Saturday, May 10, 2014

HOME in Seoul

“HOME AWAY FROM HOME” – one of the first few things me and my friends sought for in preparation for our vacation trip in Seoul, South Korea. We were six in the group; one guy (me!) and five girls. Our criteria for choosing were simple;

Anyeong! from me and my friends! We used Gopro to take this cool shot! - JGGSoria

ü BUDGET FRIENDLY – the place should be budget conscious; we wanted to stay in a place where we can have access to the basic amenities of living comfortably in a foreign land but without hurting our pockets too much.

ü AWESOME LOCATION – the place should be easily accessible to major roads and public transportation (in this case the bus stop/s, subway and taxi bays). The surrounding area should be vibrant, friendly to tourists and safe to walk around even at night. It should also be near convenient stores (i.e. 7 Eleven, Mini Stop, etc.), food establishments and coffee shops.

ü SPACIOUS AND COMFORTABLE – the place should be able to accommodate at least six people (since we were six in the group) without having to shout “This is Sparta!!!” because of the lack of space to move around and facilities to indulge on. We had to take into considerations our things as well (we have a LOT of baggage and will incur more due to shopping for clothes, foods and souvenirs).

ü PRIVATE BATHROOM (w/ Blower) – well the blower is more of a “personal choice” (I have an unruly hair and would need such electronic assistance so forgive me with the extra eyebrow-raising criteria) but seriously, this should be a major consideration when it comes to picking a place to stay in. It would be quite a hassle to have the bathroom shared with anonymous people knowing full well that your group has its plans on its own (and thus you know how to budget the time you will use the bathroom to meet your itinerary). More so you and your friends have to setup your bathroom products and all inside, and that taking a bath is a scared ritual to have yourself refreshed after beating yourself up with all the walking, running, shopping and eating. Though I guess for some it’s okay, but for me and my friends, a shared bathroom is not an option.

Voila! “Ann Guest House” came popping out of Google and Tripadvisor. After reading tons and tons of comments, feedback, reviews, blogs, and a personal recommendation from our friend’s friend who stayed there, we have decided to give it a shot. We decided to collate the questions we have on our minds (even those items we have already read and understood but want a personal concurrence from the owner - better to be sure) and communicate it via email. It was a relief when we found out that the owner of the guesthouse, Ann, was good in speaking English (though I think there are still times where we wanted to perform an interpretative dance or do charades just to express our thoughts - kidding!). Overall all our inquiries and requests have been attended to and addressed properly by her, how awesome is that?

We were originally arranging for a reservation for five people, but then one of our friends decided to join us with the trip so we had to reserve a room for six. Ann offered the “Dormitory” type which could accommodate six people. She even provided us pictures as to how the room looks like. We were like, “OMG YES! YES! YES! This is ABSOLUTELY PERFECT!”

NOTE: a RESERVATION IS A MUST with this guesthouse as it is always accommodating a lot of people – so as just to be sure that you can have the room you’re dreaming of during the duration of your stay in South Korea, better have a reservation.

How we dealt with the reservation? Simply speaking, we deposited an initial amount of PHP 3,318.30 (approximately $71.60) via PayPal to secure the place on the said dates. We paid the remaining balance upon settling in the dormitory. There were six of us which would entail a total amount of PHP 32,400 (approximately $742); so each person costs PHP 5,400 (approximately $124). We stayed there for six days and five nights from April 30, 2014 until May 05, 2014. You can cancel your reservation if ever you’ve decided to not push through on staying there but I am not familiar with the how-to and refund system since we felt that the place is already perfect.

NOTE: for the matters of payment, it would be best to email Ann and communicate with her clearly as to how many you are, how long will you plan to stay and other items which you may want to clarify – from there she will answer all your inquiries and guide you as to how to do the payment.

NOTE: the prices I’ve provided may change depending on the exchange rates of the currencies involved and if ever the management of Ann Guest House decided to do a promo, discount, or increase with their rates in the future.

HERE COMES April 30, 2014 - HELLO SEOUL! (Pinch me! Toto, I’ve feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!) So before passing out due to “heavy breathing" and too much excitement, we need to take on the FIRST CHALLENGE – How to get to Ann Guest House from Incheon Airport. I think there are three ways to go to the guesthouse; either via airport limousine bus (No. 6002), via subway, or via taxi. We’ve opted to go there via airport limousine bus (No. 6002). I think it’s the easiest way to reach our destination point – considering five of me and my friends were first-timers in South Korea, besides we were not familiar then on how to navigate through their labyrinth subway and the taxi is quite expensive. Both the airport limousine bus and subway would take about one hour from the Incheon Airport to Ann Guest House.

