Monday, 28 January 2013

Winter in Seoul Part 2

After an exhausting weekend selling clothes at ST3 CNY Shopping Bazaar, I can finally continue my 2nd post on my trip to Korea. So, here goes:)

DAY 3:
This was the first time we took the subway without the help of our "translator", but it went very well. Looks like my Korean classes wasn't a total waste! *so proud of myself* To get to Hoegi, my brother's place, we had to go through a lot of stations and transits. Tiring but worth it. What is this place you might ask? Well.. It's a small and peaceful area. Suburb I might say. The main attraction is  actually Kyung Hee University. You might be wondering what the hell am I doing in a Uni?  Let me show you why:

*Hall of Peace a.k.a The Harry Potter Building, lots of Korean award ceremonies were held here!*

Beautiful isn't it? Honestly, I feel like I'm in Hogwarts. Old castle and enchanting gardens. And the view is just "spellbinding". Get it? No? Moving on..
The last time I visited this place, it was autumn and it was all covered in golden and orange leaves. Here's some photos I took last year.

*Looks totally different right?*

Not much to do in Hoegi, but just chill and enjoy the surroundings. Food here are cheaper and more authentic. We had great meals here. OK, I'm not sure where we had this because it was dark and we took lots of shortcuts. So, here it is! HAEJANGGUK.

I know, it doesn't look really appetising in this phot. But, this stuff is delicious! It's Korean's version of Bak Ku Teh. Haejangguk is actually known as a hangover cure in Korean cuisine, usually drank after a night of heavy drinking. It's made from ox bone broth with soybean paste and lots of veggies. Taste? Beefy and spicy! This soup comes with a bowl of rice and of course other Korean side dishes, but there's a lot of ways you can eat it. First, the civilised way, soup and rice are ate in separate bowls. Second, MY way, I ate most of the meat in the soup first, then I dunk all the rice into the remaining soup and made it in to porridge. Sounds sloopy right? But I personally think it tasted better like that, plus my method saves time and keeps the table clean. haha..

*MY way*

DAY 4: 
"AHHH! Lotte World!!!" is what I would say if I was still twelve. For those who didn't know, Lotte World is a theme park like Genting but bigger. You can get to Lotte World using the subway to Jamsil Station. The admissions fee is 25,000 won/ RM75 per adult. Get info on other rates here. The saddest part is that most outdoor rides are closed during winter. So, we only paid for half a park.*tsk tsk, what a waste* But, I must say, the rides looks more challenging and scarier. Bad news was that the queues are very long! Yes, I said "are" because no matter what time or season it is, there's always a long queue. We managed to hop on a ride or two, and it scared the living daylight out of me! 

Oh yeah! There's a ice rink there, but we didn't go ice skating, instead we stood on the balcony laughing at those who fell down. Quite entertaining! *Hey, I'm only human, how could I resist not to laugh when someone falls flat on their ass? I know most people would. haha..* 

After Lotte World, we headed to the place that PSY made famous! Yes, Gangnam! Gangnam is the wealthier part of town. Lots of celebrities live here and the living standard here are higher compared to others. Everything here is very classy and organised, the whole area is neatly divided into blocks unlike other parts of Seoul. 

* see? all in perfect blocks*

*where as, other parts of Seoul looks like this*

OK, enough with the Geographic facts! All I can say is, this is the place where rich fat cats go. High end retail shopping and leisure all the way. Oh! And this is definitely the place for people interested in doing plastic surgery. We saw a handful of plastic surgery clinics in just one block! 

DAY 5: 
I'm going to keep this short because this very typical tourist stuff. So, this is the one place that all tourists would visit, GyeongBokGung. Entrance fee is 3,000 won/ RM 9 and you can get here using Subway line 3 (Gyeongbokgung Palace Station, Exit #5) Again, this is my second time here.*yawn* However, like Kyung Hee University, it looks different under all the snow.

* it was the coldest day out of the whole week while we were in Seoul, -12 degree Celsius*

Last year? 

