Holiday in Hong Kong

All I ever wished for this year’s birthday is to spend it in Disneyland. Okay, how shallow for a 20-something year old woman. Isn’t it that Disneyland is fairly for kids of all ages? I just wanted to be a kid again on that special day, so I decided that we will be flying to Hong Kong and a side trip to Macau. Hong Kong is pretty much a city vibe where you can suffice your shopping addiction. Hong Kong has a touch of both Oriental and Western style (being a colony of UK for a long time, and was only returned to China and became a special administrative region of China in 1997). Hong Kong is a 2-hour flight from Manila, which makes it easily accessible among Filipinos, and most of the time it’s the destination of the first timers leaving the Philippines.

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Hong Kong-Macau in a glimpse of 4 days and 4 nights (06.10.17-06.14.17)

We took an afternoon flight to Hong Kong via Cebu Pacific 5J 118 because I came from Narita, Japan the day before, and lost all my energy to pack. Instead, I packed in the morning. We are meeting my sister half-way, and she’s coming from a 20-hour plus flight starting from Washington DC- Los Angeles- Hong Kong via Virgin America (US domestic) and Cathay Pacific (international). She arrived in Hong Kong at 6am, while we’re arriving in Hong Kong at 6pm. My sister needed to rest first to avoid getting jet-lagged.

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Hong Kong from above

My sister went back to the airport to fetch us, and ride altogether going to our hostel before heading to dinner. Before leaving the airport, i claimed at the A13 arrival hall all my purchases from Klook.com which includes an Octopus card and iVenture card. Octopus card is used for trains, buses and even purchases from 7Eleven. On the other hand, iVenture card has plenty of attractions both for Hong Kong and Macau, so you don’t have to pay anymore for the entrance fee of each attraction. It also includes a discounted Disneyland pass, local sim with 4G wifi, discounted ferry transfer to Macau.

We took a 30-minute bus ride from the airport, and dropped off at Nathan Road in Mongkok. We walked a few blocks before we found the building where our hostel is at. It could be a little confusing so it’s best to have a landmark. Our hostel was booked through Airbnb and all that was written in there was pretty accurate.

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Kung Hing Guesthouse, where we stayed

For dinner, we went to a nearby mall, just a few blocks at the back of the building of our hostel. We found ourselves eating at a Chinese restaurant in Langham Mall. We got a sumptuous dinner for an affordable price.

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Chee Kai Set Meal

It was still early, so we visited the Sneaker Street of Mongkok, I got myself a pair of Pink Stan Smith, which used to be only available in Paris. It was the lone store that sells the color pink, so I grabbed the opportunity to buy myself a new pair.

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Classic tennis shoes

06.11.17- Macau

I will be having a separate post on our Macau trip. Click the link to read about our Macau trip.

After Macau, we visited the Ladies Market, and Beauty area of Mongkok. Near the gadgets area, we grabbed some street food like calamares.

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Munching on street foods

For dinner, there is another Chinese restaurant near our hostel. We got ourselves a Haianese chicken and milk tea.

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Haianese Chicken and Milk Tea for dinner

06.12.17– Disneyland

The weather in Hong Kong was pretty bad that it reached Signal No. 8 in the afternoon, which means that everything will be closed including the MTR. Our original activity for this day is to take the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car, and visit the Giant Buddha and Ngong Ping Village. Due to strong winds, the cable car was suspended, and I felt bad. We have the option to take the bus so we can still visit the other attractions, but I decided that this will include in my itinerary the next time I’m back in Hong Kong. The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car is part of the attractions included in the iVenture card, so it had been paid already. We had our brunch at McDonalds at a nearby mall, before we took the train that will take us to Disneyland.

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Mickey Mouse designed train going to Disneyland

Mr. sunshine was showing up when we got into Disneyland. Before we finally went in, I claimed the vouchers for our meal, which was also paid online. It includes lunch and free ice cream or popcorn. It was worth it.

