Travel: Seoul 6 days RM1831 (exclude shopping)
Here’s my last minute, somewhat impulsive travel diary to Seoul. I been to the city a few times and just want to chill at a cafe but end up discovering more about the place than I thought I would. Most importantly, this city has marked the milestone of my grown-up life. I visited this place every time I wonder about what’s next in life. The weather, the vibes, the food mend my heart and soul.
Before the trip
1. Bare flight ticket: RM805 (booked last minute, non-stop, no meals, insurance, or baggage) The only time I choose to fly AirAsia for a long-haul flight is when I don’t need to check-in things, and it’s a direct flight. I travel really light this time.
2. Bought 48hr Seoul Discovery Card for RM171 (from Klook with RM15 off)
3. Things to pack for an international trip
- Passport and photocopy of passport
- Essential medication for travel sickness and food hygiene
- Charger and adaptor
- SIM card or rooming facilities
- Local currency and credit card (unfortunately, ringgit is pretty useless outside of this region)
4. Rooming with Umobile at RM10/day (or cheapest is portable wifi at RM9/day, but I don’t like the hassle of charging another dongle)
Collect Discovery card at arrival. Claim free express train to Seoul station with the Seoul discovery card. It’s 9,000-10,000 won if you buy the express train ticket. For the return, I took the airport bus at 10,000 won.
The discovery card also acts as a T-money card (like our Touch & Go), so you save 2,500won.
It would be cheaper to travel using the metro train (which is not express and has about 9 stops) and takes just about 7 minutes more. The cost ~4,500won. The gate for the metro train is opposite the express train at the terminal.
I received a lot of favors during the trip, I don’t know why but it just happens:
- Three meals paid by strangers and people we meet, two breakfasts were included in the accommodation.
- Got 28,250won from a casino (it’s free chip when you register, and I cash out instantly. I don’t believe or agree to gambling)
- Free 10,000won gift card and mask from duty-free center
- Free walking tour from the tourism board. Check it out here
- Free engraving art and bookmaking at the cultural experience center
- Free shutter bus to 63 square and fireworks show
- Free toothcare kit from the tourism board
- Free art, pottery lessons on the street.
All in all, I didn’t spend as much as I thought I would (my initial budget was 45,000 won on food a day). Naturally, I spend the free cash and gift card on shopping.
The cheapest meal I had was a rice ball with Pollock fish roe ~1,100 won from CU shop (like family mart). I had no time to eat a proper lunch. Starbucks here is more flavourful with its menu like mango banana frap, green tea banana latte.
I had some street food like Mandu, fried pancake with brown sugar. 1,000-3,000 won. Baked lobster with cheese is 15,000 won. It felt like the prices are ‘set’ by the authorities based on location.
The best meal I had is in Gwanjang market (concerning taste and value). Beef tartare and mung bean pancake is a must eat here. 16,000 won for two, it’s 1/3 of the price outside. There’s a lot of pig’s leg selling in the middle-market-carts so if you are sensitive to non-halal food maybe you can’t come here. This market closes at 6 pm.
There’s also a shop that sells all the raw and marinated stuff. I had raw crab (15,000 won), raw octopus (10,000 won), marinated ginseng, mini fried crab (taste like dried scrimp).
We went Tosokchon Samgyetang for ginseng chicken (16,000won), don’t order the pancake as it’s nothing to shout about. Tea is free. I am happy that I had the meal even though it’s not the best I have tasted. You wouldn’t want to experiment, so it’s best to come here.
One of my regrets is the 24-hour Noryangjin fish market. The seafood is fresh, and it’s cheaper than outside, but it’s still pricey in ringgit terms. And after buying the seafood, you have to pay for sitting in the restaurant, prepping fee, and fish stew fee. It all adds up to an expensive meal that you need to “work” for.
The most tasteless meal I had was a pork bone potato stew recommended by this travel guide for food at Seoul station exit 15. If anyone says that stew is good, it’s because they never boil soup at home.
Booked two free Seoul walking tour. The tour guides are volunteers. They are knowledgeable about the tour and speak reasonably good English (for Malaysian)
With the discovery card, I aim for the expensive admission. I picked the following:
- COEX aquarium (worth a good trip), drop by the awesome library inside the mall here
- SM Town Museum (if you like K-pop that much)
- 63 Square + Aqua (the standard ticket price is overrated)
- N Seoul Tower (not that much to see at night, just chill) Take the shutter bus from Seoul station.
- Wears Hanbok and walk around for an hour
- Running man thematic experience: Ep 1 (you will find a lot of kids, but the games are not that easy)
- Korean bathhouse
All these for RM171. They are more like a “luxury” experience. If you are happy with staring ceramics in a museum, walk-in chill-fresh parks or eat and shop at happening streets, you don’t need to pay for the card.
The rest of the time I visit places and galleries with no admission fee.
Here’s the best place to hang out
Day: Angku station exit 1, turn right to the old, not so ancient, historical palaces, or turn left to the hip Insa-dong markets.
Night: Hong-Kuk university area where all the young and not so young uni student gathers. A nice place for dinner and walking the streets. This is where you could find clubs and disco too. South Korea is an aging nation, they are even talking about imposing single-tax, but it’s all young and happening here.
If you like to take a hanbok picture, make flower fans, or try gold paper engraving for free – check-in the airport early and try them at the cultural experience center at the terminal.
Very subjective based on what you like to buy. I can’t understand travelers who check-in bags that I could fit in. Shops are too many around here that I find it meaningless to buy more things or any “luxury” things. But there are beautiful things that I did not buy.
I bought authentic Nike shoe for 37,500 won, umbrella (cos it’s raining), backpack ( paid too much at 22,000 won, you can find 10,000 along the street), a jacket, earrings, mask and facial stuff, snacks (almond nuts and beef jerky – every friends and family gets a small share). All-in-all approximately RM603.
One of the masks I bought was confiscated at the custom when I hand carry. I forget about it, and that’s what happens when you don’t want to pay RM100 for check-in baggage.
Seoul is very tourist-friendly, and it’s possible to do the typical tourist activities without spending money, but it’s harder to not buy anything so you should budget in shopping for the trip.
Total spent: RM2343 (RM1831 excluding shopping)
Air ticket: RM805
Stay (Hanok with bibimbap breakfast): RM412 (suggestion – stay at ICOS homestay. The lady in charge is fantastic, and she will go the extra mile to help you)
Attraction tickets: RM171
Cash spending: RM1046 (Appx RM603 for shopping)
I think it’s a cost-effective trip given that my air ticket was booked 3 weeks before the departure and I did not deprive myself of the trip.
Any of you have better travel tips for Seoul? Do drop by a comment!