Tuesday, November 13, 2012

South Korea: Seoul Lantern Festival 2012

It's a lazy day today, so this one will focus mainly more on photos.

Another one of the free things to do in Seoul. I got this information while surfing on KTO site for more travel information. This one of course links back to my previous post of free things to do in Seoul  item #4 :)

Starting point.

Date & time
The event is still ongoing till 18th Nov 2012. So do plan to pay a visit to Cheongyecheon stream while you are there. Here is the KTO website link for more information. The lights are turn on at aroun 7pm if not mistaken, and takes about 40min to walk till the end.

Getting there
There are several ways to get there. Either start from Gwanghwamun Station (probably easiest) to enter the river from Cheonggye plaza or you can go down at City Hall and walk towards Cheongyecheon river. Get a map and take a look and you will know what i mean.

Free (important! lol)
Cheonggyecheon stream - starting point of the lantern festival walk.

Lantern gate.
Aristocrats playing traditional music instruments i presume.
Back view
Korean drummer and warriors of forgotten time.
More lanterns to enjoy.

Looks like my digicam night shots turns out pretty good on the blog.
That's it for today. Happy Diwali to all Indian friends and happy holiday for the rest of you out there :D

Saturday, November 10, 2012

South Korea: Discounts & Free things to do around Seoul

When i was doing research of free things to do around Seoul, the most useful information I got was from kampungboycitygal's blog.
(Source: http://piktochart.com/2012/05/infographic-maker-15000-users-10000-infographics-200-pro-users-in-8-weeks/)

Here is the blog's post about discounts and vouchers. Pretty informative and useful for first timers to South Korea.Purpose of this post is to give provide some update and several free stuff you can do.

What's free is kind of fun and most importantly keeps your travel budget low since most people do backpacking to save money and get most of a trip at one's preferred pace.
Location of bus pickup to Seoul
(source: http://www.airport.kr/airport/traffic/bus/busList.iia?flag=E)
1) Discount voucher for airport limousine. Most limousine goes to hotels around downtown Seoul and covers many subway station. This voucher gives 1,000 won discount only one-way from airport to downtown Seoul. Here is a link on which bus to take to reach your accomodation, alternatively upon arrival at Incheon International, locate a nearby "Transportation info" yellow counter to get help. Be warned that bus limousine drivers don't keep small change, so be ready with small change before you board.

           Airport limo bus discount coupon
(source:  http://kampungboycitygal.com/2012/04/7-money-saving-tips-travel-tips-to-south-korea-with-discount-vouchers-attached/  )
K-shuttle for foreigners
(source: http://english.visitkoreayear.com/english/benefit/benefit_06_01_01.asp)
2) Free shuttle bus to Gyeongju and Busan. Personally didn't try this as my trip is too short to cater for it. Regardless, here is the link.
T-money from GS25 at 3,000won
3) Free T-money @ Incheon airport. Look out for Hana tour counter at airport. However, not too sure if this has been discountinued as the free T-money ran out when we arrived on 31st Oct. This can save you up to 3,000 wonWon't hurt to try check again in case they have restock right?
Free Nanta ticket that was offered previously.
4) Freebies & Event news from Korea Tourism Organisation (KTO). I missed out the free Nanta ticket giveaway as i noticed the offer on it's last day, unfortunately was too busy with work to pick them up. Currently there is a 30% discount coupon to Lotte World and 'A walk with the Stars" event upcoming. Pay a visit to KTO facebook page or even like to keep up with news about Korea tour and freebies.
King Sejong Exhibition Hall
(source: http://english.seoul.go.kr/cav/att/gwanghwamun.php)
5) Free admission places. Probably not all of them, here is a list of some of them you might want to visit that are quite interesting. Cheonggyecheon river walk, Namsan Folk village and King Sejong Exhibition Hall (right below King Sejong statue), National Musuem of Korea and free bicycles rental at Jamsil station Exit 2. Walk about 200m toward Seokchon Lake, the facility is on your right.(source: http://www.korea4expats.com/article-free-bicyle-rentals-seoul.html)

Doota free gift bag voucher
(source: kampungboycitygal blog)

6) Doota gift bag. Walk to Doota mall near Dongdaemun station and show your passport (for foreigners only) together with your printout. Update on the freebies, it seems like the content has been gotten much lesser (refer to kampungboycitygal's blog photo).
Latest content of Doota gift bag.

This is what's inside the gift bag inclusive of doota shopping coupon. It's really up to you whether it's still worth the effort to redeem this.
Making traditional pendant.

