The Mystery and Beauty of Masasa Beach

Masasa Beach is approximately 3 hours away from Manila. Located in Maricaban Island, town of Tingloy in Batangas. It is neighboring to Mindoro Island, Isla Verde, and Anilao Batangas. It is near the famous Sumbrero Island, which they say that it’s part of Anilao (please correct me if I’m wrong). Among all the beaches that I have been to, this is the most quiet and cleanest. When I was walking in their downtown, it felt like I was transported in the old times. When you want some peace and quiet time, you can go here. It is under-developed and it has not been commercialized.

I’ll take you back in 2015, 2 years ago

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Masasa Beach with the over-looking Mindoro island

 

This DIY trip is the most buwis-buhay getaway in my entire existence.

It happened to be a long weekend, 17th of January 2015, because of the pope’s arrival in the country. Long weekend means time to pack our bags and go somewhere. Fortunately, it’s also the birthday weekend of my other half. I planned the whole trip and gave it as my birthday present to him.

A glimpse of Masasa Beach, Tingloy, Batangas in 3 days and 2 nights (01.17.15-01.19.15)

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Crystal clear water of Masasa Beach

We left our house at 5am, so that we could catch the JAM Bus Liner going to Batangas City Grand Terminal at 7am. The bus ride took almost 2 hours coming from Buendia, Makati.

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Bus ride to Batangas

Upon reaching our destination, we took a jeepney ride to Mabini Port, which took 45 mins to an hour from the city. The boats at the port are scheduled to leave every hour starting at 10am. Unfortunately, a storm happened to enter the country on that day, as a result the provincial government declared Signal no. 1, which means that no boats could sail. We were not informed that there was a storm signal, because the sun was out there, and not even a single drop of rain has fallen. But rules are rules- storm signal warning, strictly no sailing. We were stuck in the port for 4 hours, and I have thought of just going to a resort in Anilao. However, we saw some locals of Tingloy heading home. (so there must be a way to go to that island). He, first tried talking to the Tingloy locals, in his Batangueno accent, (so that they won’t assume that we are Manila kids & might take advantage) and asked if we could hitch a boat ride with them, and we’re willing to pay some extra bucks just to go to Tingloy. The very nice man agreed, and accommodated the 2 of us in their small boat with a capacity of 10 people. We sailed away. It was very smooth and we’re just passing through the shores of Anilao. The waves were very peaceful and there was no slight evidence of a storm approaching. We called the caretaker of the place that we’re staying, and told her that we will be arriving in about an hour.

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Waiting at Mabini Port in Anilao, Batangas

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The waves are very calm

When we’re about to cross the middle of the sea, I’ve started seeing giant waves. Waves that could make our boat sink. I could not make a single move from where I am seated, and it feels like, one wrong, all wrong and we die. I tried my best to hide my emotions so I wouldn’t scare the birthday boy. Mind you, we were not even wearing life vests, and if the boat will sink, I wondered if there are sharks out there to eat us. It’s impossible to be saved by another boat because we’re the only boat in that part of the sea. Prayers are already shouted in my head, and I thought of my family (feels like the end of the world). It was the longest 1 hour boat ride of my life, and thank you that we made it alive to Tingloy.

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Trike ride going to the shore

We took a trike from the shore going to our inn, and we were welcomed by the caretaker. After changing into our swimwear, we headed to the beach. It’s indeed a virgin beach! Crystal clear water, white powdery sand with a few pebbles, calm waves, and even if you go far, it’s still safe to swim. When we were walking along the shore, we saw a camp site of 2 pax, and they look very much chill.

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Passing by the green fields before you reach the shore

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It’s actually a 10-min. walk

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Met a carabao on our way

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And a goat too

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We returned to the inn when it was 6pm, and cooked our baon for dinner. The caretaker was so nice that she even allowed us to use their stove, and other kitchen utensils. We were even lucky that we get the house all to ourselves, which means that we don’t have to share the bathroom with anyone!

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All to ourselves

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The famous staircase, I’m not sure of the name

 

Day 2- 01.18.15

We got up so early, but it was raining hard. The caretaker informed us that there is still a storm signal, and we cannot go back to mainland Batangas yet, so we went back to sleep. We went to the beach at 3pm, and the whole beach was ours. Nobody wanted to enjoy the beach except us. Mr. Sunshine showed up in the afternoon, and it was just perfect to get my tan.

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Our campsite

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Getting a tan

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Mr. sunshine is about to set

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Day 3- 01.19.15

Storm signal has been lifted, and we could leave.

