My friend invited me to go to South Korea on a tour, we both downloaded the visa application online and headed out to Korean Embassy to submit our application. Few days later, I got my passport back with visa and as for my friend, he got denied. It was so funny back then because I initially don’t have any plans in going to Korea. After I got approved, I searched online and look for promotional 2 way tickets & I got so lucky with the price, went ahead and buy me self a ticket.
Next thing I did was to search for a hostel where I can stay for few days. All I needed was a place to stay for sleep, where I can take a shower and dump my blues away. Ewww! (haha) I stayed at Backpacker Mr. Sea, their staff are friendly although some of them cannot speak English. It is near the market, a few minute walk to train station, lots of café and convenient store and also accessible to the bus station going to the airport. If you’re not used in sharing a room with other travelers (strangers) I would not suggest this for you although it is a lot cheaper than actually booking a good cozy 5-star hotel. I paid $25 (the owner gave me extra discount) per night in this hostel for 5 days (a good deal for everybody who wants to travel on a budget).
Backpacker Mr. Sea Lobby area
Next thing I did was to make an itinerary for my stay. Here are some of their tourist attraction:
1. Gyeongbokgung Palace – translates in English as “Palace of Shining Happiness”. The premises were destroyed by fire at the time of Japanese occupation from 1592-1598. However, all of the palace’s 7,700 rooms were later restored under the leadership of Heungseondaewongun during the reign of King Gojong. I passed this area when I was on a bus tour and I did not get a chance to take pictures in here.
2. Myeongdong – Seoul’s primary & most famous fashion shopping district. It also houses a variety of restaurants and fast-food, many of the restaurants in here are specialize in pork cutlet and thick noodles.
3. N Seoul Tower – located on Mt. Namsan that offer great panoramic views of the city and has been a symbol of Seoul since it first opened to the public in 1980.
4. Dongdaenum – largest wholesale and retail shopping district, you can literally shop all night!
5. Bukchon Hanok Village – situated between 2 places, Gyeongbokgung (west) & Changdeokgung (east). This village has the largest cluster of privately owned traditional Korean wooden homes or hanok in seoul. The Bukchon area is a traditional residential area in Seoul that boasts 600 years of history. Its location reflects the views of neo-Confucianism, regarding the world and nature, during the Joseon Dynasty
6. Changdeokgung Palace – the second royal villa built following the construction of Gyeongbukgung Palace in 1405. The buildings have remained largely intact over six centuries and served as a backdrop for the last chapters of the Joseon period (1392-1910). The palace had a great influence on the development of Korean architecture, garden and landscape planning, and related arts, for many centuries.
6. Insadong – One of the most memorable Seoul attractions and represents the focal point of Korean traditional culture and crafts. Stores in Insa-dong specialize in a wide variety of goods that can only be purchased or appreciated in Korea: hanbok (traditional clothing), hanji (traditional paper), traditional teas, pottery, and folk crafts.
7. Hello Kitty Café – a must visit for all Hello Kitty Fan, a sip of Hello Kitty latte and indulge Hello Kitty cakes and pastry.
8. Namiseom Island (Winter Sonata) – a place which does not requires further introduction as this is the birthplace of all the Korean craze and where the famous international Korean Drama Winter Sonata was filmed. I passed this island when I was on a bus tour but never got the chance to actually go in here and take pictures.
9. DMZ (Korean Demilitarized Zone) – a meeting point between the two nations in the small Joint Security Area near the western end of the zone. Several tunnels are claimed to have been built as an invasion route for the North Koreans. The most restricted place I’ve ever been to, they have some areas that you are not allowed to take pictures since the North Korean border are watching all the tourist from a far. They said that if you disobeyed their law, either you’ll get shot or North will call South and it may cause a war. This is the place where I got so curious and got so interested with their history. If you want to take a peek of North, you can take the train from Dorasan station to Pyongyang which will take your whole day to tour the area. The most expensive tourist spot that I paid for ($65USD)
Seoul Subway Station
My tour cost me for $500USD (including food, tour, shopping & hostel) during my 5 days of stay in Seoul excluding my visa fee and plane ticket (total of $250). Some of these tourist attractions are for free and some requires admission fees. I literally walked most of the time when I was in here, most of the Koreans don’t speak English and map will be your only friend & then lastly, Wi-Fi is accessible everywhere (in case that your roaming won’t work). Don’t forget to try their famous bulgogi and kimchi.
McDonald’s Bulgogi Burger