Hello again Bluehanbok readers! I have mentioned in my previous post that I will be sharing my itineraries and helpful information about my recent trip to South Korea! I’ll be sharing my flying experience with Cebu Pacific and then I will talk about our DMZ tour! The Korean Demilitarization Zone or the DMZ serves as the “border” of North and South Korea. It was not my first time in DMZ but I am still excited to share my wonderful experience. Keep on reading peeps!
We had our flight from Manila to Incheon with Cebu Pacific, a low-cost carrier from the Philippines. We bought our roundtrip tickets from a seat sale last December and it was priced at 8,200 pesos (roughly 186 USD) with a baggage allowance of 20 kilograms. Aside from the 30-minute delay caused by a long queue of planes taking off from the NAIA Terminal 3, we didn’t have any bad experience with Cebu Pacific. It was my first time flying with them to an international destination but I can say that it was a nice experience. Our plane was an Airbus A330 so the leg room was quite spacious compared to their domestic planes. My friends also told me that previously, Cebu Pacific got really small planes for flights to South Korea but I think because of their additional plane deliveries, the airline managed to change their aircraft going to SK.
We left Manila past 4 in the afternoon and reached Incheon at past 9 in the evening. It was a cold and rainy night in Incheon but we didn’t mind it because we really missed being in Korea! We were just quite disappointed at their Immigration section because the lines were not organized. After 15-20 minutes of queuing, we finally managed to get out of the immigration area and went downstairs to get our luggage.
After getting our things, we went to the KT Olleh wifi-egg and phone rental station to get a wifi-egg. My friend was able to rent a Wi-fi egg on a discounted price because of a discount coupon from the Visit Korea website. I am not really sure with the exact details of renting the Wi-fi egg. What I know is that they filled out a form, swiped their credit card as deposit and they already got the egg! The use of the egg is unlimited and the rental fee of less than 10,000 won per day is really cheap!
As soon as my friend got the Wi-fi egg, we rushed to the bus counter to check if they are still open. Unfortunately, the counter was already closed so we didn’t have any choice but to ride the subway. Our original plan was really to ride the subway but we just checked if we can use the bus for a more convenient trip!
It took us about an hour and a half to get to the National Assembly subway station. Our hotel was Kobos Hotel in Yeouido. I know that most of the tourists book hotels near Myeongdong or the Jongno area but we wanted a hotel near KBS (for fangirl purposes) so we booked Kobos. I will try to discuss more about Kobos in another post!
Let’s now focus on our Destination DMZ! My friends wanted to visit DMZ so I tried to look for a DMZ tour on the Visit Korea website a week before our trip. I saw Sally Tour on the list of accredited travel agencies so I checked their website for the list of tour packages. Their morning DMZ trip (7:30am-2pm) was priced at 38,000 won per head and I find it really, really cheap! I checked other blogs and reviews if Sally Tour’s service is fine despite the cheap price and most of the comments were positive. I booked a Morning DMZ tour using their website but I got errors even if I use Internet Explorer so I decided to send an e-mail to Ms. Sally Kim (the owner) instead. I copied the reservation form from their website and sent her an e-mail regarding the reservation. Few minutes after I sent the message, I already got a response from her! She confirmed the date of booking and told me that the hotel pick-up time is 7:20 am. She also said that we can pay on the day of the trip with cash or credit card.
Our schedule to DMZ was on May 8, Thursday. After eating our free breakfast from Kobos Hotel, we decided to drop by a convenience store nearby to buy water. But as soon as we stepped out the entrance, we saw a mini-bus in front and an ahjussi asked if we were the three people he was about to pick-up for a DMZ tour. We were surprised that he picked us up at exactly 7:20 am!
We rode the mini-bus until we reached the US Embassy in Seoul where a bigger tourist bus is waiting for us. We hopped on the bigger bus and met our other tour mates and our tour guide C.K which stands for Crazy Korean or his name Chan(ho) Kim. If you will read comments about Sally Tour, you will definitely read CK’s name too! He was quite famous among tourists getting the DMZ tour because he is probably the best DMZ tour guide out there. He speaks good English and he really knows a lot about the DMZ.
The itinerary of our DMZ tour as as follows: Hotel pick up – Imjingak Park – The Bridge of Freedom – The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel – DMZ Theater/Exhibition Hall – Dora Observatory – Dorasan Station – Unification Village (pass by) – Amethyst/Ginseng Center – Arrive at City Hall/Itaewon. I’ve been to all of the places except for the last three so I already knew what to expect in the trip. We needed to bring our passports for identification purposes in the DMZ so if you are planning to go there, do not forget your passport.
CK and the whole tour was really worth it! We had a nice time going around the DMZ area and the tour guide explains everything in detail. When we went to the DMZ during our field trip in Hannam University, no one was explaining the things about DMZ. I am really grateful to CK because he told us a lot of information about the North and South Korean dispute. Also this time, my experience inside the 3rd tunnel was better compared to my first trip to DMZ in 2011! I think I did better in climbing up from the bottom of the tunnel haha!
Another highlight of our DMZ trip was the Dorasan Station or the train line that can possibly connect Pyongyang to Seoul. CK told us that we can have the chance to see how it looks like inside the train tracks but unfortunately we were not allowed to go beyond the waiting area because of the on-going DMZ-Seoul free railway service. Again, it was not my first time going to that station but I still got goosebumps when I saw their tagline “This is not the last station in the South but the first station going to the North”.
After our DMZ tour, we headed back to Seoul and got off at the City Hall station. CK asked us if we want to go with him to eat lunch but we decided that we will eat in Myeongdong instead. We also chose to go to Myeongdong because we needed to exchange our money. We didn’t change our dollars to won at the aiport because the exchange rate was too low! It was 985 won per dollar at the aiport but in Myeongdong, it was 1015 won per dollar! We also saw a money changer in front of the Chinese Embassy in Myeongdong with 1024 won a dollar as their rate. I strongly suggest that you should change your money in that money changer in front of the Chinese Embassy in Myeongdong. For Filipinos, don’t bring peso if you don’t want to get a lower exchange rate in the banks. The money changers in Myeongdong didn’t accept peso when we tried to exchange them to won.
Don’t miss the DMZ tour when you visit Korea! I also recommend Sally Tour for a very nice and affordable service! As of today, I checked Sally Tour’s website and the price of their Morning DMZ tour is down to 36,000 won! What are you waiting for? Book your DMZ tours nowwww!!!
*I am not connected with Sally Tour in any way. My review of Sally Tour is based on my own experience and I am not paid to do this. 🙂