Seoul Backpacking – Places (Part II)

Hello, everyone.

Phewwwww…this is my third write up for our Seoul-Busan backpacking trip. So far so good, at least I’m doing this on a daily basis and while my mind is still fresh from the memories in South Korea.

As I’m writing this, I can’t help but to feel a bit ‘homesick’. LOL. Yeah, Korea had been my “home” for one week and I miss it dearly. Whenever Koreans asked me why I choose to travel to Korea, I always say it’s because of their culture,language,food and lifestyle that kept me coming back. And no, in my case it’s not entirely because of Kpop anymore.

So, shall we continue with some more interesting places to visit in Seoul? But to be honest I don’t really go to enough places to actually be sharing with all of you reading this. As I wrote before, me and my friends went our separate ways on our third day in Seoul so from then on, me and Shambie really spent our time in Seoul rather leisurely. Hehe. Anyway, I’ll try my best to write more. 🙂

Bukchon Hanok Village, Jong-no

This was actually the first place we went in our itinerary. Inspired by Kim Jongmin in the “Exploring Jong-no” episode in KBS variety show 1 Night 2 Days (1박 2일), we head out early to take the subway to Anguk (Line 3, Exit 3). Getting to Bukchon is not hard, but finding all EIGHT spots here is totally a different story. Though I must say we were a bit organized than Kim Jongmin in terms of finding those photo spots. LOL.

Clockwise - Erenah, Bahie, Shambie, Fizzy

If you plan to come here, please look for the tourist information counter and get the map. Most of the time there won’t be anyone in the counter, so make yourself at home. Hehe. Pick one map and plan your quest to look for all the photo spots. Thankfully we have Bahie in our group who was superb in reading the map, something which I am really not good at.

We came across a group of school students doing the same thing as us and they were so loud. It was totally understandable because they were with friends and I know I would be even louder if I were them. To see them having fun doing the task, made me smile (and miss my school friends too).

There was a kind ahjumma who speak really good English greeted us and asked us where we were from. Korean people seems to be liking Malaysia for I don’t know what reason, but that made me happy. She offered us to take photos of a Hanok (Korean traditional house), which we happily accepted. At the same time, there was a group of production crews from SBS setting up the cameras and jimmy jib at the Hanok, perhaps doing a filming later in that place. Not wanting to interfere with their job, we finished snapping photos quickly.

Bie + Erenah goofing at Hanok

As we were looking for all those photo spots, we bumped into one Korean boy, who’s shy but very generous with his smile. After bumping into each other a few times, we asked him to join us instead and he gladly accepted out invitation. We exchaged short greetings and got to know that he’s a student of Hongik University, just 20 years of age. Ahhhh, I wish I was that young!

With our limited knowledge in languages, (Hangugo for us, English for him), we managed to communicate well I think along the quest to look for the spots. We even cracked jokes (though it still amazed me how we were able to do that) and shared music (he asked us who do we like, and I said CNBLUE, so he quickly played “Intuition” for me). Awwww, our sweet Seon Gyu.

Bahie - Seon Gyu - Erenah - Shambie

Having him around made us slightly forget the aching feet and calves and it’s cute how he had to always turn to his mobile dictionary to convey something to us. LOL. I’m so gonna miss him.

If you ask me, yes Bukchon Hanok Village is recommended. Especially if you love the traditional architectures and love taking photos. Though I don’t really think you need to find ALL 8 spots because some actually looked the same. But for satisfaction, yes you should find all. Mind you please wear super comfortable shoes here, because the place is very “hilly”. And bring water!

Oh, and don’t worry if you ever got lost here. There are tour guides stationed by Korean Tourism Organization to help you with the photo spots. They are wearing red shirt, with KTO logo, you won’t miss them. In fact, they are everywhere, I mean at tourist spots like Myeongdong, Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, Insadong et cetera.

You can also find some galleries in this area. Make time to go into some of them, just to see their crafts and everything. It’s refreshing.

20110616-015900.jpg

Still not open when we arrived

Just before the last photo spot.

Insadong

Seon Gyu, being a sweet guys that he is, offered to show us to Insadong. So we walked together with him until we reached the place. It’s lunch time when we arrived in Insadong and as I had been here once last year, I tried to look for the place to have our lunch.

20110616-020637.jpg

Insadong..

