ONEderwoman in South Korea

 

I’ve heard a lot of people say that travelling alone was never fun. Some might equate it to loneliness and many would claim that it’s gonna be scary in a foreign country when you don’t know anyone. Invalidating all of those, I say not trying to travel alone, in a foreign country, is scarier.

I’m a huge fan of Korean drama, I mean who isn’t hooked once started? I jumped off with Boys over Flowers when I was in middle school, followed by The Heirs when I was in college, and continued when I started working. Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, Hwarang, My Love from Another Star, Uncontrollably Fond and What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim were the recent ones I enjoyed. Recently, I became an ARMY (that’s what BTS fans are called- kinain na talaga nang sistema Mumsh).40099132_331990194041400_85982092759924736_n

Subways are full of billboards and posters of BTS. Saw this in Busan.

 I originally booked my Kalibo-Incheon-Busan-Kalibo route through Cebu Pacific Air and Air Asia in the last quarter of 2017. However, due to the good President Duterte’s mandate to close Boracay, many international flights in Kalibo were shut down to maybe minimize airline costs. In this regard, I was forced to rebook all my tickets and even adjust my airline reservations to suit my forced leave schedule. In February 2018, I was finally assured of my Iloilo-Cebu-Incheon-Busan-Cebu-Iloilo route through Philippine Airlines, Air Asia, and Air Busan. Hurray!

Travelling abroad alone is one of the items I have in my long bucket list.  Below, I am glad to share an outline of my experience of South Korea and will try to make you understand why it really is called the Land of the Morning Calm. Please click here for my detailed day-to-day itinerary.

Pre-departure preparations

I know a lot of Filipinos who dream of seeing South Korea but are afraid to apply for a visa. Trust me, I also had the same feeling at first. However, with a complete set of requirements, I obtained my visa through an Iloilo-based travel agency for Php 2,500.00 (There are some agencies which offer their services cheaper than this amount) in 5 business days.

I didn’t go to Korea empty-handed. I researched a lot-5 months to be exact and I put everything into paper. I didn’t want to waste time and I told myself to really enjoy the things around me just like a local.

 

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My ultimate girl crush, Kim Ji Won of Descendants of the Sun and Fight for My Way

Transportation

Seoul and Busan are known to have very efficient subway systems and I expereienced it myself. There have been available passes and cards, called the T-Money card, in Seoul Metro that allows you to get lost and have unlimited subway rides. It has to obtain top-up before you can actually use it.  My Discovery Seoul Pass was dual functioning, as a T-Money card for all kinds of transportation and it even works in convenience stores, plus it gave me single-entry passes to 24 tourist attractions. For some reasons, it wasn’t working the first time I utilized it so I had to run to the Information Desk in Seoul Station to ask for help so I can travel to Myeongdong. In Busan however, it’s in a form of ticket/s and is readily available in vending machines and a ticket which is valid for one day (costs 5,000 KRW, that cheap!)  is also for unlimited subway rides. In my case, I had to buy two tickets since I stayed in Busan for 2 days. Don’t sweat, all stations have English translations of it’s name so there’s a little chance of getting lost. Their buses were also enormous so I always felt like I was on a field trip!

 

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I took the AREX from ICN Airport to Seoul Station and this is how the Discovery Seoul Pass looks like

Activities

My everyday schedule was jampacked. I leave my guesthouse at 7: 00 in the morning and return at 10: 00 – 11:00 in the evening. Of course I get tired and I even have wounds in my feet acquired through excessive walking but that’s only natural for a tourist, right?

Going to drama scenes like Winter Sonata’s Nami Island and My Love from Another Star’s Petite France was never my plan but because they are popular in their own right, I went through a group day tour which I booked online. I also grabbed the opportunity to taste what Korean BBQ really tastes like and of course, it didn’t frustrate me. I had it in a restaurant called “On the Grill” in Myeongdong. The thing is, they don’t cater walk-in customers so you have to make a reservation. It was relatively expensive for a person’s meal (since I paid 40,000 KRW), but was all worth it, 10 out of 10 for me. The Cat Café and night stores had me fascinated and the parade of cosmetics was jaw-dropping. It was heaven sent! The palaces, city tour, the Media Digital City and MBC experience were among my favorite! The Mass Communication student in me was so happy.

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Some of the photos I had in Seoul and Busan

Food

Although hunger will be the least of your priority when in South Korea, you can never neglect the street food available flirting with you when you go around. They are cheap and will truly make you full and wouldn’t even need rice to fulfill that. But I’m sorry, I can’t live without rice so on my 2ndday, I ate in a Chinese restaurant (which also have good food). There were a lot of exotic food around Myeongdong, Dongdaemun Plaza, and Hongdae. I had a budget of 30,000 KRW for food everyday including meals and snacks and I have so much left at the end of the day since I also have complimentary breakfast in the guesthouse. So don’t worry, budget travelling causes no harm. And oh, I loved the cheese lobster.

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The snacks I had in Myeongdong and Nami Island

People

We usually see Koreans on drama as respectful, doing all the honorifics, and being polite. To tell you honestly, those all are true. Whether you are a local or a tourist, they wouldn’t mind helping you with the directions and queries. In Busan, seldom you can see subway stations with elevator. I had a hard time really since Seoul took a lot of my money in exchange for heavy things in my luggage and I had to carry them until I reach Busan. However, there was an old man, probably in his early 60s who helped me carry it and even offered to help me ride the correct train. I experienced more random act of kindness in Busan during my stay. They are totally hospitable.

 

Some of the friends I made

I bought all cards, passes, and sim card for internet connection through Klook and I tell you, you’ll save a lot of time if you do it months before the trip. When I arrived in Korea, all I had to do was present all my vouchers in different kiosks (since each has a unique redemption sites).

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Of course, I also went to Lee Jong Suk’s Cafe 89 Mansion

South Korea is entirely safe, clean, fun for solo travellers. I went there to clear my mind, take a breather from the demanding requirements of adulting and just chill. I’m excited to share the lessons I gained during my stay.

Capped off my trip through beach seeing and picture taking in Busan. Annyeong!

 

 

 

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