South Korea Travelogue 8: Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Our last day in Korea was a short one which we spent mainly shopping at Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). DDP was built by world famous architect Zaha Hadid and was the most tagged Instagram location in South Korea in 2015.

There are five halls: Art Hall, Museum, Design Lab, Design Market, and Dongdaemun History and Culture Park. It was at the Design Market where all the design shops are that we shopped till we dropped!

But first… breakfast!

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To warm up my tummy, I devoured the box of macarons that my dad surprised me with at Hyundai City Outlet. He knows me and my sweet tooth well!

Then, we headed to a local restaurant near Vons Chicken from the day before.

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Instead of taking the train (two MRT stops), we chose to walk along Cheonggyecheon Stream. It was previously very polluted, so the government cleaned it up and made it into a nature walkway.

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Dad and mum found this wholesale hat store and came out with… interesting hats. Sis was embarrassed to be photographed with them! Haha.

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South Korea Travelogue 7: Garosu-gil, Itaewon and Jongno-3ga

Many people have raved about the cafes and shopping available at Garosu-gil, an area in Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu. The street got its name Garosu-gil, which means tree-lined streets, as the area is lined with with ginkgo trees.

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We had breakfast at A Twosome Place, a coffeehouse chain in South Korea and also one of the few places opened early in the morning. The prices were typical of a cafe. There were plenty of cakes and sandwiches, but I chose the Ham & Cheese Quesadilla (4,500Won) which was pretty yummy.

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Olive Young is a must visit for health and beauty products! From 19 stores in 2004, they quickly expanded to 152 in 2011 and opened their first overseas store in Shanghai in 2013.

My favourite find in Garosu-gil has to be Jaju! If you follow me on Instagram, you would know I love to collect pretty plates and tableware, and Jaju has plenty of those at rather affordable prices.

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In addition to that, they also sell pretty bouquets from only 5,000Won! So economical! I was lamenting how expensive flowers are in Singapore.

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South Korea Travelogue 6: Insadong, Hongdae and Myeongdong

We had a full day of eating and shopping in store for us on our second day in Seoul. We started with Australia’s “best scrambled eggs” and pancakes at Bills’ second outlet in Seoul, which was located at D-Tower (Jongno-gu), near our hostel.

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Since it was a weekday, we practically had the place to ourselves.

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The breakfast was pleasant but nothing mind-blowing. We enjoyed the Ricotta Hotcakes (19,800Won), which came with honeycomb butter, as well as the chunky carrot cake. I found the prices on the high side and I am not sure if I will pay such prices again. The Fresh Aussie and Full Aussie cost 22,000Won and 21,000Won respectively, which is around SGD$26.

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South Korea Travelogue 4: Seongsan Ilchulbong, Udo Island, Manjanggul Lava Tube and Kimnyong Maze Park

Similar to the day before, we woke up early, at around 3.30am, to climb Seongsan Ilchulbong also known as Sunrise Peak to catch the sunrise. The climb was made in the dark with many others hoping to observe the sunrise. A large number of people have groused about the climb, but in comparison to the hike at Hallasan, this was peanuts. It took us only 20 minutes to reach the top.

Seongsan Ilchulbong is a tuff cone-steep, with a wide crater-formed by a volcanic eruption over 100,000 years ago. It is located on the eastern side of the Jeju Island. Other than being famous for the view, the peak is indeed a sight worth seeing in Spring when it is surrounded by bright yellow rapeseed flowers.

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The pictures above were taken using the Panorama function of my iPhone 6. We were afraid we could not catch the sunrise as the weather forecast was cloudy, however the sun did not disappoint!

The admission fee is 2,000Won (SGD$2.40) per adult, but we did not pay it as the ticket counter was not opened when we got there. In fact, it was on our way past the entrance/ exit that they were beginning to set up the ticket counter.

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If you are interested to see Haenyeo (diving women of Korea) perform, you can head to the bottom of the cliffs on your climb down the peak. The performance times are 1.30pm and 3pm. The women will also be selling their daily catches there later in the day.

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Being really hungry, we went to Paris Baguette at the other end of Seongsan Ilchulbong carpark. I was surprised that they were opened so early!  We got a bit of everything: banana tart, egg sandwich, traditional rice cake bread, macarons, strawberry latte and grain latte. The staff recommended that we dined on the second floor as it had a lovely view of the peak.

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South Korea Travelogue 3: Hallasan on Jeju Island

Let me give you a brief introduction about Hallasan, so you can see where I am coming from later. Hallasan is the highest mountain in South Korea and a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. It is a massive shield volcano and forms the bulk of Jeju Island. The peak of the mountain is at an elevation of 1,950m (6,400ft).

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(Source: http://www.hallasan.go.kr/hallasan/map/english.html)

There are seven trails up the mountain, but only two to the summit: Seongpanak Trail (9.6km) and Gwaneumsa Trail (8.7km). The time to the summit for the two are pretty similar since Gwaneumsa is shorter but steeper. The trails are opened in the daytime and entrances are closed by a certain time so that hikers are able to climb down the mountain before sunset.

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We woke up when it was pitch-black, at about 4.30am, so that we could start the climb early. Daylight started to appear as we pulled into the carpark to Seongpanak Trail.

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Do not believe the trail grading of ‘easy’, ‘normal’ and ‘difficult’. It should have been ‘difficult’, ‘more difficult’ and ‘most difficult’!

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South Korea Travelogue 2: Jusangjeolli Cliff and Museums in Jeju

We woke up bright and early, so early that nothing was opened! Hence, we decided to walk around the area and take some pictures while waiting for breakfast places to open.

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We went to Starbucks at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum for breakfast. I decided to have a Croque Monsieur and Chocolate Banana Ice Blended for 9,800Won (SGD$11.70). Did you know that they have really interesting flavours here in Korea like Avocado Yoghurt Frappuccino, Lemon Meringue Frappuccino Light and Cranberry Fizzio with Grapefruit Foam?

After breakfast, we headed to Jusangjeolli Cliff (entrance fee 2,000Won), a cultural monument of Jeju, for some sightseeing. The rugged cliff formation was formed when lava from Hallasan Mountain erupted into the sea. The hexagon rock pillars reminded me of the Giant Causeway!

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I got myself a Peanut Butter and Peach Ice Cream J Cone (3,000Won = SGD$3.60) from a store at the entrance/ exit of Jusangjeolli Cliff. Initially I was worried that the cone would no longer be crisp as it was just hanging there, but it was still good. The ice cream was more icy than creamy, therefore it melted really quickly and caused quite a mess.

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South Korea Travelogue 1: Our First Day at Jeju

We took a night flight on board Cathay Pacific and after a short stopover at Hong Kong, we flew to Incheon International Airport, Seoul. From there, we had to take the subway for about five stops to Gimpo International Airport where we would take a domestic flight via Korean Air to Jeju.

However, we had a lot of time to kill before our domestic flight, so we used the time to run some errands and of course, eat.

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The first thing we did after clearing the customs was to collect our Samsung Galaxy Note 5s from SK Telecom, located between Exits 10 and 11 at Incheon International Airport. We participated in the 10th event of Enjoy Mobile Korea Programme by the Korean Tourism Organisation, Samsung Electronics and SK Telecom, where 250 winners are selected each week for a free rental of the latest smartphone. This means FREE VOICE AND DATA services for five whole days! This weekly programme will continue till the end of the year!

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Following that, we grabbed some breakfast from Bonjuk & Bibimbab Cafe, which specialises in congee/ porridge and bibimbab. I ordered the Beef Vegetable Porridge (8,500Won = SGD$10.20) and while I found the porridge healthy, it was lacking in taste.

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