Friday, December 22, 2017

Been here, been there, been Everywhere: A Childhood Dream Come true! (South Korea)


      Dream trip to South Korea is truly a dream a come true. Since I started watching Korean dramas I have always wanted to go there and see all the beautiful landscapes and nature I see on t.v, one particular drama (Endless love: Summer Scentfired up my desire to visit the country, that lush green field I saw on t.v had me fell in love with South Korea. But moments, days and years passed that desire was gone. I was a student then so it was impossible for me to travel and then when I had my job I got busy and to be honest my pay is not enough for any travel. Looking back, it was really impossible to travel back then. Even when I started travelling, South Korea is still an impossible dream, there's the fear of not getting the visa and the amount of money I need to visit the country.

    Even when I became a fan of K-Pop, South Korea remained a distant dream. Then my fan girl heart got tired and I found myself having no desire or whatsoever about Korea. It was like a retirement stage for me. No K-Pop and no K-dramas. October last year I watched a show Three Meals A Day, it showed living in the country side.Watching the mountain, the stream and the field had me fired up again to visit South Korea. Then the next month my fan girl heart came out of retirement when I discovered a new group to fan girl with (DAY6) and so my journey to South Korea begins!

To be honest we don't plan our travel well, we are compulsive travelers and poor individuals too.
So when we go to every places the primary reason is because of a compulsive decision and would result to a "suicide" on our pocket (hahaha). We don't save for any of our travel  not even a single penny I'm pretty sure it's gonna stay that way (hahaha). My friend Taylor (FYI: his Taylor Swift and I'm Bruno Mars) asked me where I am planning to go on the term break. In my 4 years here I don't travel on term break, it's because my cousins have work and I don't want to travel alone and yeah there's the finances too. But this time without any hesitation I told him "let's go to Korea!", we got so excited about the thought but as the days passed there were a lot of things going on that it made us doubt if we can really afford to travel, I was so close on giving it up, but as I've said "it's now or never" (hahaha) Our 2 main worries are the visa (it was a painful and nerve wracking wait) and the financial aspect (hahaha). Taylor got his visa the day before our flight so it was nerve wracking to the 10th power of nerve wracking (hahaha) 

      There were 3 of us XYZ our transportation guide and the direction expert (she was forced to come with us, we need her so we can save more in our finances hahaha) she also went there 2 years ago and she was retiring from the K-world so she's not really into it (she got into it when we were there though hahaha). Taylor our budget officer, he's good with it, we survived our 15 day trip with half of our intended allowance and he's also our map guide. There's me, never mind me (hahaha) I think I'm in charge of the videos and photos.

Our route was SEOUL --> Gwangju --->Boseong (Gwangju) ---> Busan ---> Seoul
--->Namyangju---> Seoul


      Seoul is HUGE! The busiest city in South Korea. It's like being inside a time lapse, everyone's in a hurry, and the time seemed to pass by so fast. We stayed in Seoul for 10 days, it seemed long but it was not enough to explore the beautiful city. There were days that we visited some tourist spots (Hongik University, Hongdae street, Myeongdong, Bukchon Hanok Village, Gyeongbokgung Palace,) while there were days that we went to lesser known places, or we just simply walk around and discover things (Seokchon Lake, Hangang Park in Jamsil, Han river) and our trip wouldn't be complete without going to K-Pop agencies, we were lucky to see some of the JYP artist, then someone from FNC maybe a  member of SF9 or a trainee. As for SM there are two SM building the one near FNC and I think the main one is outside that area it's on the main road somewhere (am not good with direction), we tried finding CUBE but we couldn't find it, even when we went back for the second time we still couldn't find it. We went to Coex Artium, we checked out the Starfield Library and SMTOWN. Seoul is an urban place which serves as a dwelling to many people, locals and tourists alike, it's a vivid description of a typical modernized city composed of high rise buildings but amidst of this contemporary aspect, the preservation of their nature is obviously present. Seoul is a fusion of modernization and nature.

