Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Visit to Seoul, Korea - Day 3 of 6 (Part 3/3)

I wanted to quickly share my entire trip experience but was engaged with work for the last weekend. Finally, I can have some time to continue writing. As such, I was told by a friend that my blog on Seoul trip was informative enough that he did went to visit some places that I have posted so far. I guess as an amateur blogger, I begin to understand the satisfaction of blogging...

DAY 3: 23/11/12 (FRIDAY) - Part 3/3

From Seoraksan Natioanl Park, we reached a small little town (about 20 minutes away from the national park) to have our lunch. We had Grilled Mackerel Fish, one of the main dishes stated on the itinerary of the package we bought from PYO Travel. It was a tatami-seating style restaurants where we have to sit on the floor to enjoy our meal. The fish looks unique and taste good too. Well, I am not a fan for fish, so I couldn't comment much. However, I enjoyed all the side dishes, no to forget the kimchi!!!

After lunch, we proceed a ski resort for a night stay. The journey to the resort took us around 2 hours and 40 minutes. I was gloomy all the way and drizzling (couldn't tell if it is raining or snowing in the bus). At 4.40pm, we arrived at the Phoenix Hanhwa Ski Resort at Pyeongchang. We went to the Ski World, just to take a look at the ski sports, one of the most favourable sports in Korea. The time we reached there was late and insufficient time to try out the ski. Anyway, we were too cold and tired to try the extreme sport. So, we just 'lepak' awhile and observe the locals skiing...

Even we can't experience skiing this time, I think we did enjoy immersing ourself there, with all the 'look-like' professional people in ski suits and carrying all sorts of equipments. Love the feeling of freedom when we were to try flying around to enjoy the scenery then...

After that, we went to our resort to check-in before going out again for dinner. This time, we got a 3-room condominium for a night stay for 2 person (jaw dropped!). There were 2 rooms with tatami style and 1 master bedroom with double bed. spacious living room and open concept kitchen. Master bedroom toilet comes with a jacuzzi too. Total floor space, an estimation of 1200+ square feet. More than enough for my entire family to stay in this unit.

At 6.45pm, we all gathered at the lobby and depart to an nearby restaurant for dinner. It was already dark and when we arrived at the restaurants, we got a shocked because it was so crowded with people from all over the countries (many were tourist). We had Korean-style steamboat. Photos below speaks all about what we had:

These long table section was mainly for tourist, maybe as part of the package offered to the tour company. We saw many of the locals dinning at a different section of the restaurants:

Here, they will choose what meat they want (top right), then bring it to their table (bottom right) to cook. This section looks like an extension of the main building. Hence, the use a special tool for heating function (bottom left). How it idea but this thing really generates heat o.O"

After dinner, the bus sent us back to the resort and that's the end of today itinerary. It was just around 8,00pm and the night is still young. So, we decided to take a walk around the resort and to a small mall near our condominium. It was a very cold night and I think it will be much worse in December.

They sell all kind of things in their CVS (Convenient Store): a REAL convenient store!!! In this little mall, you can also find a little karaoke nearby the CVS. We managed to grab some snacks for our supper too.

On our way back, I spotted 2 new Kia model, which were not available yet in Malaysia, the Kia K3 (Forte Replacement Model) and the All-New Kia Picanto.

That's it for Day 3 - the mid-journey of my short trip to Korea. Started to feel sad because every destinations I have been to so far were so awesome and reluctant to leave...but, got to move on for the next day as there were more experience to share. Day 4 coming up very soon :)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Visit to Seoul, Korea - Day 3 of 6 (Part 2/3)

A good night sleep and wake up on a sunny 'Sunday'! Had an egg tart and with a cup of white coffee; I am ready to share my stories on Day 3 of my visit to Seoul, Korea.

DAY 3: 23/11/12 (FRIDAY) - Part 2/3

After around 1 hour bus journey from our Resort (Sorak Daemyung Resort), we have reached the main entrance of Seoraksan National Park (NaeSeorak - 
설악산국립공원 - 내설악), one of the designated District of Biosphere Preservation by UNESCO since 1982. It was a rainy day all the way from our resort to the national park.

