Three months ago, I gave in to my sister’s offer to come with her and Ate Emma (her best friend) in Seoul, Korea this November. It can be my birthday gift to myself (Nov 27), it’s Autumn (beautiful season), and it is best to come with her (family is always reliable when you’re short of cash!), she told me. Despite knowing I won’t have much money to spend for the trip, I said yes since I have MasterCard!
Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t promote living beyond your means and abusing the credit limit powers you have. In my case, I am confident I can pay off my loan before the due date. To add to this, I am always willing to spend on experience, as I believe travels nourish the soul – a good investment, therefore.
I booked a round trip ticket – Nov 16 to 21 – in Air Asia. Including Travel Insurance and check-in baggage allowance of 20kg for each flight, I paid 11,310 PHP all in. It was the cheapest deal we found in September.
A week prior to our arrival, we booked for 5 nights stay in Dream Guest House. It’s an affordable dormitory/hotel near Hoehyeon Station and Myeongdong (shopping paradise) and according to Ate Emma, it gets many positive reviews from Filipinos. You know how critical we are when it comes to room cleanliness and comfortability, right? It costed a total of 317,000 KRW, so each of us would pay 105,700 KRW.
Ate Emma also rented an LG pocket Wi-Fi: 5 SGD for 5 days = 25 SGD. 8.33 SGD then for each of us three. We need internet connection in case we get lost! Also for checking in on Facebook (hehe).
Before departing in Ninoy Aquino International Airport, I changed my 5,000 PHP into 118,029.01 KRW. The Money Converter has been my friend during my whole stay in Korea. My plane will get off NAIA Terminal 3 at 7:30 AM and arrive in Incheon International Airport at 12:30 AM. Time in Korea is 1 hour advanced compared to Manila. My sister, Ate Thess, and Ate Emma would be arriving late at 10 PM.
I was thrilled hearing the pilot announce we’re landing in Incheon in a bit, at 3 degrees celsius. I was underdressed for the cold with my white shirt, purple jacket and white pair of Keds, I thought. The next thing I knew, I was queuing in the Incheon Airport Concourse to get to the Passenger Arrival terminal with other Filipinos. Did what I do best – act like I knew what I was doing, but was actually just following the other passengers, haha!
Wi-Fi was strong at the airport. I messaged some friends about my arrival, while trying to figure out whether to leave or just wait for Ate Thess and Emma’s arrival. Of course I was worried I might get lost with no internet connection and phone line.
In the end, although I got myself a T-Money card (reloadable card for transportation that does not expire) for 4,000 KRW (card alone, without balance) at the airport CU Mart, I bought an Airport Railroad Express (AREX) train ticket to Seoul for 8,000 KRW.
It took me 47 minutes to get to Seoul, but I didn’t mind because of the fast Wi-Fi, view (I used to see only in Korean movies and series, huhu), comfort of my seat, and ‘Train to Busan’ movie feels (huhuhu)! I couldn’t contain my excitement and gratefulness to God for the chance to see Korea that my heart is crying tears of joy deep inside. The guy student who sat at my back was an angel to help me carry my heavy supersized luggage to the shelf.
Arriving in Seoul, Rome2rio told me to get at Line 4 to ride the Korail train going to Dongdaemun. I should alight in Hoehyeon, the nearest station to Dream Guest House. When you use the subway in Seoul, take note of the correct Exit numbers, guys. In my case, way out is Exit 4, then I can just walk to our hotel. I had my first rice meal in CU Mart for 4,500 KRW, and arrived in my destination thanks to the good-looking guy receptionist of the T Grand Hotel. Hihi.
Dream Guesthouse was a boutique hotel. The receptionist recognized me when I told her I am ‘Emma’s friend.’ She guided me to the 3rd floor (there are 4 floors), into a locked room that houses 3 separate rooms for different groups and a shared toilet. Our room was small, but the area was clean. We have our own toilet and I liked how the double-decks each has a curtain, 2 switches (for charging of gadgets), and light. How smart and private!
I rested and slept from 6 PM to 11:30 PM until Ate Thess and Ate Emma arrived and I had to open the main door since there is no more reception to welcome them (closes at 11 PM). We went out to have dinner at the nearby Korean restaurant to eat Bibimpap, Pork Cutlet and Kimchi – their staple side dish. Each meal costs around 4,500-7,000 KRW.
We liked it! The auntie was also nice to open the TV, mix the Bibimbap, and have a short talk with us. Even though we couldn’t understand her since she doesn’t speak English, her smile was warm and friendly. Unlike in Singapore, Koreans serve free water and tissue.
Here’s the breakdown of my expenses for Day 1:
11,310 PHP – Roundtrip Ticket
1,600 – Travel Tax, NAIA
4,477.45 PHP (105,700 KRW) – Accommodation for 6D 5N
291.62 PHP (8.33 SGD) – Wi-Fi connection for 5D
169.44 PHP (4,000 KRW) – T-Money
338.88 PHP (8,000 KRW) – AREX train Incheon-Seoul
42.36 PHP (1,000 KRW) – T-Money load for train to Hoehyeon, I got some change!
190.62 PHP (4,500 KRW) – Heavy pork cutlet meal in CU
232.98 (5,500 KRW) – dinner in Korean resto nearby
= 18,653.35 PHP Total (440,352.93 KRW)
Our Day 1 ended at 3 AM. Stay tuned for my Day 2 feature of our visit to Nami Island and Petite France!