Back from Seoul – safely JIT

Two days after we returned from Seoul, we were still watching KBS and Arirang TV un Singapore. Our last 3 days in Seoul was extremely cold, we were glad we got back in time. Watched the news, Seoul had a heavy snow downpour. Scenes of the Seoul street, battling the blizzard.




Some of the temperature datas during the 10 days in Seoul. The temperature was below 0 degrees celcius most of the time. It dipped to -13 at some point. It was a good experience for us. The temperature was just one factor. The one we hated most was when it came with the wind. Strong winds up to 42km/h with cold air was biting. We realized we needed to be better prepared for winter trips. The sad part was we didn’t get to see much snow. Maybe the Jan/Feb tourists would see better scenery. For us, we got the cold Siberian winds.


When we see the winter weather running havoc in European and American countries, we felt truly blessed. Singapore’s hot, humid and rainy weather suited us fine. Much bearable really.






Seoul Day 10: World Cup Stadium Not & Return Home

Our last day in Seoul, we decided to visit World Cup Stadium and hopefully some groceries shopping at Homeplus.

 
Denied entry into the stadium. Apparently, there was a concert rehearsal for the afternoon. There was like 4 fans with posters queueing up. Only 4. We gave up and proceeded to the supermarket.


A few shots of the stadium. Still wished I could have catch a K-League game in Seoul. I did try but the season ended, and FC Seoul played their last game of the season, 1 week before we arrived.



The peep.



R&B point.






Huge array of shells, crab sticks, lobsters, seaweeds etc, which we bought and eat with our instant noodles or rice. Supermarkets like these, with their fresh seafood is a quick easy way to save some money from overpriced halal food. Halal meat is rare, so we halal food is expensive. The savings on food, we splurged it on coffees instead. ūüėõ

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Took the subway back to hotel, packed our bags, constructed a Xmas looking tip and check out.




Took the bus from the bus bay in the middle of the street.





There were some interactive activities at the airport terminal while waiting.



Did I mention I was looking for a Samsung NX100 advertisement while I was in Seoul. Interestingly I did not see any, till the very last day at the airport.





Goodbye Seoul! Thanks for the beautiful experience. Till we meet again.
Gamsa hamnida.

Seoul Day 9: Palace

The weather averages -18 deg this morning. It was biting cold and we really felt like staying in today. It was the second last day though and we still have not covered some parts of the city.





 

 

 

 

 

 



A sketch of an ondol house that we went to.

 



Our second last day in Seoul. A super cold day indeed.

Seoul Day 8: Nami Island (Halal Drama Cafe)

Finally we hit Nami Island aka Republic of Naminara. Looked forward to eat at the Drama Cafe on the island. We had trouble reaching there a few days ago, due to the shutdown of the old train services. A new line had in fact just opened on that day, and we did not understand the whole situation till we went to the tourist information counter. Even then, the counter was not able to print out a map of the new rail. We got a hand drawn one. We were hoping to go Nami in the old train. Can you imagine, we missed it by just a single day?? Such luck!!

Anyway, day 8, we took the new train system to Gapyeong Station. It was like only the 2nd or 3rd day in operation. Everything fresh and sterile.


Walk out of Gapyeong station, there will be a line of waiting cab and just say,”Nami Island Ferry Terminal”.

Bought “a VISA” to enter Nami Island. It was basically a ferry ticket, but as Nami Island prides itself as a Republic, they have their own passport and you will need “a VISA” to enter. I was wondering if the current UN president had a role in this, but this island was around even before his appointment.

Marketing itself as a UN ambassador or UNICEF of some sort, the global UN spirit is all around, the ferry that took us there was also full with an array of international flags.


 
We had lunch at the Drama Cafe a Halal certified Vegetarian restaurant.




The order came in 2 metal tins, 2 metal spoons and 2 pairs of gloves in a metal tray. Took a quick look around they were all shaking the tin vigorously. We were a bit apprehensive as it felt like playing with our food.

Single hand shake
Double handed shake

The Kimchi pancake. Egg, onion, cabbage, vege and kimchi.

Animals seem to roam freely here. Absolutely lovely. Pretty chicken.

 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Seoul Day 7: COEX & War Memorial

We were actually looking forward to take an old train ride to Gapyeong. Somehow though, the train service was not listed, when we looked at the electronic signboard.We asked at the Information Center, the officer could not speak English but he tried his very best. We admired his effort. He explained to us that the train was no longer in service and replaced with a new system on that very day. He gave us directions there using the new metro system but we were not keen since it was afternoon and will reach Nami late.

