Notes on Air Travel

It’s been less than 24 hours since I’ve been on home soil. The food is free, the air is clean, and the parents are generous. This is a post I wrote up whilst on the plane. I’ve put some helpful tips and reminders together that may help you when preparing for your next flight! (Photos from my Instagram story.)

Don’t cram packing.

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  • Consider how much weight you are allowed.
    20 kilos check-in and 7 kilos hand-carry is the restriction I’m used to. However, this time around, I was concerned about exceeding the standard weight allowance. I’ve heard tell of some horror stories about the exorbitant fees charged to passengers who’ve done the same in the past. To be safe, I bought an extra 10 kilos of allowance from my airline in the weeks leading up to my flight.
  • When in doubt, use a lightweight carry-on bag.
    I’d originally intended to stuff my large, hard shell suitcase with 30 kilos and check that in, while using my smaller carry-on to fill 7 kilos. However, a brilliant suggestion from my mother was to use a duffel bag for my carry-on and split the 30 kilos of check-in between my two suitcases. This would give me an easier time navigating the airport and aircraft in the long run, as well as reduce individual strain on each bag to handle heavy weight. I picked up my duffel from the streets of Edae for only 10,000KRW.
  • Invest in a luggage scale.
    I borrowed this luggage scale from a friend at work, as I accidentally broke mine before leaving for Seoul and I didn’t have time to get another one. In the days leading up to your flight, do some practice runs with weighing your bags. For obvious reasons, I skipped packing most of my clothes and toiletries. But everything else made it into the early stages of my packing: souvenirs, shoes, some clothes, bags, chargers, laptop, and cosmetics. Doing half the work sooner rather than later will save you a lot of stress in the long run.
  • Wear your heaviest clothes and shoes on the flight.
    Still worried about weight? Save some space in your bag by wearing your leather jacket and Doc Martens to the airport- not that I’d ever need Doc Martens or leather in my country.
  • Hand-carry your fragile items.
    Here’s a tip: those FRAGILE stickers on your bags don’t do squat. The airport staff don’t have time to handle all- if any- bags with care. The person best suited to taking care of your belongings is yourself. Make use of newspaper or bubble wrap and swaddle your glassware and ceramics like you would a newborn baby. Get your laptop a cushioned sleeve. Do your best to pad the linings of your duffel with clothes and keep more precious cargo in the center of the bag.
  • Make sure you have no liquids in your carry-on.
    Well, no liquids above standard airline regulations (100 ml). As I’ve been a personal victim of spillage, I’d advise you to I spill-proof your luggage. I wouldn’t be too worried about jars of product, but for tubes and bottles, I’d cut out some cling wrap and use it as a spill guard. (With the cap off, cover the lip of the bottle with plastic before replacing the cap.) Afterwards, make sure to place all your carry-onliquids in a ziplock bag. Many airlines will stop you after scanning your luggage and ask to inspect your liquids- the ziplock is almost always required. Some airports provide passengers with ziplock bags, but don’t count on it and bring your own.
  • Don’t be afraid to leave things behind.
    Whether you’re short on space or strength, an easy solution is to leave things behind. Half of my shampoo and conditioner bottles are still full. As I didn’t like them enough to continue to use them in Manila, I won’t be taking them with me. The same goes for many of the items I’ve had to purchase for my temporary sojourn in a foreign country; hangers, shower caddy, trash bin, desk mirror, laundry drying rack, etc. If it’s just going to become clutter back home, toss it.

Arrive early.

