Showing posts with label South Korea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Korea. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Korea Trip: Seoul Final Part

On our last day in Korea, MR and I set off at about 9 am. We were still in our sight-seeing mode so we went straight to see King Sejong's statue which is erected in the middle of the city. He's known as Sejong the great for his great achievements during his reign. It was during his time Hangul was created. The Sejong museum was closed since it was Monday. Terasa rugi di situ.. :(

And just a few meters in front of it, stood the Admiral Yi Sun Sin statue

Alamak x nampak pulak muka dia..Actually, this statue is very scary!! Why? Because where ever I stood, it seem to be staring at me!!! haha
He is regarded as a national hero for leading quite a number of victorious battle in his era. 

Actually, Kyeongbuk Palace was nearby and it was opened. But since we want to visit Changdeokgung palace, we only took some pics in front of the gate

And this is Gwanghamun Nangsaro; a rice farm in Gwanghamun Square. There are more than 1000 boxes of rice seedling here and this is actually the government's effort to give better understanding to the citizens of  farming villages and promote the idea that urban and rural areas can coexist successfully :)

So, on our way to Cheonggyecheon stream by foot, we saw about 2 to 3 preserved buildings like this one. They are decades and centuries old!!! (^^) Sangat kagum!!!!

This is the beginning of Cheonggyecheon stream. What so special about this stream?? It was once covered with concrete for 20 years and was completely restored and opened to public in 2005. Why was it covered?? Well, after the Korean War, many Koreans migrated to Seoul and made settlements along the stream. The stream was a sore sight at that time with trash floating about and foul smell from waste. So they decided to cover it up and in the 70's a highway was built on top of it. But in 2003, the mayor that time decide to restore the stream and voila it is now one of the must-see attraction in Seoul. The stream also comes with other economic and environmental  benefits as well :)

It was almost empty that morning. Only MR and I, 4 gentlemen from Thailand and some Koreans on their way to work. We had breakfast at the river bank (^^) Ooo sangat feel~

What we don't know was, there is actually a laser show every night and in special occasions, lanterns are lit along the river. So kawan2, jangan lupa pegi Cheonggyecheon stream pada waktu malam!

And then we continue to walk towards Changdeokgung dan dan dan IANYA TUTOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


T_T isk isk.. This is the 2nd biggest frustration in Korea since I really want to see how the palace is like inside, marvel at the architecture and learn about Joseon Dynasty (nerd bha kn ko ni, Haziah?? :p)
so with a heavy heart, we head towards Insadong for SHOPPING!!!!!!!! \(^^)/ Penawar hati~

Actually, I manage to control my shopping habit for the past 2 years and  focused on saving for my travels.. But in Seoul I had an episode of shopaholic relapse! This was when my precioussssssss magic golden plastic card come in handy. I bought that bag so that I can stuff everything inside as I shop so there's no need to pack again later. I think this was nifty :p but what I didn't realize was, the space was so big that I tend to buy and buy and buy until it is fat and heaped! And Voilla! RM 1k in my credit card bill.. Not much, right?? WRONG! I also spent cash there.. So banyak sebenarnya!!! 

Here comes Tips #2: Use your credit card because the currency conversion rate is much lower! 

The rate that we got at the money changer was 1000 won = 2.79 but in the bill it's 1000 won = 2.76!

And now show off time.. What I bought in Korea! Actually, there's nothing much. I'm just excited to have them :p

The bracelets I bought in Hongdae (^^) 
MR: Ceh! Tak perlu la nak shining2 dalam gamba

The tin cup that I bought in DMZ
I think this cup look so classical and it has this history-like aura :p

And my favourite of all is this travel board that have flag tiles so you can mark where you've been and wanna go (^^)/ But I haven't decide where to hang it :P

Remember the Swiss guy that I sat next to during our DMZ tour.. When he asked about my age and whether I'm married or not, I answered, "I'm 2*.. At this age most women in our country are already married. But me and my friends choose to travel first.." Then he said, "Oh it's okay. That means you don't want to be conventional, you want to explore the world and see things. Travel is EDUCATION.."

Yup, we learned a lot during this trip..