K-Pop (Agencies, SMTOWN, Starfield Library,Artists)

     Koreans don't have that warm aura in them they seem cold and they pretty much stick to themselves. There's these two incident where we witnessed angry Koreans. But what strike me is their willingness to help. I have a "not so good" experience in Singapore when it comes to asking for help, so it really strikes me that though Koreans are a bit cold  they are willing to help. We encountered two people in different situation who extended their help than necessary. There was also this moment when the bus was full packed (full packed to the 10th power of pack) and the old halmeoni (grandmother) took the bag where Skye is, she saw I was struggling with it because I was standing and people are pushing each other, she held it for me then as the ride was long her husband the old hal-abeoji (grandfather) took it from her and had Skye sit with him, they were talking to me about Skye but I can't really understand it (hahaha). Moments like these warms my heart.


Gwangju and Boseong

    We didn't get much time to explore the city but one thing that striked us was there were a lot of good looking people in Gwangju (hahahaha). It is a big city but they are more laid back and everything is just normal unlike the busy atmosphere in Seoul. Park and hills are within the city so it feels fresh to just walk around. We stayed in Gwangju cuz it's near Damyang, Boseong, and Naejangsan Park and Cheongsando Island (to be honest, we're very ambitious in our itinerary, hahaha). But we ended up going to one place only, since the  places that we want to visit are on opposite locations. We were planning to visit all three in one day but we couldn't make it. As for Cheongsando it is far from Gwangju.

Daehan Dawon Tourist Tea Plantation (Boseong Green Tea Plantaion)

    For me the green tea field was the high light of our trip! The lush green field I saw on t.v. from a long time ago was right in front of me, I was a bit emotional to be honest. It was a moment of a childhood dream come true. I lost count of how many "very beautiful" "whoa" "amazing" I uttered. I also lost count of how many times I thanked God for that wonderful creation and for giving me the opportunity to witness it. The landscape is outstanding, spectacular and amazing. The lush green, curvy rows of tea field situated between mountains and cedar trees was a magnificent site to behold! The picturesque view is truly a feast to one's eyes. To be with nature, feeling the freshness of the air is one of the best thing ever!

    After the walking tour we tried their green tea ice cream and green tea churros and chatted for a while. We met a new friend his name's Ryan while we were there and we ended up going together.
We checked out the Bamboo Forrest part, somehow it gave us a glimpse of what Damyang may look like. Then we walked for 15 minutes I think, we went to another spot . There's a pathway, we just followed it and sure enough it has a great view, the green tea field and the ocean (or was it a lake?). After feasting on the view we head back to the bus stop which we had a bit of a struggle finding. I want to stay longer but it was getting late and we have to catch the bus back to Gwangju. Even though it was just a short time I am genuinely happy and satisfied.

Getting there:
Gwangju Bus Terminal (U Square) >>> Boseong Bus Terminal (1 hour) (8,000 KRW)
From Boseong Bus Terminal ride a bus that goes to Yulpo Beach then stop at Daehan Dawon Tourist Tea Plantation (15 minutes)


    First thing I noticed? tall people! (hahaha). Gwangju got the good looking people then Busan got the tall people and Seoul definitely got the dapper and fashionistas.
So, Busan, train to Busan? (hahaha, still haven't watched it) We stayed near the Busan International Film Festival Square (BIFF Square). It is a cultural tourist attraction. It's similar to Myeongdong and Hongdae in Seoul.

      A very lively and interesting place. A lot of shops, restaurants, cafes, food stall and fashion boutique. Our AirBnb accommodation is in the center of the fashion boutiques, the fashion on display are on point. It was a temptation, like I wanna spend all our money for those clothes and bags and everything, but oh well. Jagalchi market is on the opposite side of the BIFF Square, they've got fresh seafood everywhere.  Busan is colder than Seoul.

We went to Gamcheon Cultural Village, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Haeundae Beach and at night we went to Gwangalli Beach.

