Korea 2011 – Part 3

We spent the entire 3rd day in Jeju, looking at teddy bears, how people lived in Jeju in the past, and enjoying nature. We had abalone porridge (전복죽) for breakfast, considered the king of porridges. Obviously there were no real solid pieces of abalone in the porridge since they’re running a business and couldn’t afford to give each customer an abalone with the prices they’re charging but the porridge was made with abalone entrails.  Good enough for me as I prefer to eat my abalone brined. Koreans must have kimchi with whatever they’re eating, so kimchi and other banchan are available for each meal. I like my porridge with some roasted laver/seaweed and Korean fishcake (어묵).

After the hearty breakfast, it was time to burn those calories! Yongduam Rock (용두암) was just a carpark away from where we had breakfast, so we went down to look at the breathtaking scenery. For me, I couldn’t appreciate the lava stone formation (I guess it’s some Asian thing again… imagination working overtime – Read my thoughts on rock formations). But I love the strong wind and waves. Lovely. And I guess there must be something about the climate or the water that made my skin look kinda nice there. LOL

These 2 stone figurines are known as 돌 하르방, or dol hareubang in English. They are something like 土地公 but nowadays, people just regard them as gods of fertility. Word is that you will conceive a boy if you touch the nose of the dol hareubang, so they’re pretty popular with newlyweds. It also gels with the fact that Jeju Island is a popular honeymoon destination for many Korean couples. I told Mum to stay far away from these stone figurines as a bad joke. =))

After Yongduam Rock, it was off to another location to burn even more calories! Seongsan Sunrise Peak (성산 일출 봉)… I tell you, it’s tough work climbing to the top. SERIOUSLY.  I had to push myself up by telling myself this will be the first and last time I’ll do this because I don’t want to climb a 2nd time, and I definitely do not want to spend another S$2000 coming to Korea to climb this stupid peak. Dad was damn fit to scoot off without Mum and myself. I couldn’t be happier to go back down to ‘base camp’, as seen in the bottom right picture. What you do not see here is me panting and damn shagged. The view on the way up was gorgeous though.

On the way down, you can choose to walk down further (‘base camp’ was in between the peak and the sea where all the lady divers 해녀 are). I didn’t go down cos the thought of climbing up the stairs scares me, and the thought of toasted squid strips and Jeju chocolates are more enticing. But Kiat, one of the guys in our tour group, did and he got some sea shells from the ladies. He offered one to me, but I declined cos it’s just one of those 没有用的东西 + it will take up a lot of luggage space especially we have to be on the road everyday. =P Now I wish I DID go down cos I think the lady divers are damn impressive and SAT… sigh.

We worked hard that morning, and so we were treated to a nice lunch – Jeju Island famous black pig barbeque (흑 돼지). I’m not quite sure of the name, but nevertheless it was NICE! The meat was lean, the marinade was spicy but not overbearing, and everything else was fresh!

I also had my first taste of their traditional rice wine Makkeoli (막걸리), only because I was intrigued after watching Cinderella’s Sister. Our kind tour guide treated all of us to a round of the alcoholic drink because I said I wanted to try it. But sadly, I disliked it. Or rather, I’m not a drinker. Hate getting very warm and hot after drinking.

This trip has been filled with lots of adventures! I had my first ATV ride, and while it was scary, it was exciting too. And the owners of the place had an extremely cute dog called Chan Pung I… reminds me of Taffy back home then. The dirt road was really DIRTy… when we finished our round and got back to the office, I went to the toilet and cleaned my face… gosh… I should have taken a picture of the dirty tissue. Even the insides of my nose were gross black. My nickname at the ATV ride is now “무서워요” (“scary”) cos I was screaming that each time I got scared and the damn motor wouldn’t move. We couldn’t overtake the one in front of us cos we’re beginners so Kiat was stuck behind me, listening to my screams. WAHAHAHA. And the dog. Oh the cute dog. Extremely responsive, playful and lovable.

What an exciting and fun-filled morning eh? Then it was to a slow afternoon. We visited the Jeju Folk museum where we could see how people in olden days lived. The villages, the facilities, and how they went about in their lives.  It was like a huge village with many traditional houses which you visit at your own pace. We don’t like to keep people waiting, so we quickly visited the main points of the museum and made our way to the entrance and waited for the rest while we enjoyed the strong winds. I really liked the weather that day… strong sun, blue sky and cold winds. Oh, and that’s our tour guide with me on the bottom left photo.

It was a long bus ride to the teddy bear museum, but we got recharged as we ALL fell asleep on the way there. Hehe. I’m not a girly girl so I’m not into teddy bears. Mum disallowed me to have soft toys since young as I had childhood asthma and soft toys only served to gather dust and make me wheeze. I guess, that’s become part of me. But still, I didn’t fail to be silly, ordering an expresso from the teddy bear staff at the teddy bear cafe. Dad also decided to have a hot chocolate. It was cheap! Only 1 teddy bear dollar!

The first level of the museum was more like a soft toy safari, with many other types of animal soft toys and the setting was like in wild safari. 2nd level & 3rd level were teddy bear overload! Everything was teddy bear here, teddy bear there. Teddy bear flower, teddy bear horoscopes etc. At the end, I was just confused and it was just a whole bunch of teddy bears in different clothing to me. I didn’t buy anything from the shop though the bears were cute cos *see above paragraph*.

