My long awaited trip to Busan & Seoul is finally here. It was exactly one year ago when I visited Seoul. It was a pretty short trip back then. So, this time round, I decided to make another trip with the intention to visit Busan as well.
Busan is a seaside town and is the second largest city in South Korea located in tbe Southern region.
For this trip, I will be flying direct from Singapore to Busan via Thai Airways with an hour layover in Bangkok and back to Singapore via Seoul on Singapore Airlines.
I am extremely excited to spend my Christmas in Busan and ushering in the New Year in Seoul. What a great way to end 2017 and to start 2018.
The trip started with a red-eye flight from Singapore to Busan so that I could start my day early. Surprisingly, Thai Airways flight was comfortable with a good sense of leg space.
I arrived at Busan Gimhae Airport at 7.10am and was greeted with a nice cool weather at 6 degrees celcius. What a great change of weather climate from the usual 31 degrees celcius.
After checking out of the airport, I made my way to the Busan Gimhae Light Rail Transit for the hotel.
It is recommended that you purchase one of their Korea Transportation Card for easy public transport access via their metro and buses.
I had to change from light rail to the metro at Sasang station to reach Seomyeon station.
The ride took about half an hour.
I will be staying over the next 2 nights in Shin Shin Hotel which is a short walking distance from Exit 11 of Seomyeon station. Very convenient and centralized area to be in. In fact, you may even use Exit 9 as well.
As the check-in time is at 3pm, I left my luggages with the hotel concierge before embarking on my 1st place of visit to Yonggungsa Temple which is about an hour journey ride by train from Seomyeon to Haeundae followed by a taking Bus #181 from Exit 7 bus stop.
The temple is about 760m away from the Yonggungsa Temple bus stop.
Haeundae Yonggungsa Temple is situated on the coast of the north-eastern portion of Busan and this attraction is a rare find as it is located along the shore line.
Very scenic and beautiful place. You will get to pass by street snack stalls leading up to the temple.
Needless to say, I have to check it out. The fish cakes both deep fried and boiled with their sweet sesame nut rice pancakes. Yummy.
Everything went on well and good until it started heavy downpouring which left me stranded at a small eatery shop to seek temporary shelter. Looking on the bright side, I had the opportunity to enjoy the rhythm of the falling rain making music to my ears. A great relaxing moment, afterall this is what holiday is all about.
Proceeded to Haeundae Beach after temple visit. Haeundae Beach is often considered as one of Korea’s most famous and beautiful beaches.
You can find a variety of food in the street of Haeundae.
One of the highly recommended eatery outlet is none other than the Premium Busan Fish Cake Goraesa. They make different kinds of outstanding fish cakes.
Woo…look at the mouth watering selection that they offer. Heavenly is all I could say.
Not forgeting their fish cake noodle as well. You need to check it out if you happen to be in Haeundae the next time round if you have not already done so.
Another outlet worth considering will be Mom’s Touch, a local fast food chicken & burger food chain.
Similar to KFC but more variety options like jalapenos nugget’s, tenderloin and popcorn dumpling. Good for a change.
So much about Haeundae, next I pop by Centum City which is just 3 stops away from Haeundae station.
Here, you will get to see the world’s largest departmental store, Shinsegae.
Lotte Departmental Store, Bexco Auditorium and Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) Hill are also in the vincinity too.
This is an upmarket department store and a place to be seen.
After rounding up Centum City, I proceeded back to the hotel for check-in followed by recce-ing the surrounding area. Dinner was at the food hall at Lotte departmental store in Seomyeon station.
Sliced beef steak rice bowl
Grilled beef cubes rice bowl
It has been a long day since this morning and decided to end the night early to freshen up for tomorrow.
Day 2 started bright and cheery. Great morning, great weather and perfect for sight seeing. This morning, I am off to Oryukdo Skywalk. The journey took about an hour by metro from Seomyeon to Busan station and then switching over to Bus #27 near Exit 10 of Busan station.
It is about 25 stops and alighting stop is at Oryukdo Skywalk View backgate. Anyway, you will not go wrong as it will be the last stop with a roundabout.
Look at the breathtaking beautiful view when you are here.
This is the start of the road leading to the Oryukdo Skywalk.
