Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hotel Manu near Seoul Station & Namdaemun Market @ Seoul, South Korea

Unlike previous arrangements for free and easy travel, i was not actively involved in the selection of accommodation in the recent South Korea trip; my younger sister had the full control as the sponsor! 

Beggars can't be choosers but knowing my younger sister, the hotel she booked should not be too bad as she is pickier than me when it comes to sleeping! Hence, let me introduce to you the four-star Hotel Manu! 

Since the first night was for transit as we would be departing for Jeju Island the next day, i shall touch on the room that was assigned to us when we returned back to Seoul for two nights. In all honesty, i prefer the cozier "corner suite" over the tighter "triple room".

The above would be the corner suite; size is the same as triple room at 28 square meters although the layout appeared to give us a sense of more space. I have no idea why they add in another single bed since there are only three of us! We not that fat what! 

Basic room amenities; flat screen TV (Korean brand of course) which we didn't even both switching on, electric kettle for my three in one Old Town white coffee, a mini fridge that had three bottles of mineral water, safe for our valuables, slippers etc. In addition to the aforementioned, you can also find bathrobes and extra pillows in the closet! 

3-pin plug!!! USB charger!!! Essential for our contemporary lifestyle involving loads of electronic gadgets! The standard power socket in Korea has a weird design that may not be suitable even with an international power adapter; therefore, i am really happy to see the above! 

A unique feature of the hotel is actually the jutted out windows which provides the hotel with a very artistic facade; if you thought they are merely for decoration and serve no other purpose, you are so wrong. 

My sister used it as a little space to drink her morning coffee and people-watch! I am not sure if the enclosed platform can take a human weight but since there wasn't any notice warning guests not to do so, we figured it would be safe. 

The heart skipped quite a few beats when i chanced upon this box later! Upon reading the text (which was thankfully in English), it seemed to be a mechanism for guests to escape from the windows if there is an emergency like fire. 

Now let's talk a look at the bathroom. There was a bathtub, unavailable in the triple room we stayed in, and a toilet bowl with bidet functions! 

*love* i really miss my toilet with the non-electronic bidet whenever i am overseas! Nothing beats the satisfaction of clean water washing my asshole! 

Bathroom amenities; besides the common shower gel, shampoo, lotion conditioner, long-haired individuals might also be pleased to note that it came equipped with a hair dryer. 

Louise is a gym fanatic - from my understanding, one of her priorities for selecting a hotel is the availability of a gymnasium! Though small, the gym in Hotel Manu had quite a good selection of equipment.

I had a fun time using them and am seriously contemplating signing up for a gym membership to tone my body and get the abs that i have always wanted! 

An ironing room is located right next to the gym. Those who could not stand using conventional iron can also opt for the clothes steamer. 

Two laptops and local newspapers (only one was in English) were available at the hotel lobby for us to surf the web and read the local news respectively. For those who are using the hotel as a transit like we did, you can leave your heavier luggage with the hotel and bring along a lighter one.

In our case; as our flight home was at midnight, we also left our entire luggage with the hotel upon checking out at 12 noon and returned to collect them at around 7.30pm. 

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For a four-star hotel, i would have expected marvelous service from all counter staff. Sadly, there was hardly any smile in our three-night stay except for the lady on the last day who was extremely helpful to our request. 

To add insult to the counter staff, the housekeeping staff were the ones who would cheerfully greet us at the start of each day; to which we responded with an equally great smile and a chirpy "annyeonghaseyo". 

Location
84-16, Namdaemunno 5ga, Jung-gu, 
Myeong-dong / Namsan, 
Seoul, South Korea

Map 
As above. The recommended way was to take exit 4 or 7 from metro line 1 (dark blue); 4 has an elevator which is helpful if you have loads of luggage and 7, despite being the nearest to Hotel Manu, is known for being a sleeping area for the homeless after sunset. 

I have a better suggestion; walk directly from the main entrance of Lotte Outlets (Seoul Station) to the hotel! You can even see Hotel Manu from where i took the picture (which was also outside exit 1 of metro line 1). Only problem; rain. 

Website

Additional Information
Too much luggage? Ask for Kim's airport shuttle service! Information as above; i am not sure if the price would be cheaper if you contact Mr Kim directly via his email reservation@kimsshuttle.com

Manu Therapy Massage services for those who have time. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

7 Days 8 Nights South Korea Trip 2014: Summarised Itinerary for Seoul - Jeju Island - Seoul

It might be my first trip to the Land of the Morning Calm but i surprise myself by taking only about 3,500 photographs which i further pared to 2,500.

