[Seoul Series] Day 1: Arriving in Seoul and Exploring Samcheongdong and Bukchon

My initial plan was that our Seoul trip was just going to be for hubby and myself. I was then armed with information on how to take the public transport from Incheon International Airport to Seoul. Incheon Airport is big, clean, and nice, and along with the one in Hong Kong, and Changi in Singapore, they’re probably the best airports I’ve seen in all our trips to some parts of Asia and the United States. I would have loved to loiter around if only we didn’t have just 5 days to spend in Seoul.

If you’ve read other blogs about traveling to Seoul, you probably have learned that the fastest way to reach Seoul is via the Airport Railroad Express or AREX with transfers to the Seoul Subway System/MRT. There are two types of trains to choose from: Express train which costs 13,300krw, and the Commuter/Regular train which costs 3,700krw, both for one-way tickets. Most bloggers would recommend getting the Commuter train as the only difference is that the Express train reaches Seoul 10 minutes earlier than the Commuter train. You can go here for more information on how to get to Seoul via AREX.

Another option is to take the airport bus. There are also two types of buses: the Deluxe bus with less stops and goes straight to major hotels in Seoul (14,000-15,000krw, one-way), and the Standard bus with more stops but may get you closer to your final destination (9,000-10,000krw). For more information about the Incheon Airport buses, you may go here.

The third option is to take a taxi which is advisable if you have heavy baggage or if you’re traveling in a group where you can split the taxi fare. There are three types of taxis: Standard, Deluxe, and Jumbo Deluxe. Deluxe taxis charge fares that are 50% higher than that for Standard taxis but the service is much better. If you’re traveling after midnight, Deluxe taxis don’t charge late-night surcharge while Standard taxis do. On the other hand, Jumbo Deluxe taxis are ideal for those traveling in groups of 4 or more. To know more about the different types of taxis in Seoul, you can go here. And for more information about the airport taxi service, you can visit this website.

Had I traveled to Seoul with hubby alone, we would have explored the public transport options I shared above. However, the initial plan changed because instead of just me and hubby traveling together, we went to Seoul with 10 others, 7 of which are senior citizens. I also had to consider the weather at that time because I can’t just let the oldies do long walks in a painfully cold weather. Before going to Seoul, I already checked the weather and I heard that it could feel like 0 to -2deg in the morning. We arrived in Seoul around 6am of March 21 and true enough, the ground temperature was 0 deg.

Anyhow, because of these considerations, I coordinated with my friend from 126 Mansion that a private van pick us up at the airport. She got two vans for us at a fixed/flat rate of 80,000krw per van. With six people per van, each of us paid only 13,333krw. That was a pretty good deal because we had no stops, we were comfortably seated inside the van, the drivers helped us with our luggage, and we were dropped exactly in front of 126 Mansion. We had the same setup going back to the airport and it really was very convenient.

My friend from 126 Mansion was also kind enough to let us check in early in the morning even if check-in is really at 2pm. There were three rooms available and we were able to make use of them to freshen up and get some much needed rest.

Also, we were invited to have breakfast at 126 Cafe even if we haven’t officially checked in yet. The whole family enjoyed the Korean breakfast and we really appreciated the hospitality my friend has extended to us. This is one of the many reasons why I am highly recommending 126 Mansion to those of you who plan to go to Seoul.

While everyone was taking a good rest, hubby and I started to explore the area. It was uber cold outside but we didn’t mind it. That was when I first realized how great the neighborhood of 126 Mansion is. We saw lots of cafes, restaurants, galleries, and retail shops. I also love that there’s a Cath Kidston store and an Eric Kayser Boulangerie nearby 🙂 Anyhow, here are some of our pics as we explored Samcheongdong. All sites shown below are within walking distance from 126 Mansion, about 5-20 minutes.

you will find police cars and policemen on duty just outside 126 Mansion because as I said in my earlier blog, the Blue House or the President’s Residence (Cheongwadae) is like a 5-10minute walk away. and this is the view you’ll see when you get out of 126 Mansion for a walk: lovely street lined with trees with a view of the Gyeongbokgung Palace

this is just one part of the construction fence that serves as advertising material for the Naked Museum, the new branch of South Korea’s National Museum of Contemporary Art

in just a few steps after the Naked Museum’s future location, you’ll start to see cars and buses steering their way to the parking lot of the Gyeongbokgung Palace

we came across this shop near the side entrance to the Gyeongbokgung Palace called Gardener’s Wife. i like that it’s not just a shop that sells plants and flowers. it’s also an academy that teaches gardening. i would love to join the academy if only i live in Seoul

a preview of how far we have walked… to be honest, we walked farther than what you can see here but it was a breeze having to walk in a cold weather and yes, trees do make it a lot easier… this view is so dramatic, it reminds me of my K-dramas!

we continued walking and guess how happy I am to see Eric Kayser’s Boulangerie in Seoul! for those of you asking who Eric Kayser is, well, he is a really well-known French baker and is probably one of the best bakers in the world. he has about 80 Maison Kayser bakeries in various locations worldwide. i didn’t buy any of their products though because I was penny-pinching but I did take a lot of photos of their food for my personal reference 🙂

just a few steps away from the boulangerie, I spotted this truck which was apparently there to fix something on the electricity post. i love the fact that business goes on as usual for everyone on a Wednesday morning in Seoul but without the heavy traffic.

