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Mar 2, 2012

The Mind Boggled Researcher

And then she slap her little laptop shut and banged her head against the door...

The problem with researching about a destination you haven't been to is that there is an OVERLOAD of information. You start to question the accuracy and validity of the details that are strewn across the web - so it kinda gets pretty sticky.

While it's a school trip organised suggested by the university for a 3week student exchange in Seoul's Yonsei University, it's pretty much a students-sign-up-and-organise-yourself trip. We have to settle the air tickets and find out about all the nitty-gritty details in our own time- no korean teachers would be accompanying the flight either. 

All in all: "You are very much on your own." *sniffs*

I'm half a bag-packer now.

Frankly speaking, the administrative stuff in itself is a GARGANTUAN barrier (full of spikes and nasty bites) because I'm a clueless jellyfish bobbing around in the deep waters of the ocean.

But the first step is already done (I've submitted the form, unfortunately, with my horrible photo on it) and so the next thing to do is MOUNTAINS of research. The initial hike around the mountains and mountains of information is a little daunting, because the net is a treasure trove full of interesting junks. Albeit the arduous nature of the info-hunt, I arrived at the conclusion that bag packing is exceedingly FUN!

So here's the to-dos and resources an amateur like me managed to harness over one night:

1. Air Tickets
  • What's more important than the ticket? Check all the available airlines you can trust your life with and grab the best deals. Beware of the "inclusive"and "non-inclusive" of taxes and fares before you nail the deal though. You never know how much of a price difference it can mean. Booking online is as easy as registering yourself as a member on the respective websites. 

  • For me, SIA and Asia Airlines provided lucrative deals, but SIA's $698 (all inclusive) to-and-fro tickets only provide you with max. stay of 14days in Korea. So that means I have to put it off the list because I'm sticking around in Seoul for 3 weeks. JetStar didn't provide flight routes to Seoul; Cathay's tickets cost $900++; China's Zhong Hua Airlines ---fully booked. Now the only thing left to do is to contact SIA and query about extension of flight plan (which I highly doubt would come through) and confirm the number of days I want to plant myself out of Singapore in somewhere supposedly greener :D I shall check Thai Airlines as well. 

2.   Accommodations
Well, if I decided to extend my stay beyond the Mu-Ak dormitory of Yonsei, then I'll have to grab a cheap guesthouse/ back-packers' hostel to bunk in. Yonsei University is located near the SinChon subway station (2nd, Green line). I'm currently looking at:

3. Smart Apps
My mom's faster than I am when it comes to research! Thanks to my lovely 어머니I now have 2 clever gadgets in my phone-travel-essentials. Physical map is a must, but virtual map is definitely a plus!

  • I Tourism Korea
  • Seoul Metro and Seoul City Map
  • Jihachul app

4. Full-fledged Cultural Research
  • This is another must if you want to enjoy your trip. I can't afford to travel to a foreign place without any inkling of its culture and history! It's like rubbing your chin in front of Mona Lisa in the Paris Louvre without any idea why people are fighting to smile at the picture themselves. I regretted not researching thoroughly enough on The Ruins of St. Pauls when I was in Macau back then.
  • Yonsei University is the oldest university in Korea, and it's established by Christian missionaries in 1885. It's not only an educational institute but also a well known tourist destination as well! If you enjoy Gothic Medieval architecture, then you'll have a reason to smile when you google for the campus images. I'm not going to describe the history of Yonsei further because the info can be found easily on the net! And no pictures either because I've no wish to violate the copy rights of anyone. Shall upload my own when I'm there :)
***It's good to print a copy of map for easy reference!

5. Transportation around the City

Ahhhh, I hate to label things here, there everywhere! Not every bits and pieces of info can be classified accordingly as they are not mutually exclusive -.- But anyway, it would be good to know more about the modes of transportation available before you pack your stuff and fly there.

Like Singapore and any other cities around the world, Seoul is characterised by a well established network of transporation system.

  • T-money is like the ez-link card we have in Singapore. You can buy that from 7/11 stalls I suppose and swipe the card in airport limousines, buses, trains, taxis etc. 
  • The Seoul City Pass is very much like the tourist pass we have in Singapore, and I guess the buses they provide in Seoul for tourists would be equivalent (somewhat) to the Duck Tour buses that ship people around the city. As quoted from the website: 

"The SEOUL CITY PASS is a transportation card for tourists. With just this one card you can use the subway or bus up to 20 times a day, regardless of the distance or mode of transportation, and you can enjoy the Seoul City Tour Bus that take you around the downtown and palaces as many times as you wish." 

***The Seoul City Pass also allows tourists to enjoy discounts in entrance fee to Seoul Tower etc. But the thing is that this pass costs 15'000 won per day and is very much a one-day-thing unless you plan to apply for 2 or 3-day pass. Unless you really travel a lot (max. 20 times of buses and subway) within the span of a dew days you may like to apply for T-money :) In this case, I would, because I would be there for a few weeks!

6. Visa Application

I'm a Singaporean student, so I do not need to apply for student Visa for this trip (as told by the FAQs my school provided) But I can apply for a tourist visa at the In'cheon airport that would allow me to stay in Korean for 3 months. 
***I didn't research a lot on visa 

7. Other FYI's I have on hand for now
  • It’s the Korea summer sale season! So do watch out for discount coupons and gifts when you are shopping
  • 17th July is the Constitution day of Korea, it's a public holiday so loads of shops will be closed. 
  • If you spend a hefty sum in Korea shopping center, collect all your receipts and head right to the customer service counter of the shopping center and ask them to print a REFUND TAX receipt that summarise your purchases there (If you do so, you'll have a easier time at the airport when you refund your tax.) 
***but the thing is that the administrative procedures in airport are VERY arduous as well, you may be asked to reveal every single item you wish to tax-refund so they can tally the stats. Unless you purchase a few items that cost you a bomb and you would like to enjoy tax refund, then don't bother to queue up  before the counter for a long time only to find yourself unpacking an entire luggage before the staff.
  • Yonsei University is a tourist destination located at a VERY convenient place, MRT is located in the GREEN line, so it’s very convenient to go Dong Dae Mun and other places!!!
  • Next to Yonsei (at least on the map) is another university Hong Ik University - there, you can find student organised flea markets selling artistic creations by the students themselves (I think it's a stone's throw away from Yonsei, since I have information that we can walk there.)
  • I have a few anecdotal comparisons of the shopping havens in Seoul and Singapore (from a cousin's friend):
  • Dong Dae Mun is equivalent to Singapore's Far East Plaza
  • Nan Dae Mun is equivalent to our Bugis Street
  • Myeong Dong is the Singaporean equivalent of Orchard Rd. (so things are going to be pricey)

  • The Lotte Mart (like Carrefour) provides you with duty-free shopping! If I'm not wrong, it's in Dong Dae Mun...

  • Hello APM (AM and PM) is a 24-Hour Shopping complex of 11 stories (2nd line, Dong Dae Mun Subway station) 
***my wonderful  어머니 gave me most of these information***


It's a bye for now, my eyes are watery and I have exams (apparently) next week. 


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