AirBnB: KIM'S STUDIO (Hongdae) First Impressions

Although the apartment was not very big, it was acceptably clean and comfortable enough for 2 persons with a big comfy queen-size bed, kitchenette (with utensils provided) and bathroom (with amenities).

Singapore to Seoul: Ways to Maximize Your Cash When You DIY (Flight)

With the average flight to Seoul from Singapore costing about S$1200++ per person (and that’s just economy!) on Singapore Airlines, getting tickets on promotion are definitely worth it.

Volando Urai Spring Spa and Resort (馥蘭朵烏來渡假酒店)

Volando Urai Spring Spa and Resort (馥蘭朵烏來渡假酒店) is located in New Taipei City (Wulai), close to to the Wulai Town (and waterfalls).

Wulai Hot Springs Escapade Itinerary (3D/2N)

While this trip was a simple and short one, it wasn't necessary one of the cheapest: this trip was one meant to enjoy the hot springs and just take it slow (and basically be pampered).

Bangkok Shopping Spree (4D/3N)

Bangkok would have to be one of the places where things are cheaper, much cheaper than in Singapore and a shopping paradise for the shopaholics (who like to get things in the bulk and cheap) out there!

Singapore to Seoul: On Singapore Airlines to Incheon Airport Once Again

Singapore to Seoul: On Singapore Airlines to Incheon Airport Once Again

Thanks to the Singapore Airlines promotions (again), we were able to get our tickets to South Korea for about S$662 (yeah, lesser than last year!). As mentioned previously, the booking process on the Singapore Airlines website for a return trip is a breeze. You can choose your preferred seat when booking online as well. Navigation around the website was fairly simple enough and the payment process was a smooth, with the simple input of the credit card number and a click of a button. When payment was confirmed, the itinerary and receipt will be sent to your email (for future reference).

Checking-in can be done online and only at least 48 hours before the flight takes off. As I had input my mobile number, a SMS reminder was sent to inform when I could check-in online. The process was easy, and after checking-in I was able to print out my boarding pass and (any) necessary documents. Being able to select your preferred seat, checking-in online and printing out the boarding pass really saves a lot of time!

Unlike the previous flight to Seoul which was in the morning, this was a flight that was set to depart in the early afternoon, arriving at Incheon Airport at night (around1030pm); not an ideal timing but the promotion price was the deal breaker.

Anyways, the day arrived and we made our way to Changi Airport Terminal 3 on a Saturday afternoon. Once the luggage was checked in, it was time to head to the departure hall for take-off. And as usual, the security screening conducted at the boarding gates was relatively simple, efficient and uncomplicated.

Boarding time for Singapore Airlines is very orderly; passengers are called section by section: First Class, Business Class, PPS, followed by Economy Class passengers with families, then Economy Class passengers.

As with all Singapore Airlines flights, entertainment-wise there is the KrisWorld entertainment system presented on a 10.6-inch personal screen with entertainment options such as watching movies or television shows, listening to music, playing games, and applications such as Flight Path – an application that gives you an amazing view of your flight in and provides the aircraft’s position, flight path, as well as other associated information. There are also ports for charging electronics or power up that laptop.

Singapore Airlines
KrisWorld entertainment system

Seating-wise, there was enough leg room and the seat was comfortable (enough), with the headrest able to be adjusted as desired for greater support. A small pillow and blanket were provided.

Dinner was served and there were two options: Korean or Western. Both of us chose Korean, which consisted of beef bulgogi and rice, shrimp with vermicelli cold salad , along with bread, butter and cheese on the side. What really stood out about this flight (again) was the attentiveness and friendliness of the crew (thumbs up to the crew!). 

Singapore Airlines Korean Meal Beef Bulgogi
Korean Set: Other than the sauce being a little too salty for my liking, everything else was platable
On route, I entertained myself with “The Four” (Chinese movie), all 3 of them. ^^ After being in the air for about 6 hours, we finally arrived at Incheon Airport! Once we landed, we made our way to the shuttle, through immigration and collected the luggage. The process was relatively fast and took less than 30 minutes. Just in time to catch the last train to our Hongdae accommodation.

Note: Do remember to fill up that arrival card fully with address and all.

