Subway Experience in Seoul with T-Money and M-Pass!

Subway is one of the most convenient public transportation service in Seoul, it consists of Line 1 to Line 9, also additional lines in the metropolitan area.
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Seoul Subway Map taken from Cyber Station

In addition, each subway station has a name, number, and a color representing the subway line. Although taxis are not really that expensive in Seoul, subway is still one the cheapest and easiest option for Solo traveler.

T-money
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Seoul Card T-Money

T-money is just like EZ-LINK mrt card in Singapore, PASMO or SUICA in Japan. However, it can only be used on public buses and subways in several different metropolitan cities and locations (Seoul, Gyeonggi-do, Daejeon, Incheon, Daegu and Busan).

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T-Money Vending Machine in Seoul Subway Station

We purchased T-Money in this machine with the price W 2,500 (W 2,000 balance, with a W 500 nonrefundable service fee). You could recharge with amounts ranging from 1,000 won to 90,000 won (maximum value the card can hold is 500,000 won). The credit will be deducted each time we use it.

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Deposit Refund Machine in Seoul Subway Station

Note: You could refund your remaining balance in T-Money at convenience stores, such as GS 25, CU, 7-Eleven, Mini Stop, With Me, Buy The Way (bearing the T-money logo with remaining less than W 20,000). But, if the remaining balance exceeds 20,000 won, you may receive a refund at the T-money Headquarters (1F of Korea Smart Card Corporation Ltd.*), so it’s better to recharge only as much as you will need. T-Money is not returnable, so you could keep the card for a momento!

T-money fare is slightly cheaper compare to cash, so here is a comparison table of T-Money and Cash.
fare comparison
Table taken from english.visitkorea.or.kr

T-Money card could be used in subway, buses, taxis, and transaction at convenience stores (must have T-Money Logo) as long as you have sufficient fund in the card. Also if you forget to tap your card on the sensors as you get off the bus or exit the subway, you will be charged double the next time you use it, so beware!

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T-Money Tap Machine in Subway Station

So, after you had this magic card, the next thing you shall do is to decide where to go and knowing where you are at the present time.

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Example: How to travel from Hongik University to Seoul Station?
Get on the subway at Hongik University, take the Green line (Line 2) and get off at City Hall station. Then change to Deep Blue Line (Line 1) and Seoul Station is the next stop!

M-Pass
If you would be taking more than 5 rides a day, I suggest you to have yourself an M-Pass. According to korea site, M-Pass offers 20 rides a day for the duration of the pass in the Seoul Metropolitan City area and Jeju, including Seoul Subway Lines 1-9, Incheon Subway, AREX’s (Incheon Airport Railroad Express) standard train (i.e. not the express train), metropolitan trains (except the Sinbundang and Gyeongchun (ITX) Line), and Seoul buses (except red buses).

There are five types of M-Pass, check the table below:
m pass
Types and Prices taken from english.visitkorea.or.kr

M-Pass will expire at midnight on the last day of validity. M-Passes are available for purchase at Seoul Travel Information Centers in the Incheon International Airport Passenger Terminal (Gate 5 & 10 at 1F), Jeju International Airport and Jeju Tourism Information Center.

A refundable deposit of 4,500 won is mandatory while purchasing an M-Pass, and a non-refundable service charge of 500 won. The deposit as well as any remaining T-money balance on the M-Pass is refunded when you return it to any of the aforementioned locations. M-Pass can be returned at either Seoul Travel Information Centers in the Incheon International Airport or Jeju Tourism Information Center at Jeju International Airport.

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M-Pass Card taken from source

M-Pass has the T-money function, so it can be used on buses, taxis, and at select convenience stores as long as there is a usable T-money balance. Once you have used all of the M-pass’ allotted subway rides, it can still be used as a T-money card after adding to the balance.

So, if you ask me which one is better, then it depends on what you will need. if you will only need a few rides a day, then you will not need to purchase M-Pass Card. The benefits of each pass will depend on our itinerary.

Simple, isn’t it? Hope you enjoy your subway experience in Seoul, Good Luck!

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10 Unique Korean Local Cuisine You Must Tried

Have you wondered what to dine while in South Korea? I have prepared 10 unique Korean dishes that you must tried while you are there, and they are all local cuisine.

Be aware that most Korean do not speak English, especially seniors, so I have also attached the Korean Characters of the food which might probably be a good help for you while doing order. Make sure you tried them all!

Remember to say 잘 먹겠습니다 (Jal moke get sum nida) before you have your meal.

