South Korea – Finale

29th April 2013
Monday

We were supposed to go to Jamsil street where the sakuras in full bloom could be seen. Unfortunately, it was raining the entire morning till around 11 am, exactly as the weather forecasted! So, I think the sakura blooms were all over the ground when we visited the place. So we didn’t get to do much on a Monday, we ended it by shopping since we have waited long enough for a shopping spree!

Jamsil stop is just nearby Lotte World and Lotte Mart. So we went to buy some stuff at Lotte Mart before we leave. So we packed on souvenirs for our colleagues and family members from Lotte Mart.

It was still early in the afternoon, so we decided to go back to our hostel with our purchases and take a short rest. It’s so tiring. I guess, since we have been traveling non stop the past one week, we suddenly feel our bodies couldn’t take it anymore. So decided to relax for abit before we continue.

After a short rest, we went out again to Myeongdong. So again, we shopped till night. There’s plenty of shop selling skincare products here. Go wild!

30th April 2013
Tuesday

Momiji leaves

We went to visit Changdeokgung temple in the morning. It was a smaller temple compared to the grander one as we heard that is closed. I am more attracted to the flora and fauna found here. You can see a blend of maple leaves, with gingko and pine trees in one photo. How often can you find such photogenic plants in one shot??

Gingko, momiji and pine leaves!

After visiting Changdeokgung, we made a brief stop and had lunch at Insadong, the so called Art Street in Seoul. It like 798 I visited in Beijing but, with more things to buy and more people. We just soaked in the camaraderie of the people here, eating their street food and of coz, do a little shopping there and then.

View of Namsan tower

Since one of us would be meeting a friend in Gangnam later, the rest of us decided to go to Namsan Tower to kill time. It was clearly a good choice because the moment we were on the hilly slope towards Namsan, we were awed by the many sakura trees! It was like a photo, painted with snow capped trees, which are actually white sakura flowers. The bus stopped at the top and won’t make any stops in between the slope. So, we walked down to the platform overseeing the city. It was so windy and nice. We enjoyed the scenery tremendously.

Place for lovers to hang out

We ended the night nearby Hongdae where we had some really good, less oily fried chicken nuggets and pint of beer. After which, just as when I thought, nothing could top the dramas in all my trips, the engine on the train we got on exploded twice! It was really a night to remember! You can read them here.

This sums up my trip to Seoul-Jeju-Seocho-Seoul. If you ask me, I would definitely visit Seoul again. I love the sights, the night scene, the efficiency, the food, the shopping – eventhough it’s rather expensive except for socks and ear rings. I think many countries should emulate Seoul – it’s highly developed, convenient and rather a safe place to travel. For the first time, I don’t have to worry about my backpack strapped on my back due to pick pockets. I could just walk freely without behaving like some phobic person!

For more photos, click here!

Naminara Republic

28th April 2013, Sunday
Nami Island

We were supposed to walkabout Seoul but then, decided to go to Nami Island on Sunday instead as the weather forecasted rain for Monday. So we switched going about Seoul on Monday and Nami Island on Sunday.

We checked out from Boa Guesthouse and took the subway to Ann’s Guesthouse, which is situated right above Hongik Station 1. I guess many would prefer to stay here due to the fact that, the train to the airport stops here at Hongik. A good choice of stay, I might say.

We took the subway to Sangbong station (reachable via Subway Line 7). Then, change line to another line bound to Gapyeong Station. It will take about 1 hour ++ from Sangbong Station to Gapyeong Station. Once you reach Gapyeong, just walk towards the bus/taxi stand and take a 10-minute cab ride to Nami Island port.

Once we reached there, we looked for a place for lunch. We tried the dak-galbi. It’s a big pan of uncooked chicken, vegetables and potatoes. We need to stir the pan ourselves. Again, we kept our jackets in the bag because the smell might stick to them.

After we finished the hearty lunch, we proceeded to buy our ferry tickets to Nami Island. It is only some 5 minutes ride across the river to get the Nami Island. Once we got there, we were greeted by picturesque scenery. We spent about 3 hours here. It was such a beautiful place. No wonder so many visitors both local and foreign like coming here. I guess it’s good to bring your picnic mat, some food and drinks and plonk your ass under a cherry tree for a nice, relaxing picnic. Seriously, we wish the day would never end.. I want to spend the rest of my life here!

