Ski in Style in Korea

With all the talk in the news this past week of people having ‘snow day’ around the world due the amount of beautiful white fluffy stuff falling from the skies and our friends in Hong Kong experiencing almost freezing temperatures some of us might be feeling a little hard done by.

Pyeongchang 2018 ski jump imageMake your snow dreams happen with a winter trip to Korea and experience the snow for yourself, you’ll be surprised how quick and easy it is to plan your trip! With Korea being the host nation for the next winter Olympics in 2018 and the games being held in Pyeongchang in Gangwon-do province, there has never been a better time to go.

The CheapTickets.sg guide to booking your ski trip:

Step 1: Book a cheap flight from Singapore to Seoul with CheapTickets.sg. You can grab flights for the last couple of weeks of February until mid March when the snow should still be good from only $500! *Purchase your travel insurance with your flight booking and save up to 40%* (more on travel insurance at the end of the blog).

Step 2: Book a room. Whilst there are many resorts within a couple of hours from Seoul we recommend you head out to Gangwon-do in the east of Korea. You can book rooms in Jeongseon and Pyeongchang on CheapTickets.sg from only $98 per night.

Step 3: Head to the slopes! Our trip to check out the snow took us the brilliant facilities at High1 Ski Resort in Jeongseon-gun, Gangwon do. Getting there from Seoul airport is super easy with a daily bus taking you from arrivals to your hotel at 7.30 each day, great if you are arriving on the Korea Air 644 or Asiana 752 flights (there are plenty of places to get a snack and a hot drink whilst you wait for the bus). You need to reserve your seats in advance here: http://www.purpleskibus.com/. There are also numerous departures from around Seoul city out to High1, Alpensia Ski Resort and Yongpyong Ski resort in Gangwon. The journey takes about 4 hours to get to the resorts and costs about $48 SGD return for the bus.

High1 Ski Slope Map

High1 Ski Slope Map. I skied the AT3-AT3-1

Step 4: Plan your snow time! All the resorts run shuttle buses to the slopes around the timing of the ski sessions, usually split into AM and PM. If you are a first time Skier you should arrange your lesson in advance to ensure you have an English or Mandarin speaking instructor. You can either contact the ski resort you will be travelling to directly or get the hotel to assist with this on your behalf. Ski lessons are can be carried out 1-1 or with a group and cost about 350,000W for the day (AM & PM session). Ski passes including the gondola range from 40-55,000W per session, you need to buy this in addition to your lessons.

Step 5: Look the part. If you have your ski clothes, great! If not you can easily and fairly cheaply rent your gear at the ski lodge. Estimate prices for the ski gear we rented:

Ski plate, Ski pole & boots: 20,000W
Ski clothes: Jacket & trousers: 15-20,000W
Ski Googles: 5-8,000W
Gloves are not able to be rented but we bought ours for 10,000W next to the clothes hire booth.

CheapTickets.sg Travel Guru Carrie gets her Ski on at High1 resort, Korea

CheapTickets.sg Travel Guru Carrie gets her Ski on at High1 resort, Korea

Step 6: Ski! This was my first experience out on the powder and man was it fun! I spent an hour with an instructor in a group lesson learning the basics (walking forwards and backwards, clipping in and out of the boots and falling over and getting up) before going to the nursery slope to learn to go downhill and very essentially how to slow yourself and stop. Once I had graduated from ski school the instructor took me out to the smallest beginner run. If and when you are ready your instructor will accompany you down a beginner slope in a small group, try and take it slowly as you won’t know what’s around the next corner- for me, my first big slope (which my instructor insisted was small) felt huge but he gave me lots of confidence to get through it and was always nearby. You will be given a special colour coded bib to wear on the slopes so other skiers and instructors around know you are a novice, and who you are with! After the first time going down the slope, which felt like it went on forever I felt like I had conquered a mountain. My instructor quickly guided us to the gondola to give me a pep talk and to go back up and do it again. It was certainly one of the best experiences of my life so far! If you are still a beginner or even staying off the slopes your gondola pass will allow you to go to the mountain top where you can indulge in a snack or even have lunch at the restaurant with fantastic views over the mountain at a reasonable price, the ride up is also a highlight.
You can check out the snow and the slopes through the webcams at High1 here:

Step 7: Après Ski!

Après Ski at High1 Resort Korea includes Churros Sabre fights!

Après Ski at High1 Resort Korea includes Churros Sabre fights! Super yums!

This is often the most fun part of the ski trip! Straight from the slopes I headed for the Churros stand conveniently placed by the gondola exit. It’s warm dough and sinful sugar was so welcome to refuel after my first ski session, don’t be fooled thinking it’s all downhill, it’s tiring work (but we still had the energy to pretend it was a light sabre!).