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Welcome to Disneyland

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The first and only area we visited was the Tomorrowland. We had the Iron Man Experience, and Hyperspace Mountain. I thought it was all for kids, but I was wrong! I enjoyed it because it wasn’t something that I expected. Afterwards, we felt hungry and decided to eat. We had a mix of Japanese and American food which were all heavy and worth every penny. After eating, we were thinking of the next rides that we will take, but unfortunately, Disneyland has to be closed because of Signal No. 8, and we were left by no choice but to leave. We hurriedly went back to our hostel as the MTRs will close soon too. It was raining hard in Mongkok, and we all opted to sleep instead.

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First and only area we explored

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House of Animation

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Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

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Main Street USA

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My Amerindian ancestor

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Ramen & tempura

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Bacon, beef and sausage with rice

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I thought my birthday will end soon in bed, but I wake them up to eat dinner. Just at the 2nd floor of our building, there’s a traditional Chinese restaurant, that serves exotic food as well. We had Yang Chow rice, chicken, and beef with beans and veggies along with beer.

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Asahi beer instead of cake on my birthday

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A traditional Chinese restaurant

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Yang Chow rice, fried chicken & beef with beans & veggie for dinner

06.13.17- Ocean Park, Peak Tram, Madame Tussauds

It was raining hard, yet there was no storm signal. We left our hostel to join our transfer ride going to Ocean Park. Our meeting place was at Holiday Inn Golden Mile. It was just few stations away from ours, but going to the hotel was risky. Some alleys that we passed by had waters already. We had no choice but to buy umbrellas and ponchos. Our pants and shoes got soaked in the water. Our meet-up is at 8am, but it was already past 8am, and our guide is not showing up yet. Perhaps, it was cancelled due to bad weather, but there was no storm signal, so it must push thru. After waiting for several minutes, our guide arrived.

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Raining, yet still plenty of tourists

It took 30 minutes to reach Ocean Park, and it was still early so most of the establishments were still closed. We’ve been walking around to find a place to eat, until we stumbled upon a fastfood place. This time, we had fries, soda, chicken rice, burger and ice cream. Yes, ice cream on a cold weather! Finally, after eating, we’re about to watch the dolphin show, but to our dismay it has been cancelled. Due to bad weather, all animals can’t leave their shelter. I’m starting to get disappointed, since my main reason why I went to Ocean Park is to see a panda. We just walked around and entered the shark aquarium, Amazon rainforest zoo, Australian conservation center (where we saw a kangaroo and a koala), and panda house. We got to meet the 31-year old panda. It was an item to tick-off in my bucket list. As for the rides, we only got to ride the express train going up and the cable car going down. At least, I was still able to ride a cable car even if the Ngong Ping 360 cable car wasn’t available the time we went there.

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Dolphin show has been cancelled

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Dare to try!

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Kangaroo feeding

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Didn’t know that white kangaroos exist, or perhaps the albino type

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Meet An-An the 31-year old panda

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Hibernating koala

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Cable car at Ocean Park

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Old Chinatown be-like

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After our Ocean Park adventure, we took a train ride going to Peak Tram station. We were in fact lost, so we took another bus ride and alighted a few meters away. When I saw the Peak Tram station, there was really a long line, but thanks to our pass, we need not to line up. We arrived at the Peak Tower where we had our yummy snacks at Kala Snackbar. We had strawberry soda & banana walnut crepe. We went around after eating, and we ended up in this place that I thought it was the Trick Eye Museum. It is something similar to that but it is for free. Then we headed to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, where the wax figures looks real.

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Peak tram ride

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My afternoon snack

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I really don’t know who she is, but my sister said that she’s an artist with autism & famous in Washington DC

It’s time to eat once again, so we had dinner at Bubba Gump. We had a 10% discount, thanks to our iVenture cards. We got ourselves a heavy meal since it’s been a long and tiring day.  I wasn’t feeling well that time. It feels like that anytime, my head will just burst. I’m not sure if it was a migraine attack or I was just hungry. After eating, we found a Korean store, and once again it has been proven that retail therapy can cure any ailment.

