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South Korea 2015 – Wrap-Up

Published by on January 31, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue, to start at the beginning click here.

So its been over two months since we came back from Korea, and the memories are still fresh in our minds.

As far as family holidays, ever since we started going back in 2006 (wow, its been 10 years…!) this is no doubt the best and most ambitious one. It helped that we had a year to do planning and research, and good friends who had just gone before us to give us tips and itineraries to follow.

Would we return to Korea? Of course, and very soon. Next time, maybe we’ll visit Busan. But we’ll definitely return to beautiful Jeju. And if we are going for a longer holiday, we’ll come back to Seoul as a base to visit some of the places we missed, especially those that need to travel a bit. For example, Nami island. We decided to skip Nami this trip as we heard it involved a lot of travelling and walking. Another destination we wanted to go was Seoraksan. At the we were in Korea, the autumn colours were still in bloom, albeit a little late in the season. But we didn’t have time for a trip, so maybe the next time.

So since my trip, some friends and readers have asked me some questions, I’ll answer them here:

Where to stay? All things Myeongdong is still the best place to stay if this is your first trip and you are mainly sightseeing. You can also stay in the areas surrounding Myeongdong like Namsan (quite popular with Malaysians, judging from the blogs), Namdaemun or around Seoul Station. It all depends on the hotel deal you get. But remember, the most important criteria is it must be near a subway station. Trust me, you will not regret it.

How long to stay? I’m tempted to say ‘as many days as you can afford’, but I actually asked my friend this question. My trip for 8 days was just nice, so I would say 4-5 days is enough just for Seoul. If going to Jeju, allow for at least 2 full days. But then again, give me a week in Jeju and I can still fill it up with meaningful things to do and places to go on the island.

When to go? Well, I didn’t have a choice in the timing, but autumn is pretty good a time as any to go. The colours are beautiful, the weather just nice. Spring is very nice, too. Summer can get hot and stuffy, and there are a lot more tourists than any other time of the year. Winter is great to see snow, my younger kid is averse to cold so we went in autumn instead. But in recent years due to global warming, the winters can be sudden and harsh causing flights to be cancelled (like in Jeju recently) so there’s a risk there.

How much to bring? With our currency falling like bricks, this is a serious consideration. It depends on your spending habits. A decent meal in the restaurant like BBQ or noodles will cost somewhere between KRW 5,000 to KRW 6,000. If you stick to street food, you can save half of that. As for travelling and entrance fees, you can plan beforehand by doing some internet research beforehand.

Any way, that wraps up my write-up on my trip. Until my next trip in March to Macau, bye!

South Korea 2015 Part 18 – Gangnam Station Food Street

Published by on January 24, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue, to start at the beginning click here.

After walking around COEX Mall a bit, we decided to go to have dinner at another mall, Galleria Department Store. At the basement of this department store is a famous upmarket food court called Gourmet 494. This place was recommended by a friend, where its website describes itself as “high end, gourmet product hall that features carefully selected, eco-friendly products and healthy trends in dietary culture”. Whoa, who wouldn’t be impressed with buzzwords like ‘dietary culture‘??!

So off to the subway we went. As mentioned before, COEX Mall spans 2 subway stations. Galleria was 2 stations away, but unfortunately we didn’t realize we boarded an express train, one where it skips 2 stations. So instead of exiting at Apgujeong Station, we exited at Gangnam station.

Since we were a little tired, we thought we should just exit the station and look for something to eat. As luck would have it, this was the first thing we saw when we reach the top of the steps.

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(well, hellooo there, a sight for hungry stomach)

Gangnam is a business district, but traffic is still heavy on a SUnday evening at 5pm. And its also true what someone told 12 years ago – Koreans only buy cars that are silver, white or black…

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Although being the place where rich people live and work, Gangnam Station food street is surprisingly lined with restaurants similar to everywhere else in Seoul.

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(not my first choice for dinner)

At about 6pm it started getting dark really fast and the street was really filling up with people. Here’s the thing about Koreans. Doesn’t matter if its a working day or Sunday – they always dress the same – trendy dark clothes.