There are a number of hotels where we stayed in Jeongsun and the High1 resort own a number of hotels including Kangwonland, a huge hotel and casino complex. Entry to the casino is free to foreigners and there are over 200 tables. Be warned, the locals take their gaming very seriously, our 5,000W bets were slightly frowned upon but they warmed up to our gaming style in the end. There are regular shuttle busses from the hotels in High1 to Kangwonland, just ask at your hotel reception. There is also a cinema and a choice of eateries.
Whilst we were staying at High1 Hotel, a couple of KM’s up the hill we found it was very quiet in the evenings and the restaurant closed early (room service was also not available after 2pm) so a trip to Kangwonland in the evening is a must. However one of the plusses of this hotel was its direct gondola going to the mountain top which then carried on back down the mountain to the Ski House if you fancied the ride rather than taking the shuttle bus to start your experience.

Pyeongchang Olympics

Getting ready to do a ski jump at Alpensia Resort (no this is not real, its a trick-eye)

Getting ready to do a ski jump at Alpensia Resort (no this is not real, its a trick-eye)

With the 2018 Olympics new fast approaching I had a little behind the scenes tour into what the athletes will experience during the games. If you are staying at Alpensia resort take time to go to the ski jumping stadium. Take the ride up to the cafe where you can enjoy a huge range of hot drinks (I went for the Mocha) and get fantastic views over the mountains. I was lucky enough to be able to go out to where the ski jumpers will begin their medal winning efforts- check out my video below!

 

 

 

 

Want to take an organised tour to the slopes? Book a day tour from Seoul or a 2-3 day trip with CheapTickets.sg from only $65 here and have the organisation taken care of for you!

Want to find out more great places to visit in Seoul and Korea? Download the ‘Visit Korea’ App now for more information and on the go assistance to help you make the most out of your trip.

Download the visit Korea app for more information on visitng Korea

 

Note: CheapTickets.sg advises all skiers; novice or seasoned athletes to hire and wear a helmet (its included in your basic equipment hire, just ask for it) whenever you are out on the slopes. No matter your experience, please take precautions against severe injury from accidents. CheapTickets.sg travel insurance, underwritten by AIG insurance provides coverage for skiers taking part in sporting activities that are open to the general public without restriction (provided you are not going against general health or fitness warnings). It provides coverage for activities undertaken by local operators provided you are under the supervision of qualified guides or instructors when carrying out the opportunity. If you have any queries as to the coverage of your insurance please drop an email to CheapTickets.sg@travix.com so we can assist you.

See Super Cool Seoul

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I have been lucky enough to visit Korea in both the spring and the summer but with Singapore’s eternal summer I so wanted to get out and cool off and my most recent trip to Seoul was the perfect antidote for this trip.

It starts to get cold in November but it you want to have full on hats, scarf and gloves weather (and a little shopping indulgence pre-trip) and possible snow, visiting from mid December to late Feb is the best period to time your trip (more about the snow in my next post…)

If like me you want to experience Seoul at it coolest here are my must do’s:(apart from getting your super cheap flight from Singapore to Seoul at CheapTickets.sg)

Get your skates on: Seoul Plaza Ice Skating Rink

Seoul Plaza Ice skating rink

Seoul Plaza Ice skating rink

Open from 17 December to 9 February (in 2016) this is one of the best value winter activities in Korea! For only 1000W including skate rental you can zoom around the ice pirouetting and showing off your skills in the midst of downtown Seoul. If you are more realistic about your skills, like me, you can rent a helmet and elbow pads for free, just ask. Be sure to wear bring your own gloves or you will need to pay 500W as every skater needs to wear them.

How to time your skate: Sunday to Thursday- 10:00-21:30 / Friday to Saturday & national holidays – 10:00-23:00. Skate time is one hour. Ice cleaning for 30 minutes between each session.

Cheonggyecheon Digital Garden @ Cheonggyecheon Stream

Cheonggyecheon Digital Garden opening times 2

Cheonggyecheon Digital Garden Stream light up times

Straight after your skate take the 400 metre walk along Sejong-Daero north towards Heungyemun gate. On your right you will see a large opening at the first main intersection, this is the entrance to the Cheonggyecheon Stream, home to the Cheonggyecheon digital garden. This year-round art light installation gets an added glow in the winter months with a special Christmas feature. The stream, which is more of a river can be followed for 8.4km but if its really cold you can get a good feel from the first 800 metres and do a loop around the stream (carefully) crossing the stream over one of the stepping stones and heading back to the start on the other side.

The times of the light up vary by month but from Dec- Feb you can view them from 18:00-20:00. We were lucky enough that they left the lights on until 20:40 the day we were there.