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Dinner in big servings

We’re suppose to go to the viewing deck to see the nice view of Hong Kong, but unfortunately, it was so foggy and it will not be worth going up.

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Foggy view of Hong Kong

Now, we left the Hong Kong Island and returned to our hostel to rest.

06.14.17- Mongkok

It was our last day in Hong Kong and we didn’t have a pretty decent shopping activity, except that I got myself a pair of pink Stan Smith. We woke up early, and had brunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant before we headed for shopping. We loaded ourselves with Korean products and sneakers that are either too expensive in Manila or we don’t have it here. We got ourselves a polo shirt in a super sale at Giordano, and of course, something to munch on! I can actually dedicate a whole day to shopping, but my card will be at risk.

For our itinerary and total damage to our wallet, feel free to click Itinerary- Hong Kong Macau 2017

Korean Tourist Visa Requirements for Philippine-based Filipinos

DISCLAIMER

Everything that you will read below were based from my experience. As of this time of writing, all procedures & requirements are accurate; unless otherwise stated. It’s still best to contact the embassy for current information & to answer all your inquiries.

PLAN AHEAD

After bidding for my service incentive leave, I have decided that I’ll spend my vacation in Seoul. I bid back in October 2015, and when we got our final date for SIL a month after, I started to prepare the requirements for my Korean tourist visa.

November 2015

Aside from my payroll account, I opened my savings account with BDO because it’s the nearest bank to my house, and their ATMs are almost everywhere.

June 2016

1. Bank Certificate & Bank Statement

After 7 months from opening my savings account, I went to the branch where I opened my account and asked for a bank certificate & bank statement for the last 3 months. Good thing with BDO is that they are very much familiar with the required format of the Korean embassy. Aside from bank statement, you may prefer to use your passbook. I have a passbook, but I opted for the printed bank statement. You just have to pay Php 100 for bank certificate & Php 100 for bank statement. You may claim it a day after you made a request.

2. Certificate of Employment & ITR

I got these from our HR. The certificate of employment must have the ff: position in the company, date hired, monthly or annual salary, active contact details of the HR person who will sign your COE. As for the ITR it must be the latest issued to you. I got those after 3 working days from the day I requested.

3. Application form & Passport-size picture

You may print the form available at the website of the Korean embassy. Type or hand-written is acceptable. Don’t leave blanks, just type N.A. or not applicable. Attach the passport-size picture with white background on the application form.

4. Passport

Your passport must have a validity of 6 months or more on the planned days of your vacation.

5. Photocopy of passport bio page

APPLYING FOR TOURIST VISA

June 13, 2016

I went to the Korean Embassy in McKinley Hill at 9am. I waited for my queue for half an hour and when it was my turn I just submitted it on the window counter. They got all my documents and passport & gave me a claim receipt. I must return on June 20, 2016, or after 5 working days, to get my passport. No questons were asked to me.

June 20, 2016

I returned to the embassy to claim our passports at 1pm, and it’s stamped with tourist visa valid for 3 months from June 20 till Sept 20, 2016. It’s free and you’re allowed to stay for 59 days.

FYI

All documents must be original.

No specific amount was mentioned on how much your bank account should have on the time of the application. As long as your account is active & could support the whole duration of your stay in Korea, then it’s acceptable, I guess.

You can submit someone else’s application form & documents. No need for personal appearance.

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Korean Tourist Visa

We both got our tourist visas after 5 working days & hassle free!

For updated information, you may visit http://embassy_philippines.mofa.go.kr/english/as/embassy_philippines/main/index.jsp

Seoul Searching

Our travel in Seoul, South Korea is another achievement unlocked. First, we did not exceed our set budget. Second, locals hardly speak English, but we managed. From getting lost and asking directions to eating unfamiliar local dishes. The language barrier is difficult, yet I have seen their efforts to help us. On the positive note, the country is safe, and you can wander all you want.

