A Weekend Filled With Seoul

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Pt.1

One of the girls that I met when I went to Busan, Rosa, was staying in Seoul one weekend cause she was going back to Chicago. We made last minute plans to hangout. I took the bus from Anjung to SouthSeoul early at 9am on Saturday April 3rd. The ticket was only ₩7600 and I got to Seoul Nambu at 10:45. Not too bad.

It ended up raining all day Saturday, which put a damper on things. No pun intended. Haha. Nambu is in such a great area, right near the Metro line and Rosa’s Airbnb was less than a 10 minute walk from the station.

We made plans to meet in Itaewon and get brunch. I punched in Summer Lane in Naver and was off. I walked out of the station and hopped on line 3 on the orange then transferred to line 6 on the brown.

Summer Lane was an adorable brunch spot. Naver was off by a little, but I made it. I got a Bloody Mary and an espresso martini (my first time in Korea!!!).

After brunch we both decided we needed a fresh look. We found a hair salon close by and called. Luckily, they took us in. For some reason they charged her ₩33,000, which is what the lady said on the phone. I was charged ₩44,000. I was confused, but ’tis life.

After our hair cuts, we went to see where the Old DanBam was from the Kdrama Itaewon Class. Better pictures will be in my next post since it wasn’t raining the next day 😆 In Naver or Kakao Map, you can just type in Seoul Bam and the restaurant will pop up. Although it was raining, it was still amusing.

The Old DanBam

After seeing the famous spot, we ventured off to Gangnam and went to the Line and Kakao stores!!!! YAY. They are right next to each other, so convenient. The Kakao store has Ryan Cafe on the top floor. It’s a pretty cool set up. Since Thailand, for some reason I’ve been obsessed with the Line sticker Brown so I bought a few things there.

Brown 💜

After taking photos and spending a few thousand Won (souvenirs pictured below), we walked around and found a Dublin pub 💕 We stayed there and got some food and drinks then met up with her friend and just chilled at Billy Angel Cake Company for a bit. It was still raining.

We just went back to her place and knocked out.

Safe to say I checked a few things off my Korea bucket list that day.

Busan to Daegu

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On Sunday the 21st of March

was the voyage back to Pyeongtaek.

Emily had to go to Daegu to go back to her town so I figured I’d make a pit stop and spend a few hours in Daegu.

We punched in the station on Naver and followed the route to the KTX. The bus only took about 45 minutes to get to the KTX so it was relaxing after a long night.

Once we got to the station, we both found a ticket kiosk and bought a ticket for our final destination.

Actually, mine wasn’t the final destination but it was the easiest and kind of cheapest option. I booked my ticket from Dongdaegu to CheonanAsan for ₩29,300.

After securing our spots, we were able to freely roam around Daegu.

I had this spot on my Naver maps saved that was on my Korea bucket list so we ventured there. The place is called “Truly Baker.” In Naver it is Teurulli Baker so at first I had no idea what the name of the place was.

We took the bus there and then from the bus stop it was about a five minute walk.

The bagels were fresh. I got two because why not. I also got a vanilla milkshake. YUM.

For my first bagel, I got the rainbow one with plain cream cheese. Emily got the jalapeño nut cream cheese and convinced me, which didn’t really take that much convincing.

The second one was an onion bagel with the jalapeño nut cream cheese. The first one was definitely better but that’s cause I’m more of a plain cream cheese kinda person. I also got some bagels to go.

After carb loading, we just strolled around the city. We saw this Ferris wheel from far away and had to go.

The walk was about twenty minutes and then we made it to Spark Land! Spark Land is basically a mini amusement park on top of a building. Pretty cool.

The Ferris wheel was only ₩5,000 and lasted a little less than ten minutes! It went sooo high. I had never been on a Ferris wheel before so that was exhilarating. I was also a bit terrified, but I’d do it again.

After the Ferris wheel, we walked to the KTX which was luckily about ten minutes away. We went our separate ways. I took the KTX to CheonanAsan and squeezed a little nap during the hour ride. Since the CheonanAsan and Asan Station are connected it was an easy walk to Line 1.

From Asan Station to Pyeongtaek it’s only seven stops away and it took only a half hour. At AK Plaza I took the bus home and had a restful sleep.

⬆️ onion bagel with jalapeño nut cream cheese, me (definitely not freaking out) on the Ferris wheel, rainbow bagel!! milkshake 💕

View some videos of my trip here 😃

Seoraksan National Park

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Another long weekend, another adventure.

Sokcho is on the east coast in Gangwondo.

I booked my Airbnb for February 27 & 28 on the Friday before work and finished packing when I got home. I stayed at The Red House in Sokcho which I booked on Airbnb. The location and price were both great: 30 minute walk from the park (you can also take the 7-1 bus) and $62 for two nights. Ahhhhh mazing.

