My First Solo Trip to South Korea: Day 4

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2016 Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival (Spring Flower Festival)

This is it! The culmination of my 4-day #Seoul-0 adventure in the land of kimchi. Time flew so fast and I couldn’t help but wish for it stop. I wasn’t ready to go home yet. Hindi ko pa nakikita si Taeyang! T_T

Day 4: Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival, Myeongdong

On the morning of my last day, I went to Myeongdong first to take pictures of my favorite restaurants. I actually enjoyed walking the streets of Myeongdong without the huge crowd. It was a nice breather.

I revisited the center of the shopping haven which was the Myeongdong Theater. I also passed by my favorite mart, the Myeongdong Supermarket (aka mart mart). It took us a long time to locate this mart 2 years ago and when I came back last year, I spotted this right after I got off the bus from the airport. Haha! I love this mart because the food pasalubong like chips, Pepero, noodles, and chocolates were cheaper.

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Myeongdong Theater

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My favorite mart in Myeongdong

Then, I paid a quick visit to my favorite restaurants. First was Wangbijib. I cannot remember how I discovered this restaurant. Maybe from one of the blogs that I read or Youtube videos I watched. This has the best bbq I’ve tried so far. The banchan and doenjang jjigae were exceptional, too. Plus, it has special lunch discounts.

Next was Yoogane. My friend recommended this galbi place to me 2 years ago. The chicken galbi was delicious and you can order it with melted cheese on the side. I also tried the seafood galbi which was also tasty. I love this place except that our clothes smelled like galbi even the morning after.

Lastly, I passed by Myeongdong Kyoja. This is a well-known restaurant in Myeongdong that serves the best kalguksu or handmade, knife-cut noodles. It has 2 restaurants in the area with 3 floors each and yet you would find yourself falling in line outside waiting to be seated. The line might be long but the serving size and taste were all worth-it. Bagay na bagay sa lamig ng winter sa Korea.

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Wangbijib – one of the best bbqs I’ve tried in Korea

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Yoogane – popular for its dakgalbi

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Myeongdong Kyoja  – serves one of the best kalguksu

While I was on my way to YG Republique, I saw the Cat Cafe that my friends tried last year. You can pet cats inside and also order food. When in Myeongdong, you would see a cat mascot walking around and inviting people to visit. Kyowo!

Then there’s YG Republique. This is a newly opened restaurant owned by Papa YG in the “bars” area of Myeongdong. I only saw this through his IG posts when he dined here with WINNER. This is YG’s second restaurant (after Samgeori Butchers). YG Republique has a restaurant, cafe and bar area.

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Cat cafe

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Newly opened YG restaurant in Myeongong

After my restaurant tour in Myeongdong, I took the train back to Yeouido. It was a Monday morning and a lot of people were heading to their work. Jam-packed na naman yung mga train. MRT level. I had to wait for another train because I cannot go in anymore. Rush hour na. Huhu.

What made the train trip bearable was the Spring Flower Festival. Before I booked my flight, I made sure that I have at least a day to spend in the festival. It was only Day 1 and booths and stages were still being prepared but I could already feel the festive atmosphere around. Many tourists and locals were already there enjoying the colorful spring and nice weather.

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Number 6 adorned with different flowers

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Cherry blossoms in full bloom along Hangang Park

According to the festival’s site, the back of the National Assembly which is also connected to the Yeouido Hangang Park has thousands of cherry trees which bloom beautifully during spring.

The back of the National Assembly was closed to vehicles to cater to the different activities and for people to be able to enjoy the view and walk comfortably. There were flyers and guidelines as to where the activities will be held or the booths can be found. At night the trees were lit up with different colors and street performances were held.

