Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Travelogue: Korea Winter Trip 2013: Summary of Itinerary

So I'm back from my trip and yes, I can't wait to blog but have been pretty busy since I came back.

It'd probably take me quite awhile to finish up on the entire trip, please bear with me. :)

Before I start blabbering non-stop, I would like to thank Lionel, for doing up such a wonderful itinerary and Allynn, as always for the appendix, maps and also getting all the flights/accommodation. Together with Mike, they had been great companions for this trip.

***


THE TRIP

I went for a 10 days trip, flew with Air China and stayed at Robert Jung's guest house (booked through airbnb) in Seoul and flew with EasterJet and stayed at Jejueco Suites in Jeju Island. Other then engaging a driver cum tour guide in Jeju Island, the rest of the trips were planned by ourselves and travelled on public transport.

Air ticket for Air China was $678, accommodation for Robert Jung was approximately $345 per pax for 10 days (including the days we abandoned the apartment to fly to Jeju). We spent approximately $158 for EasterJet and Jejueco Suites.

Our flight there on Air China departed at 00:15 (depart from Singapore) and arrived at Seoul at 11:50 Korea time (including transit) roughly about 10 hours. Trip back departed at 13:05 (depart from Seoul) and arrived at Singapore at 21:45 Singapore time (including transit) roughly about 9 hours. Our transits was about 1-2 hours each time.

We topped up ₩30,000 for our T-Money card that we purchased off from 7-11 convenience store at ₩5,000 each.

At the time of travel, our exchange rates in Singapore was 830. We did one exchange on 20 December 2013 at Gimpo Airport, it was only 807.


FLIGHTS

I have never taken Air China so I was a little skeptical about it in the first place. After learning that Air China is part of Star Alliance, I thought to myself that since they are a member, it shouldn't be too bad. True enough, the flight to and fro with them were pleasant. No major hiccups for me. The food tasted fine, nothing to complain about. Just that the cabin crew isn't that attentive and you might need to wait awhile if you call for them.

I took some random photographs when departing from Singapore to Beijing on 16 December.

Touch screen with controller. (Only the flight there had the controller beside the screen, the rest are with non-removable controllers on your arm rest)

Seat space was just right for me. If you're 180cm then probably your leg would be just right without any extra space.

Here's the supper we had on board as we took a midnight flight over from Singapore to Beijing for transit.



You'd need to fill up both the arrival card and the one in Korean is a declaration card. While on board, the cabin crew told us they ran out of English cards and only had Korean ones left. So we had to take the English version ones at a counter before we exit the airport declaration counter.

Here's breakfast while on the flight from Beijing to Incheon at about 8am.


While the flight there was fine, the flight back had a little slight hiccup.

Incheon International Airport is really huge. We travelled to airport at least 2 hours ahead of time and yet we didn't even have time to shop because of the long walks and tedious check in procedures! We had to queue for almost 45 minutes to check in our luggages and get boarding passes even when we had reached airport 2 hours in advance. (The queue was terribly long when we arrived 2 hours in advance, can you believe it?) Finding the tax refund counter also took us a long time. The tax refund counter is located in the departure hall Gate 28. There's 2 major companies that refund taxes. One is in orange and the other is in blue. Their counters are side by side though. Across them about 2-3 minutes walk you will see a counter that gives you the chop that is required for your tax to be refunded successfully.

Basically here are the steps you take to do a tax refund: (I do not have any photos nor did I take note of the counter name because we were kinda rushing)

  1. Get your chop at the counter across from the 2 refund counter. (That counter is basically to verify that you indeed bought the goods. Which means there's a chance you have to show them the goods but for us, none was checked.)
  2. After which, you queue up according to which tax refund provider. (There's one with orange logo, another with a blue logo)
  3. Give them the completed claim form and they will refund you the money.

Participating merchants usually display either logos outside their stores. At Paju Premium Outlet, they automatically gave me the tax free claim form. However, when we went to Zara, we had to ask for the tax free claim form. Just remember to look out for these logos and get your tax refund if you're buying alot. If you want to read more about how it works, you can click here to find out.

After our mad rush claiming taxes, we took a 'sky train' equivalent over to the gate 109 which was quite a distance from the main departure hall. The difference between that 'sky train' and Singapore's sky train is that once you board it, you can't return to where you depart from. (I have no idea what's the rational)

We found gate 109 and we settled down with some Dunkin' Donuts while waiting for the boarding gate to open. 

Unfortunately, because 2 passengers were late, our departure time got pushed back by 30 minutes. Which means that we do not have enough time to travel from one gate to another gate for our transit. Not forgetting we have to get through the international transit gantry, then to the security checks and finally out to find our transit plane gate. So just bout 30 minutes before we landed in Beijing, we alerted the cabin crew about our transit flights and they shifted us to the first row with all our hand carries with us. Right when the door open, all 4 of us dashed out and started running for our lives flight. (It feels like my first trip to Bangkok when I almost missed my plane) Thankfully we made it through all and safely got back home on time. (hooray!)

Flights with EasterJet was good. Like any budget airline, they do not have any entertainment system and the fleet is about the same size as Tigerairways. It was just an hour' ride over so I just snoozed throughout the entire trip. 


ACCOMMODATION

We stayed at a apartment run by host Robert Jung. The location is fantastic. It's minutes walk from both the airport line and the normal subway line at Hongik University. Easy to find and just right opposite is a shopping mall. Robert picked us up on the first day when we arrived and brought us to the apartment. I would recommend you to stay here if you are travelling in 3s. You can still book it if you have 4 travellers but I wouldn't recommend this room of his because it only has 3 beds and the spare bed isn't comfortable at all. You could look through his listing for 4 beds. 