First, the warmth that we receive from the Koreans. So often our society is shackled by prejudice. Almost everything new is assailed with accusation of conspiracy and whatnot. But in Korea, we were different and was a new sight to Koreans who are not from Seoul. Despite the apparent difference in language and the way we dress, they greeted us with a smile and assisted us sincerely when we needed help. And the most memorable part was when we were provided with a room for prayer. This is a good exemplary of acceptance and respect to others. 

Second, we learnt the importance of tolerance... The Korean suffered a lot during the Korean War and was still struggling to gain stability in the late 50's. If both the North and South does not resolve to tolerate and let the other be with the principles they hold, the blood shed could have last to this day like in so many other countries at the other parts of the world. During the DMZ tour, you can sense how the Korean really appreciate the peace that they have now because they've gone through bitter times.. This somehow taught us to be grateful as well...

We also saw how the integrity instilled in each of them has driven this country to another level which is far from ours. We witnessed the efficiency of the country from utilizing all improvised systems. We talked about how they manage to do a quicker flight boarding, how they can make the traffic in a big city so smooth during the rush hour, how there is no congestion in the subway during the rush hour and many other competency that made us awe-struck..

To think of it, it is not that we are lack of technology but it got to do with the system, attitude and mentality. Sometimes, we have the facility but not fully utilized. We developed new systems but what's lacking was never improvised. And the saddest part is when people refuse to adapt to new systems and continue to be stuck in the old fashioned way because they are used to it and too comfortable with it.

Hurm.. Actually, I can't wait for my next adventure.. I just love being in a new surrounding, meeting new people and learning what ever there is to be learnt... I hope you learn something too.Off to survey some video cams (^^)/

Friday, August 3, 2012

Korea Trip: Seoul Part 4

I say, HH should be the most excited about going to Nami Island. She talked about wanting to wear skirt on that day and cycling around the island during our chat in FB. For my part, I wasn't too excited about this place which is famous for the shooting place for 'Winter Sonata'. The romantic aura that it is said to evoke has no effect on me plus it is quite far from Seoul; 2 hours journey. But, when I found out there's a Bungee Jump there and a 900++ m Zipwire,  Nami Island became one of the attraction that I was waiting for.

GG: HH, Jangan pakai skirt unless ko tak nak Bungee Jump
HH: Olo.. Nanti aku tukar la suar balik
GG: Heh! Sukati la!

So on that morning we set off early; around 8 am after breakfast. Took the ITX and head straight toward Gapyeong station. All seats were full so we bought the standing ticket.

Despite the journey being two hours (plus we were standing), the beautiful scenery somehow made it less daunting for me. I was staring out the window along the way and paid little attention to the others' conversation. SJ even accused me of thinking about he-who-doesn't-know but actually I was enjoying the scenic transition from the urban and highly populated view to the more country side view where there were hills and greenery everywhere. Ok, mungkin ada la terlintas di fikiran beberapa minit haha x mo menipu :p

When we reached Gapyeong, we were slightly confused by the bus schedule. Luckily there was an old lad who looks like a tour guide who was able to speak English and he explained to us how to go to Nami Island. The bus was full but not all were going to Nami. Actually Nami is located in a district that offers lots of recreational activities so some of them were going for a picnic somewhere and some were going for hiking in which you can clearly tell from their hiking suit.

The first thing that came into view was the Bungee Jump platform so we decided to do the jump first. We were not sure about the height. I estimated it to be around 30-40 m but actually the platform is 55 m.

Here's the video before the jump. Mate kenyit2 sebab sangat la silau. Not wearing my sunnies because we left all our belongings with MR who was not feeling well so she cancelled her jump.

So, firstly, we paid for the ticket. Cost us 40 000 won. Then we weigh ourselves on an electronic scale and the staff added 2 kg to our weight and scribbled the total weight on our hand with a marker pen. There are 3 different colour chords. Yellow is for 40 kg - 60 kg; I can't remember the other colours but yeah, different weight range uses different chord. I was surprised to see my weight. I lost 2 kg in Korea!!!!!!!!! We waited for about an hour for our turn since the queue was quite long. So we watched the others jump; most of them were silent..