*My next trip to Korea should be in spring, then I can just say I've experience all 4 seasons. Screw Summer, it's summer everyday in Malaysia. Planning mode ON*

Next stop was Insadong. Insadong is where tourist go buy trinkets, art and souvenirs. Not much I can say about this place, but it's a must-go-to-place if you're visiting Seoul for the first time. I had fun there the first time I was there. Food there are pricey and taste so so, I had better. If it's possible, avoid dining there, totally not worth it. 

DAY 6:
The highlight of the whole trip: We went skiing! Usually people would plan to stay at a ski resort overnight, but it was a little expensive, so we decided to go to the nearest ski resort we can find for a day trip. *Thank goodness, it was only day trip, keep reading and you'll know why.* It took us an hour by bus to reach Bears Town Ski Resort. The name sounds western, right? Visit their website to learn more. 

Anyways, it cost 50,000 won/ RM 150 for the whole package which include the rental of the ski or ski board and ski attires. I had a choice of picking of ski or ski board, and I chose skis. *big mistake* I tried it out a few time at the bottom of the slopes. It wasn't that bad. So I took the lift to the top of the slopes. Here's a picture of me before I realised what I've got myself into.

*Awww..Beautiful. But wait! I have to ski down this slope? gulp*

"Here goes nothing," and there I went. And probably just 10 feet away, I crashed. Took me 10 minutes just to get up again. Another 15 feet further, again, ass flat on the ground.  Falling down wasn't the hard part but getting up with two long sticks attached to your feet is the challenging part. I was constantly falling down and getting up that I've only managed to ski down just a quarter of the slopes when the guys caught up with me on their second round. Yes, you heard me, SECOND round, when I haven't even reached the bottom of my slopes once! They stopped and were there to assist me, making sure I'll make it back in one piece. Wait.. Let me rephrase that, they were suppose to assist me down the slope. Instead, they ended up laughing at me. But who can blame them, I even laughed at myself. Half way down, I was too tired to continue, I gave up and opted to walk down the slopes to the waiting area. I don't think sports is suitable for me. However, the boys had so much fun they stayed out there till closing time. 

* I'm so jealous of them*

Day 7: 
It's pretty much a shopping day. We did our shopping at MyeongDong and later in the afternoon we headed to Hongdae for more shopping. The price range is the same as Myeongdong, only Hongdae has more boutique where Myeongdong are mostly retail. But price range can go really high in Hongdae if you stumble across vintage or one of a kind items. Hongdae is quite a happening place at night, lots of clubs and bars there. Around 9pm, lots of people from around Seoul were coming to Hongdae, the subway station was so crowded and everyone were dressed to party!

Our last night in Seoul, we stayed up late drinking. We had some siblings bonding time. It's going to be awhile for us to see my little brother again. I miss that bastard already. 

*I love these people to pieces!*

Winter in Seoul was seriously fun. But I do feel like we couldn't go to a lot of place because of the weather *As a second timer, I didn't mind* Then again, there are some activities you can't do in other seasons, like skiing, winter fishing, skating etc. Different activities for different seasons, that's all I can say. So, if you're planning to visit Korea for the first, I would suggest going in Spring and Autumn for the full experience. 

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Winter in Seoul Part 1

January has been a very busy month for me, so please forgive me for abandoning my blog for almost half a month:( Anyways, now I'm finally free to sit down and blog.

So, this is my 2nd time visiting Seoul. The last time I went was in September 2011. It was Autumn and the weather was really nice, perfect season to travel to Seoul. However, this time I decided to experience winter since we never have any in Malaysia *Everyone said I was crazy =_=*

For Kuchingnites, the tiring part of traveling overseas is transits. Kuching to Kuala Lumpur then to Korea. Hopefully by my next trip to Korea, there will be direct flights. *fingers crossed* My family and I took a midnight flight from KL to Korea. I was so tired that I fell asleep before the plane even took off.

DAY 1:
We reached Incheon International Airport at 7am and my younger brother was there to welcome us. Yes, for those who didn't know, my younger brother is studying in Korea, so we have our very own personal translator / tour guide! *lucky us* We took a bus down to MyeongDong and walked a short distance to MyeongDong Guest House, where we stayed the whole week. The place is small but cozy. Great location and the rate is quite reasonable too. For a double bedroom, 45,000 won per night, which convert to Ringgit Malaysia is about RM130.

