Friday, 1 May 2015

Korea Trip 2015 Day 9: Haebangchon and Goodbye

19 April 2015

As promised, my guesthouse host Eun Kyung met me at HBC House at 10:30am. She brought me around Haebangchon neighrbourhood which according to her will be the next big thing in Korea after Itaewon as foreigners began to congregate at this area. She brought me to a famous local kimchi jjigae restaurant for breakfast. It was such a coincidence that this was exactly the restaurant that I visited with Shi Keat and Quan Yen last year. It was recommended by Mely at that time. I wanted to try it for a second time as I miss the kimchi jjigae here.

We talked about her idea of setting up a bread & breakfast business. I admire her courage to quit her day job and start her own business. I think it is not easy. She kept saying that I seemed like a professional Korea traveler. I was glad that we could talk freely with each other and that I made a new Korean friend.

Eun Kyung then brought me around the neighbourhood. She brought me to a street at Hoenamuro which according to her belongs to a Korean business man. This Korean business man was a designer. He also cooks delicious pasta and once, the residents urged him to open his own restaurant. He did, with his brilliant culinary skills and design talent, he opened his first restaurant with his own distinct theme and concept. Customers flocked to his restaurants and soon, he had the funds to open his second, third and man more other restaurants, bakery and cafe along the same street. After a few years, people honoured his name to that particular street. He even had his own sign board at the beginning of the street showing the directions to each of his outlets. Here's a picture of it:

After that, Eun Kyung recommended Churros to me as it was the trend for young Koreans at that time. I bought a churros ice cream for 3000 Won and it was good especially in such a sunny weather. After that, we went back to HBC House and Eun Kyung brought me to the roof top where they would sometimes hold barbeque party. It was a shame that I didn't have the opportunity to join the party this trip. There was a shelter up here built by a guy who lived on the top most floor. The view from here was magnificent. We could see N Tower and Namsan from here.

View from HBC House Roof Top
I thanked Eun Kyung for her hospitality and packed my things to go to Incheon Airport. When I reached Incheon Airport, I found out that my flight was delayed by one and a half hours. It was so boring to wait at the airport alone.

Anyway, I boarded the flight at around 6:20pm and reached Singapore safely at near midnight. When I came out from the airport, it was so hot and humid that I could barely stand it. I wondered how I managed to love in this region for 25 years. Chong picked me up and we took a taxi back home.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Korea Trip 2015 Day 8: Naksan, Dongdaemun DDP, Namsan Tower

17 April 2015

Heejung recommended me to go to Naksan Park. It is located near Hyehwa Station. It wasn't very easy to find the entrance as you need to walk for about 20 minutes from the subway station and climb some steep slopes. I followed the direction from a website but it was not correct and I had to use my broken Korean to ask help from a local nearby. Fortunately I was able to reach Naksan Park.

Naksan Park, as its name suggests, is located on Naksan mountain. There is a gallery at the entrance of the park showing a brief history of the construction of Seoul fortress walls and the redevelopment of Naksan. When Seoul became the capital of Korea, Kings from different generations built fortress walls along the four mountains that surrounds the capital. In the heart of the capital was Geongbokgung. Out of the four mountains, Naksan was the shortest, situated on the East while the more famous Namsan was located at the South. Kings from different eras had their individual styles imprinted on the architectural of the fortress walls. The different styles can be distinguished by the stone / brick configuration of the walls. However, the fortresses had to be rebuilt in the last few decades due to Japanese invasion and poor urban planning in the 1940s to 1970s. It was interesting to read through the history of Naksan Park.

I walked along the slopes and reached the highest observatory point. I could see Seoul and Namsan Tower clearly from there. The fortress walls, though not as magnificent as the Great Wall of China was a fantastic sight.

View of Seoul and Fortress Walls from Peak of Naksan Park 

On my way down, I walked along the fortress walls, through the history and cultural path until I reached Dongdaemun Station at the foot of Naksan.

