15 May 2014

Escaping to Seoul (a photodiary, part 1 out of 2)

Hello! I am back-- from South Korea! And I bring you another photodiary. As you can see, this summer has been quite eventful. I guess you could call this the second part of my vacation, with my Bicol trip being the first. I really loved that trip; but really, it's nice to flee from the evil summer heat for a few days. (Hence, the title.)

My anticipation for touring Seoul has been built up and suppressed for far long enough. Technically speaking, I have been to Korea before; particularly, at the Incheon International Airport (INC). My family have spent several hours (10+ hours) for several times (5 times, to be exact) in that airport, waiting for our connecting flight to Illinois (we were loyally flying with Korean Air, so that's why). It's not exactly a ground for complaints though because INC is just wonderful. In fact, they've been the world's best airport for 9 consecutive years! I will never be not amazed with their comfort rooms haha!

With all those times that we've been stuck in the airport, my parents and I have dreamt of actually going out of airport and touring Seoul even just for a day. Why we never pushed through with that, I'm not entirely sure. (I guess we just didn't want to add that to our long itinerary for our American vacation lol)

Summer last year, we finally decided to go to South Korea. Everything was already planned out. Unfortunately, roughly a month or so before our planned trip (which was around the second week of May too), the news was bubbling of disorder in North Korea. It was very alarming to the point that even our travel agency has advised us that it would be best not to push through. That, combined with our own hesitations and worries, made us decide to postpone the trip. We went to Hong Kong instead that year (I'm still deciding on whether to post a very late photodiary on that one). The funny thing was, a week or so before the supposed schedule of our Seoul trip, the ruckus in North Korea died down.

So you can just imagine how happy we-- most especially I-- were about finally going to Korea this year! The four days and three nights (which were unarguable not enough) that we were there made us realize how great South Korea was. In this photodiary, I am going to share with you the places we went to, ate at and shopped at! I decided to divide it into two parts so as not to drown you with too much photos. This part will be about Days 1 and 2 while the second part will be about the last two days. Sorry for the awfully long intro-- let's start on the meat of this post!

---

DAY 1 (May 9)

We took Korean Air's midnight plane to Incheon. It was a 3-and-a-half-hour air travel. Initially, I was planning to sleep during the flight. However, as I browsed through their in-flight media, I found the movie Her! I have heard praises about the film, and so my curiosity for the movie was piked. So I X-ed out my plan to sleep and watched Her instead. I definitely had no regrets on making that decision because the movie was just b e a u t i f u l. The story may have been controversial, but the way it was handled was so amazingly done. Apart from that, I also loved how the setting felt both futuristic yet somehow classic at the same time. The costumes and the set design (together with the colors and shapes) definitely contributed a lot to creating that vibe. And of course, how can I leave out Scarlet Johansson's voice??? I read that ScarJo wasn't the actress originally casted for Samantha's voice, but I'm glad the makers of the film changed their mind and signed her up instead.

Okay, that wasn't exactly about Seoul, but I felt like I had to include it because the movie was great!! Here's a slightly more relevant thing: if you're flying via Korean Air, and bibimbap is one of the meal choices being offered, choose it! Their rendition of the traditional Korean dish tastes nothing like "typical airplane food" (if you know what I mean). You get to add the rice, sesame oil, chili paste, and; mix it with the veggies and meat on your own, too! It also comes with a bowl of soup (pray that it be soybean paste soup rather than seaweed soup-- it's much better than the latter, in my opinion). Clearly, I was too eager to have a taste of Korean food already that I chose bibimbap heh. But really, it's good! (On the flight back to Manila, I was hoping that it was one of the choices again-- indeed, it was!)

Well anyway, since we left Manila aboard a midnight flight, we arrived at South Korea at around 4:30AM. Actually, Korea's time is an hour ahead of the Philippines', so it was actually around 5:30AM already when we got there. A transfer was arranged for us, and the travel from Incheon to our hotel at Itaewon-- a good area for a tourist (it's like the melting pot of Seoul, lots of people with different nationalities!)-- took roughly an hour. I used that time to catch up on sleep; but before I drifted to slumberland, I remember thinking about how the roads and sights reminded me so much of Hong Kong (or Singapore, but I was leaning to the first one more).



