Archive for the ‘9.3 Korea’ Category

Visiting Seoul : 5 Useful Tips I wish I’d known!

My colleague is going to visit Seoul in several weeks time so I thought this might just be a good time to share a few of the things I wish I’d known before I went there. Why doesn’t anyone ever tell you these things?

Cheapest place for facial products

Now everyone knows that in Korea, facial products are aplenty and quite cheap as compared to Singapore. Innisfree, Nature Republic, FaceShop, you can find these shops along every major shopping street or mall. There are some slight variations in prices especially if you shop in a popular street vs a not so crowded one. My father has been to Seoul countless times for business trips and he told me that he once bought some facial masks (for my mother of course) for like $X. And try as I might, after visiting more than 5 different outlets of the said brand, I just could not find the facial masks being sold at the legendary $X. Instead, they cost 30% more than $X!

Well, that was until I visited the Lotte Department Store at MyeongDong. Specifically the 10th floor which houses the duty free section. When you get there, you will feel like you are no longer in Korea. The entire mall is pretty serene and orderly, but when you get to the 10th floor, it is like a mad house. It is jammed packed with people, and everyone is speaking Chinese! It is HERE, that you can find the the facial products being sold at about 30% cheaper than the shops outside! At least it was the case for those facial masks that I was buying.

How not to get ripped off at Noryangjin Fish Market

Everyone likes to visit Noryangjin Fish Market for some reason when they visit Seoul. I bet many of you readers out there have not visited your local wet market in years, yours truly included, but some how it’s different when being overseas. Visiting a wet market becomes a tourist activity.

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Cat’s Attic Cafe

OMG, have you heard that a cat cafe will be opening in Singapore very soon? I can’t wait to visit Neko no Niwa when it opens in a few weeks’ time! If you’re a cat lover but don’t have a kitty to call your own, a cat cafe’s the next best thing!

I visited a cat cafe when I was in Seoul recently. It was the 1st time I had ever visited a cat cafe and it was one of the highlights of my trip! I find it really amazing that all the cats in the cafe are so docile and don’t mind you petting them even if they are sleeping. The cats that live in my neighbourhood are much more aloof and if they’re not in the mood for pats, then they don’t even look at you! Worse still, they might raise their tail at you!

Cat's Attic Cafe (18)

This cat cafe that I visited in Seoul is called Cat’s Attic Cafe and is in the Hongdae area. It’s less than 5 minutes walk from the Hongik University subway station, I think Exit 8 is the one to take.

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Pierre Gagnaire Seoul, Lotte Hotel

*Invited tasting*

When it comes to fine dining, I think the French win hands down. Really, of all the grand, fine dining restaurants I’ve been to, the ones I’ve enjoyed the most happens to be the French restaurants.  So I was really happy to be invited to lunch at the exquisite Michelin-starred Pierre Gagnaire in the posh Lotte Hotel.

Pierre Gagnaire - (7)

Pierre Gagnaire Seoul is located on the top floor of Lotte Hotel just across the popular Myeong Dong shopping district. If you want to splurge during your holiday in Seoul, or just want a romantic night out, Pierre Gagnaire would certainly be a fine option. I was amazed at how spacious the restaurant was as the few tables in the restaurant were all widely spaced. It was a pity I could not get a better shot of the restaurant as it seemed a tad rude to disturb the ambience by standing up to take pictures.

View from Pierre Gagnaire

The view from Pierre Gagnaire is fantastic.You can see the uniquely shaped Jongno Tower in the distance, as well as the tallest building in the picture, the SK building. The height limit for buildings is actually lower than this. Wonder what they did to be able to construct their building to such a height.

Pierre Gagnaire - (16)

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DMZ / JSA Tour (Panmunjeom)

If you’re planning to visit South Korea, and Seoul in particular, you have to spare some time to visit the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). It is the only way you can step on to North Korean soil, in relative safety so to speak. Of my entire 8 day trip to Seoul, this was undoubtedly the highlight of the holiday. If you’ve never been to the DMZ before, I highly recommend cutting down on the shopping and pigging out that you undoubtedly plan to do, and take some time to visit this historic and surreal place!

Freedom Bridge (1)

Freedom Bridge at Imjingak – It is a former railroad bridge which was used by repatriated POWs/soldiers returning from the north.

South Koreans are not allowed to visit the DMZ, so if you are a South Korean, you can consider being a tour guide, it’s probably the only way, apart from being a soldier! In fact, tourists have to sign up in advance with licenced tour agencies. Security is extremely tight and no one is allowed to veer away from the tour group once you are inside the Demilitarized Zone.

We signed up with KTB tours, taking note that they had English speaking guides. The tour we signed up for was for a full day tour, however there are half day tours as well. Ours included a trip to the War Memorial of Korea, Imjingak where the Freedom Bridge is, lunch, entry into the demilitarized zone (DMZ), and the highlight of it all, entry into the Joint Security Area (JSA aka Panmunjeom) which is where you can step on to North Korean soil. The entire trip took about 8 hours.

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Afternoon tea at The Shilla

*Invited Tasting*

I like to make it a point to have afternoon tea in every country that I visit. So it was no different for my recent trip to Seoul. But the question is, where to have afternoon tea? Seoul does not have a British colonial past, unlike in Singapore and Hong Kong. I was told that the partaking of a leisurely afternoon tea in Seoul is a phenomenon seen only in the last couple of years. These days, you can find an afternoon tea service at most good name hotels in Seoul.

Afternoon Tea at The Shilla (6)

I was very lucky to be invited to The Shilla Hotel in the heart of Seoul for afternoon tea. But of course, when you are in one of Seoul’s most luxurious and 5-star hotels, I had to have a quick tour around. Did I mention that The Shilla, Seoul is owned by the Samsung Group? Lots of dignitaries and movie stars have stayed at The Shilla.

The Shilla Seoul Executive Lounge

The Shilla Executive Lounge

First stop, the Executive Lounge. As a blogger, I have had the opportunity to check out quite a number of Executive Lounges both in Singapore and abroad. Executive lounges are one way that hotels use to pit themselves against the competition. The Shilla’s executive lounge looked really posh and if I were a business traveller, I would surely be impressed with the sleek decor that makes good use of wood as well as sandy tones.

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