To easily immerse and experience a country that you are visiting, trying their food is the quickest and one of the enjoyable ways. When we went to Seoul, South Korea below are the foods we tried that are not available yet here in Cebu (that I’m aware of). As we all know Samgyeopsal is already here in the Philippines and almost every Millenials love and tried it already so we stay away from it and look for foods that are not yet in the Philippines or Cebu.
Hotteok or hoddeok is one of the popular street food in South Korea. It has a similarity to our own Piyaya because it has a sweet filling and good to eat when it’s still warm. Unlike Piyaya that is flat Hotteok is more of a bread-ish pancake kind and fillings may differ from vendor to vendor but based on my observation red bead is the most common filling.
Well, this is a toasted bread sandwich in which the fillings are eggs with cabbages and carrots that are formed as “patty”, a sprinkle of sugar, and a little spread of ketchup. The “grandma” part is some sort of branding I guess, though it could be because the cook is an old woman. Grandma’s Toast is perfect as breakfast food though this can be a whole day food actually. We tried one in Namdaemun.
This one is interesting, it’s a cake-like or muffin-ish bun with an egg inside. At first, I thought the sunny-side-up egg was on top but the egg is actually a boiled one that is sitting at the center of the bun while the tip is showing on top exposing the yolk.
Taffa-ta rae or Korean court cake is a desert of the royals and guests. The fillings either chocolate or candied nuts (taste like Cebu’s Masi in Liloan) are covered by a thread-like dough of up to16,000 strands. If you eat it cold or frozen the thread dough will become fragile and powdery and not sticky anymore (though it’s not really that sticky – a dough kind of stickiness).
Tom’s Farm flavored nuts
I think it’s their famous snack as of now because I see this everywhere. I think the most famous one is walnut coated with honey butter cause they have this boutique in Myeongdong that carries the Honey Butter Walnut flavor (I assume this is their flagship flavor) though they have many flavors available.
Below are other street foods while exploring Myeongdong.
Filipinos when traveling will always make time to look for “pasalubong” or souvenir and here in Korea, there are 2 known places where you can find those items.
Myeongdong street is a shopping area where international fashion brands, as well as luxury ones, are located. Cosmetic shops, Beauty bars, cafes, and nightlife can also be found here. Streetfood lovers don’t frit, they also have it here.
If you want to catch a big sale, visit Myeongdong shopping district during their festivals which happens twice a year. Visit at the end of March to the middle of April or the month of September; besides product sale witness also parades, fashion shows, dance performance, and other activities.
International and known brands you can find in Myoengdong are Lacoste, Polo Ralph Lauren, H&M, Zara, Forever 21, Bulgari and Louis Vuitton, Addidas etc.
Namdaemun market is like the Divisoria of Seoul, it is a traditional market and it is the oldest and largest market in Korea.
Unlike in Myeongdong, here you can find ginseng roots in bottles and dried products for your cooking and health needs. There are stores that sell used cameras, clothing, and shoes at a cheaper price, hanbok, and other souvenirs items that are inexpensive.
Namdaemun is open 24 hours but it’s more lively during at night starting from 10PM to 4AM where most stores are open and people are now flocking to shop.
Tips when shopping
When shopping for items (non-food) abroad, this is the time where you do the conversion of currency and see if it’s really a good deal.
Check first here in the Philippines or to your own country the items that you want to buy the price, then compare it with the pricing in the country where you visited if it’s cheaper.
If they’re the same in all aspects like quality, price, or even brand name then I suggest that it’s better to buy it in your country. It’s pointless to carry and add it to your luggage the items that you can just buy in your own country.
Make sure you check your own country’s customs as well as your visited country’s customs policy if they allow the items you are buying to be transported.
Make a list of what you want to buy. Unless you are a prince/princess, a king or a sultan, or you are just lucky enough to have overflowing cash then a list of items you want to buy is not necessary. Budgeting makes you a wise and humble shopper.
As much as possible don’t bring cash especially for tech-savvy countries like Korea. Make use of debit cards, credit cards, T-Money, or digital wallets because sometimes especially credit cards offer rebit or some perks (just do your research first). Korea is a safe country and it’s very less likely that you will be robbed in the streets but sometimes with the cash, you might misplace it or fall when you grab it from your pocket.
Utilize the tax refund, if you buy in Myeongdong most stores are offering tax-free claims. Refundable tax is 10% VAT; for cash refunds, you need a passport, credit card, receipts, and tax refund slip. Show it to the refund counter on the third floor, the departure floor, in front of gate 28 at Incheon International Airport.
Myeongdong and Namdaemun are not the only places where you can find great deals, especially in clothing. Check also near universities, where the stores’ target market is students. As you know students have limited cash yet love fashion so they are picky and quality conscious thus their prices for fashion items may not that high and the items are in good quality. This is what I noticed when we are heading to Trick Eye Museum where the closest university is Hongik University (Hongdae).
