Singapore – Korea VTL: Exploring Seoul & Flight Back to Singapore

Checked-in to the hotel a second time after my return from Busan and they asked for my boarding pass again. To be honest, I was rather puzzled since I just checked-in 2 days ago and I had already shown them. But I decided to be nice and dig for the paper since thankfully I still had it with me, locked up in my luggage. Else given the flimsy paper that SQ prints, I would have already thrown the boarding pass away

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And I could finally see Namsan tower from my room! It had been so cloudy the previous days the pictures were just uninspiring

Also I feedback the room I had stayed in was really warm (like 27.5 degrees!) cos it was preset by the hotel, and for the next few days the temperature in my room never went past 23.5 degrees. lol

Spend the next hour or so chilling in the room before finally making my way for dinner at Cheongdam-dong, a neighbourhood known for high quality restaurants

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And decided my dinner on Muoki. You can read more about the dinner here in my previous post

I was so full from dinner I just wanted to roll out of the door

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But first, photos. I love how festive the decorations were. It made the area so pretty

And that concluded the rather chill day I had

Started the next day by heading to Ikseon-dong, an area that has become immensely popular with its traditional Korean houses lining the street, housing cafes and shops. I was really excited to be there when I first did my research and I was glad it wasn’t that far away from my hotel. The shops were all hidden in the alleyways so let yourself roam and be lost and eventually you would find them 🙂

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Map showing all the shops you could explore. The nearest way to get there would be from Jongno 3(sam)-ga station and I used exit 4. But I think it doesn’t really matter which exit (can be 4, 5, 6) cos you will get there eventually

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As I was early, I had the luxury to enjoy the quiet environment and taking snaps of it

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Fans of Sixth Sense, do you recognise this place? Is this.. true or false?! 😀

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So pretty lah. If you want to take photos here, suggest you come earlier at 10-ish. Most shops open at 11.30am so anything before that will be ideal

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The original plan was to go to Madang Flower cafe to grab my morning coffee but I was distracted by the (fake) cats that were standing at the window next door I decided to have my coffee there instead. Ha

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See, so cute

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Cafe with lots of sunshine, instantly puts you in a good mood

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There was also a constant alluring smell of freshly baked egg tarts (I think the cafe is famous for it!) but I didn’t try them as I was afraid after having the tart, I wouldn’t be able to have lunch

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So I enjoyed my green tea latte instead which was really decent

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Headed over to Oncheonjip at 10.50am cos I wanted to see where it was and that was where lunch was gonna be for me! There’s a cafe called Cheonsudang that was located directly across, which was also quite known for desserts

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There was already a waiting list! They only opened at 11.30am by the way. So I wrote my name down as well, hoping I would get a seat. As per my understanding you can also make a booking through Naver but since one would first need to have a Naver account, that didn’t work for me

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I went around the alley to walk abit since it was still early and came across this bakery that I saw on social media

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Famous for their scones and baked goods

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And then I head back to Oncheonjip shortly cos I was afraid I would miss my queue, in case they called out/there was some form of communication in Korean which I wouldn’t understand

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And wow, surprise surprise. The amount of crowd that appeared after 11.05am was crazy. It got so packed by the time the restaurant opened at 11.30am, the whole walkway was filled with people. I was just wondering how good the food would be to have such a crowd. And I even heard the local standing next to me casually mentioned this is a trending restaurant. So yes, I was excited to try it

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I say 100 points for ambience. It was like dining in a Japanese garden

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Serving shabu shabu as its highlight, they had soybean and spicy shabu shabu with varying options. The restaurant also served steak don, so if you had wanted another option as variety, you could order one as well. But since, there was only me..

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I got the pork + seafood shabu shabu with yuzu makgeolli

The tables around me all exclaimed in surprise when they saw my makgeolli. Why..? It was just makgeolli..

