Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Korea Travelling by the Kikay Trekkie - Cafes, Restaurants, Museums, Parks and More

As some of you know, I'm a very big fan of Korean popular culture also known as KPOP and Asian cosmetics particularly Korean Brands.   It was just a preference four years ago that became a hobby three years ago.  Following KPOP idols who used to NOT to come to the Philippines made me learn to travel outside my own country to be able to watch KPOP concerts.  The zenith of ones KPOP/K-Drama inspired trekking is to go to South Korea directly.  It's the eventuality if you're in this fandom.  
In this post I'd like to go through some of the my most popularly asked questions
First of all rent one of these, it's a myfi, wifi.  since the hubby and i already have smart phones we just needed this.  alternatively you can rent a phone at the airport, they'll advise you if it's post paid, prepaid.  so on my third visit to Seoul, this myfi thing is what we still went for.  May unli may 500MB/day usage, so go for unli na.
Then you'll need your T-Money card, you can get this at the convenience store near mcdo at incheon airport, load this up because this is what you pay with when using the subway and the bus. yan yung version nila ng octopus card (for people who's visited Hong Kong).  There is a Korea Pass for tourists, but since we already had the T-money cards, I didn't bother with the Korea pass.  The Korea pass is like a prepaid card as well but for tourists so you can pay for buses and the subway with it.  so yeah like the t-money. 

1.)  VISA Application (for Filipinos)
  • guise, this is pretty straight forward, if you're employed and can produce a certificate of employment then what follows should be elementary, and that is bank certification.  Ideally, if you're employed you save some of your money in the bank or some kinda time deposit or bonds or funds.  so if you're employed you can produce both Certificate of Employment and you can produce your Bank Certification.  Ask your HR if you can ask the bank your employer uses for your payroll for your bank certification.  As for me, I have been here on this earth even before Madonna put out her very first single, "Everybody".  Therefore, I've had my personal savings account for a very very long time and use that for my bank certification purposes. (well hindi naman banco filipino, i never did get my money back from that lousy bank).  As far as i know there is no required minimum amount in your bank account...as in kung mayaman ka mas may likelihood kang ma-approve? nope.  It will help though if your bank account is more than two years old.
  • print out your flight itinerary and your hotel booking.  I suggest to book with Agoda.com.  This is site is an updated database that can show you the cheapest hotels in the area.
  • the visa application form can be downloaded here.  fill up your parts completely, you don't want to get denied just because you left something blank.  i-Google nyo pag may parts kayo na hindi magets about the application form.  there are forums that can help you out.
  • I'd rather pay a travel agency to file the visa application, this fee goes to the travel agency.  If you plan to stay in Korea for less than 59 days then there is no visa processing fee (yung binabayad mismo sa embassy).  If you do not want to go through a travel agency as in you have free time, have vacation leaves to spare, then line up early at the Korean embassy with your requirements
VISA | Visa Application form
    • Address : 122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig city 1634, Philippines
    • Tel : (63-2) 856-9210
    • Fax : (63-2) 856-9008
    • ph04@mofa.go.kr (Consular Section)
    • Hours of Operation : Monday~Friday 08:30~17:30
2.) "Ano bang meron sa Korea?" (at punta ng punta dun) -  like the pictures i post was not enough, mag instagram pag may time hahaha. so let me go through sites that are generally not found in the Philippines as to why people who are not into KPOP or Korean dramas are drawn to visit Seoul or the outskirts of South Korea.
  • Bau House - Hapjeong Station Exit 3, immediately after you go up this station, make a 180 (like do an about face, walk up to the nearest side street turn left, if you don't see a side street and a sign that directs you to bau haus on a dark gray/black building, then you're in the wrong place.
  • this is Bau House, a day care center for dogs.  Idea is, dog owners leave their dogs here for a fee and consent for their dogs to be pet and fed (in house kibble) by cafe visitors and patrons.  dog owners can advise the owner of Bau House not to allow their dogs to be fed by the cafe visitors.  For cafe visitors, there's a fee to stay at the cafe, the fee is consumable for 1 drink per customer.  if you love dogs this is the place for you to visit!
the sites -
  • behind this statue is Gyeongbokgung Palace (Gyeongbokgung Station exit 5) - photo cred - fineartamerica
 
  • war history enthusiasts can visit the War Memorial (Samgakji Station Exit 12)  this museum is closed on mondays, if monday is a holiday, then it'll be closed the following day, tuesday.