Here is the link to the room we stayed. Below is a short clip of how it looks like now. Slightly different from the pictures. (positioning of furnitures)

video

For the price of $345 over 10 days, it's definitely worth it. There's a equipped kitchen with utensils, kettle, pots and induction stove for you to cook. Toiletries such as hair dryer, towels and shampoo/shower gels are all provided. The room has a good heater keeping us warm from the cold. 

In Jeju Island, Allynn managed to grab a great last minute deal and thanks to that we stayed in a beautiful suite. We stayed at Jejueco Suites which was located at Jungmun, Jeju-do. The ride from the suite to airport on our departure day was about 2 hours (inclusive of waiting time for the bus). Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of the suite we stayed in but it's true to the pictures on the website. [I just realized I did take pictures of the suite, please see here for the pictures] There's only 1 double bed so we took turns to sleep in the living room on their futon and sofa pull out bed. We had a balcony attached to our room and it was great because when it snowed at night, we could play with the snow right at our balcony!

Both accommodation were fantastic! If you're heading over, put this 2 as part of your choice!


JEJU DRIVER/TOURGUIDE

Allynn had searched various drivers and gotten quotes which was roughly about the price of 120,00 to 150,000 per day of 8 hours, which usually is 9am to 6pm. After much consideration, we decided to go with the one that our Jeju hotel recommended us with. Man, I'm glad we did because he was a fantastic photographer/driver/tour guide and speaks good English and some simple Chinese. Thank you Mr Koh! You've been an awesome guide for us in Jeju!

Here's his details should you be interested to engage him.

Mr. Koh Seoung-Hun
koh4299@naver.com
Facebook account
010-3524-4018


ITINERARY SUMMARY

Now.. finally here's best part of my entire trip apart from all the goodness above. In order not to create a ultra long post and take a long time to release it, I've prepared it as a summary table of  the places we've travelled/visited. Please click on each link for more details and pictures! (I'd try my best to complete before I fly again in another 2 weeks' time!)

Disclaimer: I might mix up details by accident so pardon if it's not 100% accurate. I'd try to keep it 99.9% accurate!


16 December 2013
  • Arrived at Seoul, Korea
  • Robert Jung's Guest House
  • Hello Kitty Cafe at Hongdae

  • COEX Mall & Aquarium
  • LOTTE Duty Free department store
  • Gangnam Metro Underground

  • Flight to Jeju Island from Gimpo Airport
  • Mysterious Road (Dokkaebi Road)
  • Jeju Love Land
  • Gosangdon-ro
  • Hello Kitty Museum
  • Osulloc Green Tea Farm
  • Alive Museum
  • Jejueco Suites

  • Jeongbang Waterfall
  • Manjanggul Lava Tube
  • Seongsan Ichulbong
  • 大长今 Film Site
  • Columnar Joint (Jusangjeollidae) at Jeju Jungmun Daepo Coast 

  • Return from Jeju Island
  • Ewha University

  • Changdeokgung Palace/The Secret Garden
  • Ssamziegil
  • Bukchon Hanok Village
  • Ewha University

  • Paju Premium Outlet
  • Apgujeong Street

  • Nami Island
  • Myeong Dong
  • Cat cafe

  • Hanok Village
  • N Seoul Tower
  • Myeong Dong
  • Dog Cafe

  • Back to Singapore

Travelling on your own without any local tour guides has its own excitement and fun. In these 10 days, we got lost, we tried random stuff, we went to random places and we made last minute changes to our itinerary. Everyday was a new adventure day with getting lost and finding our way. In the midst of getting lost, we had fun going into random diners for lunch/dinner and trying out unknown street food that we had no idea what was it. I would love to do it again, not just with Korea but with all other countries in future that I'd be travelling to. 

If you're like us, travelling on your own for the first time, this application that Allynn had found is very useful. (Credits to her as with the application, we could find out the travelling time, route and also the cost of it.) The app is able to show you the shortest route and details of which line to change at which station. It's really highly recommended and you do not need internet access to use it. That's the best part about it. But be sure to download all its updates first or you could do what I did which was to bookmark all routes before heading out.

This is the application that you can download for free. (Photo credits: Apple iTunes store)

And if you have missed out my pre-travel post, you can click here to read about what did I bring over in-preparation of Winter.

4 comments:

  1. Your blog is really one of the best and most useful I've read! Esp the winter preparation and the Laneige price list! Hee hee! Thank you for the effort and know that someone out there really appreciates it!
    Cheers
    Shirley

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Shirley! Glad it was useful for you :)

      Delete
  2. Hi! How cold was it when you went? I'm going from the 8th of december until 18th of december and I'm confused on whether to buy a downjacket/ski jacket(any works for me) or a thick coat and layered with a coat jacket.Living in Malaysia give me no chance of experiencing cold.This is a really hard decision.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Aina,

      On average it was about -8 to 1 each day. Oh good days, it will be 1 else mostly is 0 to -3 during the day and at night after 6pm it would be -5 to -10 at the max.

      You should get a downjacket good for -5 degrees and layer yourself with longjohn and sweaters. Not to worry, Singapore is likewise hot throughout the year. :) Just be scare to wrap your necks and get heat packs (even for footwear) they will come in handy. :)

      Delete