The Oryukdo Skywalk is regarded as the dividing point between the East Sea and the South Sea. It started operation on 18 Oct 2013 with the theme of “walking over the sky.”
Different view orientation from the various look out points.
It is always fun to learn about interesting facts about the place of visit which makes sight seeing enjoyable.
This is the all awaited Oryukdo Skywalk….😮
View from the glass bottom when standing on the skywalk. Beautiful sight.
For those who are more adventurous, you may climb on the opposite end to a higher ground and have a different scenic look out point of the Oryukdo Skywalk from afar. Good for morning workout as there are steep slopes and stair cases for you to sweat it out. 😎
While on the way to catch a bus back to Busan station, happen to chance upon this 快餐车 (mobile eatery stall) selling red bean mochi-like mini pancake. Without second thoughts, proceeded to buy a pack to try it out.
Sweet tooth lovers should not be missing this out.
Since I am enrouting via Busan station to Nampo station to visit the next attraction, Yeongdodaegyo Bridge, I decided to grab a quick bite at Paris Baguette (PB) Cafe at Busan station.
The PB Cafe offers much more varieties for selection compared to back home. You can easily find one PB Cafe near to wherever you are.
At the same time, took the opportunity to go to the viewing gallery on Level 2 to view the Busan Harbour Bridge.
Nampo station is 2 stops away from Busan station. Yeongdo Bridge is a short walking distance from Exit 6 of Nampo station.
Yeongdodaegyo Bridge was the first mainland-island connecting bridge, connecting Jung-gu and Yeongdo-gu districts in Busan. The bridge will be lifted daily from 1400 hrs to 1415 hrs to allow ships to pass between the north and south ports.
Magnificent view taken on the Yeongdo Bridge.
This is the Yeongdodaegyo Bridge and a section of the bridge will be lifted daily for 15 mins. Guess this is now a symbolic attraction for Busan tourists.
The lifting of the bridge commences as soon as the clock strikes at 14:00 hrs.
Enjoy the clip to soak in to the live atmosphere.
After a great enjoyment, I proceeded on to the next attraction, Gamcheon Culture Village. It is 2 stops away from Nampo station.
You need to take a local bus Saha 1-1, Seogu 2 or Seogu 2-2 (Bus stop in front of hospital) after Exit 6 of Toseong station and alight at Gamcheon Elementary School Bus Stop which is about 6 stops away. Fret not if you missed counting the stops as you will be prompted to get off as everyone else on the bus will do so and all you have to do is to follow suit. 😊
Gamcheon Culture Village is a town of Gamcheon-dong, Saha District in Busan. The area is known for its steep streets, twisting alleys and brightly painted houses which have been restored and enhanced to attract tourism.
The houses operates as shops selling handicrafts, souvenirs, street foods, etc which is similar to any other tourist attraction.
Street foods are definitely a soft spot for me. Koreans are really big on fish cakes and they are just so tasty and I do not seem to get tired of eating.
Tteokbokki, Korean rice cake is also another must eat street snack when in Korea. I just love the chewy rice cake texture.
Chicken skewers on hot stones.
Rain drop cake, a jelly like konnyaku sweet dessert.
After Gamcheon Culture Village, I made my way to Jagalchi and spend the rest of my evening exploring the area. This place is similar to Myeongdong. More street snacks….
Barbeque chicken skewers
Had a great time shopping at BIFF Square at Jagalchi before heading back to hotel. Decided to have a light meal at the food hall in Lotte Departmental Store at Seomyeon station before retiring for the night.
A hot bowl of Udon soup can’t be better in a cold winter. So warming to the tummy.
More skewers on the way. Prawn, chicken with green bell pepper and bacon with pineapple.
Day 3, a day to depart Busan for Seoul. I had a late morning call and thereafter to pack up luggages to get ready for check-out before 12pm.
Took a morning leisure stroll around the vincinity before going over to Lotte food hall for a quick brunch.
Kaya Presbyterian Church which was near to the hotel. It has a beautiful building structure.
