Vacationista: How a girl from the tropics prepared for the Korean winter

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A few month’s back, my high school barkada suddenly messaged the whole gang about a super cheap deal going to Korea. Of course, being a wanderer, I immediately said yes without knowing the details (that’s how I roll, like in our Calaguas adventure). Though we still had to purchase another connecting ticket (P1,700) Manila-KL, our total purchase was P1,790 roundtrip. Not bad for Korea! Basically, our whole route would be Manila-KL-Incheon-KL-Manila which was going to be a pretty long trip. I have no problem with multiple destinations or long flights as long as I get there. Besides, a day or two in KL was a fun activity too. Think Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover (challenge accepted!).

Later on, I found out that the reason why the KL-Incheon-KL was only P80 per person (with 20kls check-in baggage) and for the KL-Manila was only P10 per person was because of a website glitch. But AirAsia had no choice of course but to honor the paid tickets. For all your flights during winter season, I suggest you buy prepaid check-in baggage because of the heavy coats or at the very least, on your flight back home for all your shopping and pasalubong.

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Since we went there in January going to February, it was winter and the worst time of winter, they say. Dry, humid, negative degrees celsius! The coldest I’ve recently been to was at the top of the Swiss Alps in Mt. Titlis, Switzerland and even there, I couldn’t stay in the snow for long. Not being a cold-lover, I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy the trip even if I were bundled up. I even asked a blogger I followed (thanks kira!) for tips. Coming from the tropics and personally being super sensitive to the cold, I had to prepare. First off, I bought a pair of extra warmth thermals from Marks and Spencers. Why M&S? Because I believe thermals are delicates and should be made from quality stores, which M&S has proven to my family. Since thermals can be used for years, better buy from a quality brand. They say Uniqlo is also a good brand. If you’re planning on buying thermals, go to the M&S at Paseo, Nuvali as they have regular sales there. I got mine on a ‘50% off on the second thermal’ discount. Each cost P1,150 but with the discount, I paid only P1,500 for both. I got the smaller size for the top as the saleslady recommended since it would be more snug, therefore, more effective in keeping the warmth but a larger size for the leggings, thanks to my huge child bearing hips. Haha! You can also purchase in regular M&S stores or even in tiangges like St. Francis Square or Greenhills (so I heard). I saw a set of thermals (P400) in St. Francis Square but I found the material too bulky and too towel-like.

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For the winter coats, Manila mall prices start at P2,000. No way was I going to pay that much money for something I won’t probably use again in the near future (compared to thermals which can be used in Baguio weather in Ber months). So, my best bet was our friendly neighborhood ukay-ukay. They say bubble jackets are the best weapon against the cold winter so that was what I was looking for (plus it had to have a furry hood because when else can I wear faux fur?!). The first winter bubble coat (250) I bought was in Baguio (1st photo above) when we went there for my birthday. It was love at first sight since it was in dark navy blue, had a fur hood (yey!) and was embellished with spikes, studs and a Union Jack – totally for me! How awesome was that?Though a bit snug, I took it home with me. Back in Manila, I accidentally saw another winter bubble jacket (P180) which was longer than the blue one (photo below). It was grey and had a fur hood again! At least I have alternative coats in Korea, I reasoned. Adding the dry cleaning services, that would be P800 for two winter coats. Not bad for a cheapskate like me.

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For the boots, I already have the black calf boots I used in Europe. Again, I didn’t want to spend for winter boots which I won’t be able to use so I’ll just make do with what I have. I also planned on buying winter boots there if I found some affordable ones (update: see photo above). I already have a brown and a pink & black knit bonnets at home. I told my friends we would just borrow each other’s bonnets and scarves so that we would look different in photos. Hehe. I also have matching pink knit scarf and a pair of gloves. Plus, my mom–who is the sweetest–decided to knit me a red and black scarf (photo below). Yey! For those who are looking for gloves, there are pleather ones in Surplus (P199) and thick scarves (P230) at St. Francis Square.

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Next was the earmuffs because I have Minnie Mouse ears. Funny story. Last year, I already saw adorable fluffy pink earmuffs (P88) in Saizen and planned on buying one after the holidays. When I went back, they were all gone! The saleslady doubted that they’d restock since they only have those in December. I searched in other stores but to no avail. I actually didn’t think anyone in Manila would buy earmuffs. Too bad I didn’t buy them then. I’ll just have to rely on my bonnet to keep my mouse ears warm.

I wanted to pack light (to make room for shopping!) so aside from the aforementioned items, I only brought two pairs of denim pants, 5 sweaters/ shirts, 2 tank tops, 2 sets of PJs and undies and socks good for roughly 6 days. Can you tell I’m more cowgirl/ cave woman in terms of packing? Haha!. Plus, I made sure to bring my own personal medicines, iphone charger, adaptor since Korea uses the two round pins and thin towel. Aside from my regular toiletries, I bought special lotion and lip balm for extra dry skin and lips since it was dry and cold there. I chose Jergens Ultra Healing lotion (P71 for 100ml) and Nivea lipbalm (P84), both made for dry to extra dry skin. I also brought a book for the long trip and our new Travel Pack Safe pouch (P2,100) which is anti-theft, perfect for traveling in a foreign country. The trusty bright orange Longchamp body bag would serve as my traveling bag (photo above). It was also the debut of my brand new luggage, Mr. Samsonite (P9,500). Yihee! I also bought a luggage cover (P299) from SM since my mom would feel bad if my new luggage got stained on the first use and a packing cells (P99 each) from SM as I found that compartmentalizing clothes makes you more organized.

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If all else fails, I can just buy winter stuff there since I’m pretty sure they have a surplus of items! You might be wondering why I just didn’t borrow some of the items. Well, because I don’t like borrowing. When you borrow, you have the responsibility of taking care of it and what if you lose it? I guess it comes from my tendency of leaving things behind, though I’m proud to say I haven’t lost any major item, just the usual umbrellas and hankies. Hehe. It’s not my first time to experience snow but this will be my first time to experience dry winter for an extended amount of time. I’ll share my adventures next! πŸ™‚

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