Tuesday Tip: 8 GO-TO PLACES in SEOUL during AUTUMN

South Korea 🇰🇷 is one of the best countries to experience autumn here in Asia. From crimson leaves falling from park trees to yellow leaves found in ordinary streets, autumn transforms South Korea into a colorful & jaw-dropping tourist destination.

A random street in Seoul 😍

It’s been years since Korean drama & pop music introduced the beauty of South Korea to the Filipinos. Since then, the country, particularly Seoul, became one of the favorite travel / vacation destinations of Filipinos. According to the Korean Tourism Organization website, in 2016 alone, there were 556,745 Filipinos who flew to South Korea. That was a 37.9% increase from arrivals recorded in 2015 (403,622 arrivals). Filipinos take up 3.2% of the visitors who entered South Korea last year.

Came across this place on our way to Namsan Park 😃

I may not be one of the 556,745 Filipinos who visited South Korea last year, I can say I was one of the 403,622 Filipinos who visited South Korea in 2015. In 2014 & 2015, I went to Seoul, South Korea for my annual November trip. Yes, I visited Seoul for 2 consecutive years. I fell in love with autumn & Seoul’s autumn spots the first time I went there up to the point I flew back the following year. (Separate 2014 & 2015 Seoul blogs to follow)

Lovely autumn colors in Insa-dong 🍂

I know for a fact that some of you have plans of visiting Seoul in the coming weeks & months. Let me share to you 8 must-visit places in Seoul during autumn.

Hangang Park

Hangang Park is a long & wide park built beside the Hangang River. Running through 12 districts, the Citizen’s Park is the go-to place of locals & visitors for various sports & relaxation activities. This park is characterized by walking & biking trails, seating areas, exercise facilities every few meters & shops where you can grab a snack / drink whilst there. Many people visit this park everyday. Admission to the park is free. It is also open 24/7.

Banpo Hangang Park’s walking trail & biking lane 🚴

We went there to see the famous Banpo bridge (one of the famous parts of the park because of the fountain show); we went biking around the park & also tried the free exercise facilities. Unfortunately there was no scheduled rainbow fountain show during our visit. I also went to Yeouido Hangang Park (another part of Hangang Park) to relax & watch the sunset, also to cure my hangover. *wink*

Subway Access: Banpo Hangang Park – Express Bus Terminal Station – Exit 8-1 / 8-2 then follow the directions to the park | Yeouido Hangang Park – Yeouinaru Station – Exit 2 or 3

North Korea & South Korea Border (DMZ Tour)

Autumn plus some frost in Imjingak 🌨️

The visit to North Korea & South Korea border was one of the reasons why I went to Seoul in 2014. Visitors are required to take an organized tour if you want to visit this area of South Korea. There are  3 tours offered – the half day Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Tour, the half day Joint Security Area (JSA) Tour & the whole day Demilitarized Zone & Joint Security Area (DMZ / JSA) Tour.

A glimpse of the Kaesong, North Korea 🇰🇵

My friend & I took the DMZ Tour with Cosmojin. The tour company picked us up from our guesthouse & brought us to the bus meet-up place. It took us around an hour to the DMZ area. We went to Imginjak Resort, the Third Infiltration Tunnel (a long tiring walk down to the tunnel), Dora Observatory (you’ll see a glimpse of the nearby North Korean city from here) & Dorasan Station.

To Pyeongyang, anyone? 🚉

If you want to see Panmunjeom (Joint Security Area), the place where officials from both countries had peace talks in the past, & the Bridge of No Return, you need to further take the JSA tour.

Tip: Make sure to book with a credible tour agency (I highly recommend Cosmojin – head over to their website for rates) at least a week before the tour. Please don’t forget to bring your passport during the tour – the military checks everyone’s passport upon entry to DMZ.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Outside the main Gyeongbokgung Palace Hall

Built during the last dynasty of Korea in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace served as the royal palace during the Joseon Dynasty. It served as the home of the officials as well as the seat of government that time. It is also the biggest among the 5 palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty. The other 4 palaces are Changdeokgung Palace, Gyeonghuigung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace & Deoksugung Palace. (Thank God I still have the palace flyer / information sheet! 😂)

During the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony 💂🏻

Admission Fee: 3,000 won per person

Tip: Don’t miss the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony happening every 9:30 am & 1:30 pm. The palace is closed every Tuesday.