Caught hold of JJ’s Lobster Bar, wanted to try their lobster’s roll but unfortunately, it is only available after 1pm. I had the lobster roll at Pince & Pints in Singapore and also had the Luke’s lobster roll while in Osaka. Thought I could try it out at Busan too. ☹
End up having to settle for their Grilled Cheese Lobster instead. It was indeed chessylicious.
There is this pop-up store nearby selling different forms of the meat dumpling bun which I could not resist as well.
After a satisfying meal, proceeded to Busan station to catch the 1230 hrs KTX train #132 bound for Seoul. I had made prior reservation for the train tickets one month in advance via http://www.korail.com
I booked the first class train ticket @ KRW 83,700 per ticket which offered a more comfortable ride which took slightly less than 3 hrs compared to travelling via local train @ KRW 28,600 per ticket which will take approximately 6 hrs.
Arrived at Seoul station at the scheduled time, 1511 hrs and was greeted with a freezing temperature of minus 3 degrees. Nonetheless, the ride was comfortable and punctual just like any JR rail or Shinkansen in Japan.
I had a slight difficulty locating the Serviced Apartment Seoul Station at first as there wasn’t a proper signage as in the case of a hotel where it can be easily identified by asking around for direction. It took me quite a while to only realise that the said apartment which I was hunting for high and low was just right opposite Seoul station.
The searching experience was not exactly pleasant especially having to do so under freezing temperature. But when I found the location, I felt a sense of consolation as it is really near Seoul station and extremely convenient a place to be in. Check-in of the service apartment is at the counter inside S.A. Coffee in case you were wondering where to go for check-in as there wasn’t any clear direction on that.
Lotte Mart is just right across from the apartment where I am staying.
Check-in was processed over at the SA Cafe counter and was hassle free. I went up to the apartment to settle my luggages before going to Seoul station for my quick fix.
Here I am. 😋
Great choice selection available. All you need to do is to make payment for the food and you will be issued with a queue ticket number. Wait patiently for your queue number to be flashed on the screen before you go to the respective food counter to collect your meal.
All time favourite, Ramen in a pan.
Kimchi stew in hot pot. Simple traditional Korean cuisine.
Next, I took a leisure stroll to this must eat fried chicken outlet, Kkanbu Chicken at Ramada Hotel Suites Seoul Namdaemun to fix my craving under freezing temperature of minus 7 degrees.
Radish appetizer with tomato and honey mustard sauce
Assorted grilled sausages with mega crunch fries
Star of my meal, Garlic Soy Chicken
It is definitely worth braving through the cold for this. I will be back again for sure.
Nicely litted up backdrop on Seoul Square, directly opposite Seoul station.
With a satisfied and deserving meal, I decided to shop at the nearby Lotte Mart before calling it a night.
Need to have a good rest and freshen up for tomorrow retail therapy at Paju Premium Outlet.
Woke up to a freezing cold Day 4 at minus 8 degrees. Super exciting day because it is none other than retail therapy at Paju Premium Outlet. Time to help generate the Korean economy. 💸💸💸
The journey took about an hour and a half by metro from Seoul station to Hapjeong station followed by a bus ride on Bus #2200 at Exit 1 of Hapjeong station.
Arrived finally at the destination. Probably it could be due to winter season, there were hardly any crowd at the outlet. Feels like being treated to a VIP shopping experience, where shops are opened specially to welcome me. Feels great and honoured.
Day view of Paju Premium Outlet
Night view of the outlet at the same spot.
Recharging at Hakoya Restaurant before proceeding with the second half retail therapy.
Shoyu Ramen Set
Tonkatsu Kobe Curry that comes with kimchi and pickled radish that is so Korean-like.
Gyoza with Mini Udon. Somehow I find their udon texture different from back home. Theirs are more chewy and springy like rice cake.
Vegetable Croquette, just like in Japan, the potato was so finely mashed that is smoothingly melting when eating it.
Half time break was the sweet sesame nut pancake, Hoddeok (pronounced as Hok-Tok). Sweet and nutty.
Dinner was at Johnny Rockets. I had it once when I was in New Delhi. This is similar to Billy Bombers where we used to have it back home in the earlier days.
Philly Cheese Steak. Super delicious but slightly messy to manage with the minced beef oozing out with each mouthful.
Smoke House is also damn champion with the super soft buns.