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Yellow flowers and the Hangang River in the background

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Festival information booth

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Festival guide

It was spring time and I thought people were extra welcoming and friendly just like the atmosphere. I was taking pictures of the surrounding and taking a selfie when an ajumma approached me and offered to take my photo. She might have noticed that I struggled taking a selfie that’s not too close to my face. She spoke to me in Korean and we barely understood each other except for the word “sajin” which literally translates to “photo”. Buti nalang naririnig ko yan sa RoS. Or else, language barrier na naman. Sa wakas may picture na ako na hindi super laki ng mukha ko.😀

While I fell in love with winter because of the snow and of course, the fashion, Spring has its own charm. The white and pink cherry blossoms, the not so cold temperature and the very relaxed atmosphere made me appreciate this season a lot more. Everything looked lovelier. Everyone seemed to be so in love. Sabi nga ni Victor Hugo “If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.” ― Les Misérables

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Lovely spring morning

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The only shot of myself that’s not a selfie

I knew it would be hard, but I left the festival by noon and went back to Namsandong. I was already hungry so I decided to hike up and try the “donkatsu” restaurant that Cha Tae Hyun recommended – Namsan Wang Donkatsu. It was so high up the Namsan hills and by the time I arrived at the restaurant, I was already sweating and so hungry.

Incidentally, I came in when it was office lunchtime. Employees were starting to flock around the area where several restaurants were also located. Even Namsan Wang was full. I was alone so when an employee dined in by himself, he was seated in front of me.

Namsan Wang serves different types of donkatsu but I tried the most popular which was the cheese donkatsu. A pork donkatsu with cheese filing. The serving was huge, it was so delicious and the banchan included were also great. It was a fun and filling meal beside men and women in their suit and tie and office clothes.

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Namsan Wang Dongkatsu

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Cheese donkatsu

It was still early for me to go to the airport so I sat at our guesthouse’s common area to rest. Looking back, I got lucky because I got a discount for my stay there. Considering its location, the huge bathroom and common area, the complete kitchen and almost unlimited supply of noodles, bread and jam, and coffee, I got more than what I paid for. Plus, the staff were all very nice.

At times, when I wasn’t sleepy yet or when I returned earlier, I would watch tv while chatting to some of the guests and staff. I met two Filipinas who were also having a vacation. We would talk about our day and the places that we visited and our recommendations.

Though I stayed in a dormitory for 12, I felt that I had my own room. The beds were cube-type but they were huge enough that I didn’t feel that I was in a cube. Since the whole bed was covered with wood walls, I had a lot of privacy in a dorm room.

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TV and dining area

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Kitchen

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Reception

So it was time for me to leave. I bid my goodbye to Moscow (one of the staff) and carried my belongings. My backpack and sling bag had a new friend –  an eco bag which I used for some of the ‘pasalubongs and bilin’ that I bought. I was careful in buying things since I didn’t have much space for them.

Before taking the bus in front of Sejong Hotel, I passed by and took a photo of my favorite money changer near Myeongdong. The exchange rate of peso to won here was much better than some of the money changers in Manila. As for the dollar exchange, I found that the one beside Sejong Hotel and Tous les Jours is much better. That time their difference were 10won per $1.

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My favorite money changer for peso exchange

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Incheon International Airport

The bus arrived after a few minutes and the trip to the airport was quick. I was still early for the check in so I looked for a comfortable place to sit. The airport was very busy with people going in and out of the country. Some were traveling with friends or loved ones. Some just by themselves. I couldn’t help but admire the ‘chaos’ of the airport. Everyone has so much stories to tell. I fell in love again. Not just with Korea but with traveling as well.

The end of my first international solo adventure was bittersweet. I was sad leaving the country I fell deeply in love with but I was also happy that I was finally coming home to my first love, to the country that nurtured me and made me a better wanderer. I realized that while traveling in a first world country has its perks, traveling here made me wiser. I learned how to read maps, follow directions and signboards, ask questions when necessary, run after buses and closing train doors, and at times hustle through a thick crowd just to get inside a public transportation. Maginhawa magtravel abroad. Pero mas exciting dito (pwera sa traffic. hehe).

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Goodbye, Spring

Final thoughts/quote on my solo travel:

“It seemed an advantage to be traveling alone. Our responses to the world are crucially moulded by the company we keep, for we temper our curiosity to fit in with the expectations of others…Being closely observed by a companion can also inhibit our observation of others; then, too, we may become caught up in adjusting ourselves to the companion’s questions and remarks, or feel the need to make ourselves seem more normal than is good for our curiosity.” ― Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

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