     Gamcheon Cultural Village is the "Machu Picchu of Busan" because the houses are built on steep slopes, with many tiny alleys. Colorful houses, cafes and painted murals are the main attraction of the village. We went to the tourist information center, we bought a map (2000 KRW) that recommends the highlight of the village. While going around the village there are designated spot that you can collect stamps then you can win a prize if you complete it. But for us we got tired and we were in a hurry to our next destination. We saw a lot of Korean students competing to complete the task, it was fun watching them running and looking for stamps.

     We went to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple next. It is a temple by the sea, it was a pretty unique temple. It was a bit crowded, I'm not really fond of crowded places, but I still appreciate the place. My favorite spot and the highlight of our Busan trip was hidden behind those big stones, it was a hidden path. It was like a road less traveled, I'm glad we went that way. We didn't expect that we will find that cool spot, it was MY kind of place, I could stay there for a whole day. But it was freezing and we're under dress for the cold, the cold sea breeze had us chilled to our bones.

      Next destination was Haeundae Beach. Nothing much to see, since it's autumn, well there was one foreign guy swimming in that cold, it was a sight to see I guess (hahaha).While we were there the Busan One Festival was being held in different parts of the city. There was one BOF event near Haeundae. KARD and other idols was set to perform and it was for free, but we couldn't be bothered with it cuz it was very cold and we're tired and hungry, so we didn't risk our lives lining up and wait for the event (hahaha). We decided to go to Gwangalli beach and had our dinner, and head back to our place.Then the next day we head back to Seoul. Our original plan was going to Andong from Busan but we decided to visit our cousin's place near Seoul, so we didn't get to visit Andong, maybe next time.

Namyangju in Gyeonggi Province

      From Busan we went back to Seoul, then the next day we went to visit our cousin in Namyangju an hour away from Seoul. We had time catching up and she brought us to beautiful places in Namyangju. It's not part of the plan to go to her place, but when we met her and her family in Seoul we mentioned to her that we want to go to places of nature. She told us that her place is very close to nature, that got us excited and also we need to leave our big suitcase in her care.We were supposed to stay for a day but we ended up staying for two days. We had fun playing with her kids and visiting some beautiful places in Namyangju.

     First stop was Beongseonsa Temple it's a quiet place. The color of the autumn is very apparent. We walk around the place, took some photos and observe, everything about the place is what I see on Korean dramas, it's amazing. They offer a temple stay, so if you want to meditate and be with nature it's a good place to go.

     Next is Gwangneung Royal Tomb (UNESCO World Heritage). This is the Royal tomb of King Sejo and Queen Jeonhui. The place is surrounded by forest and wild plants. There are also wild animals in the area. We walked up to the tombs, it feels weird being there because somehow I had a teeny glimpse about them on the saeguk dramas I watch. It's amazing how they were able to preserve the tombs and the whole place. It is also a good place to be with nature but also weird to know that a king and queen are buried there. Looking at the tomb it sure is a peaceful and serene resting place for the king and the queen.

     The next day we went to Korea National Aboretum and Forest Museum, it was "created to magnify the importance of Gwangneung Forest, to promote public interest in trees and other plants and to provide Korean citizens with a place to enjoy the natural world" and very true to it a lot of Koreans go there to enjoy the place. It is also a place where schools can bring students for a field trip. The area is a vast stretch of forest. They have different types of forest and gardens. They have an Eco-trail and a lake. It was a tiring walk but it's worth it. The autumn leaves is so pretty that my eyes had a feast of such beauty. Lake Yukrim is like a painting come to life, the trees and the color of the autumn reflects into the lake was such a sight. There's a cafe where you can sit down and just watch the beauty in front of you. With a heavy heart again we left the place, bid our farewell to our cousin and went back to Seoul.

      Back in Seoul we went to CN Blue's Kang Minhyuk's dad restaurant because it's XYZ's idol and she visited the place 2 years ago, she want to keep it a tradition (hahaha). Then the next day we met up with Ryan we went to Seokchon Lake, had a little picnic in Hangang Park in Jamsil because it's Taylor's bucket list to stay and have a picnic beside Han river. It was a nice day for us. Then we went to Myeongdong and bought some stuff to bring back to Thailand XYZ's heading back ahead of us, me and Taylor had 3 more days left because we were supposed to watch the DAY6 concert but they changed the date so it was really a downer.

