First appeared on The Korea Blog: http://blog.korea.net/?p=22313
Visiting Suncheon wasn’t really part of my trip. One of my Korean friends sent me a Kakaotalk message and asked if I have made plans already in my upcoming travel to Korea. I was planning to just stay in Seoul most of the time. Then she suggested that I should visit Suncheon. I didn’t know that it was her hometown because I would usually meet her in Seoul during my previous Korea visits. I immediately said “yes” even though I was totally clueless on what to see there.
After almost 4 hours of bus travel, my Korean friend and I arrived in Suncheon around lunch time. We had a quick lunch and went right away to Naganeupseong Folk Village. The moment I saw it, I knew I made the right decision to do this sudden plan.
The place gives you a glimpse of what Korea was like centuries ago. Built during the Joseon Dynasty, the village is home to traditional-style stone houses with straw roofs. If you feel like these structures look familiar, it is because this compound is a popular filming location for TV dramas and movies.
I met an ahjumma (Korean word for an old woman) who had lots of Korean instruments. Watching her play thejanggu (a Korean traditional drum) was enough for me, but she approached me and gave me the drum. I initially declined since I’m not a musically inclined person but my Korean friend convinced me to give it a try.
It is actually tricky to play the janggu. The 2 sides of the drum produce different tones (due to the type of animal skin used) so it is important to know when to strike and what side to strike. For this practice, we used “Arirang,” a widely popular folk song in Korea. After learning the rhythm, she consequently sang the lyrics of the song.
The next house I visited made jipsin or traditional straw sandals. Binding the straws together was very challenging. The ahjussi (old man) taught me the technique of properly rolling them but I failed to make a twine. Nevertheless, he was very happy that I enthusiastically tried even though I was struggling.
Another interesting part of Naganeupseong Folk Village are the old punishment tools. Back in the ancient times, accused citizens are subjected to extreme kinds of torture until they admit to their crimes.
If these torture devices give you goosebumps, then it’s time to relax and enjoy around the village. Don’t miss trying these larger-than-life swings. While it looks easy, getting your momentum is actually difficult so prepare to test the power of your legs.
Always have your camera ready especially if you’re traveling with your family or friends. The village has vast spaces and picturesque backgrounds. You never know when will a picture-perfect moment happen so it pays to be alert at all times. I don’t know the little girl here but I was lucky to capture this free-spirited moment of her childhood.
And before you leave, you can bring a piece of the village by buying handmade ceramic cups and dishes like these.
We finished the Naganeupseong Folk Village tour at 4PM so that we can catch the sunset in Suncheonman Bay Ecological Park.
The moment I was in the field of reeds, the feeling was indescribable. It’s like getting lost in the middle of nowhere.
It roughly takes 30 to 40 minutes to go to the Yongsan observatory, the place where you can get the best view of Suncheon Bay. The trail was a breeze but hiking up the mountain was a whole different story. I wish I did a bit of body stretching and brought a liter of bottled water. But all of my tiredness was gone after seeing this breathtaking view.
It’s always a pleasure to escape the bustling noise of the city and just absorb the sounds of nature. So if you’re planning a trip to Korea, include Suncheon in your itinerary.
For more interesting stories about Korea, visit blog.korea.net, a portal managed by the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS).
The rough truth. Before booking your flight, consider already that 2 days of your trip will be wasted just for land travel (Puerto Princesa – El Nido, El Nido – Puerto Princesa). It’s safe enough to book 4 days — 2 days for traveling and 2 days for the island hopping. This is because from Puerto Princesa Airport, it takes approximately 6 hours to go to El Nido if you’re taking a van, even more if you are taking the bus. The van will only have 1 stopover for a short meal and toilet break.
There are no ATMs in El Nido (and I’m not sure if there are establishments there that accept credit cards) so make sure you withdraw enough money before doing that long road trip.
All aboard. There are 4 main tours that you can take. Each tour usually starts at 9AM and ends at 4 or 5 PM so you can only do 1 type of tour in a day. The fee varies (PHP1,000+) for every tour and is already inclusive of the lunch and water supply for the whole day. The boatmen will freshly prepare all the dishes. If you want to reserve your slot, it is better to book directly to the boat companies rather than asking your hotel to arrange it because the price will be cheaper.