Subway Access: Gyeongbokgung Station – Exit 5 or Anguk Station – Exit 1

Bukchon Hanok Village

A random house near Gyeongbokgung Palace 🍂

Located between the palaces, the Bukchon Hanok Village is a traditional Korean village composed of hundreds of wooden & brick houses located in different alleys. This village shows the ‘old urban’ vibe during the Joseon Dynasty. These structures used to house high-ranking government officials & prominent people during that time. Locals converted these houses to cultural centers, restaurants & tea houses to give visitors a taste & glimpse of traditional Korean culture.

Subway Access: Anguk Station – Exit 1 or Exit 2

Insa-dong

Insadong-gil – Insa-dong’s main street 🍂

Insa-dong is a neighborhood in Jongno-gu district famous for modern galleries, traditional shops & restaurants, tea houses & cafes. The area’s main street, Insadong-gil, connects to smaller streets & alleys that showcases various establishments.

Tip: You can visit Insa-dong, Bukchon Hanok Village & Gyeongbokgung Palace in one day. They are located a few meters walk from each other.

Subway Access: Anguk Station – Exit 3

Namsan Park & N Seoul Tower

Namsan Park

Namsam Park is a famous park located on top of Namsam Mountain. This park is famous for its autumn sightings & walking trails. You can also find Palgakjeong (octagon hall), Namsan Library, restaurants, shops & the N Seoul Tower on top of the mountain. Entrance to the park is free.

A cloudy morning in N Seoul Tower grounds

N Seoul Tower is Seoul’s iconic observatory located in Namsan Mountain. The observatory offers a 360-degree view of Seoul. Make sure to go there in the morning or afternoon to avoid the crowd; it gets really busy at night. Entrance fee to the observatory is 10,000 won per person.

View from N Seoul Tower Observatory; Manila is 2,625.7 kms away

Subway Access: Myeong-dong Station – Exit 2 & 3, then walk up to the park. Alternatively, you can walk to the Namsan Cable Car Station & ride up to the park. A round-trip ticket costs 8,500 won.

Myeong-dong Shopping Street (+street food)

Myeong-dong Shopping Street is one of my favorite places in Seoul. It may not be the cheapest place to buy all sorts of stuff, but the place offers a wide variety of shops & brands to choose from. If you are a fan of skin care products, this is the place to be. Name the Korean cosmetic brand you’re looking for it’s here. There are also shops for clothing, shoes & souvenirs. The area also boasts hundreds of restaurants & cafes. The Myeong-dong Cathedral & Nanta Theater (which houses the famous Nanta Cooking Show) is also located in this part of the city.

The very busy Myeong-dong Shopping Street 🛍️

Aside from shopping, Myeong-dong Shopping Street is also a good place to have Korean street food. You can find pop-up food stalls in the main street at night. If you’re going there in the morning or early afternoon, make sure to head to the left-most street facing the main street & look for the stalls that sell Korean food.

The kinds of Korean street food you’ll find in Myeong-dong

My favorite street food is the Korean egg bread, locally known as gyeran-bbang. It’s basically made of batter & egg (cracked on top of the batter while being cooked). Make sure to try this when you go to Seoul & let me know what you think.

My favorite gyeran-bbang!!! 😋

Tip 1: The best time to go shopping is early afternoon to early evening. The shopping street gets super duper busy during dinnertime. If you are looking for cheaper buys, you can go to the nearby Nandaemun Market. It’s a short walk (or 1 train station away) from Myeong-dong area.

Tip 2: If you are into artsy & hippie stuff, head over to Hongdae (Hongik University Street – Hongik University Station – Exit 8 or Exit 9). This area is known for the young ones – those in college & early days of adulthood. It’s also the place to see street performances (only happens during night time) & local festivals. It’s also the best place to drink & party. *wink*

Subway Access: Myeong-dong Station – Exit 2 or Exit 8

Nami Island

Nami Island is probably the most beautiful place to experience autumn in Seoul. This island became famous because it was where parts of the hit Korean drama ‘Winter Sonata’ were shot. The island is near Chunchoen City, the capital of Gang-won Province about 1-1.5 hour away from Seoul.

Somewhere in Nami Island 😍

The island has the best autumn view one can image. You can see crimson leaves to yellow autumn leaves all in one place. The place hosts various activities & festivals from time to time. The best way to explore the island is by foot. Make sure to go around the island because you might just miss a stunning view.

Entrance fee to the island is 10,000 won per person. It includes a round-trip ferry transfer (10 minute per trip) from the mainland.

That’s me posing for a photo in Nami 😍

Tip 1: Prepare your autumn / winter outfit when visiting Nami Island. It’s a good place to have a ‘mini-photoshoot’ with friends. Also, if it’s already cold in Seoul, it’s colder in Nami. Prepare your winter jackets & coats.

