Seoul in my Heart : Part 1

Pardon the pun and the week long absence. If you’ve been following me on twitter, you would know that I was counting the days, minutes and seconds (with the hashtag “CWTOKoreaTour”, which stands for Cara Will Take Over Korea Tour) for my 5-day Korea Trip. Now I am back and I have come to give you the deets on what I had done and went to in Korea.

To be quite honest, this Korea trip would not have been possible if it wasn’t for my incessant demand to go to Korea to my grandparents who are quite adamant to go due to North Korea’s undespicable amount of threats to South Korea. But lucky for me, my wish has been granted and lo and behold, 6 days ago, I was on a 4-hour flight to Korea from the NAIA Airport. Because of Cebu Pacific’s red eye flight schedule, we were scheduled to leave in the wee hours of the morning, ranging to a 2am flight from Manila to Incheon Airport. I love how Cebu Pacific gives every Filipinos a chance to go to different countries because of their Piso Fare sales, but man do they have to fix their schedules, their uniforms and they have to at least give free food to their passengers. Anyways, negativity aside, Cebu Pacific was able to get us to Incheon 20 minutes earlier than the expected time of arrival and off to an adventure I go.

On the first day, since we arrived at the airport about 7 in the morning (Korean Local Time, which is 1 hour earlier than Philippine Local Time), we got on a 6002 Bus going to an area of Jonggak which is quite close to Insadong, Korea. The bus ride took about an hour and a half to go to Seoul City, as Incheon was too far off the hustle and bustle of Seoul. I was not surprised to experience such a long trip to the city as England, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan also dons the same travel time to go to their respective city capitals. I think it is only in Manila that the airport is within the city itself. Maybe its time we should don Clark, Pampanga as the main airport of the Philippines? What do you think? It’s wider and heaps cleaner than the NAIA Airports.

In order to go to our hotel, we went down Jong-no 2-ga station and walked a little further back to get to our hotel. Our hotel, is SunBee Hotel. Which, for a 3-star hotel is one for the books. I like the interior of the hotel, the interior of the room, the bathroom, its cafe on the lobby, and the receptionist, Mr. Park who greeted us widely as we went along looking for our hotel on the first day. Note that, before going to the hotel, we were a bit lost but lucky for us, there were a group of Korean men who are actually GOOD in speaking English and with the help of their advanced mobile phones (to which I haven’t seen on Philippine shores) were kind enough to pin point to us directions to our hotel.

After finally settling in for breakfast and our rooms, we finally got the courage to brave the cool weather ranging from 16-20 degrees celsius and look around Insadong. Insadong is famous for the collection of art galleries, handmade products, and the Jongyesa temple which is the center of Zen Buddhism in Korea. Lucky for us, we were able to see a colorful temple ready to greet us as Buddha will be celebrating his birthday on May 17th, to which my uncle, is also celebrating his birthday.

What I do like about Insadong is how they were able to utilize old architecture and infuse them with modern interiors. We also went back to Insadong, Friday, to witness how Koreans celebrate Budhha’s birthday, and Insadong was jampacked! Which was the direct opposite of what we saw on the first day. It’s funny how most Koreans ask me if I was Korean. Okay? I know I look Chinese but being multi-racial is another thing! Thank you though, for the people who asked, I’m a little flattered. And thank you for accepting me as one of your ‘kind’.

On the second day, we were booked for a full-day city tour to Seoul, South Korea. Which our tour guide, Philip was kind enough to pick us up from our hotel. Thank you to Sally Tours for the wonderful tour to Seoul. If you guys are planning to go to Korea anytime soon, this city tour is the one for you! And Philip, our tour guide, should be the one to tour you. I mean, he knows Korea at the back of his hand like a map. Anything you need to know about Korea, he knows all about it, the economy, the businesses in Korea, the GDP and GNP, the tourist rate, how much Korean women have plastic surgery. You can even ask him personal questions like, “Have you been to the Philippines?”, “Do you have a girlfriend?” And he’ll tell you all about it in his own funny way. I think, he can be your personal friend for a day, and he’s very, very nice. Sally Tours is well recommended!

Let me give you a 10 Things I learned about Korea from Philip:

1. Korean women mostly get surgeries in the eye to have a Sang-Kuh-Pul (?) or double eye lid surgery.

2. Any public displays of affection in Korea is strictly prohibited by the elderly. Especially those who are raised by Buddhism.

3. Samsung generates the most money in Korea followed by Hyundai.

4. Hyundai also manufactures luxury cars. The brand is called, “Equus”.

5. Speaking of luxury cars, the only way you can tell a status of a person is by looking at their cars. If they are donning a black-colored luxury car, they are most of the time, elite.

6. The monthly income of a Korean is about $2000-3000 a month.

7. A condo unit in Korea is expensive. About $500,000.00

8. About 5% of Korea’s total population are poor.

9. Korea was actually invaded by Japan. (This fact, I didn’t know!)

10. Korea’s tourism actually dropped because of North Korea’s threats. And most Koreans believe that N. Korea is only doing it to gain funds from other countries.

To be honest, I learned a lot about Korean culture from my Korean friend, Sunny and some from Korean TV Series. But because of Philip’s other additional information about Korea, I’ve learned quite a lot more on how Koreans are really like.

I will post part 2 pretty soon, but for now all these memories from Korea seems surreal. I really liked the Korean culture. It would be something that I would add to the long list of places to return to in Asia. I felt very welcome and the culture there seems nice to learn about.

Love always,

Picture 5

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