Friday, October 18, 2013

Into the Woods, Valleys & Countryside. Korea Day 2

Set my alarm clock the night before, and the next morning it woke me up from my sleep. Was so tired that i decided to set a countdown timer for 5 minutes on my iPhone to give myself another 5 mins of sleep (not like it's gonna be of help, LOL) but being half-awake instead of setting just 5 mins, i set it for 5 HOURS. So when my hotel room's phone rang, i picked up the phone and looked at the time.  In my mind i was like, "Sh*t! I overslept!" Rushed like mad that morning.
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As i've mentioned in the pre-trip post, the main objective for this trip would be to share with your guys about the sightseeing "O" and "V" train that started operating earlier this year on April 12, 2013. For my 2nd, 3rd and 4th day in Korea, i will be hopping on and off the O & V trains to visit different parts of Korea such as Chungcheongbuk-do, Gyeongsangbuk-do and Gangwon-do. What you see above is the 3 day pass which allows unlimited rides for 3 days.
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I think we look quite tired. HAHHAHAHA

By the way, that's Elizabeth who blogs at An avid Korean culture lover/blogger who is my travel partner for this trip! With our 3-day pass, we headed to Seoul station where we redeemed train tickets to our destination. Note that you will be assigned seats on the train however  if there are no more seats available, you may be required to stand throughout. Apparently the O and V sightseeing trains are quite popular among the locals too!
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Just a little intro on the O train. The "O" from O train deprives from the word - One as the 3 provinces (Chungcheongbuk-do, Gyeongsangbuk-do and Gangwon-do) in the country's central inland region are connected by this circular route. This four-car train can carry up to 205 people and have seating options that catered to families/couples.
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Just before we board the train, we bought bento sets at the train station for breakfast!
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The above is an example on how the train tickets looks like. One interesting thing about the trains in Korea (i'm not talking about the metro but more of the railway) is that, you don't have to tap in or out like our ez link! It's based on an integrity system - which is why in the above photo, there is this "We Trust You" label. Board the train only if you have tickets and they may or may not be check on board. Imagine we have this in Singapore, shall not comment further :|
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Here comes the train! Our first stop will be to Punggi which is estimated to be 2 hours and 55 minutes away.
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All the seats on the train will be facing one direction but however for families, if you wish to face each other, you can actually rotate the seats by pressing a level understand the chair to set it to be as shown above. Quite cool hor?
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Having my breakfast bento (teriyaki chicken rice if you are wondering) while enjoying the view outside.
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You will be glad to know that every seat has an in-seat power outlet which allows you to recharge your devices such as phone/ iPad on the go! This is especially useful on train rides which sometimes can last for as long as 4 or 5 hours.
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Views that you can never see in Singapore. The O train was designed with the theme of the four picturesque seasons of Baedudaegan, Korea's biggest and longest mountain range that stretches from Basekdusan mountain to Jirisan mountain.
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Arrived at Jecheon 제천시 which we will transit to another train for our destination - Punggi 풍기읍.
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Even though the sun was shining brightly and i'm wearing a tank top, it was about 17 degrees that day.
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Love the weather there. Cooling yet there is still sun and the skies are always clear and blue.
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Every shot of the scenery along the way is like desktop wallpaper worthy. LOL
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Finally arrived at Punggi where Sobaeksan National Park 소백산국립공원 is located.

