Monday, March 26, 2012

Trip To South Korea - Day 1 & 2

I figured I should write about my trip to South Korea sooner than later, before I don't remember anything. End of last January I went on a tour of South Korea together with my aunts and cousins. Been a while since I took a trip overseas so I immediately jumped at the chance eventhough I didn't know what to expect. Anywhere to get away from work! I ended up loving it and even missing it until now. My journey starts right after the break...

The tour we took was the 8D6N Muslim Tour from Apple vacations. Seems they like to assert the extra day in their advert, maybe to make it seem a long trip. So basically day 1 was the flight itself about an hour before midnight. We took Korean Air. Not a pleasant experience. Old plane, just 1 meal served, hard seats (ended up didn't sleep that night) and the landing was hard that a ceiling vent cover broke open. Just glad to land safely. Only cool thing is that their entertainment system is touch screen. So we arrived at Incheon Airport at about 6am Korea time.
Incheon Airport from the bus.

The itinerary that day was for us to leave for Jeju Island from Seoul's Gimpo Airport. Since we had time to spare until the flight in the afternoon, our guide took us to the Blue House and Presidency museum upon arrival. Man was it cold outside. This was the coldest weather I've experienced so far, i think it was -7°C that day. We just saw the Blue House from afar and toured the Presidency museum. We got to take pictures with the President, virtually. The museum does have a little bit of history of Korea, their modernization, the pop culture and more. It was also where they hosted the 2010 Green Summit. Since Samsung is their biggest company there, you can expect Samsung products to be used everywhere, from TVs to tablets.

A statue of a phoenix in front of the presidency museum
The presidency museum

After the museum, we headed to Kimchi school in the city to learn how to prepare Kimchi. It basically consists of vegetables spread with their own version of chili paste and is left to ferment for a few days. Personally I didn't like Kimchi. Bought a few for my friends. Right after, we put on Hanbok costumes for pictures. After that, it was time to have the first taste of Korean cuisine. The typical Korean cuisine would consist of a main centre dish and several side dishes served with rice. This was the same setting we had for most of our meal, just that with different dishes. The first time we has grilled Mackerels, a Korean "Tom Yam" and fried flour that we initially thought was an omelete. I think it's called a pizza. Gotta get use to this. Then it's off to Gimpo Airport to take out flight to Jeju Island. Before Incheon, Gimpo was the international airport. Now it only serves domestic flights as well as flights to nearby Japan and China.

Getting ready to make Kimchi at the Kimchi school.
The so-called Korean Pizza? (I think)

Once we arrived in Jeju, we hopped on our tour bus and headed to Dragon Head Rock Cove. It's a rock beach with one of them sporting a formation that looked like a Dragon's head. How appropriate since it's the Dragon year in the Lunar calendar. There was also this weird light fixture that I think has the same purpose of a lighthouse. We were also introduced to the legendary statue. According to our guide, for those longing for a child, if you touched its nose, you might get it. There were 2 statues, one will give you a smart baby, the other a strong one. After that visit, we were brought the Underground shopping mall. The atmosphere felt more like going into Sungei Wang Plaza but the clothes are damn expensive. Apparently they're designer clothes. On the way, we saw more familiar brand stores above ground so I decided to go up to just look around. Even their local brand have nice selections but they were very expensive. The tour guide suggested to just survey the things here as Seoul would be a better place to do shopping.

Dragon Head Rock Cove. Can you spot the dragon's head?
Above ground of the underground shopping mall

We arrived at our first hotel, Jeju Ocean Suites, at around 6.30pm, then got ready to go for dinner at a steamboat restaurant nearby. The hotel room was nice and cozy. Dinner wasn't that great. The steamboat felt like it's just all this seafood was boiled in water so it was tasteless. The prawns and crabs that they used had a really hard shell. After not enjoying the dinner, we decided to look for a McDonald's to satisfy our cravings. The search for a McDonald's made us walk a few blocks around the seaside town. We found out also that their McDonald's didn't have Filet-o-Fish so we ended up just buying french fries and stop by 7 Eleven to get junk food.

The room at Jeju Ocean Suites Hotel. Cozy!

That was the end of day 2. The next day we visited more locations in Jeju Island. Will write about that in my next posts.

Update: Here's Day 3