this house looks pretty in ‘person’ 🙂 it’s a house turned into a cafe and we would’ve hopped in for a quick dose of caffeine but it was still closed at that time. most shops in the area open around 11am.

this street is called Samcheong-ro and one of its defining characteristics is its mature deciduous trees like maples and gingkos. it’s a lovely place to sample Seoul by foot with a warm cup of coffee or tea in hand. it’s a romantic place actually 🙂

also nearby is the Bukchon Village where old houses called ‘hanoks’ are converted into restaurants, cafes, and small merchant stores. if you go follow that road going up, you will see Changdeokgung Palace. it’s about another 10-minutes by foot from here. the shop at the left is a convenience store where you can get a bottle of water in case you go thirsty as you walk. for us, it’s our short refuge against the cold weather 😛

after passing that convenience store, you’ll see this signpost. you can follow the sign going to Bukchon Hanok Village which is straight ahead. or you can turn left and head to the Bukchon Museum and more shops.

first shop you’ll see upon turning left is Kiehl’s. love it! yerba tea mate cleanser and toner has never been this accessible! 🙂

like in the Kiehl’s flagship store, there’s a Harley Davidson inside 🙂

you can get lost in the web of small streets in this area but don’t worry, it’s an interesting walk. just bring a map with you and locate a specific shop or cafe as your originating point so that you won’t get lost. anyhow, here’s a shop that sells hats. i would have bought a fedora for me but their hats are pricey…

and then there’s this shop that sells headbands. they’re cute but not totally unique. what i do like about their headbands though is that they’re carefully crafted and not a single sight of glue stick can be found on them

as i said, there are lots of cafes in the area and by lots i mean LOTS AND LOTS of them… but of all the cafes there, aside from Caffe Bene in Samcheong-ro which has iMacs free for use by its customers, there’s just a handful that caught my attention… [on a side note, do you know that there’s now a Caffe Bene in Times Square, NYC? love that it’s gone global!]… anyhow, this one is called Coffee Factory and the aroma of fresh coffee beans being roasted can be smelled from far away and it will definitely lead you to their doorstep.

then there’s this huge one called Homestead Cafe. we want certain elements in the structure and interiors of this cafe to be included in our future house 🙂 hubby took a lot of photos of this cafe

and then this salon and cafe in one 🙂 not so unique for an idea but i would still go inside for a haircut and coffee

so this is one of the streets in Bukchon that we passed by and the Kiehl’s shop is over there at the end of the road. the shops and cafes are not just on this street, they’re almost everywhere in this area. you can also find an Etude House on this street if you want to have a short glimpse of Sandara Park and Lee Min Ho 🙂

just before we went back to Samcheong-ro, i spotted this cute store that sells flats. they’re all preeettttyyy but… again, the prices are steep. if you ask me if they’re really expensive, i’d tell you that in all honesty, they’re not that expensive 🙂 i just say that the prices are steep as compared to things sold in Hong Kong and since i’m going to HK in august, i saved the shopping for later. next time, i will definitely go back here and grab a pair.

Well then, this has been a pretty picture-heavy post so I’ll park here in the meantime and will just continue our Seoulful encounters in a separate entry. I’m really excited to share our Gyeongbokgung photos as well as the map of our route in the Samcheong-dong and Bukchon area. Stay tuned 🙂

Until then, annyeong!

*First four photos above are not mine.

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This is part of a series of posts about Seoul. Check out the others:

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16 thoughts on “[Seoul Series] Day 1: Arriving in Seoul and Exploring Samcheongdong and Bukchon

    • janiscooking says:

      Hi Lhey, unfortunately, I don’t know the rates of other guesthouses in the area. Although when I asked my friend before about accommodations in case 126MAnsion can’t accommodate a group bigger than ours, she said she can recommend other places. One of them that came up the list was Rakkojae in Bukchon. You may want to check that out. Or if you want to stay in a real home, you may check out Home Stay Korea. Hope this helps 🙂

    • janiscooking says:

      Hi, the seniors who came with us have businesses so they submitted the regular requirements for businessmen. If the senior citizen has no business, he may need to submit his senior citizen card or proof of retirement as an additional document only, i.e., all the mandatory requirements should still be submitted. But other than those, there are no special documents required for seniors.

  1. Marion says:

    hi! Thanks for a great post. We are planning to go to Korea this coming May. Did you join a tour on this trip? If yes, kindly share the tour details how we can join. 🙂

  2. Myra says:

    Hi. This could be asking for too much but would you have an idea where we could contact the private van that picked you up in the airport?
    Like you, i will be travelling (we are 9 in all) with Senior Citizens and do not want them to walk very far distances.
    Hoping for a reply.
    Your blog is so informative.
    Myra

    • janiscooking says:

      Hi Myra, thanks for dropping by. I don’t have the name of the driver but this is the cellphone number forwarded to me by my friend who owns 126 Mansion: 011-9913-1276.

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