  • Namsan Tower, peeps, eatyourkimchi posted that there is an escalator leading up to the place where you can take a cable car to get up to the hill where the tower is.  this is an elusive escalator but it exists. soooo, go down Myeongdong Station Exit 3, walk an uphill climb, as in a steep walk uphill, on the side street where Pacific Hotel is. 10 minute walk my foot!  take your time walking up this hill toward the Pacific Hotel.  do you wanna be too tired to enjoy namsan tower? At this tower you will find locks of love [photocred- interaksyon.com] 
    and the teddy bear museum 
  • Bukchon Hanok Village (Anguk Station Exit 2) 
apart from this place being featured in the Korean Drama Personal Taste, this is subdivision is a location where you can find houses designed as they were in historic Korea.  There are tour guides here and is a school in here where you can learn Korean cuisine for the afternoon
  • Tha National Museum of Korea (Ichon Station Exit 2) - let's face it, our museums are run down and smell musty/dusty so I put this here as a place na 'wala sa pinas' wala naman talaga hahaha 
  • if you like cats then go to Hongdae for the cat cafe, here you'll find different kinds of cat cafe's the real cats cat cafe and hello kitty cafe 
    The Hello Kitty Cafe is at a narrow side street but, you get off of at Hongdae Station go up Exit 5 go up Eoulmadang-ro alley.  the Cat cafe and hello Kitty cafe are really close by each other and you will happen upon either of their signs while going around the side street market areas.
  • the famous (among tourists and shoppers) CoEx Mall this is Asia's LARGEST underground mall, get down Samseong Station Exit 6, there is a duty free located in this mall.  You can buy 'foreign to Korea' brands such as Lunasol at very discounted rates but they will send of your non-Korean brands purchases to your  airport terminal so you'll have to pick these items up near your gate before your departure! You may also find Korean brands here, these you can bring back to your hotel. (it's a protective system to promote only Korean brands)
  • NANTA - hemehghed, ang saya nito! it's like stomp and blue man group only funny.  Nanta has several theaters around Seoul, your concierge can direct you which one is nearest you,  we went to the one in Myeongdong
  • Nami Island - you can ask your hotel where you can book your day tour for Nami Island or if they can book your bus ride for you. 
    Meet the squirrels, see the areas where the Korean Drama, Winter Sonata filmed. There are other things here to see apart from ravens and their poo, from ostrich and their poo the turkey.  There are memorials and funny statues and a hotel for that weekend get-a-way or overnight stay by the lake.
  • Cheonggyecheon Stream - City Hall Station  Exit 4 - we went in the morning, it was quite a relaxing walk!
    but it's definitely better to look at in the evening because of all the lights (photocred: english.seoul.go.kr)
The above are just some of the places where you can go to experience places that are not found in Manila, or Bangkok, or Hong Kong, or Macau, or even Singapore.  peeps, Seoul isn't just about KPOP and Korean Dramas.  South Korea is number 11 in the TOP economies of the world.  