Once out of immigration, we collected out luggage made our way to the AREX station. I still have mine from the last trip and DramaQueen so kindly loaned M hers, but I forgot to bring it! Thank goodness I had the complimentary one that came with the SIM card purchase at Changi Airport. The T-Money (Seoul’s version of the EZlink card for transport and small purchases at places like convenience stores) can be bought at the GS25 convenience store located at Incheon Airport Arrival Area. Unlike the last time, where we had to collect the SIM card at Incheon Airport, this time we actually bought the SIM card at Singapore Changi Airport prior to our arrival.

EG (EverGreen) SIM Card
The 'empty' T-Money which came with the SIM card

By the time we cleared immigration, we were still in time (very much in time) to catch the AREX to our Hongdae accommodation. The journey took us about 45 minutes and it was past midnight by the time we arrived at our Hongdae accommodation. 

The Seoul Experience using AirBnB: Things You Should Know before Booking

AirBnB seems to be the latest trend in booking accommodations (in the short term rental travel industry), offering accommodations to suit almost every type of budget (from cheap and moderate all the way to extravagant): hostels to guesthouses, homestays and even having the whole apartment to yourself. The experience that AirBnB offers is unlike a hotel, as it connects (ordinary) people (both guests and hosts) and enhances your stay experience by apparently connecting you to the locals and the local culture.

While AirBnB offers accommodations from all over the world, I cannot attest to whether all the apartments that are available on AirBnB are good (and accurate), but I can say that the results for my accommodation(s) in Seoul (so far) have been good. There are certain countries where I would prefer a hotel over AirBnB, but Seoul (South Korea) is one place where AirBnB would be the first place I would think to look for accommodation.

The Seoul Experience using AirBnB: Things You Should Know before Booking
So this is what I would advise if you are planning to book an accommodation using AirBnB when you are in Seoul:

you have not yet signed up for AirBnB and would like to try it out for your next holiday in Seoul, do sign up here to get a discount of S$31(or about USD$25) off your first stay. After you sign you, you would have to verify your account via handphone, Facebook, Google, email etc…If you have a verified account already, simply log in and proceed with step 2 (below)
2. Enter the location and dates of your preferred location/stay

3. Once you have narrowed down your accommodations, do check out the
  • Accommodation photos: Do note that the actual accommodation might be slightly different from the photos, so be prepared. But from my experience, the apartments in Seoul are pretty accurate (you really have to look carefully).
  • Description of the listing: This pretty much sums up where the accommodation is located, how to get there, along with any nearby attractions (if any), what does the host provide (e.g. soap, shampoo, kitchen, shared bathroom, wifi egg, tv etc…). Do note that not all accommodations in Seoul have TVs or elevators, so if those are important to you, look at the listing very carefully.
  • Reviews by other guests who have stayed: you need to take this one with a pinch of salt; basically see what some of the major grouses and compliments of the previous guests are, than decide whether you can live with it for the duration of your stay.
  • Pricing: The pricing that you see before booking is not the final price. Enter in your preferred dates and the website/app will calculate for you the final price, which would include an AirBnB booking fee, cleaning fee and additional guest fee (if any). On average, expect to pay about S$70-150 per night depending on the rate (set by the host) and the number of people in your group. Of course, this estimate can decrease/increase depending on your selected accommodation type (e.g. hostel, guesthouse, homestay or entire apartment) and nightly rate.
The Seoul Experience using AirBnB: Things You Should Know before Booking
If you have not yet signed up for AirBnB and would like to try it out for your next holiday in Seoul, do sign up here to get a discount of S$31(or about USD$25) off your first stay.

4. Before actually booking, do send a message to the host via the “contact me” button to check if your preferred dates are available (since some hosts list their space on other platforms as well) and ask all the questions you need to ask (e.g. transport/food options etc…). A good host usually replies within the day or faster with answers to your questions. Some hosts “offer instant booking” which essentially enables you to book and pay straight away (as long as the dates are available), while most hosts will have to approve your booking (within 24hrs). But the rule of thumb would be to contact the hosts first before making any sort of decision or booking, instant or otherwise.