1. Kimchi 김치
kimchi
Picture taken from source

All of us definitely have heard about Kimchi, it is a fermented korean dish made by various of vegetables. There are over 200 varieties of kimchi recorded according to my source while I attended my class in Kimchi Academy, but the most common kimchi are made from radish, napa cabbage and cucumber. Restaurants will always serve various of Kimchi for complimentary, so don’t bother to order.

The taste of Kimchi depending on the vegetables and seasoning itself, some are spicy, and some taste sour. However, the most favorite kimchi is this napa cabbage kimchi, you could find this Kimchi in almost every restaurants in Korea. How does it taste then? It has a sour and little spicy taste. Kimchi is not only eaten with rice, but some also mix Kimchi in their cookings, such as in pancakes or even soup.

You might find the taste a little weird if you have never had Kimchi before in your life, because Kimchi is not served while hot, mostly are kept in refrigerator, so many exclude kimchi in their meal because they are not used to having cold vegetable dishes. Every restaurants kimchi taste slightly different, so it is worth a try!

2. Tteokbokki 떡볶이
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Tteokbokki sold in Myeongdoeng

Tteokbokki is a popular Korean food made from soft rice cake, fish cake with sweet red chili sauce, and you could easily find tteokbokki sold in stalls and street foods. FYI, tteokbokki was a part of royal cuisine in Joseon Dynasty, and the older type of tteobokki is savory, while latter version was much spicier, which then becomes more popular than the traditional tteobokki.

3. Japchae 잡채
japchae
Picture taken from source

The name japchae means “a mixture of vegetables” (jap means “mixed and stirred”) and (chae means “vegetables”), and may be served hot and cold. However, Japchae is usually cooked with sweet potato noodles, it was stir fried in sesame oil with vegetables (sliced carrots, onion, spinach) and served with beef, and cooked with soy sauce and sugar.

There are also Japchae without noodles according to source, they are:
Gochu japchae (고추잡채), made with shredded fresh green chili pepper and vegetables
Buchu japchae (부추잡채), made with Korean chives
Kongnamul japchae (콩나물잡채), made with kongnamul (soybean sprouts)
Haemul japchae (해물잡채), made with seafood and vegetables
Beoseot japchae (버섯잡채), made with mushrooms

4. Bibimbap 비빔밥
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Picture taken from source

Bibimbap is usually served in a hot stone bow white rice topped with sautéed vegetables, egg, sliced meat, chilli paste, soy sauce, or a salty soybean paste. You will need to stir everything until it evens, then you can start tucking in! The taste might be a little strange to you due to the chilli paste, so I suggest you to have a taste of the chilli paste before you stir them all.

5. Bulgogi 불고기
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Combination of Red Chilli Paste Squids with Bulgogi Grilled

Bulgogi means Fire Meat, it usually made from thin slices of beef and marinated before cooking (soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, pepper, ginger). Bulgogi sometimes are served with lettuce, so you could wrap them together with sliced onions, and whole cloves of garlic and eat them all together. You could add chilli sauce or sesame oil if you would like to have more flavors.

6. Budae Jjigae 부대찌개
Budae Jjigae is also known as an Army Stew, due to food scarcity in Seoul after the Korean War, and the surplus foods from U.S. military bases, such as hot dogs and hams, the food were then being consumed together with Korean traditional flavor and cooking style, and this was how Budae Jjigae was ‘invented’ accidentally.

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Kimchi is added in this Budae Jjigae

Budae jjigae is often served with instant noodles, ground beef, sliced sausages, baked beans, onions, tofu, chili peppers, macaroni, garlic, mushrooms, and sliced American Cheese. The Stew taste differently depending on the seasonings and flavor added, but my favorite Army Stew is definitely the one with Kimchi.

7. Samgyeopsal 삼겹살
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Samgyeopsal is commonly served as an evening meal consists of thick slices of pork belly meat that could be marinated or not seasoned. We could grill the meat ourselves and eat directly from a grill in the diner’s table. You will need to dip the grilled meat into sesame sauce for a better taste of Samgyeopsal!

8. Galbitang 갈비탕
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Picture taken from source

Galbitang is a soup from beef short ribs with stewing beef, onions, and other ingredients. Galbitang has a clear soup, the beef rib is cooked in water for a long time and is eaten as a meal. Galbi and Galbitang are different, galbitang is beef short ribs ‘soup’ while galbi is a marinated or nor seasoned grilled beef short ribs.

According to source, “historical records on galbitang are found in records on table setting for Korean royal court banquets held in the 1890s. However, galbi, was assumed to have been eaten since the end of the Goryeo Dynasty (918 – 1392).”

