Watch snippets of our Seoul trip on my Instagram.
Had to break my Seoul trip post into two parts because there are too many events to talk about! But I won’t be elaborating much – just a breakdown of my daily itinerary.
To be honest, this trip was meant to be a business trip for me. But because both my husband and I have not been to Seoul, we decided to catch this opportunity to go together as a family for our first overseas trip of the year. Killing two birds with one stone is always the way to go lol!
But before I start, I will be sharing some travel tips and occurrences that happened during this trip that hopefully will be helpful to all of you.
For a start, I use Travefy, an online/mobile trip itinerary that allow users to organize group travel, create itineraries, and track and split expenses. It’s very useful – helps make your itinerary look clean and well organized.
I use the Subway Korea app to move around the city using metro.
I use the Google Maps app to navigate when I am walking by foot and also to check bus schedules.
I got a lot of discount coupons and free T-Money cards (you need this to move around in Seoul!) from Korea Tourism Organization Malaysia. All I had to do was register, answered their survey and provided them with details of my trip. I redeemed the booklets at the Korea Train eXpress (KTX) Exhibition Hall in NuSentral.
We got our flight tickets cheap because we snagged it during one of the many AirAsia promotion period. It was our first time on AirAsia X, so I am not sure if it was just the particular flight we were on, or it was the position of the seat (we were seated in the middle row) but it was so, so, so, so COLD. To the point that we resorted to buying a blanket for RM10 (because it was a six hours flight)… little that we know that we can’t actually purchase it because we had to return at the end of the flight. RM10 is too costly to be renting a piece of cloth that can barely cover two people?? But beggars cant be choosers, and we were worried Aidan might catch a cold, so we paid the RM10. So if you can, just try to bring a small blanket with you, in case the flight turns into North Pole.
First Day – Hello South Korea!
When we arrived at Incheon Airport, it was 15.30PM (note that Seoul is an hour ahead of Malaysia). We planned to head straight to Itaewon, where AIRBNB was located. There are three ways to get to Seoul from Incheon airport:
The most comfortable and hassle-free option, but the most expensive. Fare for normal taxi starts from W50,000 while jumbo taxi starts from W70,000. Traveling time can vary from 30 minutes – 1 hour, depending on traffic.
Airport limousine bus
No, it’s not a limousine, but it is actually a bus. Buses can be chosen based on their numbers and according to their end destination. It costs around W15,000 per person, so it’s cheaper and more economical (only if you are traveling in small pax). You can check their website for more information on the routes
Train (AREX:Express train/All-stop train)
The cheapest way to get into Seoul. The difference between AREX and All-stop train is that the AREX travels non-stop to Seoul Station, while the All-stop train has 11 stops before arriving Seoul Station. It costs W14,800/person for AREX and W4,250/person for All-stop train.
We opted for option 3 because we wanted to try to see how convenient it was to take the train (also to save money). We decided on the All-stop train because at that point of time we had to wait for 30 minutes if we were to go on AREX. Plus it was way cheaper and the traveling time differs by around 10 minutes. Total traveling time was around 45 minutes – 1 hour. We also used the T-Money card (Normal value for T-Money is W2,500. We got ours for free + with W2000 value in it) which is a rechargeable card and used on public buses, metro rides and some taxis.
When we got to Seoul Station, we tried to find a taxi but none would take us because we had two big luggages + two small ones. Most of the taxis there are the same size, so we went around helplessly asking if anyone would take us at all, only to be disappointed with head shakes. I desperately went back to the station to ask for help from the locals. One kind lady who barely spoke English told us that we can only get Jumbo taxis from the airport. I was deflated. But she continued making phone calls and asked me where my bag was. I told her it was outside and she followed me there.
She then help persuade a taxi driver to take us in! Our luggages could fit in the trunk but it can’t be closed lol yet the lady debated with the driver and asked him to just take us to our destination. The driver finally gave in and we went in happily. Thank you kind lady who works at the floral shop!
