Warning: Long Post Below 🙂
I missed Seoul so much and I’m glad I was able to return last April. For our last trip to Seoul, I went with my hubby and baby plus our nanny. I was very happy that our wacky friends also came and they made our Seoul trip tons of fun and really memorable!
For this post, I’ll talk about details of our chosen airline, our guesthouse and mode of transportation in Seoul. I’ll just share a general view of what our itinerary was like but don’t worry, I’ll post details separately. Similar to my 2012 Seoul Series posts, this is also going to be another series which I shall call “Heart and Seoul 2014.”
Enjoy! And if you have comments and questions, you know where to write them 🙂
Back in 2012, I got our tickets from Cebu Pacific at a promo rate. This April 2014, we went to Seoul via AirAsia at a regular rate. Comparing the costs between the two, our AirAsia regular tickets this 2014 were more expensive than our 2012 Cebu Pacific promo tickets by just a total of P2,000.
We booked our AirAsia tickets about 6 months ahead of our intended travel date. At that time, there was no promo for either Cebu Pacific of AirAsia for April which is usually the start of Spring and thus, a peak season. At the time we were booking our tickets, the cheapest rates were offered by AirAsia. The only downside to an AirAsia flight was that the return to Manila was at 8AM which means we had to be at the airport around 5AM. Because of this, we added another day to our itinerary just so that we can have 5 full days in Seoul.
When the travel date came nearer, and by near I meant a week or a few days before April 10, our departure date, hubby and I were still figuring out whether to bring the nanny along. At that time, the rates of AirAsia went to as high as P23,000 (~US$500) for a one way flight from Manila to Incheon. When I compared this rate with Cebu Pacific, it turned out that Cebu Pacific rates became cheaper by a total of P5,000 to P7,000 for a round trip ticket.
TIP: When looking for cheap tickets to Seoul, I observed that:
- If Cebu Pacific has a promo and Air Asia has none, the cheaper rates will probably be from Cebu Pacific;
- If both don’t have any promo and you can book about 6 months in advance, the cheaper deal will probably be offered by AirAsia.
- If there’s no promo and you’re cutting it close to your intended travel date, compare AirAsia, Cebu Pacific, PAL and JejuAir. Most probably, the cheapest will be offered by Cebu Pacific but an additional amount for the comfort and food offered by PAL may also sway you.
We wanted to bring our nanny along and it was just by a stroke of some serious luck that we were able to do so. We didn’t get her a plane ticket at the same time we got ours because we weren’t sure if she’ll be granted a visa. But nonetheless, we still applied for her visa and we got it. By the time we got her visa, the flight rates have gone too steep and due to budget constraints, we already accepted that we won’t be bringing her with us.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), one member of our original travel group wasn’t able to get his visa. I called AirAsia to avail of the one-time change of name in the ticket and it was not easy getting this done! Most, if not all, customer service agents we talked to said this change of name is not allowed. We insisted that it is allowed but with a surcharge and that we were willing to pay the surcharge. Alas, after days and days of calling, at exactly 3PM on the date of our departure to Seoul, one of their customer representatives said they are allowing the change of name for a fee of P2,300! Yep, we just added P2,300 to the cheap rates we got instead of paying for P23,000 for a one-way fare!
*Note: If you need to avail of this change of name, please make sure you check the details at the website first so that you have a basis to support your request. Again, almost everyone you’ll talk to from the airline will tell you that this is not allowed. But be persistent especially if you have that right. Call on their supervisor or manager if you have to. And when you ask for their representative’s name, please know that they will not give you their real name. They might say “I’m Christopher” or “this is Carrie” but that’s just their “screen name.” I was told that that’s how it is in call centers.
I have said this before and I will say it again. When in Seoul, there’s no other place I’d be staying at than in 126 Mansion. I already wrote a review on 126 Mansion in this post and as I already mentioned, these are the reasons why I am in love with this place:
- The hosts are friendly and they speak English. Su Lee and Hyunchung are my friends and they always make me feel like I’m not away from home. I can ask them questions about our itinerary and they’re always willing to help. Last March, we bought an i-Angel hipseat baby carrier for our baby from G-Market and we had it shipped to the guesthouse even if we’re not yet there. They’re so nice to receive and keep the carrier for us the whole time.
