Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Into the Woods, Valleys & Countryside. Korea Day 5

The past 4 days in Korea has been quite an experience. Honestly speaking, if i were to plan my own trip to Korea with my friends, you would see a totally different itinerary altogether, probably to more famous places that everyone would visit - examples would be the few must-go theme parks like Everland, Lotte world etc. But this trip has opened another side of Korea for me, i would have never known about a blind restaurant, i would never thought of staying overnight in a traditional house in a village with only the basic necessities (and no WIFI, lol), visit any museums or heritage sites, not to say crazy enough to climb a mountain in another country, in fact i might not have even venture out of Seoul.

I'll save the reflections for the last post in this travelogue, lol. Let's move on with Day 5. Like i mentioned, the first half of the day was to visit the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress (last stop for this trip!) and after which it's gonna be free and easy where the 3 of us will split up and get the rest of the day to ourselves to do what we want. *super excited*
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Went to Seoul station in the morning to get train tickets to Suwon 수원.
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You know how Paris Baguette recently opened at Wisma Singapore and it's always so crowded. Apparently, Paris Baguette is everywhere in Korea. (I did a quick google search and it states that there are 2,900 stores in Korea. Seriously?) Anyway there was still time before we board our train, we decided to have our breakfast there that day!
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Had to stop and take a photo because one of my favourite boy group - B2ST is endorsing for Dunkin' Donuts! :D
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Seoul station 서울역.
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Journey to Suwon from Seoul takes less than an hour. Btw, it was drizzling that day! :(
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Suwon (수원)  is the provincial capital of Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. A major city with over a million inhabitants, Suwon lies about 30 km south of Seoul and is traditionally known as "The City of Filial Piety". One interesting attraction at Suwon is this unusual "toilet theme park" which you may want to add to your itinerary if you were to visit Suwon.
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Had to take a public bus to Hwaseong Fortress (화성).
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Here we are! A brief introduction of this place. Hwaseong Fortress is an impressive structure/ wall that surrounds the centre of Suwon, the provincial capital of Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. This fortress was built from 1794 to 1796 by King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty to house and honour the remains of his father, Prince Sado - a show of filial piety.
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Apparently this is also the place where the Korean hit drama - DaeJangGeum and reality show 2D1N was filmed!
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Just nice that day we went, there was some festival ongoing and admission was free. There were also some filming going on inside and i get to witness how the offering ritual was conducted. Not something that you get to see everyday.
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Passed by the 600+ year-old Zelkova tree, which has protected Suwon since before the fortress was built. Legend has it that wishes made to the tree will come true. So i decided to make a wish too! I had to write my wish on a paper...
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and tie it to the rope that surrounds the tree. Made a very general wish, LOL
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Had to take a photo of the DaeJangGeum standees (left) and one with the guards (right) HAHHAHAHA
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Passed by a store and Elizabeth recommended me this ice cream milkshake drink. It's basically frozen ice cream inside and you wait for it to melt a little before drinking it through the straw. IT'S SUPER NICE I TELL YOU! The flavour is so milky and you could taste the bits of cookies in it. I wonder if there's any place in Singapore that sells this...
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Climbed up to the highest point that overlooks the whole Suwon and trekked along the fortress wall. The wall stretches for a total of 5.52km and has a great variety of military facilities that is hard to find anywhere else. There is a total of 4 main gates for each cardinal directions (north, south, east and west) At the one, you will pass by the Hwahongmun Gate (화홍문) bottom middle photo - it cotains seven arches, constructed in varying sizes, to let the river water through.
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Headed back to Suwon station to get our tickets back to Seoul.
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Almost couldn't get the earliest tickets back to Seoul as it was almost sold out. Was panicking because the longer we are delayed in Seoul, it means the lesser time we have for ourselves in Seoul. Not forgetting that this is gonna be the last night we have in Korea. But after trying different machines, we finally found 1 that has tickets left for a train that will arrive in the next 5 to 10 mins. Phew. If not we might have a wait a few hours for the next train! Heng ahhhhh
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Plastic surgery being advertised very openly. The result is quite drastic hor? So scary.

For the past few days, i've been planning for my Day 5 Free & Easy. Always wanted to travel alone in a foreign country and now i have the chance to do so! Had a few places in mind but i had to take into consideration the time i have, the time i take to travel etc. Finally decided N Seoul tower (N서울타워), Teddy bear museum, Myeongdong (명동) and if there's time - Dongdaemun (동대문). I know 4 places sounds quite ambitious with the time i had - 4pm onwards.
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Part of the whole metro map of Seoul. I even thought of visiting the "trick eye museum" that i saw from photos online but then i was thinking it's a bit dumb to go alone. Like who's gonna help me take photos and it's damn pai seh to ask people to help me take photos while i pretend, lol. That's one disadvantage about traveling alone i guess :|

Anyway, first stop: N Seoul tower (N서울타워)

Whenever i visit a country, i would want to visit its most famous landmark and i did not get to go to the tower during my first trip so i told myself i must make a trip there this time! (i was praying throughout the whole morning that the rain would stop!) Did a quick search on how to get to the tower and followed the instructions all the way.
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Basically i just had to walk towards the direction of the tower, but it was not an easy walk because it's all the way uphill. I walked really quickly and took about 20 mins to reach the cable car station, perspiring like mad.
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Bought a round trip ticket (6,300 won) and queued up patiently for my turn to board the cable car.
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One of the reason why i want to visit the Seoul tower is to see how the famous love-lock place looks like. I've seen this place in movies, dramas, from photos online and finally i'm here to see it for myself, with my own eyes (:
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Was thinking if i should go a step further and go up the tower but after deciding and taking the time into consideration. Decided not to. The view was already quite great from where i was as you can see from the photos below.
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"Love Chairs" that are curved inwards so that the couple will slide towards each other
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Look at the view from the top of Mt. Namsan.
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This shot above looks like someone took it for me from the side hor? Actually is i take myself one. Quite pro right!
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Walked around and saw this sweet couple placing their love lock. *Love is in the air~*
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I hope the next time i come here, it would be with someone else (:

