Sunday, June 22, 2014

7 Travel Commandments in Seoul, South Korea


I thought traveling to South Korea was easy. Well, no. Not because the visa was hard to acquire. Lack of preparation can actually ruin your entire trip. 

I've traveled to many places, in the really off the beaten path destinations in the Philippines to as far as Northern Thailand and West India. But never have i felt so novice as when i went to Seoul. I've always been used to macro-planning (destination, time and money). That's it. Well, to my surprise, i have to say my trip to South Korea was the most difficult. Here's how i experienced it.




1. People don't speak English. 


The biggest irony of it all. Everywhere you go here in Manila, and other key regions in the country, you will see young Koreans studying English. Well, what's left in Korea are those who're unfamiliar with the language. Imagine myself with no sleep at all, and early in the morning trying to find this particular hotel, that i never found anyway. I saw this woman whose probably a working professional. Asked her if she could help me find this particular hotel from my guidebook. She signaled she needed to call a friend. Fantastic! After putting down the phone, i got very excited, finally a sign that she knew the place. She looked into me and said, 내가 있을 곳이.를 하는 것처럼 바로 바로 켜고 산기슭에 가려져 이 호텔을 찾으실 수 있다는 것을 알고 있습니다. 

Waahhhh! ;(

2. How much do you love Kimchi?


I love food. I like rice. I like a little bit of spice. I even love vegetables. Put them together, Kimchi, that i don't like. If you're like me, you're in big trouble. I got so suppressed with food, that i think i lost a few pounds on my way back to Manila. Everywhere i go, Kimchi is always the cheapest and fastest to prepare within Seoul (except fast food chains). How can you not order it when you've been walking for hours, and is dead hungry.

3. Book your hotel in advance.


Whether you book your trip during summer, spring, winter or fall, chances are you really, really, really need to book your hotel in advance. And i say this with full exaggeration. Being in a not so touristy destinations, affordable hotels are hard to come by. Imagine yourself riding a taxi stopping at every corner of the main highway, or the alley way, and even on the outskirts only to find out the hotel is closed, fully-booked, or too expensive. Once you found the only remaining hotel or motel, you get out of the taxi cab, and find out you have to pay about $40-50. 

I puffed a ciggie, sat at a bench and said to myself... "Oh, well. Shit happens!"

4. Plan your shopping spree ahead of TIME.


Save some money for you'll surely have a grand time shopping. Boots, scarves, trousers, bags and anything that looks fancy - you'll find it in Seoul. And yes, they're at a bargain. What time? That's the more important question. Went for about an hour of travel time to get to this night market, only to find out, the stores are closing down at 8PM. I found this shop still open, got inside and vowed never to return again. 

5. How do i look?


After downing a couple of Soju shots, and roaming around Yeouido Park, i saw this father-daughter artist sketching. I reckon, a portrait would be a great souvenir. No, this is not a con-story. The two are actually pretty honest and kind-hearted people. They told me their story, how they both loved art and how they want their business to grow. A few minutes later, and after bargaining for a good price for the sketch with frame, which they both agreed, The two handed me their work of art. It was beautifully drawn, the shading was great and lines were subtle but apparent. The problem is, the man in the drawing doesn't look like me. Wow!

6. Get a ride of your life at a theme park. 


After getting lost, and trying my best to understand that nobody understands me in South Korea, the least that i could do was try to have fun or look for one. There's no happier place anywhere than in a theme park. Whether you ride a roller coaster or get goofy in front of a photo booth, chances are you're afternoon will be spent with a lot of fun. Unless... the theme park is sadly, closed. Like what happened to me, I went all the way to one of South Korea's biggest theme parks (after a train ride, two bus rides and a taxi cab, i  realized my destination of choice is actually closed... on a Sunday! Who closes a theme park on a Sunday? Awesome!

7. Ask before you buy!


To be honest, i'm not as exploratory with food as i am with my destinations. I know it's part of traveling, and believe me I'm still learning to eat just as the romans do. And so i did that when i was in Seoul. After finding none of the shops at the night market was open, i went to buy food. When you've been watching too many Korean dramas, it's always a fascination to see the actors stop by to grab street food. I ordered this and that, a rice cake and even an Eel. (Yes! I ate an eel in Seoul but not in Fukuoka) For those who're familiar, Fukuoka is the  Eel capital of the world. Because I was just simply eating street food, i was thinking my orders would not be as expensive. I paid for three orders of grilled barbecue in assorted fashion and a couple of Cass beers all for a whopping $45 USD. I got closed down by a shop, and now i paid for street food that cost as much as my plane ticket to this country.


Don't get me wrong. I still love Korea! How can i not love this nation? Amidst all the troubles that i went through to experience the best of this fascinating country, i vow to one day come visit again and be at my best foot next time around. I actually have 7 solid reasons why i am booking that red eye flight to this lovely country in winter very, very soon. 

