Last December 27 was my fourth time to visit Seoul. I love the cool weather having been from a tropical country so I decided to go back during winter. One thing that I have not experienced is summer in Seoul, i just had too much of the heat in the Philippines to go vacationing in another country during its summer period.
Though I have been in Seoul four times I have not explored the other areas in this big bright city but maybe on my next visit I would probably pay attention to other areas within Seoul and see perhaps Daegu or Busan.
Every time I touch down the Incheon airport, I can just see how things are improving each visit, even metro Seoul kept on changing. Incheon is definitely one of the best airports I have ever been too. It’s becoming more and more tourist friendly. You can’t help but appreciate those little booth set up before stepping out of the airport to go to your destination. They have English speaking personnel ready to help you on which mode of transportation to use to get to your destination. They will even be writing it in Hangul to ensure that the ‘captain’ of the bus understands it. Compared to Taiwan (where there are also few who speaks English) i think Incheon is more prepared for tourists. Not to undermine the Taoyuan which is undergoing improvements, it’s just that Incheon is ready even for the most late arrival. The airport remains accessible to various mode of transportation not just the expensive taxis or rent a car.
I always prefer staying at the Seoul central district specifically the 종로(Jongno – yes the r becomes n when romanized or pronounced) area. During my first stay I stayed at Best Western New Seoul Hotel. The location of this hotel is pretty good as it is within the financial district of Seoul. However upon discovering Doulos Hotel, I have decided to make this my home when in Seoul. I have so many reason to like this little hotel at the heart of Jongno. This is a good hotel choice when staying in Seoul. So I am sharing why this can be a good place to stay especially if you are a mindful of costs and expenses.
Doulos is near Jongno 3-ga (Jongno samga as Koreans would say it). From Incheon the hotel is accessible via bus or train. Taxi, unless you are staying within Incheon or within near radius, would be expensive. You might be surprised with the exchange rate but 1 USD is nearly 1000KRW (Korean Won). So taxi from Incheon to Seoul or vice versa would be 70,000KRW without traffic but a bus ride would only cost 10,000KRW.
Taking Bus No. 6002 at bus station marked 5B outside arrival area, you just need to get off bus stop Jongno 3-ga MTR station. Tickets can be bought at the Airport Bus Transportation booth right before going outside the airport but when it’s late, you can pay directly to the bus just make sure you have 10,000KRW at hand. Money Exchange is available in the airport and if you don’t have enough cash on hand you can withdraw from International ATMs located within the airport marked with Visa or MasterCard. There is a transaction fee for the withdrawal.
You can also take the Airport Railroad Express (AREX) which takes you to Seoul Station where the transport hub if Seoul is, then transfer to Line 1 of the MTR to reach Jongno 3-ga. The Seoul Metro (subway transport system in Seoul) is very efficient. It may look complicated but you can find your way because stations are clearly marked and most information have English translations. Regardless if you take the bus or MTR if you decided to stay at Doulos your stop would be Jongno 3-ga.
The bus stop where airport buses stop is marked with an airplane. If you are taking the subway you have to take Exit 2 to see this. When you see this mark you just have to walk straight and turn left on the first corner. This is actually a little longer route but when you have luggage with you and it’s late, taking the alley to reach the hotel may be a scary option at first, but it’s actually safe. Once you turn left (the corner has Missha shop) a few step would lead you to this landmark:
You have to turn left again on the first corner which looks like a small street. Do not be surprised to see motels, if you are not used to seeing one in your country this place is pretty decent and safe even at night. Doulos Hotel is about 50 meters on the right side from the time you turn left on the said corner.
A welcoming hotel staff who can communicate in English is ready to help you check in. Now once you are ready to explore Seoul, you may try the alley which is a short-cut to and from Hotel to Jongno 3-ga station. The best alley (there are several) is the bigger one which is a few steps from hotel entrance going to the right. This is how the alley looks like day time:
At night you will surely be enticed with grilled fish being sold by 식당 (shiktang- restaurant) along the alley. We have always been tempted to buy one but we ended up just enjoying the delicious scent of the fish because our stomach is full whenever we go out or comeback to the hotel.
The rooms at Doulos Hotel is not that big but it’s bigger than those in Hong Kong. At least in all our stay, the linens are always clean and fresh. What’s even good is that this little hotel offers free breakfast. It may be the same stuff but they try to have variation with the sweets like they alternately serve fruits or mini pastries. The breakfast is filling, having it free for its rate is really super value add. I remember paying 205USD for a night stay in New Seoul Hotel which is room only, at Doulos price ranges from 60 to 100USD depending on the season. Some online booking offers good discount. I used to get good rates at Innostel but they stopped offering Doulos from that online booking site.Since then, I have alternately booked directly from hotel or agoda depending on the situation (it gets fully booked quickly on peak season).
The hotel is generous enough to provide you with free bottled water that is Evian and Soonsoo (Coca Cola brand). They also have small chocolates as welcome treat. You don’t need to bring towels as this is provided by the hotel already. Toiletries are almost complete including toner. Unless you have brand preference their toiletries are good.
At night, the adjacent street on the right side becomes a drinking place, a typical set up in Korean stall that becomes a place for 소주 (soju- korean rice wine) and street food. This is something worth experiencing too. I have tried the sausages and kimbap they are all good except for that takoyaki stall (it’s not comparable to the Japanese counterpart).
A lot of spots worth visiting is just walking distance from the Hotel this includes, Tapgol Park, Insadong, Tea Museum, Changdoekgung and Cheonggyecheon (stream). There are also nearby places that are 2 to 3 stations away from Jongno 3-ga via MTR like Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, Seoul Station etc.
When the Seoul Metro started to operate a self service type of dispensing ticket (my 2nd visit) I was too worried but since there is English translation I got used to it. I remember how hard it is to buy train tickets during my first visit because I was still learning to read Hangul and most train personnel really wouldn’t understand you when you speak English so you have to say the destination correctly. The vending machine made it so much easy. Each year the subway map gets a little more complicated due to additional lines but it’s all for a better transportation experience. I also noticed how Citibank ATMs are made available in key stations like the Seoul City Hall station and Jongno 3-ga to name a few. Earlier times the Citibank and Standard Charter banks are very few. ATMs marked with Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus are not accepted in local banks ATM despite the availability of the said logo from their machines. Only Citibank and Standard Chartered ATMs accepts international ATM cards. Good thing is aside from the subway stations I mentioned there is one Standard Chartered bank opposite Jongno 3-ga station.
Reminiscing my stay while writing this post makes me want to go back to Seoul again. I just can’t get enough of this wonderful city. I probably would be posting more of these experiences and observations in succeeding days.
서울 너무 좋아요!