I guess a lot of people were bored at the TeSeum as well because I was like 3rd youngest among the entire group, and even I was bored. The rest of the tour participants were almost my dad’s age or older! True enough, only a girl in our group bought something (besides the tour guide who bought something for her kid), and that girl was the youngest of all of us. We headed to dinner early as we ended the day’s schedule. Ginseng chicken soup (삼게탕)! It was a huge serving for me and I was only 50% done when I declared that I’m full. I figured that my family are all small eaters because we ALWAYS have some food leftover at the end of each meal, whereas the other tables would polish off everything cleanly, even the refillable banchan! So we always sat beside 2 other families who are huge eaters, so they can take whatever we can’t finish. LOL

Korea 2011 – Part 2

Day 2 saw us leaving Seoul for Jeju Island. But we’ll be back soon, 5 days later. We went to Everland during the day, but sadly it was super crowded, and we only had about 3 hours in the park, of which the guide has planned for us to take some rides (boring rides because there were some old folks in the group). We watched a 3D film about some twin tigers saving the world (ultimate duh), and went to the safari. The safari was cool though! We only had 45 min free time, not enough to do anything so we decided to get our caricature drawn.

After Everland, we went to make kimchi… VERY fun! It was simple cos the marinade has been prepared for us beforehand. Mum went crazy here, buying 6kg of cabbage kimchi, and another 2kg of radish kimchi. We also had the opportunity to wear hanbok, Korea’s traditional outfit.

Dinner was chicken stew (닭짐) – I actually had to google this dish because it wasn’t stated on the itinerary. Nevertheless, it was yummy, and reminded me of what Joyce’s mum used to cook for me when we were still in school. Lean chicken, soft carrots and potato chunks, chinese cabbage, Korean sweet potato noodles and Korean rice cakes. Very very good, and I would have eaten much more, if not for the fact that I was not game for dinner at 4pm. Yes, we had dinner at 4pm that day because we had to catch our flight to Jeju at 7pm.

We stayed at Ocean Suites Jeju Hotel. It is pretty new and clean, the best hotel we stayed during our entire trip. The main room had one queen bed, one super single bed and lots of floor space. I bet there was enough floor space to accommodate another 2-3 people sleeping on the floor. Not only that, that was a separate room with 1 bed AND extra blanket and pillow for someone to sleep tatami style.

Korea 2011 – Part 1

I finally got my wish to visit Korea this year! Having missed an opportunity last year end, I quickly confirmed with my parents about visiting Korea this spring, and we went in mid April! Just in time for the cherry blossoms, and cool weather. We took up a package tour as Mom wasn’t confident of us going free and easy, with the language barrier and all. It was good that we took up a tour as well as we managed to visit other parts of Korea, which I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t if we were to go F&E.

We took a night flight via Asiana Airlines to Incheon airport and arrived in Korea at 6.20am (KST). The flight was quite ok, only 1 noisy kiddo on board who suddenly decided not to sleep at 3-4am and wailed her lungs out. I feel sorry for the parents. Meals were served at 11pm, and had 2 choices: chicken stew and rice, or beef bibimbap. Kinda early for food because the meal should ideally be served around 3-4am. What impressed me about Seoul was how clean the airport was. The facilities and staff were top notch, and I was telling my parents that Incheon Airport is #1, even Changi Airport loses out to Incheon.

We went straight to Nami Island when we landed. It was a little tiring, to be honest, having taken a flight and then go straight into the day’s itinerary. I half expected we would be able to at least check into our hotel and wash up, have a quick change of clothes before we started traveling on the road. But oh well. We had to take a 5 min ferry ride to Nami Island, home to Winter Sonata’s film site. I wasn’t too fussed about Winter Sonata, but apparently it is within the auntie community. Lots of people taking photos with the bronze figurines of the male & female leads. I couldn’t be arsed to do that though. Too touristy for my liking. What I liked about Nami Island was the clean, fresh air, wide spaces and clear, blue sky. And lots of trees and foliage (though they were almost bare due to early spring).

Mom’s first snack on Korea land! Hoddeok (호떡), a snack that is only offered in winter. We were lucky that it’s still available when we went!

The following 3 pictures were taken by the tour’s photographer. We had to pay abt S$5 per photo, but we think they look nice… and we sorta pitied the guy cos he doesn’t earn a salary from the tour agency, solely on selling the photos.

After Nami Island, we went to Cheong Wa Dae, the president’s office. Wasn’t very interesting to me, but that’s because I have no interest in such landmarks.

We also visited Chang Deok Gung (창덕궁). It is a place with a lot of history behind it, and it was interesting to soak in the culture.

We also went shopping at Dongdaemun (동대문). Time was short though… we only had about 90mins to shop at Doota. SIANNNNNN~~ But, though we only had 90mins, I think I still emerged as shopping queen with the most trophies. Haha. My level of confidence in the Korean language was also boosted through this ‘experience’. I managed to ask for different size, different designs, the price, and still make a dig at myself (허리 없어요… translated “I don’t have a waist” (in this dress) and the salesgirl laughed), all in Korean. Dongdaemun was expensive though… similar to shopping at Bugis Junction. The green dress costs ~S$60, red checkered shirt ~S$30, grey top S$15, grey pants S$40. The cosmetics are from It’s Skin (one of my favourite Korean brands), and I only bought the eye cream, and 2 serums at the top (total ~S$30) – the rest (masks and sachets) were samples.

For dinner, we had gamjatang (감자탕) – the literal translation would be potato soup, but the more accurate name would be pork rib stew. Since I don’t eat much pork, I mainly had the potatoes and one rib. The dish reminds me of bak ku teh, but it has more flavours to it as it also had perilla leaves, crushed pepper and sesame seeds.

That night, we stayed at Best Western Premier Seoul Garden Hotel (what a long name!), previously Holiday Inn. The room was nice and cosy, and there was free internet (cabled) in the room. Extra points!!