These 2 items are one of their best selling items. They serve really good American burgers.
It has been another great tiring day but happy with all the prized loots got throughout the entire day. When it comes to shopping, our legs never fail to disappoint us. However, after reaching back hotel, our legs don’t seem to be belonging to us. 😃😆
That pretty much sums up Day 4.
Day 5, started the day early to travel down to Nami Island and Petite France. The journey took about 1.5 hrs from Seoul station to Gapyeong station.
From Gapyeong station, you may take the Gapyeong City Tour Bus to visit Nami Island and Petite France. You may purchase the day ticket at 6,000 KRW per pax which allows you to get on and off the circulating course to visit any tour site.
The only challenge that you need to take note of, the scheduled bus timing which you have to plan well in order to fully maximise your visit itinerary.
Arrived at Nami Island stop after a good 15 mins bus ride.
Nami Island is a tiny half-moon shaped island located in Chuncheon, South Korea, formed as a result of the construction of Cheongpyeong Dam. On it lies the grave of General Nami, who led a great victory against the rebels in the 13th year of the 7th king of the Joseon Dynasty, King Sejo.
Upon reaching the Nami Island wharf, you will be required to purchase a return ferry ticket at KRW 8,000. The ferry ride took less than 10 mins.
View from on board ferry.
Very beautiful island. Every season offers different experiences.
More scenic shots with frozen lakes in winter. This place is where the once famous Korean drama, Winter Sonata is filmed.
After a good time exploring Nami Island, I took the shutter bus to the next tour site, Petite France.
Petite France, a French cultural village set in the Korean countryside. The bus ride took about half an hour from Nami Island.
Nice village to visit if you have planned for sufficient time to spend here.
Due to winter season, the sky goes dark early at about 5pm. There is another site, Garden of the Morning Calm which is worth visiting during winter for the LED lighting display after dark. Unless you self drive to the place else, there will be problem with using public bus service as it stop operation early and taxis are expensive. So I took a rain check for this time round. It will be great to come during autumn time though.
Hmmm… that probably might be a strong excuse for me to plan another trip back again. 😉
Next up, I had to make my way back from Petite France to Gapyeong station and had to make 3 train transfers to reach Myeong-dong station.
The journey took me about 2 hrs. 😓
The only consolation after a long ride is the anticipation of having a good Manjoo, high quality bread with custard cream baked on the spot at the exit of Myeong-dong station. Even though other stations have stalls selling Manjoo but none of the stall matches this stall in Myeong-dong station. Accredited stall where you see queues waiting patiently for it. 现做,现卖,现吃.
You will get to see positive reviews from travellers all over the world after they have tried it.
Tonight is the night out for street snacks in Myeong-dong street. Eat all you can. Let’s go, the food trail starts.
Steam egg bun
All time favourite fish cakes
And many more foods and still counting….
Before rounding off the night, had a good Budaejigae at one of the restaurants in Myeong-dong street to end another eventful day.
Day 6, pampered myself with natural alarm clock. I was greeted with a warm weather at 2 degrees celcius this morning. Feels cool without the freezing feeling.
Started my day slightly later with a late breakfast at Lotteria inside Lotte Mart.
Visited Common Ground, a container park after breakfast.
Common Ground is Korea’s first pop-up store built with shipping containers. You will find new and trendy mid sized shops by up-and-coming new designers.
How to go to Common Ground?
Common Ground is conveniently located at Konkuk University station via subway. Take Exit 6, walk straight for about 300m and you will see Common Ground on your left.
Great place for picturesque. A unique shopping mall experience.
You can pop down to the food trucks on the market ground for some light snacks.
Volcano beef bowl, the roast beef slices were super tender coupled with their concocted sauces.
Chanced upon this shop, Milkcow in Boots selling breads in big square blocks.
The cheese bread is so nice as it is one of their popular choice other than chocolate bread. Highly recommended to check it out the next time if you had a chance to do so. Only regret you might have will be to buy 2 blocks instead of 1.
Koreans are big fans of Coffee and Dessert. I was lured by the cakes selection and decided to pop-in to Dore Dore Cafe on the 1st floor to satisfy my cravings for cake.