  • Online check-in.
    Sometimes there’s a line (usually negligible in length) for people who’ve checked in online. You can usually check-in online two weeks before your departure date. These days they don’t really require you to have a hard copy of your flight itinerary; but if you have a printer onhand its safer to print it out. I usually just have the document saved on my smartphone. This spares you from long queues most of the time.
  • Go through the tax refund counters.
    Most of the time the effort it takes to get back 1,000KRW for a 30,000KRW purchase isn’t worth it. But if the amount you can get back is worth the hassle, do account for the time it’ll take you trying to figure out how to get your money back from Tax Refund.
  • Get a light meal.
    Airplane food is awful. Don’t subject your body to that. Grab a bagel at the airport cafe. Hell, even a burger from a fast food joint- I’m partial to a McSpicy- is probably better for you than the astronaut’s rations they serve you on the plane.
  • Duty Free Shopping is overrated.
    As excited as I was to spend the remainder of my won in the Incheon Duty Free, I quickly realized that it was not the brightest of my ideas. The discounts are minimal (bringing a 9,000KRW lipstick to 8,950KRW), and they often do not sell individual products (makeup-wise). The good deals require you to spend on packages of at least 5 products at a time. It’s still better to get your products in shopping districts like Myeongdong or Edae.
  • Use the toilet.
    Airplane toilets are so uncomfortable. They smell funny, they’re cramped, and other passengers tend to be rather inconsiderate in maintaining the facilities.

Surviving the flight.

  • Hydrate.
    Recycled airplane air will suck all the moisture out of your skin and lips. Stay hydrated, put on a sheetmask, and reapply that lip balm. Bring a face mist if you have one!
  • SPF.
    Being so high up actually exposes you to more UV rays. If you’re flying during the day (especially if you have a window seat), it’s best to have sunblock on. Shades help too (and they hide your sleeping face from the other passengers).
  • Binge watch a drama.
    If you’re not good at sleeping on planes (like moi), make sure you have some form of inflight entertainment in your carry-on. Whether it be a book, the latest episode of Game of Thrones, or IU’s comeback album, find something to save your sanity. Make sure your gadgets are fully charged prior to departure.
  • Dress comfortably.
    Wear sweats if you must. Airport fashion be damned, comfort is the most important thing- especially during long flights. Dress in layers so you can respond to changes in temperature easily. The cabin is quite chilly most of the time, and its easiest to fall asleep when you’re warm. If you’re not already wearing socks, have some with you so you can slip them on during the flight. And bring a scarf for good measure.
  • Wet wipes.
    I’m hoping this is pretty self-explanatory. There are germs and bacteria everywhere in the sealed, flying tuna can. Wipe down your phone, the tray table, your hands before eating, your hands after eating, etc.

What are your air travel tips?

Ysobel.

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Contour and Highlight Staples

Everyone’s got bloated days. Either you stayed up until 4 in the morning ugly-crying over the Goblin (도깨비) season finale, had just one beer too many at your local watering hole, or pulled an all-nighter to finish a paper you started hours before the deadline- you’ve been afflicted with siopao face. (For those who are unaware, a siopao is a steamed bun.) I just wanted to quickly talk about what products I’ve been using to make my face look more human before I go out! Continue reading “Contour and Highlight Staples”

Story Time: Lost My Passport in Seoul

The recent monsoon in Seoul has finally come to an end. Though I live for rainy days, it does get hard to run daily errands (ahem, shopping) when the torrential downpour prevents you from making it five minutes outside without looking like a drowned rat. Having had nothing to write about as of late, I thought it might be a good idea to transfer a short anecdote I’d posted on Facebook during my trip to Korea last April. This won’t be a long read, but I do hope it will be an entertaining one! Continue reading “Story Time: Lost My Passport in Seoul”

Brunching in Hongdae

There’s just something about brunch that sets it apart from other meals. The easy chatter, light flavors, and choice of menu all contribute to a warm ambiance so characteristic of brunch. It always makes me feel like I’ve started the day right. (You know, instead of inhaling last night’s slice of pizza or having a red velvet cupcake for breakfast.)

I was naturally quite excited when my friend- and supervisor- Camille asked me out to brunch on a lazy Sunday morning. The two of us agreed to meet up at the small cafe I had pointed out only a few days prior.  I’d noticed a line of at least seven people waiting patiently outside Butter Milk’s (버터밀크) storefront. With it being a mere five minutes away from my boarding house, I knew I had to give it a try.

