Thursday, May 2, 2019

Group Tour at Seoul, South Korea

The plane banked to the right as it prepares for its final approach. It was 7:30 in the evening and the twilight sky glowed propitiously. As we cleared the clouds, the entire expanse of Seoul spread below us. The world suddenly felt wide and open that I wanted to jump and taste freedom. The city lights started to glitter just like stars dropping to earth. Buildings big and small collided in a mixture of light, shadow, and geometry. Tiny vehicles rushing along tangled lines of streets and avenues creating twisting threads of lights–they all intertwined together in a magnificent mess of dream. I sighed, amazed at the view laid out before me.

This trip was very special to me. Even if it's my third time to visit Seoul, it was my first time to join a group tour. Usually, when I travel with my mom or friends, it's always DIY (do it yourself). That's why I cannot contain my excitement when I learned that I'm a group tour to Seoul. For five days and four nights, we explored the bustling metropolis of Seoul and the towering landscapes of its neighboring provinces. What made it extra special is the season–Spring. It was my first time to explore the city during the spring season.

The following day, we woke up extra early and traveled north to visit Petite France and Nami Island. Even if this is my second visit to these places, the vibe is different–from the foliage, the crowd, and the weather. It was cloudy when we visited Nami Island and Petite France. Despite that, we still had a great time. We continued our journey to the northeast and visited Seoraksan Mountain. Aside from the giant bronze Buddha statue, the mountain welcomed us with cold winds and rain. I didn't mind the rain and the cold because it's my ideal weather. The cold will never bother me. It brought joy to me as we made our way to the mountain top through the cable car ride. Although when we got there, the visibility got worse due to rain, and the view from the top was blanketed by heavy fog. While the rest of the group was enjoying tteokbokki and Korean pancakes, I ate strawberry ice cream! As we made our way back to the entrance of the national park, I looked back at Seoraksan. Partially shrouded by clouds, I could see the striations of the rock like the first few wisps of white hair of a man. The bareness of the high rock is a boldness, confidence that in all this vast world the mountains dare to stand tall, reaching for the sun above the cloak of green that reaches all the way to my feet.

Petite France on a gloomy day.

Spring OOTD.

Spring has finally sprung!

Leaves have started to grow again. 

Holland feels at Everland.

The following day, we went to Everland Theme Park and Namsan Tower. We tried some of the rides at Everland, ate more food along the way, and got awed by the view from Namsan Tower's observatory deck. All we did was to appreciate the cityscape. It's totally different when the foliage is predominantly green. I even sent a postcard to a friend in Canada, hope it finds its way there though. Lol!

Namsan Tower

Sunset view at N Seoul Tower.

On our fourth day, we went around Seoul for some retail therapy. I told some people on the tour that Myeongdong is the place to be, and touring around Korea's shopping Mecca the entire day isn't enough. Well, it sure wasn't enough, but I guess everyone was happy after burning some Korean wons, including me. The alleyways of Myeongdong were capriciously cruel. In the coolness of Spring daylight, shoppers strutted from shops to shops, swarming the boutique with slogans stenciled to the glass fronts, flashing their credit cards and Korean Wons in exchange for skin-care products that are way cheaper than in boutique shops in the Philippines.

Myeongdong isn't just about shopping, there is also a lot of street food carts here.

Traveling with a big group was pretty challenging but fun. Huge thanks to Viaje Holidays Travel Tours for having me here. It was my first time, and I wouldn't mind joining their trip again in the future! Here are my top three reasons why you should join a group tour:

1) You'll meet new friends. I have to admit that the introvert in me doesn't want to interact with new acquaintances,  but hey, I survived! I went out of my comfort zone, and it was worth it. New friends, new memories to cherish, and new connections that last for a lifetime!

2) It is surprisingly not that expensive. One thing that made me hesitant of joining a group is that it's expensive. But with Viaje Holidays Travel Tours, it wasn't! This trip costs $755 per person, and it already includes 4-star accommodation, buffet lunch, and dinner (trust me, I eat a lot and I was full every after meal), roundtrip ticket from Cebu, and bus transportation with an English-speaking tour guide. She was extremely funny and witty, and I learned a lot about the history of Korea, how it became what it was today. I miss Auntie Mickey already!

3) You don't need to worry about public transportation. There are cities that have confusing public transportation systems. With group tours, all you have to do it to sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenic view.

Mount Seorak

Gyeongbokgung Palace

A typical suburban street in Seoul.

As we neared Incheon Airport, the plane flew low overhead us, signaling that the trip's about to end. I am thankful that I joined this trip. I met new friends, and it was a breather–something that I've always looked forward since work has taken its toll on me. They say that we should attain the work-life balance, and I'm taking it very seriously.

Seoul, you are my comfort zone, and I will never get tired of exploring you.


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