Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Korea Trip Epilogue (13/06/2014)

We reached Gimhae Airport early and we were surprised to find out that the boarding time was  around 30 minutes before flight time. So we were chilling at the departure hall. There was a lady who approached us and asked us to do a survey on our experience in Busan. It was a tourism survey. I looked a the clock, it was still 9.45am and I thought the boarding time was way too early so I decided to do the survey. But the survey was pretty long. We couldn't finish the survey because we heard our names from the announcement. They were calling us for boarding! We apologized to the surveyor and quickly picked up our baggage and ran towards the gate.

On the plane we shared our photos taken in Korea. I think we took more than 2000 photos altogether. Mid way through our flight I saw something familiar. The orange Adidas jacket girl! The girl we saw twice in Jeju was on the same flight as us from Busan to KL! Wow this time is really a huge huge coincidence. I still can't quite believe it now. I don't know whether she recognized us but it was definitely her. Well, it's another memory we brought back from Korea.

After 7 hours of flight, we finally touched down at KLIA 2. The first thing that greeted us was hot, humid air. Argh. But I knew I had to get used to it again. Not only the air, but reality. They said an overseas vacation makes someone wonders. I am still wondering, wandering...

Korea Trip Day 9 (12/06/2014) - Busan

So here we are, on the last day of our vacation. We woke up late at around 10am. Without wasting anymore time we quickly washed up and headed to our first destination, Gamcheon Culture Village. When we came out of the subway station we were not sure how to get there although we could see the colourful Gamcheon Village houses on the hill. We asked a staff working in a convenient store and she was glad to help us out. She drew a rough map showing the way to the village and what bus to take. She also drew a zebra crossing on the map and asked us to cross the road.

Following her directions we took a mini bus from Busan Cancer Centre bus stop to go up the hill. While waiting at the bus stop, a Chinese girl approached us and asked us where were we from. We later found out that she was planning to go to Gamcheon Culture Village too. So we asked her to tag along and visit the place together. Later we got to know her name, Wang Qing. We took lots of photos at the village. There were some stairs climbing required but it's worth the effort. The view from the top of the hill was amazing, filled with colourful houses just like those on the postcards. The village was actually an old neighbourhood, with lots of old folks staying inside. We spotted a granny with her tongkat climbing the steep stairs. She must have done it every other day as well.

Gamcheon Culture Village

We also passed by a small shop selling snacks. The uncle was very kind and friendly. He showed us tourist messages written on sticky notes that were pasted all over the shop. There were so many of them. We also wrote down our message and took a photo there. After we had some drinks we headed downhill. Along our way down, we saw a stall selling the famous Ssi At Hotteok! It was recommended by Olivia earlier but we couldn't find it at Seoul. The Hotteok we fond at Seoul was different. This Ssi At Hotteok has little seeds inside and it was so delicious. I wish I could have more of it. Definitely one of my favourite snacks here.

The famous snack - Ssi At Hotteok

As we set off late, everything was pushed back an hour. After Gamcheon Culture Village, it was already around 2pm. We went to the famous Jagalchi Fish Market. It was just one subway station away. Wang Qing said she wanted to go there go so it was great to have her company. Once we came out of Jagalchi station, we immediately smelled seafood. And the market was just around the corner. There were many outdoor stalls selling all kinds of seafood. But we wanted to have seafood for lunch so we went to a Jagalchi Market building. From outside it looks like a department store, around 6-7 stories high. When we went inside we realized that the first two levels were markets and seafood food court. The upper levels were offices We wanted to find a famous stall that we researched online called Jackie's. His stall received numerous coverage on TV as well as on food magazines. It didn't took us long to find it among the other stalls. We looked at the menu. Indeed the food looked delicious. But it was quite expensive. Luckily we researched online that seafood stalls here are expensive but you can bargain for a discount especially tourists. So we asked the Ajumma "nomu pissa yo. Jum kakka juseyo" means "it's really expensive. Please give us a discount". And after awhile she agreed. I think they were expecting the bargain too. We managed to cut 10000won off the original price for all the food we ordered. We ordered Sashimi, seafood steamboat and a seafood pancake. The seafood steamboat was really awesome. The oyster was still alive, shrinking and expanding inside the steamboat. The Ajumma then turned on the gas and cook the seafood inside. After they were cooked we scooped the up and devoured it. It was fresh and delicious. Because of so many seafood inside, the soup was extremely sweet. It was probably the best meal of our trip. After our meal, we took a group photo with the Ajumma. They were so lovely.

