Saturday, 22 October 2011

Seoul trip – 22 Oct 2011

After 6.5hr of night flight, the plane landed at Incheon International Airport. We have to take a train to the main passenger terminal to clear the immigration and collect our luggage.

At first, I thought that Concourse A is used by airlines for cheaper landing fees. It's only when I'm blogging that I realised that Concourse A is used by all foreign airlines while the main passenger terminal is used by the local airlines. 
Arriving at Concourse A
Taking the train to main passenger terminal
Map showing the main passenger terminal and concourse A

We were one of the first few to clear the immigration. The immigration officer asked me a couple of question such as "Is this your first time in Korea?" and "How long are you staying in Korea?". We waited for quite a while before the luggages are loaded on the baggage carousel.
Waiting for our luggage
Phone rental counter

We realised that the airport is huge when we are searching for eateries. According to Wikipedia, Incheon main passenger terminal is the ninth largest passenger terminal in the world after Dubai International Airport's Terminal 3, Beijing Capital International Airport's Terminal 3, Hong Kong International Airport's Terminal 1, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport's passenger terminal, Mexico City International Airport Terminal 1, Barcelona Airport Terminal 1 and Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 3.

We took turns to brush our teeth and washed our face in the washroom while the other one take care of the luggage. After refreshing ourselves, we settled for Dunkin donuts for breakfast. I bought a cream cheese donut while my sis bought a mocha donut. 
Arrival hall
 Dunkin Donuts
A variety of donuts
Our first breakfast in Korea

After a quick breakfast, we went out of the arrival hall and search for the limo bus to our hotel. There are many limo bus which stopped at different bay. There is a ticket counter where tickets can be purchased. The fare can also be paid using T-money.

There is a choice of either limo bus or Arex train from Incheon airport. We chose to take limo bus as it bring us directly to the hostel. If we were to take the Arex train, we have to alight at Seoul station and change to a subway before we can reach the hostel.
Queuing for airport limo bus
Ticket counter
Bus information
Limo bus ticket

We waited for about 15min and the airport limo bus arrived. The driver stored the passenger's luggage at the luggage compartment. For smaller bags, it can be placed at the area opposite the driver's seat. It's free seating inside the limo bus. 
Limo bus
Storing luggage at the luggage compartment
Inside the limo bus

The airport limo bus actually stop at another bay at the arrival hall which is few min drives from the bay where we board the bus. This clarify my doubt as the limo bus to the hostel can be board at bay 5B and 12A.
Where is our Singapore flag?
The grass has turn yellow
Arex train
The bus stop is beautifully decorated

It took us an hour to reached Jongno 2 ga bus stop. As there is direction given at the hotel's website on how to get from the bus stop to the hostel, we found the hostel without much difficulty.
Ciara920 hostel

As we couldn't check in yet, we left our luggage at the hostel and went out. We only bought one T-money card as the hostel reception is kind to lend us one which a guest left behind.  There is a cost of 3,000 ~ S$3 which is not refundable. There is also discount coupon which comes with the card and includes 10% to N Seoul Tower, 10% to Lotte World, Free admission to Seoul Museum of Art, 10% to Nanta theater etc. The vending machines is easy to use as there are four language options - Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese. We were surprised when we discovered that the T-money which the hostel loan to us has a value of ₩7,000 ~ S$8.
T money vending machine
T-money card

We have downloaded the iphone app "Jihachul" which has the subway map of Seoul, Busan. Daegu, Daejeon and Gwangju. I only downloaded the Seoul subway map though. There are many features of this app. It enables me to select my departure and arrival station, then it will calculate the time taken, the number of stations and the next arrival train. It will also shows which station to transit if a change of train is required and which cabin to exit for the fastest transfer. It even display which side of the train will open at each station, the facilities at each station and the  surrounding map of the station. However it requires WIFI to display the surrounding map and WIFI may not be available everywhere. This is really a very useful and handy app which we used throughout our Seoul trip.
Complex metro map

Our first destination is Noryangji fish market. We do not need to change subway line as we can reach Noryangji directly from Jonggak station (the nearest subway station from our hostel) via subway line 1.
Selling of products inside the subway
Hangang river
Every station name is display in Hangul, English and Hanja
 Noryangjin subway station
CDs vending machine

We have a bit of problem finding the way to Noryangji fish market as we cant find the overhead bridge linking it. We tried to find the map of the surrounding at the subway station and eventually managed to find the overhead bridge.
Map of the surrounding of Noryangjin station
Peddler selling goods at the overhead bridge
Direction to Noryangji fish market

I just discovered that the trains and subways shared the same railway track. I'm curious and googled about this while blogging. According to Wikipedia, the Seoul metropolitan subway network is operated by seven different organizations. Korail (Korea Railway) which is the rail operator in Korea also manage some of the subway lines. This explains why the train and subway shared the same railway track.
A train passing by

