Korea 2017 Day 6 : Suwon (Shoot location of Love in the Moonlight, Jewel in the Palace, and Running Man)

Started the day early again for our 6th day in South Korea because we headed for the neighboring city, Suwon.  Suwon is the capital and largest metro of the Gyeonggi-do province, which surrounds Seoul. From general knowledge, this city is not usually part of the top destinations for first-time visitors of South Korea, since you can already do a lot in Seoul.

So, what did I came here for? I first found out about Suwon in Running Man Episode two, where they visited the Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon World Cup Stadium, and World Cup Memorial. Suwon being a Running Man location was already enough reason for me to go, but I was even more convinced when I found out the location set for Jewel in the Palace and Love in the Moonlight (Moonlight Drawn by Clouds) was also found here.

Suwon’s cultural sites are pretty easy to visit as they are within the vicinity of the Hwaseong Fortress. Since we only had a day to spend here, I had to prioritize certain sites visit and took out museum stops. Before your trip to Suwon, I suggest to pin the sites you’d like to see. Then, get a map from the Tourist Information center near Exit 4 of Suwon Station that would help you get around the area.

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Our first stop was the Padalmun Gate, the southern gate of Hwaseong Fortress. This is the entrance used to get inside the Fortress. You have to pass-by this area since this is also the bus stop to Hwasong Palace.

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Padalmun Gate: This gate is unique as it’s the only one detached from the Fortress. The reason for this is that commerce took place around the Padalmun Gate area even before its construction, making it impossible to close the fortress in that area. (Credits: Korean Tourism Organization)

Next is the Hwaseong Haenggung (Hwaseong Palace). I wasn’t used to the word “haenggung” as all the palaces in Seoul were called “gung”, so I looked it up. Apparently, a “haenggung” is a temporary palace where the king and royal family retreated to during a war. Hwaseong Haenggung Palace is the largest one of these that was used during the Joseon times.

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From upper left to bottom right – Hwasong Haenggung entrance; first interior gate; martial arts painting at the side of the palace; King’s receiving area

We were lucky because we visited Hwasong Haenggung during their spring break season. We just found out that during this time, a lot of cultural places have promos or discounts for entrances to encourage people to visit. So we got in for free. Yehey!

NOTE: Our trip was from May 6-13. I guess if you want to have free entrances as well, you should go at this time. The downside of this schedule is that most likely there won’t be any cherry blossoms anymore as spring is already transitioning to summer.

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What I like about Hwaseong Haenggung is that they used the palace as a museum to show court life in the past. You’ll see lifesize figures of a queen being served, the king at his study, scholars studying, and kitchen staff.

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From upper left to bottom right: King’s stamp/seal – You’ll get to experience how to use the king’s seal; Memorial banquet – this is what they cook for memorial services; A diorama of a palace celebration; And the king’s throne.

Hwaseong Haenggung might be familiar for K-drama fans, as it is the filming location for the popular Korean period drama, “Jewel in the Palace”. Recently, it was also used by KBS to film the promotional video of “Love in the Moonlight” (also known as “Moonlight Drawn by Clouds”). It’s the one where Park Bo Gum was dancing to tune of “Boombastic”.

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Took a picture with Jang Geum and captain of Jewel in the Palace.

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This is where Park Bo Gum danced Boombastic for his Love in the Moonlight (Moonlight Drawn by Clouds) promo video.

Next, we visited the Yeonmudae Post at the edge of Hwaseong Fortress. It’s another Running Man location (hahaha), but aside from that, I wanted to go here because they had the Korean archery experience (Gakgung).

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Me, preparing for my archery lesson.

I recently watched the Korean drama, Hwarang, so this attraction is something I really wanted to try. I was really excited because the you only need to pay 2,000 KRW (Php 90-100) for a 30 minute lesson. You’ll have to set a schedule on-site. They only have a few slots per session. The lesson was short and after which, you get to shoot 10 arrows. I hit the target 3 times! (Yeah!)

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Information and timeslots of Korean archery (Gakgung) experience

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Hwaseong Fortress and Yeonmudae post that was featured in Running Man episode 2.