Various kinds of seafood sold in Jagalchi Market

Seafood steamboat at Jagalchi Fish Market

It was around 4pm after we had our late lunch and we wanted to go to Nampodong. But it was raining cats and dogs. It was the first rain in our trip and it fell on the last day. We were grounded at the market as there were no shelters. During that time Wang Qing shared with us her experience and some great photos taken at various parts of China such as Yun Nan and so on. The views were breathtaking and we said that maybe one day we should go there. We waited for about 40 minutes and we saw a group of girls waiting at the market with umbrellas. We asked them where can we buy the umbrellas but they said it would be quite far. After some discussion among themselves. one of the girl passed us two umbrellas and asked us to follow them. They shared the remaining umbrellas and led us to a grocery shop that sells umbrellas! We were so touched and grateful for their help. Busan people are really helpful. Wang Qing had to go back to Seoul in that evening by KTX and we changed our plans to go to Seomyeon instead because there were shopping malls there so we could avoid the rain. Wang Qing wanted to find a bank to withidraw Korean won to return to us because we paid for her meal at Jagalchi earlier. But we couldn't find the bank so she gave us China RMB instead. Maybe we can use them at Yun Nan one day! After that we headed to the subway station. We bid goodbye to Wang Qing as she had to alight earlier at Busan station whereas we would alight at Seomyeon. On the subway, we were all standing. But there was this uncle, probably in his 50s asked us to sit down. I was the closest to him and he kept insisting me to sit. We actually had similar experience before yesterday when we just arrived at Busan where old folks insisted us to sit. So I knew there was no point refusing since it was a courtesy of them. Then during one of the stops, an old lady boarded the train. I wanted to give up my seat to her but the uncle pressed me down firmly and told me something in Korean. I guess he was saying tourists should have the privilege compared to locals. I was a bit stunned by his actions and a bit embarrassed too. He talked to me in Korean and some broken english which I thought was Korean. Although he knew I couldn't understand but he still wanted to talk to me.

Seomyeon is like a city, with shopping malls and restaurants just like Seoul. We went shopping and had dinner there. It was our third Korean barbeque meal. But the staffs there could not speak English so we relied on sign language to communicate. The was one female staff there, a bit plum but very cute like cartoon character. Her reactions were also very cute. I still remember her confused cute reaction when we talked to her in English. After that we walked around for awhile before going back to our hostel.

Time really flies. We have ended our vacation in Korea. It feels so short. I will definitely come back here again. I love the time I spent here whether in Seoul, Jeju or Busan. There were so many friendly and helpful locals. I wonder if I will one day migrate to Korea. You only live once. Our flight tomorrow will be 10.40am from Gimhae Airport. Quan Yen and Shi Keat bought some fried chicken for supper before we went to bed, our last night in Korea.

Korea Trip Day 8 (11/06/2014) - Busan

We took a morning Jejuair flight to Busan. We bid goodbye to Forest Hostel and headed towards the airport. After about 1.5 hours of flight, we reached Busan Gimhae Airport. We had to take a subway (they call it Metro in Busan) to Sasang and changed line to go to Haeundae where our Hostel is located. We had lunch first before taking the subway nearby the airport. We could immediately tell that Busan people speaks in a different accent. During our lunch, when we pressed the button to call for the waiter, all the staffs in the restaurant yelled out "ne~ (which means yes)" at once. After our lunch we took the subway towards Sasang and then changed to another line towards Haeundae.