Since our arrival was during the wee hours of the day, we weren't able to check-in our hotel yet. So we decided to eat breakfast at a nearby cafe. On the way to our hotel, I spotted a 24-hour cafe which was only a walking distance away, so we went there. It turned out to be one of several coffee chains in Korea, and not one of those cutesy Korean cafes that I wanted to try. But it's okay because they had good food!


Tom N Toms Coffee
With many branches worldwide

I got the garlic parmesan panini, the dark-colored sandwich in the photo. Despite its odd look, it was delicious! It tasted like garlic bread, and I love garlic bread! I didn't get any drink because it was quite cold, and I'm not much of a fan of hot beverages. My mother and father bought hot coffee and hot chocolate, respectively, though to pair with their breakfast. Mom got the honey cheese toast while dad got the honey butter toast. They're both honey bread (one that most Korean coffee shops similarly offer), but the former had a more savory taste while the latter had a sweet flavor. I liked the honey butter bread more, personally.

Next on our plan was to go to Lotte World. We killed enough time in the coffee shop so that by the time we left the place, the iconic amusement park was already open. We didn't sign up for a transfer to Lotte World, so we took the subway. Honestly, it's the easiest way to get around Seoul! Their rail transportation system is so efficient. I could only wish that the same was true for my home country, sigh.  A subway station, Itaewon station, was conveniently situated in front of our hotel, so we just had to identify the station nearest Lotte World. The stations were on different lines, so we had to alight on the Sindang station to transfer to the line that passed Lotte World's area.


 Meet Lotte World's mascot -- Lotty!

 Lotty has a female conterpart too, and her name's Lorry!


Lotte World is an indoor amusement park. However, they also have an outdoor section which is called Magic Island. The castle reminded me much of the one in Disneyland. You can take the bridge to the open area, but you can also ride the monorail if you want. As for the rides, I'm not exactly a person to talk about those.



When lunchtime came around, we couldn't decide on a restaurant in the park to eat at, so we just decided to buy from different stalls in the place, whatever tickled our fancies. I decided to get this rice puff thing (forgot what it's called) for W3,000 (1 Korean Won is equal to around 0.046 Philippine Pesos) from a stall at the bridge to Magic Island. It made me curious, and I thought it was something savory. Oh how wrong I was-- it was like an oversize cream puff with custard, ice cream, and chocolate syrup inside! It was good, but wow, calories. Right on Day 1 of my Korean vacation, too. Because the rice puff was more of a dessert than actual food, I decided to munch on fried chicken from BHC (Big Hit Chicken), another stall, situated indoors. It turned out to be nothing special, just like normal chicken poppers in a cup. It tasted better with ketchup and chili sauce though.



 These popsicles were so cute and tempting!! Unfortunately, I already ate rice puff huhu.

We happened to stumble upon this some sort of museum inside Lotte World. It was like the Trick Eye museum, with paintings that were meant to be optical illusions. Koreans may have a thing for that kind of art. It's somewhere in the third or fourth floor. Like everyone else, I had fun taking pictures in the place. 








Lotte World
Jamsil Station (Line 2)

I think it may have been due to my lack of decent sleep, but I found myself getting bored later on. It was just right that we didn't plan on staying at Lotte World for the whole day. We left the park area at around 3PM. We then proceeded to check out Lotte Department Store and the shopping area of Lotte World. I bought something at the department store, but I shall spazz about that and the other items I bought during our trip in a separate post (after I post this diary and its continuation).

For that day's dinner, our plan was to eat authentic Korean food. I read somewhere about this restaurant that apparently served good food. It was near our hotel, so we took the train and unboarded at the station before Itaewon, and did some walking to the Korean resto. However, when we saw it, we had second thoughts. (Let's just say that the place wasn't what we expected it would look like.) Luckily, there was a restaurant right across it. 

(click photo above to view on Instagram)

Sejong Garden
Itaewon Area
(between Itaewon station and Hangangjin station)


The place was nice. Call it serendipity, but we're glad we ended up there instead because their samgyupsal (pork belly) and the side dishes that came with it were yummy! How plain meat slices can taste that good by only being dipped in salt and pepper and/or chili paste was such a mystery to us. It wasn't easy ordering though, like we expected. We had to look for "pork belly" on the menu (which luckily had english translations), and struggle to explain to the lady how many orders we wanted (we got 3).