As we approaches Noryangji fish market, there is a very strong fishy smell which is quite a turn-off. There are two levels inside Noryangji fish market. The first level consists of stalls selling  raw seafood and the second level consist of restaurants selling cooked seafood. Most of the stalls are selling similar items and some hawkers can even speak Mandarin. We stopped at one stall where the owner can speak Mandarin. We bought 3 octopus, 4 tiger prawns, 2 abalone and 6 oysters which cost us ₩40,000 ~ S$46. Oops, we have exceeded our lunch budget on the first day of our trip. 
Seafood stalls
Different varieties of octopus

We brought the seafood to the 2nd level. I have researched that this restaurant - Hwangje Restaurant 황제식당 is recommended. Surprisingly, the waitress could speak Mandarin hence there is no problem in communicating.
Hwangje Restaurant

I liked the fact that every Korean restaurant provides free flow of plain water. Most of the restaurants which I went to in Korea, there will be a water carafe filled with ice water, metal cups, chopsticks, spoons and serviette on every table. Kimchi are served as appetiser on every meal and usually there will be at least 2 types of kimchi. The most common one is cabbage kimchi.

We can choose different methods of cooking for the seafood we bought. We choose to eat the octopus live as we wanted to try the octopus wriggling in our mouth. For the oysters, we also chose to eat it live and dipped with wasabi. Then for the abalone and tiger prawns, we had them barbecued.

It's really a challenged eating the octopus. The octopus are cut into small pieces before served. I didnt encounter much difficulty in eating the octopus except picking them up from the bowl. My sister has problems chewing the octopus and she took more than 3min to chew and swallow the octopus.
Seafood lunch

Eating live octopus

After a scrumptious seafood lunch, we took subway to Hongik university station. The reason why we choose to visit is because Hongdae flea market is held at Hongik children's park on every Saturday 1pm - 4pm from March to November near Hongik university.

We exited from Exit 5 and end up we couldnt find Hongik university. The direction stated from my research is wrong and my sis asked some passerby using her limited Korean language. The correct exit should be Exit 9.
Direction from subway to Hongdae flea market
I like the huge earphone
Cool Coffee Bean cafe

We passed by a convenience store each of us bought the famous Binggrae banana milk which cost ₩1,100 ~ S$1.10. The first few sips of the banana milk is very tasty but after that, I found it too sweet. 
Famous banana milk
Hong-ik university

The items sold at Hongdae flea market are handicrafted by the students. The items sold range from hand made wallet, bookmarks, key chains, bags to hair ornaments etc. I secretly took the below photos as the stall owners dont allowed photographs to be taken. Even though some of the items sold are quite exquisite, we didnt bought anything as the items are not cheap.
Stalls at Hongdae flea market
Bird view of Hongdae flea market
Poporo is very famous in Korea
Citibank in hangul
Stalls near Hong-ik University subway exit

We took subway to Sinchon station which is one subway station away. Yonsei College Street is full of restaurants and cafes but there are not many shops for shopping.
On Segway
Yonsei College Street 
Such a huge mirror
Free magazines at the roadside

We left shortly and continue to Ewha's Women University station, one subway station away from Sinchon station. There are more shops here selling women's items as this area is geared towards female students from Ewha's Women University.
Tibits vending machine
Gye ran bbang (egg bread)
Ewha's Women University

There is a survey going on outside Ewha's Women University compound. We saw people queuing to paste the stickers on different categories and free wet tissue are given after pasting the stickers. My sis chilled me when I talked to her while queuing as this would reveal that we are not Korean. We dutifully pasted the stickers and got free wet tissue too. =p
Free wet tissue
Male salesmen distributing samples

We stopped at an eatery stall which sell Tteokbokki. My sis commented that the Tteokkbokki in Korea is nicer and more authentic than the ones sold in Singapore. We ordered one and add on an egg which cost ₩3,000 ~ S$3.30. I ate a bit only as it's too spicy for me.

I felt very tired by now as I didnt slept well on the plane last night. We halted our shopping and return back to the hostel for an early rest.
A new shop that is opening soon
Such a huge heels

When we reached the hostel at 4pm, there were nobody manning the reception and the room keys were placed at the reception table. We collected our keys and bring up our luggage from the storage area. When we tried to switch on the aircon, the aircon doesnt seem to be functioning. We asked another guest for help and she tried but no avail. I called the hostel and the mobile but nobody answered. The last resort I tried is to email the hostel and hoping for a reply. Luckily weather was cold and we opened the window for ventilation. We also cant borrow the hair dryer since the reception is not open. We were very pissed off and my sis made a remark that she wouldn't stay in this hostel in the future.

I really don't understand how they design this room with the bedroom very cramped and yet the toilet is spacious. The water heater takes a while to warm up hence I didnt turn off the tap when I'm bathing. The sink in the toilet does not have a pipe leading to the drain and the water fall right onto your foot when using the sink. A bad start to the days we have in this hostel. =(
Hostel room

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