Walk along the walls and you will reach Dongdaemun

I had a simple lunch at Dongdaemun and walked along Cheongyecheon stream. Last year we were here at night. However, I would recommend that you walk along the stream at night because during the day, the scene is not as beautiful and romantic. I walked all the way until I saw a sign board pointing towards Sindang station.


I decided to pay a visit to the National Museum of Korea at Ichon Station. As I like Korean culture and history, I thought I could spend maybe around 2 to 3 hours there before heading to Myeongdong to meet Jinhwa for dinner. The National Museum of Korea was a really huge building. There were also audio sets available for rental. I rented the audio set for 1000 Won and deposited my ID before entering the museum. The museum displayed artifacts from different eras of Korea's history but there were many of them, especially paintings which were only replicas. There wasn't much explanation about Korea's history though and the audio guide didn't offer anything extra from the write up of the artifacts on the walls. I spent around one hour touring the first level and decided that I should go somewhere else. The second and third floor however housed mostly imported artifacts from other countries. If you are interested in Korean history and culture, I'd suggest that the ground floor is good enough.

As I had more time than expected, I headed back to Dongdaemun direction and got off at Dongdaemun History and Culture Station. There was this Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) with its amazing architecture displaying all kinds of creative and artistic design goods. If I had my own house, I'd really like to spend a whole day here picking and buying these design masterpiece to decorate my house. It was almost 6:30pm and I headed back to the subway station towards Myeongdong to meet Jinhwa. Jinhwa was really busy today and she had to come all the way from the suburb to Myeongdong as she was tasked for Minimelts (her company) ice cream export that day.

When Jinhwa saw me, she greeted me so friendly like she had known me for many years. I felt easy being around with her as we went to a barbeque restaurant to eat samgyeopsal for dinner. In Meyongdong, there were so many tourists, especially chinese tourists that the ahjumma in the restaurant spoke mandarin to Jinhwa. We chatted a bit, and Jinhwa said she wanted to travel to Taiwan maybe in the beginning of May as Korea has holiday on 1st and 5th of May. After dinner, we proceeded with our original plan to to to Namsan tower. We took a taxi to the cable car platform and walked all the way to the top where N Tower rests. It was quite a challenging one for me as I had hiked Naksan this morning and that Namsan was much steeper. The weather was cold and windy but when we reached the top, we were all warmed up. Just before we reached the top, we heard sounds like someone riding a bike. And indeed we were shocked when we saw a guy riding a mountain bike from the top speeding his way through the flight of stairs downhill. Really Daebak!

The view from the top was really amazing. And there were these love chains again. So many of them. We took the elevator up to the observatory deck of N Tower. It was quite crowded here. Although it was dark outside, we could locate Han river. The night view of Seoul was really peaceful and romantic.

Love Chains with Seoul Night View Backdrop

N Tower at Night

Night View of Seoul

As Jinhwa lives in Incheon, we couldn't spend much time here and it was already almost 10pm. As we walked downhill, her mom even texted her asking why she wasn't home yet. Going donwhill was much easier. We talked about Korean culture, Malaysia, Singapore and my future traveling plans. I told her that I'd also like to go to Taiwan for my next trip. The journey donwhill was short and before we knew it, we had reached Myeongdong station. We took the same subway line 4 as Jinhwa alighted earlier at Seoul Station while I alighted at Sookmyung Women's University. Before we said goodbye, Jinhwa asked when will we meet again. I told her that if she comes to Singapore or Malaysia we can meet up again. She had a better idea and suggested that why not we go to Taiwan together.