Of course, I'm not going to let this part of the post pass without talking about my outfit haha! It's one of the reasons I was so thrilled about going to Seoul: getting to dress up for Spring! (Also, not worrying about being judged by people on what I'm wearing haha.) These photos were taken in the morning, while walking to the cafe:






Sweater: Uniqlo || Denim jacket & knee-high socks: Forever 21
Scarf: Renouveau Manila || Boots: Dr. Marten's
Headband (in other photos): Forever 21

It wasn't that cold, really. Well, there was a mild chill in the air, but it was bearable. I just really wanted to layer up because I don't get lots of chances to do so (if there was any, at all, when living in the Philippines)! And so, I purposely bought the infinity scarf and socks for this trip to Seoul. The sweater was one my mom bought for me when she went to Hong Kong with my uncle and grandmothers last year. The denim jacket was gratuitously given to me by uncle. It was part of the package (which from this time forth shall be referred to as "The Box") that I talked about in one of my previous posts, and it came just in time for this trip! As for the beanie (or rather, bonnet), I've had it ever since I was a toddler! I remember seeing a photo of me in Baguio wearing this bright bonnet. I just happened to see it in my closet, and I decided to pack it for the trip! You'll be seeing my DMs for the rest of my outfits in my Seoul photodiary, by the way. I only brought one pair of shoes with me because I wanted to save baggage space haha! (Oh, and by the way, I'm wearing shorts underneath the long sweater, so no worries!)

DAY 2 (May 10)

Our second day was hooked up with a travel agency for a day tour of Seoul. Our first stop was at the Jogyesa Buddhist Temple. The place was decked with colorful lanterns everywhere because according to our tour guide, Buddha's birthday was just around the corner. (Speaking of birthdays, it was my dad's birthday on May 10!)







Up next was Gyeongbokgung Palace, the biggest palace in the capital city. We were on time to catch the guard-changing ceremony, as intended. The robes of the men were so vibrant, so wonderful to look at! And talk about Korean architecture!! All those colors and intricate details! I couldn't help but snap photos here and there. Clearly, the government did a magnificent job preserving such historical site.





















(click photo above to view on Instagram)



Lunch soon followed, and we were delighted to find ourselves in another authentic Korean restaurant! We all got to choose between bulgogi (grilled beef strips marinated in a sweet sauce) and bibimbap. my parents chose the bulgogi which wasn't too sweet but rather pleasing to the tongue while I got bibimbap. The mixed vegetables and rice dish came in a hot stone pot. It was a-okay. I was expecting for meat in it, but unfortunately it had none. I'm afraid I don't exactly know the name of the restaurant nor remember its location; but nevertheless, if you happen to chance upon this place, I suggest you go for the grilled goodness!





After satisfying our tummies, we went to another place of majesty and history-- Changdeok Palace. The structures were somehow similar, given the signature style of Korean architecture. And that means that the sights were just as beautiful.












After some historical exposure, we were then brought to famous shopping areas. First was Insadong, the arts and crafts neighborhood. Here, you can find souvenirs, handmade accessories, and whatnot. You can also find studios here that offer photoshoots while wearing the traditional hanbok.

As we were walking the busy street, we spotted lots of people holding and eating this weirdly-shaped wafer with swirled ends. It sure did catch our curiosity, and wondered where they got it. The store was hard not to notice at all! We got the dark chocolate magic stick ice cream for W5,000. The ice cream-- which in my theory isn't actually pure ice cream because it didn't melt fast-- tasted good! The wafer/cone was yummy too, and it didn't soften quick despite being filled with ice cream. You can get an all-vanila stick, or pure dark choco one like we did it, or you can get it mixed. (Humble stalls all around Seoul sold vanilla magic sticks only, so I guess that's why people went crazy over this particular joint in Insadong.)




The heat during that day was rather unexpected and almost unbearable, so I also craved for milk tea. Have I told you guys about my love for bubble tea yet? No? Well, when I discovered milk tea, I was so hooked that I made it my goal to try every milk tea spot I possibly can. So when my eyes landed on Tea Oreum, I decided to give it a shot. I wanted to get their taro milk tea because they claimed it was their best-seller, but I guess it really was because they were already sold out that day. So I went to try the black milk tea. Nothing quite special though, but it kept my thirst at bay. I've noticed though that milk tea was quite expensive in Korea as compared to the Phlippines. My drink costed a hefty W5,500 (which equaled roughly P230), and five thousands seem to be the floor price for such kind of drink. (For more of my milk tea reviews, do check out #TeaForThoughtByErika on Instagram! And feel free to follow me: @ekdoublea.)