5. After you have messaged the host, determined that their space is the place for you, happy with the final price and can live with the booking policy (e.g. for strict you will only get 50% of the payment back if you cancel 1 week before your arrival or be prepared to lose it all if you cannot meet it), just click on the “book it” or “instant book” button.

If it is “book it”, do note that the host would have to accept your booking (offer) within 24 hours or else it would be void. And if it is the “instant book” option, the money will be deducted from your credit card (if you want to use a different credit card than the one you have stored with AirBnB, simple add in the new credit card number before hitting that “pay & confirm” button.

6. Look out for listings that mention security deposits, these deposits are usually (temporary) charged to your card (on file) only if the host has to claim damages from you (just like a hotel withholds an amount from your credit card for accidentals and returns it to you upon checkout). AirBnB would withhold this amount when you check-in (the day that you are supposed to arrive) and would usually return it when you check-out. So far there have been no incidents for my stays in Seoul and the deposit was rightfully deposited back.

7. Once you have confirmed your booking, message the host one final time to double confirm the booking and ask any other questions you may have. The details instructions of how to get to the location may be sent to you a week or so before you arrival date.

While photos and descriptions (even reviews) may not be 100% accurate, they are usually not far off the mark. However, don’t get taken in by the price and/or pretty pictures alone, look at the fine print and ask the host questions (where appropriate) and make your decision based on the many factors mentioned above. Don’t be swayed by the ‘attractive’ price or pretty pictures alone. Only book the accommodation when you feel assured with the host and location of the accommodation (and its amenities), backed up by the reviews posted by previous guests (taken with a pinch of salt).

The Seoul Experience using AirBnB: Things You Should Know before Booking

Of course, being happy with my accommodations doesn’t necessarily mean that I am totally satisfied with my AirBnB online experience (everything could always be better). Despite having used AirBnB a couple of times, I still have some gripes about the process of booking on AirBnB, even in its new layout and design:
  1.  After a search, it would be great if that big map on the left hand side, which supposedly shows the location of the accommodation could be ‘hidden’ at will
  2. You cannot search by host, specific location or accommodation name (if you know of it)
  3. The website is a little biased. Almost all the reviews are seemingly good, and there is not enough detail on why is it bad (when it is bad)
    1. Where are the photos to back up the current state of the accommodation?
    2. You mean all the reviews are stellar and everyone was happy?
    3. Why can’t we still sort out by order of dates or criteria (location, value, cleanliness etc…)?
  4. The AirBnB booking fee increases when you stay more days and/or have more people.
  5. When a host or guest cancels at the last minute, there will be an automated saying that the reservation has been cancelled *number of days* prior. However, it doesn’t specify WHO cancelled (was it the host or was it the guest?). It would be more useful to state who cancelled rather than a generic message that can be a little unnerving.

Just remember, AirBnB is only a platform where hosts list their space for rent, so you (as a guest and the one staying) have to do your homework very carefully to (try to) ensure you have the optimum stay experience. AirBnB is merely a platform that connects hosts and guests, and charges you a fee for it.

Travel Bytez Seoul AirBnB Recommendations:
  1. Lina’s Loft [Read the review here]
  2. KIM’s Studio (Hongdae) [Read the review here]
  3. Seoul Mansion (Hongdae) [Read the review here]
  4. Sui’s Loft #2 [~Coming Soon~]
  5. Sui’s Loft #3 [~Coming Soon~]

Hongdae Trickeye Museum + Ice Museum

After a ‘hearty’ breakfast of instant noodles (lol), the first adventure of the day began with a trip to the Trickeye Museum (which included the Ice Museum as well) in Hongdae. As DramaQueen and her friend, MX, were staying nearby at Seoul Mansion, we met up at exit 3 and made our way to the museum. 

With the cool autumn breeze, it was a pleasant 15 minutes (or so) walk from exit 3 to exit 9 all the way to the museum. The museum is located at the basement of a building which also happens to house the Love Museum (let your imagination go wild! haha). Before the entrance of the Trickeye Museum there is a souvenir shop, a bubble tea shop and an area to rest those tired feet.