It was a really fun day hiking two mountains in Seoul within a day and of course, meeting my last Hellotalk friend Jinhwa. It is sad that everything has to come to an end. I really love the feeling of traveling because you are free to do whatever you want and you don't need to answer to anybody. On my way home, my host Eun Kyung contacted me, asking whether I'd like to join her and her boyfriend at a bar nearby HBC house. As I was tired, I declined her kind offer. I reached home and packed my things. I still had half a day tomorrow morning before my flight at 4:40pm. Eun Kyung had offered to bring me around Haebangcheon area, which was what I'd like to do too. I agreed and she will drop by HBC house tomorrow at around 10:30am to bring me around the neightbourhood.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Korea Trip 2015 Day 7: Seoul Land, Coex Mall, Daehakro

16 April 2015

Because it was a free and easy day, I woke up slightly late today. I had decided to go to Seoul Land and COEX Mall before meeting Heejung for dinner at Daehakro. I decided on Seoul Land because it is a national park and has a zoo.

The weather wasn't fine today. It was cloudy, windy and rainy. When I reached Seoul Land, my hand was freezing due to the strong wind. There were many cherry blossom trees at Seoul Land too. And cherry blossom petals could be seen all over the floor after a breeze of strong wind.

Cherry Blossom at Seoul Land

Just after I bought the zoo ticket, it started to rain heavily that I couldn't continue my journey. Fortunately there was a shelter nearby. I sat there for awhile and found my way to a food court nearby to have lunch. I ordered Yukgaejang which is spicy beef soup. It was the best beef soup that I have ever tried! The beef was tender and very tasty. Coupled with spices and mushrooms, it tasted like food from heaven in the cold weather. I just couldn't have enough of it.

I set off for my zoo tour by visiting the giraffes, rhinos, elephants, lions, reptiles, tigers etc. But to my disappointment, most of the animals were hiding, maybe because of the cold weather. When I was visiting the lion den, I couldn't see any lion. But when I went to the back of the den, I saw this glass door opening into a dark alley, lit only by a few flourescent light. Out of curiosity, I went in. It was dark, with glass panels on my left. It seemed like behind the transparent glass panels were feeding place for the animals. But I couldn't see any animal. As I walked further, I saw a cheetah lying behind the glass. The next glass panel, were all the lions! I think there were seven or eight of them! And there was a male lion staring right at me within 5 metres. Wow it was quite terrifying given that I was all alone there. Although they were behind the glass, I dared not walk closer. I just said Hi and walked out of that terrifying place.

I think the best of the animals were the tigers. The tigers were housed at a park-like space with waterfalls and small ponds. They were not hiding but playing with each other and a ball in the pond. I also saw a couple of hippopotamus at the end of my journey. All in all, the zoo wasn't really enjoyable. The maintenance was quite poor.

Anyway, I have decided to find some place indoors due to the freezing weather. I went to COEX mall as during our last trip, COEX mall was under construction. When I reached there, I saw SMTown building. COEX mall was really no joke. It was super huge. I think it is made up of three shopping malls. I had a tea break in one of the cafes there. The waitress who served me was very beautiful. Then I went to the COEX mall Aquarium. It cost quite a lot, around 22000W but I think it was worth it. Lots of sea creatures from fresh water fish to deep ocean sharks can be found there.

COEX Mall Aquarium

Next I went to SMTown buiilding to have a look at arguably Korea's most successful idol factory, and also to try my luck to meet celebrities. They had 6 or 7 storeys in that building, comprising of main lobby, cafe, recording studio (we were not allowed to enter), hologram theater and many more. Famous SMTown artists photos and merchandise can be seen everywhere here.

SMTown Building

It was almost dinner time when I finished touring SMTown and I headed to Hyehwa station to meet Heejung for dinner.

Initially, Heejung's friend Sujin wanted to join for dinner but Sujin had something on we she couldn't come. I met Heejung and she brought me around Daehakro and found a Budaejjigae restaurant for dinner. Heejung explained that budajjigae is a dish for the army. Budae means army and at that time the army was poor. The american troops gave Korean army western sausages and hams to add in to the Jjigae which means soup, usually Kimchi soup.

Budaejjigae or Army Stew

After dinner, we went to Bins Beans cafe for dessert. Heejung wanted me to try the strawberry waffle dessert which was a trend in Korea at that time. It was super delicious! It was the first time that I had so many strawberries! And did I mention that there was wifi phone charging facility at Bins Beans?