Their streets are safe to walk around at night as in hating gabi keriboomboom lang maglakad, their street signs have English, Korean, Japanese and Chinese writings.  Their Seoul Metro Subway system is the best in the world so you will never get lost so long as YOU know your destination and what station you departed from.  I suggest to download the subway ap:
You may ask, ate Marge, di ka naka punta sa Han River yung may bridge tas may fountain? ay di eh, hehehe laging napuput off til tomorrow kasi fountain lang sya hahaha

Travelling Seoul KPOP/K-Drama Style - For those of you who want to concentrate on visiting locations where K-Drama's were filmed, the coffee shops that Korean Dramas have featured or Kpop idol owned establishments, i highly recommend purchasing or acquiring littlemisshoo's book
She had a book signing at National Bookstore so I can only surmise that it's available there.  A friend of mine gave this to me though.  HOWEVER, do not expect this book to be your magic map, you will still need your googlemaps turned on on your phone.  There are establishments in the book such as Jaksal Chicken (the one KHJ's mom managers) that we had to ask around for its exact location.
1.) Restaurants / Cafes -
  • Kona Beans - (Apgujeong Station Exit 2) - this is not close to the station.  From the station do a 180 and look for a bus stop and Hyundai apartment.  [13 Apgujeong-ro] it's next to an Angelinus cafe.
Relevance:  this is the branch that the mothers of three super junior members manage.  I believe i saw one of the moms in the back, but she was deep in her books so I didn't bother her for a photo-op. it's written, though, that they allow being photographed with the fans and patrons, unlike...someone else's mom hehehe
  • Jaksal Chicken - Jeongbalsan Station Exit 2 it's a bit of finding as in medyo effort-effortan hanapin, specially di naman tayo taga dun, but it's on 113-4 Block A Westerndom 'mall' - you'll see an information booth that looks like a toll both, they direct you where it is exactly.  By the time I wrote this, it is up and running and servs food (no rice though, inuman place sya so pulutan and beer)
    this is the branch is the one managed by Kim Hyun Joong's mom at Ilsan (yeah as in like SBS where Ingikayo is filmed)
  • Miss Lee Cafe - Anguk Station Exit 6 - peeps i'm sorry to disappoint but after October 2012 (yes, the big bang concert in the Philippines) I just concentrated on idols that can speak American.  so this little gem was unknown to me until Eli and NS YoonG visited and visited the Jongno branch.  And what do you know? It's walking distance from the Hotel we stayed at!
    and we ended up here after my failed attempt to see U-Kiss at SBS Ingikayo so I looked like...
    so a couple of girls generation members were filmed here and an episode of we got married featured this restaurant.  But the reason why it's even featured on Korean variety programs is because of the stuff behind Eli's head.  It's a tree of love notes.  You can leave your note and twist-tie it on the tree.  The motif / decor is tree house style so there are kiddie drawings, dolls and crayons.
  • the KPOP Offices and Studios - back when i was over the moon with big bang i actually went to their building [Hapjeong Station Exit 8]
    wala lang masabi lang i got to breathe the same car exhaust air around the building that big bang, 2ne1, and Psy breathe.
    To SM Entertainment, CUBE, FNC, and JYP.  They are within walking distances of each other. [Apgujeong Rodeo station Exit 2] Going up this exit you will see Galleria Mall, either walk or cab it.  walk it, walking is part of the fun! After leaving Exit 2 go up Apgujeong-ro, look for a Korea Post Office. that's right close to a Citibank, this has a side street between them turn left on that side street. Follow http://travelkorea.hanintel.com 's map below.
    And this year I wanted to have fun at the SM Entertainment Fun area so it was Apgujeong we went again LOL why? Because Eli recommended so! This KPOP management street was featured on KPOP Tasty Road 
    sadly, this part of the SM Entertainment  main building was under renovation when we went.  but there's always next year! so here i was drinking more coffee, why? because there's a CUBE Cafe
    see a CUBE artist comic pop up art inspired cafe! if it wasn't too cold, it's actually nifty and cool to have coffees here.  Maybe next fall?!
    here's a helpful map to direct you to fnc, sm ent, cube, jyp from http://travelkorea.hanintel.com/
    For a link to the addresses of Kpop Managements click this.  The addresses are in Hangul, which you'll need in case you want to send your favorite idol gifts ;-)