My situation was made funnier when the server asked if I could understand Korean cos she had to explain to me how to go about eating the shabu shabu and I said no. She sighed so audibly and whipped out her translation app. I was laughing internally. I’m sorry that I couldn’t understand Korean. And I’m not sure which app she was using. The translation turned out to be.. smell the grass before eating?! I was so confused as I looked at the dishes before me and she pointed to the portion of vegetables. Did she really mean it literally? So after she left, I picked up a strand of vegetable, smelled it and threw into the pot immediately

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Jokes aside, it was a good day to have hot soup in cold weather

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Well well, I think this place was overrated. The quality of the pork was bad. I’m not even trying to mince my words here. Cook on point and it was too chewy, cook too long and it became too tough. It was chewy to the point I choked on it. It was so bad. There was nothing spectacular about the seafood, vegetables or noodles. It all tasted very average to me. Oh, the soup too

Why was this place so popular I really couldn’t understand. And the table next to me said it was delicious?! Which part?? So if anyone of you had plans to try this place, don’t. It’s not worth the time nor the calories. There are so many food options in Ikseon-dong you can just pop into anyone of them

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So after shopping for abit, I popped into Hotel Seine, a multi-story cafe and also a filming site for Hotel De Luna

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The cafe has different themes on each floor and you can choose to sit in anyone of them

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The hotel concierge, where you collect your orders

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Desserts displayed on the first floor

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Yellow theme on the second floor

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Pink theme on the third

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Rooftop Pub area

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I settled myself on the first floor cos the rest of the floors were just too warm. And as I was chilling, I lost track of time and forgotten I had an appointment for PDT test. I literally jumped..

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And so began my mad rush to the hospital #panicmode

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I decided to keep my PCR test at Chung-Ang University Hospital instead of changing to ART cos nobody knew if they were going to change back to PCR anytime soon so I just wanted to keep things simple. As per my understanding, these places issue PDT certificates in English so you can email them to ask about the cost: Gangbuk Samsung Hospital, National Medical Centre, Samsung Medical Centre and as per last checked, they are still on MOH-approved list

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Entrance of Chung-Ang university hospital

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After you walked past the door, a staff will help you at the kiosk with a set of preliminary health questions and direct you to the information counter on where to go next

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Get a number from the kiosk beside the payment counters and wait for your number to be called

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Pay for your consultation fee (KRW27,270) and proceed to section B for registration

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This was useful

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Then go back to the same kiosk and make payment for PCR test (KRW 127,160). After which you proceed to the white tent located at the back of the hospital. Basically you just turn left (assuming you are now facing the kiosk) and walk straight out

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You will spot the tent once you exit. That’s the invoice I’m holding by the way. I know, it’s complicated. Every time you make payment, they give you a new piece of paper

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Then you just wait for your name to be called. I was the only one here, and the doctor spoke perfect English. So if you have any questions, you can ask now. And that’s it! You just need to come back tomorrow to collect the certificate

The whole process took about an hour cos of all the waiting involved. It sounded so easy but when you were in a unfamiliar place and everyone primarily spoke Korean, it was quite daunting

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I wanted to go back to Ikseon-dong but since the journey seemed a little out of the way, I made my way to Hongdae for Flowers by Naked exhibition instead. The exhibition was located at AK& Hongdae shopping mall on the 4th floor, running till end of December

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It was a mask-on exhibition even when taking photos and thankfully it wasn’t crowded at all

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This was in Korean. The guy asked I could read Korean and I said no. I told him I can translate them and he told me to watch the video instead (but it was also in Korean. lol)

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It’s quite an interactive exhibition with flowers as the main theme

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And also many photo taking opportunities

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You were supposed to clap to have the dandelion flying effect. Lets just say I tried my best

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And this kaleidoscope effect room was so pretty. Though I also got quite dizzy after awhile cos the effects couldn’t stop coming. lol

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Scent lab – you could smell the scent of flowers here

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And the main attraction

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You placed your hands on the wall and there would be petals dancing at your touch. It was rather interesting

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And the lights in the room would change from time to time, giving you different effects *cues more photos*

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Spent about 45 minutes here and I thought it was quite fun

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You could also use the ticket to get a discount at their cafe located just outside the exit but since I was about to head for dinner, I decided to save some stomach space