From the time we got out from the bus, we can see non-stop amazing scenery...the true beauty of NATURE!!!
Since it was raining, first thing that Melvin (our tour guide) did was to bring us to a stall near the entrance where we bought two disposable rain coat for 5,000won (RM15). Glad that we bought it at the very beginning of  our visit to the national park as the rain did not stopped and later, it was snowing.
All set and we are ready to go! - Main Entrance Gate
We walked to the main entrance gate after we got ready with our waterproof coat. It was really freezing at that time because according to Melvin, the winter came early this year. Plus it was raining that day, it is so cold that you just feel like keep walking...Once we entered to the park, we proceed to the cable car station to go up to the peak. The cable car will take about 5 minutes and another option is to walk to the peak, which will take around 3 hours. So, took the cable car 'Smart!'
At the cable car station
On the way up in the cable car, we saw a change of scene, from raining to snowing. Everyone was so excited when it started was so unreal, just like a dream with the sights that was so perfect to be real!
Within a few minutes, we saw the mountain started to turn white, its snowing!!!!
At 11.00am, we reached the peak!!! When we got down from the cable car, everyone just keep saying one word 'snow'!!! Despite of heavy snow falls and freaking freezing, everyone was amazed by the scenery and can't stop walking around to take pictures. Kids were jumping around, playing with snowballs, a real winter feeling.
At the peak, and still snowing.....!

After enjoying the fun and the beauty of the fantasy-like world, we took a break and bought a hot chocolate for 3,500won (around RM10) to warm ourselves. Something we found impressive is that they managed the tourist spots very well and staffs were very polite. There were heater everywhere so you don't have to worry the moment you enter the rest area.

Anyhow, we have to wake up from this fantasy and continue with our visits to other parts of the national park. We then headed down from the peak after an hour of excitement with snow. We took a walk to the Sinheungsa (Sinhungsa) Temple, a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. Along the way, we saw a big buddha statue. Despite of the rain, we managed to take some pictures along the way.

Some useful information: Historical accounts vary as to whether this ancient Zen (Seon) temple was first constructed by Jajang in 653, first called Hyangseongsa (Temple of Zen Buddhism), or in 637 following his return from Tang China. It burned to the ground in 699, was rebuilt in 710, burned again in 1645 and was rebuilt in 1648 at its present location by Uisang. This temple is believed to be the oldest Zen (Seon) temple in the world."--Wikipedia.

After having the honour to pay a visit to one of the historical Buddism temple in the world, we then headed back to the bus. Feel reluctant to leave this place because it is really a comfortable and relaxing place to hang around. On our way to the bus, we got to see for the last time, the great national park of Seoraksan. I just cannot imagine that there are such beautiful place in the world that we are living in. Maybe we have been living in the urban area for too long and forgot about the how the real Earth looks like. While walking near to the bus, this scene got my attention. My jaw dropped - wow!!!
No photo editing needed...the colour of nature!

At last, very reluctantly but to say Good Bye to this amazing and historical place. I wish I can come back again in the near future, maybe in different seasons of the year. We left the national park at around 12.50pm and proceed to lunch - Grilled Mackerel Fish. Our destination for lunch is just about 20 minutes away from the national park. Stay with me for Day 3 part 3, to see how does the mackerel fish looks (taste, if you can imagine that) like ...yummy!!!!

A Visit to Seoul, Korea - Day 3 of 6 (Part 1/3)

It has been quite a few days ago since I have posted on Day 2. I hope the momentum is still there to write about my experience, as the work life is really hectic...better don't talk much about it; don't want to affect my mood now. So, lets continue with our Day 3....

DAY 3: 23/11/12 (Friday) - Part 1/3

A very tired day after lots of activities on Day 2. Because of that, I didn't really took any photos of our breakfast. Basically, the options were more or less the same like yesterday, except we have scramble eggs!!!

We had breakfast in the Sorak Daemyung Resort, the first time we had our breakfast in our resort that we stayed. Right after our breakfast, we have to get back to our room, pack everything and go down to the lobby at 8.50am. Our first destination of the day is to the Teddy Bear Museum, which only open at 9.00am. Since the Teddy Bear Museum was just walking distance from our lobby, we are supposed to walk there, but it was raining. End up, Melvin got all of us in the bus and drove to the nearby Teddy Bear Museum. We reached in just 2 minutes. We were given only 1 hour to explore this place, sounds like very limited time for a museum, but lets see...

There are a few Teddy Bear Museum in Seoul, depending on which one you want to go. As far as the tour package is concern, I guess its all depend on the itinerary route that the company had planned for us, where we had visited the Teddy Bear Museum Seorak. It is a unique museum displaying hundreds of large and small teddy bears to depict the international cultures from different countries. Not a big one but enough for you to rush your ways to capture the cute scene of teddy bears in different themes based on different countries. I did managed to capture some main themes of teddy bear for sharing purposes....enjoy!