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Saw these pop up fortune telling booths. For such an advanced and intellectual nation, they can be quite superstitious, too.

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We saw another of these posters of the Tasty Road’s endorsement. I have to admit – I’ve started watching this show since coming back from Korea.

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We actually walked all the way to the end of the food street and doubled back. We even bought some el cheapo clothes for my daughter. As for dinner, we finally decided to go for Western for our last meal in Korea, this grill place called Spice Chicken (or at least that’s what I think the shop is called).

We shared a large grill platter consisting of fried chicken, grilled ribs and fries. Superb food.

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On the way back to the subway, we stopped by ANOTHER bingsu place – this one was advertised as “award-winning”.

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(mango bingsu with cheese and almonds. And coffee)

Then it was back to hotel for one last sleep.

Next – wrap of our entire trip.

South Korea 2015 Part 17 – SMTown & COEX Mall

Published by on January 21, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue, to start at the beginning click here.

After a rather heavy lunch, we walked further up the street to the main road to catch a bus to COEX Mall. Unfortunately, this was the only time my research on Google Maps failed me. The bus that we were supposed to catch was not listed at the bus stop. Korea has a very sophisticated bus system – most bus stops have a list of all the buses that stop there, and a diagram showing their route. Some bus stops even have a scrolling LED sign showing you when the next bus will arrive.

So anyway, a little stumped, we decided to take a cab. Cab turned out to be a nice elderly guy dressed in turtleneck. He dropped us off at the World Trade Centre in COEX.

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(Gangnam is a really swanky business district)

It is here we found out that COEX is really a big big place. Think bigger than Mid Valley City. There is a World Trade Centre, offices, performance centre, hotel, underground mall, etc. And our cab dropped us off at the wrong end.

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(this is the other end, you need to be on the other side)

But no worries, we just walked around the buildings, enjoying the art installations.

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Our destination was SMTown COEX Artium, which occupies their own small building in the complex.

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What’s SMTown, you ask? It’s a of a theme park for K-Pop, so to speak. That’s how they describe it in the website, but it’s really not a theme park. Well, if you’re a K-Pop fan (specifically, SM Entertainment K-Pop) this is the place to be.

The Artium is actually a very small building, thin and goes up to 5 floors. Upon entering, there’s a large video screen welcoming you.

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(apparently, this is Choi Minho)

So what can you do here? Well, if you pay the fee, you can get your make up and hair done, and get dance lessons, record your own song (or sing karaoke to someone’s hit), shoot your own video, etc. If you are lucky, you can walk pass some famous star who are recording in the other studios. Or you can watch a play by featuring some up-and-coming K-pop stars. At the time, they were running the musical called School OZ. If you are NOT paying any fees (like US), you can still walk around the 6 floors and see everything that’s going on. There’s a large gift shop (where they sell lots of cool stuff), a café where you can sit at the table and watch videos on your own personal iPad, and loads of photos and posters everywhere.

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(no idea who’s who. they all look alike to me)

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(photos everywhere!)

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(this area is for the rich people who want to star in their own K-pop video)

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(there’s a new Girl’s Generation member!)

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(the café where you can enjoy snacks. No empty table so we didn’t buy anything)

Outside the Artium there’s a giant bobblehead exhibition going on.

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After SMTown we went next door to COEX Mall, Seoul’s biggest underground mall where it stretches over 2 subway stations. It’s a pretty nice mall, but we didn’t really feel like shopping much. The main reason we went was to look for bingsu to eat. We’ve been wanting to try this dessert, and it was until the last day here we found a shop!

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(the left is mango cheese and right is Oreo)

We also passed by this bookstore where lots of young girls were standing around with satchels and stools, waiting for something. I wonder what? Were they waiting for someone to appear? I guess i’ll never know.

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Next – Last dinner in Korea

South Korea 2015 Part 16 – Apgujeong Rodeo Street

Published by on January 19, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue, to start at the beginning click here.

Day 8 in Korea! And this is our last full day! It also happens to be Sunday. The plan today is to go to Gangnam to see Apgujeong Rodeo Street, visit Cofioca, SMTown and Coex Mall. Basically, all the attractions south of the river.