GG: Ni diam ni sebab brani sangat ke takot ek? Aku rse takot ni...

So RA was called first, but then while she was waiting for her turn, SJ, HH and I was called to the lift. So finally, I was the first to jump. During the briefing, we were told to jump after the count of 5 and we must cover our face during the first bounce to avoid from the chord hitting the face. Tapi aku x ingat suda masa jump tu haha so, please cover your ears when playing this video :p

Actually, I wasn't scared at all. I didn't even feel any adrenaline rush as I stood at the edge of the platform. The moment I heard bungee, I jumped without hesitation and screamed on top of my lungs \(^^)/ I told my friends, "Aku nak jerit sekuat hati!" but I think my voice was actually amplified by the 3 ladies who were watching me on the platform. I'm very sure I heard them screamed

How does it feel?? AWESOME!!!! This is one of my life goal (chewah!) so now I can cross it hehe but still I'll do the 100 m jump in NZ if I have the chance to. Well, at first, it felt like flying especially as you spread you arms in the air. You can feel the gravity pulling you down and yes I did feel that sensation when you feel like as if your heart is left some where above you. I remember thinking, "Betul ke ade harness ni??" as I fall because it felt like nothing is attached to me. The scariest part was during the first bounce. It was as if the world spun upside down. Yup, I was slightly terrified by the bounce and I forgot to cover my face.

One more thing, if you're at the lower end of the weight range, the bounce will be higher and it is more unstable.. Like mine (Kurus (^^)v)

This one is HH's video

And she proved my theory right: DIAM ITU TAKOT

After the jump we went to the Zipwire ticket booth and was surprised to find that it only operates at certain hour. When we were there, the next ride was 1.40 pm and we have about an hour. So we bought the ticket which includes the ferry ticket from Nami to the wharf. So while waiting, we bought another return ferry ticket to Nami and explored Nami a bit.

Sebab gambar yang macam ini lah aku beli tripod. Lebih reliable :P

That's me and RA getting ready for our ZipRide.

It is quite pricey for a few minutes ride; cost 38 000 won. But the experience was worth it. We got a spectacular view from the ride. You can see the whole area clearly and you can see people doing water sports below you. O ya, when I googled about Nami, most blog only talked about the beauty and the famous trees. None mentioned about the variety water sports in nami. They have water ski, flying fish, parasailing and whatnot. Kalo sy tau, msti sy bawak baju lebih!

This is Nami Island's map. RA said, "Patot name pulau ni Pulau Karipap." yes, its shape does look like a karipap and actually it is big! Kalo jalan kaki memang penat la.. So we just stroll around, wading our way in the crowd. It was very crowded that day and to me Nami is just another park. Beautiful, yes, but it's just another park.. Can't beat all the nature wonders we've seen at other parts of Korea

So, I granted HH wish to cycle around the island by agreeing to cycle around with her while the others ride the tram. It wasn't as easy and as romantic that we thought it would be. There were too many people walking about so we had to be very careful not to hit any of them. And finally, we performed our prayer at the Musolla and head back towards Seoul. That night we were suppose to go for the Hangang River cruise but we cancelled it because we were too exhausted and some of us wanted to go shopping :)

We had Turkish food that night (^^) I was actually ok with the cancellation because my right ankle was hurting really bad that night. So MR and I went straight to our guesthouse after dinner. The other 3 went for shopping. I don't know what time they came back, but I remember they were already gone for more shopping by the time I woke up for Fajr prayer haha SEMANGAT!!!

To be continued....

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Korea Trip: Seoul Part 3

So.. Our next stop after DMZ was a ginseng tea house located in Hongdae. Realizing that the Nanta Theatre is only a few blocks away, we decided to walk to the theatre after the tour ended. On the way, we stopped at the Hongdae Flea Market; located in a small park, opened only during weekends. This is where local amateur artists showcase and sell their art works. Very interesting indeed.

I think he's the most famous artist because people were queuing to get their faces drawn in cartoon. The line was too long that I don't even bother though I do find that intriguing.