 

 

 

 

Too Cool: Charles H Bar at The Four Seasons Hotel

IMG_1586Want to warm your fingers and find out where all the other cool kids have been hiding? Just 200 metres walk away from the entrance to the Cheonggyecheon stream is this little gem of an old school ‘speakeasy’. Hidden at the basement level of the luxury Four Seasons Hotel (which I had the pleasure of staying 2 nights in and highly recommend) is the Charles H Bar. A little challenging to find since when you head down the stairs from the hotel lobby into the basement the bar is not signed posted anywhere (its part of the theme). Turn to your left and take the first left turn, yes it looks like a dead ended corridor but push the wall on your left and all will be revealed. My experience started with a small glass of champagne in a red curtained waiting area whilst I waited for my host to guide me into 1920’s New York and to a table. The staff are fantastic and along with the creative cocktail menu with stories behind each creation the bartenders are eager to show off their craft. A short chat revealed that some of the team are friends with the staff at Singapore local 10 Hong Kong Street- so if you have been there too your expectations will be high, and you won’t be disappointed. I went off menu and had a Cosmo followed by an Amaretto sour. Be warned this place is happening, be sure to make a reservation if you plan on coming after 8.30pm when the city workers descend into this secret spot.

Seoul_Blog_Map_Cheonggyecheon_Digital_Garden,_Charles_H_Bar_and_Seoul_Plaza

How to get from Seoul Plaza to Cheonggyecheon Stream and then to Charles H Bar at Four Seasons

Ginseng Chicken Soup

After all the cool it’s time to warm up and refresh yourself for your next adventure. Whilst there are now many places that claim to have been the founding restaurant of the famed Ginseng soup, Korea Samgyetang (고려삼계탕) restaurant claims to be the oldest and most established and who am I to argue now I have tasted their delicacy? Just around the corner from the Four Seasons is the second and smaller outlet of this family restaurant (why go far when you don’t have to?). The delicious soup was delivered very soon after ordering and was still bubbling away with its dates and garlic on top. Pour in your ginseng wine to the dish and get ready to feast. Whilst I found it a little troublesome to navigate around all the little chicken bones the tender meat was more than rewarding, and the surprise of the beautiful glutinous rice when you tore open the meat was such a delight. The meal with the usual array of Korean side dishes cost 15,000W. The restaurant closes at 9pm each day so don’t leave your meal too late.

After reading more about the Ginseng Chicken soup I discovered that it is actually a dish that Koreans like to enjoy in the summer when the country is at its hottest. They believe the soup can help to replace nutrients lost through sweating.

Korea Tourism has some details about the main outlet of the restaurant here. You can visit the restaurants own site here.

Ever wondered why metal chopsticks are used in Korea?

I am intrigued why metal chopsticks are used more commonly in Korea as opposed to wood or plastic. I don’t have the exact answer, but here are a few reasons why; apart from the fact that they are considered more hygienic as they are easily washed and sanitized they also prove less wasteful then throwing away wooden chopsticks as they are more durable. There is also the view that their use stems from social aspiration where brass and silver chopsticks were used by Korean royalty and aristocrats making it a desirable option. Some theories suggest that the king used metal chopsticks in ancient times to be able to test if poison had been added to their food by monitoring corrosion to the metal once it made contact with their meal before they ate it.

 

Want to find out more great places to visit in Seoul and Korea? Download the ‘Visit Korea’ App now for more information and on the go assistance to help you make the most out of your trip.

Download the visit Korea app for more information on visitng Korea

Go K-razy in starry starry Seoul & beyond

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You may or may not already be riding the K-pop wave and gotten totally K-razy over the all singing all dancing mega groups coming out of Korea: think EXO, 2NE1, Super Junior, global phenomena PSY and my new personal favourite Bigbang with the phenomenal G-DRAGON .

Whether you are already a Hallyu (한류) follower or not there are some places that you need to visit in Korea to get in touch with and grow your ‘fangirl’ side to appreciate this musical phenomenon. I have to admit that before this trip to Korea I was more of a Gangnam style dance floor hits kind of person but I have now fully fallen in love and am now proudly following the k-wave.

IMG_1462 (1)

PSY at the Grévin wax museum, Seoul

I started my journey with a red carpet experience at the Grevin Wax Museum in Seoul. Alongside the usual suspects (US President Obama, The Queen, George Cloony & Brad Pitt) you will also find a host of K stars in their ‘Hallyuwood’ (their name not ours!). Meet and greet stars from popular dramas and even have the opportunity to take your seat on a chat show sofa to interact with some of the stars before wondering off the red carpet and onto the international sports field. What’s different from other wax museums is that the Grévin museums promise entertainment, and they certainly deliver. Not only can you pose alongside worldwide stars but you can interact with them too; from playing roulette with the Oceans 11 cast to riding through the starry sky with ET or piloting Air Force One, you can do it here.