Before going home, we stopped by Suwon Stadium. This is also a Running Man location, a very famous one. Got to go inside as the entrance was open. There were staff cleaning the stadium and setting up goal posts. Preparations were being done for the FIFA U-20 World Cup that’s being hosted by South Korea this year from May 20 – June 11, 2017. Suwon Stadium is their largest stadium with a capacity of 42 thousand.

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Suwon Statdium being prepared for the upcoming FIFA U-20.

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Outside Suwon Stadium

That’s it for day 6. Annyeong! 🙂

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Korea 2017 Day 5: Korea International Horticulture Festival (Goyang)

For our 5th day in Korea, we  went outside Seoul to attend the Korea International Horticulture in Goyang.

I found this event while I was planning the itinerary. I had an inkling that we’ll be arriving on a Spring-Summer transition season and there won’t be flowers anymore, so I opted to include a flower festival in the itinerary to experience that aspect of spring. 

The event was at Ilsan Lake Park, more than an hour away from Seoul via train. The good thing about this park is that it’s very near the train station, so it’s easy to find. Did I mention that it’s also a Running Man location? This is where they shot couple race episode with Girls Generation.

I enjoyed the festival very much. It’s my first time to see a lot if the plants there, since we don’t have spring in the Philippines. I loved taking photos of the tulips and different installations done for the festival. One garden had a Wizard of Oz theme. It was so cute!

Within the vicinity of Ilsan Park is a Mapo Mandu branch. For those of you who don’t know, Mapo Mandu is one of the best dimsum chains in Korea. It’s been featured on TV a couple of times including (Yes, have you guessed?) Running Man!

We tried the beef mandu for our afternoon snack and ordered 2 more sets of that for dinner. We were supposed to go to Mapo to find a Mapo Manju branch and see Digital Media City but decided to cut the day short since the next day’s itinerary was loaded. We will save that location for a future trip. 

That’s it for day 5. Annyeong!

Korea 2017 Day 4: Our Love for Running Man

Even the rain and cold weather couldn’t stop us from pushing through our itinerary for this day, because we were scheduled to visit some Running Man shooting sites (Yehey!).

Korean Manhwa Museum entrance

When I was planning our itinerary, my sister and I made sure to squeeze in some shooting sites from our favorite variety show. One of our favorite episodes was shot at Korean Manhwa Museum, so we first headed to Bucheon.

Robot manhwa

With the famous dinosaur, Dooly.

Bucheon is one of the cities near Seoul. It’s about 1 1/2 hours travel from the place we’re staying at (Yongsan). If you think about it, it’s pretty far, but that’s okay. All for Running Man. Hahaha

Manhwa shelf

A manhwa artist’s desk

When we reached the Korean Manhwa Museum, the entrance fee was discounted (from 5,000 to 3,500 KRW) because it’s election day today. It was a happy coincidence.

Running Man theme song challenge

Running Man played hide and seek here

This is Shin from Goong. His Philippine TV name is Gian.

We got to see and took photos of the shooting areas, where Running Men played hide and seek and the theme song game. We participated in one of the activities where you get to draw a manhwa character. I drew Pororo. AIso, I saw copies and characters of my favorite manhwa, Goong (Princess Hours – it became a drama and was dubbed in the Philippines).

Drawing Pororo

Within walking distance from the Korean Manhwa Museum is another Running Man shooting location, Aiin’s World. It’s a small theme park where you will see miniature models of the world’s famous landmarks. You will literally “go around the world” in 30 minutes. Word of advise, it’s better to visit this destination at night. Landmarks look better with colored lights around.

Colosus of Rhodes, Morocco, Jordan, Mr. Kilimanjaro, Egypt

Sagrada Familia, Collessium, Acropolis, Versailles

We headed back to Seoul to visit my college batchmates, Anne, at Ehwa University. It’s one of the top universities in Korea. It’s famous for their ECC building, one of Korea’s modern architecture landmarks. Enjoyed catching-up with Anne while we toured around campus. She even brought us to the cafetria with good kimbap.

Ewha University ECC

Ewha University Admin Bldg

Ewha University pretty building HAHA

Ewha University Hanok House

That’s it for day 4! Annyeong!

