Visiting Seoul Soon?

Just got back from my fourth trip to Seoul and if you’ll ask me if I covered everything (including DMZ)? NOT! Lol. But just like my three other visits, it’s still as charming as ever. You’ll find yourself falling in love with the place all over again.

I’ve said this before that I’ll be writing a comprehensive travel post on how to visit Korea (Seoul to be exact) like a pro. Bear with me for the side comments though! This is designed for those who have prior experience visiting countries with complicated train routes (and has applied for their Korean visas already) as I won’t be explaining as to how you should read train maps and stuff. BUT if you have transportation-related questions, let me know in the comment box.

Where should I stay in Seoul? 

In terms of navigation, I’ll pick Jongno anytime of the day (it’s Jongno-gu or the Bell Street) or a close tie with Jung-gu (Central Seoul) since they are very accessible to the more “tourist-y” attractions like Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Namsan Tower, Myeongdong, Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, Bukchon, Insadong, Gwanghwamun — basically most palaces and markets you see on Instagram. Plus if you’re into walking, you can go through all of the main spots with the help of your trusty Google Maps (in Hangul though).

For quaint cafes, affordable skincare, art supplies, cheaper hostels and food, I highly recommend Hongdae (short for Hongik Daehangno — Hongik University or 홍익대학교), the most prestigious art university in Korea.

Buses or Trains?

Buses are definitely more affordable when going around, it’s just that I find it easier to take their subway for a slight difference in price.

Upon your arrival in Incheon Airport, you have two ways to get to Seoul. First is through their limousine bus, which is the more common method as you’ll only need to buy a ticket worth KRW 10,000. Look for the bus number and alight at the nearest bus stop in your hotel. I like this method since it’s faster and friendlier for tourists.

Second is through the AREX, or the Airport Railroad Express, which stops at Seoul station and then just transfer to your line. You may get a T-Money card in CU or GS25 (two of the popular convenience stores in Korea). It works like your BEEP card here in the Philippines. You can top it up and use it to buy stuff in convenience stores, tap them in buses and of course for your train rides. You can also use your T-Money (or CashBee) in areas like  Suwon and Chuncheon.

If I only have three days in Seoul, what activities would you recommend for me/us to do?

You can start with the palace tours as they really close to each other. In the evening, a little of Myeongdong. For day two, you can visit Garosugil, Samcheongdong, Itaewon or Hongdae. Day three can be devoted to your shopping in Insadong, Namdaemun or even in Myeongdong (TIP: Always bring your passport as most establishments provide tax refunds for a single purchase of 30,000 KRW and up).

To get free passes in their palace/s, you can show up there wearing your favorite Hanbok (rentals at 10-20k Won).

Where should we get our Wifi?

Hahahahahaha I’m not the best person to ask about this, because I only depend on free WiFi that’s basically everywhere or through my data roaming service. But it’s easy to rent a Wifi egg at the airport. Hehe.

There’s also Seoul Public WiFi available in key areas.

Any food that we should try out? Restaurant favorites?

You can’t just fly out the land of the morning calm (and nomnoms) without even trying out all their great food! I’ll divide this into 3 different categories: Street Food, Restaurants and Take-out.

A. Street Food

There’s literally A LOT of street foods that you can try out in areas such as Myeongdong and Gwangjang Market or even outside your hotel. And as much as I wanted to encourage you to buy them all at once, I’d recommend that you try them out first in small servings before getting a mouthful, for two reasons: 1) They can be extremely spicy; 2) They may not suit your taste, which is actually quite rare.

Here are 5 (of my many) favorites:

  1. Odeng (Fish Cakes) – The first thing that came to me when I saw an ahjumma selling this is that they looked more like pig’s intestines, which I don’t mind eating either. Lol. Then after looking up the hangul translation (since I can read and speak a little hangul), I read fish cakes! Lol wth. Personally, if you’re looking into the ultimate hangover soup other than Dried Pollock Soup or Bukeoguk, then I think this will work well too. The broth is to die for. Make sure to grab an extra cup for free.
  2. Tteokbokki (Rice Cakes) – Probably my favorite street food! A well-cooked tteokbokki is not annoyingly spicy and soft to bite. Take note of that.
  3. Yangnyeom Tongdak (Korean fried chicken with tteok) – Whenever I visit Korea, I always look for this and Yoogane because of my obsession with crispy fried chicken and cheese. If you’re in the area, make sure to try this out. Hopefully you’ll also go cray!
  4. Tteokgalbi (Beef Rib Meatballs) – Minced ribs rolled into balls with white sauce. Heaven! Trivia: Galbi means rib in Korean.
  5. Gyeran Ppang (Egg bread) – This magical egg bread has converted several tourists to the religion of egg-bread crazy people (and their god is probably Gudetama). If you’re into breakfast food, eggs, cheese, you might end up consuming more. The other variant with cheese is also superb!

