Meeting Sonya the Alpaca | South Korea

Last March 3, 2019, my wife and I were lucky enough to score a round trip airfare to South Korea for just PHP 4,000 each. Just in time for our wedding anniversary, and my birthday! (Yup, we got married on my birthday). It was our first winter trip together, and first visit to a country wherein a visa is required. We initially planned to apply for a Korean visa on the 1st week of November for our December 1 flight. Originally the processing time for the visa application was only 7 days but due to the high number of applicants, the processing time increased to 35 days! We had to find an agency to ensure that our visas will be processed on time.

Thankfully we found a travel agent who helped us process our visa application quickly and smoothly.

Agency Contact: Jet Arroyo-Cariaga 8186469 / 8927135

List of required documents: http://tiny.cc/o81qhz

Visa application timeline:

  • October 11 – We sent our documents to our travel agent
  • October 14 – Our application was lodged in the Korean Embassy website
  • November 25 – We found out that our visa was approved via the Korean Embassy website
  • December 1 – Our flight to South Korea

How to check your Korean Visa Status: Go to: http://tiny.cc/fn2qhz

  • Choose English
  • Select Diplomatic office
  • Fill-out the following details
  • Dropdown: choose passport number
  • Name in English: Last Name First Name only
  • DOB: YYYY/MM/DD
  • Click Search

Our flight was scheduled at 5:30 PM Sunday (Dec 1, 2019) but was delayed for 7 hours because of unexpected aircraft maintenance! Our flight was rescheduled to 12:00 a.m. hence we landed in Incheon at around 6:00 a.m. Cebu Pacific gave us flight vouchers to compensate for the delay.

The immigration process in the airport was very strict so make sure that all your documents are with you just in case the immigration officer asks for it. Luckily for us, the immigration officer didn’t ask a lot of questions.

Our Airbnb was located in Hongdae (near Sangsu station), which was approximately 1 hour away from the airport via the subway. Our accommodation cost PHP 1,900 a night. The place was very warm and cozy (and had heated floors, perfect for the winter season). It was also near the town center and the subway station. Nifty! We paid nothing since we used our travel credit from Airbnb and since sharing is caring, you too can get PHP 1600 off on your first room booking in Airbnb (click here: http://tiny.cc/2c2qhz).

After resting for a while in our place, we were ready to explore Seoul! Our first stop, Haneul Park! Though it was already winter, we were fortunate to see the golden leaves of the remaining trees that haven’t succumbed to the cold.

DAY 1

HANEUL PARK

How to get to Haneul Park:

From wherever you are in the city, you must take the subway and get off at the World Cup Stadium Station and leave the station via Exit 1. You will see a very large map with directions on how to get to the five parks in the World Cup Park.

Haneul Park is one of the five parks in the World Cup Park and it’s the most popular among the five. Also, it is in the highest part of the World Cup Park, which offers people the amazing view of Seoul City.

Admission is free but there is an available coach that’ll take you to the top of the park if you don’t want to hike. For us, we opted to just take the stairs and get some exercise. We did not break a sweat as it was quite windy and was freezing.

On our way back we visited a local market, which sold a variety of products; from seafood to dried fruits to fishcakes! We super loved the fishcakes (Odeng) as it was cheap. It was also served with hot broth, which will keep your tummy nice and warm.

DAY 2

VIVALDI SKI ADVENTURE

We booked our tour via KKday and it was the best decision ever!!! The tour started on time. The bus and the tour arrived at meeting place 15 minutes before the meet-up time. The tour guides were multilingual hence everyone in the tour bus was well informed and entertained. Mind you the travel time to the ski resort takes more or less 2 hours. Good thing our guides were very entertaining. The guides were also the skiing/snowboarding coach and it was very nice of them to give us tips on what kind of equipment we will need.

Our group also had a WhatsApp group chat, which was very helpful as it allowed the guides to communicate with everyone especially if there are important announcements and such.

During the coaching session you will get to know the basics of skiing/snowboarding. The coaching session took place in the flat part of the ski resort and once you’ve finished the practicing and learned how to maneuver, you may go ahead and go up the slope.

Also included in the tour is an unlimited ski lift/cable car ride. We highly recommend that you take the cable car to the viewing deck (you may leave your skis/snowboard in purpose-built lockers for KRW 100).

Make sure that you rest well before ski day. Skiing is a tiring sport plus you will have to carry heavy equipment. Over all, our tour at the ski resort was very fun and exciting (and tiring at the same time).