First stop was to visit the Punggi Ginseng Market 풍기인삼시장
Operating hours: 0800H to 2100H
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I swear i have never seen so many ginseng in my life. The only place i see ginseng in Singapore is probably in those Chinese medical hall or pharmacy but at this ginseng market, they are EVERYWHERE. All piled up nicely and sorted nicely according to the time they were harvested, quality wise etc. You would expect them to be expensive but they only cost a fraction of the retail price in Singapore, which explains why this place is popular among aunties. LOL
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During the briefing at KTO office before this trip , we were told that we will be doing some mountain climbing in Korea so this is it! Took a cab over to Sobaeksan where will be conquering Mt. Sobaek, one of the 12 noted mountain in Korea and was designated as a national park in 1987. By the way, we left our luggage in our Seoul hotel and brought out a bag pack that contains 3D2N worth of stuff (which is quite heavy!). Almost had to climb the mountain with it but thanks to the park ranger, we were allowed to deposit our bags in his guardroom while we take on the mountain! Phew.
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The road up was really not east, even without our heavy bag pack. It's supposed to be only 1439.5m which is roughly 1.5km up but it's so steep and there isn't really proper steps plus we did not do any preparation in view of this climb.
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Arrived at Huibang falls 희방폭포 which is a 28m waterfall located below the Huibangsa temple (which i will also be visiting later) This waterfall is located 700m above sea level sitting halfway up Sobaeksan mountain. It's one of the must see tourist attractions that Sobaeksan Mountain has to offer, and it's the no.1 waterfall in the whole of Yeongnam area.
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Every now and then throughout the climb, we would stop to rest and take out our phones to update our social media platforms - in the wild. Reception was exceptionally good, i guess because we are on high grounds, LOL
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At about 3/5 of the climb (could have used 3/4 but it sounds like we were almost there) We, i mean the girls couldn't take it and we come to a consensus that we shall not continue further. Decided to head back down to visit the Huibangsa Temple. Never knew what is it like at the peak of the mountain, but oh wells, just google image-d it. LOL
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Arrived at Huibangsa temple 희방사. This temple is located 850m above sea level and it was built by the Great Monk Duwun in the 12th year (643) of Queen Seondeok’s reign during the Silla Dynasty. Very quiet and peaceful place. While walking around, we found a random store by the people who lived there so we bought ice cream from them :D
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At first i was wondering what's with all these pile of stones that i came across a few times...
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I was told by Elizabeth that it's for good luck. Upon researching further, i read that these stack of stones are known as cairn. In South Korea, these cairns often found along roadsides and trails, up on mountain peaks, and adjacent to Buddhist temples. There is a saying that if you manage to put another stone on top of a pile, it brings you good luck.
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My ice cream attracted a dog at the temple. LOL

Went down all the way back to the foot of the mountain, collected our bags from the friendly park ranger and headed off to the last destination of the day which is also where i'll be staying overnight - Seonbichon Village 선비촌.
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Seonbichon Village (선비촌) is the cradle of Korean Confucianism, is where the spirit and cultural heritage of Korea’s classical scholars, referring to those who were intellectually and morally capable of leadership within their chosen fields, is preserved. This place offers a variety of fun and exciting exhibition, events and hands-on program.
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The place where i will be spending my night. I wasn't really expecting this but i was quite thrilled to be experiencing staying in a small room in the middle of a village! I had to squeeze in through a small door (as you can see above) into my rectangle room with just a small table with pillows and blankets stacked nicely on top of the drawers. You have to take off your shoes before getting up on the platform to your room and toilets are located outside your room (:

Special thanks to Gyeongsangbuk-do Tourism for the accommodation sponsor!
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Headed to the nearby restaurant to have our lunch!
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The thing about having meals in Korea is that even though you only order 1 or 2 main dishes, it comes with a lot of different side dishes! It's like they bring one whole tray of stuff and fill up your table. I was not really used to Korean food because of all the greens and veggies plus the spices that they use in their food. But still, good to try (:
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After our meal, we proceeded to explore the rest of the village.
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In Seonbichon Village, you get to see the houses of the different famous scholars, also a good place to learn about traditional Korea, and  is famous for its classical scholars’ loyalty and filial piety. I get to see how the scholars used to live their life, their works and also tried my hands on something like ink wash painting using a template.
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Went ahead to explore the place further and soon it was sunset. Quite amazing to watch it from the trees.
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The sun in Korea sets quite early so even though it's only 6pm (7pm in Singapore) the sky is already dark. Quite kua zhang one. You will be like, "Now what time only, how come so dark already..." I heard that in Seonbichon Village, they used to distribute lanterns to people like us, who stays in their accommodation so we can use it to navigate around.
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Saw these red things hanging from a whole stretch of trees and only when nearer, we realised they were apples! I think it was my first time seeing apple trees in real life. Quite amazing. I mean we don't even get to see it in Singapore what.
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As we had quite a late lunch, we decided not to have dinner but went to the convenience store to get some food items before we went back to our room, just in case we were hungry. That gold tube is a roll of fish cake (everyone thought they were sausage -__-) and you see those 3 eggs in the red net? They were already hard boiled! A couple of apples, probably from the farm nearby and cup noodles - only to realised there is no hot water anywhere around. FOL
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Prepared my bed for the night with a pretty thick floor mattress, 2 pillows and blanket. By the way, it's super cold in the night, about 12 degrees but the floor can be heated up, especially during winter period. The place was comfortable, and i had a really good place that night. The only downside probably would be, there's no WIFI, HAHHAHAHA
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Toilet was located outside the room so the moving part from the room to the toilet was really cold! Lucky there is water heater inside. It was quite eerie at night also but overall it was still a good experience! If you come all the way to Seonbichon Village, why not go a step further and stay for the night! That's all i have for Day 2! :D

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