We aborted the plan for Nami and went Coex Aquarium, walked around the COEX Mall and capped it off with Itaewon and the War Memorial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seoul Day 6: Everland

Our Day 6 mission, was Everland only! A grand theme park, not just rides and games but with their own zoo and safari. I must say it was the top 3 highlight of our trip.

Took the metro down to Gangnam station, the MTR cross the bridge for this. Once at Gangnam Station, we walked to Krispy Kreme, there was a bus stop with Direct Express Bus

5002 to Everland.
Anyway, the bus stop was manned by a friendly Korean bus attendant. A friendly chap who
wanted to chat with us, with his limited English and our non-existent Korean…blush, blush. He mentioned Everland, T-money, where we were from. He remarked Singapore is clean, no litter on streets. And I said, Korea is nice trendy and high-tech. He even invited us to pose together and snapped a picture for us. ¬†He even let us roam around and held our place at the front of the queue. Amazing!

Huge spacious park! We had the tourist discount coupon available from their website with us too, which provided some savings.

Queuing for Safari World, we see the numbers. Sort of how many is in the house!

Although, the LIVE commentary was in Korean, and we didn’t understand a single bit, we assumed this is the famous Liger. A mix breed of Lion + Tiger.¬†

The kiddy winter train ride.

The parade.

Wooden roller coaster.

Everland was wonderful. Bigger than Hong Kong Disneyland. Not a big run like Universal Studios or Disney. And we absolutely adore the Korean cartoon flavour to it.

Will Singapore be able to run its own theme park with our own flavor? I doubt we even have our own cartoon or animation character.

They have the famous Pororo in Korea. In Everland, the Zootopia for instance, was extremely cute. A 4D experience, made more surreal by the fact it was in korean, but we do appreciate reading through the actions, expressions and story line.

The Rotating House was situated right beside the Zootopia. It looked low profile on the outside, dark and eerie while queueing inside, like an old abandoned house.

We were like, should we try? With nothing to lose, we entered. Looks like some eerie house, but there were no hints of vampires or zombies. We sat on long benches like the juries in a courtroom. It started with walls at the side rotating, our benches swinging like a viking and the ceiling moving around, making us feel claustrophobic and the music eerie. The last final action though was wicked. No, not saying, go there yourself. A shocking shrieking surprise but breaks you out laughing and giggling.

Yes, we enjoyed this the most. The Snow Buster! A sledge slide down the snowy hill.

Seoul Day 5: Sunrise at Seoraksan, Sokcho

We checked in Kensington Stars Hotel, Seoraksan the day before. Although the hotel was quiet and old looking, the environment was stunning. Situated very close to nature, we both woke up with the sunrise filtering in through the glass windows. Magnificent!
 
 



We didn’t see much of this view last night. It was dark, no city lights in here, although it was full¬†moon, we were not able to see the details. In the morning, we could even see the frozen stream.



The Kensington Stars Hotel is just a short 5 mins short walk to the Seoraksan Park entrance.

 

Made our way to the Cable Car Station.



It was a cold windy morning, and the cable car ride was suspended momentarily.

We waited for the strong wind to subside and was duly rewarded.
 
 
View from the cable car. We could see the Kensington Stars Hotel and further back in the distant is Sokcho city.

 



The relatively easy stairs climb.





More views along the way.



Some places were out of bounds. Ice on ground. The climb start to get tougher as we walked to the peak.

 
So, this is where we are. Mount Gwonggeumseong .


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Checked out the hotel with a heavy heart and left for Sokcho City.






 

 

 

 
Autumn in My Heart was shot here. I have no idea about the movie or drama.


 



After some quick stroll around Socho City we made our way back to Seoul.


At the rest point, I bought something called a Walnut Cake. I loved Walnuts and I loved cakes. So it was a simple choice. But no, it was a flour puff with red beans. I don’t quite like red beans. Back home, it will either by Cheese, Choc, Peanut but never red bean. Walnuts? None at all, It was red beans filling and the puff flour looks like walnut.


In this cold weather, anything warm and fresh in our stomach felt heavenly.



And yes, it was the famous quirky toilet bowl, common in North East Asian countries. I’ve encountered these when I visited Taiwan back in 98. And yes, I still forgot and threw my toilet paper right into it. I ran off as I saw the toilet bowl beginning to stutter and crank.

 
 

We arrived at Dong Seoul Express Bus Terminal,  made our way to the metro station, walked quickly to Sokcho Hotel, located near Hongik University. The winds were cold and harsh. The area was truly vibrant place even at midnight.

We missed Seoraksan peace, quiet and fresh air though. Should have stayed there longer.