Awesome Strawberry Waffle Dessert

After dessert, we parted ways and I was very grateful for Heejung to spare her time to meet me for another time, considering that she lives so far from Seoul. And she has a really good taste for food I must say. From Kalbi Mandu, Okrumong Bingsu to strawberry waffles, I really enjoyed all the food that she recommended. 

Time flies. Tomorrow will be my last day in Seoul before flying back to Singapore on Saturday.  

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Korea Trip 2015 Day 6: Gangchon Rail Bike, Chun Cheon Dalkalbi Street

15 April 2015

I woke up at 7:30am this morning to prepare for Gangchon Rail Bike ride with Haeun. It was a 2 hour journey from Noksapyeong to Gimyujeong. However, I had some delay while walking to Noksapyeong station from HBC house. Having set off from Noksapyeong at 8:30am, I was still on course to reach Gimyujeong at 10:30am. The subway was quick and accurate. However, when I transferred to the Gyeongchun line, the train stopped for about fifteen minutes at Sangbo station, the first station of Gyeongchun line. I was panicked as I won't be able to reach on time due to this stoppage which I think was not captured in the time estimation of the subway app. Along the journey, I calculated that I would reach Gimyujeong at 10:55am. Haeun has already reached at 10:30am. I felt really sorry and told her that I might not make it. However, she reassured me that we could have lunch first then take the next rail bike at 1pm if we miss the 11am ride.

I got off at Gimyujeong station at 10:55am and immediately ran for the exit to meet Haeun. As I looked back, there were many people also running behind me. I guess they were at a similar situation as I am. It felt like Running Man for a moment. As I approached the exit, I saw Haeun. We didn't have time to say Hi and off we ran towards the rail bike ticket counter. We were relieved that we were able to make it on time. Most of the people there were for the four seater ride while only a handful including us were for the two seater ride.

At around 11:25am, we finally started our rail bike ride. The feeling was really great as we cycled our way along the rail. After a few minutes, we were on a gentle downward slope and for a moment we were a little too close to the couple in front of us. We had to pull the brakes a couple of times to avoid collision.

Gangchon Rail Bike
The scenery was amazing, with couple of tunnels to go through. There was a short passage where we passed by a rail gate. The gates on the sides were closed, and cars were queuing behind the gates to let us through just like when a train passes through. There was also a tunnel with blinking LED lights and fog from the ground. It was a pretty romantic atmosphere for couples. We stopped by a resting area to enjoy the magnificent view of rivers and mountains. Some went for toilet break. When we resumed our ride, it took us another half an hour to reach the end. The whole journey was around one hour.

Some Scenes Along the Ride
We found that we were at the Gangchon rail bike station when we finished our ride. At that time we were extremely hungry. Haeun recommended a Dalkalbi restaurant at the Dalkalbi street in ChunCheon. We walked for about 20 minutes to Gamchon train station and went to Chuncheon station. We took a bus and alighted at four stops from Chun Cheon station and walked to Dalkalbi street. In Dalkalbi street, both rows of shop houses sell Dalkalbi and Dalkalbi only. Haeun found the restaurant that she recommended and finally we could have our lunch.

Dalkalbi Street 

Delicious Dalkalbi

As expected, the Dalkalbi here was awesome! Just like other Korean restaurants, we had fried rice with the left overs. We chatted a little and enjoyed the awesome food. Haeun wasn't a talkative person, but I didn't feel awkwardness between us even if we didn't talk much. I felt comfortable with her.

After finishing the Dalkalbi, it was already around 2:30pm. My initial plan was to go to Nami Island alone as Haeun needed to go back earlier to study for her midterm hydraulic test on the coming Friday. However, Haeun told me that she wanted to bring me to visit her university. As I wanted to experience local life, I chose to visit her university of Nami Island as there won't be many chances where I could visit a local university. It was a long journey to her university and we were tired. We slept on the train until Sangbo station and transferred to subway.