Seoul, South Korea in a glimpse of 4 days and 4 nights (08.31.16-09.04.16)

A flight to Seoul from Manila is almost 4 hours via Incheon. You may opt to travel with any of our local carriers, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, and AirAsia. You may also choose to take Korean Air, Asiana, etc. We have flown with Cebu Pacific (to avail my airline benefit) scheduled to depart at past 3 in the afternoon, and arriving at around 8pm (Korea local time). Seoul is 1 hour ahead of Manila.

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Customized passport holders from JJ Market in Bangkok

After passing thru immigration, I claimed our reserved wifi kit at the arrival hall in between gates 6 and 7. I made the reservation online through KT Mobile Rental. I gave a deposit of 200000KRW, and will deduct the 27500KRW for my 5-day use. Upon returning on our last day, I got my 172500KRW deposit. When I made the reservation online, I found a discount coupon- so this rate is already discounted.

Seoul City is 45 mins away from Incheon International Airport, and to go to the city, it’s best to take the subway. I would love to try the Airport Express Train, but when we got there it was already closed. Instead, we took the other train, which stops in every station. It’s way cheaper, but the time difference is only 10 mins.

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Hoehyeon Station. Tip: Download their train app

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The fastest mode of transpo

Our hostel, New Sun Guesthouse is a 5 min. walk from Hoehyeon Station. Its location is very strategic- 5 mins away from Myeongdong and 10-15 mins from Seoul City by foot! I booked our hostel thru Airbnb app for only PHP6685 good for 4 nights and 2 persons. We have our daily complimentary breakfast and bottled water, basic toiletries, and free wifi.

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Tip: Ask the frontdesk officer for package tours if you don’t have an itinerary yet. They offer good deals.

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16 degrees Celsius upon arrival. OOTN: Hers- white top from Zara, black pants from River Island, boots from Moschino, bag from DKNY. His- pink polo from American Eagle, black slacks, black Nike roshe run sneakers.

On the night we arrived, we walked around and we reached the Namdaemun Market. We were looking for a place to eat but we cannot really decide because there was no English translation, and no one speaks English. We took a chance at this small eatery along the street and ordered barbecue and some ramen. The lady in her 50s probably, gave us free unlimited rice cakes mixed in curry, and a scrambled egg mixed with spinach. It was such a sweet gesture, appreciated by lost and hungry tourists. I love the food, but spicy is not my thing.

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Menu in Korean. We choose our food based from pictures.

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Korean chicken barbecue for 15000KRW.

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Korean chicken barbecue, spicy ramen and free unli rice cake dipped in curry

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Free spinach mixed in scrambled egg

09.01.16- Seoul City Tour

  1. Gyeongbokgung Palace  
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Entrance to Gyeongbokgung Palace costs 3000KRW per head

After having our hearty breakfast, we took the train going to Gyeongbokgung Palace. There were also other palaces in the city, but we chose this because it’s the main attraction. On my next visit, I will visit Changdeokgung Palace during autumn. We availed the free 1 hour English tour to understand more of the palace’s history, and its dynasty. At the entrance stands the Joseon guards, however we did not witness the “Changing of the Guards” ceremony.

Entrance Fee: 3000KRW per head

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The palace gate with mountains in the background

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Gyeongbokgung Palace in the heart of the city.

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Aesthetically beautiful

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Take a closer look at the ceiling

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The other entrance facing the city

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Perfectly fitted designs

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Feel free to feed the birds

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These stones are markers. During military ceremonies in the Joseon period, men lined up according to their rank and the stones are the markers

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Built during the Joseon dynasty in 1395

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Nature appreciation

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More more trees

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King’s throne

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Flocked by tourists

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Dragon design in the middle of the ceiling

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I’m guessing: the ceiling is made of bamboos

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Monkey-like statues were placed on the roof

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Our English speaking tour guide. Tip: Check the schedules of the palace tour. Available in English, Japanese and Chinese. It’s free.

