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Things to Do on a Fall Trip to Korea: Lotte Mart, Edae, Hongdae, Gwanghwamun

Day 5 and Day 6, our last two days in Seoul, saw us virtually penniless. Yeah, I guess we were not ready for this. But going around a foreign place with almost no cash on you teaches you important survival things. Like finding a place where you can use your credit card. OR learning to stop yourself from spending too much. Or teaching yourself to just look, maybe touch, but to NOT buy.

  1. Lotte Mart. First stop of the day was Myeongdong’s Lotte, because we’ve been trying to catch this place open so many times now it’s not even funny. We went straight to the grocery for some pasalubong, then nipped through Duty Free to window shop some more. Then it’s off to dump the groceries at the guesthouse and roam the free cities of Seoul with our limited budget.

    Hello to the man from the stars <3 Lotte Mall, Myeongdong. Photo by Ace Tria.

    Hello to the man from the stars. Lotte Mall, Myeongdong. Photo by Ace Tria.

  2. Ehwa University or Edae. It was a shame really that our funds decide to run low now that we were headed to the cheaper shopping districts of Seoul. Ehwa University or Edae for short is a women’s university, and thus is surrounded by streets upon streets of fun finds at good prices. I’m talking clothes that go as low as KRW5k to 10k, and coats as cheap as 30k. Dongdaemun is pretty much Edae’s bitch, and I wish we knew this sooner. Oh well, on the next trip.

    Picturesque Ehwa University. Those glass walls house a library, cafe, among many other places we did not have access to. Hu. Photo by Ace Tria.

    We managed to get a couple of things, then we hiked to the oh so picturesque university to just look at the autumn colors against the backdrop of that charming campus. Then we went back down the slope (not allowed to enter the buildings, sadly) to get our street food and bingsu fix, before heading to our next stop.

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  3. Hongik University or Hongdae. This was easily my favorite stop last year. The energy in Hondae is infectious. And though we did not have the funds to scour the budget racks like we did last year, we went back just the same to take a leisurely walk around the streets, watch college kids have fun and be merry, and to catch the free shows on the pedestrian-friendly street.
    Serenades are common while walking around Hongdae on a weekend night.

    Serenades are common while walking around Hongdae on a weekend night. Hongdae. Photo is mine.

    Sadly, no one was doing a dance cover of any EXO song, but the performances we caught were pretty cool nonetheless. We also managed to find the university, which though not as pretty as Edae, was a cool sight too. Maybe next time we’ll try to find the Free Market.

  4. Gwanghwamun Square, Gyeongbokgung Palace. Last year we took the free English tour of this palace, but did not manage to see the changing of the guards ceremony. This time I had a few hours free before our 9pm flight, so I took the chance to go to Gwanghwamun, explore Kyobo Bookstore (because I need to go to a bookstore, okay, even if I won’t/can’t buy anything), walk around the square and see King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sunshin, see the memorial/petition tents set up by the Sewol ferry families too, and then head to the palace gate and outer grounds to watch the changing of the guards ceremony.

    Changing of the guards at Gyeongbokgung. Photo is mine.

    Let me tell you, that ceremony takes time and effort! I mean you’d think the new guard on shift would just poke the exiting guy and say “okay dude, you’re out, I’m up.” But they have flags, marches, and inspections… they did not do anything half-baked in the Joseon era, for sure.  

I took the train back and spent the last free hour I had back in Myeongdong, finishing an entire slice of chocolate ganache cake on my own in Twosome Place cafe. Myeongdong is where it all starts and ends with us when we’re in Seoul, seems like. And it’s not a bad habit to build. Will probably do the same things next time we’re in the country, but in different places. Walking until our backs and legs burn in pain, resting in cafes and downing large amounts of sweets and lattes, binging on street food and spicy soups, shopping for cosmetics, skin care and discounted clothes, snatching freebies and samples here and there. Maybe in Jeju next time. Maybe even Busan can tempt us. Either way we will likely still end up in Myeongdong, in some cafe or other, taking stock of another awesome trip while looking forward to the next one.


Total cost, breakdown
Air Asia round trip (includes airfare + taxes
and terminal fees + baggage + travel insurance)
Accomodation 7,525.00
Subway/bus/taxi/entrance 3,246.20
Food 7,525.80
Shopping Secret
TOTAL COST, FALL IN KOREA 2014 27,647.00



Things to Do on a Fall Trip to Korea: COEX, Sinsadong, Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Market

Day 2 had us crossing the river (via the train system of course) and heading to the Gangnam side of things before heading back for some alien-level architecture and Divisoria-level haggling.

  1. COEX, Hyundai Department Store, SMTOWN Artium. COEX mall had been under construction for the longest time and Tin was hell bent on seeing it, so we went there to literally window shop. The travel budget didn’t really cover too many LVs, see? Hehe. The in-house Hyundai Department Store had a few events (sales) though, and after a few minutes of looking at stuff we headed to the adjacent SMTOWN Artium.
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    Spotted a fan-sponsored birthday greeting for EXO’s Chanyeol in one of the train stations. Photo by Ace Tria.

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    f(x) goodies at the SM Artium. Photo by Ace Tria.


    Human peg, Krystal of f(x) endorsing Keds at the SM Artium. Photo by Ace Tria.

    Essentially it’s several floors worth of fangirling, boasting of shops of idol merch, a cafe, studios and even a place where you can get your pictures taken “with your idol of choice.” I’m happy we found this place when we were no longer at the height of our fandom, because those things do not go cheap. But it was a fun field trip!