So as we were walking among the Koreans, suddenly a handsome Caucasian guy in red shirt approached us

Handsome guy: Hi. Do you speak English?
Us: Yes . We do.
Handsome guy: Good! We have this project called insideoutproject where we take the facial portrait of people from 22 participating countries.... bla bla bla.. So, would you like to participate??
RA: We would love to! It'll be our pleasure

\(^^)/ Yes, we were excited!!!

They are actually doing this for a good cause whereby they capture facial portraits of people from all over the participating countries and each of them will come with a special message. The website says that this is an effort to tell the world of the untold stories around the world. After strolling around a bit, we head straight to the Nanta theater. It was quite hidden so it took us some time to find it; the large crowd of shoppers was giving us a hard time too *skali lagi sign of aging.. X suka crowd..*

So what is this all about?? Ini adalah among the most heart touching moment when we were in Korea.. The story goes like this.. The show starts at 5pm and we were about an hour early and wanted to perform our prayer first. There was this very convenient area for prayer on that floor but I noticed there was a cctv there. So, I actually asked the receptionists whether we could use that space for prayer

Receptionists: Prayer???
GG: Yes prayer. *sambil buat gaya takbiratul ihram*
Receptionists: Prayer??? *masih nda faham*
GG bermonolog dalaman: Ni mesti nda pernah tengok orang solat ni

So I did some actions that I think was more familiar to them and they exclaimed excitedly as if they've just solved a tough puzzle

Receptionist: 기도!!!! (KIDO!!!)

They told us to wait for moment and we did. We waited and waited and waited and I finally went to the counter again to ask her whether we could use the area again. And she typed something in her computer and later wrote on a piece of paper and yup, that was what written on the paper. And guess what, the manager actually provide us with a very cozy room for prayer T_T BAEK KAN!!!!!???

Ohoho terharu sangat.. We did our prayer and also had our lunch inside this room :) Alhamdulillah

 Nanta show is actually a musical comedic show about four cooks preparing a wedding banquet. The best thing about the show is that they turned kitchen utensils into percussion instruments. The beat was slower in the beginning and become faster and faster throughout the show. There was one part where the cooks sang in harmony by just pronouncing the names of vegetables.. "Cucumbaaaaa..." Cabbageeeee" "Tomatoooooo" "Onioooooon~" Surprisingly sedap dorang nyanyi!
And at the end of it, all the actors and the actress performed the traditional Korean percussion so we get to experience Korean culture as well.

So this is the ticket. You can buy it online; cost us around RM 135. See bottom left, there's my name there! There are 2 other theaters in Seoul; one in Myeongdong and the other one in Gangbuk Jeong Dong. We opted here because of the Hello Kitty Cafe and because there were no seats in Myeongdong theater for that date.. I mean the front seats were full.. X mau duduk blakang bha :p

That glass building is the Nanta theater. I'm actually holding a card holder that I bought in Lotte World. Each of us have that to make it easier to carry our T money around. Hung it around our neck and just place the card holder on top of the sensor and voila! the subway gate will open \(^^)/ mudah!

The Hello Kitty Cafe is also in Hongdae so after the show we went there to have coffee. Again, it was hard to locate the cafe because it is actually hidden in this very narrow alley so you have to be very watchful of the baby pink cafe

Hurm.. Other than the cute presentation of the food and drinks and the pinky surrounding; I actually find nothing interesting. Plus, this coffee house was not as clean as the other coffee houses that we went to. But it is still worth to go here. That waffle was tasty and so was my mocha. (^^)

Next we rushed back to our guesthouse because we have to check in into another guesthouse and at the  counter I was being soooo apologetic because I'd left the key inside the room. After my effort to explain what happened in my most apologetic tone ever the guy at the counter replied me with a straight face, as if nothing happened "It's ok. I already got the key."

GG "O man.. Kalo di Malaysia kena marah suda aku ni (-_-")"

And after that we rushed to the Namsan Tower because we know it'll deny visitors after 10 pm

And the queue was snaking long!!! Like extremely snaking long!!!! The cable car station is a 3 storey building and the length of the queue extended to the outside of the entrance! As we stood outside the building, we could see the line coiled at the stairs of each level through the glass window.. 