With summer in Korea in full swing, I had the opportunity to take pictures of these vibrant (and alien- to me) flowers I saw along the streets of Hongdae on my way to meet her. I thought these orange buds on the right were immature chili peppers or some related genus before I saw the first bloom!

Of course, we ourselves did have to wait about an hour outside before the hostess was ready to seat us. I believe that there were around 5 tables available, and each was only intended to accommodate two guests. As it’s a very popular place, try to come early. They open at 10am and close at 6pm. And yes, the hour long wait was definitely worth it.

The interior of the cafe is quite homey and relaxing. There were several shelves of beautiful old books along the walls. Unfortunately, I believe most of them were in Japanese (we suspect the owner is too) and so I was unable to peruse any of them whilst waiting for our food to come.

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We ended up ordering the exact same thing! This place is famous for its Ricotta Cheese Pancakes (6,800KRW). These are without a doubt, the best pancakes I have ever had. I don’t know how I’ll go on without them once I’ve left Seoul. They’re amazingly light, fluffy, and the gentle ricotta flavor is only enhanced by the drizzled syrup.

I loved everything on my plate (except that odd red berry in the corner- I wasn’t sure what to make of it). The mashed potatoes and bacon were delicious, but next to the pancake my next favorite would have to be the scrambled egg that you can see peeking out from under my strip of bacon.

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We ordered Lemon Ades (3,800KRW) to go with our food. I was totally blindsided. I’d expected to receive lemonade. Instead, what arrived at our table was more like sparkling water with a touch of lemon flavor. It was the most bizarre thing. According to Camille, she has yet to come across a place in Korea that serves real lemonade. If you see ‘ade’ on the menu, be aware that that means soda.

What’s your brunch go-to?

Ysobel.

Seoul: What to Prepare Before You Fly Out

So you’ve got your tickets, booked that Airbnb, and made sure your luggage fits well within the bounds of standard weight allowance. But before you bring yourself to sign up for “city tours” or “tourist packages”, consider taking the challenge of facing the alien streets of Seoul without a forever-grinning guide with a microphone urging you on like a flock of sheep to the next stop on the itinerary.

Seoul may not be as easy to traverse as Manila (as Koreans normally speak less English than Filipinos do), but it’s certainly a piece of cake given adequate preparation. These are the things you’ll need to have on you during your trip (particularly for the monsoon season)!

LIGHT RAIN JACKET AND UMBRELLA

The rainy season in Seoul runs from June to September. If you come during this time, it’s best to pack for rain instead of rushing to buy umbrellas at the nearest convenience store after getting drenched while looking like a drowned rat. To save on shopping costs (put that money to better use; ahem, sheet masks?), try to pack the rain jacket as well.

PASSPORT

This kind of goes without saying. The passport is essential for a tourist to have on hand at all times. You’ll need it as an ID, at the money changer, and for tax-free shopping. On the subject of tax-free shopping though, it’s best to go to stores that offer instant tax refund. Otherwise, you’ll have to go through the tax refund counters at the airport and I honestly think that the refund you get will not be worth the hassle. I think I came to them with a receipt of 60,000KRW and the refundable amount was around 2,000KRW. Also, you’ll need to spend a minimum of 30,000KRW at all stores in order to receive the tax-free benefit. Keep ahold of your receipts!

T-CARD

This transportation card is your ticket to getting everywhere you need to go in Seoul. You can use it for the subway, the bus, the taxi, and hell, even the convenience store. This is the first thing you should pick up at the airport. I believe there are vending machines that dispense these. You can also find T-cards at all convenience stores. It’s only going to cost you 2,500-4,000KRW. There are machines for reloading the T-card anywhere there is a subway. You can also ask the cashier at 7-11, CU, and GS25 to load it with money. (You’ll only need one per person. I just have two because I came with my family last time and I wanted the other design!) Each subway ride should only cost around 1,250-1,500KRW, and you get a small discount if you use a T-card instead of a Single Journey Ticket.

