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Post Trip Notes - Seoul

Post Trip Notes - Seoul

Old Nov 17, 2022, 6:58 pm
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Post Trip Notes - Seoul

It's going to take me months before I can write a proper trip report so I wanted to jot down some thoughts and observations from a six day trip to Seoul that was completed on Sunday.

Travel Process
- Q-Code checked by DL during check-in at PDX but not the K-ETA
- Masks not required on SEA - ICN by DL except that all passengers had to wear masks starting from thirty minutes prior to arrival
- Q-Code check at ICN involved a scan of the wrist for a temperature check followed by a scan of the QR code
- K-ETA was never explicitly checked

Transport in Seoul
- Bought T-Money "dongle" from a vending machine at ICN T2. I ended up with one that was the size of a small USB stick and the GF had one in the shape of the popular LINE friends rabbit character, Cony. We did not notice an obvious place to purchase a regular T-Money card
- We used the Seoul Metro extensively. Easy to use but towards the second half of the trip, we got smarter in terms of transfers. Some of the transfers between lines are very long, so it was worthwhile to walk above ground to the correct station and avoid a transfer. Also, depending on which line we took to our hotel near Gongdeok station, it was better to exit and walk on surface streets instead of being stuck underground and going up and down floors.
- We took the bus once, which was super easy. If not for the traffic, we wouldn't have hesitated to use them again
- We never had issues at rush hour as we generally avoided it. The closest we came was on AREX from the airport along with a later one stop journey on AREX from Seoul Station to Gongdeok