We arrived at our AIRBNB in Itaewon and was inherently impressed by the liveliness of the town and also the amount of Halal restaurants available. Was thinking of walking around after settling down but we completely zonked out!
Second day – COEX Mall, Baba India, Banpo Hangang Park and Banpo Bridge
It was the first day of my meeting and we decided to take the metro there. The nearest station from my AIRBNB was Itaewon Station, around 5~10 minutes walk. Each entry’s fare costs W1250 even if you transfer different lines. In our case, it was a total of 4 transfer lines and took us 50 minutes to arrive at COEX Mall from Itaewon… It was unexpected and caused me to be late for my first meeting FML.
We didn’t spend a lot of time at COEX Mall because it’s really big. And it’s just like any other malls, we only walked around the Aquarium. And took pictures of the exterior because of the unique architecture.
My meeting was located somewhere near Apgujeong, so we went straight to Gangnam afterwards to have lunch at Baba India. Delicious food but quite pricey. Need to pre-order to get halal chicken but the other meat is halal.
Tip: When you do your research on the places to go, please make sure you know which exit to take. There are a number of exits and each goes to different places. I have to make this a point because certain places have many exits. We wanted to go to the Gangnam Style podium but we went out two different exits… and Gangnam Station exits do not have escalators so we had to climb up and down the stairs. Directions: Take Exit 11 if you want to go to the Gangnam Style podium.
Took the taxi back to Itaewon and it costed us W10400. Normal taxi cab fare starts from W3000. Tip: Taxi drivers won’t take you as passengers if they are not heading towards the destination you requested. If the direction you are heading is on the opposite way, the drivers would ask you to cross the road to catch a taxi there. Unlike in Malaysia, where you can hop on any taxis regardless where your destination is… thus the illegal U-turns etc.
At night to Banpo Bridge using a taxi. Normal showtimes during the time we were there starts at 19.30PM. We were surprised to see a large crowd having picnic by the river. AT NIGHT. WITH NO LIGHTS. There were so many people, but it wasn’t crowded. Everyone was just chilling with their partners or group of friends on their own rugs. At 8.00PM sharp, the Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain show started. Fountains of water shot along the bridge, accompanied with colourful lights and various music.
The vibe was so chilling. Nazeef and I just sat by the river bank and sang along to the music (they had on English songs!) and just stood there mesmerized by the show. We felt water mist on our cheeks and the soft wind blowing. I can remember the feeling vividly up to this moment.
We walked over to Banpo Hangang Park, where they have these colouful illuminated buildings above the river. They are music halls, if I’m not mistaken, and was closed. We just took photos and also videos there.
When it was time to go back, we waited for more than half hour for a cab. We could’ve taken the bus but we forgot to bring our T-Money cards! After shifting positions to catch a cab, we decided to just walk along Banpo Bridge and try to catch any incoming cabs – but to no avail… It was a long walk but we didn’t mind because the weather was absolutely lovely. It was the beginning of Summer but there were still traces of chilling air and it wasn’t hot at all.
At the other side of the bridge, we found a taxi stop (hurray!) and went back to our AIRBNB.
Third day – EID Restaurant, LOTTE World Tower, Common Ground, The Halal Guys and A N D cafe
Head out early morning for a meeting. After that was all sorted, my business partner wanted to treat us for lunch so she made reservations at the famous EID restaurant, a Halal Korean restaurant I mentioned in my previous post.
My business partner then gave us a lift and dropped us off at LOTTE World Tower. It was already like a LOTTE city there, most of the buildings were owned by LOTTE. Have heard good reviews about the LOTTE theme park, but Aidan’s too small to appreciate it. Will consider paying it a visit when Aidan’s older.
LOTTE World Tower is a 123-floor, 555-metre skyscraper and is the 5th tallest building in the world. The design, we learned, was actually inspired from Korean ceramic and also writing brushes. We had to go through a luxury mall (with the standards of Gardens Mall) before reaching the Seoul Sky entrance located at the basement floor.