Towards the end of our week here in Seoul, weather has been getting progressively colder every day. Today was no different, cold.

This is the view outside our hotel.

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We took a subway all the to Apgujeong station. This whole area – Apgujeong, Sinsadong, Garousil – is well known as the richest area in Seoul, in addition to being featured in that Psy song. Basically, we just went there for the experience – not that we had anything to buy. Unfortunately, though we were there too early in the day. The streets were quite deserted, and most of the shops were just only opening.

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(Rodeo street seemed like a ghost town in the morning)

Since we were in the area, we stopped by Cofioca. This is a (really small) coffee and pearl tea shop running by an elderly lady. This shop is famous is because it is commonly visited by K-Pop stars. The recording studios are nearby so they drop by regularly.

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The entire small shop is covered with autographs from the stars and messages from the fans to them.

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There are only 2 small tables in the shop and we took both of them, enjoying our warm coffee (weather was cold to enjoy a warm cuppa), watching videos on the large TV screen and reading the messages.

Next to walked further down towards Sinsadong for our early lunch. Along the way, we got to see another aspect that Gangnam is famous for – plastic surgeons to make Korean women have that similar look. The main road is lined with surgeons and clinics doing teeth, face, body, you name it.

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Lunch today was at Samwon Garden. I’ve read about this place – recommended by lots of people especially on Tripadvisor. Other than that, I didn’t know anything else about it. It turned out to be quite an upmarket BBQ restaurant that has been around since the 70’s.

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Well, it turned out to be the best BBQ meals we had in Korea. Although it was pricey, it was really worth the money. Every dish came with full complement of side dishes, so we didn’t order much anyway. The beef was really tender and well marinated (they only have beef though).

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(after the BBQ, Hannah’s rice dish was served, and it came with its own complement of side dishes!)

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(red bean for dessert)

An extremely satisfying meal… and now onto the next stop – SMTown and COEx Mall!

South Korea 2015 Part 15 – Gyeongbokgung Palace & Samcheong-dong

Published by on January 17, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue, to start at the beginning click here.

Lunch at Toshokchon samgyetang took a little longer than expected, as the haemul paejon took a long time to arrive (but was the best we had during our entire trip). Which meant we missed the guard changing ceremony at the entrance of the palace. Ah well, maybe next trip.

We did manage to get some pics with the guards.

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(I find it funny the guards have to wear fake goatees)

Also, lesson #1 about these guards – don’t touch them in any way.

The main entrance to Gyeongbokgung is at the south, via Gwanghwamun Square, walking distance from the similarly-named subway station.

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Gyeongbokgung is definitely the biggest, grandest and busiest palace in all of Korea. Even the line to buy entrance tickets stretched halfway the courtyard. Fortunately, we were in time for the English language guided tour. If you can, go for this – the palace visit is definitely more fun and informative. Her English isn’t great, but understandable and she’s very well versed with the history and has some amusing anecdotes.

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(our tour guide giving the whole rundown of the tour)

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(similar to Chinese emperors, that special stone is for the emperor to disembark the sedan chair)

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(entrance to the main square)

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(the throne room)

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(and the twin golden dragons watching over the emperor)

One funny thing about our tour guide was her fascination with heating systems and chimneys. She always takes time to explain how each palace / building is heated (underground furnace) and where the chimneys are. This one below is her favourite – its a terraced garden behind the queen’s house and the chimneys are apparently original and the oldest part of the palace (most of the rest of the palace was extensively damaged by the Japanese during the war). She was very proud of her “chimneys!”

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(chimneys!)

After the tour ended we walked to the northern end of the palace to see the sprawling gardens and lake. it was nearing closing time at 5pm, and today was a very cold day. we decided to take a look at the Blue House outside to the north of the palace. The Blue House is the residence of the president.

security was quite tight with some VIPs arriving. We didn’t go in for the tour, there’s an entrance fee and besides, they’re closed for the day. So instead we walked down the road to Samcheong-dong. This is a small enclave famous for its art galleries and coffeeshops, where traditional houses sit side-by-side with modern shops.

With the fading evening light and pretty shop lights, Samcheong-dong really looks serene and beautiful.

