The “That’s-a-hard-mountain” Mt. Seorak

January 11-12, 2020

The third highest mountain in South Korea, Seorak-san (Mt. Seorak) stands at around 1,700 meters high. That’s not a lot – is what I thought. But talking to two Koreans who I know hikes, their first reaction was – “Are you sure? That’s a hard mountain!”

Either way, I still did it. Oh, and they were right haha.

Before the Hike

  1. Reserve the shelter. Go to this link via your laptop. (Mobile access is not allowed, so you’ll have to change the settings of your phone to desktop site if you insist on using your phone.) Reserve “Jungcheong”, as it is the biggest one and merely 15 minutes ish from the summit. Shelter reservations are tricky – first come, first served, and with a very specific time frame. A quick example, February 1-15 reservations can only be done on January 15. February 16-28 can be reserved on February 1, 10am Korean Time. Take a screenshot just to be safe.
  2. Reserve the bus (Seoul to Sokcho). It can be done online – IF you have a Korean card. If you don’t, then this is not applicable. OR, find someone who does to do it for you. Is it needed? In my case, I was hiking in winter which is not peak season. I bet it’ll be a different story in autumn or spring.

Itinerary

Saturday

  • 05:45. Arrival at the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, sometimes referred to as East Seoul Bus Terminal. I did not reserve a bus as I don’t have a Korean card, but I was able to buy the ticket (KRW15,000 ish). There were two companies – one at the first floor and another at the second floor. I don’t care about the company, but I wanted the 6:05 bus, and once we asked, it’s at the first floor. Simply say “Sokcho” and you’re good.
  • 08:10. Arrival at Sokcho Terminal. Just wait for the last stop, but I think it’s here.
  • 08:15. Take the Bus 7-1 (yes, there’s a dash) at the bus stop. Just go to the main street, and the bus stop is about 5 meters to the right. Pay KRW1,400 ish – just insert the money at the transparent looking box, and if you need a change the driver will provide it. We were charged KRW2,900, but I just assumed he shafted us. Haha. Oh well.
  • 08:45. Arrival at Seoraksan trailhead. It’s the last stop of the bus, but here’s the pin for google maps.
  • 09:00. Start hike. Ok, the hike is divided into sections, with the first 3-4kms mainly flat. It’s about 11kms in total, with an elevation gain of about 1,600meters. So expect stairs and plenty of ascent.
  • 15:00. Arrival at Jungcheong. Check in, pay. (KRW12,000, changes depending on whether it is peak season or off season). Tidied up. Their shelters are awesome!
    • On “rooms”. The rooms are fully heated. Rooms are misleading. There’s a space for 100+ people, two big rooms.
    • On “beds”. You get a little space where you can put a blanket (rental at KRW2,000 per sheet, max of 2 per person). It’s about the size of half a single bed. You can see the pictures at the reservation site.
    • On food. There’s little food available (mainly snacks – like the small packet of chocolate pie), so make sure you have your own stove and food. The most substantial “meal” they sell is microwavable white rice. So if you want some meat/viand with your rice, you’re out of luck.
    • On water. Water is sold at KRW3,000 per 2 liter bottles. No faucets etc, so leave the water filter at home.
    • Others. Gas canisters are also sold, so are some crampons, spikes.
    • In summary, DO NOT rely on the shelter other than for blankets, heated room (and toilets!), and bottles of water.
  • 15:30ish. Headed out to summit.
  • 16:00ish. Summit! Took plenty of pics, then left. Haha.
  • 16:30ish. Started on dinner, then went to sleep.

Sunday

  • 06:30. Woke up, breakfast and coffee.
  • 07:30. Sunrise. Take note – the beautiful view is blocked by the summit and CANNOT be seen from the shelter. I’d still rather not freeze so I’m happy missing it haha.
  • 09:00. Started going down.
  • 13:00ish. Back at the bus stop.
  • 13:40ish. Took bus 7-1 again going back to the bus station.
  • 14:50. Bus back to Seoul. It was supposed to be a two hour, ten minute bus.
  • 19:00. Arrived at Seoul. Ouch with the traffic.

Korean Tourist Visa from Tokyo

October 21, 2019

For tourist visas, it is valid 3 months from issuance, so ensure that you apply 3 months at most before your flight.

The consular for visa is right next to Olympic Inn Azabu, Namboku Line, exit 2. Visa applications are accepted from 9am to 11am, reservations are only needed for groups bigger than 20pax). You submit the requirements below, get the claim stub, go back  on the assigned date (2pm to 4pm timeslot), and claim your passport (no fees at all!)

Requirements:

  1. (per Embassy’s website) Passport that is valid for at least 6 months remaining.
  2. (per Embassy’s website) Resident’s card valid for at least 3 months remaining.
  3. (not in website) Application form. It is available at the embassy, or to save time, download and fill it up before coming. Here’s the application form.
  4. (not in website) Passport photo, attach to the application form. There’s a photo machine in the consular, so you can also do it there.

This is valid for everyone who:

  1. Is a resident of Japan
  2. Needs a tourist visa for South Korea

I’m a Filipino and meet those, and I got my visa within 3 business days. 🙂

Doing Business in Asia (whereas Asia means China, Korea and Japan)

~August 2017

One of the nice opportunities for my university is an exchange between what I heard was called chopstick countries – China’s Beijing, Korea’s Seoul, and Japan’s Tokyo.

What is it for? Probably fostering the relationship between these powerhouses. Hence, in terms of selecting students in my school, I think that they prioritize the Japanese students, then work on the diversity (seriously, diversity is a BIG deal). Either way, what happened?

