We landed in GIMPO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, SEOUL on a Korean Air flight at 1535 hrs after spending 6 beautiful nights in JEJU Island. We picked up our luggage and hurriedly went about locating the Limousine Bus Service.
Brenda suggested heading over to INCHEON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT instead for a return Limousine Bus Service since we are departing from there on the 24th November. I was more keen to take the SEOUL METROPOLITAN SUBWAY (METRO) to Myeong-dong Station as it was just 100 meters away from our hotel, PACIFIC HOTEL (according to reviews). Anyway, don’t argue with a women, just agree and go with it.
You can buy tickets for the bus on the arrival level of the terminal. One way cost 7,500KW (SG$9.00/ US$6.75 on 25/11/2014) per passenger.
Look for direction signs to the ticket counter or ask any airport staff. The buses are assigned numbers. It is no different from the way we take buses at the terminal here.
The bus bays are across the road immediately after you exit the terminal. The bus ride took close to 2 hours due to the peak hour traffic. What’s worse, we realized our hotel was the last stop! A real pain in my a**. Long bus rides gives me motion sickness.
It would have been a straight forward ride from Gimpo International Airport on the Purple Line5 towards Singil Station, with one transfer at Seoul Station on the Blue Line4 towards Danggogae. I think it would have taken slightly more then an hour if not less (as with most airport to city rail services).
True enough, the trip to the airport via the Airport Track Line from Seoul Station took 43 minutes. However, the transfer, walking and waiting took another 30 minutes. In all, the journey took 73 minutes. It was not much faster then the bus but I enjoyed it more although it was a little challenging. Anyway, I leave the choice to you.
By the way, if you are wondering where to stay in Seoul for shopping, I highly recommend the PACIFIC Hotel. The room is of good size, layout is nice, comfortable and IT IS 100 meters away from Myeong- dong Metro Station.
The area is extremely vibrant with eateries in abundance, great shopping (departmental stores and street vendors) and has fantastic atmosphere. The location is also central to other attractions and popular shopping centers (by foot or the Metro). Myeong-dong itself is a popular shopping area.
The entire street (including its intersections) are filled with flagship brand name stores and lines of street vendors (merchandise & food). You are literally in the middle of the “action”.
The other places of interest (for shopping) has to be NAMDAEMUN MARKET, INSADONG STREET and LOTTE DUTY FREE SHOPPING CENTER. The first two will appeal to mature tourist and the Korean Ajumma (or Japanese Obasan) but the younger crowd should make a trip down for the experience.
Namdaemum Market is accessible from Hoehyeon Station on Blue Line4. I suggest you take Exit 5 which I found most convenient. You can start your trip as soon as you step out of the station and reverse when you are done.
“HELLO APM” is another haunt for the young and trendy (female) to shop for clothing. It is easily accessible from Dongdaemoon Station on Purple Line1 or Blue Line4.
Incidentally, “Hello APM” is one of the cheapest places for fashion wear (comparatively in South Korea). It is South Korea’s version of PLATINUM FASHION MALL in Bangkok, Thailand or vice verse depending on your territorial “retail allegiance”.
If it was in Summer, the ladies will absolutely love it! So many things to see, haggle and buy.
Then there is this underground shopping center located in Express Bus Terminal Metro Station; The GANGNAM EXPRESS BUS STATION CLOTHUING MARKET a.k.a.”GO-TO MALL”. You will need to hop on Orange Line3 of the Metro to get there.
I am more of a sight seeing guy and was only being a dutiful husband, accompanying Brenda while she shops. Actually I just plonk myself in a nice cafe, order a latte, read a book or watch people until she is done.
Anyway, do bear in mind that the cost of things generally in South Korea is rather pricey. For example; a box of 6 piece fried chicken wings cost 16,000KW (US$14.40, as of 22-11-2014) and this isn’t a fancy restaurant but a regular take-out. In terms of clothing, it cost 15-20% more for a similar item elsewhere (no location mentionede).
Most department stores offer tax free shopping for tourist. If you have duty free tax refund, have them refunded at the airport BEFORE check-in with your airline. You will need to have all your receipts ready for customs stamp at the Tax Refund Counter.
Head to the back of check-in Row J, the customs counter is located there. Follow the queue pole line to see the customs officer to inspect your purchases and the receipts stamped.
Proceed next to self- service automated kiosk, they are just next to the customs inspection queue.
Have your passport and receipts ready. Follow the prompts on the kiosk, they are self explanatory. There are customer service staff to help you if you need help.
You can proceed to check-in with your airline once you are done. As soon as you clear immigration, proceed to gate 27 and look for the same self- service automated kiosk. Follow the prompts on the screen and your tax is refunded in cash.
We enjoyed our four night stay in Seoul but Jeju was the highlight for me. The end of autumn weather was wonderful (a little chilly sometimes but not uncomfortably cold), the food was alright (but fantastic in Jeju), and the entire duration was just nice (not rushed).
For me at least, it was time to go home and get back to work after 10 fantastic days in South Korea. For Brenda, well she wouldn’t mind staying a day or two more. She did grumble that we could have stayed a couple more days when I told her I am scheduled for work only on 28th November! Women.