Seoul Searching: My South Korea Solo Backpacking Day 1

So THE DAY has finally come, off I go to the airport and on to the land of  the .morning calm. After almost a year of  anticipation and several months of preparation one of my dream destinations has come to be realized.

It was the first flight out to Incheon, South Korea’s primary international airport to Seoul, at about fifteen past midnight. After about four hours in the air the captain finally announced our finally approach, I actually remember not feeling anxious or nervous that I am about to set foot  on another country but this time its more of “I can’t wait to get lost!” certainly traveling has changed my outlook in life. And oh yeah it did feel as if I am at home still even if I was far away.

Incheon International Airport is a far cry from my own country’s “Premier” airport, their airport look as if it was a five star hotel. From the concourse I rode a people mover to the main terminal where the immigration gates are at.

Just like a usual scene at the immigration gates there’s a long line of people trying to get in to the country -mostly nationals – so yeah it doesn’t just happen here… only that it is worst in our terminals! Not funny though… Going through the immigration was quite easy you just fall in line, wait for your turn and then hear this…. they greeted me Good Morning as soon as I approach the immigration desk and they were smiling!!! come on! I couldn’t even see a single smiling face when I use our airports here, so don’t react if I am surprised.

The Incheon airport is really awesome and I will repeat it, it feels very much like a hotel than an airport! So after going through immigration, I picked up my bag and then on to the arrival area.  Though I have printed out the directions on how to get to my hotel , I decided to check out their internet access. I turned on my WiFi and connected to the airport WiFi, I typed in my hotel’s website and BOOM! within a blink of an eye it was there!!! Wow… Korea really takes its title as the most connected country in the world seriously.

I followed my hotels directions. took all the pamphlets and maps that I can at the tourist information center near Gate 10.  Before going to the train station inside the airport (yep it is inside the airport) I needed to buy a T-Card which I will  use to pay for transportation throughout my trip. The card it self costs KW2,500 then I loaded it with KW10,000 of credits. As soon as I had my card I walked my way to the AREX (Airport Railroad Express) which like I have mentioned is conveniently located inside the airport.

There are two types of train that you can take going to Seoul, the Express and the regular commuter train. The only difference between the two is that the express train doesn’t stop at the stations and just goes straight to Seoul from the airport on the other hand the regular commuter train stops at every station along its tracks. The Express train gets to Seoul 15 minutes ahead of the commuter train (which takes 30 minutes travel time) and costs about KW10,000 while the regular commuter train fare is KW3,000, so there you do the math.

The 30 minute train ride from Incheon to Seoul was a breeze, I also think that it is much safer to take the train if you arrive early in the morning as the fog is really thick on the road.

Upon arriving at Seoul Station I quickly transferred to the subway line going to my hotel. Navigating transfers are quite easy as you can even literally just follow a line on the wall, sometimes on the floor and the signs going to another line! The stations are properly labeled in four different languages so you’d feel confident navigating the train system, well I least I felt I was.


From the blue line I got off at the Hyewha Station and walked about 200 – 300 meters going to Bong House, my accommodation for the entire stay. It was actually not that far and was fairly safe (as it is almost everywhere you go in Korea as they say) going to the hostel.

I arrived way too early for checking in so I hanged out at the common area first, there were lots of people checking in that day, luckily after just a few minutes my bed got ready so I moved in. I got an upper bunk bed, which is fine… though I would prefer a lower bunk for coz it is much easier to access it.

Anyways, so I settled in and put all my things inside my locker, but just as I was about to try to lock it my padlock won’t fit the loop! It was too big for the space around the lock hole. I got gadgets with me so I just prayed that no one would take it.

After hiding some of my stuff under my bed… lol! I went back up to the common area where I tried to figure out what should I do for the next few days.  I was trying to figure out how to use the hot water dispenser when a korean couple (I think) came in and started talking to me in Korean I just smiled and said “I’m sorry I think the staff went outside” hahaha…. I think they understood what I said but still replied in Korean, hahaha these kind of moments really puts a smile on my face every time I remember them.

A friend of mine was in Seoul that day as well, it was their last day, we decided to meet up and have lunch together it was almost past lunch time when I realized that I had to leave already, see it was cold and the cloudy so it felt like it was early in the morning here in Manila! hahaha! So a rambled and tried to get ready as quickly as I can. I walked my way back to the train station and tried to figure out how to get to the Hongik University area.