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(hanok traditional house turned into a coffeebar)

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(this gallery had a lady artist doing a live portrait of one of the customers)

After walking up to the end of the street at the hilltop, we were cold and feeling hungry, so we stopped by this quaint café for a light dinner. Their coffee came with cookies, and we ordered this flat rectangular pizza dish which was delicious.

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During dinner we were deciding where to go next (at the time it was only 7pm). We basically, have done everything in our itinerary up to this point, so we decided to venture to Dongdaemun night market. We didn’t plan to come here during our trip since it was mostly clothes and we weren’t really shopping for clothes. But there was a night market there so we decided to get some supper there.

After resting our feet, we stepped out into the biting cold wind and hailed a cab.

Dongdaemun itself didn’t seem very impressive – only the large malls like Doota were open 24 hours. the other small shops in the precinct were closing up by the time we got there. We walked through the backlanes en route to the market, and we passed these restaurants that were packed with locals eating ginseng chicken soup. Next trip when we come we have to come here! The market itself wasn’t fantastic – but we did find a stall selling fried chicken. There’s something about Korean fried chicken – it just tastes great, without being greasy.

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(fried chicken)

After exiting the market we found out Dongdaemun is just opposite Gwangjang market, so lo and behold we were back here again! Today, though, being Saturday, the market is really different. It is really packed and even the outer shops are bustling with customers.

When we came to Korea, we had a list of food to try. Most of them are obvious and we had the opportunity to try many times – Korean BBQ, jjimdak, hoeddeok, haemul pajeon, samgyetang and soondae (blood sausages). My wife absolutely refused to eat soondae with me, so I had to pass on that one. But one item on the list we hadn’t had the opportunity to try was tteokbokki – rice cakes in spicy sauce. we used to watch the cast of Family Outing make this frequently.

So anyway at Gwangjang we ordered some tteokbokki. Super spicy!

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(tteokbokki)

After our supper we took the bus back to our hotel.

Next – Last day in Korea!

South Korea 2015 Part 14 – Changdeokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok

Published by on January 16, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue, to start at the beginning click here.

Saturday, Day 7 in Korea, its a full week already! Today, we are doing the palace circuit. The plan was to wake up early, start with Gyeongbokgung, the biggest and most famous palace. 10.00 am is the changing of the guards. The we planned to visit Bukchon Hanok Village, eat the famous Toshokchon samgyetang (chicken ginseng soup), continue on to Changdeokgung, and if time permitting, visit samcheongdong.

Usually, tourist visit the palaces on their first day in Seoul, especially if the weather is good, and this requires a lot of walking outdoors, so best to do it when you are fresh and full of energy. For us, when we arrived on Sunday, it was mid morning and too late to visit the palaces. And Mondays and Tuesdays one of each of the two great palaces are closed. So rather than come here on 2 separate days, we decided visit other places of interest first.

Unfortunately, I think all the walking and travelling over the past week finally caught up to us, when I woke up in the morning it was almost 9.30am! In the past week in Korea, we’ve been waking up automatically at around 7.30am or earlier. Goes to show how tired we were.

So obviously we’re gonna miss the 10.00 am changing of the guard ceremony. No worries, there’s another one at 2.00pm. No chance of us missing that one, right…? Right?! So some juggling of our program – let’s visit Changdeokgung first, then walk over to Gyeongbokgung for the afternoon changing of the guard ceremony.

So we had time for a leisure breakfast at the hotel in their cramped and narrow pantry. They had white bread and toaster, cereal, jam, and coffee or milk and juice. Nothing fancy but enough to set us up for the day.

We also had to pack up for the day as the hotel was going to send out luggage to the other hotel Vestin Residences. So by the time we set off it was almost 11.00 am. The weather was clear but it was a nippy day for sure. Today was the day we all wore our matching Uniqlo Heatech turtlenecks :)

We took a cab to the palace. But for some strange reason, the cab driver dropped us off at the western entrance of Changdeokgung, instead of the more obvious Southern entrance. No worries, but there is actually another palace here called Changgyeonggung, and it connects to Changdeokgung inside. The ticket is really cheap, KRW 1000 for adults and KRW 500 for children, and when you enter Changdeokgung you top up your ticket with the difference in price.