Also, there will be a one-time environmental fee of PHP200. This is valid for 10 days of stay in El Nido,
No dry moment. Protect your gadgets by bringing your own dry bag and waterproof cases. It’s great if your camera is already waterproof and not just water-resistant (yes, they are different) so that you can take advantage of camwhoring in every spot you find. Some caves are hard to enter (muddy, slippery, narrow, name it) and some stops will not be going near the shore (in order not to damage the corals) so you have been warned: YOU WILL GET WET. AND SO ARE YOUR STUFF.
Snake Island (Tour B)
Into the Wild. Fish feeding is not allowed so don’t pack bread or cooked rice so that the fish will come near you when you go snorkeling. The same thing goes with other wild animals that you might meet along the way like this monkey in the photo above. When in doubt, ask the boatmen first if they are safe to approach.
Protect yourself. The open sea is filled with creatures you haven’t met yet. Always be watchful for animals that may cause harm like jellyfish. Bring a first aid kit with you, including your medicines for allergies and bandages for small to large wounds. Some corals have sharp edges and are also home to some species of fish. You may startle them if you accidentally step on a coral. Also, if you’re not a good swimmer, it’s better to wear your life vest when you’re out there. Inform the tour guides beforehand that you’re not as skillful as a mermaid. They will be kind enough to swim and pull your life jacket in case the water is too deep to reach the shore or cave.
Where to stay. There are many cheap accommodations in Bacuit Bay, El Nido. If you’re traveling alone, there are backpacker hostels that are below PHP1000/night. Rooms for 2 can range from PHP1000 to PHP4000 depending where it’s located. Beachfront accommodations are fine if you don’t mind the occasional sounds from the restos and pubs which are open until 11PM or 12MN. Otherwise, try booking for the ones found in Calle Hama and Calle Real. They’re just a few minutes away by walking from the shore. Anyway, you won’t be needing much Bacuit Bay for swimming since it’s where the boats are parked.
If you want somewhere a little remote, book a lodge in Caalan Beach. It is 5-10 minutes away by walking from where the night life is. These lodges may be a little far but you get to enjoy the quieter and more serene part of El Nido. Me and my friend stayed in Makulay Lodge, a beachfront hotel in that area. There was a nearby platform there where I took this amazing sunset.
Here are some of my favorite islands from the tours:
Entalula Island (Tour B)
Inabuyatan Island (Tour B)
Seven Commando Island (Tour A)
Pinagbuyutan Island (Tour B)
One of my closest Korean bros visited me in the Philippines. We haven’t seen each other for almost FOUR YEARS. (The photo above was our last meeting in Seoul, 2010. Don’t ask what’s the sense of the pic. We’re just being stupid here.)
His trip here was a bit short (coz he’s busy working in Japan right now and he can’t be really gone for a long time) so we did a quick beach trip to Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, a municipality just 3 hours outside Manila. It was also the first time I used a GoPro camera so pardon some of the shaky footage.
For some reason, embedded Vimeo videos don’t allow you to view them in HD so just go to my Vimeo account and play it there for maximum quality.
Last April 2013, my Korean best friend was having his school break so he decided to take a vacation in his hometown Hoengsong (횡성) in Gangwondo (강원도). At that time, I really had a plan to go to Korea also because my ‘noona’ (누나, term for an older female friend/sister) was getting married in Ulsan (울산). So it was a good chance for me and my best friend to travel in Korea together especially that April is the start of spring!
The Garden of Morning Calm (아침고요수목원) is located in Gapyeong (가평) in the province of Gyeonggido (경기) . From Heongsong, he drove to Gapyeong for about an hour. Yes, he’s a really fast driver. If you’ve been to the provinces of Korea, you can see how long and wide their expressways are so there’s not much heavy traffic when you travel from one area to another.