Korea 2017 Day 3: Hongdae, Myeondong, Dongdaemun

We decided to have a light day after a tiring experience yesterday. Thus, we only visited shopping centers today.

Late morning at Hongdae Street

Found SHINEE again, all of them this time!

Our first stop of the day was Hongdae. This is popular amongst young people. It has unique cafes, galleries, accessory stores, fashion stores, clubs, art markets, and gourmet eateries. We basically came here to look for Running Man locations, but ended up shopping and eating as well. 

Seen on Running Man Hongdae episode

Haha’s restaurant: Loco Quan 401

Korea has cheap socks that have good quality. Bought the Sailor Moon set for myself. Hahaha

For lunch, we found a dongkatsu place near Haha’s restaurant. We went in because we saw the picture of the big dongkatsu for 6,900 KRW. Even though it’s cheap (for a restaurant), the food did not disappoint. 

The dongkatsu place!

Dongkatsu meal

Next, we came back to Myeondong to find cosmetics for my sister’s officemates and other finds. I only bought a few things but ended up with a lot of freebies because my sister was going from shop to shop to find items. We’re gonna have a round two of Myeondong because her officemate’s gonna send here more money for stuff. More freebies for me!

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Bought aloe vera and got a lot of freebies!

At night, we came back to Dongdaemun area to eat at a Korean buffet with the family. I enjoyed the food at it has stations to make your own veggie wraps and bingsu! I also got to try dukboki, the traditional Korean rice cakes. 

Buffet place at Hyundai City Outlets, Dongdaemun

Some of the food at the buffet

Before going home, I invited the family to see the LED Rose Garden at DDP since only my sister and I have seen it. Glad we came back because the sky wasn’t too dark we got to take better photos. 

LED Rose Garden, DDP

That’s it for day 3! Annyeong!

Korea 2017 Day 2: Myeondong Cathedral, Palace Tours, K-Style Hub, Cheonggyecheon Stream, Dongdaemun Design Plaza

We started the day early and went straight to Myeondong, Seoul’s shopping street. We didn’t come there to shop yet though. We went there to attend the English mass at Myeondeong Cathedral. It was a solemn experience and very different from how we celebrate the holy mass in the Philippines.

Minho, Key, and Bo Gum at Myeondong

Myeondong Cathedral

Right after the mass, we rode a bus to Jongmyo Shrine. Jongmyo is the place of worship and venue or royal memorial ceremonies during the Joseon dynasty. Today, ceremonies are only held once a year, the first Sunday of May.

Entrance to Jongmyo Shrine

Coincidentally, that’s also yesterday, the time we visited the shrine. Though we enjoyed free entrance, We didn’t get too see much, as some buildings were closed for the event. We watched the live feed of one ceremony on a screen but decided to move on to the neighboring palace.

Changdeokgung Palace

The throne room of Changdeokgung

Located beside Jongmyo Shrine is the Changdeokgung Palace. It’s the secondary palace after Gyeonbukgung. Personally, I think this palace is more beautiful, definitely a must see.

Tea tasting event at Changdeokgung

The Changdeokgung Palace compound is divided into two. The front part houses the throne, the king, queen, and crown prince’s residences, as well as the government offices. The back part is where the Secret Garden is.

Changdeokgung Secret Garden

The Secret Garden is a shared garden between the Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung palaces. It’s said that it’s one of the most attractive places in Korea. They’ve preserved the ponds and pavilions built in this place during Joseon. Access to this place is different, you’ll have to buy a different ticket or have a royal pass which includes an access pass here.

I have to be honest. Visiting the Secret Garden is no walk in the park. I wasn’t expecting to have an impromptu trek. If you don’t like trekking, I recommend not to push through. It’s beautiful to see but tiring to experience.

Connected to the Changdeokgung Palace is the Changgyeonggung Palace. This place was originally built as a residence for three dowager queens. In later years, it also served as residences for concubines and princesses.

The throne room at Changgyeonggung

Changgyeonggung is the simplest palace I’ve seen. The layout is practical as convenience of the residents were considered when this was being built.

Joong Ki is here!