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It used to be the place of the king’s mother

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Now filled with lillies

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Random selfie with tourists in Hanbok

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OOTD: Hers- dress from Cotton On, black cardigan tied around the waist

2. National Palace Museum of Korea

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The National Palace Museum of Korea is dedicated to the relics of the Joseon dynasty. It houses all the artifacts belonging to the dynasty

Entrance Fee: Free

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The king’s chair during ceremonial parades.

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Ancient artifacts from the Joseon dynasty.

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The king’s outfit (not so sure which event he wears this)

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The dragon

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The king’s car in the early 1900s

3. Bukchon Hanok Village

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Vintage houses

It’s a street composed of traditional Korean houses. It’s their version of the “old rich” houses. Visitors may enter some houses and experience tea-time with a fee on it. Some houses were converted to cafes.

Entrance Fee: Free

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You need the strength to go up.

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A tourist strolling the area in Hanbok.

09.02.16- Chuncheon, South Korea

I arranged reservations for our out-of-town tour to avoid the hassle of getting lost via Funtastic Korea. I highly recommend that you avail their package. As compared to DIY tour vs. package tour, the difference is very little. You just have to pay a little for your convenience and comfort. I made the payment online before we left Manila. Package tour includes Nami Island, Petite France and N Seoul Tower, pick-up and drop off service to your hotel, and lunch at Mr. Dakgalbi. Our tour was on a Friday, and to my surprise, we were the only guests for that day. Lucky day indeed!

Package Tour Fee: 160000KRW for 2 persons

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The van is exclusive to us.

  1. Nami Island
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Welcome to Naminara Republic.

It’s the famous island from the Korean series Endless Love: Winter Sonata. There are two ways to get into the island, first is through a ferry ride and second is through a zipline. They say that it’s best to visit Nami Island during the autumn because the lush green forest turns into bright orange. The island itself is picturesque, romantic, and is highly appreciated by nature lovers. You may wish to walk or bike around but for a fee.

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Pay your entrance fee here.

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5 min. ferry ride that will take you to Nami Island.

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You may opt to take the zipline going to Nami Island.

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Somewhere behind is the tomb of Gen. Nami, whereas the island was named after him.

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The island map.

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OOTD: Hers- black turtle neck dress from Cotton On, scarf from Cotton On and sunglasses from Prada. His- black shirt from Nike, jeans from Uniqlo and sunglasses from Rayban.

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Winter Sonata’s first kiss took here.

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Winter Sonata souvenir shop

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You say “welcome” in different languages.

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An attempt to copy their pose.

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The bikes used in Winter Sonata

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Welcome aboard!

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Selfie with the ostrich.

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2. Mr. Dakgalbi

This is a Korean restaurant located near the parking area for Nami Island visitors. Feel free to eat the Korean chicken barbecue in a traditional way.

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Yummy!

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The lunch is part of our packaged tour.

3. Petite France

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Welcome to Petite France!

Located 20 mins. away from Nami Island, the place is dedicated to the author of the novel, The Little Prince. It’s very artsy fartsy, and I could appreciate the place because I have read the novel. The Korean series The Secret Garden was also filmed in here. If you love Korean series, you will be very familiar with the place.

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The Little Prince

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Inside a Russian museum

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Spotted: Little Red Riding Hood

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Colorful mini French village

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4. N Seoul Tower

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Standing at 236m asl.

We drove again for around an hour to get back into the city, and visit the N Seoul Tower. It is located in the Namsan Mountain, and the N Seoul Tower is the highest point around Seoul at 236m. We got a chance to look at Seoul from the bird’s eye view. Before going up at the observatory deck, you will pass by the famous love locks of Seoul. We did not have a padlock with us, and buying from souvenir shops is quite expensive, so we just ended up posing with the locks around.