9. Seolleongtang 설렁탕
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Picture taken from source

If Galbitang is soup from beef short ribs, then Seolleongtang is a broth soup made from ox bones (mostly leg bones), brisket and other cuts. The process of Seolleongtang making is not different with galbitang, which is to simmer the ox bones for over a period of hours and even entire day in a low flame. The simmering process is to ensure the flavor from the bones could be gradually extracted.

Usually Seolleongtang is not seasoned in the process of cooking, so you will need to add salt or any flavors according to your taste. It has a cloudy and milky appearance on the top of the soup, and is eaten with rice (the rice is sometimes added directly to the soup)

10. Samgyetang 삼계탕
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Samgyetang means chicken ginseng soup and usually refered as an energizing soup. Samgyetang is extremely popular during summer days, as nutrients can be easily lost in summer due to excessive sweating. In the making process, a whole young chicken filled with garlic and rice, scallion and spices is boiled in Korean Ginseng Broth.

Also you will need to add some seasoning according to your own preference, such as salt, white pepper. Samgyetang taste slightly the same with our home made chicken broth, only Samgyetang has a distinct ginseng flavor. The dish is also usually accompanied by side dishes and sometimes a small complimentary bottle of insamju will be served in some restaurants.

You could save the names of meat in Korean to help you in ordering the other dishes:
Fish 물고기 mulgogi
Beef 쇠고기 chwi gogi
Chicken 닭고기 dalq gogi
Pork 돼지고기 dwaeji gogi

And don’t forget to say 잘 먹겠습니다 (Jal moke get sum nida) after you finish your meal!

Photos mostly credited to Susi Chen, thank you dear.

Autumn, the most beautiful season in South Korea

If Japan is popular with its cherry blossom season in Spring, then South Korea’s main attraction is their golden fallen leaves and autumn flowers in Fall.

Have you wondered what to do in South Korea this October? If you are planning for your autumn’s vacation, then I highly recommend you to choose South Korea for your next destination this Autumn. The most beautiful places to enjoy the fall season are Jade Garden, Mount Seorak, and Nami Island.

Jade Garden
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Picture taken from source

Many of popular Korean dramas are shot in Jade Garden, such as ‘That Winter, the Wind Blows’ actored by Jo In Sung & Song Hye Kyo, also the famous ‘Love Rain’ by Jang Geun Suk & Yoona.

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Picture taken from Jade Garden Greenhouse

Jade Garden is designed from the theme ‘Small Europe in the Forest’, and you may choose from three different walking courses, 2 hours in length each around it.

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The admission fee is around W8,500 for adult. You definitely should add Jade Garden to your itinerary if you want to see beautiful maples and ginkgo, autumn flowers in South Korea this season.

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The direction is taken from visitkorea website

The opening hours are 09:00-Sunset, and the last admission is 1 hour before closing. Please aware that the hours may change depending on weather condition.

Mount Seorak
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Picture taken from source

In Korea, we call this mountain as Seoraksan, also usually referred to as Seolsan and Seolbongsan. According to source, ‘Seol’ meaning ‘snow’ and ‘Ak’ meaning ‘big mountain’ (Seorak) because the snow would not melt for a long time keeping the rocks in a permanent state of white.

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Picture of Buddha Statue in Sinheungsa, Seoraksan

There is a big Buddha Statue here in the park as well, named Sinheungsa, sometimes spelled Shinheungsa. Sinheungsa is a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism located in Seoraksan National Park. While you are here, you can burnt some incense and have your prayers. You can take a cable car to reach the mountain across, and if you keep on climbing, you will reach the Top of Seoraksan.

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Picture taken from the Top of Seoraksan

If you are from Seoul, you can take Seoul Express Bus Terminal or Dong Seoul Bus Terminal to Sokcho, it takes around 2hr 30min of travel time. you can click here for bus schedule. Then, took Sokcho Express / Intercity Bus Terminal, take bus no. 7 or 7-1, get off at Sogongwon bus stop (45min travel time).

Nami Island
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Picture taken from the source

Can you resist this kind of beauty? I can’t! Yes, Nami Island is popular with its golden fallen leaves, which was shown in most dramas. However, these golden leaves and fiery red leaves could only be found in the late October or early November.

Here is some instruction if you travel to Nami Island from Seoul:
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The direction is taken from source

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After you arrive at the entrance gate, you need to take a ferry to across Nami Island. Here is the Ferry Schedule
07:30-09:00 (30min intervals)
09:00-18:00 (10-20min intervals)
18:00-21:40 (30min intervals)

There are restaurants and cafe in the island also statues, so you could chill out while enjoying the view and Nami Island atmosphere. There are pretty much nothing to do in Nami Island, but to enjoy the scenery and fresh breeze.

I hope you could witness the beauty of Autumn in South Korea.