After visiting palaces, we went to K- Style Hub. This is a new place that only opened last year (by Song Joong Ki, no less). It’s a tourist center that lets you experience Korea in a nutshell. There’s a free hanbok experience and post card painting at scheduled times. There are also cooking classes (which are not free) that you can take to learn how to make Korean food.

Korean ingredients

I enjoyed the K-Star photo booth where you can virtually take studio pics with Psy, Big Bang, and 2NE1. I also liked the food exhibit where you can learn about korean food in general, harvesting, and food preserving practices. There’s also WiFi and resting areas in the hub where you can take a break from all the touring.

Photo op with G-Dragon

After roaming K- Style Hub, we went down the Cheonggyecheon Stream to see the lantern festival. I found out about this on the internet. We’re lucky to be able to book our visit on dates with a lot of festivals happening. We waited for about an hour to see the lanterns light up. It was cold but it was worth it.

Lantern Festival

Trisha at the lantern festival

Me at the lantern festival

Finally, our last stop of the day was Dongdaemun Design Plaza. This was a stop I forced my sister to go to, as I wanted to see the shooting place of She Was Pretty.

It’s a night attraction, since it’s best to see the building with lights. Within the vicinity is an outdoor exhibit of hundreds of LED roses. I enjoyed taking photos of this place. Would det come back with a better camera and lighting equipment. Haha

At the LED Rose Garden

That’s it for day 2. Annyeong!

Korea 2017 Day 1: The Craziest Immigration Experience and Dinner at Namsan Tower

My sister and I started out trip to Korea quite chaotic. This is not Korea’s fault, of course, it’s the Philippine immigration. 

When I was young, my parents told me that I must be at the airport 2 hours before for an international flight and an hour before for local ones. All my life, I religiously followed this and it never failed me, until now.

We arrived at NAIA around 5am for our 7:10am flight. In my mind, I was thinking, “Oh, we’re early, have time to grab breakfast later, after immigration,” but nooooo. After checking in our baggage, We spent more than 1 hr and 30 min in the immigration lines. It was ridiculous! 

At 7:00am, my sister and I were begging people to let us through as our flight leaves in 10 minutes! We got through at 7:05am and ran to Gate 106, which was BTW, at the edge of the airport. 

Happy that we were able to make it to our flight.

We heard the last call for passengers of our flight and were finally able to board the plane. That was cutting it too close. Next time we’ll be at the airport 4 hours before. 

Me at Incheon International Airport

Started the day right with my favourite Korean drink!

We finally arrived at Incheon International Airport. First thing we do is of course, grab lunch. We went to the CU convenience store to buy food and refill our T-Money. 
We rode the AREX (Airport Express) train to Seoul Station and found our way to our home in Seoul. 

At the AREX

Found Captain Joong Ki at Seoul Station

Jo Jung Suk 💚 at Samgakji Station

After resting a bit, my sister and I went to Namsan Tower with our relatives. We took a couple of pictures and roamed around the area. I was surprised to find a lot of new attractions in the vicinity, like Hello Kitty Island and LG 3D zone. There’s also a new area for kids with lots of cute animal cartoon figures.

Mandatory Namsan photo

Had to have a photo taken here because this was seen on Running Man!

Capped the night by having dinner at Chicken and Beer, one of the restaurants at Namsan Tower. The food was super good, and it’s affordable too! Make sure to try this when you go to Seoul.

Whoa! So affordable! One bowl only ranges from 13,000-15,000 KRW!

Thank you, family, for the awesome fried chicken!

Chicken and Beer at Namsan Tower

Last group photo of the night. We’re at the Love Bridge!

Passed by Seoul Station on the way home.

Annyeong!

5 Easy Steps to Renew your Philippine Passport

The Next Five Years

The Next Five Years

The requirement for travelling overseas is to have a passport. Whether it’s for vacation, business, or overseas work, you have to have a passport to be able to leave the country.

I’ve renewed my passport in 2011 using DFA’s electronic process. I did my research, followed the instructions on the DFA website, and got my passport renewed. I repeated the same process earlier this year and had no trouble.

When I had it renewed last March 2015, I was surprised that a lot of people are still confused with the process. Some just go to DFA, expecting that they can renew their passport within the day like the old times. I wasn’t expecting this because the system’s already in place for a couple of years and people should be informed by now.