Look at the selection. How can one withstand such temptation? Definitely not for me. I will succumb for sure without second thought.
Spoilt for choice, I decided to go for the Rainbow Cream Cheese cake. It was huge just like the 7 layer carrot cake which I had when I was in Detroit years ago. The cakes are so moist and light. So good that it warrants another serving. 👍👍👍
Next, I went over to Coex Mall at Samseong station to check out the procedure for the City Airport Check-in for my following day departure.
Starfield Coex Mall (formally known as Coex Mall), containing COvention centres, EXhibition halls and many malls, is a huge underground shopping mecca for global brands in fashion, accessories, beauty, lifestyle and others. It also has a large movie theatre complex and a wide variety of fine dining establishments.
At the same time, took the opportunity to shop at Butter (they offer creative and innovative home decor products just like Tokyu Hands in Japan) and Daiso. It is fun browsing through and window shop even if you do not intend to pick up any items from the shops.
Moving on to Garosu-gil at Sinsa-dong which is about 20 mins away from Samseong station to Sinsa station. Garosu-gil meaning “tree-lined street” refers to the ginko trees planted along the streets in the area.
Garosu-gil is known for upscale boutiques, galleries, restaurants and cafes amongst others.
The grand finale before ending the night, Kkanbu Chicken. It is so good that I vowed to be back again and there is an outlet in Garosu-gil too.
Radish and pickles as usual for appetizers
Crispy 6 pack chicken
Roasted wings & sticks
It is so damn power & good. If possible, will go for another round before leaving Seoul. 😄
That wrapped up Day 6 for me.
Day 7, woke up to a hazy morning. Decided to visit N Seoul Tower in Namsan early in the morning to avoid human crowd. Best time to visit N Seoul Tower would be at night as the view will be stunning. Only set back will be having to join the queue which could take up to 2 hours during peak hours. The thought of having to queue in the freezing temperature at night, turns me off right away.
Instead of climbing up steep slopes, you can use the Namsan Ormi Elevator to reach to the bottom of N Seoul Tower.
You will need to purchase cable car ticket to reach to the top of N Seoul Tower.
You will need to purchase a separate ticket if you want to go up to the observatory deck. Due to the hazy weather, I decided to give it miss this time round. Moreover, I have been up there last year.
View from N Seoul Tower. Unfortunately, the weather did not permit a clear view. I experienced the same hazy condition last year too.
Main reason for this year visit to N Seoul Tower is to place a heart lock which I miss doing so last year.
Finally, made it this time round. Mission accomplished! 😅
After descending from N Seoul Tower, went for lunch at Namsan Tonkatsu. A highly recommended value for money restaurant.
Complimentary refillable appetizer
All meal comes with a soup of the day, corn soup
Original Korean King Size Pork Cutlet
A cheap and good joint to consider. They are very generous with their food servings. Have to try if you are here.
Proceeded to Myeongdong street again, which is just across Namsan, but this time round for cosmetics shopping.
These are the loots aftermath for spending the entire afternoon in Myeongdong street.
Up next will be at Insadong. It is about 100m walk from Exit 6 of Anguk station. Insadong is the neighbourhood of Jongno-gu district in Seoul. The main street is Insadong-gil and is connected to many alleys that lead deeper into the district. You will see modern galleries and tea shops & it used to be the largest market for antiques and artworks in Korea.
There are more activities during day time but strolling along the alley street at night time gives one a romantic feeling though most stalls will be closed after dark.
Ssamziegil is also called the “Special Insadong within Insadong”. This unique area was designed to connect each charming level together in the form of a spiral walkway. Similar to EM Quartier in Bangkok or Langham Place Shopping Mall in Hong Kong. There are over 70 shops including handicrafts stores, souvenir shops, art galleries, restaurants and more. You can enjoy window shopping in the cozy stores until you reach to the top.
There is this stall, on the ground level on the left of the entrance of Ssamziegil, that sells tasty poo-shaped red bean pancake. It is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Look out for this alley street, there is a superb dumpling stall that sells delicious dumpling. Highly recommended to try.
This is the shop at the alley.
Specialty Steamed Mandu (Dumplings) & Shrimp Mandu.