The journey was very far, from one end of Busan to the other. We alighted at Haeundae station to look for HiKorea Hostel but we were not sure of the way. So we asked a local there and she said that we should alight at the previous station Dongbaek. We went back to the train and alighted at Dongbaek we found the hostel. It was located on the fifth floor of a building. Here we could easily spot tall buildings, condos like in Singapore.

Street view at Haeundae
We checked into HiKorea hostel and we were required to keep our shoes outside in the locker and wear their slippers into the premise for cleanliness reasons. All the staffs there were students, very young and were very friendly. The girl staff was pretty too. The room had a passcode lock just Mely's. The room was cozy but without any windows. The bathroom was a surprise to us. There were two shower compartments in the male's room but the compartment was very open. You can actually see the guy next to you clearly. So we decided to lock the door outside when we were showering so that no other guys can share the shower place with us. It will be so awkward I think.

We went to Haeundae beach after we have checked into the rooms. Haeundae beach was just behind our hostel. We walked about 7 minutes to the beach. It was a huge beach. The sand was whitish and the sun was bright that day. But there were not many people there. I guess it could be because the weather was still not very warm. Although there was hot sun, the breeze was still very chilling. Most of the people there were tourists, western people. We took lots of photos there. Quan Yen had multiple attempts on his jump shots. We also saw a couple of Korean girls with bikini tops laying on the beach. After hesitating for quite some time, I've decided to approach them to ask for a photo. Shi Keat became my cameraman. I was so nervous but what the heck. I asked them and they were so happy to accept my invitation for a photo together. I wanted to ask for one of the girl's but in the end I took photos with both of them. I think they were waiting for guys to ask them for a photo. Too bad I wasn't in good shape to show off LOL. We also saw many seagulls. I've never seen so many seagulls at once before.

Serene Haeundae Beach

After Haeundae beach we went to Gwangali beach to see the famous Gwangwon Bridge. It was a double deck bridge with cars traveling from one side to another on two levels. We took a subway there. It was a smaller beach and behind it were full of high rise buildings. We went to have dinner first before we came back to watch the Gwangwon Bridge light show. As the day got darker, the lights started to kick in on the bridge. Then the music begins and the lights fluctuated along with the music, one of which was Crayonpop's BarBarBar. At night, the beach was a beautiful place for couples to have a stroll along the bay. Very romantic.

Evening and Night view of Gwangwon Bridge. Quite a huge difference!

I can't quite remember what we did after visiting Gwangwon bridge. I think we walked around and headed back to the hostel. There were quite a lot of people at night at the hostel lounge. We met one of the staffs who worked there at night. Her name is Taeyoung and she was very friendly. She likes to travel and she can speak Mandarin and a little Cantonese. There was also a German guy who sits there at the lounge. He was on his laptop all the time until we talked to each other. We had a great time chatting and joking around. Taeyoung was talking about a phone called Xiao Mi and that it has a function whereby the phone takes photos with a sound of a clap. Both the German guy and I were puzzled and our first question was, wouldn't all the photos will be people with their hands clapping together since the shutter was triggered by clapping sound? It was really funny. Taeyoung also asked us to review her on Tripadvisor, which I did when I got back to Malaysia because with 500 reviews she will be sponsored to a trip to Japan. Such an awesome deal!