Changgyeonggung is a small palace, but very peaceful and beautiful, especially since there was hardly anyone there at the time.

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When you enter Changdeokgung Palace via the connecting entrance, you’re right at Huwon, or secret garden. We didn’t plan to visit it anywhere, as there is a fee on top of your ticket just to enter.

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(entrance to the Secret Garden. This is the group with the Korean speaking tour guide)

Changdeokgung is a much bigger palace, but nothing like Gyeongbukgung.

In most of the big buildings, you’ll these gargoyles on the corner ridges. Later during the Gyeongbukgung tour, I asked the guide what they were and she said they represented characters from the Monkey God legend. The bigger the roof / building, the more characters are depicted.

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(I suppose that’s the monk at the front followed by Sun Wukong. The others I’m not too sure)

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After the palace we walked out to Bukchon Hanok between the two great palaces. I was expecting a traditional village, but had problems finding it cos it seems the be modern shops all over the place.

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(I saw quite a few of these here. So I suppose Tasty Road is quite a big deal in Korea)

After some wandering only did we find some of the houses we saw in the brochures. You need to walk the backlanes (not the main roads) and there really aren’t many of them to be honest.

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we bought some souvenirs in one of the traditional homes converted to a shop.

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(And THIS is the classic shot you see in brochures and travel websites)

We were running late for the lunch, cos we wanted to make it for the 2.00pm changing of the guards. So we had to hail a cab to take us a short distance to other side of the palace for the ginseng chicken soup. This place is purportedly the best in Seoul, but our cab driver hadn’t heard of it. But he did drop us off at the right location, and there was a long line outside the small restaurant!

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Toshokchon is actually a hanok house converted to a restaurant, but we were surprised the line moved very quickly, less than 10 minutes and we were ushered in to be seated. Once you enter the shop, you’ll realize its not just one hanok, its a series of many interconnected hanoks and courtyards to make a huge restaurant.

On the menu there are limited items, but we only wanted 2 things – samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) and haemul pajeon. There are about 4 types of samgyetang, but we went for 2 bowls of the original and one black chicken. Samgyetang is a spring chicken stuffed with rice and boiled in ginseng soup until it becomes rich and aromatic. The chicken flesh with be soft and tender and the rice can be eaten like porridge.

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Yes, it was indeed the best ginseng chicken we tried in Korea. A hearty and satisfying meal after a tiring morning of walking walking and walking. A word of advice though – the dish comes with a small cup of ginseng tea and a small vial of real ginseng for each adult. Decline it if you don’t want it – they charge you for it if you accept.

Next – The biggest palace, and samcheong-dong.

South Korea 2015 Part 13 – Lotte Department Store

Published by on January 9, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue, to start at the beginning click here.

Friday Day 6 was our last day in Jeju, we flew back to Seoul in mid morning. Our very nice houseowner’s brother booked a taxi to the airport for KRW 35,000. The taxi driver was a chatty guy who kept trying to introduce us to jazz music. The journey from Seogwipo to the hotel took about 40 minutes and outside the cities, the roads are quite deserted.

For once we got to the airport early. We bought some nice souvenirs here including the yummy hallabong chocolates.

And then we sat and waited.

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(a yet to be famous K-pop singer entertaining the waiting crowd)

Flight back to Gimpo Airport in Seoul was uneventful. When we reached our hotel in Seoul, there was a huge mess-up with our hotel, I won’t go into the details here but suffice to I will think twice before booking with AirAsiaGo again. End result, we had to look for an alternative hotel. Good thing was Vestin Residences was just around the corner, and they were so kind to make special arrangements for us. So for the first night, we stayed at their affliated hotel across the main road (which they kindly ferried us across via car). For the 2 remaining nights, we were to move back to Vestin here in Myeongdong.

