Seoul is notoriously rainy in July, so we were worried that it would rain on the day we decided to visit Namsan/N-Seoul Tower, but thankfully, the clouds were on our side and kept it cloudy but not rainy for the whole day! We also went to Namdaemun and a cat cafe in Myeongdong on the same day; read on to be bombarded by more pictures of fluffy cats, you’ve been warned.
I’ll also be covering the process of getting a tax refund at the airport at the bottom of this post, so click on to find out more!
Between hiking, taking a bus or riding a cable car, we decided on the latter as our way to get up to Namsan (which means North Mountain). Hiking isn’t advisable unless you’re really fit and travelling with other youths, and the bus is cheaper but takes far longer than the cable car, which is only 3 minutes long and affords you an aerial view of the mountain. Each adult round-trip ticket costs 8,000 won.
There are 2 ways to get to the cable car station; we walked uphill on the way there and took the Namsam Oreumi Elevator on the way back down to street level. The time taken was about the same (with respect to Myeongdong Station), but the elevator was far less physically strenuous. The elevator takes you up a 45 degree incline and has glass walls for you to admire the view, making it far cooler than your regular elevator.
Getting there: Starting from Myeongdong Station (Line 4)Exit 3, take the road to the right of Pacific Hotel and walk 10 minutes up to Namsan cable car station. Alternatively from Exit 4, walk straight to Hoehyeon intersection and take the Namsan Oreumi Elevator to get to the the cable car station.
This was the view as we exited the cable car station, after which we had to climb up a few flights of steps to reach the tower itself.
There were a lot of nice photo spots around the base of the tower, and the view was amazing. You could see way across the Hangang/Han river, and admire the mountains on the horizon. If you want an even better view, you can pay to go up to the observatory at the top of the tower, though we didn’t bother because it didn’t seem worth the cost, plus the view at the base was already beautiful enough.
There were thousands of love locks on railings all over the tower, starting from when we exited the cable car station all the way to the observation decks at the tower. A lot of couples were there, happily falling for the tourist scam that is overpriced locks. The locks on sale were expensive but I have to admit, they came in really cute colours. If you’re there with your SO, this would make a cute souvenir to take home, instead of wasting the lock by locking it on an already-overcrowded railing.
This was the view from a cafe in the tower, gotta love the view of a metropolis and its endless sprawl of buildings.
Myeongdong Cat Cafe
There’s 2 cat cafes and 1 dog cafe located within the Myeongdong shopping area, a perfect place to chill after shopping and get your daily fix of cute animals! The cover charge for entering the cat cafe was buying 1 drink for 6,000 won, and you can stay for as long as you like, which sets it apart from other cat cafes that usually charge by the hour.
There were around 30 resident cats in the cafe, all very fluffy and photogenic. They weren’t particularly affectionate, as can be expected of cats, but they were loveable nonetheless.
I spent a good hour chasing the cats around and trying to get pictures of them and with them, gosh they’re little furballs of joy! And yes, if you can’t already tell, I’m going to be a crazy spinster at 50 with 20 pet cats in a cottage on a hill.
We ate at Yoogane for dinner, and each portion (serves 1 person) cost only 6,000 won nett, with no service charge at all! Since the Yoogane outlets in Singapore cost 3 times more than the ones in Seoul, be sure to stop by the Myeongdong branch for a sumptuous and very delicious dinner.
The staff brought a heap of white/Korean rice to our table, chucked it in the wok, then added red chilli paste/gochujang and the ingredients to the mix. She cooked it nicely for us, so this place is pretty much a yummier and more high quality version of Pepper Lunch.
The sun set really late, at around 8pm, because it was summer time; wish we’d been up on Namsan to catch the sunset…
Unfortunately, our amazing adventure in Seoul was over, and we took an AREX train from Seoul Station all the way back to Incheon Airport, admiring the scenic views on the 40-minute journey.
Doing Tax Refunds @ Incheon Airport
Our flight was in the early afternoon, so we arrived 2 hours in advance to handle our tax refunds. Whenever you spend 30,000 won or more in a single receipt, you’re entitled to a tax refund of a fixed value. Within the bracket of 30,000-50,000 won, you get 1,500 won refunded, and from 50,000-75,000 won, you get 3,500 won and so on. You can use this calculator from one of the Korean Tax Refund agencies to figure out how much extra money you’ll be refunded at the airport.
Over the course of your trip, whenever you spend over 30,000 won in a shop, ask for a tax refund. The cashier will hand you an envelope (blue, orange or white-coloured) containing 1 tax refund form and your receipt – keep these well or you won’t be able to get your money back! At the end of each day, consolidate your receipts in the correspondingly-coloured envelopes, i.e, if you’ve collected 3 orange envelopes in the day, just put all the receipts from the orange envelopes into 1 orange envelope. You have to fill in your personal particulars on each form, so do it in your hotel and not at the airport counter!
Some smaller shops and those independent shops in areas like Hongdae/Edae are unlikely to offer tax refunds, but the big department stores and chain stores will always have tax refunds. The Lotte department stores, as well as some of the K-beauty stores like Innisfree, offer instant tax refunds in the shop so you don’t have to wait till the airport to get your money back. As always, they require you to present your passport to prove that you’re eligible for the refunds.
In 3 words, this trip was enchanting, rejuvenating and exciting. I’ll be back in Seoul sometime again, so until the next time!