There were also local tourists there but we didn't talk to each other. Later that night, two girls from Hong Kong checked in. Because we could speak Cantonese, we quickly made friends with each other. We chatted a lot. And they taught us how to play Hong Kong card games. We played "Stop The Bus". Another game was about "chat kap ju" (seven level pig). The mission was to rotate card in hands and whenever someone gets a set of cards with he same number, he/she has to use the cards to cover his mouth and the rest have to follow suit and keep quiet. The last person to react will be raised to level one pig and here comes the fun part. If a pig with lower level talks to a pig with higher level, that lower level pig will be raised to the same level as the higher level pig. Only same level pig can communicate with each other. When someone reaches 7 level pig the game ends and the loser will forfeit. It was really fun as the higher level pig will always prompt the lower level pigs to talk to him/her. We really enjoyed the games. We also played a story game where the storyteller has the ending of the story and our mission was to guess the whole story by only asking true or false questions. We had a hard time guessing the helicopter story but with some hints Quan Yen finally got it. We played until 3am that night. We still have one more day left in Busan the next day. It will be a challenge not to oversleep on that night. But the schedule on the next day wasn't very packed so we were not so worried about it. Yup, it's the last day tomorrow. Time really flies.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Korea Trip Day 7 (10/06/2014) - Jeju

Today we will be exploring the eastern region of Jeju Island, which will cover arguably the most famous tourist spots in Jeju, Seopjikoji and Seongsan Ilchulbong. We've decided to take a taxi to go to Manjanggul first (because the bus stop is 2.6km away from the cave) and then to Seojikoji and finally to Seongsan Ilchulbong before taking a bus back to Forest Hostel.

The taxi driver this time could speak better English and was quite humourous. He offered to wait for us and bring us to our next destination. He said Manjanggul is hard to flag a taxi which charges by meter. And most taxis would ask for a service charge for waiting but he was offering just the fare by meter. No waiting charges. So it's basically the same just that we won't need to flag a taxi from one place to another, just hop on to his and pay by meter. It was a pretty good deal.

Manjanggul is a famous lava tube cave in Jeju. The temperature gets colder as you go deeper into the cave. The lava marks on the walls of the cave was amazing. Just imagine this cave was once filled by flowing lava. Different types of flows leave different kinds of marks. And there were stalactites and stalagmites too. Water was dropping from the ceiling and the ground was wet due to condensation. It was dark so we couldn't really take good photos in there. But it was an awesome experience. At the end of the route opened to tourists, there's a dead end. So we turned back and walked the cave again from the inside. The taxi driver told us that people usually spent 45 minutes but we took 1.5 hours.

Entrance to Manjanggul

Next we went to Seopjikoji. The view was breathtaking and so windy. The walked along the path until the "light house" (not sure what it is but looks like a light house or tower) which was the highest part of Seopjikoji hillside. Below Seopjikoji you can see waves splashing on the rocks. It was amazing. There were many tourists there including a tour group from  Malaysia. There was a girl within the group with an orange Adidas jacket. More on that girl later.

Beautiful scenery at Seopjikoji

Then we moved on to Seongsan Ilchulbong, our last stop. It was about 15 minutes drive from Seopjikoji. The taxi driver was kind enough to show us the bus stop that will get us back to the terminal. He dropped us off at the junction and we thanked him. We found a Korean fast food restaurant there called Lotteria. We decided to give it a try since we have not tried Korean fast food before. I ordered Bulgogi burger. Not very special but I enjoyed it. Then we walk toward Seongsan Ilchulbong. There was an Amway roadshow there and also Haenyo show at the bottom of the mountain. But we didn't go there. We took some photos at the foothill because the backdrop with the mountain was magnificent. And guess who we saw? The Adidas jacket girl! It was really a coincidence since we left Seopjikoji first and went for lunch (and it doesn't end here!).

We hiked the mountain (actually they have stairs so basically we climbed the stairs), not very high, just around 180m. And within 20 minutes we were at the peak. We took photos along our way to the top but I would advise not to waste time taking photos on your way up because the higher you go the better the view. At the peak we saw the Ilchulbong (sunrise peak). Obviously we were not here for the sunrise but we were hoping to see sunset but we were not fortunate that day due to the cloudy weather. The peak was all green and flat. It was very unique. It was really windy too and lots of people up there. We spent about 40 minutes up there and decided to call it a day.