Even if it’s not spring, the botanical garden is still open from 8:30 AM to 6:20 PM. The entrance fee is KRW8,000 (about PHP300). They can admit people 1 hour before the closing time but it’s better to go there early so that you can enjoy the place. It’s really huge and there are are many sites for picture-taking.
In a month, I get at least 5 inquiries in my Facebook inbox about Korean visa application. I pretty much get the same questions from people so it’s better to have a blog post about it. As of this article’s writing, I’ve been to Korea 8 times for the past 4 years so I frequently visited the embassy.
1. Who’s the girl in the picture?
She’s just my friend. I just wanted to show how awesome your shots will be once you have your visa and travel to Korea. You’ll finally get to live your favorite Korean drama! (This is during fall in Seoul, btw.)
2. How much is the processing fee for a Korean visa application?
Zero. Nothing. Nada. Wala. It’s free if you plan to stay in Korea for 59 days or less. So go ahead and give it a try!
3. Is it hard to get a Korean visa?
This is a difficult question. In my opinion, if you have complete documents and you can sufficiently prove your capacity to travel, then there’s nothing to fear.
4. What are the requirements?
- An accomplished application form (You can print at home and fill it out or do it in the Korean Embassy. The application form is available in their website. Click HERE.)
- Original passport (Make sure it’s not about to expire.)
- Photocopy of the second page of your passport (Bio page)
- Passport size colored pictures (1 will be pasted in your application form. If I remember it right, you need another 1 and it will be attached together with your other documents when you submit. Just attach using a paper clip.)
- Original & Photocopy of valid visa/s and arrival stamps of OECD member countries for the past 5 years (it says in their website that Korean visas do not count but I still include photocopies to be sure. For the complete list of OECD countries, click HERE.)
- Original Certificate of Employment (with contact number/s & address of company and date of issue. I also strongly advise that you inform your HR to include your date of start with the company and your monthly salary figure)
- Original Personal Bank Certificate (not Bank Statement)
- Photocopy of ITR (Income Tax Return) or Form 2316 (your HR should have this)
- Photocopy of company ID
– If personally invited by a Korean: invitation letter & copy of his/her passport
– If invited by a company in Korea: invitation letter & copy of the Korean company’s business permit
Visa requirements vary depending on the nature of your work, for the complete list, visit their official website HERE. When you submit your requirements, remove them from your envelope or folder. Just file and attach them using a paper clip. Put them together inside your passport. If some of your original visas are in your old passport, tie it together with your new passport using a rubber band.
5. Do you need to set an appointment?
No. Just go to the Korean Embassy in 122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. Visa application is from 9AM to 11AM only from Monday to Friday (excluding Philippine and Korean holidays.) Arrive early if you want to finish early. The area is not commute-friendly so it’s better to have a private car or go there by taxi.
6. Is there an interview during the application?
There is no formal interview but the consul may ask a few questions for clarification.
7. Can I ask someone else to process my application?
If (a) it will be your first time to go to Korea (b) you have a fresh passport with no stamps at all, or (c) you have an old passport that doesn’t have travel stamps from OECD countries, it’s better to apply personally.
8. I’m traveling with some friends. Can we apply as a batch?
This is possible if all of your passports will be processed in the same window. First time travelers or passport holders without any OECD stamps will be processed in Windows 1 or 2. Frequent travelers to Korea and OECD visa holders will be processed in Window 3. Make sure you segregate your application based on the window you’ll be lining up. If you’re confused, the front desk there will guide you accordingly.
9. How long does it take before you know the result?
3 working days (for those who have visas of OECD member countries) and 5 working days (for those who do not have visas of OECD member countries). A claim stub will be given to you when you can know the result of your application. Releasing is from 2PM to 4PM only from Monday to Friday (excluding Philippine and Korean holidays.)
10. Can I ask someone else to claim my passport on the release date?
This is possible. However, some people do not immediately get their visa because the consul might request for additional documents as proof. I had a friend who didn’t get her visa on the published release date because the consul wanted to have her ITR number certified/stamped. She was told to come back after a few days. After presenting the new ITR form, she was granted a visa. So it’s better to be present on the release date so that you can talk to the consul and clarify what he/she needs.
