Saturday, April 16, 2011

Seoul - My Full Itinerary

I did a lot of 'homework' before embarking on this 5 days trip. Managed to meet some Taiwanese friends from the travel forum, I tried not to travel on my own throughout the trip, but make new friends~ But I did all the shopping on my own, to save time. :)

Planned itinerary:

Day 1

Incheon airport - Bangrang hostel

Day 2

Namdaemun - Myeongdong - Namsamgol Hanok Village - N Seoul Tower

Day 3

Deoksugong - Hongdae - Sinchon - Idae - Dongdaemun - Jimjilbang

Day 4

Sinsadong - Express Bus Terminal Station (underground shopping) - Yeouido (Cherry blossoms) - Hangang river cruise - Yongsan Emart

Day 5

Samgyetang - Gyeongbokgong - Samcheongdong - Bukchon - Insadong - Incheon airport

Actual itinerary

Day 2 ~ (mostly resting and very relaxing)

Namdaemun - Myeongdong - Sinchon - Jonggak (dinner) - Jonggak underground shopping

Day 3

Namsagol Hanok Village - N Seoul Tower - Hongdae - Idae - Dongdaemun

Day 4

Gwanghuamun - Toksochon samgyetang - Gyeongbokgung - Samcheongdong - Insadong - Banpo bridge - Express bus terminal - Dragon Hill Spa

Day 5

Jonggak - Myeongdong - Sinsadong - Insadong - Myeongdong - Incheon airport

What a change...

Seoul - 1

Okay finally I'm ready to start my blogs on Seoul...

Seoul, a dream place for many girls, was beyond my expectation. I guess it is not just about the place itself, or the tourist sites, or the shopping... but, the people, the culture that impress me much.

Thoughts on Seoul #1 - Infrastructure & Technology

Seoul is a metropolitan city, with well-integrated transport network, and sophisticated technologies. WiFi was covered in most places, with free access but speed connection, otherwise if you are subscribed to a local network, wireless internet is covered in almost all subway trains. Not only that, Seoul is very tourist friendly too, at some subway stations I can see the giant iPhone-like touch screen that allows you to find direction, places information... Oh and when I make a credit card payment at the store, I did not have to sign on a paper/receipt, instead I signed on the credit card machine (hmm... it's something unavailable in Malaysia, yet).

Incheon airport - Departure Gate

Thoughts on Seoul #2 - Character

Seoul is a city full of character. Unlike what I heard about the negative comments about Seoul before - boring, characterless etc. It was completely opposite from what I expected. I cannot pinpoint on the most prominent character of Seoul, but when I think of Seoul, things that came in my mind including: Cafes with unique characters, contemporary and traditional arts, modern and traditional buildings, delicious street and also restaurant foods, popstar culture, and variety of goods made in Korea! There are places filled with scent of youth and life such as Hongdae, Idae and Sinchon. Whereas Myeongdong is an area that impresses you with the latest cosmetic and fashion trends. Insadong and Bukchon Hanoks offers you a taste of traditional Korean lifestyle and culture, but Samcheongdong and Sinsadong are places that surprises you in every corner.

Somewhere between Samcheongdong and Bukchon Hanoks

Thoughts on Seoul #3 - Language & Culture

Hangul is an interesting language. From the language, we can tell about the culture. Unlike English, the use of Korean language largely contextual and situational. The way a person speaks to another person reveals their relationship, age difference and social ranking. People do pay a lot of respect to the country or company leaders, elderly or those with great achievements. However, the way people are addressed also come with individual responsibilities. For instance, if you are a 형(hyung, older brother for a guy), 오빠(oppa, older brother for a girl), 언니(eonni, older sister for a girl) or 누나(nuna, older sister for a guy) you should look after / protect the younger ones. I would say, Koreans are relationship oriented and it is a good thing, because in this way, everyone knows their position in a family, circle of friends, group and society quite well, therefore they know how to get along (相處) with each other well. I won't say it's discrimination or inequality, it's just that basically everyone is different therefore we need different ways to interact with different people. The way guys treat girls should be different than how guys treat guys. The way young people interact with young people should be different than how they treat older people. This is completely opposite to New Zealand, where everyone calls everyone (including parents and professors by their first name).

Bosingak - Jonggak

Thoughts on Seoul #4 - People

My most favourite part about Korea. My initial impression of Korea was not the best one... (sorry Korean friends I misunderstood you...) I thought people there have fake looks (plastic surgery and cosmetics), rigid and competitive, maybe it's true to a certain extend, but... as compared to Singaporeans, I find them more genuine and authentic when it comes to making friends with others. They are shy perhaps due to language barrier, but I found them actually very enthusiastic and interested about people from another culture. :) I like it when the Ajushi's and Ajuma's kept talking to you even they knew you can't understand on anything they were saying about. The hostel staff, restaurant owners, sellers, taxi drivers, policeman, airport staff... were so helpful and made sure that our problems are resolved before leaving us alone... They are so genuine, sincere and helpful... I really appreciate their help, that made our lives much easier... It's the people that matters...

David, Athena, Kitty, 핼이, 핼지, Wendy, Me

Thoughts on Seoul #5 - Foods & Drinks

Love it! Tteokbokki (I don't know how to spell), Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup - so nourishing!), Kimchi (ahh~ can't live without it!), BBQ, green tea cinnamon pastry.... oooohhhh... mashita (delicious!)! Indescribable... (next time must try seolnongtang / beef bone soup)

Drinks: raspberry tea, black soy milk, aloe vera juice, ginseng wine, Cass beer, banana milk... yum yum (didn't get to try makgeolli T_T)

I don't know what is this called...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Recent life

I have not been blogging for a while, I doubt if I can still write a good article with proper English. The reason I'm here of course is that I have something to share. Life has been journeying as per norm, yet there are times that we can spice it up a little bit, like travel.

I'm pleased for being able to tick off the list of things I wanted to do since last year. Last year in October, I went to Taiwan, and visited my uncle, who passed away, as well as my grandparents. I had a better sense of closeness to my roots in Taiwan than ever before, and I am planning to go back again by the end of this year.

The second destination that I decided to travel on, was Seoul, South Korea. Managed to grab a flight ticket with an extraordinary price in August last year, I traveled there at the end of March. With a little disappointment, I was not able to see the cherry blossoms, because I booked the tickets a week earlier... However, the good thing is, it was still sort of considered as the end low season, before the crowd of tourists and visitors flood into Seoul, and that's why I get to experience a bit of Seoul people's real life.

Just like New Zealand, I'd never dreamed about the possibility of being able to reach there. It is a miracle, a gift of grace from God above. South Korea is a beautiful country, with their very own unique culture and way of life. 5 days in Seoul made me felt like a local, I took the subway just like the locals, with the locals, I ate like a local, I went to shop at the places where locals only go. Although it was too short to get to know them deeper, it was an eye-opening experience for me to appreciate the beauty of Korea.