Monday, January 13, 2014

First trip to somewhere I had never been to in 2014

Annyeong Haseyo!!! Greetings from a cold-frozen Seoul :)

Fulfill his wishes and dreams :)

Upon ending his working life, my hubby thought of having a break. He had been working for six years and he said since he had one month time's break, he would like to fulfill his dream that he had since he was very young, which was to see and touch the snow. He asked me where should we go this January. We didn't have much option to choose as he wasn't the person who loved to travel. Therefore, long-distance country, such as: Europe and America, was a no no. The only options left were only three Asian countries (that snowing during winter), which were Korea, Japan, or China.

As I said in previous blog, recently he, my son and I was quite affected with the K-Pop, MAMA Awards, Running Man, Korean drama and so on. So, obviously, he wanted to visit Korea, which was a good news for me, because I had never been there too. At first we thought of joining the travel group. However, after seeing and comparing the itineraries from different travel agents, we decided to have a free and easy trip. Also, we worried that there would not be enough participants to travel during mid month of January (people would usually choose Christmas or Chinese New Year to travel). We didn't choose Japan because first, it was much more expensive, and second, same thing, not many participants wanted to travel during mid-Jan. As for China, he still preferred to go to Korea if he was given a chance.

So, starting end of November, we were looking for the air tickets. I started working up with the itinerary, choosing which places to go. I was asking few friends who had been there before for their opinions on where to go, where to stay, and so on. I contacted my ex-school mate who was Korean too for their suggestions. We finally set everything up. When, where, and so on.

Time flew away. After busy month of December, mid January arrived. We packed our luggage only a day before departure hahaha... but we prepared some winter coat and winter boot earlier on. We flew yesterday night by Asiana Airlines, one of the South Korea two major airlines. We took night flight, at 11.40pm and reached Seoul this morning at 6.35am. Both of us had a hard time to sleep - too exciting, too worry for the cold weather, and seat not comfortable (of course bed was much better as we could lie our body down 180 degree hehe..).

After watching Despicable Me 2, I finally managed to sleep at 2am. At 3.40am, my hubby woke me up as he wanted to go to toilet (I was sitting on aisle). Since he went to toilet, I moved myself to window seat. I looked outside the plane. You know what?? I was amazed by wonderful stars!!! There were soooo many stars surrounding the airplane. It looked so near, as if it was just next to us. Usually we had to look up in order to see it, but this time, I didn't have to do that. Wowww!!! It reminded me the time when I went to pee early in the morning in Gelephu. This time, the stars were much more, uncountable!! Amazing! I was wondering where it came from and how it looked like in nearer place though!

I seldom took the midnight flight. Even if I did, not necessarily I would sit on the window seat. After that, I was awaken, not sleepy at all, too exciting to look at the stars again and again, afraid that it would be gone. The feeling was just wonderful, I was feeling blessed! :) While watching the stars, I tried to listen to music, but couldn't find the songs that I wanted to hear. End up, I chose to listen to 'Basic Korean language lesson'. Hahahaha... Very fast forgot lah! :P

I didn't sleep until the plane reached the Incheon International Airport. The temperature was -5 degree Celsius. OMG!!! Once we took our luggage, we took out our winter coat and gloves. Oh... it was so cold ya!!! We took bus to the nearest place to reach our hostel. We stayed at a hostel instead of hotel to save money. Anyway, the location was quite convenient, near the University. Obviously, there were lots of shops and eateries nearby, also not so far from subway station.

We put our luggage into the hostel and left the place. We decided to have our breakfast in Dunkin' Donuts. I used to watch "the Strange Housekeeper" drama and they often visited this place for breakfast. We had that too back in Singapore, but the feeling was just different hahaha.... It was just at the corner of the road. We ordered our coffee and cappuccino, plus two different burritos to fill our stomach up. We sat down facing the road outside.

While having our breakfast, suddenly I saw white thing flying. A bit, a bit, then became more and more coming down. I was just naturally asking my hubby, "Hey, what was that? Was it snow??" He realized it too, and stunned, "Yeah, I think it was snow!" Huaaa..... we both became very exciting. "Hey, your dream really came true!!!" I told my hubby. "Yeah, my dream really came true!!" He faster went out from the store and felt the snow. It was snowing lightly at first. After we both went out, the snow fall became much heavier. Huaaa..... It was snowing!! My dream was coming true too!!!