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Dinner was at Downtowner, supposedly touted as one the best burgers in Seoul. They had plenty of outlets and I went to the nearest one located near my hotel. When I was about to turn into the alley and I saw a long line steaming out, I got a shock. I thought wow, is that popular? To my relief, it was for another shop. Ha

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The fries menu looked interesting

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Single Cheeseburger with (boring) Cheese Fries

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I thought the burger was decent. You can taste the char in the buns and the beef patty had a clear distinct peppery taste. The melted cheese made it better. Fries tasted normal, just a good ol’ plate of french fries. In my opinion, if you had asked me to pick Downtowner or SS, it would be SS anytime. lol

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Woke up with a message informing my test results were out. Yay, checkpoint 3 cleared 🙂 It’s good to know you can fly home

And so began my journey back to the hospital

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Instructions this time round were conflicting. I thought I was supposed to go to the medical records desk to collect my certificate. In the end, I was told to go back to section B. I probably repeated the sentence ‘I’m here to collect my certificate’ many times, like a broken record. Made funnier was when the nurse asked if I could speak Korean. Erms, if I could speak Korean, I would have spoken them in the first place right.. sighs

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Anyway after the nurse checked your records at the counter,  I was directed to Room 1

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Just stand outside the room and pass the slip to the nurse that was going in/coming out. She would need to verify your details against your passport and the destination you were going to. Then go to the kiosk (located beside the payment counters) to take a number and wait for your turn to be called

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The certificate would be collected here

Payment for the English certificate was KRW42,830

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And it looked like this. There was no QR code, but it would not be an issue

If you had thought collecting certificate wouldn’t take too much of your time, well, I spent 45 minutes there :/ Maybe it would be better to go to a smaller clinic so the whole process would not be so complicated. I was like mentally exhausted after my morning errands

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And so, got myself to Blue Bottle coffee

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I missed blue bottle. Even got the beans back for my coffee-loving friend

I’m such a good friend. Ha

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But I got distracted on the way up I spilled 1/3 of my coffee 😦  So no coffee picture here. Told the friend that and she cared more about the coffee than me. Tsk #toomuch

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Walked my way through Apgujeong to my lunch location. I found the neighbourhood very peaceful and well, it should be since it is considered as one of wealthiest neighbourhood in Korea

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And so I reached Jungsik!

Wow, they had the whole building. Since I was early, I was directed to wait at the cafe located on the first floor. I didn’t know they have a cafe

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And it looked nice. Part of me was wondering what was on the menu

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And promptly at 12pm, I was led to the restaurant that was located on the 2nd floor

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Lunch was a memorable affair. It was one of the best I had

You can read more about it here

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Headed over to COEX mall next cos I wanted to visit the Starfield library

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The mall was quite big in my opinion but nothing caught my eye so I made my way to the library instead

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The library was located on the first floor of the mall. Just follow the signs, you will find it

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And I could understand why it was such an instagram-worthy place

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I really liked Ikseon-dong and since I had to dash off the day before, I decided to go back to finish exploring. And well, the area at night was different. Other than the place decorated in its evening lights, there were also many restaurants serving K-BBQ. It was really lively

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My friend told me this bakery selling bread was rather popular. There was a long queue when she came. But clearly, everything was sold out by then in the evening. So if you want to give this a try, remember to go during the day

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Walked back to Cheonsudang (located opposite Oncheonjip which was still crowded!) cos I wanted to see what was all the hype about

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The cafe was packed. Wow

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Known for its soufflé castella cake, I really debated for the longest time if I should order one to try. But lunch was still in my stomach

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So in the end I settled for a hot fruit tea, which was really nice! It tasted like orange tea yet it wasn’t too sour with the pulps in it

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Took a stroll along Cheonggyecheon to walk it off abit and was also deciding what to have for dinner. Told the friend I wanted to go get convenience store gimbak and she objected violently. lol. She said I had to go get the ahjumma version and see her roll it infront of me

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And so I found a random store (using Naver) with an ahjumma rolling it for me #missionaccomplished