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Love locks from visitors all over the world.

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A bird’s eye vew of the city.

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09.03.16- Korean Demilitarized Zone

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Our bus to Panmunjom

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Signed our lives away.

Dubbed as the most dangerous border in the world, yet it did not stop me from marking this off on my bucket list. This special place could only be accessed through special permission, and thankfully DMZ Tours exist. Based from what I have read, DMZ Tour on Saturday is provided only by a single agency. I availed the weekend package through KTB Tour and with a brave heart and soul, we visited the most dangerous border in the world. It felt like a field trip on our way in there. We belong to the English speaking group and only 5 are Filipinos including us. A tour guide explained well to us the history of the Korean War, and I was very eager to listen along with some people who seemed to be journalists, professors, historians, etc. The tour includes visit at the DMZ, JSA, Freedom Bridge, and a sumptuous lunch.

Package Tour Fee: 170000KRW for 2 persons

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Beef bulgogi for lunch.

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1. JSA

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The brown building is part of North Korea already.

JSA or Joint Security Area is the blue building where important meetings are held by the United Nations and the two Koreas. It’s literally divided into half, one from the North side, and the other from the South. It is here where treaties have been signed and has played a role in the Korean history. From the outside, you will see the building of North Korea. Picture taking is limited to two mins and limited to some areas only.

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Spotted: North Korean soldier.

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Inside the joint security area where important meetings are held and treaties were signed.

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2. Freedom Bridge

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Bridge bound to North Korea

This bridge connects the North and South Korea. During the Korean War, prisoners of war have been exchanged from each side in this famous bridge. Today, notes, banners are posted and still hoping for the unification of the North and South Korea

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Used to be an active train during the Korean war in 1950s

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Many are still hoping for a unified Korea.

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Lotte World

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Korea’s version of Disneyland.

Aside from the DMZ Tour on that day, we also had a chance to visit Lotte World. I got discounted tickets from our hostel’s front desk. It was 5pm already when we got in there, and since it’s a weekend it’s packed with foreigners and locals alike. Most rides have ridiculous lines, and I don’t want to waste our time from lining up. We ended up riding the bump cars, and kid-friendly rides. We were also just in time for the parade of Zombie characters.

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Long lines ahead.

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Pose for your caricature.

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Let them read your destiny.

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A zombie parade in the background. OOTD: Hers- black polo shirt from American Eagle. His- black polo shirt from Cotton On.

Entrance Fee: 60000KRW for 2 persons

Myeongdong

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Shopping haven

Every night of every day, we never failed to pass by Myeongdong district. It is the haven of people who love cosmetics like me. They sell Korean cosmetics at a very low price compared to the prices in Manila. Definitely a place that I will always comeback to. Street foods are sold here too, and it never failed to suffice my cravings.

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Barbecue for 3000KRW

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Hola, we’re on tv!

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Korea’s version of Yakult

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Hotdog and rice cake for 3000KRW

At the end of our mini vacation, I could assure you that I cannot handle spicy food well. No matter how good the food is. I love their street food but if you’ll convert it to Peso, it’s a bit pricey. Shopping for cosmetics is heaven in Korea. You get to buy the best for an affordable price. I will absolutely comeback to explore other places and try out more authentic Korean food during the autumn season. Do not forget to buy souvenirs. Almond peanut is my favorite, and it’s cheaper in Myeongdong.

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These little goodies were freebies from my purchases.

For the trip, our total expenses was PHP44138 all in except shopping.

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In traditional Hanbok, Korea’s national costume.

For itinerary, directions, food places and budget, feel free to click the Itinerary: Seoul 2016 link.

Summer in Seoul 2016 part 1 🇰🇷

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Part 2. Summer in Seoul 2016. 📷 #GoPro

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Part 3. 🎧 Tiësto – Footprints

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Part 4. 📽️ #FilmoraGo Mobile App.

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