Our dreams of snowing came true not long after we reached Seoul :)

My Korean friend told me that the temperature would be very low these few days, around -10 degree Celsius and when I saw it was predicted to be cloudy, I thought of Bhutan's first snowing this winter, which was just happening on Saturday (just only). So I was praying hard that we would experience snowing too when we came here, as it was my hubby's childhood's dream, which was only be realized 30 over years later. Wow!!! We both stood up on the street holding our coffee. My hubby lighted his cigarette up and I could imagine his heart was sparkling deep inside. His face was glowing, smiling and laughing, enjoying the heavy snow despite feeling very cold :) Thank you SB for making our dreams came true! Thank you, thank you, and thank you!

We took subway and went to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was a royal palace, constructed in 1395, but later on was burned, and only being reconstructed back in 1867. It was the main and largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty (source: Wikipedia.org). When we reached there, the snow had stopped but the white snow traces were still left on the ground. It made a beautiful background to our pictures hehehe...

Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul - 12 January 2014

At 11am, we watched the changing shift of the security personnel of the Palace. Quite interesting. We bought our ticket and joined the free tour of the Palace which was conducted in English. It was freezing cold despite the sun started coming out from the clouds. My hubby couldn't stand the cold weather, especially when the cold wind blew over his ears and head.

Once the tour was over, we went to National Folk Museum for a while, and walked down to Insa-dong.  It was a stretch of a street, connected to a multitude of alleys and full of modern galleries and tea shops. It was well known as a traditional street to both locals and foreigners and represents the "culture of the past and the present", contained a mixture of historical and modern atmosphere, a very nice place to go.

Insa-dong in Seoul, South Korea ^^

It was Sunday and lots of Korean going around this place. There was one building where all the Korean handicrafts and arts were being sold. All was beautiful, with good quality too. We walked up around the buildings, enjoying the different things sold and made. We also had some road-side seller's snacks while walking through this Insa-dong street.

We had our lunch in one of the Korean restaurant located inside. We had the grilled mackerel or saba fish with one bowl of piping hot spicy tofu soup with rice. Oh, I loved Korean rice. It felt sticky and different from our usual Thailand's rice. Nyummy!! Both dishes plus banchan (different types of Korean side dishes) had warmed our stomach up and ready to walk a bit more before we went back to our hostel to take some rest.

We walked down there from Insa-dong, took us around 15-20 minutes. While walking, my hubby asked me to buy a big can of Hite beer (Korean local beer) to warm our body up and also bought a tteokboki (spicy rice cake) from the road-side stall to taste how it tasted like. I cooked it before in Singapore and indeed, the taste was slightly different hehehe... Here, it was sweeter and the texture was chewy, nice :)

Bukchon Hanok Village was a Korean traditional village, with a long history. It was located among the Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeok Palace and Jongmyo Royal Shrine. It was composed of lots of alleys, and was preserved to show a 600-year-old urban development. Now it was used as a traditional culture center and hanok restaurant, allowing visitors to experience the atmosphere of the Joseon Dynasty (source: wikipedia.org).

Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul,  South Korea

We experienced different feeling while walking in these alleys. Its roads were ups and downs. The houses were mixture of traditional and modern designs, which from top, you could see the beautiful view of Seoul city. Once we browsed around, we went back to our hostel by cab. We checked-in, took a bath (the hot shower melted our coldness), and slept for about 2 hours.

Once you slept, you would never want to wake yourself up again. The weather was simply too cold for both of us. Our room's floor was heated so we felt warm while walking on it. However, after hiding in blanket for quite some time, all became very cold. We forced ourselves to go to toilet. The water was freezing cold too. OMG! We wore our pants, jackets, sweater, socks and shoes. Once we went out from the building, ooooohhh.... the chilling air started to shoot our bone in. We walked fast and at the same time, looked around on what to eat for dinner. We passed by many road-side stalls. All was offering mostly spicy rice cake, tempura, fried sausage coated with potatoes, corn-dog, boiled fish cakes, and so on. But we looked for a decent place to eat Korean food.