When you travel abroad, the internet is a necessity nowadays. When we went to Seoul, South Korea we tried looking for the internet pocket device for rent because it’s the cheapest way to get connected online. There are many options at the airport when you arrive however they change their policy and now require a credit card to be able to rent. In our case, none of us have a credit card so we opted to use the sim card.
Buy the SIM instead of Pocket wifi
The sim card that we chose was KT (Olleh) for unlimited internet for 5 days worth W27,500. Then we plugged it in my extra phone and turned it into an instant wifi hotspot for the 3 of us. South Korea has 3 major internet telecommunication players: SK Telecom, KT Corporation (Olleh), and LG UPlus.
The 5 days unlimited internet is actually worth it, we are always connected even under the subway or even when the train was moving. We did not experience any hiccup or lag for the whole duration.
Before going to South Korea, I also checked our local operators here in the Philippines if they offer roaming services and here’s what I found.
Note: The above price and roaming service is as of December 2019.
Apparently, it’s way more convenient and cheaper to buy their sim in Korea than buying here ahead. In Korea, their 5days internet sim is unlimited whereas the operators here in the Philippines offer limited data allocation.
Pocket wifi is ~50% cheaper compared to sims but they need to be returned and if you are in a hurry to catch your check-in and boarding time that task will consume your time. Internet sim is way better because you don’t need to think about dropping by their kiosk to return their device. You can still use the internet up until the gates or even inside the plane (while still waiting).
Transportation and Convenience Store Card
One of the things to get while you are in the airport is the T-Money card. It’s a prepaid card for payment transactions in trains, buses, and taxis. You can also use this when you purchase something in their convenience stores, fast food, coffee shops, vending machines, unmanned locker rooms, and even in Everland Resort.
The T-Money card is W4,000 then we charged it with W10,000 first. Overall, we charged our T-Money of W25,000 for 5 days trip and still have a remaining balance. Recharge or Top-up your T-money through their major convenience stores such as GS25, CU, 7-ELEVEN, Ministop, emart24, 365PLUS, Story Way. You may also top-up through Tmoney vending machines, T-money service centers in subway stations (Seoul Metropolitan Subway Lines 1-8, Incheon Subway Lines 1-2).
You can see your balance in T-Money through an app called T-Balance or check on their terminal gates/NFC card reader devices when you tap it.
You may also go digital and download the app instead of buying the physical NFC card. However, the app only works for the phones running in Android 5 or above and NFC is functional. Supported credit/debit cards are VISA, Master, JCB, AmEx, and Union Pay only. Top-up and claim a refund through the app conveniently.
How to use the T-Money?
Put (tag) the card on a card reader for the payment. Do not remove the card until the payment is completed (it takes about 0.5sec).
Bus Tag the card at the center of a card reader upon riding until the beep is heard. The fees and remaining balance will be displayed on the card reader. When getting off the bus, you should tag again it to the card reader until the beep is heard to receive a transfer fee discount.
Subway When you ride a subway, tag the card at the center of a card reader until the beep is heard. The fees and remaining balance will be displayed on the card reader. (It may be differently displayed when you transfer.) You should tag it in the same way when you arrive at your destination.
Taxi When you get to your destination present a T-money card to a taxi driver. After the payment is completed, please make sure to retrieve the card and its receipt.
Others When making a payment, present a T-money card to a convenient store, café, etc. where it is possible to pay by T-money. After the payment is completed, please make sure to retrieve the card and its receipt.
Yes, Google Maps is not that functional in South Korea because of there government regulations law or the Korean Spatial Information Management act that prohibits the exportation of Korean domestic geographical information.
Instead, download the app called Naver Map. This app guides you as you tour around, it shows you the best and/or less walking route both for metro trains and buses. It also calculates the transit time and real-time traffic information. It also has its subway map in Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Gwangju, and Daejeon.
South Korea’s transportation system is as good and convenient as Hong Kong and Singapore. I hope that someday our country will catch up and will have the same system as theirs. I really believe that Metro Rail transit is one of the solutions for our traffic problem in our country and I hope someday our government will invest in creating this transportation system in cities nationwide.
Last September 3, 2018, we went for dinner at the newly opened Korean restaurant in Marigondon, Lapu-lapu City. Barangay Marigondon is also known for resorts and the little Korea town because of establishments in the area catering to Korean nationals.
they are known for the egg crust around the grill
The place is called Mapo Galmaegi Magal Korean Restaurant (they are known for Magal restaurant), they are not a new investor in the food industry they already have restaurants in Korea, Singapore, and Bali Indonesia.
I like their place, it’s clean and the crews are very friendly and attentive to our needs. Cushion black faux-leather seats, cozy place, lights at the top corner of their seats are attractive for me. Definitely, you will not smell like smoked pork or beef afterward because each table with a grilling set has its own vacuum/fan.
I don’t like cooking my food when in the restaurant so I ordered a cooked and ready to eat food :p
The location is very new, they are like inside an arcade building on the second floor, above McDonalds Maribago (this is new too so you might not find this yet in Google map as of this writing). They are located at 2F Goldberry Resorts Brgy. Maribago, Lapu-lapu City.