Deep-Fried Mandu & Deep-Fried Shrimp Mandu. Mandu lovers, this is your kind of place.
Time for dessert. Went over to O’sulloc Tea House (pronounced as O-so-lock). It is a themed cafe that presents the authentic taste of Korean traditional tea. Their specialty is none other than green tea. They offers a variety of juices, smoothies, ice cream, cakes and many more which are made with green tea as the main ingredients.
Green tea torte, Green tea cheese tiramisu & Green tea latte. You can literally taste the green tea essence. Beyond words description.
Making of the Korean Dragon Beard Candy. Another one of their popular dessert.
That brings Day 7 to an end.
Day 8, time to depart for home. Time passes extremely fast when you are having fun. It will be a long Day 8 as my flight back is on 1 Jan 2018 at 0025 hrs. As Korea is one hour ahead, strictly speaking, I will be welcoming 2018 on air!
Checking-out of the serviced apartment is anytime before 11am, I had the luxury of waking up later and spending the entire morning packing up luggages.
Instead of leaving my luggages at the apartment concierge, I decided to do a City Airport Check-in at Coex Mall (Samseong station) immediately after check-out.
Feels much lighter after checking the luggages in. Importantly, it saves me a lot of time and I can make my way to the airport anytime, anywhere hassle free without worrying about the luggages.
Lunch was at Kervan, a Turkish Restaurant.
Complimentary chicken soup
Complimentary bread appetizer. It looks like focaccia but with a chewy texture. Something different and importantly, extremely tasty and complement well with the chicken soup.
Twin Pide with Cheese & Beef. Thick & Crispy Gondola-Shaped Fresh Doughnut Crust, Stone-Baked at 490c
Chicken shish kebab
Lamb shish kebab
Both their chicken and lamb shish kebab are so tenderly good.
Turkish desserts are known to be rich and sweet.
Dondurma (Sticky Turkish Ice Cream) & Baklava (Crispy & Soft, Walnut & Pistachio)
With a good meal, made my way to Hongdae (Hongik University Street). It is at Exit 6 of Hongik University station.
Hongdae is a popular hangout place for local youth and known for its youthful and romantic ambience. Here, you will have unique cafes, accessory shops, gourmet eateries, art markets, live cafes and clubs.
The main spot of Hongdae area has an outdoor stage for indie band performance and dynamic culture of young people where the youths have freedom of self expression.
Spotted the Candied Strawberry in Hongdae walking street, similar to the 冰糖葫芦 (Candied Hawthorne) in China. It is really sweet as the entire strawberry is coated with thick sugar icing.
While on my way back to Hongik University station, got distracted by the cute chicken icon and decided to check it out.
As I was craving for another round of Kkanbu Chicken, I thought of making it up with this CultTwo Chicken instead since I will not have time for another shot at Kkanbu Chicken.
Mild Fried Chicken
Surprisingly, their fried chicken is as good as Kkhanbu Chicken. The chicken skin is crispy and non-oily on the outside and the chicken meat is tender on the inside. Guess, in Korea you will not go wrong with fried chicken just like you won’t go wrong with ramen in Japan.
This will definitely be another of my checklist in my next visit! 🤔
Time to head down to the airport after settling my craving.
How to get to Incheon International Airport from Seoul city?
There are a couple of options available and also depending on the number of pax travelling to optimize cost.
1. By taxi – it will cost you approximately KRW 60,000
2. By airport limousine – there are designated stops and most major hotels have a airport limousine stop in front of them. It cost between KRW 15,000 to 16,000 per pax
3. By Airport Express (Arex) train – Non stop train cost about KRW 8,000 per pax and all stop train cost about KRW 3,950 per pax.
I took the Airport Express (Arex) train directly from Hongik University station to Incheon International Airport station.
Arrived at Incheon International Airport after an hour ride. It is advisable to reach the airport earlier unlike other airport where you can reach 2 hours earlier and still be on time. Personally, I would suggest 3 to 4 hours earlier as most of the time you will be spending your time clearing immigration.
Happy New Year! Cheers to a Prosperous 2018!
My last meal in 2017 and first meal in 2018 on board ICN to SIN.
That’s all for this trip and am now looking forward to my next trip to Tokyo in Feb 2018.