Personally, i feel it has something to do with my non-existent knowledge of the Korean language and the fact that in Seoul, it was mainly shopping rather than immersing myself in historical / cultural sites.

Nevertheless, it's time to post a summarised itinerary on this vacation! As with my Taiwan itinerary, click the hyperlinks for more detailed postings (reviews on restaurants, hotels etc)! Bookmark this entry and check back periodically as it would likely take me months to complete everything!


Day One (15 October 2014)
Singapore - Seoul
[3.18 pm] Departed from Changi International Airport which was supposed to leave at 2.55 pm; like the traffic / public transportation system in Singapore, you couldn't really second guess the traffic!

[10.30 pm] Arrived safely at Incheon International Airport and we had to immediately rush to the Airport Railroad Express (AREX), buy a ticket and take the train to Seoul Station, where our hotel was located.

[12.20 am] After about an hour on the express train, the teo siblings, tired yet goofy, finally arrived in Seoul Station! Our ordeal had yet to end; the underground routes were a tad confusing and it took us close to thirty minutes to find c!

[1.00 am] Took a much needed shower and it's time to sleep!


Day Two (16 October 2014)
Seoul - Jeju Island
[8.00 am] View outside my room; how did we manage to spend thirty minutes to get to the hotel when Seoul Station is literally right opposite us?!

[10.15 am] Left the hotel to check out the surrounding after accompanying my sister to the gym! I should consider signing up for a gym membership to tone my fat-covered abs.

[10.33 am] Namdaemun Market (남대문 시장) was superbly near the hotel! I didn't know how close we were then since we walked all the way to Sungnyemun Gate before making a turn.

[11.39 am] Had an early lunch at a Korean restaurant along a street next to the hotel! Unsure about the name since I am hopeless in the hangul written script; shall check out and publish the romanised name in due course!

[12.30 pm] Left the hotel for Gimpo Airport via AREX again!

[3.13 pm] Our next destination? Jeju Island; the Island of the Gods! There are quite a number of airlines using the domestic routes from Seoul to Jeju; i bought my tickets from Jeju Air as the website is available in English.

[4.13 pm] Landed at Jeju International Airport! The first thing i did upon collecting my luggage was to register myself at the car rental booth before taking a complimentary shuttle bus to another area to collect the rented car which i reserved two months ago!

[5.38 pm] With a lot of apprehension, double checking & triple checking (Korea practices left hand driving), we finally got to Yongduam Rock (Dragon Head Rock) (용두암)!

[6.18 pm] Time for the famous black pork street in Jeju! Said to be one of the island's specialties, we had to give it a try! Had such a full meal; we swore off pork for the rest of our trip.

[9.00 pm] After roaming a short section of the Dongmun Market Place, i took to the road again and finally arrived at Galeum Guest House, our accommodation in Seogwipo district for the next few days, in one piece.


Day Three (17 October 2014)
Jeju Island
[8.00 am] An early start of the day - attempting the "easiest" yeongsil trail on Mount Hallasan (한라산) at Hallasan National Park!

[12.37 pm] Had the best ever green tea latte at OSulloc Tea Museum! Green tea fanatics would be able to indulge themselves crazy on items with green tea content, including but not limited to green tea based desserts.

[2.37 pm] Shopping at one of Jeju's notable hypermarkets; Emart! For those guys who have been through national service, this emart is different from the emart we have in Singapore and sells a wide variety of merchandise.

[4.20 pm] Oedolgae Rock (외돌개) - gained regional (or even global) recognition because it was featured in a scene of a very famous period drama; Daejanggeum (大長今).

[5.12 pm] Relaxing at Cheonjiyeon Falls (천지연폭포), had some bread and coffee at Paris Baguette cafe and checked out the illuminated Saeyeon-Gyo Bridge before returning back to the guest house. Slept at around 10-11pm!


Day Four (18 October 2014)
Jeju Island
[4.00 am] Woke up at an ungodly hour so that we can make it on time to catch the sunrise at the world famous Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak (성산일출봉). Failed obviously, the sun was already at the horizon twenty minutes before we even reached the attraction's entrance.

[7.40 am] Whatever the case, it was a journey we persevered to the end and the peak was conquered after climbing for close to 40 minutes, with a break in between where i had a bottle of yummy banana milk and a few slices of egg-batter bread.