I woke up around 6am on Saturday thinking I was going to get to the station and get the first bus out to Seoul. I ended up leaving my apartment about four hours after waking up. I walked to the bus station that’s about 15 minutes away and bought a ticket to Incheon. It was only ₩5000.

I waited and waited and then checked Naver again. There was a quicker route. I walked to the bus stop that was near my school, waited for the 98 bus and was off to Pyeongtaek Station. It took about 40 minutes.

Next, I walked around trying to find the station. It is kind of hidden and to the left of AK Plaza. Finally, I saw it across from Cafe Pascucci. I bought a ticket for ₩5300 to Seoul and was on my way.

The Express buses are cool cause they have their own lane. It only took a little less than an hour to get to the Seoul Express Bus Terminal.

I didn’t realize that there were assigned seats so I sat in a random seat. A lady came up to me and gave me a look. Whoops. I went to get up and switch but I think she saw my bags and was like no it’ll take too long. LOL.

I learned a few lessons on this trip. One is that you have to buy bus tickets ahead of time because the spots fill up quickly. This website is for the Express Bus Terminal though, which I learned on my way back. Also, to buy a ticket, you do need a Korean bank account. I did not have one at the time. Fun.

Luckily some of the spots kept opening up. I found a bus to Sokcho at 3:40pm. On the ticket it said 2.2 hours but it took almost 4.

When I got to the Sokcho Express Bus Terminal, I tried to give taxi drivers the address to my Airbnb but that didn’t work. I tried to take the bus but Naver was telling me that there wasn’t any information on bus 7, the one that I was supposed to take. I ended up messaging the Airbnb and they gave me the address and finally a Kakao taxi driver accepted my request.

신흥사 (Sinheungsa Temple)
김치 찌개

Right when my taxi driver showed up, bus 7 drove right on by and stopped at the bus stop. Of course.

I think it worked out better that way though because the bus would’ve taken around 45 minutes whereas the drive took about 20. It was only ₩13000 and I was EXHAUSTED.

The host was waiting for me when I got out of the taxi. He took me to my room.

The 김치 was yummy.

After settling in and cleaning up, I tried to walk to one of the restaurants near the bnb.

I say tried because my GPS ended up bringing me the opposite way. I was also on the phone with Indria so I guess multitasking is just not my thing.

I went back to the Airbnb and the hosts came out. The lady ended up driving me to 연탄구이. I got some 김치 찌개 (kimchi jjigae) and soju for only ₩13000. Indria and I had a nice virtual meal.

I went back to my room and had a nice sleep.

설악산국립공원 (Mount Seoraksan) opens at 7am and closes around 6pm.

I woke up around 8:30, went to get some breakfast at the main building for ₩5000 and was off to the park. I was there from 10-6. The admission fee was only ₩3500!!

View from the cable car ride!!

The Airbnb was only about a 30 minute walk to the park. You can also take the 7 or 7-1 bus. On the way into the park there is a 7-eleven so I stopped and got a snack. There is also a hotel, Kensington Hotel, which was much more expensive than the Airbnb was.

They also have a store inside of the park. It sells many things. I think I saw a few restaurants too.

청동좌불상

The cable car was ₩11000 and it brings you up 670m. It takes about 5 minutes to go up to the top and it also operates every 5 minutes. Pretty convenient.

Once I bought my cable car ticket, I had about an hour to kill.

I walked to 신흥사 (Sinheungsa Temple) and to the bronze buddha, 청동좌불상.

To get to 신흥사 (Sinheungsa Temple), you can walk across 3 different bridges.

The scenery throughout the whole park was astonishing. Rock balancing was everywhere. I contributed a few times.

Little store inside the park

From the cable car stop, you can go to 권금성 (Gwongeumseong Fortress). It’s about a ten minute walk. The Fortress was built by Gwon and Kim (Geum) as a shelter for their families during the Mongolian invasion. The views were exquisite! You can see the city as well as the East Sea.

After taking in the views for almost two hours, I went back down.

권금성

There’s a map of the trails right outside of the cable car building and I took a look at that and chose my next destination: 비룡푹포 (Biryong Falls). It’s between 육담폭포 (Yukdam Falls) and 토왕성폭포 (Towangseong Falls). The map says it takes about 1.5 hours and it’s 2.8km (~1.7miles) to get to 비룡푹포, so about 3 hours round trip. There weren’t that many people. I made some friends along the way. Once we reached the top, one of my friends gave me a tangerine. How cute.

Not sure why I posed so awkwardly LOL

Once I got to the frozen 비룡푹포 (Biryong Falls), there was another trail that went to 토왕성폭포 전망대 (Towangseong Falls Observatory). From the observatory, you can see 토왕성폭포 (Towangseong Falls). I wish I could put into words how beautiful the view was. The pictures will have to do.