  2. Sinsadong Garosugil. Next thing on the itinerary was to look for the Sinsadong Garosugil (tree-lined street), which is literally a street lined with gingko trees and trendy shops and oh so many cafes. One thing we noted though was that there seemed to be a LOT of cosmetic surgery places there too, and there were a LOT of patients walking around with their plasters wrapped around their jaws and their noses and taped on their eyelids. Quite an interesting sight. Anyway, we were running on emergency fuel already, so we looked for a hole in the wall resto first before resuming our walk. There we found the flagship LINE Store! 
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    You don’t need to buy anything. Just come here for this. Ace and Sally at the Line store, Sinsadong.


    Maybe that’s Jessica? Along Sinsadong, Garosugil. Photo by Ace Tria.


    Me chilling with pandas. Sinsadong, Garosugil. Photo by Ace Tria.

    Songs of Our Breakup hanging with Sally at the Line Store. Sinsadong Garosugil. Photo by Ace Tria.

    Songs of Our Breakup hanging with Sally at the Line Store. Sinsadong Garosugil. Photo by Ace Tria.

    Sally and Brown and friends were there, as in giant fluffy version of them that you can hug and get pictures taken with! So much cuteness! After that we stopped at a Coffee Smith shop, which is this awesome outdoor, two-storey cafe setup for a dose of sweet potato latte and pumpkin latte. The taste of fall, yum!

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  3. Dongdaemun Design Plaza. DDP was closed last year when we found it, but we caught it earlier this year. The big thing housed exhibits and shops inside, and we were able to look around a little bit before going back out to gape at the buildings again. Because really, that sight is what you come here and endure the nippy air for.dongdaemun-design-plaza-korea-travel-ace-tria
  4. Dongdaemun Market. We went out and were met with a cluster of street food stalls (hurray!) so we got our eomuk fix again before heading inside Hello apM, which is one of the many 168-style malls in the area. My sister was on the hunt for a winter coat and we found an eonnie willing to haggle it out with a bunch of English-only foreigners. She got the coat down from KRW88k to 60k, and we bought one each (purchases we were happy about until we went to Ehwa, but that’s for another post). Tin was also able to find Taiyou bus merch for her nephew, though looking for that was a greater challenge for us. Note to self: find out the Korean word for ‘toy.’

Photos by Ace Tria. Songs of Our Breakup is on Amazon and Buqo. Print version available here.


Things to Do on a Fall Trip to Korea: Insadong, Bukchon Hanok Village

Yes, we were there just last year. But also, yes, it is quite impossible to see everything you want in an awesome country in only a few days. So we came back!

We still booked our flights with AirAsia (the same airline we used last year) on almost the same time of year: end of fall, nearly winter, which is perfect walking around weather so long as you’re padded and layered properly. We booked the same accommodations, because we just LOVE Ji and the awesome folks at B My Guesthouse. And we revisited some of the places we weren’t able to take enough time to see last time, though of course there were more fresh sights on our itinerary. So, ready? Let’s go!

  1. And we’re back! Flying in to Seoul this time had more erm, color thanks to all the laglag-bala drama. Can you spell STRESS? But we caught our flight with no incident, zipped/locked/pocket-less baggage in tow, and landed in gorgeous Incheon International Airport before 12pm Seoul time, earlier than ETA. Last year we took the train, but we thought to try something more convenient this time (because Seoul train stations have stairs like you won’t believe) and grabbed a limousine bus. Bus ticket to Myeongdong costs KRW10k and is sold just outside Arrivals.
  2. Feels like home, B My Guesthouse and Myeongdong. We got off at the Sejong Hotel bus stop which is only one convenient underpass and a couple of hills away from our guesthouse. Yes, a couple of hills. Hiking and walking are pretty much the same thing in this city, which is basically why I do not feel too guilty that I eat so much there. Anyway, we found our home away from home and was welcomed by the owner Ji. My Seoul sister Tin was there waiting for us too. She arrived a day early (because Cebu-Manila logistics issues), then we hugged a lot, chatted a while, before finally paying attention to our rumbling tummies. The side streets in our area had a lot of restaurants serving local fare, and we found one called Jin Han Cook. Their jjajangmyun and kimchi stew were GOOD.

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  3. Let’s try this one more time, Insadong. After lunch it was time to go back to Insadong (Anguk station, Exit 6) with a vengeance. We got lost getting there last year and by the time we arrived, everything was closed. Also we weren’t prepared for the cold then and my fingers felt like they were falling off. This year, we came with warm coats and gloves, so although night was falling fast we were able to take a leisurely stroll down the still busy streets lined with tourist trap shops (think idol postcards and keychains), shops of traditional Korean wares (think metal chopsticks and bowls), charming little tea shops and even vegetarian restaurants. We were even able to find an O’sulloc tea store (oh my gosh all the amazing tea, smelled so good!) and Ssamziegil Road, which is basically a shopping complex made up of a few floors of shops selling quirky things. We even found a MOMOT store there, then we got our first taste of street food with some poop-shaped bread (did not taste like poop) and a burdock rice cake.
  4. Bukchon Hanok Village. Next stop was Bukchon Hanok Village. We’ve been there last year, but we wanted to show the charming place to Tin. It’s a real residential area, so travelers are requested to be quiet and respectful. It’s a bit trickier finding it via the Insadong route unlike last year’s Gyeongbokgung route and it was getting cold and dark, but we were able to find it. It’s a picturesque hilly place where people still lived in hanok houses or converted these hanoks to shops and restaurants. Perfect Koreanovela drama location, FYI, if you felt so inclined to do some poses. We found a friendly harabeoji there selling eomuk and sweet rice wine from his hanok shop, and rested there a while, while keeping our wary gazes on a very loud drunk man wandering the streets. Then we walked some more before heading back for a proper dinner and dessert (big ass churros!) back in Myeongdong.

Photos belong to me or to Ace Tria. Songs of Our Breakup is on Amazon and Buqo. Print version available here.