Insadong, is very different from Seoul. Here you will find lots of cute cafes, and shops selling hand made dresses, shoes et cetera. Mind you these hand made goods cost a fortune as they are all well, HAND MADE. Also, local brands are more expensive than those brands we are familiar with. So don’t be surprised if you see dresses made in Korea are more expensive than ZARA or others.

Insadong is also a place where you can see many Korean crafts are being made. When we were there, we managed to see Korean women making colorful cloths from natural dyes (flowers). I’ve seen the documentary about this once but nothing beats seeing with your own eyes.

LOL I forgot to rotate!

After much circling around the area, and through the small alleys, we finally found the same place where I had my lunch last year. The restaurant served a yummy baked mackerel and it costs us 20,000 won (5,000 won each, we took 2 mackerels) for the superbly-fulfilling lunch. As you know Korean dish is always served with lots of side dishes (banchan), and they are all refill-able. So if you ever finished your kimchi, or any other banchan, ask for a refill. 🙂

20110616-020711.jpg

We had our lunch at this restaurant in Insadong

Yummy lunch, minus Seon Gyu. T__T

Too bad when we ere having lunch, Seon Gyu sat outside waiting for us. We only knew at that time that he was a Judo athlete and that he only eats chicken breast. *face palm* Imagine how guilty we felt at that time because we intended to buy him lunch after all the help he gave us but we could not. And he was again, so sweet, waiting patiently for us to finish lunch.

After walking around the place a bit, we said goodbye to Seon Gyu because he had a class to attend at 2.30 pm. We promised to meet him again next day in Hongdae and he said he would show us around.

The Ever Sweet Seon Gyu

{ Hongdae-Namsan Tower-Apgujeong }
-coming soon in part III-

Advertisements

#13 on 50 Things about Korea – Nine Tailed Fox/Gumiho (구미호)

Gumiho is a Korean folk legend. Basically a 구미호 (Gumiho – or literally translated as nine tailed fox) lives for thousands of years and is able to transform itself into a beautiful lady and seduce men before eating their livers.

However, when the tale of a Gumiho started to appear in Korean texts, it was considered as nice and in fact many of the older texts make more frequent mention of wicked humans tricking kind but naïve Gumihos. It is unclear at which point in time Koreans began viewing the Gumiho as a purely evil creature, since many of the ancient texts mention benevolent Gumihos assisting humans.

As the mythology of the Gumiho evolved it was later believed that a Gumiho had to consume human hearts in order to survive. In later literatures they are often depicted as flesh-hungry half-fox, half-human things that wandered the cemeteries at night, digging human hearts out from graves.

The story of Gumiho always appear in dramas during summer. In 2010 two TV stations KBS and SBS aired drama adaptations which depict the life of a Gumiho. SBS’ “My Girlfriend Is A Gumiho” starring Shin Min A and Lee Seung Gi attracted many k-drama lovers with its story.

OST:

Lee Seung Gi – 지금부터 사랑해 (I Love You From Now On)


While KBS’ “Grudge: The Revolt of a Gumiho” was not a disappointment either. And to be perfectly honest I preferred this drama more than MGIG. The casts for this drama include Han Eun Jeong and Jang Hyeon Seong. This drama also starred two very promising child actors; Kim Yoo Jeong and Seo Sin Ae.

Trailer:

Seoul Backpacking 2011 – Places

Good day everyone.

I hope my recent post had been of help to those thinking of going to South Korea. Actually there are still a lot more to tell you, but as I only relied on my memory to write, I was bound to leave out a few stuff that I planned to write or tell to the readers.

So my next post(s) will not be really organized, as I will just write what comes to my mind. Plus, writing a day-by-day post doesn’t really fit me because by the third day in Korea, me and my friends already “split” and we went our separate ways. That left me with my BFF, Shambie, and both of us really took our own sweet time in Seoul. LOL. Namsan Guest House was not a GUEST HOUSE to us anymore, it felt like HOME. Hehe.

Namsan 2 Guest House

It’s our HOME for four days in Seoul. And we even lazed around the guest house AFTER we checked out. LOL. The staff are helpful and very friendly, though their English might sound a bit harsh. Kkkk. I think it’s unintentional, since I know I would sound harsh too when I speak in Hangugo (Korean language). So, staff-wise, no problem at all.

The room? Ahhh, too bad I didn’t take any photo of my room (I stayed on the top floor, Twin B room), it’s a room for two. Not that spacious, but big enough for two. The shower’s nice, and there’s a flat screen TV with HUNDREDS of channels to choose from. But most of the time we would be too tired to even watch the TV shows.