B. Restaurants

I only go to Yoogane (my favorite dakgalbi restaurant) every time I’m in Seoul. The other restaurants, I don’t even remember the names! We just look at the menu, store our coats in their secret compartment, and order away. Tipping is not a common practice in restaurants, AND you need to pay at the counter after eating. The staff will provide you an updated invoice upon placing your orders, so you can check and split the payment (if you plan to do so).

Not sure about this, but’s also unusual to eat alone. Their servings usually have a minimum, so make sure to tag someone to share the meal with you — or you end up not finishing it.

Some restaurants you might want to try:

  1. Tosokchon Samgyetang – It’s a very popular ginseng chicken resto in Seoul, people line up to try it.
  2. Palsaek Samgyeopsal – Quite pricey for a samgyeopsal but they take pride in eight special sauces and their servings are good for 4 people.
  3. Chicken shops outside Nami Island – I don’t know if it’s just me or Chuncheon has the nicest Dakgalbi restaurants.
  4. OR try out San-nakji at Noryanjin Fish Market. HEHE.

Anyways, I’ll write a separate post for the do’s and don’ts. 😀

C. Take-outs!

My sister and I are big fans of take-out food because we usually like to fly in Korea during the colder months and we enjoy the warm floor in the hotel. Hahahahaha. You should try this even for once as you may have seen in K-dramas, they enjoy buying chicken and beer and consume it while watching TV or practically just spend time with good people.

BHC chicken is nice too!

My forever favorite is Nae Nae Chicken, and their menu is in Hangul. You may ask help from the reception to order stuff for you and just wait for your order. Also: free drink!

Other tips?

  1. Their spicy is 3-5x spicier than ours. No ramyeon is not spicy.
  2. They’re not used to saying sorry when they bump into you. You’ll need to realize that. They can be rude sometimes.
  3. Always bring a shopping bag.
  4. Research and study when and where to get your train fee refunds and stuff.
  5. Going to Nami? Outside of Seoul? Buy tickets in advance, and get reserved seats (it’s almost the same price with non-reserved, unless you’re into standing for long train rides). Also, look for the punch-in punch-out machine for your T-Money before taking the KTX.
  6. Most shops close early.
  7. Clean as you go.
  8. MEMORIZE and LEARN how to count in Korean (Sino-Korean numbers will help you a lot).
  9. Use ALL your coins first because you won’t be able to exchange them back.
  10. Never leave the hotel with wet hair.
  11. Learn the basic Korean words and phrases.
  12. Keep a map.
  13. Bring a universal adapter.
  14. During spring, autumn and winter, bring a good moisturizer and computer glasses.
  15. Do not request for extra Banchan (side dishes) if you haven’t finished the first one.

There are still a lot to cover! But I hope you learned something from this post. If you have something in mind, hit me a message!

Hong Kong kids

If there is one thing I regret not doing sooner, it would be flying in to Hong Kong. I’ve had three attempts before actually getting there. Either I got caught up in a typhoon situation or I’ve had an amnesia. I’m not joking about the last one. I’ve. Once. Forgotten. About. My. Trip.

Last year, I was able to realize my plans with my long-time friend, Joyce. Although it’s a quick glimpse of HK, we enjoyed it so much with some heart-to-heart talks on the side.

I’ll definitely go back real soon!

Let me share to you some of my photos from the trip:

With Joyce
I’ve always wanted to travel with Joyce! We’ve known each other for too long, but it’s fascinating that I’ve learned more about her during our quick trip.

 

Octopus Card
I am totally in love with trains and train rides, and the HK MTR is no exception. If you wish to experience for yourself a pretty efficient ride, then this line is for you. 

 

Disneyland
My first Disneyland trip of many!

 

Disneyland 2
I will leave it to the travel bloggers to tell you how to get to HK Disneyland Resort. 
Central HK
I’ve fallen so in love with Central Hong Kong! Although it’s not the actual spot (or so I thought) for cheap finds, I am enticed with its unique personality that’s similar to mine.
Central
Just more of Central Hong Kong. I’m so used to seeing the BOC building in the decks that I work on in the office. Hehe.
HK
Nobody should leave Hong Kong without trying their good noms!!! Here’s a photo of their infamous egg waffles just close to our place in Tsim Sha Tsui.