Haeun's university wasn't very big but the landscape was beautiful. They had many cherry blossom trees and a lake with water fountain. Haeun showed me her faculty and her reinforced concrete lab. We also walked around the sports complex and park. It was a school anniversary holiday so there wasn't any class on that day. We spent for about 40 minutes there and we bid farewell as Haeun had to meet her friends at a cafe nearby.

Haeun's University
I went to Insadong and had Kimchi Jjigae for dinner. Kimchi Jjigae is my favourite Korean dish and it was great especially in a cold weather. I also tried a waffle after dinner. Then I went to Insadong street to search for souvenirs. I bought the Hanbok teddy bears and some hand made key chains. There were many handicrafts along Insadong street. But at that time, most of the shops had already closed because it was around 9pm. There was also a street performer who played and sing along with his guitar. He was pretty good and I gave him 10000Won after listening to 3 songs.

I returned to HBC house but my phone had died. I remembered the route roughly that I should turn into the junction when I see a yellow colour salon. I was walking along that street but I couldn't see any yellow salon. I turned back and tried other streets but to no avail. Fortunately, I found a helpful lady and she brought me to a cafe with internet service. I logged in to my email and studied the powerpoint slides that Eun Kyung had sent me earlier. I found that I was walking along the correct street in my first try and that salon was actually right in front of me! I thanked them and quickly went back to that street and found that salon. I had no idea why I was blinded. Anyway, I managed to find my way back to HBC house. It was a long day starting from all the running and riding at Gangchon Rail Bike station to finding my way back to HBC house late at night.

Tomorrow I will be on a solo trip again. Haven't had any concrete plans yet. I guess I will decide my itinerary on the next morning!

Korea Trip 2015 Day 5: Taejongdae

14 April 2015

Today's plan was to visit Taejongdae and then catch a KTX from Gupo back to Seoul at 6:30pm. Taejongdae is quite far from Sooyoung's place but fortunately there was a bus to downtown Busan.

I took the bus and asked the bus driver the station that I needed to alight / transfer to Taejongdae. He told me that I should alight at Busan Deport bus station and transfer. I was quite proud that this conversation was all in Korean and I managed to get off and transfer to a bus bound for Taejongdae from Busan Deport station. The thing I like about Korea is that they have announcements on the bus unlike in Singapore. So it was pretty easy to ensure that I alighted at the right stop. Along the way, the bus driver was playing Korean old songs from the 70s and 80s. It felt really local to be on the bus while enjoying the local scenery of downtown Busan.

There were a few buses which gets you to Taejongdae. I took the first bus that arrived which was bus 66. On the bus there was a Malaysian family (I could tell by their accent). And they were wondering which stop should they alight for Taejongdae. I told them it is the last stop. I passed by Yeongdo bridge on my way to Taejongdae as expected (after studying Busan's landscape from Busan Tower yesterday) and I could see many fishermen nearby the port. This is the original Busan!

The weather was very sunny and windy today, perfect weather to go to Taejongdae. I opted to walk the trail to reach the Taejongdae landmark which was at the midpoint of the trail. Along the way I went down to the seashore to catch a close up view of the sea. But I sort of regretted when I needed to climb my way back to the trail.

Taejongdae Entrance

View from 1st Observatory Site 

Nevertheless, after 40 minutes or so, I reached the highest point at the observatory deck. The scene was majestic from here. I also took a rest and had some Busan Odeng at the observatory deck along with an ice cream waffle.

View From Highest Observatory Site 

Busan Odeng

I continued my journey to Taejongdae lighthouse and the landmark structure. The lighthouse was nothing fun to be honest. From here you could see Sinseon Rock at about 80-100m below. There were some stairs and rocks which could lead you to that rock and cliffs down there.

