Monday, June 23, 2008

안녕하세요 in Spring 2008

We finally got the chance to visit Korea after planning it for a long time. In fact my wife and I planned it since before my daughter was born. We delayed and postponed it with several reasons. Partly, because of my wife was expecting for the first time. The other main reason would be my mother was diagnosed cancer at terminal stage. It was very emotional and physical exhaustion in accepting and juggling the two most critical moment in my life. I did not ask for such an encounter but god decision for me to go through the moment of new life and death in my family.

My wife and I were very excited as sadly to say this is the first time we travel out of the country for our "replacement" honeymoon. I felt sorry in asking her to delay such an important moment for a woman after married. For those who got married, I suggest, please pursue for honeymoon right away (whether cheap or expensive), do it right away. Do not delay! We begin to shop for our winter clothing and get our right package from reliable travel agency. We went for MATTA fair (an event for all travel agencies provide low & bargaining tour packages). We decided to sign up the travel agency which belongs to a company that my wife work in.

In the end, we did not go for it as the travel agency called up as they do no have the sufficient numbers to start the tour. They advised us to go for an 8 days trip, slightly expensive, but because we planned to leave our baby to a babysitter (we miss our baby by the way). Part of the reason also, my korean friend Joon Choi was not able to make it to catch up. He was scheduled to fly to Tokyo for the business reason.

We signed up Apple Tour to take the risk as we are not familiar with the travel agency. The only good thing this travel agency, they provide all the information via their website including the itinerary, flight and pricing too. The day we leave for Korea, it's a kind of weird feeling, I guess is more like we were overexcited. We took a midnight flight 1st~ 2nd April and arrived Incheon Airport 6 hours later obviously very early morning. In the initial stage, we supposed the temperature would be just nice at about 11~12 degrees. It caught us off guard as the temperature was 4 degrees during that morning.

We were very sure we're here for Spring not a Winter holiday. After some explanation from Danny (the local tour guide in Korea), the last heavy snow ended 3rd week of March, hence the possibility to experience a nice spring weather may take time. We thought we will miss the opportunity to experience " sakura" in Korea. There's another name in Korean which we were not told. I guess the tour guide forgotten to mention. The tour guide is an originated from Hong Kong (a born HK guy). Ten years ago he was here just to study Korean and hoping to find some niche skill to offer, (typical HK guy). Ultimately, the only job, he enjoyed most would be a tour guide.

From the first day until the last day, he speaks very heavy accent of Cantonese which obviously he's from Hong Kong. Other group may misunderstand, we're from Hong Kong. We bump into another group which they over heard we spoke cantonese to each other. They immediately noticed us we're from Malaysia. They reacted it very warm and friendly to us, thinking they are not the only alien in this land. I remembered we were having dinner on the third or fourth day in Seoul with a dish of Sam gae tang. A dish with chicken in the soup with ginseng and rice inside. According to them, that is considered the expensive type of dish.

In comparison to typical chinese food, generally Korean food is very mild and simple to prepare. That concluded most Korean were not fussy with their meal as long they have rice and kimchi in place. Throughout the trip kimchi is almost a must in every meal, whether breakfast, lunch or dinner. On second day, my wife was caught off guard with the weather and perhaps catch a cold virus. Whatever she ate, ended up in toilet vomit ting. I was shocked too as felt very sorry that she needs to go thru the sickness in this trip. All this while, her immune system was better than mine, anyway when you visited foreign place like korea, you have to be extra careful. One of the epidemic they always constantly fighting for would H5N1 (Bird Flu) viruses.

We did not enjoy very much on the trip. The only great place to that we think worth to go again would be Everland. It is a place for kids and the old as well. It is another version of Disneyland in Korea. The theme park is a little smaller than the one Disneyland in Tokyo. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the trip there. The park is full of baby room corner. They even provide stroller and wheelchair to rent. Very elderly and baby friendly. In fact the place was very clean too.They have the safari park which we did not go as the queue was longer than we expected. We took quite a number of pictures in the theme park that symbolize the Spring has begun. Very pleasant and interesting one.

We visited other places for shopping. One of the places called Yeoju Premium Outlet. The place looks similar like The Curve in Malaysia with a lot shops that usually sell branded stuffs. Nike, Prada, DKNY, Reebok, Samsonite and many others. Don't expect the price would be cheaper as when it comes back to currency conversion it is about the same price we get it in KL. There are other places we visited around area NamDaeMoon which famous for the historical and ancient statues. The NamDaeMoon is also a shopping destination, but unfortunately we do not have much time to visit. According to tour guide the place was burned down by a local person for self protest reasons.

Of course there is another place, we did go such as DongDaeMoon. It provided 3 buildings adjacent with each other along the street for non-stop shopping. It opened daily 10am and ended up the next morning 4am. So you could imagine that even at midnight, you could see youngster walking around the street. At that time, you could never get a temperature above than 10 degrees, most of the time below than that. We managed to get some stuffs for our baby, and it was so interesting where they could sell non-branded baby items within the whole floor itself.

We visited a palace to complete our trip which located in the city. They arrange it very nicely the way we go in and vice-versa. It is different place where we watched the popular drama Dae Jang Geum, but architecture wise, very close to it. Prior that, our tour guide try his best in getting us a spot for us to enjoy the " sakura" feel. The place which I could not recall near the parliment of Seoul. The nice long stretch of the street where all the " sakura" trees already blossoming. We managed took some photos definitely.

There are few things we bought for souvenir, tit-bits, Korean ginseng and of course for the women, cosmetic was all they were being looked out. I noticed that the cosmetic industry in Korean were very competitive. At one scene in MyeongDong, where the staffs of each cosmetic shop shouted and promoted their brands. They offer a lot of goodies just to lure you in. It seemed to me like Petaling Street fighting for cheap t-shirt or fruits. Talking about women in Korea, most of them in the street generally are pretty. Fair and smooth skin, that's for sure. The only thing we have to remember, not all of them possessed natural beauty. Most of them went through plastic surgery which was widely available in Korea at any street clinic. Tall, fair, pretty and well-dressed this is what I can say about the women there.

The Korean also was known very thrifty people, and they don't encourage people to waste anything even food. They were also self - taught to clean things up voluntarily. If you happened to see some street in Korea without a dustbin, it's normal for them. We Malaysia, should have learned from them more. Their habits and culture have been very little different from the Japanese. As the matter of fact, Japanese invaded them for quite a while. Bottom lines, the Korean did not favor the Japanese very much. They have special rate for the Japanese in terms taxi fare. Knowing the Japanese generous in terms of spending, they did not pursue to argue and bargain as they have higher ego than the Korean.

As the final day approaching, my wife felt much better, and I'm glad she did. Although she did not enjoy much as she felt it ruined her mood completely especially shopping, we agreed there are still places in Korea worth to come back again. Until the next trip in Autumn, an yong haseyo and kamsa hamnida from me.

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