Entry into Grévin Wax Museum costs 23,000 W per adult, 18,000 W for students (ages 13-18), 15,000 W for children (ages 3-12), and 15,WKRW for seniors (ages above 65). Children under 3 get in free accompanied by an adult. Operating Hours: Open Daily: 10am-6pm.

How to get there: City Hall Station (Seoul Subway Line 1,2), Exit 6. Walk straight for 5 min. Or, Euljiro 1-ga Station (Seoul Subway Line 2), Exit 1. Walk straight for 3 min.

IMG_1559 (2)Next up on the wave, dive into the K-pop concert world with a 30 minute K-pop showcase hologram concert at K-LIVE. Conveniently located to break up a shopping and eating fest in Dongdaemun on the 9 & 10th floor of Lotte FitIn, dance yourself silly (it’s a pretty dark room if you are shy) to the K-LIVE concert with stars such as G-DRAGON, Bigbang, PSY & 2NE1.

The 270° performance will captivate you with its interactive elements (be prepared for your face to be used as a backing dancer) and make you feel as though you are almost at a real concert. At 33,000 W its one of the most pricey activities you can do in Seoul for the time you spend there but if you are a big fan this might be as close to the real thing as you can get!

View of Dongaemun Design Plaza from K-Live balcony in the Lotte FitIn

View of Dongaemun Design Plaza from K-Live balcony in the Lotte FitIn

Concerts  can be viewed at 30 minute intervals from 2-10pm Tuesday- Sunday. How to get there: Located on floors 9 and 10 of Lotte FitIn. Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (Lines 2, 4, and 5) exits 11 and 12 (connected by underground path). If you go to the K-LIVE centre at dusk you can get a pretty cool view from the balcony by the cafe inside.

IMG_1928If you want to the biggest chance to run into the stars* (my personal highlight of this K-tour) head to MBC World just out of Seoul City Centre. Visit 3 difference sections of this ‘world’ packed with photo opportunities and interaction zones using the latest technology to bring the stars to life before your eyes. From hanging on the sofa with your favourite singer and having him lie on your lap, performing with your favourite girl band to getting cheeky bed shots with a movie star (you need to go there to see how) you will be entertained for a full morning or afternoon.

I was lucky enough to ‘run’ into Yoo Jae Suk of running man fame at the coffee shop in MBC world. Nicked named ‘MC of the nation’ he certainly was tolerant of the sudden excitement at the quiet corner of the studios whilst I managed to get a snap of him before his entourage tried to calm us down J If you are a big fan, maybe research the when your favourite star is being interviewed or filming a series at the centre and try and spot them (but not in a stalkerish sense…).

Yoo Jae Suk

Yoo Jae Suk from running man needs coffee too!

*we can’t guarantee that you will see/meet one, although we would love to be able to promise it!

Petit France 1

View from the bell tower at Petit France

My final stop on the starry tour took me from stage to screen as I visited one of the most romantic places in Korea… where Do Min-jun and Cheon Song-yi from My Love from the Star had their first kiss in Petit France. I took some time to wonder around this beautiful French themed village in the foothills of the rolling countryside of the Gyeonggi-do region just to be transported to somewhere that could be in the Mediterranean or The Piedmont Alps. From is cafes to halls and galleries this little village will captivate you. My visit in the winter time was particularly enjoyable with all the festive decorations and lights twinkling as dusk set, and of course that cool wintery breeze offset by the hot chocolate I sipped looking out over the nearby lake. Entry into Petit France is 8,000 W for adults and is open from 9am- 6pm. If you are driving to this area combine your trip to nearby Nami Island and The Garden of Morning Calm to make the most of your day. You can book an hotel room in nearby Chunchon from only $70, located just on the edge of the Gangwon region. Spend the evening relaxing and eating at the famed ‘Chicken Street’. For more information on visiting Nami Island and surrounds visit our special site about visiting Gangwon.

N Seoul Tower

Show your love at the N Seoul Tower

Fans of My Love from the Star can take a dedicated tour from Seoul visiting Petit France among a host of other filming locations including the N Seoul Tower and Namsan Hanok Village. The tours guide will share all their insider knowledge and gossip from the show as well as help you create cool photos where the characters pursued their romance ending the day at Palm Piano Restaurant where you can tuck into the shows signature combo of fried chicken and beer (maekju) together called chimac. The tour can be booked online in advance (to guarantee your place) at CheapTickets.sg now for only $162.

 

To get information on where to visit and how to get there in Korea download the ‘Visit Korea’ App now. Plus until 15 January 2016 redeem a $30 discount on all return flights from Singapore Korea, book now! Get the download links and your discount code now at www.CheapTickets.sg/korea#promo

Download the visit Korea app for more information on visitng Korea