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Time to go home

On our last night in the island, we felt something strange. I mentioned above that we got all the house to ourselves. The house is relatively new. All the floors are made of cement including those in the 2nd floor. There are 3 rooms upstairs, and I noticed that there is also no ceiling. You can already see the roof, if you look up. There is also a rotating brown-out in the island, starting 11pm until 6am. We were already in bed at 10pm, then the lights are out. We only have the rechargeable fan and light. We turned it off because it was so cold. We were so silent because we both felt sleepy and tired, not until, I heard something. I went like, “Naririnig mo ba yun? (Do you hear that)”, and he goes like, “Oo, wag mong pakinggan (Yes, don’t listen)”. Then he covered my ears. Well, we just heard footsteps going towards our room. I’m sure it was not a cat, because the floor is made of cement. It was heavy footsteps. The wall in our room, doesn’t extend up until the roof, because there was no ceiling, so there is a space, and you can just peak outside our room. We knew what we heard, so I said, “Ang lapit na niya, papunta ata sa’tin (It’s near, I think it’s going towards us)” So we were under the sheets the whole wee hours and hugging each other tightly, and very scared. I never told the caretaker about it, because she was so nice to us, and I don’t wanna say anything negative because she’s very accommodating. Probably, it was just a welcome from the other side, but we got scared.

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I was planning to take my sister to Masasa Beach, not until I came across a very recent blog post about it. I suddenly felt sad, coz it was no longer the Masasa Beach that I was imagining. It was so packed with campers, and it felt like there was no space to pitch in my tent. The locals have made curfews for campers, unlike before that we can camp overnight. I hope I’m wrong, and it only looks like that during peak season, but you can barely see people before even if it’s a peak season.

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How to visit Masasa Beach?

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I wish it stays like this for a lifetime

From Makati or Cubao, take a bus ride going to Batangas City Grand Terminal, then transfer to a jeepney bound to Mabini. You may drop-off at Mabini Port. Ferry rides going to Tingloy and vice-versa are scheduled and available daily. Once you reach Tingloy, you may walk or take a trike going to your accommodation or to the beach site.

FYI:

The beach is a public beach so it is free. I suggest that you buy your food and toiletries from the mainland as these items are expensive in Tingloy. Prepare your budget on transpo and accommodation. The people are very nice, so please be nice to them too. Don’t forget to dispose your garbage properly. Keep the island clean and enjoy.

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Itinerary & budget for this trip

Beautiful Bohol

Another beauty of Mother Earth has been showcased in the province of Bohol. The island is blessed with natural beauty; from the chocolate hills and lush green forests to the crystal clear river and white powdery shores of Panglao Island. Let’s not forget that it is also the home of the world’s smallest primate, the tarsier. It does not only boast its natural beauty, but also its historical value. Bohol houses century-old churches, ancestral homes, etc. The first blood compact between a Filipino and a foreigner took place in Bohol too. If you will recall from our history class, Rajah Sikatuna made a blood compact with Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, the first Spanish governor-general of the Philippines to symbolize their alliance.

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Panglao Beach

Bohol in a glimpse of 2 days and 1 night. (11.26.16-11.27.16)

Bohol is an island located in Central Visayas. Should you wish to visit this beautiful paradise, you may have Manila or Cebu as your entry point. Bohol is 2 hours away from Cebu City via fast craft and an hour away from Manila via domestic flight to Tagbilaran. Scheduled trips are available daily from Manila and Cebu. Be sure to book in advance your ticket because most of the time the trips are full. From Cebu City’s pier 2, we took a 2 hour ride via Oceanjet fast craft. We availed the earliest at 6:00am and costs 920PHP roundtrip economy per person. Add 25PHP terminal fee per person. We reached Tagbilaran at 8:00am, and we were picked-up by our tour guide.

11.26.16 Countryside Tour

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Our driver and guide at the port.

Our tour began after our driver, Lito, picked us up from the port. I have availed a Countryside Tour from Incredible Bohol by Sir Tatsky Cubero because, first, I don’t want the hassle of commuting. We will be visiting different sites, and if we choose the road less traveled, we have to take different rides too. Second, I am not familiar with the schedule of public transpo, and if we ended our tour at night, rides may not be available too. I highly recommend Sir Tatsky if you wish to get a tour. The tour includes pick-up from port, countryside tour (except entrance fee for each), and drop off at resort in Panglao for only Php 2100. I think the rate is good for 4 persons already since you really pay the car rental and service.

  •  Blood Compact Site
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Rajah Sikatuna & Miguel Lopez de Legaspi blood compact site.

Again, if you listen to your history teacher you will know that the blood compact between Rajah Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legaspi took place in Bohol. In honor of that event, a monument has been created by a fellow Boholano, and can be visited for free.

Entrance Fee: Free

  •  Baclayon Church

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This is one of Bohol’s century-old church. It was badly devastated when an earthquake hit the province in 2013. Right now, it’s under construction. A museum is open for tour at the side of the church for a minimal fee.