Ø Via Airport Limousine Bus
§  Cost: 10,000 Won per person
§  Travel Period: approximately 1 Hour
§  Get off at the Hongik University Station Stop (Not at the Seokyo Hotel Stop)
ü It would be best to equip yourself with a T-Money Card as early as arriving at the Incheon Airport so that you can just tap your way to freedom. Incheon Airport has a GS25 (convenience store located at the 1st Floor near Exits 10 and 14) where you can buy a T-Money Card (just ask them to have it loaded already w/ at least 10,000 Won – you’ll need it to pay for your ride if via airport limousine bus or via subway). Though I think you can pay the bus using cash (you just have to drop the exact amount in the fiber glass container upon entering the bus). Check out this link for further reference on GS25:

ü Ask around as to where the No. 6002 Airport Limousine Bus picks up people (from what I remembered we were at 12A Bus Pickup Spot – Incheon going to Seoul); there will be a waiting post there where you can see the schedule of the bus. You may check this link out for e-Guidebooks of the Incheon International Airport – here you can save a copy of the Airport Guide in your smartphones, tablets, etc. (the maps are quite useful!):

ü Tell the driver to drop you off at Hongik University Station Stop. Don’t worry the driver will assist you with your baggage and will definitely remind you (once you’re near) that you need to get off at that station.

ü Enjoy the city lights (if ever you arrive at night just like us) or enjoy your first view of the streets of South Korea (if you arrive there around broad daylight).

Ø Via Subway
§  Cost: 4,000 Won per person
§  Travel Period: approximately 1 Hour
§  Get off the Hongik University Station Stop

Upon getting off at the Hongik University Station Stop (via airport limousine bus no. 6002); just across the bus stop you'll be able to see Dunkin Donuts (which is the landmark so often given by Ann to her guests as is is co-located in the building) and at the other side there is a KFC. Get inside the building (heavy glass doors), take the elevator (5th Floor) and proceed to room number 514 to check-in.

We arrived at the guesthouse around 12:41 A.M. (May 01, 2014) which according to the guidelines we should’ve checked in before 11:00 P.M. (so technically if all went smoothly, we should've been at the guesthouse around 10:00 P.M. of April 30, 2014) but due to having our flight delayed, ignorance with the public transportation (mind you we’ve researched ahead but still there are inevitable challenges), and getting the Olleh Pocket Wi-Fi in the airport, we checked in way past 11:00 P.M. but to our hearts delight, Ann was still awake and greeted us warmly (I even called her Auntie Ann – wherein my friends suddenly laughed all at once; they said “Auntie Ann? Seriously? That’s a pretzel shop! – well I’m sorry hahahahaha!). She assisted us in our room (Room # 505), showed us the basic amenities (showed the blower and private bathroom! Haha Yes!), explained the basic house rules and perks inclusive of our stay (free breakfast - 1 loaf of Paris Baguette bread each day w/ a lot of cute strawberry jam and butter fillings, tea and coffee, super fast WiFi - believe me IT IS REALLY FAST, desktop - we've actually used this to watch 'Miracle in Cell No. 7', etc.). As we’ve expected and looked forward to, we were “WOW! Now this is value for money! We’ve made the right choice”. It met my personal expectations as to how I tried to picture it in my mind based on the photos she sent us and on the reviews provided by the previous guests who’ve stayed there.

Matching it all up with our criteria:

ü BUDGET FRIENDLY – definitely YES! The six days five nights stay there costs PHP 5,400 (approximately $124) per person. The amenities, look of the apartment, location of the guesthouse, and having access to LIFE, yes LIFE! – this is really affordable and thus  VALUE FOR MONEY indeed.

ü AWESOME LOCATION – a BIG FAT YES to that! It is near the subway station (Hongik University Station) wherein the building has a connection to the subway (aside from the public entrance/exit). Just across the building is the Hongik University Bus Stop and there are Taxi Bays around. The area is a university area, you’ll be able to see a lot of fashionable students roaming around which you can ask for help (they're friendly and would really try their best to assist you), lots of convenience stores (GS25 and 7-Eleven), a variety of choices for food indulgence (restaurants, bars, street-food stalls, coffee shops, etc.) and it is a good place to do your shopping (there are a lot of cute boutiques around Hongdae area which houses a variety of high-quality “Made in Korea” fashionable garments both for men and women – this area is my personal favorite for shopping).