- The rooms are clean and the beds are comfy. True, the rooms are not as big as those you’d find in hotels but the beds are really comfortable that I always get recharged after a night’s rest.
- The vibe there is hip, fresh, artsy, and relaxing. It’s a place where I want to curl up in my pajamas and write in my journal. It’s a place where I can just sip a cup of coffee and enjoy looking at the art pieces artistically thrown throughout the place. It’s a place where I want to hang out with friends, have wine and listen to great music. There are guitar and piano lessons there by the way.
- The location is superb. It’s in the artsy and charming neighbourhood of Samcheong-dong. The Anguk station is nearby and what’s even better is that most of the tourist attractions are just around the corner: Cheongwadae, Bukchon Hanok Village, Changdeokgung, Gyeongbokgung, Insadong, Jogyesa Temple, Gwanghwamun Square, Cheonggye Plaza, etc.
- Most of all, the food is great. Every morning, we were served either American or Korean breakfast with coffee. Of course, we always chose Korean. Korean breakfast is a meal with 4-5 side dishes, black rice, coffee, and viands which can be bulgogi or this yummy spicy mackerel dish. We tried eating somewhere else but we decided that we’re better off eating at the café instead. Hence, whenever we’re hungry, we just usually go down to 126 Café and order a can of Coke and Seafood Fried Rice. Our tummies were really happy.
A standard room for twin sharing costs 105,000krw per night. A premium room with a view costs 125,000krw per night. The big family room that can accommodate 4 persons costs 195,000krw. All rates include breakfast.
To book, please contact Su or Hyunchung through firstname.lastname@example.org.
All our transportation needs were arranged for by Su or Hyunchung. We got two vans to pick us up and bring us back to the airport. Each van costs 90,000krw one-way and can fit up to 7 persons. Effectively, that’s about 13,000krw per person. Indeed a better deal than taking the subway.
We also had two vans to take us to Nami Island and Petite France. The vans were for our use from 9AM until 7PM. After Nami Island, we went to Petite France; then on our way back to the mansion, our driver took us to a mini-tour of the areas we passed by and he showed us some amazing views of pretty cherry blossoms. Each van costs 250,000krw and can fit up to 7 persons.
For the other places we visited, we either walked, used the subway or took a taxi. We realized later on that the taxi was a better option for us. The taxi fare, after splitting among us, ended up to be just slightly expensive than the subway. For a little extra cost, we saved time and physical energy that we’re able to use up for other activities.
And now, on to the part that most you are probably waiting for after all the yadda I wrote above. I made a very detailed itinerary for our group. Nope, we didn’t get a tour. Everything was DIY. I even held a ‘pre-departure briefing’ just to level expectations 😀
So, here ya go ~
Day 1 – Chasing Cherry Blossoms
- Arrival at the Incheon International Airport
- Arrival at 126 Mansion
- Jogyesa Temple
- Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival
Day 2 – K-Drama Day
- Nami Island
- Petite France
- Lotte Mart (Seoul Station)
- Pojangmacha at Jongno-3 ga
Day 3 – History & Culture Day
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
- Changing of the Royal Guards
- Wearing of Hanbok
- National Folk Museum
Day 4 – Landmarks
- Myeongdong Cathedral
- Namsan Cable Car Station
- N Seoul Tower
- War Memorial Museum of Korea
- Dinner in Samcheongdong
- *Dongdaemun – not everyone went to Dongdaemun Market
Day 5 – Around 126
- Bukchon Hanok Village
- Cheonggye Plaza
- Gwanghwamun Square
- Hongdae/Hongik University
- *Lotte World – not everyone went to Lotte World
Most of the places here are similar to those we visited in 2012. For those that I have already visited, I’ll try my best to write an updated post about them. So, that’s it for now. Please stay tuned for my separate entries for each item in the itinerary.
Until then, Annyeong!