There’s a computer for public use in the kitchen, and you can use everything there too. Refrigerator, gas stove, microwave, washing machine et cetera. Breakfast is prepared, around 8 am everyday. Ahjumma will prepare coffee, but you’ll need to toast your bread yourself. Hehe.

WiFi is available too. The speed is not that fast, and sometimes you’ll lose the connection all of a sudden, but speed-wise, surely it’s much faster than Malaysia’s. LOL

Me and my friends left our big luggage at the guest house for the 3 days we went to Busan. The luggage were “kept” just outside the office (which is NOT in a store room or anything) but as we had no choice, we left them there. Thank god, nothing’s missing. 🙂

So, if you ask me which place to stay, Namsan Guest House is totally recommended! Just make sure you choose, Namsan 2, not Namsan 1. The latter is wayyyyyy uphill and I don’t think I can survive climbing up the hilly alley everyday. Kkk

Myeongdong

Perhaps the place where I’ve been to the most! LOL Mainly because it’s just across the guest house and it’s a shopping haven for me. But to be honest, I didn’t shop that much even though I got the chance to. I’m not that into Kpop unlike the first time I was in Korea. Hehe. I guess people do grow up. LMAO

I just love being here, amidst the ocean of people (and couples holding hands – urghh). Most of the time you will be lured with freebies from all the cosmetic shops and in the end you’ll end up buying something. Being in Myeongdong multiple times during this trip, I learned NOT TO MAKE EYE CONTACTS with those promoters. Hahaha. Once, I even grabbed the freebies and walked away. Poor promoter she was dumbstrucked.

20110615-114931.jpg

Shopped here A LOT coz I'm CNBLUE-biased!

What to do in Myeongdong? Hrmmmmm… A LOT. Mostly required money (read: shopping) but if you know your way around, you’ll find good deals here. Lots of cosmetic shops like Holika Holika (CNBLUE+Kim Minji), Etude House (Sandara Park), Nature Republic (JYJ), Tony Moly (Song Joongki) are in Myeongdong, so if you missed one, don’t worry. You’ll find other outlets within a few hundred meters.

If you’re a Super Junior and/or Girls Generation fan, be sure to visit SPAO. The price of the garments here are quite reasonable, though the sizes are a bit smaller than Malaysian. Just ahead of SPAO, you’ll find Uniqlo, the brand Big Bang endorsed. It’s a 4 or 5-floor shop, with no escalator, unlike SPAO. Hehe. Both were having sales when I was there. So, my dad now owns a SPAO t-shirt. LOL

20110615-114229.jpg

SPAO tee for daddy

You’ll find clothes (blouse,cardigans) at the average price of 10,000 – 15,000 won in Korea. And if you buy well known brands like SPAO or Uniqlo, the price might be doubled (though the satisfaction is indescribable). But my personal favorite in Myeongdong is clothes from Cordi Factory (actually I’m not sure of the name.. but it’s Cordi something..), so sorry I forgot the real and correct name of the outlet.  The price of the clothes here vary, starting from 3,000 won and they are of good quality too.

How to find the shop? First look for SPAO (you won’t miss it), then go into the alley opposite SPAO. There are lots of shops selling bags for 10,000 each on your right, and Cordi Factory is the third or fourth shop on your left. Sorry if  my info is inaccurate, if you ever found this shop, please let me know of the details. I was too engrossed looking at the cheap clothes (and buying them) I forgot to jot down the details. LOL

Namdaemun

Namdaemun

credit: Michael McDonough

I love this place. I know my mom will love it too if she ever comes here. This is where you should be buying all your souvenirs to be brought home (okay, either here or Dongdaemun). Like Myeongdong, Namdaemun Market is HUGE. You can find almost everything here.

There are a number of gates into this market, but the easiest for me to get is from exit 2 of Myeongdong subway. Once you got out from exit 2, you will see Shinsegae shopping complex and cross the street to go to Namdaemun just behind it. Or was it beside? LOL. Either way you won’t miss Namdaemun.

Our sole quest for the day was to look for authentic Korean brooches for our moms and aunts and colleagues back home. So Shambie and I head out to Namdaemun in search of that. But my oh my we underestimated the size of this market so after about two hours we finally found the brooch shops.

And luck was on our side, thankfully, as we met the same seller that we bought the brooch from last year. We met Benny, and I told him I remembered him going to our tour guide’s room in Gangnam selling brooches March last year. He was shocked, but happy that we actually remembered him, so without asking, hello D-I-S-C-O-U-N-T!! Hehehe.