2nd Stop: Teddy Bear Museum (테디베어박물관)!
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Always wanted to visit one as i've read about them and seen photos of them in different costumes. There are several teddy bear museums in Korea and just nice there is one right at the N Seoul tower so i paid 8,000 won for admission.
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One look and i recognized it as the Oppa gangnum style - PSY Teddy bear!

Gallery #1: Seoul History Center.
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The first gallery brings you through the history of Seoul as a capital city starting from the Joseon Dynasty (during which, the city was dubbed 'Hanyang') to its inception as the Republic of Korea. All the bears were very cute in their costumes!
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For the 2 photos above, i had to ask random strangers to help me take it. It was quite awkward at first as there was language barrier and most of them doesn't seem to know how to operate my iPhone 5 (esp. it has been updated to iOS 7 so the camera function is a bit different...) but oh wells, at least managed to get a couple of ok shots (:

Gallery #2: Special center of Seoul
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The 2nd gallery brings you back to current days where you get to learn about diverse aspects of modern Seoul, the different places - Bottom left is the teddy bear version of the Children's grand park that i went in day 1! Top right is the famous NANTA show which i went during my first trip, still cannot forget how amazing the show was :D
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Bought this innocent looking teddy bear (17,500 won, which is about 20 bucks) from the souvenir shop. I know it's not really worth it for a small soft toy but i thought i should bring back a souvenir so i got this teddy bear (:

3rd Stop: Myeongdong (명동)!
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The last time i came to Korea, i was staying at ibis hotel and it's directly beside Myeongdong so i would make a trip down almost everyday. Myeongdong is definitely one of the must visit place (esp. at night) in Korea! This is also the place where you can get your facial and cosmetic products at almost half the price compared to Singapore! :D
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Was roaming the streets alone and i saw this roadside stall selling these pastries that was made on the spot. It has this egg on top of it so i thought i should give it a try! After doing some google-ing online, this Korean style egg bread is known as Gaeran Bbang, a popular winter snack. Really warm and delicious, especially in cold weather!
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Other snacks that i tried along the way includes this "twister potato" which we now see in Singapore, and i also tried this lemon soda drink that is mixed on the spot with freshly squeezed lemon and soda water. Very refreshing!
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Because of the KPOP craze, you will see KPOP stars endorsing for every little thing such as apparels, cosmetics and what not. Saw this about3 store tall G dragon poster on the side of a building. Really HUGEEEE. Just to show you guys how these KPOP stars are everywhere, i took the effort to take a photo of every standee/ poster i can find of them endorsing products and made them into a photo collage, LOL! Can you spot any of your favourite KPOP star below? :D
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Among them, the more popular stars are SNSD, G-dragon, Super Junior and SHINee!
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G dragon's face all over the products. Like a bit kua zhang. So if i use these products, i will get his smooth skin?
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Met up with Elizabeth for dinner and she brought me to this restaurant to have "Budae jjigae" (부대찌개) which is also known as "army stew soup". It's like a steamboat style dish and it origins from the Korean war where food was scarce so people took whatever they have and combine them into a large pot and boiled them - creating this special stew.
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"Budae jjigae" is still popular in Korea and this dish now incorporates modern ingredients such as instant noodles and sliced American cheese. Other ingredients may include ground beef, sliced sausages, baked beans, onions, green onions, tofu, chili peppers, macaroni, garlic, mushrooms and other vegetables. Every thing turns out surprisingly nice when mixed together in the soup! Had a really good dinner that night, which is also my last dinner in Korea
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Since it was the last night in Korea, i bought a whole lot of stuff back such as facial and cosmetics products, facial mask (about 90 pieces!), flavoured seaweed, food items such as my favourite Choco pie and real brownie. Was struggling with all the paper bag until i decided i couldn't carry anymore and cabbed back to the hotel to put down everything...

But that's not the end of it.

4th Stop: Dongdaemun (동대문)
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After returning to the hotel to put down everything, i went over to Dongdaemun! Apparently the stores there closes at 3 to 4am so there is still a lot of time to shop. Dongdaemun is known for their fashion shopping malls and is one of the most popular shopping and tourist destination in Seoul. I spent about 2 hours there randomly walking/ shopping (:
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This is one street snack that i would highly recommend to you guys! It's breaded hot dog aka Corn dogs (핫도그) and is covered with french fries, it will be drenched in tomato sauce after fried! Really delicious and filling! 很好吃!

Took a cab back to the hotel at about 2am and spent about an hour trying to pack my luggage. I was kinda worried i would exceed the 20kg baggage limit because it was really really heavy! (must be the 90 pieces of mask, lol!) i still had to hand carry 2 bags, not forgetting the grapes that i bought the other day :| Day 5 sort of marks the end of all my activities in Korea and I will be covering the morning of Day 6 and also concluding my whole trip in the next post!

Special mention to Korea Tourism Organization Singapore for this sponsored trip:

Pre-trip | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6