비룡푹포 (Biryong Falls)

The hike from 비룡푹포 (Biryong Falls) to 토왕성폭포 전망대 (Towangseong Falls Observatory) took another 50 minutes and it was HARD and steep. I am also not a regular hiker so I had to take a few breaks. Of course going back down took only about 15 minutes.

토왕성폭포 전망대 (Towangseong Falls Observatory) ft. sweaty me

When I started walking down the stairs back to 비룡푹포(Biryong Falls) my legs were shaking. That day, I ended up hiking for a total of about 3 hours. Even days later my legs were still trembling.

My day at the park was completely worth it.

After a long and fulfilling day, I went back to 연탄구이 and got 김치찌개 (kimchi jjigae) and some ramen. It was a nice meal for such an eventful day.

The next and last day was my journey back to Pyeongtaek. It ended up pouring so I did not feel like waiting for the bus. I knew it was going to rain but not that much so taking the bus was a no go. The taxi was another ₩14000 and I went to the wrong station.

연탄구이 was the Two Ladies Korea edition

Another lesson that I learned: there are two terminals in Sokcho, along with other cities. Sokcho has an Express Bus Terminal and an Intercity Bus Terminal.

Since the website from above is for the Intercity, I had to take another taxi from Express to Intercity.

The next express bus wasn’t until 1:50pm and it was ₩20300. I was there around 10am. As I was leaving the express station, I was like hmmmm did I make a mistake?

rock balancing everywhere!!

When I got to the intercity terminal, the next bus was at 12:25pm and ₩19700. Yay. I was starving. I booked it and stuffed my bags away in a locker for ₩2000. You could keep your bags in there for up to 24 hours.

Little did I know there was a cafe to the left of the building. 동명카피 (Dongmyeong Cafe) had bagels!!! I got a bagel and yummy hibiscus lemon tea. I love the lemon tea here because they put the lemon peel and it adds so much flavor. They also put a lot of sugar though, which I could do without but I am no barista.

The rain turned into snow. How fun. Snow just kept coming down. We were about an hour into the drive when the bus driver turned around. I had no idea what the dude said so luckily there was a nice lady next to me and we used Papago.

Since the bus ride on the way from Seoul to Sokcho took longer than the ticket said, I asked the lady how long Sokcho to Seoul would take. She said 2 hours and 10 minutes. I think I jinxed myself?

Sokcho to Dongseoul ended up taking 6.5 hours. Luckily as we got closer to Seoul the snow was turning into rain.

Once I got to Dongseoul, I found a ticket machine and looked for the next time from there to Pyeongtaek. It was 7:07pm; I had 3 minutes to spare. Right when I got on the bus, we left.

The beautiful sunset!

40 minutes later I was walking around AK Plaza and waiting for the 80 bus that was heading to my part of town.

I ended up getting back to my apartment around 9:30pm.

After two days of traveling for about 24 hours in total, and one day filled with hiking and walking, I was exhausted.

Was it worth it? Definitely. I also learned a few lessons while traveling so that’s always good too.

Mount Seoraksan was astounding. And that was only the part that I saw. The park is huge and spreads across Sokcho, Inje, Goseong, and Yangyang. They also have shelters throughout the park but I think you have to book ahead.

Since there are so many national parks in South Korea, I’m not sure if I’ll make it back to Mount Seoraksan again. The whole trip was unforgettable.

The Flight & Beyond

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Before I left for Korea, I went on a few Facebook groups and asked a bunch of questions. I was able to download apps before I left and I created a folder, just in case I didn’t have secure WiFi when I arrived. I recommend doing that, just to be prepared. However, the WiFi at Incheon airport was fantastic so I could’ve waited too. The apps that were suggested by the Facebook groups were: KakaoTalk, KakaoMap, KakaoMetro, KakaoBus, Gmarket Global, Subway (지하철), Lotte Cinema (the app has easier steps to change the language to English), Korail (코레일톡) and Naver Maps. The desktop website for Naver Maps is in Korean but the app has the option for English. You also have to download the quarantine app at the airport. They have a banner with the QR code. If you have to delete the app and start over, like I did, this is the link where you can download it or you can simply type it into the App Store: 자가격리 안전보호.

Since I am still in quarantine, I have only used the quarantine app. Once I use the others, I will post an update on how they work and my opinions on each.

