Saturday, November 16, 2013

Annyeong Haseyo Seoul!

Our trip to Seoul, South Korea was purely by chance. I mean, Seoul was not on our list of must-visit places, and we're not even K-Drama or K-Pop fans, so how did we end up with Seoul as one of our 2013 destinations?

Ah, well..

Call it the pregnancy brain, or whatever impulse it was, when AirAsia announced one of their low fare promotions last year, I quickly consulted hubs on where to go for our next holiday destination, to which he replied Tokyo, Japan. I googled Tokyo and found that it's one of the most expensive cities in the world and wasn't sure whether we're ready to travel to one. So we decided to experiment and see if we could survive traveling to Seoul (since it was rated slightly cheaper than Tokyo) maybe then we could go visit Japan. And that was how we decided that we'd be going to Seoul in 2013.

When we booked the flight tickets, I wasn't even pregnant...

In the duration of my pregnancy we'd debated whether we'd be bringing Alexa with us to Seoul or maybe just cancelling the trip (which for a travel junkie like me is something I'd really want to avoid, although unfortunately my trip to Bali last April was canceled as I was already more than 8 months pregnant at the time), but we finally decided on bringing Alexa along since she's breastfeeding and it would be a really great opportunity for me to try and find out how it feels to travel with a baby and how Seoul would fare as a breastfeeding-friendly city. You can read all about it in my post [here].

Anyway, we absolutely adore our trip to Seoul and this was among some of the things that we managed to do:

1. Witness a guard-changing ceremony

I really wish that I was able to do this during our trip to London last year but there wasn't enough time. I'll definitely bear this in mind for our next trip to London.

We got the opportunity to watch the ceremony at Deoksugung Palace (there are plenty of palaces in Seoul but not all of them have a guard-changing ceremony) so if you want to experience one (I must say being able to watch the ceremony was quite a wow experience for me) you might want to visit this palace.

2. Visit a Hanok Village

A hanok village is typically a traditional Korean Village in which you get to see how the people of Korea used to live (I suppose before all those high-rise buildings were built and all) and we managed to visit Namsangol Hanok Village in Chungmuro which was only a walking distance from our hotel. I must say the it was an interesting experience getting to learn on the traditional Korean culture and of course getting to see some of the people walking in full costume (which is not easy I guess considering the humid weather; we were in Seoul during the end of summer so some days it was pretty hot and other days it can be quite cool and windy).

3. Padlocked our love at Seoul Tower

The thought of visiting Seoul Tower never occurred to us. And we never even knew about the custom for lovebirds to buy a padlock and locking them at one of the poles at the base of Seoul Tower. For couple travellers, this place is definitely a must-visit.

A photo of Seoul city taken from Namsan Cable Car on the way up to Seoul Tower.

4. Visit Nami Island

Although I did say that we're not K-Drama nor K-Pop fans, we do know that there's a famous K-Drama called Winter Sonata, filmed at Nami Island (which is by the way a man-made island not far from Seoul) so we decided to visit the island and am glad that we did. This island definitely one very unique island, it definitely has a very quirky and cheerful ambience.

Psst: this island is accessible via subway (which will only bring you to as far as Gapyeong station) then via taxi or bus to Gapyeong wharf. From there, you'll need to buy a ferry ticket that'll take you to the island. Or alternatively you may want to read on travel instructions to Nami island [here].

5. Visit Seoul Mosque at Itaewon

Getting to visit this mosque is not easy, simply because we took the subway and had to walk our way uphill (I'd say it's roughly a 20-minute walk) to the mosque. Peeps, for convenience, I'd recommend the cab.

However, this mosque certainly is huge and what's even more interesting, there's a private Islamic school near the mosque grounds.

6. Shopped till we dropped at Myeongdong

Before we touch on the subject of shopping, I must admit that most of the imported stuff in Seoul, specifically at Lotte Departmental Store are actually slightly more expensive or equal to the price of imported stuff in Malaysia. However, their sale items are sold at very generous discounts, which are to die for.

Bought a pair of Dr Martens for Alexa (which she'll only be able to wear when she's 1 year old unfortunately). Sadly this wasn't on sale, we bought it for about KRW60,000 (converted roughly to about MYR180). I can't wait for Alexa to wear this on our next trip, which will be to Tokyo somewhere during Spring 2014. She'll be almost one then =).

All these Dr Martens were on 50% - 70% sale. I actually had my eye on a few of them. Oppsie!

And this is what hubs got me as an early anniversary gift =). This one was sold at KRW200,000 but was marked down at 50%, so we only paid about MYR300 for this one *yippee yeay*.

For those who love to shop, don't forget to complete your tax refund paperwork before you leave the store. This one is located at Ground Floor, Lotte Departmental Store, Myeongdong. Should you be in doubt, just ask the customer service counter on where are the tax refund counters for tourists. Tax refunds can be claimed for cash at International Departure, Incheon International Airport. 

Us at Lotte World. When we arrived, it was already night time so we decided to forgo visiting the theme park and just chill and do some people watching =).

So that was among the things that we did in Seoul. Unfortunately there were some other stuff that we wanted to do like enjoy the themepark at Lotte World and Everland but we did not want to squeeze in too many activities in a day considering that we are traveling with a 3-month old baby who gets cranky if she stays up too late. It's good enough that we're able to enjoy the trip as it was *syukur alhamdulillah*.

Here's hubs with Alexa in an Ergo PPB

Seoul's public transportation system (specifically the subway) is not very stroller friendly so we opted for the Ergo carrier from Day 2 till our final day in Seoul (on Day 1 we had to carry the stroller up and down the stairs of Seoul's many subway stations). For parents traveling with small children, I do recommend the baby carrier as it's much more convenient compared to a stroller.

Psst! If you love handbags, we recommend buying them at International Departure, Incheon International Airport. I was eyeing the Furla Candy Satchel at Lotte Departmental Store but decided against buying it because the price is similar to buying it in Malaysia (to tell you the truth, the price is slightly higher than Malaysia). At Lotte Departmental Store the bag costs roughly about KRW600,000. However my jaw dropped when I found out that the same bag is about 30% cheaper when bought duty free at the airport. And the best part is, it's from their Autumn/ Winter 2013 collection *drool*. Thank you hubs for the early birthday present *grin*.

So the question is, will we be back to Seoul? Most probably, no, because there are plenty of other countries that we have yet to visit. But will we visit other places in Korea? Definitely!

To love, family and travel.

xoxo Mrs Fashionista