Tip 2: You can go to Petit France & Garden of Morning Calm after visiting Nami Island. These 2 places are just a bus ride away from Nami. I visited Petit France in 2015 & I personally believe it was just okay – perhaps another place to take good photos. I missed out going to the Garden of Morning Calm due to time constraints.

Subway Access: Gapyeong Station – You can either go there from Sangbong Station (Jungang Line) or Yongsan Station (ITX-Chuncheon Train). From Gapyeong Station, you can either take the Gapyeong Tour Bus (& get off at Nami Island bus stop) or take a taxi (around 2,000 won) per way.

Nami Island is at its best during autum 😍 Definitely a must-visit! 🍂


There you go! I hope I gave you an idea on the best places to visit in Seoul during autumn season. Do you have any questions regarding these destinations? Is there a beautiful autumn place I missed? Let me know by posting a comment below. You can also send an email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. Drop me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.

Gamsahabnida, joh-eun halu doeseyo! 감사합니다, 좋은 하루 되세요. 🇰🇷

PS. All photos above were shot using my HTC One M8.

TAIWAN is now VISA-FREE for FILIPINOS!

Last April 2017, the Taiwan 🇹🇼 (ROC) Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced that they will relax the visa rules for visitors from Philippines under the country’s ‘New Southbound Policy.’ MOFA said they will introduce a 1 year visa exemption trial program for Philippine passport holders. There was no exact date mentioned but rumors say it can start as early as 1 June 2017.

A month after, MOFA advised that they had to delay the visa-free trial program implementation to September 2017 due to internal matters. There was no exact date mentioned when the visa-free entry will start.

You no longer need a visa to see the iconic Taipei 101 in person! 🇹🇼

The long wait is over! Earlier today, the Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in the Philippines announced that Philippine passport holders can enter Taiwan visa-free starting 1 November 2017. Filipino nationals can stay in Taiwan up to 14 days.

According to the TECO website, Filipinos can enter the country visa free provided they meet the following requirements:

⦁ An ordinary / regular passport with validity of at least 6 months from date of entry

⦁ Return ticket to the Philippines or an onward ticket to a next destination (plus visa if required)

⦁ No criminal record in Taiwan

⦁ Proof of accommodation (hotel or hostel booking) / sponsor’s contact information / tour arrangements

Those who intend to stay in Taiwan for more than 14 days need to undergo the usual visa application process. TECO has also advised that the “Travel Authorization Certificate” for qualified visa-free travellers & the payable e-visa system will temporarily be suspended from 1 November 2017. Taiwan’s visa-free entry trial program for Filipino passport holders ends on 31 July 2018.

Jiufen is now just a passport stamp away! 😍

So what are you waiting for? Book your next trip to Taiwan! I’m 100% sure you’ll love it there. In case you missed it, I’ve been to Taipei, Taiwan twice – first in May 2015 & June this year. Make sure to check out those two posts.

What a great news to start the week! I’m happy that the Taiwan government 🇹🇼 has finally announced the details of this visa-free trial program. Taiwan is a beautiful country! I’d love to go back to there soon; hopefully I can squeeze a weekend trip in the coming months. ✌️

PS. Most of the photos were taken using my HTC Re & HTC U11.

Throwback Thursday Treat: Bangkok Weekend – All About Reunions, New Friends & Unplanned Adventures

9-13 September 2016 – I went on a long weekend trip to Bangkok, Thailand with my backpack & passport. I really didn’t have plans of going back until I got a super duper cheap ticket during Cebu Pacific Air‘s anniversary ₱1 sale last year.

You probably saw this already – this is a screenshot of my ticket to BKK last year

Bangkok is a big city with beautiful cultural places to visit & fun activities to experience. I had 4 days in the city so I made a rough plan of what to do & where to go. Let me share to you how the 4 days went & how I reunited with old friends, how I met new people & how everything I planned didn’t push through.

NapPark Hostel @ Khao San

There are a lot of nice hostels in Bangkok – most of them offering good amenities for very affordable prices. I was by myself so I had to look for an affordable but social hostel to look for mates to join me in my plans. After reading through different booking websites & asking in different backpacker Facebook groups, I decided to stay in NapPark Hostel @ Khao San. It is a family run hostel in Khao San. Well, the hostel isn’t really in Khao San Road but it’s a few meters away. No issues at all.

Khao San Road in the afternoon – this place gets really busy at night!

Khao San Road is a small street / area in downtown Bangkok where most foreign backpackers go, eat, drink & stay. It’s an area full of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, hotels & hostels that caters mostly to people travelling on budget. Since I was travelling on budget, I decided to stay in this area of Bangkok.