"OMG! Panjangnya.."

And guess what, we were already inside the cable car within less than an hour! Sangat efficient! \(^^)/

Bare in mind, the cable car ticket is NOT inclusive of the Namsan Tower entrance fee. And one more thing, you'll be given a number and people holding certain number can only accesss Namsan tower at a given time. Hurm.. For instance, number 1 to 10 can enter at 8 pm and 11 to 20 enter at 9 pm. Yup, something like that..

The panoramic view of the city from Namsan Tower... 

There is one corner where you can send postcards to your loved ones..

I was the only one who didn't send any. The rest bought cute postcards at the gift shop and wrote to their family. I actually wanted to write to my mom because I think she would give a more favourable respond than my dad. But then I don't know what's her mailing address since she retire because all letters used to be addressed to her office hehe So.. I just stroll around, bought some stuffs for my family at the gift shop and I got my favourite souvenir here too! which I will show in another post, that is (^^)

This is another section at the tower where they have wooden tiles pasted on the walls. The shop selling these was closed so we didn't paste any message on the wall T_T

And yes I did leave a lock there. I bought it that evening in Hongdae. We have no marker pen, so what I did was, I tore a small piece from a price tag sticker and stick it on the lock and wrote my name hehe That is more to desperate than creative kan :P HH wrote a very long note and attached it to her lock. I don't know what she wrote, though.. 

Maybe I am a woman with less words.. haha pasti ada yang mau bantah statement ini :p

GG have dreams...

And we were among the last to leave the tower. hehe .

This was the night when I did the massive picture upload on facebook because HH and I got the VIP room and the internet wireless router was in our room haha \(^^)/

Friday, July 27, 2012

Korea Trip: Seoul Part 2

Our second day activity should be the one that I've been waiting for \(^^)/ the DMZ tour!!!

Initially we'd wanted to go there on our own. That's by train from Seoul station to Imjingak via the Gyeongui line. But after considering that we have to be extra punctual because we have to catch the Nanta Show in Hongdae in the evening, we finally agree to go for the tour.

We saw some brochures at the receptionist counter at the guesthouse and found some very cheap half-day DMZ tour. The one that we took cost 41 000 won. It says there on the brochure that we can make a booking within 24 hours so I was in a hurry and sent an email. When they didn't reply as quick as I expect them to, I called them after our prayer in Itaewon central mosque. Surprisingly, the booking was extremely quick. They only asked for my name, how many person and our lodging address. I was out from the phone booth in less than 5 minutes.

MR: Dah ke? Kejapnye
GG: Dah. Errr.. Tu la gg pon konpius kejap sangat
MR: Confirm 41 000??
GG: Erk? Meh nak confirm balik

So.. On the 23rd June, at 7.40 am, the bus waited for us in front of the guesthouse. We were late! We were suppose to check out that morning and move to another guesthouse and and and I'd left the room key inside the room instead of the counter.. O MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our extremely cute tour guide

The bus was full. I sat next to a very nice Swiss businessman.

GG: HH, orang sebelah aku dari pergunungan Alps!
HH: Tengok die pakai jam brand ape weyh!
GG: Eyh?? Jap jap aku x nampak brand die!!! (-_-") stress!

DMZ was not far at all! It took about 20 minutes to get there. On the highway, we can see North Korea just across this very wide river. No boat was sailing on the river; that's forbidden. There was also no aeroplane in the airspace; that's forbidden too. There were barbed wire fences along the river bank and there were watch towers  in every 200-300 meters *rough estimation*. 

Along the way, our tour guide told the history of the Korean War. The history goes back to when Japan was in power. The Soviet declared war against Japan and towards the end of the World War II, the Soviet have occupied the northern part of Korea. Then, Korea was divided into north and south by this agreement made by the victorious Allies. The US was to administer the south while the Soviet administered the north. So that's how the North becomes the Communist while the south becomes the Capitalist. So, the Korean War started when the North invaded the South on June 1950. It lasted for about 3 years and the Korean suffered a lot from the war. The tour guide repeatedly say, "We don't war anymore" as she tells us the story. Our first stop was Imjingak

Imjingak has a 3-storey observatory building but I didn't spend much time there because I wanted to see the displays that they have in the park. Met a Korean fella with his Mongolian friend on my way down. They asked me where I'm from and then the ayam-itik conversation starts again. I got used to it after 6 days in Korea hehe 

So, what else do they have in Imjingak...