Here are some shots of Nami Island.

Cycling is a good activity here!

So many lovers!

Family day out

Many beautiful trees

After a trip there, we made our way back to Seoul. I guess it’s important to find out the time to go back to Seoul as the train ride took about an hour, so it’s best to go on weekdays to avoid the hiking crowd on weekend. We saw many elderly people in their colorful hiking gears and it put all of us to shame! Koreans lead such a healthy lifestyle. Most of them exercise a lot so it’s really rare to see fat people in Korea!

We ended the night, having dinner at Sindang which is famous for its toppoki. We met up with Patricia who is already working in Korea the past two years. After a short chat over dinner, we headed back to the hostel.

To Seorak-san

27th April 2013, Saturday
Sokcho-Seoul

The next morning, we woke up early to catch a bus to Seorak. Anyway, we saw the breakfast spread at the pantry and we were already missing Sylvia’s pantry. Sigh. I miss the bagels!

Beautiful cascading cherry blossoms overlooking Seorak-san

Once we got down at foothill of Seorak, we were greeted by beautiful cherry blossoms. Then, everyone starting to snap photos away! We were simply overexcited coming here! I for one, was super excited. We went to buy ticket to enter the Sogongwon Park, then walked towards the cable car’s booth to get our cable car tickets. We have to wait almost an hour for this. So it’s advisable to go to the ticketing counter, get your tickets then, camwhore all you want later.

The walkway around the waiting for cable car area

The place here is simply too scenic. I was glad that the girls encouraged me to slowly walk up to the peak, which we did! It was just a short hike – which I dislike. But, the hiking up was worth it. Haha. So here are some of the photos taken.

 photo DSC_2171_zps3a71b47e.jpgView from our cable car coming down

We almost didn’t want to leave this place! It’s very soothing and calming to see the river flowing, with view of endless mountains, a few shrines and pristine white pebbles.

We ended our stay in Sokcho earlier than expected. Since it’s going to be a 3 hour journey back to Seoul, we decided to go back earlier. After all the walking and hiking, I was very tired. Haha. So, I slept throughout the journey back to Seoul.

We checked in Boa Guesthouse in Hongdae because we couldn’t get a room at Lilian’s usual guesthouse – Ann’s guesthouse due to uncertainties. Actually, we planned to go to Joenju for a visit, then perhaps spend a night there but we didn’t get the free bus tickets going there. So, we booked last minute accommodation at Boa Guesthouse.

The very delicious Andung Chicken!

So, after checking in, we walked about Hongdae and found a place for food. The Andong chicken! It’s something like our Malaysian version of three cups chicken but, slightly spicier, with added Korean glass noodles. It was so delicious, we almost licked the wok clean! Towards the end of dinner, we supposed to ask for a bowl of rice to be added into the wok, still with gravy to clean up the wok. Somehow, we were full by then, so we didn’t ask for rice.

We were walking about and found it’s a good place to shop. Since Hongdae is a student area, we might get cheaper things here. Anyway, we were simply too exhausted to try anything so, we decided to call it a night after having a cup of coffee from Blanc.

A Quaint Town Called Sokcho

26th April 2013, Friday
Jeju-Seoul-Sokcho

We woke up early to have our last breakfast at Tae Gong Gak. We are definitely going to miss this place! It’s good to stay here because, the bus station on the compound of New Kyeongnam Hotel, which is just some 5 minutes walk away from our inn. We packed our things the night before and set off after a hearty breakfast at the pantry.

We took a bus earlier to the airport, waited a little, walk about Jeju airport. I like the airport compared to LCCT. They have water cooler almost at every spot, nice eateries, shops, etc and even a warm seat for the toilet! In fact, most toilets everywhere in the world, even a third world country like Cambodia has really clean toilets. I am not sure why in Malaysia, we simply couldn’t have a clean public toilet??