Seoul
- Areas/Places visited: Ansan/Bongwonsa Temple, Bukchon Hanok Village, Cheonggyecheon, Goyang/Starfield Goyang, Gwangjang Market, Gyeongbokgung, Hongdae/Yeonnam, Gongdeok/Mapo, Insadong, Konkuk University, Myeongdong, Namsan, Seoul Station, Sinchon/Ehwa Women's University area/Yonsei University area, Yeouido Hangang Park
- Ansan: Nice and easy semi hikes. Disappointed that the springs were dried up. Not much of a view that we could see but we didn't spend too much time here.
- Bongwonsa Temple: Pleasant temple complex devoid of crowds. Would've been disappointed if we our journey was explicitly to see the temple
- Bukchon Hanok Village: Very pretty but extremely crowded with fellow tourists who would do things like glare at you if you happened to accidentally get into their Instagram shot. Needless to say, I really hated being here and it was like everything bad related to tourism. It's sad to see this neighbourhood turning into a playground for visitors. I would be happy to never return and it left a really bad taste in my mouth.
- Chonggyecheon: Just spent a few moments here on our way to Gwangjang Market. I always like this park and wish we got to spend time here during the day when it wasn't so cold.
- Gongdeok/Mapo: Our hotel, GLAD Hotel Mapo, was in this area so we spent a decent amount of time here. I loved the sheer amount of eateries and we had Korean barbeque on one of the nights while our first night was spent at the Gongdeok Market having jeon. I also had gimbap on many occasions during the morning while the GF slept. Lastly, I ended up at a twenty-four hour place having soondubu (soft tofu stew) on the morning of our last full day.
- Goyang: We went out here to do some shopping but mainly visited for the Aquafield jimjilbang (comments below). Goyang really reminded me of one of the various "new towns" in the New Territories of Hong Kong, such as Sha Tin. Amusingly, the GF got her only random "HELLO!" from some school kids who passed us as we were crossing a street.
- Gyeongbokgung: We walked up from Gwanghuamun and sadly the main gate was blocked off due to some construction work. Gyeongbokgung was as beautiful as the last time I was there and just as full with tourists. Once you get a bit further back in the complex, the tourists start to dissipate significantly. I got to see some areas I had missed last time, which I really appreciated. We wrapped up our visit by spending some time at the excellent (and free) National Folk Museum of Korea.
- Gwangjang Market: I didn't get to eat from the market stalls the last time I visited, so we remedied that on this visit. Food was good but not spectacular. My GF was brave to eat the San-nakji with the raw and "moving" octopus. The taste itself wasn't anything to write home about. The cup of fried chicken was above average but the mandu were okay.
- Hongdae/Yeonnam: Hongdae was reached on foot via the Gyeongui Line Forest Park, which was really enjoyed. As the name sort of implies, it was the site of a former railline that has now been turned into a park surrounded by coffee shops and eateries. As for Hongdae, we visited a shopping centre and it was fine but I really did like Yeonnam. We went there in a vain attempt to find the Dongjin Market but nonetheless enjoyed the small alleys full of cool shops and cafes.
- Insadong: Walked through on our way from Bukchon Hanok Village to Gwangjang Market. It was okay but I don't think I'd go out of my way to visit again.
- Konkuk University: We visited the area to go to CommonGround, a shopping centre made from shipping containers. The stores were geared towards people who were younger and cooler than us, but it was still enjoyable. We did have our last real meal here, which was an Indonesia meal from Bandung Restaurant. We also walked through the nearby Geondae Tasty Street but sadly most restaurants weren't open on a Sunday afternoon.
- Myeongdong: Went to go see the cathedral at night, which the GF appreciated. Browsed the shops a little bit and it was noticeably quieter than my previous visit seven years ago, most likely due to the lack of Mainland Chinese tourists. There was also a noticeable amount of empty storefronts, which was sad to see. We ended up returning the next day on our way to Namsan and stopped for a delicious jokbal meal.
- Namsan: Went up to Seoul Tower to watch the sunset and see the city lights come on. It was a very hazy day, so the sunset was not very beautiful. We still had a fun time doing typical cheesy tourist stuff.
- Seoul Station: We walked from the Namsan elevator to Seoul Station along Toegye-ro, incorporating part of Seoullo 7017 (Seoul Skygarden), which was pretty. We were exhausted at this point and probably didn't appreciate it as much as we should've. We also walked by Namdaemun Market but did not bother to stop in/walk through.
- Sinchon: A pleasant surprise after a bus refused to take us from Bongwonsa down the hill. Cool hip place centred around young people, which made sense due to its location near two universities. We had a fairly mediocre meal since we still weren't feeling brave on our first full day.
- Yeouido Hangang Park: Our last stop before heading back to our hotel to grab our luggage and head out to ICN via AREX. I really liked the vibe around here with loads of people setting up to enjoy the afternoon and evening. It was nice to get some air before spending the next ten hours in a metal tube. I really wished we had more time here to buy some snacks from some vendor and just hang out by the Han River.

Also visited two jimjilbangs:
Supsok Hanbang Land
- The only jimjilbang/spa that I've been to where payment was all in cash. Otherwise a fine old-school place.
Aquafield Goyang
- The complete opposite of Supsok Hanbang Land. Very modern, completely rammed full of people on a Saturday night and full of children treating the pools like swimming pools. Also, only one pool had water that I'd truly consider hot. The restaurant was quite good and it was fun but not relaxing due to the crowds

Hotel:
Glad Hotel Mapo
I was very happy with the hotel and the service was good. I needed an adapter for my CPAP machine and went to ask the front desk where I could go buy one and they promptly lent me one to use. Housekeeping visited the room each day, which was a bit of a surprise since a lot of North American properties still have not resumed housekeeping. We stayed in their Glad House room, which featured a separate living area with a large sofa and dining room table, along with a bedroom with a door. Additionally, our room featured one and half bathrooms, which I was not expecting. The location was excellent, being located on the AREX line along with lines 5 and 6 of the Seoul Metro. I'm not sure I would go out of my way to visit the Gongdeok area if we weren't staying here but I was very happy staying at this hotel and this location.