Now back to the hostel – I decided to get a bed (฿460 per night in Hostelword) in a 22-bed dormitory room. I had no issues staying in such big room because each bed has pull down blinds in on the sides. Guests still have the privacy they need. Each guest is also given a locker for their backpacks & valuables. The bed was spacious & comfortable, the room size was just right. Each bed has a reading light & a plug. The common shower & toilet were always clean. WiFi is fast & free of charge.

How NapPark’s 22 dormitory beds fit in a room

The hostel has a small cafe for breakfast (additional charge). They even have a computer area where guests can do research about their next destination & book air tickets & accommodation. They also offer day trips & activities plus tickets to other towns / cities in Thailand. The hostel also features a nice & spacious common area in the ground floor. This is where guests meet other guests & end up having a great time. I, myself, met tons of really nice people here & had good memories with these new friends.

NapPark personnel were super nice & always ready to help. This hostel is a gem! I recommend everyone travelling solo to stay here when you go to Bangkok. Don’t worry about being with 21 other people in a room; it’s completely safe. You’ll definitely have a good time here, I can assure you that.

Inside NapPark’s dormitory room – each guest is given a locker to use.

One of my favorite social hostel chains, Mad Monkey Hostels, has recently opened their branch in Bangkok (also near Khao San Road). Make sure to check them as well. Another favorite social (& party) hostel chain, Slumber Party Hostel, has also announced that they will open a branch in Bangkok soon! I’l keep you posted about the details.

The Plan

Prior to flying to Bangkok, I made a rough plan of what to do & where to go for the trip. Here are the list of places I want to visit / activities I wanted to do: go back to the Grand Palace, take a river cruise around Chao Phraya River, visit Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) & Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn), go shopping in Chatuchack Weekend Market & Terminal 21 Shopping Mall, visit Ayutthaya for a day, take a cooking class, go to the floating market & of course, party in Khao San Road.

Democracy Monument – Bangkok

I know it looks ambitious of 4-day trip but I really wanted to cover as much as I can.

What Actually Happened

Day 1

I arrived NapPark Hostel in the wee hours of the morning (2:30 am) so I woke up really late that same day. I went out for brunch with some people I met in the hostel & went around Khao San after wards. I went back to the hostel to wait for Christina, a Filipina friend working as a teacher in Bangkok. While waiting, I booked an Ayutthaya day tour (฿800) for the next day through the hostel.

How about some pad thai for lunch? 😋

My friend finally arrived. We decided to just stay & walk around Khao San area because Saturday traffic is really bad. We had coffee, then went back to the hostel to charge our phones then back to Khao San again to have dinner & drinks. We had dinner in a nice fancy restaurant in Soi Rambuttri. I saw Cath, a friend back in college, having dinner with her boyfriend in the same restaurant where we were. We then spent the rest of the night drinking & partying in Khao San Road.

With my friend Christina! Apologies for my sunburn (lol)

Day 2

I woke up early to prepare for the pre-booked day tour in Ayutthaya. The guide picked me up at 7:30 am & he drove us about 1-hour plus up to the ancient city. We visited the following ancient temples:

Wat Yai Chai Mongkol

Wat Maha That

Wat Lokkayasutharam

Wat Phu Khao Thong

Wat Ratchaburana

We also went to a local Thai restaurant for lunch in between those temples. The last stop of the day tour was a visit to the Ayutthaya Elephant Camp. The guides encouraged us to watch some elephant shows & tricks. Some even offered elephant rides for a fee. This is something I do not support so my tour buddy Daniel & I just went around the area. The tour group left Ayutthaya a little past 3:00 pm & arrived Khao San Road at 4:30 pm-ish. I immediately went back to the hostel to rest & freshen up.

Met up my Thai friend Exe – met him when I went to Koh Lipe last April 2016

At 6:00 pm, I went down to the hostel common area to just relax. One of the guys who just arrived (hi Jordan! Haha) started to talk & gather everyone in the common area. We instantly formed a group there & started drinking. At 7:30 pm, I left the group in the hostel to meet my Thai friend, Exe, for dinner. He was one of the guys who I met way back in Koh Lipe. We had about an hour of catch up over pad thai (my fave!!) and beer (again haha!).

A group of solo travelers who decided to go out on a random Sunday night 🍺

I went back to the hostel after dinner to meet with the guys again. We all went to Khao San Road, had more drinks & went bar-hopping. Imagine 10 guys & 1 gal from different parts of the world (Canada, India, USA, Netherlands, Singapore & of course the Philippines) all met in a hostel & spent the night like we’ve known each other for so long. It was one crazy & rainy Sunday night in Khao San. We went home at around 2:30 am & still decided to hangout in the hostel common area before deciding to sleep at 4:00 am.