Again, it’s going to be another round of traveling far.. we took the subway direct to Seoul Express Bus Station and take a 3-hour bus ride to Sokcho, where we will spend a night. The journey took about 3 hours.The road towards Sokcho is flanked by budding cherry blossoms trees, small little houses and mountains of brown, withered trees. I heard the winter this time went on longer than usual, hence the spring has yet to return.

I was simply too tired so, I sort of slept throughout the journey and woke up intermittently to enjoy the scenery. We got to Sokcho and found out that, we got into the wrong bus terminal. LOL. After asking the ticketing counter, we were told to get on a cab to go to the bus station, which is supposed to be nearer to the guesthouse. So, we took a cab to a nearby bus station to the hostel. Should have asked the cabbie to take us direct to the hostel but.. communication is quite a problem here. Anyway, we just need to walk about 5 minutes to the hostel.

We stayed at this small hostel, called the House Hostel in Sokcho. Once we got there, we were received by Mr Yoo. He gave us a short briefing on the facilities in the hostel, as well as some makan tips. I think he knew by looking at our sizes, we are here for food! LOL! He also guided us on how to get to Mount Seorak, which is rather convenient.It was just a short walk to the bus stop, take bus no. 7 or 7-1 and pay only 1,100 won per person. The journey would take about 30 minutes to the foothill of Mount Seorak, which is the last stop for the bus.

Thinly sliced pork – yum!!

Ongoing BBQ

Since we arrived closed to dinner time, say about 6 pm, we decided to go for a feast! We took Mr Yoo’s advice to go try local Korean BBQ – pay only 10,000 won each person and eat to our hearts’ contend. Haha. It was a really nice little BBQ shop.

After makan, we took a stroll around Sokcho area. Since it’s a fishing town, there’s plenty of seafood around. We could have eaten the big crabs with long legs there but, we just had dinner so we didn’t.

The temple above the hill

 photo DSC_1927_zpsdd1d7ca6.jpg

Quiet Sokcho town, glittering in lights

 photo DSC_1979_zpse7e1e106.jpg

Went a little crazy over this big orange moon!

One thing we didn’t like about House Hostel is the bathroom. I think it’s an old building, hence the piping is not working very well. The water pressure seemed to be too low that the water trickling out from the tablet is so small it made taking a bath difficult. I think my piss has more volume than that! Other than that, it’s pretty a comfortable inn.

Seogwipo, Jeju

25th April 2013, Thursday
Seogwipo, Jeju-do

We stayed in Tae Gong Gak Inn & Guesthouse at Seogwipo, Jeju. The hostess is really helpful, albeit a little on the OCD side. Haha. Sylvia is a an excellent hostess and made sure our stay is as comfortable as it can be.

What I really like about this guesthouse is the breakfast spread! We are in for a good treat! There are bagels, wheat bread, white bread, cup noodles, fruits, coffee machines, tea, home made tangerine jam, etc! We enjoyed the breakfast session very much. You may wear the sandals from your room to the pantry if you plan to go back to your room after breakfast to pack your things before going out. There’s a door towards the backyard, with a small wooden patio with chairs, overlooking a small orchard of tangerine trees. It’s really a quaint guesthouse.

From the guesthouse, you can actually walk to the nearest waterfall – I think some 20 minutes walk. I didn’t want to go because I was too tired the first night itself. Then we sort of procrastinated over going there during the 3 nights stay so we sort of miss it altogether. Haha.

I think Seogwipo is a rather nice town, with small cafe outlets sprouting sparsely, but there are plenty of restaurants surrounding the area. We were rather perplexed that the place is somewhat empty – most restaurants have only one table or perhaps, 2 tables filled with people the most. I wonder how these people stay afloat in their businesses with so few people around? Even the market – or perhaps, we went to the nearby market rather late, so there were fewer people around.

We didn’t try the black pork here Not sure why. Haha. During this trip, my brain sort of malfunctioned… perhaps of the too much walking. Haha. So here goes, some photos of Seogwipo. I love this place!

Tae Gong Gak Inn & Guesthouse

Many murals along the way as we walk about Seogwipo

Going to the market, a fruit stall

I simply love this shot!

Scooter.. is the way to go!