Seoul Day 4: Going to Seoraksan … Kensington Stars Hotel

We woke up this morning, a quick meal and all packed up to go Seoraksan National Park. We will be staying at the Hotel Kensington. It looks lovely and authentically British. It even has a London bus, a red one.
We took the metro to Dong Seoul Bus Terminal (Dong means East) and and bought our Express bus tickets to Sokcho City.




We had 1 hour to wait for our bus and L seems to look under the weather, so we sit it out at Baskin Robbins for a hot drink and people watching. Being the bus terminal where buses go to other cities, we definitely see more things. It wasn’t the glitz & glamour of the shopping belts. I see beggars. 1 even looked so drunk, there was actually an ambulance that took him away. Just like in Pasir Ris MRT station in Singapore, where you see military recruits booking out on weekends, I saw lots of soldiers here as well. A variety of military coats and uniforms, it was interesting. People walking extremely fast and jumping around while waiting the green light, trying to warm themselves up.





Our bus ticket to Sokcho. goodness, it was a challenge indeed. Not speaking or reading the language, just pure faith and courage to not worry too much about everything.


Our cute orange bus. Interior was not brand new and plushy but definitely spacious and very clean. The bus looked nothing like the express buses to Malaysia. It reclined, and had fake leather PVC seats and not plushy at all. However, it was extremely comfortable though. Very spacious and we really liked it as we can sit cross legged in it. L took a Panadol and slept through the journey.

The BBQ Chicken stall available at the stop.Not halal though. Do not assume that being halal in Singapore equals to it being halal elsewhere.


I had noticed they argicultural authorities spraying the bus after some toll stops. I thought they were just strict for the farming towns. (I later found out, it was HFMD or mad cow disease from the TV news.)




Heading to Sokcho city.

At the bus stop near the Ship Hotel. The bus driver stops the bus in the middle of nowhere and said Sokcho City. I asked him, bus terminal? I think he remembered me telling him I going Seoraksan. He prompted me to alight and motioned me to take my backpack down and followed him. He actually stopped the bus, took me down and pointed me to the opposite road, there is a little quaint bus stop. Nice of him to do that extra step, though we can barely converse with each other. Gamsahamnida..


Problem is, I had only oriented myself to change the bus at the Sokcho Express Bus Terminal. Do hope no problems locating the terminal for my trip back to Seoul in 2 days time. It was really scary at times travelling like this, and L just always switch herself off with the planning.


The bus stop surprisingly have a Sokcho Tourist Map board. And so we sat there waited for the 7 or 7-1 bus to take us to Hotel Kensington Stars. Cash only 1000 won each. 




Annyeonghaseyo to the bus driver, and I mentioned Kensington. There were quite a few motels along the way. I was hoping the driver will alerted us for the stop. He did not and the travel book did mention most will miss the stop and walk back. The driver simply tap his brakes at our stop and attempted to proceed on, but I saw the hotel name just in time and tweet the bell. It was a K jammed brake, in a Korean bus at the Kensington junction. I think he was actually prepared to stop, just wanted me to press the bell. Geez. We walked up the slope to Hotel Kensington Stars. This place is beautiful, clean air and lovingly quiet. Wish we had booked for 2 nights.

Room was old looking, reminded me of those Cameron Highlands or Genting deco.



Testing out the Miniature Smart filter on my NX100. A London red bus in the hotel carpark.

Another “Honey, I shrunk the kids” photo shot.

The hotel was decorated with music, stars and british in mind. No particular order. Pretty random. A library corner, bears, toy soldiers, music memorabilia and did I mentioned about the London bus. 2 of them!

Seoul Day 3: Symposium Day

I was actually working to do my final touches to my presentation last night. When I was done, I was captivated by the moon. Yes, it was a huge moon out there. Only manage to use the Samsung NX100 with 55-200 lens and snapped a few shots. I finally hit the bed near after 3am.


What do I normally do in Singapore? Wake up, shower…quick breakfast and off I go. I did exactly the same in Korea. Big mistake was, I went out without any effort to dry my hair. And with the temperature nearing -10 degrees celcius, it was horrid out there. My mind actually went blank and it was just 1 direct target. Reach the location, no photos of the beautiful Hanyang University, the beautiful and calm sun rising.


It was great meeting everyone finally in person. All this while it was merely by Skype or MSN Messenger.


A whole day of sharing session, it was a long trip well spent. I was thankful for this opportunity.


Hanyang University.

Window seat view at the seminar room.



The product demo booths.






Catch up with wifey at night and off we went to Dongdaemun. A freezing cold Saturday night, but there were outdoor performances everywhere.



We strolled along the river all the way back to Kukdoo Hotel.