(click photo above to view on Instagram)

The city tour was wrapped up with a visit to Namdaemun, another famed shopping district. The streets kind of reminded me of Divisoria, to be honest. The vendors there sold all sorts of clothes, shoes, and trinkets there. I managed to snag pairs of adorable socks there, but apparently, it's not the cheapest place to be shopping at (tune in to part 2 of this photodiary and my Seoul haul!).



The sun was still bathing the city with its light when the tour ended, so we asked to be dropped off at Myeongdong instead of our hotel. (We wanted to make the most out of our brief stay in the country.) If you've got eyes for branded shopping, then this is the place to be! I also checked out Lotte Young Plaza which was definitely a feast for the eyes of the windowshopper-me ha! It stood right across Noon Square, another great mall (housing one of the three H&M branches in the area!).

 Any guess on what that futuristic building is? No? Well that's the Seoul City Hall! Wow, right?!


 N Seoul Tower from afar (we didn't go there).

We did a lot of walking and shopping (okay, I admit, that last bit was mostly just me), but we also did some eating. We tried the egg toast sold on the streets which tasted like muffins and heaven. I could've done without the egg, really! For legit dinner, my parents weren't keen on eating any more classic Korean food, so I pointed to this Lotte fast food joint. I got the Lotz burger while my parents shared over a basket of fried chicken, both of which weren't exactly satisfying to the taste buds. I really loved their corn salad which came with the chicken, though!



Lotteria
With many branches in Korea



 Day 2's loot!

To end our dining experience (and the day overall) on a good note, we decided to try this ice cream store. It's not the only one of its kind, the organic milk and ice cream and honey selling kind of store, in Korea. We got their best-seller, the Milk Cube. It sure didn't leave us disappointed because the honeycomb was just great! It wasn't overly sweet, and it actually complemented the vanilla ice cream. Whoever thought of putting those two together was a genius!



Milky Bee
Myeongdong Area

Now onto the part where I talk about what I wore on that day! I've always wanted a fitted striped top, so when I saw it inside The Box (yeah, I had lots of the clothes in it washed so I could wear them in Korea), I was delighted! It was a midriff top, so I thought it would be great with my maxi skirt which started on my waist. The snapback was also one of the treasures in The Box. I felt like it quite broke my monochromatic look, but it wasn't that obvious, was it? Nevertheless, it saved my face from being burnt by the sun, together with my sunglasses. My shades aren't exactly wayfarers, they're a bit rounder, and I have no idea what style they are. (Oh, have I mentioned how totally "in" caps are in Korea?)


(click photo above to view on Instagram)





 Crop top, maxi skirt & snapback: Forever 21
Boots: Dr. Marten's || Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

Bonus! During my stay in Korea, I have been trying to take Korean-style selfies (or selcas, as they called it). They seem to love to pose with the peace sign. So I present to you these shameless photos which also provide a closer look on my makeup heh. Did I succeed??? 

Winged top eyeliner + white bottom eyeliner (to give the illusion of bigger eyes) 
+ thick eyebrows (I was trying the straight eyebrows trend lol) + MAC Rebel lippie

Still sporting the winged look , but no white eyeliner. Also, normal, natural-looking eyebrows!!11!

Dolling up my face with makeup wasn't part of my routine until 2014 came and I decided to try something new. Also, my eyebrows are in a terrible state as of the moment, so I have to patch them up regularly with the help of cosmetics. Thinking of posting about how I do my makeup some time in the future. But for now, I shall work on the second part of this diary. I am currently post-processing the pics as I publish this post. The photos of my haul will be much easier and quicker to refine, but I'll post them after I've completed this diary.

So there, I hope you guys enjoyed part one of my Seoul travel journal! Will post the continuation a day or two from now. Do leave me some love over at the comment box below! I would love to hear your thoughts. Also, follow me on GFC, Bloglovin, Lookbook, and Instagram! ♥

x Erika Rosales

42 comments:

  1. Lovely photos... What a neat trip!!! Thank you so much for sharing. I love the long striped dress on you. So cute.

    xo, Bekka
    Palm and Peachtree, A Fashion and Lifestyle Blog
    Instagram | Facebook | Bloglovin


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw thank you so much for dropping by and leaving some love, Bekka!