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( UI hostel, where we stayed for one night. Probably the smallest 4-bedded room i’ll ever stay in)

By the time we finally unpacked and settled in, we had wasted 2 hours and we still hadn’t had our lunch. The good thing about this UI Hostel was that the street it was on was packed with small restaurants. The hotel guy who ferried us recommended this BBQ place just opposite our hotel. But after a few BBQ meals over the week, we decided to try the Japanese restaurant next door. Imagine that, eating Japanese food in Korea… Anyway, at 4pm in the afternoon, this served as our late lunch / early dinner.

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(the cozy little Japanese restaurant)

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(Great view of Namsan Tower from our hotel)

Our plan for today was to do some light shopping in Myeongdong and visit Lotte Department Store. From UI Hostel, Myeongdong street wasn’t far, but you had to walk far down the street to cross the main road. Along the way, we say this beautiful old Protestant church.

Lotte Department Store is a huge store in the centre of Myeongdong. There are actually 3 buildings linked underground – Lotte Young Plaza, Lotte Department Store and Lotte Hotel.

We first checked out Lotte Young Plaza. This a rather small plaza catered to young people, akin to Sungei Wang Plaza. Since there wasn’t much to interest us, we went to straight on to Lotte Dept Store.

Now, this place was BIG. 13 floors of high end shopping, just like Isetan. 13 floors!! (Although the 13th floor isn’t shopping, it is a cultural centre). On the ground floor, where they sell perfume, was quite packed due to the passing foot traffic. The other floors were rather quiet. HOWEVER, on the 9th, 10th and 11th floor is where the action really picks up. These are the Duty Free floors, and they SWARMED with China tourists. And I mean SWARMED. In some areas they are pushing you and you can break through the masses. These floors sell mainly cosmetics and ladies accessories, but the tourists mainly buy the cheap cosmetics.

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Business is SO GOOD that the cosmetics girls here speak fluent Mandarin (better than most of us). I managed to buy some stuff my colleagues asked for, namely face mask (RM1.70 per piece, super cheap) and Therapy face whitening cream. I asked the sales girl if its like this all the time or just during year end holidays, she replied “everyday of the year”.

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After getting our stuff, we went down the department store again (there was only so much jostling and noise i can take) to the basement levels where there was a large foodcourt. The foodcourt was very tempting, but due to the crowds we couldn’t find a place to sit. So we just walked out to Myeongdong again, and finally went into Café Pascucci for some coffee and Tiramisu. It was nice to relax on the comfy sofas sipping hot coffee after so much travelling today.

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On the way back to our hotel, we saw this two old ladies spreading the gospel, Korea-style…

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Next – Doing the Palace circuit.

South Korea 2015 Part 12 – Seongeup Folk Village and Seongsan Ilchulbong

Published by on January 1, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue, to start at the beginning click here.

After lunch, it was quite a long drive to the eastern side of the island. All four of us were dozing off after a heavy meal and also waking up early. By the time we reach Seongeup Folk Village, it was drizzling. Which was kind of a good thing, meaning that we were the only visitors there at the village. Seongeup is a traditional folk village, where dozens of families have stayed there for generations. Part of it has been turned into a tourist attraction, in an effort to generate some income for the families. It reminded me of the Sade traditional village in Lombok we visited last year.

The tourist area consists of an open square, a welcome centre (also selling some souvenirs) and house, and a few other small buildings.

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(even the thatched roof is similar to Lombok)

This is our tour guide, can’t remember his name. He and his wife can speak decent English. He worked some years in Indonesia and has visited Malaysia before, so he can still remember some Indon / Malay phrases. He gave a very interesting and humorous introduction to traditional life on Jeju island.

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Jewel in the Palace (Dae Jang Geum) was also filmed here, and they’re are obviously proud to advertise this fact.

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The twin grandfather statues found everywhere on the island.

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Overall, I would recommend coming here for a short visit, but you need a guide to fully enjoy the experience. The guides will also try to sell you their local homemade products like 5-scented tea, honey, and horse bone pills (!).

From the village is a short drive to the easternmost point of the island, Seongsan Ilchulbong. This is a dormant volcano crater that rises from the sea right on the beach. If you are up to it, you can wake up at 3.30am and come here is ungodly hour, hike up the crater and see the sunrise. It is also a traditional custom to come here on New Year’s Day to see the annual first sunrise.