 다음에 봐 (Da-Eume Bwa) 

Filipino travel journals about backpacking in the Philippines, Asia and Beyond!

25 comments:

  1. hehe... ako rin i love vegies but I don't like kimchi...hehe.... akala ko rin they have a hint of english pero parang mahirap nga din sila makausap... tagal ko hinintay netong korea story mo ah! hahaha but its worth it naman =)

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    1. Hi Ian! Thanks so much! I swear, of all the places i've been to, communications-wise, South Korea would have to be the most difficult. This is just the start of my many adventures and misadventures in Seoul. Hope you get to read my stories real soon.

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  2. bwahahaha, kakatawa ng introduction mo Jerik! then upon further reading, madami pa palang bloopers. I miss your articles dude! Checked your homepage, nag-uupdate ka na pala uli. Mabasa nga. Happy 2013!

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    1. Hey Ed! Happy 2013!!! Yes! I missed this blog so much. Naipon ng lahat kakabiyahe. I actually saw your comment here when i was on transit in Cebu. Was headed for Surigao. Wanted to write to you at a more appropriate time. Cheers bai!

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  3. Haha I only stayed in Korea for three days. In terms of food, medyo na-overwhelm ako dun s Korean BBQ. Subo kasi ako ng subo without checking kung yung veggies na included sa set ay may spices o wala lol. Medyo hesitant din ako bumili sa sidewalk kasi kapag tinatanong ko ng 'what's this?', nagno-nod lang sila 0_o. Baka mamaya ibang specie na pala ninenenok ko =)) Gusto ko perong bumalik. 3 days is not enough at di pa ako nakastay ng matagal sa Seoul hehe. More!!!

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    1. Agree! 3 days is not enough. Parang naiisip ko a few nights ago, masaya yata kapag winter pumunta dun. Never been to a place na may snow eh. I might actually see my first drop in Seoul. Gusto ko bumalik at mag-Koreanovela tour.

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  4. Replies
    1. Ayos! Actually, masarap nga siya! Hey! Been reading your Misibis Bay Day Tour story, alam na kung saan ang next destination. hehe

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    2. i love all beers from all nations. hahaha Halata ang manginginom. Kumusta Chyng?

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  5. Replies
    1. Lahat ng experiences ayos whether okay o hindi. Ang importante may natututunan. hehehe Mag-post ka na ulit Simon sa blog mo! Way to go!!!

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  6. Replies
    1. Buti ka pa, Gay! Ako talaga di ko kaya. Sobrang hindi talaga ang explorer sa food. Ayos na ako sa grilled stuffed pusit at plain rice tapos may coke. Masaya na ako dun.

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  7. We'll be going here by September. We have no idea if that's the perfect time to go here, na-tempt lang kami sa 14 pesos na seat sale.hehe

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    1. Go and have fun! I can't wait to target that next promo flight to Incheon bound for Seoul. This time, i know better. Have a grand time!!!

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  8. Hi,

    I'll be travelling to Seoul next week and it would be my first time. Aside from these 7 things to watch out for, do u have any suggestion where to go there?

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    1. So sorry! It took me a while to respond but you have to book one of the Koreanovela tours because the places you will visit are the most scenic places in all of South Korea.

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  9. Nice tips and experiences! Great blogs to invite tourist and visitors to South Korea. You can also check Portico Club a premier provider of Luxury Hotels and Resort Worldwide. For another unforgettable vacation.

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  10. Hi
    I noticed you don’t have an arcticle about ecotourism in Brazil...
    It’s actually something I can write for your as a guest blogger.
    Let me know if you are interested =)
    Thanks!

    Best

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    1. I have a surprise for the last quarter of 2014. I will need all your inputs on where to go and what to do. Ciao!. Wink! =)

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  11. Brad, I was laughing hard on the part where the korean girl is ready to give you an answer! That was classic! I've been to other Asian countries too. One is Singapore and a group of Filipina girls ask me "Do you know where to find this place" she's thinking I'm a local there. I answered her "Ate di ko din alam eh" hahaha!

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    1. hahahahaha Kamukha kasi natin silang lahat mga nasa Asia so nangyayari yun. Sa india, tinanong din ako siyempre nakangaga ako kasi kamukha yung isa so malamang. nakakatawa kuwento mo, sinagot mo pa talaga. hahahaha

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  12. Great read – there must be thousands of people who would like to travel around the world. I took a year out 9 years ago and met my wife. The trip changed my life for sure and quiet a few of the people I met still keep in contact. Online Travel Agencies

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  13. I just had an awesome solo adventure at Lobo, Batangas and I'm reading some blogs to get a hint of how you guys sew your stories and share experiences. Would love to start my own blog.

    I enjoyed how honest you are when you tell your stories. (Pagod na ako mag-english, hahaha) This is the first article I read.

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Let me know what you think.