Who cares about the rain? The party must go on!

Day 3

When you try to fit 5 people in 1 small tuktuk 😂 En route to Siam Paragon & MBK!

The boys (same guys I met the night before) initially planned to go to see the temples for my 3rd day but we all ended up walking around Siam ParagonMBK Centre (probably Bangkok’s most famous shopping center) to go with Destiny, the only girl in the group, in getting some stuff before she leaves. After hours of walking around, buying this & that & eating in a random restaurant, we finally said goodbye to Sam, who left for Singapore that same day.

Inside MBK! Such a biiiig shopping mall 😮

We all went back to the hostel to rest & sleep. While Dennis & Jordan were sleeping, Aman & I stayed in the common area. We started our pre-game there & joined the group of girls playing cards. The playing group became bigger & bigger with almost every guest joining the game. From a group of less than 10, we ended up this big:

Our hostel group during my last night in Bangkok – photo credits to Danielle!

More of that epic night – this time in Khao San Center!

We all went to Khao San to party (again – 3rd straight night for me). Dennis & Jordan followed us in Khao San & joined the party. We almost occupied 1/2 of Khao San Center (haha). Another epic night in Khao San! We eventually got divided into small groups & went our own ways around the area. We decided to go back to the hostel at 2:00 am & found some people in the common area. Guess what? We stayed in the common area until 3:30 am & eventually everyone went back in batches. Suddenly we became another big group again. Crazy night indeed!

Everyone had fun that night!!~~

Day 4

It was my last day in Bangkok. My friends & I didn’t plan anything for the day aside from the beer pong before I leave for the airport at night. We headed out for breakfast & then went back to the hostel with big bottles of water & Chang (Yes, at 11am!). We stayed in the hostel common area from lunch time until around 5:00 pm; met new people; talked to the other guests & watched a movie. For some strange reasons, convenience stores & supermarkets (that time) do not sell alcohol in the afternoon. I don’t know why.

Lazy afternoon in the hostel common area. We watched Ted 2! 📀

At 5:00 pm, we went out of the hostel, got some pad thai near Khao San Road & bought some beer in 7-Eleven. We started to play beer pong. The guys from Chile, Nico & Carlos, even shared to us the brandy they brought from home. I won’t forget the Chilean pisco shots I had!

My last ‘drinking’ day in Bangkok 🍺 Played beer pong before I left for the airport!

9:00 pm – I had to leave for the airport to catch my 12.40 am flight back home. It felt sad leaving while everyone is having fun playing beer pong & enjoying each other’s company. Thank God I made it through check-in, immigration & security even if I’ve had alcohol since morning. My flight bound for Manila left Bangkok & arrived Manila on time.

Verdict

Now to wrap things up… The airfare was definitely a bargain; it’s not the cheapest international ticket I had (click here to know the cheapest international ticket I booked & where I used it) but it was definitely worth it. I made the right choice of staying in NapPark Hostel – it may be expensive than the usual Bangkok hostels but the experience was superb.

It felt nice to finally meet Christina in person after months & years of talking about EDM, Hardwell & rave stuff on Twitter. That day trip to Ayutthaya was a nice experience – it made me remember the temples we visited in Siem Reap, Cambodia way back in 2015. I also had a good time catching up with my friend Exe; it’s been months since we met & shared amazing stories in Koh Lipe.

Chang was probably my best buddy for this trip! 🍺

I feel bad for not going to the other places I planned to visit but I am very happy that I met a lot of cool & amazing people in the hostel. Spending time & drinking with these guys made the trip really fun & memorable (ok, I’m getting emotional – LOL). I may not meet most of them again in the future but I know the good memories we had back in Bangkok will stay in us forever. I will never ever forget the crazy & epic times we had in NapPark Hostel & Khao San Road!

I’m looking forward to going back to Bangkok for some unfinished business – to visit the other temples, the floating & weekend market, etc. Oh, one last thing.. I had too much alcohol intake during this trip; but I had no regrets. No regrets at all.

Kob kun krub, Bangkok! See you soon. 😍

Have you been to Bangkok in the past? If yes, what are the must-see places aside from the Grand Palace? I don’t have a ticket yet but I am now planning to go back there really soon. Feel free to share your experiences to me & to all the readers by posting a comment below. You can also send an email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. Drop me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.

Thank you (ขอขอบคุณ in Thai language) for reading! See you next time~

PS. All photos above were shot using my HTC One M8 & HTC Re.