But of course, we’re not crazy enough to wake up at that godforsaken hour. Unfortunately, though, it was still raining when we got here, although not heavy. In normal weather you should take 30-40 minutes to reach the crater. But with the rain and slow climbers, it took us about 45 minutes. To fully appreciate the crater, you should google up ‘seongsan ilchulbong’ and see an aerial photograph.

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On the way up, you can see a great view of the peninsular that connects to the island on a narrow isthmus.

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We finally reach the top! Kinda hard to take a good shot here. The crater is filled with trees and vegetation and is not accessible to public except at the viewing platform at the rim of the crater.

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I would rank this place a must visit even if you come for the sunrise. The view from the top is worth the climb (although may be strenuous if you really unfit). As a bonus, if you come here during spring, you can enjoy a sea of yellow ripening canola. Makes a beautiful shot with the mountain in the background.

After Seongsan, we had actually completed our itinerary, but we still had a few hours of daylight. so our driver brought us to Seopjikoji, another natural wonder nearby.

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The volcano activity left rocks with strange formations here, for example the on right is called ‘candlestick rock’.
You can hike all the way to end of the path, there is a small lighthouse where you can climb up. The small chapel on the right is also called ‘All In House’ as it was featured in a Korea drama.

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After that, it was a long drive back across the island. Near our home, we stopped by another supermarket to buy some dinner stuff.

Dinner was instant noodles, some yummy sausages from the supermarket (2 for 1 sale) and bread.

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For desserts there was sweet hallabong plucked from our own private orchard.

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Next – Back to Seoul.

South Korea 2015 Part 11 – Jeju Island Tour

Published by on December 31, 2015

This is part of an ongoing travelogue, to start at the beginning click here.

Gooood morning Jeju!!!

Our second day in Jeju started off early as driver was to pick us up at 9.30am. We woke up quiet early and had a simple breakfast of instant noodles and coffee. After that I took a walk outside to see our surroundings.

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Our house is surrounded by a tangerine orchard, and it looks beautiful in full bloom. The fruit is widely planted here for export, it sweet and juicy, and is often made into chocolates.

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Even though Jeju is the southernmost island in Korea, it is still pretty cold in November. It snows in winter, too, so be prepared for unpredictable weather especially in December to February.

Our house is located in the countryside away from Seogwipo, it is a quiet street with a few small houses surrounded by greenery and tangerine orchards. So early in the morning no one is up yet (or maybe they all just stay indoors). Anyway after washing up and locking the house, our driver came. Today’s driver is a different guy from yesterday. This guy drives much slower (and safer) but acts more as a tour guide, giving back stories of the local legends.

So first stop today is Jeongbang waterfall. This is a different one from yesterday’s Cheonjiyeon Falls. Jeongbang is the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly to the sea (this is mentioned in the tourism websites, but Wikipedia says there are 2 more in Asia…hmm. What gives?). The effect seen at high tide, but its better to visit at low tide so you walk up to the falls on the rocks.

The falls is very easy to access from the main road, just down some steep steps.

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Then you can see it. To get a good view, you need to walk onto the rocks. Make sure you are wearing appropriate shoes as the rocks are slick and may be loose.

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(women divers selling your daily catch for you to eat. But more on these later)

Then we went to Oedolgae. First thing we learnt from our driver is that it is pronounced ‘Woo-der-gay’. He told us the interesting legend of the two rocks, but I’ll let you figure out yourself what the rocks are supposed to look like. This spot is very popular with locals and tourists, there were many groups of students there for field trips while we were there.

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Like many places in Jeju, this place was featured in Jewel in the Palace (Dae Jang Geum). And they’re not shy to advertise this fact.

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From Oedolgae you can hike along the cliff to the end of the trail, it takes you 40 to 60 minutes and you can enjoy the pine forest and view of the cliffs.

Besides being known as a honeymoon and holiday destination with lots of theme parks, Jeju is more famously known for its natural wonders, primarily from its volcanic activity. The most popular attractions in Jeju are Hallasan mountain and Manjanggul Lava Tubes. We skipped both as climbing Hallasan takes a few hours (although I’m sure the payoff is fantastic) and my family wasn’t keen in walking in the dark and damp caves to see the lava tubes. So our itinerary are the easy to reach places, that are equally stunning.