*famous restaurant in Seokchon Lake (K-dramas were filmed there)
*Lotte World Tower is 5th tallest building in the world

     Then the next day we met up with Ryan again and we went hiking in Namhansanseong. To be honest it was so tiring that I somehow wanna end my friendship with Taylor (hahahaha) cuz he wanted to hike so we hike. We struggled from the beginning riding the bus and hiking our way up to the entrance, I have asked myself why I was there for a couple of times (hahaha), but it's worth it, it's pretty at the top, you can see the city of Seoul at the peak, the landscape is perfect, the color of the the autumn, the trees, the sunset,being with nature is one of the best. The cold was biting though. We went back to the city bid goodbye to our friend Ryan, we're glad to met him, we had fun.

*photo credit to Ryan for the last two pictures

     The next day we just stayed in our room, slept whole day the effect of hiking the other day was catching up, the temperature was slowly dropping so it was really cold. We forced ourselves to go out and find something to eat. We then head to Han River it was a 10 minute walk from our accommodation, we sat there in cold like 8 degree, again under dress cuz most of our clothes are for 15 degree cold so it doesn't do much if the temperature drops down. We sat there and talked about life for 3 hours even though the cold was biting we just sat there and appreciate life, the river, the city lights and a moment of stillness, it was nice. A good way to end our day.

    The next day we went back to JYP, again Taylor's list (hahaha) but I'm glad we went back we saw a lot of JYP artist (Got7, Twice,2 PM Junho, Jeon Seomi, JYP himself, some trainees not sure if it's Stray Kids though, Baek Ahyeon we saw her on our first day) what a lucky day. After JYP we went to Myeongdong for some shopping, then we head home.

*for Twice picture credits to that kid we met (hehehe)

Then our last day, time to go back to Thailand. Separation Anxiety is kickin' in (hahaha) we don't want to leave!!!!!! Went straight to Incheon  Airport and off we go.

SKYE (The traveler teddy bear)

Final thought:

South Korea is the best place I've been so far not because of the "Oppas" (hahaha) though they're part of it. Food, convenience, good experience with the locals, toilets everywhere (this!!!!I love it), autumn and the most important is the nature. South Korea's nature had me witnessed God's many beautiful creation. Also this is the longest trip I've ever had (15 days), I somehow had a glimpse of what life is like in South Korea, to somehow see it, be part of it for a short period of time is striking and exciting. The only downer is it's expensive, but I hope to be back someday to explore and discover more pieces of South Korea.

Tips and other stuff:
*at the airport you have to go down, ride the train to go to the main building
*subway cards needs deposit whenever you purchase on the machine, after using it you can claim it on a refund machine
*shelters are on subway stations and other parts, take note where are the shelters are just in case
*they've got gas masked on each stations
*AirBnb is a good way to book accommodation (all our Korean hosts are very helpful)
*download on your phone, a very helpful application (offline app)
*download subway Korea or any subway app on your phone (very useful for route navigation)
*don't afraid to ask, there's magic in asking
*don't flag in a black taxi it's expensive
*kimbap is life! a delicious way to save up the budget, but eat as many food as you want you just have to set a specific budget for that
*bring water bottle, you can fill it up on restaurants and water stations a good way to save up the budget too
*take an umbrella always, you can use it rain or shine
*travel withe friends cuz it's cheaper and fun
*busking performances are within university area, if you enjoy music and shows it's a good place to check
*there are tourist police in some tourist spot, I'm not sure if it's place even in lesser known spots, if you need further assistance they can help you
*Bukchon Hanok Village is too crowded, it's not worth going there
*Friday and Saturday night is party time, drunk or tipsy ahjussi's are everywhere ^___^ but they're harmless, also it's time to party with friends, it could get crowed on the streets and the subway
*take time to sit down and appreciate everything around you

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