 

HKIA
And of course, HKIA. One of the best.

Crazy/Sexy/Introvert

Contrary to how people perceive me, I am too introverted to even function. And this is a struggle I always had and right now with work. And my business. Lol. This may surprise you, but I haven’t made friends in the office. 

  
I’m not particular with having friends at the workplace, tbqh. I have a strong circle of friendships rooting from 10+++ years back. And those friends had friends, who also became my friends. The funny thing is, 80 percent of us are introverts.

Most of my friends are into economics, politics and communication. So our points of conversation usually start with a pop culture reference and then later it transforms to a deeper flow of talk. Yes. We talk about the lyrics to the shield bath soap jingle and regionalism over drinks.

I am the official clown of all my circles. I try to make light of EVERYTHING! Ask any of my friends and they will confirm it. ;))))

The only time that I get to be my different self is when I go out of the country. And that’s the reason why I always end up 1.) wasted; 2.) broke; or 3.) more broke. Nah just kidding. I gain more friends along the way!

I thought of touching this issue after my experience with some of my floormates yesterday. It was suuuuuper awkward, I don’t wanna elaborate on it again. ;))))

Everything just feels awkward once in a while.

Sooooo for those who are having difficulties understanding us, I dedicate this post to you. It may not be totally agreeable, but at least you’ll get an idea on how we manage to get through everyday. 

1. We hate small talk/s. And we also find it hard to initiate a conversation. Hahahahahahaha take it from me! I’ve ALWAYS attempted to start a talk and I’m a complete fail. I don’t know what to sayyyy. But personally, I enjoy the exchange, how serious or mundane it is.

What interests us so much is when you start asking us questions! Most of us, if not for all, we love to answer mentally challenging questions. Ayan ha. First date qualifier. Ask us about our opinions on many things, and we’d be more than happy to answer you. – learned it from the most hermit of hermits.

Ask me anything about art and travel and food, and I’ll give you a week-full of talk. Promise.

2.) We sweat our social juices faster than anyone else. We get drained easily. Ughhhhh remember those family reunions? I can only tolerate one if there is good food! The worst part is, I am always asked to sing!!! Also, I’ll always try to study how they cook Menudo or morcon just so I could have something to do. 

And then one of your relatives will ask if you have a boyfriend already. Gosh. It’s always my cue to exit. Dyahe.

We can only smile and talk to a certain number of people at a certain time period, and it takes some time for us to adjust. Alam mo yung praning? You might say something wrong and they’ll take it differently? Something like that. 

3.) We enjoy creative jobs that do not involve team-building activities. UNLESS you’re drinking buddies level of close already. I’m really lucky to have spent 5 years with the smartest, most talented, most creative people in the planet who loves Coca-cola more than I do. And we respect our anti-social moments, too.

Though it becomes tougher to adjust when you move to a completely different set-up. And I hate drastic changes. 

And maybe this is why I’d rather work alone than to collaborate with a super big team.

4.) We get distracted easily. Hahahahahaha!!! So me!!! I’ll tell my friends a story, then the next thing, I’m already talking about a completely different one. We get distracted, but WE REMEMBER the smallest of details — the color of your buttons, the mole near your waterline, the usual shade of your two-toned eyeshadow or the details in your glasses. So don’t be surprised with our references. In my case, you will notice that my muses in my paintings have different roles to play, and they may be a vision of the opposite sex (trivia).

5.) We never get bored being alone. In fact, we enjoy it so much. We don’t see it as loneliness. We just want to enjoy our angus burger. Duh. Hindi nga ako nagbibigay ng balat ng Chickenjoy.

6.) We HATE talking on the phone. Calling, that is. I’d rather talk to you face-to-face. Hahahahahahaha. And sometimes we also suck at instant messaging! We have friends that we can comfortably talk to online, while some we have to meet personally to at least build a connection. 

AND FINALLY,

7.) We secretly wish you’d say hello to us. All we need is for us to be recognized in the crowd, ping us a message, anything. We’re genuinely nice and we enjoy tambayans and magdamagang usapan.

🙂

30-Day Blog Challenge — Day 2: Your insecurities

I’d be completely honest right now and tell you that my only insecurity is my career track. I think I’m a little late to actually pursue the things that I like, especially my post-grad dreams.

I once told a friend that I’ve been pushing myself real hard to get accepted, but somewhere along the way, weird things happen. Or maybe the post-grad part isn’t the game for me to play.