And one of the most beautiful is Jusangjeolli cliffs, which are lava extrusions shaped in pentagons and hexagons. This is similarly to the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. But to see it yourself, waves crashing, its really breathtaking to say the least.

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Here we say another (very old) woman diver selling her catch. She’s very skillful is shucking the oysters an other strange mollusks (with her BARE HANDS). To eat it, you dip into some chilli sauce, and eat it RAW. Some Chinese tourists were eating it, we passed on it.

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According to our driver the last generation if divers are now in their 70’s, and it won’t be long before they retire and the craft is gone forever.

For lunch we had black pork BBQ, one of the dishes we were looking forward to try in Jeju. Unfortunately, our driver wasn’t familiar with this area, and he brought us to this rather touristy restaurant near the Lotte Hotel that catered mainly to Chinese mainlanders. It was rather disappointing, as the previous day’s driver told us that the best restaurants slaughter the livestock on the same day and the meat is never frozen. And this one didn’t seem like one of them.

Ah well, not to complain too much. I’d say black pork does have a distinct taste, but honestly speaking its nothing spectacular. Maybe I’ve been spoilt by Ipoh siew yoke…

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Next – Seongeup Folk Village and Seongsan Ilchulbong

South Korea 2015 Part 10 – Jeju Lotte Hotel & Dinner

Published by on December 30, 2015

This is part of an ongoing travelogue, to start at the beginning click here.

After the tea museum, next on the itinerary was the glass castle. I really did not have any idea what this place was, I was basically following the itinerary by my friends. Glass Castle is a museum cum theme park that is centred on – you guessed it – glass items.

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They have indoor displays and a large outdoor garden, which also includes a forest walk.

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if you do a quick walk, you can see everything in just over an hour. if you plan to take pictures then it might take longer.

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All in all it was touristy but fun for the children.

After that, it was a short drive down the road to the Spirited Garden, billed as the ‘most beautiful garden in the world’. Unfortunately, it was already almost 5pm when we got there, and they were closing. Ah, too bad, maybe the next trip to Jeju, then.

We had also planned to visit Songaksan, but as it was getting dark, we couldn’t make it (it was quite a distance to drive from here). So our driver took us to Lotte Hotel, the biggest hotel in Jeju. I think resort would be a better description of the place, it reminded me of IOI Resort in Putrajaya.

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(There’s a local legend about these four mythical creatures in Jeju, they are arranged facing compass points)

The hotel is big and beautiful, but the attraction at night is there are 3 huge windmills that are lighted up at the edge of the swimming pool. I’m not sure what’s the rationale of windmills in Jeju, but it does look spectacular.

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En route to the next stop, we dropped by E-mart to do some shopping for breakfast tomorrow.

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From there we went to Cheongjiyeon waterfall. This place is open until 8pm, as it is best viewed at night when it is lighted up.

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Then it was dinner time. Our driver recommended seafood hotpot, one of the 4 must-try dishes in Jeju (the other 3 being black pork, pork noodles and hairtail soup).

The first restaurant we went was closed for the day (it was past 8pm, businesses close rather early in Jeju). The second was open but getting ready to close. They were glad to accommodate us, thankfully. The main dish they served was a small hotpot soup loaded with clams, oysters, abalones, scallops and kind of cute mini-lobster.

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(as usual the meal comes with side dishes and cold water)

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(abalone)

An old man working with the shop was watching my wife struggle with the mini lobster, he taught her how to twist the tail off and poke the flesh out from the shell.

After dinner, we bought some hallabong from an old lady selling on the sidewalk. Hallabong is a local type of tangerine, with a noticeable bump at the top where the stem is.

After dinner we finally made it to our home. Its a small cabin somewhere outside Seogwipo, booked through Airbnb. The owner was holidaying in Thailand, so his brother graciously waited for us.

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This cosy home has 2 rooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a bathroom with washing machine. But the big surprise was outside the home. But you’ll see it in the next post when its daylight…

Next – Jeju Island Tour.

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