He brought us to his mother’s shop and hers were even more beautiful!! Me and Shambie actually had to stop looking as each new box she showed us, we were like, “O.o.. pretty!! Kyaaa!! So nice!! Omo, the color!! Aaaaa…” We ended up buying more than we did at Benny’s stall. Haishhh, he’s one helluva good businessman I tell you. LOL

Benny speaks good English too. I have his contact number and email, so if you need them, just let me know. Mention my name <Fizzy> from Malaysia, and ask him if he could give you more discounts. Hehehe.

And oh, in Namdaemun we managed to eat Kebab too!! It’s sold by a Muslim. He’s a Pakistani if I’m not mistaken. The small kebab stall is situated outside the market, it’s one of the many stalls near the main road. If you hear Al-Quran recitals then you’re not far from the stall. Again, I can’t give you the exact location of this stall. We found it by luck too, after being ‘lost’ looking for the brooch shops. Hehe. But to finally be eating chicken meat, we were so satisfied. Burpppp.

You can buy “I Love Korea” t-shirts here too. But don’t quickly buy at the first shop you found. Look around first. My friend got it for 10,000 per piece, while others (that I met at the guest house), got 3 pieces of the shirts for the same price.

In my opinion, you need to spend at least one whole day here. There are just so much things to do,look at, and finally buy. I didn’t get a chance to visit here last year, that’s why I made sure Namdaemun is in my itinerary. It should be in  yours too.

-part 2 coming soon-

Seoul Backpacking 2011 – Do(s) and Don’t(s)

Annyeonghaseyo.

It’s been about five days since I left Korea (Seoul and Busan) but I think I left my soul there. Even until now, I still remember the feeling of waking up to the cool morning breeze in Namsan (Seoul) and Oryukdo (Busan). Ahhh.. how I missed that!

Woke up to this view every morning in Oryukdo,Busan

I was too tired (too much walking and traveling) during my backpacking trip to actually update on a daily basis while I was in Korea. I hope my mind will remember each and every detail of my happy yet very emotional trip in June.

Everywhere I went in Seoul and Busan, I always think of the tips that I should share with those going to Korea soon. Alas, none of them were nicely jotted down in writing or in my iPhone, hence once again, I shall rely on my mind to recall them all. LOL

It was a happy trip, but I had to endure some emotional breakdowns throughout the stay. I had to put up with some unnecessary bad vibes which kinda ruin my vacation but hey.. I’m a cool person, and Korea is way too cool too to bring me down. So as always, I IGNORED, and indeed it was a bliss.

So, what should you do before going to Korea? Don’t think too much. I hope my list will help you plan your trip better.

  1. If you’re going on a backpacking trip with your friends (or family), do plan your trip TOGETHER. List what do you wanna do in Seoul or where you wanna visit, then sit down and discuss. The key is to have each and everyone’s interest is taken into account. Remember, PLAN TOGETHER.
  2. Pack light. Like seriously. If you’re going for your first trip to Seoul, you’re bound to be tempted by all the souvenirs that you can buy for your loved ones (brooch, key chains, ‘I LOVE Korea’ t-shirt etc). And if you’re a Kpop fans, it’s even WORSE for your luggage. LOL. So pack light. You can always wash your clothes at the hotel. (Though this doesn’t really apply if you’re going in winter).
  3. Using a smartphone? Bring your travel charger for longer lasting battery life. If you’re an iPhone user, I personally recommend you to buy the MiLi Power Spring as it is very useful during my trip. I was never ran out of battery! The key is to always fully charge at night when you sleep, and you’ll last the whole day snapping photos and videos or using WiFi on your iPhone. Do Google MiLi for more products, as it supports other phone brands too, not only Apple.
  4. Bring along a universal plug adapter. You can find them anywhere in Malaysia, but if you forgot to buy it before your trip, don’t panic and don’t ever buy it at the airport (coz it’s super expensive there)! You can always buy it in Korea (Family Mart sells them at much cheaper price!). South Korea uses the same kind as Europe. Please refer here and here.

    The type of universal adapter I used

    try to AVOID this type of adapter.