I was waiting for the next train to arrive someone tried to start a conversation with me she started with “You are staying at Bong House too right?”  and I was like yeah! Then I remember she’s the girl that I ran across while trying to figure out how to dispense hot water! Hahahaha! We talked about our travels while on the train, she was on her last day that day and I was just about to start my trip. I asked her what was her plan for the day and she said nothing really, she was just trying to wander around since she’s been to most places already she then asked if she tag along with me so of course I said yes! Hahaha! I have an instant travel buddy!!! 😀

So I took her with me and met up with Anton and Ian whom I was meeting for the first time in Seoul which was kind of ironic since we live in the same country. We ate lunch at KFC I know a lot of people would think “why would you eat in a fast food chain that you have in your own country? Go out and eat their traditional food!” Well come to think about it, it is not really that bad to try fast food chains in another country since they have food versions specifically made for that country that you can’t order in your own. We had a really nice talk about their concluding trip in Seoul and I asked about some tips that was really helpful.

After lunch Anton had planned to go to the Coffee Prince shop which is just walking distance from where we were. Anton had already asked about directions on how to go there but his memory really amazed me as he took the lead on the way to the coffee shop. It was like as if he was a local as he navigate the streets of Seoul he knew when and where to turn! Even his travel buddy Ian share the same with me as he talked about how good Anton is with directions.

Finally after about five to ten minutes of walking we’ve reached one of the reasons why I wanted to see Seoul….. The Coffee Prince Shop!!! hahaha… yeah I like KDramas but not all of them though… just a few. We were kind of hesitant first to get in because we only wanted to take pictures and leave but Daisy, my friend that I met in the subway, was decided already that she’ll get in so I said yeah let’s get in though I also warned them that their coffee is quite expensive and not that good. Since we ordered their expensive really bad coffee we hanged out for a bit.

Anton, Ian, Daisy and I talked about our travels and it was really fun I learned a lot from these certified globe trotters and I was just amazed on how far they have gone so far, I definitely would love to do the same. After a couple of hours we bade farewell to Anton and Ian because they still have a flight to catch going back to Manila, as for me and Daisy we visited the Ehwa Womens University as per the recommendation of Anton.

We took pictures of the iconic university building and roamed around for a bit. I got a bit hungry which was a perfect excuse to try their street food. I bought a spicy rice cake called Duk Boki, it wasn’t really that spicy just enough. Daisy bought an egg cake which was just basically a cake with egg on top of it. We ate our street food finds in the amphitheater adjacent to a wedding convention center.

I was just so lucky being with Daisy coz it felt like I have a mini tour of Seoul with her, she then took me to the Seoul N Tower.We rode the cable car going up, It was really chilly that night and I had to put on a jacket over. I just had to take photos of the city from there as it was just so beautiful. before we went back down Daisy treated me with a hot citron tea which was perfect for the chilly weather.  There are lots of things that you can do even just at the base of the tower.

We opted to walk down going back down so we could finally eat. It was past ten in the evening when we started our descent, we were really hungry so we just ate at the first restaurant that we saw that was open. When we checked the time Daisy figured out that’s why she was feeling a bit uncomfortable already because it was way past dinner time already. Well I think that’s the backpacker time syndrome, when you forget about the sense of time when you are having a good time.

After eating we took the subway back and parted ways just near back our hostel as Daisy needed to run some errands for home. I walked back the last few yards by my self and rested a bit and smoked a stick out side before I go in. While finishing my stick a girl appeared and yeah I can say she is ready to P-A-R-T-E-Y! hahaha…. They were asking me to go with them and party the night out but I was really tired… then the girl said.. “Okay, if you come with us we’ll stand on the ledge together and dance!” I was like My oh My! You don’t get invited that way too often Ian…. so I replied “who would say no to that!”

I had to fix my self so I went to my room and rested for a bit. and Voila! when I was morning of the next day when I opened my eyes!

This post is part of my four day backpacking trip to Seoul, South Korea series

Seoul Backpacking Guide

Part 1: Arrival, Coffee Prince and Seoul N Tower

Part 2: The Palaces and Coffee Shop Experience

Part 3: The Jimjjilbang Experience and Nandaemun

Part 4: The Epilouge: Going Home

South Korea Trip Preparations

How to Apply For A Korean Visa

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ian dela pena

iandelapena, the person behind the blog brownmantrips is a yuppie living in the metropolis who believes there is always something good to see everywhere in the world. This is his depository of travel memories for his not so good and maybe soon to fail memory, thus the travelogues in this blog.