  • The Networks -
    last year I went to CJ&E [Susaek Station Exit 2] but at the time (and this year, too) Mnet was abroad.  yeah my timing is shit+y.
    I thought MAMA 2013 (November 22, 2013) would take the artists away from Seoul not only for the MNET countdown, but from MuCore and MuBank as well.
    I did go to far away Ilsan where SBS is for Inkigayo.  [Gayang Station Exit 10 turn left go down that street, cross an intersection and voila you get to see a crowd of people waiting]
    I wanted to try my luck to see U-Kiss perform 'She's Mine during this year's U-Kiss' Korean promo.
    I was there early enough, found the KissMe's and signed myself in for their queue. Unfortunately, only 24 were allowed in the studio from the KissMe queue, I was 33 or 35 couldn't figure out if the second digit written on my wrist was a 3 or a 5!  so i spent my morning at far away Ilsan (17 stations from the hotel we were staying at) for nothing! even the Kissme FC admin couldn't get in.  well, screw you SBS.  I'd still line up for U-Kiss even if I would get a better chance to get in if i line up with another group.  Sadly, some FTI, k.wil, and Big Bang fans weren't let in either.  the fans let in filled up their tiny studio, it seems.  ALSO if you will venture up to Ilsan, bring food.  Ingikayo is held on Sundays and the restaurants around are closed.  UNLIKE KBS or Arirang, those networks are surrounded by civilization.
    Arirang Tower - I seem to have great difficulty googling this on map or whatever, much fewer people write about Arirang, which I don't get or just haven't found.  From the hotel we were at I started from Jongno 3 and stopped at Nambu Bus Station (station). from where my hotel was I didn't have to go through transfers.  There's a map at every station for the general outlying area, look for Nambu Ringway.  The address is Arirang Tower at 2351 Nambusunhwan-ro, Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea (photocred - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arirang_(TV_network) )
    After an icy rainy uphill climb with ice rain, yes think Charlie Brown and Snoopy on a snowy/rainy day. I'm the whiny Charlie Brown and Snoopy the reliable was my husband.  I was almost crying and about to throw in the towel and just go home and go to the trick eye museum. the uphill walk was almost as terrible as the namsan tower uphill trekking.  i almost gave up but he pulled me to go on.  So I found the KissMe admin thanks to the Mr Mr FC admin and a couple of non-kissme's.  I signed up for the KissMe queue, i even forgot my cd at my hotel but they allowed me to queue up with them since they met me the day before at SBS Ingikayo anyway.
    so I did see U-Kiss!
    Some girl tweeted the photos she took of the artists performing and was immediately asked to leave the recording session.  so i will not...this was the last night of our trip.  Thanks to my husband and international KissMe's I got to meet Eli.  I told Eli that we saw the video message they made for Yolanda victims and he spoke to me and chewed the fat with me by saying he wanted to go to Boracay!  After the part of Eli's filming was done, he was about to leave, but as he left he turned around and looked at me and said, stay strong! and did that 'fighting' arm gesture! i thought i would cry! 


    KBS Hall - Yeouido Station  Exit 2 18 Yeongdeungpo-gu, Yeouido-dong, Seoul [or National Assembly Station Exit 4]
    The tour is free and the hall is closed every first monday of the month.  it closes at 5:30PM, last admission is 5PM.  The museum shows you what they do, the dramas they have filmed and broadcasted by the network such as Boys Over Flowers and Sungkyukwan Scandal, and yeah Iris, too.
    Once upon a time the Superjunior coffee shop Handel and Gretel was located a building away from the Main KBS Studio(s) building.   But when we went, it was already replaced by another cafe, so that's closed.  Oh well.
I do hope i didn't bore you guys.  I certainly wasn't bored going around Seoul.  I was there for 5 days when we first went and then 7 days on our second trip!  We're going again next October! because there are many more places to see apart from what I already mentioned above! Remember, we didn't get to visit the trick eye museum, we didn't do the han river tour, and many other museums and galleries I wanted to visit.  Hopefully by next October I can get in the SM Entertainment Play area LOL


**no fees except in museums, the palace, nanta, cafes
***free admission to music shows just bring the latest cd of the idol you're following

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