February 5, 5:53am, Sky View Lounge
My first trip of the year is off to a start. I'm already done with my check-in and immigration procedures, and I'm currently having some breakfast at the Sky View Lounge in NAIA T3 while waiting for boarding. I got in as a perk for my card, which is great since I don't have to buy ny grub and it's so much nicer to wait while seating in padded seats away from the crowds in the boarding gates. I'm flying AirAsia Zest, a budget airline, and I'm waiting for my flight inside a business class lounge. Langit at lupa, as they say in Filipino.
I'll be boarding in about 30 minutes so my next update will be when I land in ICN.
12 noon, Incheon International Airport.
We landed ahead of schedule. Going through immigration was a breeze, and I was able to buy a top-up subway card and a ticket for A'Rex, the high-speed train going to Seoul. I was impressed by how modern the station is. The service is also very efficient, and fast. We left around 1:30pm
2:12pm Seoul Station
This is the last and only stop of the A'Rex service. I need to get another train to Hongdae, where my hostel is.
3:00pm Time Travelers Party Hostel
I was finally able to find the hostel. I had to take a detour to a Starbucks near the Hongik Station so I can get some hot macchiato, WiFi, and find my bearings. The person manning the concierge is an Aussie named Troy. He's helpful enough, and I asked him about where to sign up for the DMZ tour. After checking in I went up my room to freshen up and fix my things. I will be going round the city after this.
After wasting some time finding the right line and station to get on and off I finally was able to locate and reach the Changdeokgung via subway. The palace was constructed in 1405 by the Joseon dynasty. The complex was composed of several buildings, including a throne hall, the residences of the king, the crown prince, the queen and the king's concubine. There was also a secret garden where the royalty relaxed.
It was almost dusk when I was done exploring the complex so I didn't go on to the next on my list. I went back to the hostel instead, dropping by a local restaurant to grab some dinner.
After dinner I took a shower to freshen up (even if it was -1°C outside). I recharged the battery of my phone, and went down to the common area of the hostel to talk to Troy about how to get to Jisan, which I plan to visit tomorrow.
After our conversation I went out to explore the area around Hongdae. It was bustling, the crowd mostly young people from the universities around it. The area is full of pubs, cafés, restaurants and shops, like that one above that sells lingerie. I got too deep into exploring the area that I forgot where I started and wasn't able to go back right away. Good thing there was free public WiFi in the area and I was able to get my bearings using Google Maps. After a while I got back to the hostel to call it a day.