I can’t help but compare myself to my immediate circle. They’ve been to the skies and back, and I’m still here, trying to figure out where to go.

I feel like I gave too much of myself out there, setting aside the plans and dreams I could’ve pursued early on.

Maybe I was destined to be an entrepreneur and manage my own team. And the things I should be learning from grad school have already been served to me even before I asked — the life lessons I get to harvest dealing with people from different walks of life. Maybe it’s enough. I don’t know.

And this is why I love to fly

 

Recently, I told a blogger friend that I’m having problems completing my ‘Why I Travel’ post. HAHAHAHAHA because I’ve been struggling with my words. Not that I’m convincing anyone with it, but I am compelled to, partly because of the folks who couldn’t get my knack for traveling and spending like it’s the end of the world.


I’ll disappoint you a little now — since I really don’t have a concrete reason why I love to fly.

But let me share to you a story.

Growing up, we never had a permanent home. We were like nomads trying to move from one place to another. It explains our ease in adaptability to anywhere as long as we were carried under our mom’s wings.

My concept of home had always been intangible. I like that I could take it anywhere as long as I feel it’s meant to be.

And maybe that explains why I like to move places. The pursuit of my final abode is ever-moving but steadfast.

When I have grown my own set of wings, I went against the ebb and flow, traveling is my rebellion from the common-ness of life — very Veronika decides to die. The memories I’ve taken provide me inexplainable euphoria, which demands to be filled trip after trip.


Spreading my wings became my vice, a drug that I can’t take off my system.

It’s the best kind of high. As it progresses, it builds me stronger as a growing and maturing person (hopefully).

I’ve learned spontaneity and humility, too.

Spontaneity in a sense that you should always allot some space for unexpected miracles, while I find Humility as an essential concept since an open heart and mind will always take you further.


I have no regrets with any of my past trips. Ika nga nila, it’s the only kind of spending that makes you richer.

In my future, I’d like to include new people in my life. The more unfamiliar, the better (but not super strange). I like to listen to their stories over afternoon coffee or strolls along foreign parks. That would be really fun.


Over and out.

**How to meet you po? 🙂

Dream Destinations

A high-res photo of a view from Capadoccia flashed before my eyes.

Shoot.

I’m dropping everything now. If only it was THAT easy.

You know the feeling you get when your super crush starts talking to you or falling in love at first sight? The butterflies in your stomach? That weird pasabog ng blood cells level of kilig that you’re not blushing but you feel like blushing deep inside? Lol whattheheck. And you look forward to a future together already? Kasal agad? Haha. I’d believe it’s similar to that with all that rainbows and butterflies.

This and a lot more emotions take over me whenever I think of my next destination. I’ve plotted my next trips BUT the logistics would still need to come in, hopefully soon!

As the title suggests, I’m sharing some of my go-to places in the following months, if not years.

And you might notice that most of them are high-risk places. Kung hindi highly-radioactive, may border threat issues. Haha. Seryoso kung hindi lang talaga nasira ang Syria, dream ko din mag-visit dun. T-T

Anyhow, here’s my list:

1. London, England.  I’d love to go to London because of all the art and photo-worthy sights plus 221B Baker Street and Thames River. I also need another excuse to wear my DM’s na hindi naman ako mukhang dugyot.

But seriously, I want to visit all their museums and libraries and West End and everything that will feed me more creative chorva.

Been looking forward to this trip since 2014, and it looks like it’s only going to materialize late next year. I’m not going to announce anything until we’re actually there.

2. Madrid, Salamanca, San Sebastian, Barcelona (Spain).    

Aside from visiting my relatives here (they’re all in Madrid), I’d like to try all the tapas and Pintxos in San Sebastian and all the jamon and cochinillo — basically try out all their food and visit Camp Nou and sing “BARÇAA BARÇAA… BARÇAAAA!” Pwede ding Força Barça with the Spanish crowd. Add to that the view of a near-complete Sagrada Familia. Hayyy.

3. Prague, Czech Republic.  

Just the idea of being there and seeing the Astro clock, Charles Bridge and Old Town Square excites me so much! This and SoKor were on top of my list.

Also: Blood Sausage.

4. Havana, Cuba. THIS. Ugh.  

I love color. You’ll agree with me when I say that all countries have this UNIQUE tint — a visual thing I’ve observed through time.

I’m looking forward to seeing the deep Spanish influence in their architecture, old American cars, and jamming at Callejon de Hamel, among many others.

Remember what I said about high-risk places? I know it’s friendly for tourists but being able to experience first-hand what it’s like to be in such a colorful place yet too much restrictions make this a must in my list.