7) Korea experience programme @ Incheon airport. Those who checked into airport boarding early could spend time to try your hands on Korean handicraft.We were given the traditional pendant that we made together with free mini gift; one traditional cupboard and a traditional hand mirror in a pouch.
Free mask and samples
8) Free cosmetics samples @ Myeong Dong. Whenever you enter a cosmetics shop usually the salesgirls will give you freebies. Be sure to ask for more samples, or whatever you see displayed near the counter. We managed to get 2 posters of JYJ from the TonyMoly shop wifey made her purchase.One strategy is to buy ~30,000won only at a go and move to next shop for your purchase to get more chance to ask for samples. There are more than one branch of the same shop especially in MyeongDong so this can probably work out :)
Tax refund collection counters @ Incheon airport.
9) Tax refund. Whenever you (foreigners only) made a purchase of more than 30,000 won on a single receipt, you are eligible for a ~5% tax refund. Just make sure to ask for it since not all shops will automatically provide you a tax refund slip. Be sure to bring this back to Incheon airport & validate at tax refund counter. Check into boarding area, the tax refund collection area is near Gate 28 seats area. Do insist on receiving cash back since writing alphabetical address is quite risky (not written Hangul).
Follow the steps for Global tax free refund. You should receive this evelope or the other blue colored one :)

10) Sleepover at airport. Not for those that can't get comfortable easily. Surprisingly our first time sleeping over at Incheon airport is quite comfortable. In fact, there are many people that slept (yes, on departure chairs) over most probably because the flight next day is too early and also not to forget that it actually saves one night accommodation cost. Skip this if you find guesthouse/hostel to be uncomfortable hehe

There is probably more out there, who doesn't like discounts and free stuff?
Do comment with your link if you have more info on these. Gotta get them all :P

Thursday, November 8, 2012

South Korea: Backpacking things to bring

Coming back from a recent backpacking trip at Seoul, i thought it will be nice to list down some little things that we seem to miss if we didn't spend enough time to think through our to-bring list. 

One of the gates at Changdeok-gung (palace)

I hope those that are planning to visit Seoul during autumn will find the list below useful:
Backpacks..so many to choose from.

a) Backpack - This is a backpacker's main storage. A decent sized-one will do to carry a small water bottle, camera kits/lenses, maps ,papers and all sorts of rubbish you collect on your journey and some other supplies below you will find handy during your journey.

Backpack keeps your hands free for important task such as photography...

and peeing. Just kidding lolz
(Illustration source: http://www.dragoart.com/tuts/6726/1/1/how-to-draw-peeing-calvin.htm ) 

b) Handphone - Even if you don't turn on roaming for overseas usage, a handphone nowadays can still serve as a watch, calculator, instant notepad. That's what i use my humble Nokia 5800 Xpressmusic for.
If you have fancy andriod/iphone then that opens up access to tons of apps out there you can use. Here are some apps such as below:

Illustration from KTO

Visit Korea 2.0 by KTO
Seoul Bus 2
Subway Korea

c) Umbrella - Essential tool when going backpacking since we'll hit the road most of the time. We were lucky to bring an umbrella as it rained 2 days out of our 6 days of trip. Just make sure it's big enough for two if you are not travelling solo!
Rainy day @ Namsan Folk Village

d) Spare chopstick/spoon - You never know when you will need one. Sometimes you want to get a quick breakfast at your guesthouse (assuming you are backpacking on low budget)

Disposable fork/spoon for making drinks/eating packed food

e) Tissue/ wet tissue - Clean,clean,clean. Be it after you eat, or when your camera lens need cleaning or even  runny nose from the cold weather. Always good to have clean tissue around.

f) Food/snacks - Basic common sense. Keep your energy level high during your backpacking mission. As you walk around snapping happily you might find yourself starving in a park/musuem/palace with only expensive food/drinks for sale. It's not fun to look for places to eat while you are starving. Just hit the convenience store like CVS (family mart) or GS25 for some local snacks or drinks and enjoy

Korean snacks, local flavors for your taste buds

g) Spare plastic bags - Trash bin is a rarity in Seoul for some reason. If you are like me who likes snacking while travelling, the bags will be your temporary trash storage while looking for one. You will stumble upon one quite soon (I hope). The spare bags can also double as insulation for your camera in case of heavy rain. Umbrella may keep you dry,but not neccesarily your backpack =)

h) Nailclipper - This one serves as both nail clipper (duh), and as a scissor. It can easily help open plastic wrappers and also be useful if you buy those drinks that doesn't have a tear to aid opening it.
Stopped by Beansbin Coffee @ Samcheong-dong 

i) Empty coffee cup - For people who can't stand cold, this is a great tip. Have a cup of coffee, be it Starbucks, Beansbin or Holly Coffee and keep the cup in your backpack. It comes in handy to keep warm when you chance upon a hot water dispenser. Great to hold it and sip hot water when the temperature is low out there. This happened when i passed by Ssamzigil washroom at Insadong and happily took some hot water from the water dispenser to keep warm ^_^. Alternatively you can bring a thermos but the downside is its weigh that you need to schlep along while you explore around.

Map showing places of interest to explore in downtown Seoul.

h) Korea city map / Subway map - I keep these in my front pocket most of time. I find it relatively easy to travel using Subway in Seoul. The names can be quite confusing and don't let the colorful subway lines intimidate you. Keep maps even though you remember the stations since the exits are important to make your trip convenient.Each station is about 10-15 minutes away by walking if you are up to it.

One of my trusty companion during the trip. Found its resting place at Hong guesthouse brochure rack now :P
These are just some essentials while you are on the move. Most importantly go with an open mind, be friendly, smile and don't hesitate to ask for directions or just about anything. Koreans seem very shy if we speak English since they are not proficient with the language but that doesn't mean they are not helpful.

Biwon aka Secret garden awaiting you guys.
With this, i wish those that are reading this post good luck on your backpacking and happy travelling =)