Sunday, March 28, 2010

Travelog: Day 2 - 7D Charm of Korea [14/3/2010]

Our next flight will be at 1.00am. Veron suggested we sit and have a drink, her treat ;)

There's total of 18 pax in our tour group:
1) Family of five inclusive of the cute and always cheery girl, Wahida Amalin
2) Husband and wife, dubbed the senior cute couple
3) Seasoned travellers; also husband and wife, dubbed the young couple
4) Mother and two teenage daughters, who spice up everything
5) Buddies and colleagues, 2 look-alike ladies
6) Veronica, our travel agent
7) And the three of us, Charlie's Angels haha!I couldn't sleep at all thru the whole plane ride (excited much?), just occupied myself with the entertainment 'box' in front of me. The two sisters beside me have long gone to dreamland. We arrived at Incheon International Airport early in the morning and were given time to freshen up and drank coffee to stay awake hehe.

By 7.30am, we proceeded to our bus. The moment we step out of the main door, we were greeted by a blast of cold wind...burrrrr! It was so cold! Temperature was at 1 degree celsius! All of us hastily zipping up our jacket and putting on gloves!


First stop: Pass thru Korea's Presidential Blue House
Cameras start clicking here and there. We also saw bits of ice left and very excited about it. 

Mount Bukhan, near the Blue House
Second stop: National Folk Museum of Korea and Gyeongbuk Palace
Our tour guide of the day; Lisa-Yang, showed us around the museum and narratively describe each section of exhibition. We learn culture and olden days of Korea. At the middle of it, we ventured away from the group to capture our own memories at every side of the museum, not really interested in the explanations :p

Gyeongbuk-gung (palace) is very huge! It houses the royal families - the king and his companions. Each of them has their own building! Wow! This place reminds me of Korean drama: Iljimae. Iza and me had fun reenacting some of the scene :p 

1st lunch in Korea: Indian cuisine at Taj Palace
A buffet spread for a group of hungry Singaporeans. Each table is served with a basket of hot piping Naan bread! Yummy! I have expected this as halal food in Korea doesn't include local selection. The taste is a bit different from our local flavour. I like the dessert best: Sugee! My favourite kind - without any rose essence ;)

After lunch, we checked in to our hotel, Hamilton; just around the corner. Oh, before that, when we're walking to our hotel, kak Noorul and me saw a street stall selling fresh strawberries. We grinned at each other and somehow knew we had to buy it at that time! It cost around KRW4,000 (S$5). Lisa told us the price range depends on the freshness of the fruit. Our triple room was quite spacious and in no time, it looks like a hurricane-destroyed room ;p

Mesh on the window, letting in the natural and original 'aircon' from outside
We decided to shop around Itaewon after performing zuhr/asr jama' prayer. There's a line-up of stores all over our hotel and a mini shopping centre beside it. As winter hasn't pass by, many shops still sell winter clothes and socks of all kind. I bought a 28" luggage (KRW55,000/S$70) as mine has fallen apart the moment it arrives at the hotel room! We also bought hand cream in a shape of tangerine and peach from Tony Moly for our colleagues as this brand has not reach SG yet. And a bright red soccer t-shirt for the two (only) guys at office. Apart from clothing and bags, there's also lot of middle east restaurants. I've lost counted how many kebab places are. At random, we choose one of the kebab store owned by a Turkish (I forgot the name of the place) similar taste to the one sold at pasar malam in Singapore. The Korean version has more sourish sauce though. We met our tour guide for this whole week, Brian-sshi at the hotel lobby before heading to have dinner together.

1st dinner in Korea: Indian cuisine buffet at Foreign Restaurant

A lot more food served than our lunch restaurant. There's a mix of Indian and western fare, not to miss, the Naan bread. I ate a little, still full of kebabs and strawberries. However, a bit later all our energy intakes were used up! We had to walked upwards the hill to Seoul Central Mosque. Alhamdulillah, how grateful we are that our mosques here are conveniently located, I have to catch my breath every ten steps I took. Masya Allah, the endurance of the Muslims here, every steps taken with one nawaitu - to be closer to Allah s.w.t. The Muslimah's prayer room is located at level 3, again we have to take many many steps to get there! 

The Muslimin praying area
The Muslimah praying area
After solat, we're supposed to return to Hamilton hotel but Brian extended his service by bringing us to Dongdaemun by subway instead of taking our bus. For us to have a Korean subway experience :) The subway system is same as our MRT, even to enter the ticket barrier, you just tap your card and return it on a machine to received your deposit for a one-way ticket. No major difference except our stations and trains are much more comfortable and modern-look hehe. We have to change train from line 6 - Itaewon to line 2 - Samgakji. Samgakji station is one level above and guess what? There's no escalator going up! Just (many) towering steps waiting for you. 

Upon arriving at Dongdaemun Station, we have to go up more stairs! We kept groaning every time we saw them. We, Singaporeans are too pampered! There's a lift available though for elderly and handicapped. Escalators are only for going down. Now I know why Koreans able to stay slim and fit, all thanks to their up, up and (thigh) pain system! urrghh! 

Subway with heater seats!
So exclusive the Doota's restroom. Siap ada sofa lagi!
There's several shopping centres at Dongdaemun (largest shopping culture in Korea). We chose Doota as Veron said this is the best among all. Nothing much for me to buy there. All clothes in a small size and not my kind of style. Shoes almost all in thin high heels. Bags and accessories way too expensive and we can easily get it here in Singapore. The only shop at level 5, managed to separate our Wons from our wallet is the souvenirs; all sorts of key chains, teacups, traditional bags and pouches, spoon and chopstick, bookmarks and many more. They also sell celebrity notebooks, calendars etc featuring artistes like Bae Yong Jun, SS501, F4 and many more. We spent quite some time there, exploring every nook and cranny for the best bargain to bring home.

Tired and exhausted, we went back to hotel by cab, cost us only KRW4,100 (S$5)

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