  5. Bring some local food with you. Maggi cup or sambal ikan bilis or serunding. Why did I suggest the last two? Because you can easily buy the rice at the 24-hour shops like 7-Eleven, Family Mart or G25 and pop it in the microwave for a couple of minute. This is just in case instant noodle is not enough. And since Shin Ramyeon is not advisable to eat. Read here.
  6. Korea (Seoul and almost every inch of the country) is ‘built’ on hills. I can’t even recall walking on a flat ground during my trip (okay, exaggeration. LOL), but frankly most of the time you will need to climb up a hill to go somewhere. And the exits in all the subways requires you to climb lots of stairs too. So, the conclusion is..? Bring your comfortable shoes to walk around, high heels doesn’t work in Korea except for the locals. And don’t forget to bring some ointment or any kind or hot balm to massage your super-tired-and-aching-feet after a day’s walk. Seriously.
  7. Get to know the Korean subway system. It may look super confusing with all the NINE LINES, but believe me anyone can survive it. Though to save you from the aching feet I would suggest you to study the BUS route instead. LOL. But buses are not tourist-friendly like the subways.
  8. Learn the basic Korean greetings or phrases, enough to get you get by while buying stuff at Namdaemun, Dongdaemun or Myeongdong. This will make the Koreans excited to see you can speak in their language and then they will start talking in Hangugo (Korean language) and you’ll start panicking coz you only know a little bit. Don’t be, tell them you only speak a little bit of Korean. English is rarely spoken in this country, and even if some Koreans do, the pronunciations make it hard for you to comprehend.

Now that you’ve read what you need to prepare before your trip, what more do you have to do while you’re in Korea? Let me suggest some. 🙂

  1. Buy the T-Money card. Go to Family Mart (or anywhere that sells it) and get the card for the price of 3,000 won. Then, you have to reload it with any amount that you want. For my one week stay, I reloaded 20,000 won and I still have about 8,000 won balance. T-money (or Seoul City Pass), not only work with subways. You can use it for buses, taxis and also as payment for entrance to some places.
  2. Rigid itinerary (travel plans) ONLY work with guided tours. If you plan on your free and easy backpacking trip with friends or family, the itinerary should be flexible. You don’t have to follow each and every one of your plan because when you’re actually there, things sometimes do not go as planned. So, flexibility is crucial. If you can’t go somewhere, perhaps it should be in your itinerary the NEXT TIME you go to Seoul. 🙂
  3. As you’re traveling in a group, be considerate to everyone in it. As mentioned in #2, flexibility is important, so is listening to your friends’ point of view. Always check if your friends are doing fine during the trip. If someone looked tired or sick, take a rest. Enjoy the view. The key is to always be together. (Ironically I didn’t achieve this in my last trip. T__T)
  4. Try the local food as much as you can. Yes! You should. I’m a Muslim, and unlike what most people think, I don’t really have any problem looking for food in Korea. If you love ttokbokki (rice cake in spicy sauce), look for the ones without sausage in it. The ones I bought have fish cakes, so it’s okay. When you wanna buy kimbap (rice rolled in seaweed; like sushi), asks the ahjumma to put away the ham (sausage). That leaves you with veges and fried eggs. Alternatively, ask for tuna kimbap (참치 김밥 – Chamchi Kimbap). I failed to try Odeng (오뎅) because I always came back late, and the hawker already closed his stall, but you should try it! It’s fish cake on a skewer boiled in water or soup. 
  5. Seoul is a cruel city for the singles. Yup. You will see couples EVERYWHERE, and some are even doing ‘skinship’ like nobody’s business. LOL. So in that sense, if you’re single, or travelling without your better half, you’re bound to be a) jealous ; or b) sick of the overly-touchy-touchy couples in Seoul. LOL
  6. Walk fast. Yup, literally. Koreans walk around so fast (especially in subways) you’ll feel like you’re rushed. It may be hard to adapt at first but by the second or third day you’ll get used to this. 🙂
  7. Stand on the RIGHT side of the escalator if you don’t plan on climbing it. Yes, in Malaysia, we always stand on the left, and people will walk up the escalator on the right. In Korea, it’s the other way around.
  8. Asking for discounts is not the Korean culture. So do not ask for too much discounts for stuff as it will irritate the seller. Be reasonable, and if you think the seller is okay then ask for more. The most they can give (in my experience) is about 3,000 won off the original price.

The trip ends, so what should you do after your trip to Korea? I can only suggest one, coz this is what I do each time my trip to Korea ends.

Plan another trip to Korea, coz six or seven days in Seoul is definitely not enough. There are still so many more places (and cities) you need to visit. LOL