한국 South Korea 韓國 Itinerary 2017

IMG_2009We were all very interested in seeing cherry blossoms, and while hubby had seen the beautiful blooms many years ago in Japan, the rest of us have only seen them online and on TV shows. Initially, we intended to fly into Japan first before travelling to South Korea (the flowers started blooming earlier in certain parts of Japan, and the variety of flowers were different), but the exorbitant air fares made us decide to go for a less ambitious trip 😛

We read about the largest cherry blossom festival in 진해 Jinhae 镇海, and decided that we would focus on 부산 Busan 釜山, and 서울 Seoul 首爾, while keeping things flexible in Busan so that we could go for a day trip to Jinhae, when the cherry trees were in full bloom.

Also, Ms. V and Ms. W had covered Seoul in their recent trip, so they would fly back to Singapore earlier, while hubby and I continued our exploration. Our itinerary were as followed:

Day 0/1 (30 & 31 Mar 2017 Thu & Fri) at 서울 Seoul 首爾 & 부산 Busan 釜山:

  • Touched down on SQ602 in Incheon International Airport at 22:15 Korea Standard Time (GMT+7).
  • Took all-stop train to 서울 Seoul Station 首爾站, and walked to실로암불가마사우나 Siloam (Silloam) Fire Pot Sauna (Jjimjilbang) 汗蒸幕, overnight stay at the Jjimjilbang.
  • Exchanged the KORAIL Pass vouchers at Seoul KTX Station and took the 10:15 KTX train to Busan (no zombies were encountered :P). Bought food at the convenience store to lunch in train.
  • Reached Busan at 13:20.
  • We spotted pretty cherry blossoms after exiting Busan KTX Station!! The only super pink cherry blossoms that we saw throughout the trip was at the cherry tree near the Busan Subway Station Exit just across the plaza separating Busan KTX Station and Busan Subway Station.
  • Checked into 부산비즈니스호텔 Busan Business Hotel.
  • Coffee break at 빽다방 Paik’s Coffee, checked out the nearby streets.
  • Dinner at 송정3대국밥 Songjung Third-generation Pork Soup with Rice 松亭三代豬肉湯飯.
  • Checked out Lotte Department store.

Day 2 (1 Apr 2017 Sat) at 부산 Busan 釜山:

Day 3 (2 Apr 2017 Sun) at 부산 Busan 釜山:

Day 4 (3 Apr 2017 Mon) at 부산 Busan 釜山:

Day 5 (4 Apr 2017 Tue) at 부산 Busan 釜山:

Day 6 (5 Apr 2017 Wed) at 부산 Busan 釜山 & 서울 Seoul 首爾:

Day 7 (6 Apr 2017 Thu) at 서울 Seoul 首爾:

Day 8 (7 Apr 2017 Fri) at 서울 Seoul 首爾:

Day 9 (8 Apr 2017 Sat) at 서울 Seoul 首爾:

Day 10 (9 Apr 2017 Sun) at 서울 Seoul 首爾:

Day 11 (10 Apr 2017 Mon) at 서울 Seoul 首爾:

Day 12 (11 Apr 2017 Tue) at 서울 Seoul 首爾:

Some thoughts:

  • It was really tough trying to do research for this trip! A lot of official websites were mostly in Korean, with a more basic English version which lacked information. We did a lot of Google translation (which could get really wonky), and gone through English and Chinese blogs, as well as guide books to try to figure things out. The English spelling varies, so do try to work out the rough pronunciation. Also, note that there might be 2 addresses for the same location, as South Korea underwent a massive address and postal code change. As we encountered traditional Chinese characters during the trip, we tried our best to use traditional Chinese in the translations in our South Korea blog entries 🙂
  • Google Maps was only useful for general directions, but very often, the places that we want to go to, were not in the correct locations in the map. It is best to note down the Korean names and address of the places that you want to go to, and it will be even better if you have some pictures of the place, in case you need to ask for directions. If you are able to read a bit of Korean, try Naver Maps. It is definitely more accurate with more details.
  • The cherry trees only blossomed for a short period of time, and depending on the weather, they may bloom earlier or later. It was not feasible to do an overnight stay in Jinhae, as we would not be sure when the full bloom would be. Instead, we chose to stay in Busan during the period which coincided with previous year’s Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival (the schedule for the year was not out yet when we made our hotel bookings). We kept checking for updates on the blooming status, as well as the weather forecast (the fragile blossoms might not survive heavy downpours), before deciding which day to go for the cherry blossom viewing. Also, the cherry trees usually bloom earlier in Busan, hence the Busan – Seoul sequence was more logical in terms of cherry blossom viewing.
  • Purchase the KORAIL Pass (KR Pass) voucher online prior to your trip. There is no cancellation charge if you do not exchange the voucher for the train tickets within 180 days of purchase. There are a few types of KORAIL Pass, and since we were travelling as a group, and taking 2 KTX train rides within 10 days, the Flexible Saver Pass was the most value-for-money for us.
  • At Seoul KTX Station, we had to exchange the voucher at an Information Counter (nearer to the entrance to the train platforms), and then proceed to the ticket counters to buy the KTX train tickets. We were able to buy the train tickets for the return leg together.
  • At Seoul KTX Station, there were a couple of stalls selling Bento sets after you go through the entrance to the platforms. We did not realise that, and had already bought food from the convenience stores within the station. At Busan KTX Station, we did not see any shops selling Bento sets though.
  • In Busan, it was sometimes much more economical for the 4 of us to share a cab instead of taking buses. We would usually check with the hotel staff for an estimation of the cab fare, and do a quick comparison with the bus fare.
  • While the last express train from Incheon Airport to Seoul Station departs at 21:50, the all-stop trains are still in service till 23:40. We took the train instead of the late night bus service, as it was cheaper and easier (no need to worry about lack of seats, bus berth, etc.).
  • For our trip back, we decided to try out the airport bus instead of taking train to Incheon Airport, as the designated bus stop was very near our hotel, and especially after our friends feedback that the ride was very smooth and without traffic jams. We boarded the empty bus at 19:09, and it was a smooth 70-minute ride to Incheon International Airport. It was also quite a lovely night ride, as we saw the Namdaemun Gate in its full glory, and some of the bridges that we saw along the way had beautiful lights up. Do check out the bus stop a day before you leave, for we actually saw a notice about road diversion at the bus stop, and the airport bus would not stop at the designated stop nearest to our hotel for a particular day.
  • Some items in certain restaurants are not available to solo travellers, as the food portion is huge (meant for sharing, or the menu may sometimes indicate minimum 2 pax). Other restaurants frown upon sharing, i.e. 1 order per person. For such restaurants, usually the food is served with quite a few refillable 반찬 banchan (side dishes), so it is quite understandable. So sometimes, when we did end up sharing (because their 1 pax portion could be very huge too!), we try not to get refills.
  • For this trip, hubby tried out Starhub DataTravel, I used M1 Data Passport, and Ms V got the overseas travel Wi-Fi router from Changi Recommends. Starhub DataTravel worked without a hitch, while I had some issues with the M1 Data Passport, because the recommended telco was in a different name on my phone. It was definitely a phone issue, because it was only different on my phone :S Again, we were unable to give thumbs up for Changi Recommends, because it kept failing! Sheesh, even when only Ms V’s device was connected to it, most of the time, she was unable to do Google search, or use maps when we were trying to find our way. She was able to check her work emails consistently though -_-” To be fair, we have heard of others who used the Wi-Fi router from Changi Recommends without issues in South Korea. I guess it’s a luck thing, huh?

Subway map App:

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