We passed by many BBQ restaurant, however we made a miss because it would make our clothes and hair smelly hahahaha... So, we will eat it next time, not today. However, after one big round, we decided to go to Dongdaemun, a Korea shopping complex with over 5,000 shops selling various fabrics (clothing), materials, accessories, and so on, to have our dinner. We were quite surprised looking at the place when reaching there. I was imagining the open market under the tents, just like the Ladies Market in Hong Kong. But it consisted of many big buildings, with only few road-side sellers outside selling food and other things.

I 💟 Korean food 😊😚

We couldn't resist our hunger and started buying potato hot dog from the road-side seller. Finally, we went into a clean and neat Korean restaurant, selling BBQ buffet and a la carte menu. At first, we thought we had to eat buffet there as most other guests were having buffet. But the Boss showed us their a la carte menu too. As we didn't want to eat too full and made ourselves suffer, we only ate decent heart full meals. This time we ate Korean Ginseng Chicken soup with some glutinous rice inside and spicy beef soup with a bowl of tasty Korean white rice. The banchan (side dishes) were super delicious. The kimchi (spicy napa cabbage pickles), turnip kimchi, and the bean-sprout kimchi were all delicious. It really suited my taste. Very fresh, crunchy and tasty, very different with what we usually ate back in Singapore (those ready-made packed). I asked the Boss for the second serving and he gave it to us ^^ I told my hubby to go back to this restaurant again for the BBQ buffet, which costs KRW 16,000 (around S$20) per pax, next time, before we go back to Singapore :)

Oh, what a wonderful meal. Both soups were very nice. It was both piping hot and remained hot for longer time as they were both cooked and stored using the black bowl that could retain heat. We both felt blessed and lucky managed to find this nice restaurant :)

It was a very cold night. The wind blew cruelly too. I couldn't take many photo as my both hands were frozen once I took my gloves out. Anyway, it was dark too. We visited one of the shopping malls there. It was full of shops. They sold mainly clothes for males females, children, accessories, and so on. It would be a heaven for woman, but not me, especially in this time, where we were wrapped with thick jackets from top to toe. Lazy to try, lazy to bargain, so we left the place almost immediately. We ended up went into the FaceShop store and bought a pack of 15 different masks to try before deciding which one was the best and more suitable with my face. Lolx!

We went back to our hostel. Before reaching there, we bought a bottle of Black Raspberry Wine, hoped that it could warm our body up before sleeping. I have drunk almost half bottle but until now there was still not much effect la. Lolx! The alcohol content was 15%. It was sweet, suitable for ladies like me :D At the same time, I tried on one of the masks too just now hahaha.. to witness if it's effective or not :P

Well, I guess it's time to sleep now as it's late now. Don't think I can update my blog everyday, but since they provided PC with internet access in my room, why don't I use it, right? ;) This room was small, but packed with two single beds (the queen bed room was sold out), PC with internet access, Wi-fi connection, refrigerator, stove, kitchen basin and equipments, washing machine, in-room toilet completed with hot water, and it costs us only about S$70 per night (for 2 pax). My colleague recommended me this place. It was not bad, except that the heater wasn't strong enough and I'm still freezing now hehehe... Oklah, will write 'til here.

Overall, I am grateful that I'm given chance to finally visit this country. I was finally having a chance to feel the winter again. However, I didn't really enjoy it as it was deemed too cold for me. After staying in tropical country for more than a decade, this winter brought a shock for me despite I was staying up in the Swiss mountain for 3.5 years before. At least, the sun there was strong and the wind wasn't as furious as here. Anyway, it's been a great experience and hope my next journey continues on and filled with many wonderful memories :) Wish us all the best! Hehehe... Good night! Annyeong!!!   

4 comments:

Richard Quek said...

this is really nice
how i wish i can have the same trip like you
enjoy and i will read more

Overcome said...

Thank you Richard! You can have it too if you want to :) When there is a will, there will be a way ^^

Anonymous said...

looking for winter? hallllooooo.. you got sister in melbourne...

Rima Reyka said...

Raymond wanted to feel the snowfall. Moreover it's so expensive over there :D

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