I laugh about it now but when I was leaving BOS, I paid $500 for my two suitcases through United Airlines. I did not think it would be THAT much. But then again, I packed up my whole room and also broke a suitcase while my dad was trying to bring it upstairs so I guess I should’ve known. One suitcase was 80+ pounds (36kg+) and the other was over 60 (27kg+). My brother had to come to the airport and help me bring them inside because little old me overstuffed them. Along with my 100 and 30 some odd bags, I had a backpack and a duffle bag which were also stuffed. Thankfully, I didn’t have to deal with the suitcases for a long time because the airport was not busy. I was also surprised with how packed the flight was from BOS to LAX. I thought it wasn’t allowed to be fully booked, but guess I was wrong. There was not an empty seat in sight.

Imagine walking around the LAX airport with both carry-ons, while dripping sweat wearing a jacket and sweatshirt? That was me. Not to mention when I landed in LA, I had no idea what terminal I was going to. I ended up calling one of my friends (thanks Christina) and she looked up the terminal which was TBIT and I was on my way. About 20-30 minutes later, right as I was about to walk into the gate, my name was called over the loudspeaker. What a memorable day that was. To be fair, it wasn’t my fault because the flight to LAX from BOS was delayed by 20 minutes.

Asiana Airlines vegetarian meal

But at last, I was off to ICN. Before entering the airplane, they took temperatures. I was scared that they were going to deny me because I was hot from sweating and nervous because I was hot from sweating 😅 I had never heard of Asiana Airlines before but in my opinion, they were up there with Qatar. The movie/TV show selection wasn’t that great but the food was delicious. I only had one meal because I passed out right when I got onto the plane. I had the whole row to myself which was awesome for a 14 hour flight. AND for the first time ever, I actually remembered to change my meal plan when I booked the flight to vegetarian. Yay.

During the flight, I filled out 4 forms: arrival card, travel record declaration, health declaration, and traveler declaration form. Make sure you have a Korean phone number and address to use. I only had my address in Korean at the time, so that took about 10 minutes to fill out per page. The flight attendant complimented me on my Korean writing which I am very proud of 🥳 I also downloaded a bunch of Netflix shows/movies, brought a book and downloaded games that didn’t require internet so I could keep myself entertained. Don’t be like me and pack your charger where you can’t find it. I went more than half the flight with thinking that I didn’t bring a charger with me when all along it was in my duffle bag. Will I ever learn to be organized? Probably not.

Since I had symptoms of Covid within the past 21 days (along with coughing on the flight) I got pulled aside once I went through customs. I got handed a lanyard with a note that said “Incheon.” I then sat down and waited to be called. The lady asked me what symptoms I had and I explained that I have allergies and also got a Covid test two days before my flight. Then, I followed these two guys and they gave me a KF94 mask and asked if I had any meal requests (how sweet). The staff asked me what my suitcases looked like so they could set them aside (if you don’t keep the sticker they give you from your suitcase, that’s okay. I only had one and they were still able to pull both of mine off the belt). Then, I was taken to a little cubicle-like area and I had to fill out even more forms. I had to write my Korean address down 3 or 4 more times. After that was done, one by one he sat us down. I gave him my visa and he called my school director and then showed me how to use the app and what information to put in.

The airport staff were super friendly and although we couldn’t really communicate, it was simple and straightforward. The three of us then went through immigration and our suitcases were there waiting for us. One of the girls that I was grouped with came from Virginia but was from Korea so she spoke English fluently and explained to me what was going on. She was so kind!

We then went onto a bus, drove for about 10 minutes and we all got tested. We were put into cubicle-like spaces again, along with our belongings and good WiFi. The room also had outlets and various chargers.

OJ, water, & (I think) milk
First Meal: lettuce, tomato, cheese, mustard & mayo

Eight hours, two meals, and four water bottles later we received our results. We were taken back to the airport and went our separate ways. My new friend helped me find a taxi. I gave the guy the sheet with my address in Korean we were on our way!

Second Meal: rice with seaweed, carrots, cabbage, spinach & some other ingredient that I’ve never seen before. So flavorful.

One hour and some change later, I was outside of my apartment building handing the taxi driver ₩190,000 (₩20,000 for the tip). That’s about $172. Just to be clear, I’m not sure if that’s a reasonable price for the distance or if I was scammed. But either way, don’t make the same mistake that I did. I should’ve known to have the taxi driver use the meter because of my experiences in Thailand. However, I was tired and not all there so I hadn’t thought twice about it. So, make sure you have them run the meter before you leave the airport. Or if you have a working phone, use that to find out how much the fare.

At least we made it to Korea before breaking!

Before I left the airport, I went on Google and saw that there drivers expect a tip of 10-20%. That was a swift Google search so don’t quote me. From the airport to my apartment I didn’t have any phone service because I canceled my plan before leaving so I had no way of asking anyone how much the ride should be. If I did get scammed, oh well. I mean he did carry my two humungous suitcases in and out of the vehicle.

I typed in the code to my building, broke my second suitcase, and entered my apartment. What a relief.