The entrance fee costed W27000 per adult. Before reaching the elevator, we went through an exhibition of how LOTTE World Tower was erected. From the initial plan, to the moment it was opened to public. The exhibition was tastefully made, and we wondered why can’t it be adopted into our own country too?
Here’s a fun fact: The Lotte World Tower features the world’s tallest and fastest double-decker elevator, the Sky Shuttle, which whisks passengers from the basement to the 121st-floor observation deck in ONE MINUTE, or at 10 meters per SECOND! It was unbelievable, it was too fast my ears didn’t even had the chance to pop! Too fast that we didn’t even have the time to react to the kaleidoscope of colours that decorated the lift while we were ascending.
The closest I’ve been to was The Willis Tower in Chicago. The skydeck in Chicago only had one floor, and almost impossible to have photos taken without any photobombs. The skydeck here have three different levels, with glass bottom floors. It was such a shame that the air was quite polluted so we couldn’t get a very clear view of the Seoul skyline.
We then took the metro at Jamsil Station towards Konkuk University Station for Common Ground. Common Ground is the first pop-up store built with shipping containers. A very hipster place decked with indie Korean brand stores, music and also food truck. Many fashionable people come here to get their photos taken for their OOTD shots.
I’d recommend this place to those looking for new things to explore. Not many people know about this place, and you get the chance to also shop the up and coming Korean brands too! I certainly did not miss my chance to take OOTD shots here as well!
Directions: Take Exit 6 at Konkuk University Station and turn left.
We took the cab home and rested for a while. I had a date with my friend, Jiyoung, for dinner and we agreed to meet up at The Halal Guys in Itaewon. I first met Jiyoung in the States a few years back. We got to know each other through the international students program and had been friends briefly for close to a year. We found it to be really ironic to be meeting at The Halal Guys, since the restaurant is well known in New York City, which was close to where we studied! Before coming to Seoul, I contacted Jiyoung and asked her if she would be around to meet up and she said yes!
By the way, if I may add, for those of you who have not tried The Halal Guys in NYC but are in Seoul, do not miss the chance to eat their scrumptious kebab. They are OUT OF THIS WORLD. So, so good. It’s very hard to miss!
After dinner, Jiyoung wanted to bring us for desserts, and I said I would like to try Bingsu, a type of Korean dessert. She brought us through back alleys and streets so unfamiliar that only locals would know. Nazeef and I instantly felt like we were one of them lol one of the advantages of having friends from the country you are traveling in.
Jiyoung brought us to this small but cosy cafe – hipster cafe as how we joked about it – tucked somewhere in the residential area of Itaewon. We were introduced to our first (hipster) Bingsu, an Almond Bingsu. It isn’t like the traditional Red Bean Bingsu, which was fine with us because we didn’t like red bean.
I was sceptical at first, because it just looked like a puff of ball with white cream on top. It didn’t look appetizing. But after the first bite, I was instantly hooked. I know Bingsu is made out of shaved ice, so I half expected it would have the same texture like Ais Kacang, but nooooooooo.
IT. LITERALLY. MELTED. IN. MY. MOUTH. GAIS.
IT. IS. SO. FLUFFY. IM. GONNA. DIE.
It was so so so so soft! And each tiny, minuscule shaved ice had such a strong flavour of Almond. And it also had transparent small cubes of Nata De Coco buried in it. It was so flavourful and really kicked my tastebuds. You never thought something so white and plain looking turns out to be so delicious.
We also shared tiramisu and Blueberry sparkling soda (I think?) but the Bingsu won our hearts. I am now #teamBingsu4lyfe.
Both Jiyoung and I had a good chat and reminisced a lot of fun memories. Makes me miss the good old days more and more *cries*
We sent Jiyoung to Itaewon Station and said our goodbyes. Crossing fingers to have her visit Malaysia sometime soooooon! It will be my turn to play host!
To be continued.