Miscellaneous:
- I have been studying Korean on Duolingo for about two months now and it really did help to be able to read some signs and things on menus. I also leaned pretty heavily on a few things I found online with basic travel phrases. Generally speaking, most every restaurant/store was able to help us in basic English if needed and/or my very basic Korean did the trick. The only time we really had an issue was at Bongwonsa Temple when an elderly lady tried to offer/sell us something that looked like ground meat in a bag (?) and we could not figure out what was going on.
- We withdrew way too much cash and only needed it to load our T-Money. The 30000 Won I put on the T-Money card basically lasted the whole six day trip and I never had to top up. Besides that, I used cash a few times at smaller restaurants and convenience stores but probably could've gotten by with somewhere between thirty and fifty percent of the cash I took out.
- Mask wearing was universal indoors. I can count on one hand the number of people we saw without masks, all of whom were visibly non-ethnically Korean. As for outdoors, I would say it was around sixty to seventy percent masked up. We generally did not wear masks outside but generally followed the cues of others. FWIW, the only people who ever had anything playing off of their phones with the volume audible to everyone else were the same group of people not wearing masks on the Metro.
- ICN T2 was like a beautiful person with no personality. It was a beautiful building, it was efficient to go through security and exit immigration but there were very few food and beverage outlets that were open at around 7:30pm. It looks like the two main food courts are at the centre of the terminal but one of them was closed. Nothing else in terms of food was open outside of the main area except for Starbucks. There's too much luxury and duty free shopping and not enough "regular" shops. It was a really disappointing experience.
- Lastly, if you couldn't tell, I really loved our time in Seoul and I'm both happy and sad that we didn't manage to see and do everything we wanted to, never mind eat everything. I travelled extensively throughout Japan prior to COVID and never really gave much thought to Korea but it really exceeded my expectations. I would highly recommend a visit to Seoul for anyone.

Last edited by kevincrumbs; Nov 17, 2022 at 8:06 pm Reason: Added masking observations
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Old Nov 21, 2022, 9:02 am
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Appreciate the trip notes, I'll definitely re-review prior to our first trip to Korea probably end of next year.
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Old Nov 22, 2022, 3:16 pm
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@kevincrumbs, I really appreciate all the work you did to put together those notes. I've printed it out and added it to my planning file for a trip to Korean in 2023. It looks very valuable.
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Old Nov 22, 2022, 4:57 pm
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Originally Posted by SanDiego1K
[MENTION=41593]I really appreciate all the work you did to put together those notes. I've printed it out and added it to my planning file for a trip to Korean in 2023. It looks very valuable.
Thanks for the kind words! I'm happy to answer any questions you might have, whether it's now or closer to your trip. Not that I'm an expert or anything but I'll try my best
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Old Nov 24, 2022, 3:41 pm
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Thank you for taking the time to share this!
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Old Nov 26, 2022, 4:56 pm
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Sounds like a great time! So just k-eta needed to enter, and no more testing or quarantine at this point correct?
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Old Nov 28, 2022, 11:01 am
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Originally Posted by pesos
Sounds like a great time! So just k-eta needed to enter, and no more testing or quarantine at this point correct?
Yes, just a K-ETA is required while having a Q CODE beforehand will help expedite you through the health/temperature check upon arrival. As mentioned in my notes, DL asked to see the Q CODE during check-in at PDX, so I would advise applying for that a few days before departure. We did not undergo any testing or quarantine as part of this trip.
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Old Nov 30, 2022, 5:38 pm
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Originally Posted by kevincrumbs
- Bought T-Money "dongle" from a vending machine at ICN T2. I ended up with one that was the size of a small USB stick and the GF had one in the shape of the popular LINE friends rabbit character, Cony. We did not notice an obvious place to purchase a regular T-Money card
T-Money cards are available at all the convenience stores (GS25, CU Mart, etc), typically behind the counter. I'm not sure if the airport convenience stores after baggage claim sell them, but basically all convenience stores have them. There are machines to reload T-Money cards in subway stations, but I can't recall any machines that actually sell them in subway stations.
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Old Dec 2, 2022, 1:41 am
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Originally Posted by kevincrumbs
Yes, just a K-ETA is required while having a Q CODE beforehand will help expedite you through the health/temperature check upon arrival. As mentioned in my notes, DL asked to see the Q CODE during check-in at PDX, so I would advise applying for that a few days before departure. We did not undergo any testing or quarantine as part of this trip.
Still not sure why Delta asked to see the Q-CODE at check in. It is NOT required and you can enter without it and just do manual form.
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Old Dec 2, 2022, 12:30 pm
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Originally Posted by mikesaidyes
Still not sure why Delta asked to see the Q-CODE at check in. It is NOT required and you can enter without it and just do manual form.
No idea either but it wouldn't have been fun to spend ten minutes or so arguing with a check-in agent at an outstation about this. I'm glad we did the Q-CODE in advance and I'd advise anyone who can do it in advance to do so.
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Old Dec 2, 2022, 7:48 pm
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I live in Korea and got back from Thailand earlier this week. You don't need a QCODE and can do the manual form for it, but you need either the QCODE or manual form for entry. The QCODE only takes a minute now since most of the entries are not required or skipped (compared to the information required for it when I entered the country in May) so doing it in advance saved a lot of time compared to filling out the paper form. No one asked for the QCODE on the Thailand side on check in, but having it in advance allowed me to breeze right through after getting off the plane.
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Old Dec 2, 2022, 10:51 pm
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Originally Posted by eccentricfusion
I live in Korea and got back from Thailand earlier this week. You don't need a QCODE and can do the manual form for it, but you need either the QCODE or manual form for entry. The QCODE only takes a minute now since most of the entries are not required or skipped (compared to the information required for it when I entered the country in May) so doing it in advance saved a lot of time compared to filling out the paper form. No one asked for the QCODE on the Thailand side on check in, but having it in advance allowed me to breeze right through after getting off the plane.
Breeze is subjective lol. Arrived from BKK end of October, Tues AM like 6:30-7a - HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE just in a long stupid line for Q CODE for no reason at all. Haven't flown back through ICN since then yet. Went through GMP last week - painless as always, even got to try the mobile customs form ooh la la (totally unnecessary because the paper was faster as I couldn't get my customs QR to scan the first time haha)
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Old Feb 6, 2023, 10:13 pm
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These are awesome notes! Thank you! I'm planning on visiting Seoul in April. This will come in handy!
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Old Mar 3, 2023, 12:55 am
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Thank you for putting together the notes. It's been 7 yrs since our last visit.