      Delete
  2. I've always wanted to Visit Seoul and Lotte World since the drama Stairway To Heaven :D Love your traveling pictures!
    I'm following you back, btw :) Let's keep in touch.

    xx,
    felishmichelle.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Mitch! I've seen that show, t'was such a big hit in our country!! Thank you so much xx

      Delete
  3. Amazing pics and impressions
    I'm jealous :D
    I follow you now via GFC and bloglovin...
    Please follow back ;)
    http://coco-colo.blogspot.de/

    ReplyDelete
  4. amazing photos!! wow!
    Emma xx
    http://iemmafashion.com/

    ReplyDelete
  5. GREAT !!!!

    thanks for following, I followed you back :)

    www.aliceFashion.pl

    ReplyDelete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I wish I could go someday to Korea and see all those amazing places! I love those pictures, surely you had a great time! I'm sooo jealous! ;D

    xo
    http://perfectlyimperfect92.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a great place!! I sure did :) Thanks for dropping by <3

      Delete
  8. great post! I love your blog!*.*
    Do you want to follow each other on instagram? I'm @chicstreetchoc! leave a comment i will follow u back!
    FOLLOW ME ON FACEBOOK
    CHIC STREET CHOC

    ReplyDelete
  9. Amazing post!
    Lovely pics!
    Kisses
    http://www.summerwine.es/

    ReplyDelete
  10. Food looks just so tasty. Would you like to follow each other
    via GFC, Bloglovin & Google+? Lemme know!

    X
    http://subhamrai.blogspot.in/

    ReplyDelete
  11. Amazing photodiary <3

    Kisses
    http://www.mademoisellemode.com/

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow the photos are amazing!!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Mille complimenti per il bellissimo blog, baci Angelichic

    WWW.ANGELICHIC.COM

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hai fatto una bellissima carrellata di splendide immagini, baci Angelichic

    WWW.ANGELICHIC.COM

    ReplyDelete
  15. Il tuo blog denota che stai facendo un grande lavoro, complimenti vivissimi, baci Angelichic

    WWW.ANGELICHIC.COM

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Angelica, sorry I only speak English and Filipino.. but thanks for dropping by and leaving comments!!

      Delete
  16. gorgeous pictures! love your outfit, very cute :)

    floralconstellation.com

    ReplyDelete
  17. Such funny photos! Lucky you, get to go to Japan! Lovely post, amazing blog! Thanks for commenting on my blog! Returning the support as always!

    http://thefacelessstyle.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Louise!! I actually went to Seoul, but I would definitely love to go to Japan! It's a dream of mine :)

      Delete
  18. LOVE LOVE LOVE <3
    i really want to come back there, i miss that place as well!

    xoxo
    Margareta Vania
    Fashion Beauty Blogger

    follow or drop your comment here : http://margaretavania.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's such a great place isn't it???? Thanks Margareta!! :)

      Delete
  19. Oh myy you made me MORE excited about my trip to Korea this coming December. 4 days din and 3 nights. Thanks for sharing this it gave me an idea where to go, I'm the one who's assigned to ix our itinerary lol so yeah glad you had fun in Korea. Please give me more tips haha if you like :) You can email me at @ steal.thestyle@yaho.com it would be really a great help :) Heeeee

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ohh that's so great!!! You better be excited for it! I pretty much shared everything already, tho, so I hope my posts help you! Have fun Lou, and thanks!! :)

      Delete
  20. Very cute photos! Love the posing in the art gallery =P
    Plus the outfit with the pink beanie was great!

    Regards,

    Miss Eliza WonDerland
    www.misselizawonderland.com

    ReplyDelete
  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I love the pictures, oh and Gyeongbokgung Palace was my favorite visit of all! The place is MASSIVE! May I know what camera you use? Hope to hear from you. :-)

    - A

    http://www.fivefeetofawesome.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!! I agree, the palace was just picturesque in every angle, too! I use a Nikon D90 :)

      Delete
  23. Amazing pics
    the lollies or ice cream is so cute?

    http://coco-colo.blogspot.de/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks!! Oh, those are popsicles, and yeah they are adorable *-*

      Delete