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The ahjumma was so skilled. She finished it in 1 minute

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Dabao-ed it back to the hotel to eat

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And here’s my gochujang tuna roll. Was surprised at the rather huge portion and I had 100% faith I would not be able to finish it

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I have to say the gimbak was good. The spicy green chilli had so much kick it was not even funny. Every time I finished one slice, I gulped 2 big mouthfuls of water. And since I only had a few pieces, I brought the rest back to Singapore with me 😀

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And soon, it was time to head to the airport. Check-out was done promptly and I got the hotel to get a cab for me. Traffic was really smooth this time and I got to the airport in an hour costing KRW55k

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I was so early the counters were not even opened for check-in. lol. Even though there were only 2 counters for Economy class passengers, the line moved pretty fast. Glad things were so orderly here

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After passing through security check and immigration, I made my way to Sky Hub lounge to grab a cup of coffee

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The lounge was located at such a deserted area I had a hard time finding it

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And it was empty

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The food was bad here, like even a simple piece of bread was dry

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The only consolation I had was the coffee was pretty decent, so I just made do with it till it was time to head to the gates

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It was time to make the final journey to the aircraft, all ready to take us back home

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I was holding my breath cos the seat next to me was empty, praying hard it would remain like this till takeoff. And as luck would have it, I got my wish! #simplewins

Was so happy nobody would be invading my space

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Lunch came in the form of Barbecue Chicken w Mashed Potatoes & Buttered Vegetables, which I must say was pretty tasty! And it proved to be a popular choice as well since I heard many asking for that option, so much till the air crew asked me – you sure you don’t want the beef bulgogi? lol

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Lunch with a view, literally from the top

But the green tea mousse was a bit too sweet for my liking :/

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I spent the next few hours clouds-watching cos the movie selection was boring

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The weather back was clearly better and the view too 🙂

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The flight back encountered a little bit more turbulence but soon, it was time to touch down

I always find it heart-warming when the pilot said ‘And to all Singaporeans, welcome home’ 🙂

Arrival process was quite smooth as long as you had submitted your health declaration online prior to arriving in Singapore. You can use the automated clearance and you will soon be out on your way to baggage claim. So what came next was the on-arrival swab which you had to do when you exited the terminal

And it was literally quite a warm welcome home once you stepped into the white tent. There were clear instructions, you just need to follow them. Keep the email showing you had registered and paid for the test handy cos all they need was the QR code. Suggest you might just want to save in your camera roll and favourite them – really makes things easier. Cos you will be surprised many took a long while / unable to find the email and the poor ushers had to keep repeating the same sentence

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The registration queue took less than 10 minutes and you made your way to the swabbing station next. Mine was a really skilled and chirpy personnel who took my swab. So in all, it was a positive experience. All my previous PCR tests were painful 😦 Timecheck: 4.30pm

And my PCR test came out exactly 5 hours later. Checkpoint 4 – cleared 🙂

It has been a fun trip, albeit a short one and it definitely feels good to travel again after 2 long years. When I first booked the trip, people told me that they will wait for next year cos they didn’t want to be the first batch to travel. But given how fluid the situation is, you never know if they gonna put a stop to VTL so my advice is do it while you can. I admit I was really lucky. The moment I landed in Singapore, the news of the new variant came out. My window of opportunity was so small. Travelling is a luxury but it has never been so difficult and ‘Travel Safe’ has a whole new set of definition now. Personally I think it also depends on how much you want to travel but if and when the situation allows for it, travel sensibly, say a little prayer and hope luck will be in your favour 🙂

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Chris says:

    HI possible to get your detail itinerary? i am looking at Seoul-Busan in March 2022 (actually we can stay up to a total of 9 days right if day of arrival is day 1, then day7 take PCR, then day 9 fly back singapore

    Like

    1. irisslove says:

      Hi Chris! Actually my blog is pretty detailed on the trip. You can refer to https://irisslove.com/2021/12/01/singapore-korea-vtl-from-seoul-to-busan/ for the first part as well. My itinerary would be similar to what I’ve written there

      Like

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