We will fly into ICN from AMS this time around. We will fly out to KIX after 2 weeks in country, and it looks like we need to switch airport. The last few days in Korea, we would be at Jeju - and we prefer to stick w/ *A carrier. How easy is it to transfer from GMP to ICN? The itinerary that we are thinking of, has 3 hr 5 min time btw GMP arrival and ICN departure. We thought of taking AREX, but will take a cab if we need to make up time but AREX seems faster still.

Ideally, we should have hit Jeju first, and do Seoul last, but due to us meeting friends, we need to go to Busan first, Seoul second and Jeju last - hence why we need to do Jeju to Kansai.
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Old Mar 3, 2023, 8:21 am
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Originally Posted by r0m8470
Thank you for putting together the notes. It's been 7 yrs since our last visit.

We will fly into ICN from AMS this time around. We will fly out to KIX after 2 weeks in country, and it looks like we need to switch airport. The last few days in Korea, we would be at Jeju - and we prefer to stick w/ *A carrier. How easy is it to transfer from GMP to ICN? The itinerary that we are thinking of, has 3 hr 5 min time btw GMP arrival and ICN departure. We thought of taking AREX, but will take a cab if we need to make up time but AREX seems faster still.

Ideally, we should have hit Jeju first, and do Seoul last, but due to us meeting friends, we need to go to Busan first, Seoul second and Jeju last - hence why we need to do Jeju to Kansai.
There is a daily non-stop between CJU and KIX ( T'way Air) , there are also a few connections through BUS that do not require
an airport transfer ( Air Busan, Jin Airlines). Perhaps those are more convenient than insisting on a *A carrier for a relatively short trip.
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