The famous Seongsan Ilculbong

We went down to the bus stop and looking to board the 4.45pm bus. In Jeju you will need to get yourself familiarized with the bus schedule because some buses do not come along very often. We left at this time because it takes about two hours to travel back to the terminal and we had to transfer to bus 100 back to the hostel. On the bus we managed to find a seat and had a short nap. Shi Keat and I sat next to each other that time and we were awaken by chatters. There were lots of students who got on at one stop, I guess it was a secondary school bus stop. And we were lucky to be awaken because the girls were so cute. I am sure they didn't do plastic surgery because they were just teens. probably around 14 years old. They did apply make up though, unlike in Malaysia where school students aren't allowed to apply make up. I think they've practiced their make up skills since young.

When we reached forest hostel it was already around 6.45pm. After dinner we went to the fun fair near Forest Hostel. This time there were people playing the Tagada. Quan Yen and Shi Keat went up there and I took video of them. The Tagada was manually controlled and the operator can spin, jerk and do anything he likes with the Tagada to give the riders an "enjoyable" ride. The operator would joke with them in Korean too and there was constant interacting. It would have been more fun if we could understand him. The operator usually pick on girls and on the second ride he picked on a girl who dropped her coins while the Tagada was jerking. The operator asked her to pick up the coin but when she went to the middle he jerked and spinned the Tagada again to make her off balanced. It was pretty enjoyable to watch people struggling to get on their feet and seat. I am sure they enjoyed it too.

We returned to the hostel after a tiring day and we shared the photos that we took over the past week. There were so many good memories in Seoul and Jeju. Life in Jeju feels like..carefree and simple. It seems like a nice place to stay if you are someone who like simple life. The next day we will be heading to Busan, the second largest city of Korea. It is going to be exciting. Beach! Bikinis! Seafood!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Korea Trip Day 6 (09/06/2014) - Jeju

We had free breakfast at the lounge of Forest Hostel at the basement level. They had coffee/tea, bread and also an electric stove. There were some other tourists there and from their accent we could tell that they were from Hong Kong and Malaysia. We also knew a guy from China and he was about to depart to another hostel at Seogwipo. The lounge was cozy. We had a couple of bread spread with jam to go along with coffee and off we go to meet the taxi driver who we had arranged a day tour with. However, the driver who greeted us was another driver. He said he was yesterday's driver's friend. To convince us, he called his friend and we talked to him. We agreed to let his friend drive us since he couldn't make it. The driver's name was Mr Yang. We had a short discussion on our schedule and he added a few more destinations like "Yong Du An", "San Bang San", Osulloc Tea Farm, Glass Castle and Mount Halla. We will be touring from the northern part of Jeju and make a loop around the western part of the island.

We started off with Yong Du An (Yong Du is dragon head) along the shores. Mr. Yang parked his taxi and asked us to walk on the rocks until we are in front of the dragon head rock. He was kinda rush and asked us for our smartphones to take photo for us. He was really helpful but we thought that we could have given us more time to sight see. We then went to a beach, I forgot the name but it was nearby. Very few people there and we just took some photos and left.

Yong Du An (Dragon Head Rock)

After that, we visited Osulloc Tea Farm. The sight was beautiful and so relaxing. There's a tea cafe/museum where they sell teas and also allowed us for free testings. I tried the tea with tangerine seeds. It was awesome so I bought one pack for mum they all to try. We also saw this really pretty girl who works there. I asked her for a group selfie together. She is Korean but she can speak Mandarin. She asked "是自拍吗?我喜欢自拍”. Till today, her sweet voice still rings in my head.