Hongdae Trickeye Museum
Hongdae Trickeye Museum

Anyways, thanks to a discount voucher from the Trickeye Museum website, we got to save 3,000 won and paid 12,000 won instead of the original price of 15,000 won. The admission ticket came with complimentary admission to the Ice Museum and a discount voucher off bubble tea.

Hongdae Trickeye Museum
The adventure begins!

Having been to the Alive Museum in Singapore, we knew what to expect. So once we entered the Trickeye Museum, it was a whole morning of funny poses and laughter. It might have been a weekend and there were quite a few people, but it was not overcrowded - there was still ample of space (and time) to pose and take fun poses with the art pieces that caught our fancy.

Hongdae Trickeye Museum
Wanna be a piano genius or something more mystical?
Hongdae Trickeye Museum
Merry-go-round anyone?

Once we were done with our posing, we made our way to the Ice Museum. It was not very big but it was an ice wonderland. With the temperature being less than 0 degrees, it was extremely cold but an amazing experience to see sculptures carved out of ice, even a mini kitchen and bedroom made out entirely out of ice!

Ice Museum
Ice Museum

As the ice museum was extremely cold (-3 degrees!), M lasted less than 10 minutes, while I tried to stay as long as I could. The winners of staying the longest in such a cold room would have to be DramaQueen and MX; engrossed with photo taking and posing, even the cold could not prevent them from getting that perfect pose! As they were happily posing and taking photos in the icy wonderland, both Mag and I were happily defrosting.

By the time DramaQueen and MX came out, we were already defrosted but we had to wait a while for them to defrost as well (lol). By the time we were all defrosted; our rumbling tummies propelled us to a nearby eatery for lunch.

How to get there:

Hongdae Trickeye Museum
Hongik University Subway Station Exit 9 than a 10-15 minute walk to the museum.

Hongdae Trickeye Museum + Ice Museum
Address: 357-1, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul Seogyo Plaza B2
                서울특별시 마포구 홍익로3길 20 (서교동)
Operating Hours: 0900-2100 (Last admission: 2000)

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Seoul Mansion Guesthouse (Twin Room) [Guest Post]

This post was brought to you by DramaQueen.

Thanks to iceprinxess’s recommendation, our first accommodation in Seoul before heading off to Jeju was Seoul Mansion Guesthouse, located within the Hongdae vicinity and a short walk (within 10-15 minutes) from the Hongik University subway station and its surrounding neighborhood. Getting to Seoul Mansion Guesthouse from Incheon Airport was a breeze via the AREX. MX and I were able to find our way from the subway station, thanks to the map and information sent prior to our arrival and to MX for her great sense of direction! It was fortunate that our flight arrived in the morning, when the sun was out and about.

During our time there, Seoul Mansion Guesthouse provided daily breakfast, along with a free laundry service and complimentary Wi-Fi access (which were bonuses!). 

Seoul Mansion Guesthouse  ©
Seoul Mansion - our accommodation for the next 3 nights
Seoul Mansion Guesthouse  ©

For people who are are klutzes when it comes to directions (like me), printing out all the necessary information and maps, and placing them in a file lessens the pain. Anyway, we found the location of Seoul Mansion quite easily after following the map and without the need to ask anyone for directions.

Seoul Mansion Guesthouse  ©
The stairs leading to the reception area and common area

Since Seoul Mansion Guesthouse consisted of a whole building, the feeling was like a homey boutique hotel with the host ready to assist with any queries we had. There were places within the guesthouse (and outside our room) where guests could relax, such as the shared lounge and balcony (where the barbeque facilities were at), and a tour desk where impromptu (or not) travel arrangements could be made. In addition, the guest house also provided a shuttle service (at an extra charge of course), which can come in pretty handy.

When we arrived, we were warmly greeted and offered some oranges and bread. The receptionist has good communicative skills, and her English was surprisingly good. Not to mention that is is very polite and helpful too. As soon as we arrived, (and the fact that we were too early for check-in which starts at 3pm) she handed us the subway station map and introduced to us to the places around Hongdae to wile the time away. 