This altar; Mangbaedan altar. I didn't take the whole picture of it because there were so many tourists. Anyway.. this altar is where the North Korean do their annual ancestral rites ceremony where they'll bow towards their homeland on new year. There's a plate that tells how the North Korean still hope for unification and still dream of going back to their homeland. Rasa macam mo menangis jak masa baca tuh T_T o sedihnya tu kalo aku x dapat balik pi Sabah suda~ emosi..

This rusty locomotive was derailed by bombs during the Korean war. There are 1022 bullet holes on the locomotive!

And this is the Freedom Bridge. It was originally one of the two railroad bridges on the Gyeongui line that was later destroyed during the Korean War. The west bridge was then restored to enable the return of 12 773 prisoners of war. The prisoners returned on foot and they yelled "FREEDOM!! FREEDOM!!" as they walk back towards South Korea. That's how the bridge got it's name

Next the  3rd Infiltration Tunnel

There are four infiltration tunnels dug by the North Korean. The first 3 was found in the 70's while the last one was found in 1990. We were not allowed to take pictures in it. I think there must be a good reason why they don't allow tourists to take pictures so, yeah, we didn't. This is a very interesting place! \(^^)/ (for nerds like me..)
The tunnel is actually inclining so we have to go down and then walk for about 300m until the first concrete barricade that is used to block the tunnel. The height of the tunnel is said to be 2m but I think it's lesser than that now that they have those metal pipes on the ceiling. We were given helmets so we don't knock our heads on those pipes. I'm short so I walk erect all the way. But you can hear 'thud.. thud.. thud' bunyi kepala orang terhantuk haha

The most interesting part is how they found the tunnel!!!! 
Well, the south intelligence only know that the north is digging a tunnel in DMZ area and it is located just beneath an area that has trees.. Ok smart.. How are they going to narrow that down?? You know what they did? They placed many many PVC pipes filled with water in the suspected areas and after 3 years, suddenly one of the pipe burst and the water shoot up to the sky and that was how they found the tunnel.

The north tried to cover it up by saying they were actually mining coal and even painted the walls with coal. But it was obvious that they were making the tunnel for invasion because there are no coal in that area.. Only granite. 

Next.. Dorasan Station and Dorasan Observatory

This is the Dora Observatory which is situated on top of Mount Dora. Inside the bus, the guide told us we are going to climb the mountain by foot and HH and I were so happy about it \(^^)/ "Yeay!" but later she said she was just kidding.. Memang kami suka naek gunung kan.. :P

They actually restrict photo taking beyond that yellow line. So I didn't get any nice shots of North Korea due to my non-modifiable height :p. The army stationed there are very strict. There was a guy who took some pics beyond the yellow line, an army shouted with a very stern voice, "NO PICTURES BEYOND THE YELLOW LINE PLEASE!" took the camera and I think he deleted the pictures. You can get a glimpse of the north side through the binoculars by inserting a 500 won coin. You can see the Propaganda Village and a city called Kaesong

Kejayaan MR :)

You know, as I stood there, I was actually allured by the enigmatic quality of the North Korea. Maybe someday I'll find a way to visit that country that most people know so little about.. Bole masok dalam wish list :).

 We then moved to Dorasan station, the last station in South Korea that are now left abandoned. Once upon a time, long long ago (to make it sounds epic sket), there used to be a train that carries goods from Kaesong to the South but then one day the North Korea decided to close the border. If unification ever happen and this station is reopened, we could go to Europe by train from Seoul via the trans siberian railway \(^^)/ tapi bila la tu kn....

The tour bus actually will either drop you at the city center or in Itaewon but luckily it made a stop at this ginseng shop in Hongdae so kami turun di sana jak la.. Okay.. ketara kan sy sangat excited about DMZ that I wrote this lengthy post about it though this is actually a half-day tour.

So to be continued lah! (^^)