Hmm..Wonder what does this symbolize

Yeongdo Lighthouse

Taejongdae Landmark with Sinseon Rock at the bottom left

Sinseon Rock / Cliff

Of course, I took the route down to the cliffs. I think if you only stayed up there and did not spend the effort or courage to go down, you have never experienced Taejongdae. It wasn't very difficult to go to Sinseon Rock. Just need to be careful of the rocky path. When I reached there, it was a totally different feeling. I saw on the cliff while looking out at the vast ocean. It was just amazing. I was glad that the Malaysian family that I saw on the bus made their way to Sinseon rock too.

View from Sinseon Rock Below

Taejongdae Rock Cliffs

After spending quite some time enjoying the cliffs, I climbed back up for about 280m back to the trail. This was the hardest and most challenging part! I was panting away heavily after I reached the top. However, I was running out of time. There was a Danubi train here and I asked the train lady whether I could buy a ticket on the spot. She allowed and I took the Danubi train to finish the second half of the journey back to the starting point.

Riding the Danubi Train

The train only took about 10 minutes to reach the starting point where I got off and rode a bus back to Busan Deport and then to Mora.

Quickly I packed my things and headed for Gupo KTX station which was only three stations from Mora. Gupo station was about 10 minutes walk from Gupo metro station. I passed by a bakery selling Gyeongju Bbang (Bread) and I bought some of them for dinner on the train. I bid farewell to Busan and started my journey back to Seoul. I will be staying at a guesthouse called HBC house. It is also near Noksapyeong area.

While I was on the train, the guesthouse host, Eun Kyung texted me saying that it was raining in Seoul and she and her boyfriend would be picking me up from Seoul Station by car to their guesthouse. It was really kind for her to offer me a ride and I really thanked them for their generosity.

I reached Seoul station on time and met Eun Kyung and her boyfriend Adonis. They were very friendly and spoke good English. What's more was that they were listening to mandarin channel on the radio! They told me that that radio station plays nice chinese love songs at night and they liked it. I told them about my plans to go for Gangchon ride bike tomorrow and they were surprised that I was able to find such place because Gangchon is a suburb area of Korea.

HBC House was small, but they had everything that you need! From towels, washing machine, clothe hanger, TV, snacks, fruits, umbrellas, phone charger, travelling guides, electric stove, utensils, fridge etc. I would really recommend this guesthouse. You only need to bring yourself and clothes and the guesthouse will take care of the rest. Eun Kyung also visits the guesthouse once a day to clean up. So the entire place was very neat and clean. I stayed in a room with two bunkers (4 beds) but during that period that room wasn't occupied. The other room however was occupied by a Korean man who works in a Japanese company. Eun Kyung told me that last week, my room was occupied by three girls from Singapore.

I took a shower, did my laundry and contacted Haeun for our meeting time and place for tomorrow's rail bike ride. We would be meeting at Gimyujeong station at 10:20am and our rail bike schedule was at 11:00am. We should have ample of time to find the rail bike station.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Korea Trip 2015 Day 4: Beomeosa Temple, Busan Tower

13 April 2015

I woke up at 9:30am and tried out Mrs. Park's Korean breakfast. It was really delicious and she said that her family eats this sort of breakfast everyday. I think Korean homemade dishes are better. Here is a picture of the breakfast that Mrs. Park made:

I also got to meet Sooyoung for the first time. She was really friendly and spoke fluent English in American accent. Sooyoung also told me about the direct buses from her house and it was very convenient that there was a bus from her house to downtown Busan. She also suggested a few places for me to go. In the end, I have decided on my original plan to visit Beomeosa temple, Oncheoncheon and Geumjong mountain.

It was rainy and windy today. It took about one hour for me to reach Beomeosa station and I took bus no. 90 to go up to the temple. It was a steep and winding road. Located on the mountain, the sight of the temple was different compared to our temples in Malaysia. Coupled with the rainy weather, mist of clouds were hovering the mountain. The surroundings was quiet and calm, and occasionally I saw people walking down from the mountain trail. Buddhist monks and nuns could be spotted around the corner too.