Entrance Fee: Free

  • Butterfly Haven

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It’s just a bonsai garden filled with butterflies. A souvenir shop is also conveniently located there.

Entrance Fee: 45PHP per person

  • Loboc River Cruise and Floating Restaurant
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River cruise & lunch for two

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Loboc River

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A view of lush green forests and crystal clear water while you’re on board and eating your Filipino lunch buffet. To make it more lovely, some good old songs are played by a live band. The trip lasts for about an hour. Our guide told us that we should have the river cruise first to avoid waiting for so long and it will consume so much time for our trip.

Entrance Fee: 450PHP per person

  • Chocolate Hills

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This is the most famous landmark of Bohol. It takes about some 200 steps to reach the viewing deck, and you get a spectacular 360 degree view. It’s worth all the steps because the view is breathtaking. I’m not so sure how many hills are really in there, but it’s quite plenty.

Entrance Fee: 50PHP per person

  • Tarsier Conservation Center

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Hello there tiny one!

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Yes, they are out in the forest in this protected conservation center. When we visited, most of them are asleep, and you just see their back. They are so tiny, that the center’s staff has to point where the tarsier is exactly at. A friendly reminder to our fellow guests, please turn off the flash of your cameras for this may stress the tarsier and please do not touch them. Tarsiers can be suicidal if they are stressed out.

Entrance Fee: 60PHP per person

  • Bamboo Hanging Bridge

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It’s the oldest of its kind in the province. A twin bamboo hanging bridge to cross the river. After crossing the bridge, you may opt to buy souvenirs and refreshments. In order to go back, you have to take another bamboo bridge.

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Entrance Fee: 20PHP per person

  • Man-made Mahogany Forest

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According to our guide, back in the Marcos era, students from public schools were required to plant trees. The mahogany forest along the highway was the result of this tree planting project. It’s more than a kilometer stretch of mahogany trees making the surrounding beautiful.

Entrance Fee: Free

  • Shiphauz

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There is a famous house in Bohol that was patterned from a ship and it instantly became a landmark. It is said to be owned by a sailor. Tours stop by the house for photo op.

Entrance Fee: Free

  • Hinagdanan Cave

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After our tour in Tagbilaran, we moved to Panglao Island, and visited the Hinagdanan Cave. In the center of it is a mini lake, which is about 10 feet deep or more with fishes in it.

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Entrance Fee: 115PHP for 2 pax including parking fee

  • Bohol Bee Farm

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Aside from offering organic choices, Bohol Bee Farm is a resort as well. However, it is not located along the shores of Alona. You get to tour around the farm, and see how they process their products. We bought home the pesto spread, which I really give a thumbs up. Don’t forget to try their organic ice cream. It’s so good and it comes in different flavors.

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Famous organic ice cream

Entrance Fee: 30PHP per person

Now our tour has ended, and we were dropped off at our hotel, Scent of Green Papaya Resort, near the Alona beach side. Our hotel is not in the beach front, but they have tricycle rides that can drop and pick you up from the shore and it’s free. I have availed a room for 1 night good for 2 persons and it exceeded my expectations. Our room is so big for us with a good view of the pool plus free breakfast and a strong wifi connection. I have booked our hotel through Booking.com and just pay the remaining balance upon arrival.

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After we have left our things at the resort, we strolled along the shores of Alona and looked for a place to eat dinner. We found a Thai restaurant named Isis. Food was great, although I am not a fan of spicy food. Budget-wise, decent enough for a sumptuous meal of two. Of course we cannot skip dessert- it’s a must every after meal. There was a stall of Bohol Bee Farm’s ice cream. We got to taste the rare finds like malunggay, guyabano, etc.

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Thai food for dinner

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11.27.16 Alona Beach

When the sun is finally out, we had our breakfast by the terrace before we jumped into the pool then head to the beach. It was a good day to get a tan. In fact, I think I was extra tanned that day. We were asked if we would like to avail the island hopping and snorkeling package. I declined bec. most of the online articles I’ve read stated that it was a tourist trap and second, i’m not into snorkeling.

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We spent midday in Panglao beach. We were enjoying the sun and the waters, and ignored getting dark. There were many foreigners around, and soaking themselves in the sun to get the perfect tan as well. It was a little bit past lunch when we left the beach and returned to our hotel and prepare to leave.

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When we were all set to leave, we hired the resort’s transfer service going to the port, and cost us Php 600. It wasn’t bad at all because some could even be pricier.

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For itinerary, directions, food places and budget, feel free to click the Itinerary-_Bohol_2016[1] link.

Bohol is indeed a beautiful place, and I’m planning to come back after a few years.

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.