So with map in hand, we left our luggage with at the reception and started on out first day adventure! Before we left on our adventure, we were politely reminded that the office closes at 10pm

After our exploration attempt, we were back to check-in and were informed that we would be placed on the 3rd floor, which was all good... except that there was no elevator, only stairs. Thankfully we did not have that many spoils from shopping with us and our luggage was mangage-able up those stairs (very good exercise haha). We were given a security card for us and password for the room and main entrance door. Throughout our stay, safety was not an issue.  

It was actually our first time staying at a guesthouse, so we were pleasantly surprised at the cosy-ness (and cleanliness) of it all. Our room was a twin room which came with, well, twin beds and was equipped with an air conditioning / heating system, an en suite bathroom with a hairdryer, a water purifier and kettle (for ramen!... or tea/coffee). 

Seoul Mansion Guesthouse  ©
The room door
Seoul Mansion Guesthouse  ©
Pantry / Mini Kitchen: rather small but clean and equipped with basic utensils

Note: One of the advantage of staying here is that there is house keeping everyday and we can change towels everyday.

Our room might not have been the biggest, but it was a relatively good size and comfortably warm in the cold autumn weather (especially at night). The bed was a little firm (as with most beds used by South Koreans, but hey I slept on the floor the last time I was in Seoul), so those not used to hard beds might want to take note. The 2 beds were located directly outside the bathroom, making it a pretty compact but live-able room. On a side note, there is not much of a view.

Seoul Mansion Guesthouse  ©
My clean and comfortable bed ^^ Despite the lack of more pillows, my sleep was sweet
Seoul Mansion Guesthouse  ©
MX slept on this bed near the main door, with a rack for hangers, towels and even a pair of slippers.

The toilet was clean and shampoo, lotion and shower gel were provided. Being a compact room, the space for the toilet was also a tad small, but it did not bother me much.

Seoul Mansion Guesthouse  ©
Seoul Mansion Guesthouse  ©
Simple basin and a small shower area. 

Despite being a compact room, a desk, chair and TV managed to be placed between the beds. There was not much variety for TV programs, but it was alright as we were out most of the time.

Seoul Mansion Guesthouse  ©
In-room entertainment

Morning breakfast at Seoul Mansion starts at 9am daily at the ground floor common space / lobby. 

Seoul Mansion Guesthouse  ©
The breakfast table with simple yet delectable spread of bread, famous tangerines and coffee. We can use the toaster to toast the bread and placed them on a tray before carrying back to our room.
Seoul Mansion Guesthouse  ©
Juices, coffee, milk and the microwave
Overall, our stay at Seoul Mansion was good: the guesthouse was clean and comfortable (just like our own home), and the service rendered was on par with a hotel. Also, despite being in such a ‘lively’ environment, the guesthouse is kept off the main road and away from the ‘noise makers’, to give you good night’s rest. Just be sure not to mess up the place and be considerate of other people. 

I would definitely recommend Seoul Mansion Guesthouse if you are looking for somewhere near the subway/AREX and in the vicinity of the vibrant ‘youthful’ Hongdae (aka Hongik University), especially if it is your first time to Seoul and you want to explore the area (and not have to worry about catching the last train/bus back), and you have a budget (the pricing is reasonably affordable, we each paid about S$44 per night). Whether you are a solo traveler or traveling in a group/family, if you are looking for somewhere you can call ‘home’ with helpful friendly staff to assist you in your travel planning or queries (on the spot), Seoul Mansion  is one place you can consider staying at during your time in Seoul! Of course, it would be better if they had an elevator.

How to get there:
From Incheon Airport, there are 2 options (3 if you consider taking a taxi, but that shall not be included here)
  1. AREX – it is about an hour away if you take the AREX and alight at Hongik University Station (Exit 3). From exit 3, simply towards the guesthouse (about 5 minutes, 150m away).
  2. Limousine Bus 6002 – Alights at a stop near the guesthouse and also takes approximately the same amount of time. 

Price: Averages from about S$80-100++ per night (depending on room type)

First Impression for Seoul Mansion Guesthouse (Twin Room) - Hongdae


Do note that this review is only that of Seoul Mansion Guesthouse in Seoul using AirBnB, and not on all properties and hosts that are available on AirBnB. When booking other properties on AirBnB, please conduct your own research before booking anything. If you are interested in joining AirBnB and want a discount off your first stay, sign up here!

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