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Go to Seoul

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.

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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.

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The Cheonggyecheon is 10.9 km long.

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.12669502_10153863424726894_8107597937214737851_n

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.

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Bosingak Bell Tower guides are unreliable in English but you have to give 5 stars with their full on costumes! Best thing is its free entrance.

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.

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Jonggak Underground Shopping Center. The sales lady was very friendly and even said that she had been to Boracay when she visited the Philippines.

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.

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Entrance Gates to the castle grounds

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Guard at the gate. He was like from the Korean dramas I used to see in TV.

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.

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There was a wing inside the grounds that was dedicated for the accommodation of the prince. It was thrilling to realize that we were walking at once was a royal sanctuary.
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Royal Changing of the Guards was a colorful marching show you can witness in the afternoon.

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.

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I had leek omelette that promised to have beef in it. I didn’t find the beef strips. I was heartbroken for my KRW 16,000. =(

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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.

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Peggy Pie offers varied types of cakes and pies. I settled for a cup of mocha, Mike with a cappuccino. We partnered it with a slice of Carrot Pie. One dense bite and I knew its sinful. I just reminded myself that we were walking all day so…hehe! Ubos!

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!

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Poop Bread from Insadong
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I love Insadong! I was told that it has strong cultural sense that the Starbucks herein was spelled in Korean Alphabet.
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Tags of Love found at the rooftop of one of the complex in Insadong.

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!

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Fish Bread with Red Bean Paste. I can’t recall how much pero Mike and I were talking about it and remember that it seemed like PHP 40 each. Its served hot you have to cool down the paste and not burn your tongue.
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This cup was filled with deep fried chicken, sausages, some kind of potato and many more. The mix was coated with chili sauce then with mayonnaise. It was heaven in a cup.

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!

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