11. Does having a roundtrip ticket increase my chance of getting a visa?
Not really. Actually, the consul won’t even take a look at your airplane ticket so don’t bother printing and attaching it as part of your application. Like I said, there’s nothing to fear with your application if your documents are complete and sufficient.
12. If I get denied, can I apply again immediately?
Unfortunately, once you get denied, you can only apply after 6 months.
13. So should I avoid buying a ticket and make sure I have a visa first?
No. If you see a promo ticket going to Seoul or Busan, you should buy it. A normal roundtrip ticket costs at least PHP16,000 so if you see a good deal online, grab it. The first time I went to Korea in 2010, it was a PHP1,400 roundtrip ticket promo by an airline company which I booked 6 or 8 months prior to my flight date. My travel stamps were only Hong Kong and Macau. I was worried that they’ll deny me but I was approved! So don’t entertain negative thoughts and just submit your application.
I went to the province of Camarines Sur to attend the birthday celebration of my friend. For 4 days, my home was Camsur Watersports Complex (or CWC for short). I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy because I’m not sporty in general but the facility can be a playground for a photographer like me.
Sunrise in CWC. I love how Mt. Isarog reflects on the lake.
Wooden cabins. Fully equipped with air conditioning & hot/cold shower.
You can order food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the clubhouse. No kidding. Food delivery to your cabin is also possible. The dishes are delicious and reasonably priced.
Many foreigners stay here for a long time because wakeboarding is insanely cheap compared to other facilities in the world. They have full day (PHP750), half day (PHP460), and hourly (PHP165) rates depending how long you want to glide on water. The prices already include the vest and helmet rental. Since I was a beginner, I paid for 2 hours on my first day and I really had a blast! For a non-sporty guy like me, I never thought I would be able to stand and cover a remarkable distance. But of course, I wasn’t like these pros in my blog post. They’re the daredevils of the lake!
Not into wakeboarding? No problem. CWC has adult and kiddie swimming pools, a massage area, a running/jogging track and a whole lot more. There’s even a club (with a live DJ playing your favorite songs) if you want to dance and get tipsy! Nature trips to the province’s pristine beaches & breathtaking waterfalls can also be arranged in the resort.
To know more about CWC’s promos and packages, here are the social media accounts to follow:
Don’t forget to also like the province’s official Tourism page Visit Camsur: https://www.facebook.com/VisitCamsur/
One of the 7,107 islands of the Philippines. This was taken during my flight to Davao. No idea what island is this.
If I remember it right, this was the first time I used a 50mm f/1.8 lens. My French friend Edouard happened to be an exchange student at an institute in Makati and I was able to convince him to go to the shabby streets of Binondo to have him as my practice model. We used an old rooftop as our playground.
When I first heard the project of Las Casas Filipinas de Azucar years ago, I was apprehensive with the idea of moving Filipino-Spanish mansions from their original locations. But then, with the lack of government support of preserving historical sites and buildings, something has to be done at the very least to save our heritage. And what they did is marvelous. It really feels like you’ve been time-warped during the Spanish regime.
Recreating the houses was not an easy task. They either requested or bought some of the actual pieces from the old heritage houses that were being torn down or neglected. They relied on old photos to achieve that authentic appearance. Currently, there are more than 20 houses in the resort and there are still some that are being constructed.
You don’t have to check in to get inside the resort. A guided tour for walk-ins is available if you just want to spend a day. The history of each house will be briefly explained and then you’re free to roam around and take pictures. Just a tip: It’s better to call their office in advance if they will have a big tour group coming in that day. Luckily for me and my friend, when we arrived in the morning, we were the only guests until 5 buses full of foreigners arrived at 2PM. Good thing we were finished enjoying the place already.
How to get here (from Manila):
Just do everything backwards to return to Manila.
For more information, visit their website: www.lascasasfilipinas.com
No, this is not a scene from a Korean TV series. Seoul’s five grand palaces have guards dressed up like they were time-warped from the Joseon Dynasty. If my memory is correct, this one’s from Deoksugung (덕수궁). Get off at City Hall Station and go out at Exit 2. This palace is closed every Monday.