Beameosa Temple

I climbed up the temple and the interior was similar to our temple with golden statues. I really liked the atmosphere here and I think it is a good place for meditation and spiritual healing. On the side on the temple there were this "sea of rocks". Out of curiosity, I hiked my way along these rocks to sea where it would lead to. The higher I went, the better the view. But there was no one around. I just took my time to enjoy the cool and calm atmosphere here. When I was heading down, I saw a lady hiking up the rocks like I did earlier.

Sea of Rocks

After having lunch at the foot of the mountain, I wanted to go to Oncheoncheon. If someone says there's Cheongyecheon in Seoul, then there is Oncheoncheon in Busan. However, Oncheoncheon is bigger and it is a natural stream. However, due to the weather, I couldn't see the Oncheoncheon that I was expecting. There were no one cycling by the river and there was mud all over. I was a bit disappointed. I think this place will be great in summer. Then I moved on to m next destination which was Geunjong mountain. It is a famous mountain range in Busan near Beomeosa. And there is a cable car to the top.

I tried to find my way to Geumjong mountain through Geumgang park from website routes but failed. In the end I met this young lady who was eager to help. She cound't speak English but fortunately she could understand my broken Korean. She brought me to a taxi and told the taxi driver my situation. I thanked her and took a cab to Geumgang park. The taxi fare in Busan was quite cheap, only 4000 Won for fifteen minutes ride. But today wasn't a good day for me. When I reached Geumgang park, I fond that the cable car was under maintenance. Hugely disappointed, I had to plan the rest of the day impromptu.

I made a decision to visit Yongdusan Park and Busan Tower and maybe Nampodong at downtown Busan. When I reached Yongdusan Park, I went on this 3 tier escalator. And as I walked my way up to the park I could see Busan Tower. There was this guardian statue like "Guan Gong" in front of the tower, overseeing Busan. There weren't as many tourist as I expected, partly because of Monday and the cold weather I guess. When I was about to enter Busan tower, the elevator ladies asked us to follow them to the elevator entrance before I could find the ticket office. And up we went to the observatory deck. It was free of charge! Something to cheer about after some disappointing encounters. The Busan tower observatory deck has multiple window panes in 360 degrees. Each window capture a particular famous area of Busan such as Jagalchi Market, Gamcheon Culture Village, Yeongdo Bridge, Oryukdo etc.

Beautiful View of Busan Captured from Busan Tower

With a Busan map on hand, I walked around the observatory deck a few rounds, trying to figure out the landscape of Busan according to the map. I could locate the island that houses Taejongdae although Taejongdae was hidden from view. But I knew from the map that that island is the island that I will travel to tomorrow. I spent quite a long time up there capturing the view of entire Busan town area.

After Busan Tower, I went down to the town area somewhere around Nampodong. The streets were nice but it was too cold, so I went into a shopping mall instead. I think it was a Lotte shopping mall. On the ground floor I saw this musical fountain that was three storeys high. The fountain not only ejects water from the bottom but also from the top, forming beautiful patterns.

Fountain Show 
I had my dinner there and went to a CD store. It was my first time visiting Korean CD store as now there is less and less CD stores available. There were so many Korean artists CDs (Of course! I am in Korea!). I bought Yiruma's and Lee Sun Hee's 30th anniversary concert DVD.

It was already 8:30pm and it has been a tiring day for me. So I headed home and had a rest to prepare for tomorrow's Taejongdae trip before travelling back to Seoul.  

Korea Trip 2015 Day 3: Busan Gangseo Canola Flowers

12 April 2015

I took an early KTX from Seoul station to Busan. It was my first time riding a bullet train. Eunjin and I would be meeting at 1pm at Sasang for lunch. The KTX ride was very smooth and you can't really tell that the train has already been up to full speed at around 300km/h.

I reached Busan station on time and found that I had left my international charger at host Eunjin's house back in Noksapyeong. Fortunately there is a convenient store at Busan station that I managed to get hold of a phone charger. Using the directions given by Sooyoung, I reached her apartment at around 11.45am at Mora. Eunjin messaged me that we should meet at 2pm instead. I thought that it is much better too because I would have some time to rest.