*le bro and dad*

I've read somewhere saying that winter in Korea are different than other seasonal countries, they can be brutal sometimes. The temperature while we were there is from 2 degree celsius to minus 12 degree celsius. I know it sounds freezing cold, but it's not actually that bad if you have proper attires.

1. A good old trusty thermal undergarment ** seriously, you NEED it!**
2. Winter coat - I bought mine in MyeongDong. Cheaper and more fashionable compared ones bought in Malaysia.
3. Shoes with thicker soles *I wore UGG, and I have no complains*

We didn't do much the 1st day, just shopping in MyeongDong, and let me tell you, MyeongDong is a shopping heaven!! The price range is average and above, but I believe in what you pay is what you get, so I don't mind paying a little more for better quality.

OHH!! This is only for dog lovers like me! If you're a cat person, you probably want to skip this part. While I was walking in MyeongDong, I came across a big Snoopy-look-alike mascot , and it handed me a flyer to a Dog Cafe! How could I say NO?! The cafe is one the 4th floor, there's a map on the flyer. I don't think it will be that hard to find a big Snoopy running around MyeongDong. So when I open the door of the cafe, I could see at least a dozen of dogs welcoming us at the entrance! CUTE!!! The entrance fee is 8,000 won/ around RM 24 and you get a free cup of coffee.  They gave us a list of  names of the dogs in the cafe and warned us a few of them were off limits cause they bite. There were Pugs, Schnauzers, Maltese, Shi Tzus, Golden Retrievers and Border Collie!!

*Gucci, my fav*

Dinner time finally is here!! I've been craving for this particular food since my last visit!
In Malaysia, it's known as 3 layer pork, and I hate it! Too greasy and the texture gross me out. But Samgeoksal is really different, Koreans would grill it till it's golden brown, dip it in some yummy sauce, add some kimchii in it and wrap in veggies. It just melts in your mouth! DELICIOUS!!

There's nothing much to do at night, but to DRINK. Koreans are actually very well known for their drinking culture. I'm serious.. So, we as visitors of this country must oblige to their custom. hahaha.. *I think u can sense my sarcasm thru the screen, yea right.. like i'm being forced to drink.* It was fun and seriously loud! 5 loud mouths together? Wait.. my mistake! 5 drunk loud mouths together? What do u expect?!
*Nice food, nice beer, nice people*

DAY 2:
Woke up with no hangover! Hurray! We decided to take the Seoul City Tour Bus around the city. We headed to the 1st station: GwangHwaMun using the subway. The bus stop is in front of Exit #6 of GwangHwaMun Station (Subway Line 5). The bus fare is 10,000 won/ RM 30 per person.You can check out their website for more info. But here's the route that they will be taking. It's a great way to get around the city. You can drop off any station and hop on another tour bus to get your next destination. The shuttle departs every 30 minutes.

The first place we went was Namdaemun Market. We were dropped off quite a walking distance from the market. For a second there, we thought we were lost. But my heart sprang alive again when we turned into an alley filled with hawkers and stalls. 

The highlight of Namdaemun Market: Korean Pancake! Best I've ever tasted. Must try it!

Lots of food and cheap stuff in Namdaemun Market. If you like pasar malam, this is definitely your place. 

Second stop, Korean National Musuem! The moment we stepped out of the bus, it's like we've hit the jackpot! No.. It's not the amazing architecture of the museum.. Not the breathtaking landscape.. Well, not yet.. but SNOW!! 

As we walk towards the museum, we were even more amazed! The view was stunning. It was like I'm in winter wonderland! 

*the lake has been frozen*

*le boys having a snowball fight*

Feeling tired, we all decided to go Namsangol Korean Town before heading back. Namsangol Korean Town is actually just a 15 minutes walk from our guest house *feels like we've been running around in circles* Anyways, admission fees are free. Check out this site for more info on it's operating hours and schedules. 

*le family*

*you can see Namsam Tower from here*

It is me? Or does snow makes everything looks good? 
Stay tuned for Part 2.