[8.16 am] It was not yet time for the Jeju Woman Diver performance but i figured it would not do the ladies any justice if i don't pay them a visit!

[10.00 am] Hiked through the chilly Manjanggul Cave (만장굴) which is one of the world's top 10 longest lava tube! We covered only about a kilometer since the rest are closed to the public.

[12.00 noon] Trick Art Museum! Singapore has one too even though you may wish to note that the ticket pricing in Jeju was only about 50% Singapore's pricing!

[2.00 pm] Car accident! Read about it here.

[4.38 pm] Got a new rented car and our famished tummies were gunning for a delicious bowl of abalone seafood soup and abalone porridge at a Korean restaurant next to Cheonjiyeon Falls.

[6.30 pm] Went Emart again; after which would be back to the guesthouse to do our laundry and have a good night sleep at about 9 pm. Lesson learnt from the accident; sleep early!!!


Day Five (19 October 2014)
Jeju Island - Seoul
[6.00 am] I know it's still pretty early; we had no choice as instruction from the hospital was that both my sister and i would have to be back that morning to change our dressing! Given the limited time, we checked out and proceeded directly to the hospital. p.s. very pretty nurse and she was extremely gentle with us!

[9.47 am] Jeju International Airport - to board the 11.55 am plane back to Seoul! Jeju has been an unforgettable experience (for better and for worse) BUT i would love to be back again! And, i would still opt for self-drive.

[2.40 pm] An hour of plane ride and 30-minute of train ride via AREX, we were back to Hotel Manu! We got smarter this time and crossed the road from Seoul Station instead of taking the underpass.

[4.00 pm] Gwangjang Market (광장시장) - strongly recommended for those who enjoy the vibe and atmosphere of a local market! Plus point - plenty to eat!

[5.40 pm] Soaking in the atmosphere of Dongdaemun; note, unlike the nearby Gwangjang Market, this area focused more on shopping centres and wholesale markets. By the time we got back to the metro, it was around 11.30 pm! Both sisters can really shop; they actually dumped me in a cafe for an hour!


Day Six (20 October 2014)
Seoul
[10.00 am] Stepped into a rainy, gloomy day at Seoul! After a few days of sunshine at Jeju, this was definitely a marked difference! Mixed feelings about the weather as i did prefer the lower temperature although the rain was a hindrance to photo taking!

[11.30 am] Korean fried chicken was said to be something tourists die die must try when they are in Korea; we did at Two Two Fried Chicken.

[12.33 pm] Crossed the road and Myeongdong (명동) was right ahead of us! This is the place where ladies would go crazy over the many cosmetic shops lining the streets!

[4.37 pm] Cut across Namdaemun Market on our way back to our hotel. Yes, you can walk from Myeongdong back to Hotel Manu!

[9.00 pm] Following a snack-shopping spree at Lotte Market, we were back at Myeongdong! Koreans are night owls i think; the vicinity appeared more vibrant and happening when the sun set.

[10.30 pm] Late night dinner at Yoogane Dak Galbi (유가네 닭갈비); totally didn't regret having this meal! By the way, they have a branch in Singapore!

Day Seven (21 October 2014)
Seoul - Singapore
[11.39 am] Hotel was fully booked that day and our request for late checkout was rejected. Preparing to check out and store our luggage at the hotel as our flight would only take off at midnight.

[2.34 pm] Split ways with the sisters after lunch at Lotte Mart food court; they shall continue their last minute shopping while i check out Insa-dong (인사동), a cultural district. Yes, it's again another rainy day. :(

[4.23 pm] Had a bowl of ginseng chicken from a restaurant known to serve the best in Seoul; Tosokchon (토속촌). 

[5.30 pm] Got lost and found this pretty little garden. I enjoy getting lost when i am overseas as it often brings nice little surprises! Note: i have been lucky so far. 

[6.42 pm] Back at Seoul Station well before the time i was supposed to meet up with my sisters. Had a cup of jujube tea at a nearby cafe and took the private shuttle to Incheon International Airport at 8.00pm.

[11.40 pm] Reached in an hour's time; checked in our 86 kilograms of luggage; completed our tax refunds; shopped at the 24-hour duty free shop; took the internal shuttle train to the departure gate and it's time to board SQ603. 

[5.34 am] First thing i did upon arrival at Changi International Airport - purchased dressing for the wound; a gift from Korea that would likely remain permanently etched to my skin! 

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