NOTEBOOK AND PEN

I personally use this small notebook to write down my itinerary, expenses, shopping lists, and addresses of the places I want to go. It’s going to be handy to have these addresses in both English and Korean- in case you get lost and you need help. Additionally, when taking taxis, it’s best to just show the drive the Korean address than try to read the romanized translation out loud. You can also use your phone for these purposes of course, but I like to handwrite these notes.

ADAPTORS

Unlike Manila, the plug shapes of power outlets in Korea are rounded. If your device chargers aren’t, you’re going to need these round adaptors. I borrowed mine from the office, but if you’re here on vacation, you may have a hard time finding these. I know you can get them at Daiso for about 5,000KRW, but I’m not sure where else you can go. Better bring your own just in case.

SUBWAY KOREA APP

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Subway Korea is a life-saver. This is what the locals use to navigate their efficient subway system. It has a subway timetable that receives daily updates. It’s interface is pretty easy to understand. You can input your departure and arrival stations and the app will inform you of your travel time, number of stops before arrival, transfer details (if any), and transport fare.

GOOGLE MAPS AND TRANSLATE

This is pretty self-explanatory. Make sure to download offline translation as soon as possible. Half of the time there will be wifi while you’re out on the streets (WiFi ID: iptime, Public Wifi Seoul) and most restaurants and cafes are equipped with WiFi. If you’re worried you can rent a portable WiFi egg at the airport, but I’m not sure about the cost as I myself didn’t think it was necessary.

I hope you find this information useful and that you enjoy your trip to Korea as much as I did mine!

Ysobel.

Korean Skin Care Products I’ve Been Testing

Good afternoon everybody! It’s a rainy Sunday in Seoul. Danbee mentioned that a monsoon will be with us for about a week or two so we can expect some more days of warm coffee and overcast skies. Most people dislike this kind of weather, but I thrive on gloomy days. It’s the closest a tropical specimen such as myself can get to wintry snow days. You know, the kind of day when the snow piles up so high that the city cancels school and you get to just light some candles, put on a facemask, bring out the hot cocoa and watch movies in bed.

Anyway, today I will be sharing the skin care items I recently purchased in Olive Young and Watsons to handle my skin’s freak-out in response to the change of weather. Continue reading “Korean Skin Care Products I’ve Been Testing”

Seoul: Style Nanda & Chuu | Styling the Cold Shoulder

Since I’ve been in Seoul, the residence I’ve been staying in has been tantalizingly close to two very dangerous establishments: Style Nanda and Chuu.

In case these aren’t already familiar to you, these highly popular brands retail trendy Korean clothing, shoes, accessories, and cosmetics. Beauty and fashion bloggers living in or visiting Korea do not leave without making a pilgrimage to these stores.

And I happen to live no more than a five minute walk away from their flagship stores. Here is a collection of photos I’ve amassed over the past few weeks! Continue reading “Seoul: Style Nanda & Chuu | Styling the Cold Shoulder”

Haphazard Update on the Past Few Months (and Cafes to Visit in Manila)

My goodness how many months has it been? I recently fell into a very deep pit of writer’s block. The semester caught up to me and suddenly I felt no drive to write about anything.  My moving from dorm to apartment and switching of college major didn’t help.

However, after having spent a month in Seoul surrounded by beautiful places and enticing shopping, I think it’s time to try my hand at continuing this blog.

Do bear with me, as this update post will be less like my highly organized posts of the past. I’m going to attempt to get you up to speed with the last few months of my life (Manila-based months), and perhaps go into proper detail about each phase of my travels later on! Continue reading “Haphazard Update on the Past Few Months (and Cafes to Visit in Manila)”

Kyoto-Nagoya Station: Trains and Manga

When the train stations look like airports and the subway looks like a high class shopping mall, you realize that your standards for infrastructure and innovation will never be the same again. Muji and UNIQLO were definite culprits for the havoc I wreaked on my savings account. But in truth, my greatest weakness was the drugstore. Continue reading “Kyoto-Nagoya Station: Trains and Manga”