hotel to get my room.
My plan for the day was actually to take it somewhat easy and not do too much given that I was pretty tired from the flight, so after taking a short break at the hotel and a quick freshening up, I decided to head out in search of bookstores. I know there was a YP Books right by my hotel and that was my first stop. You’re probably wondering why I wanted to go to bookstores in Korea when most of their books are in Korean. Well it’s not the books in Korean that I’m after but rather the Korean books in English. I wanted to get the next two textbooks for my Korean course as the books are cheaper than they would have been if I had bought them at school and I wanted to look out for other books that might be helpful. I needed to get 2 sets of the textbooks as one of my classmates had also asked me to get it for her as well as another book. The first store I went to only had one set of the textbooks and didn’t have the other book she wanted, so I decided to walk over to Kyobo Books over at Gwanghwamun. It’s just a quick 5-10 min walk from the hotel and I got to walk past Cheonggyecheon.
On the way to Kyobo Books, I came across another YP Book but this was much bigger and had a lot more things to see but sadly they didn’t have enough copies of the books I wanted. Sure I could have bought them from multiple bookstores but if I could get them at one place then why not right? After all they’re all the same price. After checking out that store, I finally got to Kyobo Books. Now this is my kind of bookstore lol. They have everything from cute stationary to CDs to electronics to travel items and of course books. They also have a small food court. Another plus about the store was that they had all the books I wanted and I managed to pick up another vocab book for myself – woohoo! I managed to get 6 books for 103,000 won (about S$126 or US$101), that’s about S$21 or US$17 a book which is not bad considering I know that my school sells us the textbooks at S$26 a piece and the local bookstore charges me S$40 for the exact same book! As for the other two books I bought (one for me and one for my friend), they would have probably costs us between S$35-S$40 each so definitely was a bargain.
After I was done at the bookstore, I headed off in search of the ticket counter for the City Tour bus. I was thinking of taking the night tour on day 2 and wanted to get my ticket and the ticket counter is just diagonally opposite the bookstore. Had to walk past Gwanghwamun Square so of course I had to take some piccys hehehe.
There were some beautiful flowers blooming in the square.
I managed to find the ticket counter pretty easily but you can only buy tickets for the night tour on the night you want to take it itself so no go on the tickets. By this time it was late after/early evening and I hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast on the plane so I decided to walk back towards the hotel and grab an early dinner from somewhere there. I ended up having dinner at the T.G.I.Fridays. The Fridays in Singapore, Korea and US have completely different menus! I ended up ordering a honey grilled chicken and chose mushroom rice as my side.
The portions in Korea are comparable to those in the US so this was more than enough to fill me up and there’s was anything left by the time I was done but I had skipped lunch lol. I know there are people out there wondering why I didn’t eat Korean food given that I was in Korea, well here’s the thing, I really wanted to eat Korean BBQ but their serving portions are just way too much for one person to finish especially with all the sides which I don’t take as I can’t take spicy food so I thought it best to go to places where I know the portions would be perfect for me without any wastage…there will definitely be Korean food eaten as I intend to go to a little “cafe” I found the last time I was here and get my Bulgogi jjigae (Bulgogi stew).
My limited sleep on the flight and the fact that my tummy was now happily filled with carbs, I decided to call it an early night and headed back to the hotel. Here’s my haul from earlier.
On the left are my goodies from Daiso and on the right are my goodies from The Face Shop. I forgot to take pics of the books I bought.