Osulloc Tea Farm

Then we went to a couple of theme parks, Glass Castle and So In Guk (小人国). The glass castle was full with art works made from glass by various glass artists. Some were really beautiful. We wanted to go for the glass making class but the we missed the glass making schedule. It was not very fun there. We had lunch at So In Guk theme park. It was a Korean Buffet with many buffet dishes and soup. The driver expected us to pay for him but we didn't know about that until we have gone in. The food was great and unlimited supply including meat. We had a really sumptuous and filling lunch buffet there before entering the theme park. The theme park was basically scaled-down monuments from all over the world. We even found a mosque from Malaysia but had no idea it was from Malaysia. There was also a mini train and we took a ride. But it went for two rounds which was quite puzzling. Anyway, the park was not very well maintained, and more suitable for kids i guess. It certainly wasn't the highlight of that day.

The highlight of the day was our next destination - San Bang San. The shape of the mountain was unique with a temple at the foot of the mountain. On the mountain there was a hotspring but we didn't go there. Instead we went to a rock-cave opposite the mountain. The view was breathtaking. I was awestruck by the beauty of it. Sea waves flapping on the rocks. We spent a good two hours there I think, just walking about, embracing the works of mother nature. I will recommend this place to anyone who is visiting Jeju.

Breathtaking views at San Bang San 

by then it was already around 5pm. We then proceeded to Cheonjeyeon Falls. Mr. Yang asked us to "Pali pali" which means hurry and only gave us 25 minutes. There were three falls in Cheonjeyeon fall. We went to the second fall and the site was so beautiful. The water was so clean. The photo of the fall looked as if it was being photoshopped. We also crossed the "Seonimgyo Bridge" (Seven Nymph Bridge) to get to the falls. After that we went to Jusangjari, a famous tourist spot in Jeju. At the site, there were numerous lava tubes sticking out from the shores. The rock formation was very unique. But we didn't spend much time there. I think if you are interested in geology, you might find Jusangjari very interesting.

2nd fall of Cheonjeyeon Falls

After Jusangjari, we headed back north to our hostel through Mount Halla or Hallasan. The road was winding and steep and Mr. Yang sped through the mountain roads like Initial D. By the time we reach near the peak Mr. Yang stopped and asked us to explore the mini garden there. It was super cold as we were at about 1100m above sea level. We spotted many unique plants there and also a lonely deer. Then, we continued down hill due north. Before we reach the hostel, we passed by the Mysterious Road. It was the Mysterious Road that we couldn't find yesterday. Mr. Yang turned off the engine and pushed the gear into "N" and let the breaks go while we were uphill. Miraculously, the car slides forward slowly. It was as if we were at an anti-gravity mode. We also saw a couple of tour buses moved slowly uphill beside us. It was amazing.

By 7pm, Mr. Yang sent us back to Forest Hostel and we paid him 120000KRW. But we told him that the next day we would like to explore Jeju on our own. One reason being we wanted to experience bus services in Jeju (which was notoriously difficult) but also today was kinda rush. That being said, we wouldn't have managed to visit so many places if Mr. Yang hadn't rush us. He tried to convince us to engage him again the next day but we already made up our mind.

That night, we had dinner at a famous BBQ restaurant near Forest Hostel. It was delicious and the restaurant owner, an aunty even taught us the method to eat Korean BBQ. It was the second of our three BBQ meals in Korea (one each at Seoul, Jeju and Busan). Then we explored around the town. There were many shops around there but most of them were closed after 9pm unlike Seoul which was still vibrant at night. Shi Keat and Quan Yen wanted to play the Tagada at the fun fair but strangely that night no one was playing. Those who came played the pirate ship and bumper car. We decided to play the next night.

It was a fun and tiring day today. We couldn't believe that we managed to communicate with Mr. Yang with our broken Korean and sign language. We really thank him for being a good day tour guide for us today. It was a wonderful experience. The next day we will be exploring Jeju with a mixture of taxi and bus to save cost. We did some research before dinner and asked the hostel staff. She was really helpful and searched the bus information for us. She even called the tourist information centre to ask for more details. We really met lots of helpful Koreans during the course of our trip. That night, we played Dai Dee in our room while having some Hallabong. Can't wait for the next day to arrive as we will be visiting the two most famous places in Jeju.