5. Bagan, Myanmar.  

The only reason why I’m still having second thoughts about this trip is I don’t know how to ride a bike. HAHA. Other than that, I’m good with being “templed out” – TEMPLE PA MORE and riding the hot air balloon.

6. Kiev and Pripyat, Ukraine.  

Yeah the high-risk charm. I don’t even know if they still allow tours in Pripyat because of the 24-year rule.

7. Pyongyang, North Korea. 

Eto walang biroooo, matagal ko nang wish mag-NoKor. The tour fee is expensive! 100k. Huhu. Ipon muna akong feels.

8. Jaipur and Kashmir, India

I NEED A MALE COMPANION/S. Haha. I don’t wanna risk too much of my self. Buuuuut I’d like to see the guard-changing ceremony. T-T please samahan niyo ko.

9. Bhutan.

Well, who doesn’t? My hiking skills are not yet rusty. Hindi ako maarte, kahit sa sahig lang ako matulog marating ko lang to.

10. Russia. 

I’d like to go on a Trans-Siberian train ride and drink all the vodka I could take. Haha.

11. Istanbul and Capadoccia, Turkey  

12. Marrakesh, Morocco 

13. Nicosia, Cyprus. Malakas maka-Eurovision. Haha. 

14. Shanghai, China 

** I have a realllyyy looong list (because I plan to see the whole world!!!) but for now, these are my short-term goals. Ayoko pa po mag-US to be honest, but I think I need to get a visa to access other countries in South America. GUYSSSS KELANGAN KO NG TRAVEL BUDDIES. TSAKA BUDGET.

I’ve almost forgotten about Thailand

I’ve written lengthy (and mostly cray cray) posts about my previous trips — Vietnam-Singapore-Cambodia-Malaysia-Japan and Korea, but it dawned on me now that I’ve never mentioned stuff about Thailand, which I find ironic given the frequency of my trips there — flown in 5 times in 6 years. And I feel guilty about it, knowing that it will always have a special place in my heart. People would always say “Thailand na naman?!?” and I always always try to find an excuse to go back.

For starters, I got wasted there thrice – one of them giving me the sh*ttiest near-hangovers of my entire life (I’ve never experienced getting one). The kind that makes you wonder how the hell did you manage to get back safe and whole. Lol.

I’m not super proud of those moments, but it says a lot about how I’ve trusted the country so much that next to Manila, it’s the only place I could really see myself getting crazy times five.

Now, before you get an impression of me being an alcoholic (HAHA), I’d like to share to you FIVE of my most favorite travel moments in Thailand (among others).

1. My 3-day guerilla trip to Bangkok. Sometimes I commit on an ex-deal for my design projects. My client had taken me there on a weekend, providing me also a chance to see how they executed it — and it was even shown on national TV. How awesome is that. Also, that’s the first time that a stranger touched my head. Hahahaha. I know it has a meaning in their culture but I’d rather not know about it.

Aaaaand if I’m not mistaken, that’s also the first time I’ve visited Terminal 21! ❤ #alamna

2. Jamming at The Riverside. This happened during my trip with Edz, Debbie, Monah and Jezzie. We had dinner in the more quiet area, but I insisted that we try checking out the noisier, more interesting part of The Riverside. Actually it’s not the first time that I’ve been there. The first one was with my camp instructors and this other guy who became my super kras. Hahahahhaahaha patay tayo dyan sana hindi mo to mabasa!

 

Imagine it being like Saguijo in an open area where Chiang Mai kids hang out most of the time.

3. The Chao Phraya Princess Cruise. This happened during my first time in Thailand, with no other than my BFFs and Paulo. It’s a super super advanced Christmas gift by Tita Mingming to us, and we are just sooo thankful that we experienced it. There’s food, partying and a quick cruise around the river at night. Sobrang fun!


  
 4. Chatuchak! There are no words. Just shopping!

5. Loy Kratong and Yi Peng Festival. Ahhhhh where do I start?!? Hands-down, this is my most favorite travel memory. Ever. IT’S a completely different experience when you’re there. Parang akala mo end of the world na. Hahahahhaa. I was soooo blown away that I forgot to take a photo of the moment. HAHA! Nooo it’s here with me ❤


 So regardless if I understand their songs or their movies, high tolerance with their spicy food, average level of familiarity with their pop culture (highly influenced by k-pop) and all that, nothing could ever replace its spot in my heart, I am forever grateful to have spent most of my time there.

Can’t wait to see you this August. 🙂