ü SPACIOUS AND COMFORTABLE – the space of the dormitory is quite generous (you may do a cartwheel yes!) and the ambiance is really homey (feels like you’ve been living there for the past few years) plus the couches and beds are quite nice - good for resting those tired muscles. A lot of cabinets to hold your clothes, shoes, towels, accessories etc. are present. The room has both an air-conditioning unit and heater. We also had two tables where we would eat snacks or breakfast or even huddle to decide on which places to go and so on and so forth - matched with a big dark sofa and four round seats. There was a mini kitchen where you can toast bread, prepare coffee, and do light cooking. Oh and I almost forgot, there are slippers you may use located on the cabinet near the doorway – here you can put your shoes, sandals and boots for safe keeping and not having them unceremoniously piled in the doorway.

ü PRIVATE BATHROOM (w/ Blower) – generally good and clean bathroom. The hot and cold functionality of the sink and shower are working perfectly. Towels were also provided (replaced daily). We also have a washing machine in case we need to do a bit of laundry (though for a 6D-5N stay – this wouldn’t be feasible and practical to do). Lastly and personally, the presence of the blower was PERFECT.

Overall stay there at Ann Guest House? I’ll give 10/10 stars with moons on the side. All of the criteria we’ve set were met and all our inquiries were properly attended by her. She was always eager to help us with a bright smiling face.

I've provided below some pictures from the dormitory we stayed in. This is to help future goers visualize and decide if they want to stay here or not.

Doorway, Slippers/Shoes Cabinet (right side just before the doorway), Mini Kitchen (right), Mini Refrigerator (left) - JGGSoria

So spacious, clean and comfortable! - JGGSoria

The Private Bathroom - JGGSoria

Cute and Comfy Dormitory Style Beds - JGGSoria

Awesome wooden stairs going to the 2nd Floor! - JGGSoria

Hello Cute Space! - JGGSoria

View from the 2nd Floor - JGGSoria

Please note that on your last day (for check-out), you need to be ready by 11:30 A.M. and if you still have time to spend around South Korea before heading back to your country then you can ask Ann to leave for the time being your luggage in her room (Room 514) and then just get it once you’re ready to go to the airport. We were able to do a last minute shopping of clothes (I swear they have an awesome selection at reasonable prices! Try to look for those shops run by students I guess and those clothes with “Made in Korea” tag - it is of good quality and freaking fashionable taste indeed) and souvenirs around Hongdae Area. We even got to visit the Coffee Prince Coffee Shop for a quick breakfast and the Ramen House (which I forgot the name - boo!) – probably one of the best Ramen House I’ve ever visited for the purpose of lunch.

Last Minute Shopping Before Heading Back To Manila; bought that one I'm holding! - JGGSoria

Love The Clothes Here - HEAVEN - Adore Classic - JGGSoria

My friend scouting for a shirt - JGGSoria

More awesome selections - taken at a different shop - JGGSoria

Wall writings at the Coffee Prince - JGGSoria

Instax Picture of me and my friends at the Coffee Prince Coffee Shop (this is not edited or created through any app - just a matter of focusing and creative thinking) - JGGSoria

The Awesome Ramen House - JGGSoria

Watching them prepare our food! So Cool! - JGGSoria

The In-Ramen which is a must try here! DELICIOUS - JGGSoria

Upon arriving back to Ann Guest House to pick up our baggage and stuff, we gave her the famous dried mangoes from the Philippines (bought it before heading off to Seoul from Manila). It is our little way of saying a BIG FAT AND WARM THANK YOU to her for contributing to the awesomeness of our experience in South Korea!

To future South Korea travelers, I wish you the best and I hope you will have an awesome stay (just like me and my friends had in Seoul). We will DEFINITELY GO BACK, that’s for sure. Thanks to Ann Guest House, we were able to have a LOVELY HOME in Seoul.

For more information you can visit Ann Guest House's website by clicking the link below:

Here’s Ann’s email if ever you want to inquire further on staying in her guesthouse: