Korean Escapade 2010: Reflections from the Dae Han Min Guk Dream Trip

The trip to Korea was really an adventure of a lifetime. Korea is one country which I think is supposed to be enjoyed and experienced with travel buddies and friends. So it was really a good idea that I was with them during this Korean adventure. I do have some reflections and lessons which I would like to share:

image from theepochtimes.com

1)      If you survived the tunnel, you can survive anything. This is one catchphrase that we invented after surviving the 3rd tunnel at the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone). We really had a challenging time navigating the tunnel because of its inclination/slope. It was easy enough to go down but it was really difficult to climb up. Our muscles protested; our lungs felt like they were going to burst; and we felt like we were going to faint. So after the experience, we surmised that if we have indeed survived the said tunnel, we can survive anything that life would bring us.

A drawing of the 3rd tunnel, DMZ, October 2010

2)      A hotel near the subway is very favorable. Our hotel was about 10-15 minutes from the nearest subway station. We had actually a good exercise every time we walk towards the subway station. However, during the night, it can really be an inconvenience because we were tired already and we cannot walk that distance anymore. So, next time (if we have the chance to go there again), we plan to get a hotel near the subway.

3)      A guided trip is another option worth looking into. We planned our trip according to our preferences: places to visit; food to eat and stuff that we wanted to buy. So we ended up planning the mode of transportation to use or having last minute adjustments or change of plans because of unexpected circumstances. While there are numerous advantages of having your own trip planned, I think a guided trip would be beneficial as well with a guide, transportation, and the like – all taken cared of.

4)      Walking is therapeutic. During this trip, I’ve walked so great a distance than I have ever walked in my entire life. I’m not complaining, the exercise did me a lot of good. But aside from all that walk-out (er work out), walking is a form of therapy for me. While walking, I had the chance to reflect and meditate on things; on life. I also had the time to appreciate the surroundings which I did not have the time to do back in Manila because I was busy.

Walking in Nami Island, South Korea, October 2010

5)    Always be ready with extra cash, otherwise, stick to the budget. One thing I learned from this trip is that it is very important to stick to the budget. Going to all the mall and markets can be really overwhelming most particularly when one sees various and numerous items which one wants to purchase. I have made some impulsive purchases but luckily I was still within my budget. It was a good thing too that I only purchased some stuff prior which I needed; so much so that when I made those on-the-spot purchases, I still had money left.

Korean Won, October 2010

6)      Have Fun. Traveling can be stressful and physically tiring (with all the physical exertions), but it is very essential to have fun and enjoy the moment. In the first place, the main objective of having a vacation is to rest, if this is not possible, then at least have fun – laugh, eat and engage in good and long talks with friends.

That ends my chronicles of my Korean escapade. Until my next adventure!

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Korean Escapade 2010: Exploring Seoul in a Day (Part 1)

October 23 was the day we went around Seoul. We left the hotel and took the subway going to Gwanghwamun station. There we walked towards the first stop for the day.

First Stop: Gwanghwamun Square was the one of my favorites during the city tour. The square was 557meter long, 34 meter wide. It is considered to be the “heart of Seoul with 600 years of history and was transformed into a human focused space that harmonizes with the beautiful sceneries of Gyeongbok Palace and Bukak-san, which completed the rebirth of Sejong-ro for historical and cultural experiences,” (http://www.lifeinkorea.com/travel2/448).

Gwanghwamun Square, South Korea, October 2010

I really loved the monument of King Sejong, or popularly known as the Great King Sejong, who reinforced Confucian policies and executed major legal amendments. He also used the creation of Hangul and the advancement of technology to expand his territory.

Great King Sejong, South Korea, October 2010

Another favorite is the statue of Admiral Lee Sun Shin/Yi Sun Shin, whom I consider as one of the greatest heroes of Korea. He was known for his 23 victories against the Japanese navy during the Japanese invasion of Korea and was famous for his creative use of turtle ships against the enemies.

Admiral Yi Sun Shin, South Korea, October 2010

And then we took the Seoul City Bus Tour at the nearby Donghwa station to get to some of the tourist attractions located in the city. The Seoul City Bus Tour is the fastest and economical way to go around the city. We just hopped on the bus and then hopped off to our chosen destination. After which, we wait again for the next bus (there is a 30 minute interval) which would then lead us to our next destination. One ticket, which costs 10,000 won, will take tourists around Seoul. There are about 36 sites which tourists can visit.

Second Stop: Seoul Station is the major railway station in the city. We experienced the hustle and bustle of Seoul’s busy life.

Seoul Station, South Korea, October 2010

Third Stop: National Museum of Korea covers137,201 square meters (1,480,000 sq ft) and is considered to be the sixth largest museum in the world. The first level houses relics from the prehistoric, ancient, medieval, and early modern periods. The second level, in turn, showcases the calligraphy and painting galleries while the third level has the sculpture, crafts and Asia galleries. Visiting museums is one activity that I really love. I wanted to spend the whole day exploring the place but I did not have the chance to do that due to lack of time.

National Museum of Korea, October 2010

Headdress used in Shilla period, NMOK, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passed through: Korean War Memorial Hall. We just passed through this monument and was able to take a photo from the bus.

Korean War Memorial, South Korea, October 2010

Fourth Stop: Namsangol Traditional Hanok Village is a “Korean village located in the area of Pil-dong neighborhood in Jung-gu, a central district of Seoul, South Korea where hanok or Korean traditional houses have been restored to preserve the original atmosphere of the area. The Namsangol Hanok Village offers one the opportunity to experience a wide cross-section of Joseon-era citizenry and activities, from royalty to commoners. A great effort has been made to accurately furnish each dwelling with appropriate era and social status appointments.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namsangol_Hanok_Village). We were lucky to have witnessed a presentation by children who were in their costumes and were dancing some of the traditional dances.

Performance at Namsangol Hanok Village, October 2010

LUNCH: Korean food is really awesome even though some of it are too spicy for me. As I have written earlier, DIET was a forgotten word during this Korean trip. Korean food is really YUMMY!

Lunch at a Korean Resto, October 2010

Another yummy dish at a Korean resto, October 2010

Fifth Stop: Changgyeong Palace was the third palace compound built in the Joseon era. It was built next to Changdeok Palace to serve three queen dowagers (who had been queen during the reigns of Sejo, Deokjeong and Yejong). It is also referred to as one of the “eastern palaces,” along with Changdeok Palace. (from brochure given at Changgyeong Palace)

A live performance at Changgyeong Palace, October 2010

Changgyeong Palace, South Korea, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be continued…

Korean Escapade 2010: The Saga of the Ninjas Continues

Still October 21…

We left Nami Island at around 4:00 in the afternoon and took the cab going to Gapyeong Station. Our next stop was Petite France, which was located near Cheongpyeong Station. We were lucky because the train going to Cheongpyeong was arriving in a few minutes. From Gapyeong to Cheongpyeong, the travel time was about 20 minutes. We arrived at Cheongpyeong station around 5 in the afternoon but there was no sign of the shuttle bus which would take us to Petite France. We decided to take the cab…again. The trip to Petite France was like going to Baguio or Antipolo with all those blind curves and zigzag roads. There was a time during the brief ride that we felt that we got lost but we arrived at Petite France after 30 minutes.  Imagine our relief to know that we were finally there!

 

Petite France, South Korea, October 2010

Since we only had 30 minutes to explore the place, we immediately went to the sites that we wanted to visit.

Petite France: Retracing Kim Myung Min’s (Kang Mae’s) steps in Beethoven Virus

Petite France is a French cultural village set in the Korean countryside. Petite France serves as both a French cultural village and a youth training facility (Goseong Youth Training Center), and consists of 16 French-style buildings where visitors can lodge and experience French food, clothing, and household culture. ‘Petit’ means ‘small and pretty’ in French, and this village is located on the hilltop overlooking the beautiful mountain scenery of Homyeongsan (Mt.) and the clear surroundings of Cheongpyeongho (Lake). Building heights were adjusted using natural hills, and every house in the village were arranged to overlook the lake. Such structure disposition and internal decoration of construction materials, rooftop, windows and floor are all French. (From http://www.korean-city.blogspot.com)

 

Petite France, South Korea, October 2010

 

View of the lake, Petite France, South Korea, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Array of buildings in French style, Petite France, October 2010

 

 

 

 

A portion of the amphitheater, Petite France, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have always wanted to visit Petite France because it was one of the filming sites of Beethoven Virus, one of my all-time favorite Korean dramas. Moreover, it is the location of the study room of Maestro Kang Gun Woo or Kang Mae, played by the brilliant Kim Myung Min.  I may not have met Kim Myung Min himself but it was a great comfort for me to have visited his study room when he portrayed the acerbic tongued Kang Mae.

 

Kang Mae's table and chair, Petite France, October 2010

 

A portion of Kang Mae's office, Petite France, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did not have the chance to explore the other buildings because it was already 6 in the evening. Our main problem was getting out of Petite France because it was such an isolated place. We asked the receptionist for help and so she contacted two cabs to fetch us. While waiting, we felt the air as it turned colder. Good thing the cabs arrived after 15 minutes or so.

We arrived at Cheongpyeong station in time for the arrival of the train bound for Cheongnyangni. We thought that we missed the train already and we had to wait for an hour for the next.  We were indeed lucky!