However, when I rang the bell, there was no one home! I tried to call Sooyoung's mobile but there was no network. I got panicked as I couldn't check in and wonder whether they had moved out or something. Fortunately, their neighbour came out of the house and I asked them about Sooyoung's house. The guy who was bringing his parents out was really kind to help me. He brought me to the guardhouse and asked the guard about Sooyoung.'s house. Apparently Sooyoung's dad owns a red ginseng shop nearby and they had gone to church. He asked me to wait by the shop until 12:30pm as Sooyoung's dad would be back by then. Indeed, Sooyoung's dad Mr. Park greeted me at around 12:40pm and brought me in his shop and gave me free red ginseng tea. It was good because Busan is much colder and windier and the warm red ginseng tea was very comforting. He explained that Sooyoung's mom would be back from the market soon and would bring me to check in while Sooyoung was at work in the hospital.

With Mrs. Park's help, I managed to check in. The house was very big and clean. I took a shower and quickly left the house to meet Eunjin at Sasang. It only took fifteen minutes to reach Sasang and I reached on time. She wanted to meet at an Apple shop. But I couldn't find her as the Apple shop was quite big. I took a screenshot of my location and finally she found me. Her English was better than I thought. I think she had really improved a lot in her English grammar. She then brought me to a Jjukumi restaurant for lunch. Jjukumi is a spicy tiny octopus dish. As I love spicy food, I loved Jjukumi too.

Jjukumi Before and After

We chatted a little and she said that I looked younger. I was a bit anxious about whether it would be awkward to meet for the first time especially this was my first time meeting someone that I knew online. She was my first friend from Hellotalk. But soon, we broke the ice and started to talk freely. After lunch, Eunjin recommended me a canola flower sight at Gangseo near Gimhae since cherry blossom has ended in Busan. When we reached the site, I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of the yellow sea of canola flowers. It was really breathtaking and the closer to walk towards the site, you can smell the fragrance of the flowers. It was like aromatherapy.

Beautiful Canola Flowers at Gimhae

The site was also not crowded, allowing us to fully enjoy the view and the fragrance. We took many pictures together. Eunjin said it was her first time to come here too. It is difficult to describe the sceneary without pictures. We spent about one and a half hour there before heading to a cafe in Gimhae. As I would like to experience local lifestyle, Eunjin recommended this cafe which was a local cafe in Gimhae.

As we were on our way to the cafe, we were already getting along with each other really well. At the cafe, Eunjin ordered a baked bread ice cream. the bread was very freshly baked and taste really good with the ice cream. We were chatting about various things like working life, our view about life, Korean culture, Singapore culture, plastic surgery, our Hellotalk experience, and so much more. We both felt relieved that we were able to chat about things beyond the superficial. I thought that her thinking was quite matured for her age. We sat at the cafe for almost two and a half hours. That's the longest time I had spent with someone in a cafe. It was sad that we had to bid farewell as we headed back home.

When I reached home at Mora, I was surprised to find that Mrs. Park was still awake and watching TV at the living room. It was already around 11:30pm and usually elderly sleeps early. We then sat at the living room and chatted for some time. She could only speak basic English while I could only speak basic Korean. It was amazing that she liked to talk to me, in Korean with some help of translation app. I could understand maybe 60% of her conversation, most were like guessing work. She told me that she had two daughters. Sooyoung was working on shift in a hospital while another daughter was a lead vocal in a jazz band. She had taken some time off from her studies and touring around the world doing performance. She also made some red ginseng tea for me as I had a little cough.

The next day would be my solo tour around Busan. I didn't really had a solid plan in mind yet. Maybe I would visit Beomeosa Temple and visit Oncheoncheon and Geumjong Mountain as they are all nearby each other. It was a memorable day with Eunjin today although we didn't visit many places. I kinda like this kind of feeling because I didn't feel like a tourist. Just like a local, hanging out with friends at a cafe chatting away.