So, to help others understand this process better (and also to guide me in my next passport renewal in a few years.. haha), I’ve decided to write this post. May this serve as a guide for a fast and stress free passport renewal!

1) Set your appointment online!

Ahhh, yes. The first step is to set your DFA appointment online. This is the most important step. Do not go to DFA or any of their satellite offices without an appointment. Your day will just be wasted because they do not allow walk-ins. I REPEAT. THEY DO NOT ALLOW WALK-INS.

Reminder: Confirmed appointment is a requirement for applying and renewal of passport. The DFA will not entertain applicants without valid appointments EXCEPT senior citizens, infants and minors below 1 year old, person with disability and OFWs. For OFWs, sufficient proof must be submitted such as a valid employment contract or OEC. (Source: DFA Passport Appointment Website) 

To set an appointment, you have to go to the DFA Passport Appointment website (https://www.passport.gov.ph/), answer the  the online form, choose the DFA office and the convenient date and time for your appointment.

DFA will send you an email afterwards. You have to confirm your appointment by clicking the link within the email. They will also send you a pdf of your passport renewal for and appointment letter that you have to bring on the date of your appointment.

Tips:

  • Schedule your appointment in the early morning slots, around 7:30am – 8:30am because the line is tolerable during that time. Plus, it’s not so hot when you line up outside the building.
  • Before scheduling an appointment, check your documents and see which requirements you still need to acquire. Take note of the timelines in acquiring those documents before you choose a date. Make sure you can complete the requirements prior to your appointment date. 
  • Don’t cram. Schedule your passport renewal months before your travel date. The earliest schedules available on the site are most likely 3-6 weeks away. If you add the processing period, all in all, the whole process including release and delivery takes about 10-12 weeks. Therefore, you cannot cram.

When I had to print a document I forgot during my appointment date, I noticed some OFWs were being conned by a travel agency in the building in front of DFA Aseana. They were paying the agency to book them an appointment which costs them about Php 300-500 (I don’t remember the exact amount).

These people were rushing and thought that the agency has connections which will allow them to do walk-in processing asap. However, these were just regular appointments with no special treatment and have the same waiting time as others who have booked the appointment at home. You can do this at home for free, guys. Do not be fooled.

2) Prepare your documents.

Once you have an appointment, you have to prepare all the documents needed for the renewal.

If you have a Machine Readable Passport (MRP) like me, you need to bring the original e-passport and photocopy of first (data page) and last page of passport. In addition to this, you need to bring a printed appointment letter and form, at least one (1) government-issued ID, and at least three (3) supporting documents.

The requirements vary depending on the latest passport you hold (i.e. brown and green passport (1995), MRP passport (2007)) and your status/circumstances (there additional requirements needed for married women, minors, Muslim applicants, and DOST scholars). Next time I renew, I’ll have an e-passport already, and will only need a photocopy of the data page as an additional requirement.

More details on the requirements can be read here: https://www.passport.gov.ph/requirements/passport-renewal.

Note: No need submit a passport size photo. Your photo will be taken on-site.

3) Show-up on your appointment date.

You need to be on site at least 30 minutes before your appointment time. If you have an afternoon schedule, there would be a long line. Which is why I recommend to have your appointment in the morning.

4) Go through the renewal process.

Since I had my appointment in the morning, processing was a breeze. I underwent the document checking, payment, and picture-taking in about an hour and a half. I don’t know how long the process takes if you have a later schedule. Maybe 2-4 hours max.

5) Pick-up your passport or have it delivered at home.

The last step, of course, is getting your new passport. I recommend to have it delivered at home to save time and vacation leaves (if you’re working) just to pick-it up. Delivery is less than Php 150 the time I renewed, so it’s pretty affordable. Just indicate that you want it delivered in the form and pay the delivery fee before you exit the office. It will be the last step.

If you still wish to pick-up the passport yourself, that’s up to you. They’ll inform you when it’s ready as they don’t have an exact timeline for this process.

That’s it! Hope this post would help you. Don’t forget to book your appointment months before your travel and have it in the morning for a less stressful experience. 🙂