Since the ride was one hour, we had time to decide that we had to re-schedule the Lotte World trip for another night as we might not be able to make it. We decided to have dinner first at Dongdaemun and then visit Chonggye Stream which was nearby.

 

Dongdaemun, South Korea, October 2010

Dining at a Korean Restaurant

We were so hungry, we could eat a horse! We picked a fancy Korean resto which was established in 1972. When we got there and looked at the menu, we wanted to go out and look for another place. So expensive! However, we figured that we would eat in small restos the following nights so that we are still on the budget. Hahaha!

Side dishes, Korean restaurant, Dongdaemun, October 2010

And so we ordered pork spare ribs, pajeon, bulgogi. Of course, a Korean meal is not complete without the side dishes or banchan, which could consist of 2-12 kinds. Of course, kimchi is usually included.

 

Pork spare ribs, Dongdaemun, October 2010

I’m a great fan and lover of pajeon. However, I fell in love with bulgogi! This is one dish that I have not had the chance to eat often in Korean restaurants in the Philippines. But the authentic bulgogi was heaven! I. LOVE. IT. SUPER.

 

My new love, BULGOGI! Dongdaemun, October 2010

After dinner, we headed to Chonggye Stream for some picture-taking and some walking. We decided that we would walk back to our hotel for some exercise. However, when we realized that we were walking for a much longer time already and no sight of our hotel still, we decided to  get a cab because we were all dead tired. On our way back to the hotel, we found out that we headed the wrong way – we walked farther from the hotel instead of walking towards it. What an adventure!

Oh well, the most important thing was that we got back safe and sound.

Korean Escapade 2010: We are Ninjas!

October 21 was indeed a memorable day for all of us because we got to be Ninjas! Ninjas, in the sense that we ran like hell; jumped and skipped as fast as we could to be able to get to our destinations.

We started the day a bit late because some of my friends woke up late. From our hotel, we walked to the nearest subway station, which is Anguk. It was a good exercise because it took us about 20 minutes to the station. We bought the T-PASS card worth 3,000 Won and loaded it with 2,000 Won.  Having the T-PASS is advantageous because we were not burdened with buying tickets every so often. We just had the card re-loaded with the amount of our choice if in case the load has been depleted.

 

Buying the T-PASS at Anguk Station, October 2010, South Korea

Using the subway, we traveled to Dongdaemun first to look for a money changer. And then we went to Cheongnyangni Train Station to buy tickets going to Gapyeong, where Nami Island is situated.

 

Cheongnyangni Station, South Korea, October 2010

The train going to Gapyeong was scheduled to leave at 12:02 in the afternoon and since we had time to spare, we went to Lotteria to have lunch. We were so engrossed with lunch and taking a break in the restrooms that we realized that our train was leaving in a few minutes. And so, the ninja mode began. We ran as fast as we could from the Lotte Mall (near the train station) to the train. We just boarded the first train that we saw but we were not sure if we were on the right one! We asked one passenger if it was indeed the train going to Gapyeong. Lucky for us we were on the right train.

 

Photo from the train, South Korea, October 2010

The travel time from Cheongnyangni to Gapyeong is a little over one hour. Almost all of my friends were asleep except for myself and another. Both of us were afraid that we would miss our stop. When we reached Gapyeong, we rode a cab that took us to Nami Island.

Reliving Winter Sonata in Nami Island

Nami Island’s popularity rose when it became the filming site of the blockbuster Korean drama series called Winter Sonata/Winter Love Song. The said drama series propelled the popularity of Bae Yoong Joon and Choi Ji Woo as Hallyu celebrities. Winter Sonata/Winter Love Song is one of my favorite Korean drama series and it has been my dream to visit Nami Island to re-live what transpired in the series.

 

Winter Sonata (Endless Love 2) Poster, Nami Island, South Korea, October 2010

The admission fee was 8,000 won and we immediately lined-up and waited for the ferry to bring us to the island. It was a Thursday but there were so many tourists who visited the place. Nami Island took my breath away. It can be considered as a photographer’s haven because of the scenic spots in the island. It is a pity though that there were so many people when we were there. It was really difficult to get good angles. Nevertheless, the trees which were planted in a straight line were just awesome. This was the classic image of Nami Island which was shown in the series, well minus the tourists.

 

Trees, Nami Island, South Korea, October 2010

The island was just beautiful during Autumn because of the explosion of colors as seen in the trees. Below are some of the photos taken at the island:

Nami Island, South Korea, October 2010

Nami Island, South Korea, October 2010

Bronze statue of Bae Yong Joon and Choi Ji Woo, Nami Island, South Korea, October 2010

Nami Island, South Korea, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nami Island, South Korea, October 2010

Nami Island, South Korea, October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Such beauty, isn’t it? More photos in my album in my FB account.

Next stop: Petite France