Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Seoul Day 1

I needed a quick getaway trip which doesn't require a ground tour, so I needed to find a destination where the places of interest are accessible via public transportation, preferably the subway. My budget would be around RM2000 for the whole trip including air ticket, accomodation, meals and entrance ticket.

Since I've already been to Singapore and Hong Kong, Seoul was my first choice. I didn't think Melbourne / Gold Coast / Perth and Tokyo would cost lower than RM2000.

My preferred places of interest are Unesco Heritage Sites or nature / national parks. Seoul fitted in the bill with 4 Unesco Heritage Sites, all accessible via subway. I managed to find a decent hostel with attached bathroom which costs me about RM 118 per person per night, i.e. Dongdaemun Hostel which is just a minute walk from Dongdaemun subway station. However, there's no halal restaurants nearby, so we had to go to Itaewon for our once only daily meals (all for dinner) which is accesible via subway, i.e yup, you've guessed it right - Itaewon station.

We booked our flight about a month earlier, which already cost us RM1223.
Note: We had purchased a normal seat for RM35/person for the flight back as the free seating arrangement had us seated a few rows apart. I didn't want to risk a full flight where we couldn't find any empty rows to sit together. But that was not the case on our flight back as there were still many empty rows, so those who didn't purchase designated seats quickly parked themselves at their own whims once they boarded the plane. It was after all a Saturday morning flight back to KL. It would probably be full had it been Sunday. Ah well. But then again, we sat together for the incoming flight to Incheon, without paying any seat fees. You can check this once you self check in online. Usually Air Asia would not sit you together in order for them to get people to purchase the seats to make sure their travelling party sits together. If you don't mind sitting apart, then go ahead without paying for the seats. For me, short distance / domestic travelling is OK.

Anyway, back to the travel:
Day 1, Tue 27/3

Our flight to Incheon was at 2.30pm from LCCT. We were seated quite in front at row 10. I was seated beside a nice Korean girl who I chatted up with later in the flight when I got bored with my partner in crime heheh. Her name was Kim Tammy, she was visiting Malaysia for a few days, for the first time. Her sister is based in KL, so that her son gets to learn English and Mandarin. The husband is based in China. Quite interesting. Unfortunately for me, I didn't learn Madarin. Maybe one day.

She visited Mid Valley (of all places!), Chinatown, KLCC and Melaka, among others. Well actually, I wouldn't recommend a tourist to visit KL, instead they should go out of KL - Melaka is a good choice, Penang, Langkawi, the islands in the East Coast or right straight to Gunung Kinabalu, diving in Sipadan or hiking in Mulu. All the 3 Unesco Heritage sites should be covered, if they have the time. I haven't covered Mulu yet myself.

I shared my itinerary with her and she also recommended me places to go in Seoul - the Seoul Tower, Gyeongbokgung Palace, shopping at Insadong (kind of like Chinatown in KL), Lotte World (a theme park), Myeongdong shopping mall (kind of like Bukit Bintang, according to her) and Namsangol Hanok Village. I told her I'll try to cover the places she mentioned, although I didn't think I wanted to go to shopping malls / theme parks heheh. We should be nice to the person reccomending right ;)

We also shared about our local food, and our wedding ceremony, since we had pictures of our friends' weddings in our phones. Nice trick huh ;)

Then it was already time to land, so we exchanged contacts. Hope to meet her again one day, the nice girl. My partner in crime was already fast asleep so I woke him up.

We arrived at Incheon airport at about 9pm local time. Seoul is 1 hour ahead of KL. After clearing immigration, we went straightaway to the subway station, with another Malaysian family. We purchased the transit train ticket - from Incheon (Airpprt railroad), changing at Gongdeok (Line 5) to Dongdaemun History & Culture Park station where our hostel is. Total duration is about 1hour 15mins with fare of KRW3950 (or RM11) which is way cheaper than our ERL (RM35). But then this is a transit line so probably the express rail would cost us more. But we still had time as the last train from Incheon airport is at 11.30pm and last transfer from Gongdeok is at 12.30 midnite. You can check first and last train time and also plan your route at the Seoul metropolitan rapid transit (SMRT) website.


We arrived at our hostel at about 11pm. Our hostel is just a minute walk from Exit 4 of Dongdaemun History and Culture Park station, at the 3rd floor of a Nike baseball shop building. Our room is very basic - with attached shower with hot water and toilet, a single bed, a cupboard, a mini fridge, a TV and free wifi. There is no ac, but since it's still cold (about 8C), you can just open the window and let the air in. There is a heater inside the room. However, pls note the room is very small, just enough to fit in 1 person. Not enough room to perform solat, unless on the bed, or outside the room at the corridor, which is OK as the hostel is clean. You have to remove your shoes before entering and keep them in the locked shoe cabinet outside then entrance door. There is a pantry at the 4th floor where you can just take the food available there (bread, jam, tea bag, biscuits). There is also hot water, a rice cooker, microwave, an oven and an induction cooker. Good enough for me, for budget travelling. Our room is on the 5th floor.

Dongdaemun Hostel
Hostel room



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