BOOK TOUR HERE: https://www.kkday.com/en/product/29113?cid=6355

Tour Itinerary:

6:15 AM – Meetup at Hongdae Station (Other pickup points available)

9:15 AM – Arrive at Ski School

9:20 – 10:20 AM – Get changed and wear your ski/snowboarding attire; purchase personal equipment that is not included in the package such as gloves, scarves, ski/snowboarding socks

10: 30 AM – Arrive at Vivaldi Ski Resort

11:30 – 1:00 PM – Coaching Session

1:00 – 4:30 PM – Free time (Ski/Cable Car)

16:30 – 5:20 PM – Return Equipment / Go back to the ski school and return ski/snowboarding attire.

7:30 PM– Arrive at Myeongdong Station

DAY 3

ALPACA WORLD, NAMI ISLAND, GARDEN OF MORNING CALM

My wife and I are very fond of animals and when we learned that Alpacas were a thing in Korea, we made sure to include Alpaca World in our itinerary. It was also very convenient that the package tour KKday offered included Nami Island, and the Garden of Morning Calm.

Jaemin, our tour guide was the best! He taught us a bit about Korean culture, which for us was very helpful. He even thought us some Korean words and phrases.

The trip to Alpaca World took approximately 2 hours. Since the meetup time was quite early, most of us were asleep throughout the journey. Jaemin woke us up when were almost near Alpaca World. He then briefed us about what to do and what not to do when handling Alpacas.

One of the main attractions in Alpaca World is the “Healing walk with the Alpacas” which allows tourists 15 minutes of interaction with those cute and harmless animals! Sonya our Alpaca was quite lazy but was really adorable! She is very fond of photos. Walking and feeding her was such a joyful experience. Definitely, one of my favorite tours we had in Korea.

Alpaca World does not only house alpacas but a lot of other animals as well such as birds, ostriches, goats, deer, camels, horses and many more. There are also cute vending machines around the farm, which you can use to buy food for the animals. And since it was already winter, there was snow at some parts of the farm.

If you are traveling with kids, I highly recommend visiting this farm since they will be able to interact with animals. When it was time to say goodbye to Sonya, I felt a bit sad leaving her! If only we had more time 😦

Our 2nd stop was Nami Island, Nami Island is one of Korea’s most popular tourist destination. It is a half-moon shaped island located in Gangwon Province. There is a ferry going to Nami Island and vice versa and it leaves every 20 to 30 minutes. There are lot of restaurants and other establishments in the island and a lot of picturesque locations as well. We were very fortunate as well to experience snowfall in this island. This is also the place where one of the scenes in the famous Korean Drama “Winter Sonata” was filmed.

Our final stop was the Garden of Morning Calm. It houses 5,000 species of plants, some rare and some endangered. If you love plants, this is the place to be. There are also several ponds in the area, and traditional houses as well. During the winter season, they decorate the garden with Christmas lights which made the garden come to life especially at night.

Tour Itinerary:

7:00 AM – Meetup at Hongdae Station (Other pickup points available)

10:00 AM – Alpaca World

1:00 PM – Nami Island

4:30 PM – Garden of Morning Calm

5:45 PM – Depart for Seoul

7:30 PM– Arrive at Myeongdong Station

BOOK TOUR HERE: https://www.kkday.com/en/product/19632?cid=6355

DAY 4
SIGHTSEEING SEOUL CITY BUS (HOP ON, HOP OFF)

  • Reedem ticket In front of Dongdaemun Design Plaza (Dongdaemun History & Culture Park and DDP)
  •  Subway Line 2, 4 & 5 – Come out of Exit 1 of Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station, and you will find the ticket office and the double-decker right there.✓ For only P550 each, you will be able to visit 15 attractions!

(Euljiro-samga, Euljiro-ipgu, Tongin Market, Sejong Center(Gwanghwamun,Jingfugung), Seoul station, Namdaemun, Myeong-dong, Jonggak, Insa-dong, Unhyeongung, SeWoon Eletronics Plaza, GwangJang Market(Dongdaemun), DokKaeBi Market, Seoul Folk Flea Market, SinDang-dong JungAng Market, Dongdaemun Design Plaza(DDP))

The city tour bus was very much worth it as it will take you to popular/historical places in downtown Seoul. You can also go on and off at each designated city tour bus stop which is nice especially if you want to spend more time in a particular stop/attraction.

BOOK TOUR HERE: https://www.kkday.com/en/product/5450?cid=6355

Tips:

✓ Download Seoul Subway App – since the subway system in South Korea is quite complex, this will prevent you from getting lost
✓ Download Google translate – Some Koreans products don’t have English translation
✓ Rent pocket Wi-Fi in KKday – We were not able to do this, and it was quite hard travelling without internet but thankfully there were lots of wifi spots. Also, sim cards are very expensive, 1 sim card can cost you a whopping KRW 30,000 for 30 days.

Screen Shot 2020-01-03 at 11.08.07 AM

You can download excel file here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UiITA1-OgkCnVAVEiVXNAJASmVGaudav/view

 

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