Btw, this is an extremely late blog entry and I can’t remember the details that well, so I’m no longer separating the rants and facts. Read at your own risk.

The Beijing Nightmare

This happened in summer. In August. If you ask me when to NOT go to any of these countries, August will probably be my answer. It’s hot. It’s humid. And it RAINS a lot.

A group of students from Peking University welcomed us at the airport, which was, well, very welcoming. We got into the bus, and went straight to the Hotel.

We checked in our hotels, and immediately felt the lack of access to the world’s internet. Goodbye email. Goodbye facebook. Goodbye line. I felt like the Chinese government was basically putting me in a box that tells me how I should act and the extent at which I can do things (well, they probably are).

We then proceeded to the university where I the value of the small piece of paper from Guagua (???) School of Management was evident. People were lining up to get into the school, and I’m talking hundreds of meters worth of line. Our bus skipped the line (and in the next couple of days), we sometimes are dropped off outside the school and we have to show that piece of paper to get in).

For the next week, we had classes in the school, company visits and a cancelled visit to the Great Wall of China. Why? Because it. just. won’t. stop. raining. on our free day.

Leaving Beijing, we were a couple of hours early, but with the extremely long and convoluted lines, we made it to the boarding gate 10 minutes after boarding time. Was it the scariest time in my flying life? No (see offloaded). But darn it’s a close second. Good thing the plane was late for half an hour, which we were told when we got into the boarding gate.

Fun in Seoul

Hello, internet! Plenty of notifications the moment we got into Incheon airport.

Same drill as the one in Peking – get into the bus, check in to the hotel, sleep, go to school and go to company trips.

For our free time, the students brought us to Lotte World, where other people went shopping and my group got lost walking looking for seats. We also went to plenty of restaurants, and a kitchen play (which was hilarious but whose title I no longer remember).  We also had an activity where we make Korean alcohol from rice. Unfortunately, we were flying the next day and the concoction is not allowed for flying (coz it’s alcohol and it’ll explode on air. No thanks) so we had to leave it.

Home, sweet home, Tokyo.

Finally! We’re back to Tokyo!!!

Same drill  – except the Tokyo people went their own way the moment we landed at Haneda.

For our free time, there’s no organized activity (yeah, Tokyo didn’t care). But we did tour our own groups! 😀 My group did the Omotesando – Meiji Shrine – Shibuya – Akihabara tour.

 

 

Well, this is just an overview, and if I do get the time (and can still remember it), I’ll probably write more.  Or not.

Korean Visa in Tokyo

May 22, 2017

My first trip to Korea was through the visa free transit to US (AU, JP and some other countries qualify too, I think). My next one is a week long stay, and not for transit. So I had to apply for a visa. (I’m from the Philippines. I almost always have to get a visa everywhere. *what-can-I-do-countries-are-afraid-of-us sigh*)

Unfortunately, there’s not much information about Korean  Visa application in Japan. (the Japanese don’t need a visa. can i be Japanese, pls?) Even the Korean Embassy’s website is not really useful considering it’s either in Japanese or Korean. Thanks to google translate, I managed!

How to Prepare

  1. Online application – your picture will be uploaded there. I think it functions as a manually written application that is legible and saved them typing time.
  2. Resident’s ID copy
  3. Bank account copy (I’m a student so I don’t have a tax return)
  4. Original certificate of enrolment
  5. Student ID copy
  6. Invitation letter
  7. Passport, of course
  8. Photocopy of valid visa for OECD countries visited. I think you should give  copy even for those invalid visas, if they are on a different passport.
  9. Copy of birth certificate

 

How to get there

1. Go to Azabujuban station, Oedo line. Take exit 2.

2. There is a separate office for the visa application. So with google maps, I suggest you just search for Olympic Inn in Azabu. The Korean Embassy’s consular office is right there.

Since nobody told me that piece of information, I went to google map’s Korean Embassy and they gave me this. Really, just go to Olympic Inn.

In the Embassy

It’s in the third floor. Once you get in, go to the reception guy and take a number by pressing the icon with visa written on it . He will ask you if you have filled up an application form – just show him all your papers (even before he says anything) and that should settle the language issue. If you speak Korean or Japanese, go ahead and chat him up.

In case you need the services of a photocopying machine, they have one inside for JPY10 a page. (I had to photocopy my resident’s ID. Given the lack of information, I used the Korean Embassy’s requirements in the Philippines, and of course a resident ID is not on the list)

Once they called my number, I just submitted my papers. She simply asked where I’m staying (the address in my application form), and I showed her the invitation letter.

They then gave me a slip of paper saying I can pick up my passport in two days. I didn’t pay anything. Hmm. Is it because I’m a student (with an invitation letter) or is it because it’s single entry that it is gratis?

Application time is from 9 to 11:30am. Claiming is from 2 to 4pm (you’ll have it in your slip). Unfortunately, they will not mail your passport so you actually have to go back and claim it.

DBIA:China, Japan and South Korea

July 7, 2017

As part of the Doing Business in Asia program, MBA students from Hitotsubashi University (Japan), Seoul National Univeristy (South Korea), and Peking University (China) spend one week on each school during the month of August.

Only ten students are selected from each school, and as of now I don’t know how the other schools selected theirs. Heck, I don’t even know how ours are selected.

Either way, I got in! So what does that mean?

That means I pay my own share – no final amount yet.

That also means I apply for my own visa for South Korea and China. The fun part? Since we get invitation letters from basically their top schools, the visa process is easy. I know others don’t have this problem, but I’m a Filipina. Come on.

That means I get to bond with students from SNU and Peking University.

And that’s all I have to write… for now. :p