Top: Snow White
Bottom: North Pole land

Some of the creative way of illustrating our life using Teddy Bear
The highlight of the museum, giant teddy bear!!!
Top: Japan | Bottom: India

The United States of America...take note of the Amazing Spider Bear!
The European Bear...can you identify where?
The historical moment in Colosseum EPL country...England
Top: Egypt | Bottom: Australia 
The moment you look at all these pictures, you may think that it is just another museum that creates a hype by using the bear. However, if you were there, you will be amazed by the workmanship of creating the dress and the settings of each theme; lots of hard work! Glad to be there to see how Teddy Bear can be so lovely to represent the culture of many countries.

From the Teddy Bear Museum, we then headed to one of the Biosphere Preservation District by UNESCO, the Seoraksan National Park, which was around 1 hour drive from Sorak Daemyung Resort .

Its getting late and too tired to continue writing. Will be continuing the experience to the amazing 'big mountain of snow' tomorrow :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Visit to Seoul, Korea - Day 2 of 6 (Part 2)

Day 2: 22/11/2012 (Thursday)

Right after the tasty Ginseng Chicken Soup for lunch, we headed to Namiseom Island. This island is just 63km from Seoul and is famous to many because of Winter Sonata, a South Korean television drama series; known as one of the major drive of the Korean wave in South East Asia, especially in Japan. The filming took place on this resort island of Namiseom. Admission fee is 10,000 won (RM30) per adult. We don't need to pay anything there because our tour package from PYO Travel has included all entrance tickets.

We arrived at Gapyeong Wharf at about 2.40pm and we need to take a small ferry to cross to the island because the island was as a result of the construction of a dam called Cheongpyeong. The ferry was fast, every 10 minutes you get one ferry arriving. The journey from the wharf to the island is around 10 minutes only. By the way, the weather was quite cold and windy. Don't know what is the exact temperature but definitely need to button up my jacket and put on gloves. There were 2 areas in the ferry, either seated or standing inside the ferry with heater, or can stand outside to enjoy the scenery, no heater of course :)

The moment we arrived at the island, everyone mouth just open!!! Everyone can't wait to start shooting photos because the beauty of this place is everywhere, all round in 360 degree.

Along the walkway to the famous tree lined road in the centre of the island, we saw lots of stalls, rides and restaurants, all with unique architecture. It is like you have landed on a fantasy island, everything looks unreal and can't imagine it exist...the true dream world. Also, we realised that there were no telephone and electricity poles around. How do they survive? Seems like the uniqueness of this island is that all the wires were build underground, just to give the natural feeling of the landscape; how thoughtful!!!

More stalls, food zone, and souvenir shops...

Everything is so natural here, even we saw some stalls using dried woods for cooking. Also, after some walking distance, there were staffs setting up fire to help visitors like us to keep warm. We can stop for awhile to heat up before continuing our walk around the island. Everything is being planned so that the visitors can experience the greatest moment and beauty of Namiseom island.

After walking for about 10 minutes, we reached the centre of the island where we saw the statue of Winter Sonata main characters, Bae Yong-Joon and Choi Ji-Woo. Many couples were there to take photos. Can see the love signs everywhere; very romantic feel. Guys, if you want to show true endless love, got to be in this place.

Looks unreal, but it is real! I just use a simple point-to-shoot camera, Canon Ixus to capture these beautiful scenery
Nice feel and relaxing...enjoying every seconds here...
The island mainly consist of chestnut trees and poplar trees. As such, Melvin told us not to simply step on the leaves that falls on the side of walkway. This is because if we stepped on the poplar tree fruits which drops on the ground, it can create a strong sour odour, which smells like faeces. So, better be very careful.

See, we just go near to it to snap some photos, don't dare to step on it even it looks nice!  Can smell something weird all the way...
Time flies, and at 4.30pm, we have to gather again to wait for the ferry, leaving this beautiful island. Time to stop dreaming and get back to the reality. Glad that the tour organised our visit to this island on Thursday, not so crowded.

I think if we come to this island ourself, we can spend half a day here, to really enjoy the experience here. We don't have sufficient time to visits all the shops and explore the entire island, but it was good enough to have been here, at least once in a lifetime experience.

With that, we then proceed to our next destination, Mount Sorak. It was a 2 hours journey after departed from Namiseom Island, until we reach our dinner destination. We stopped at a restaurant for dinner, on our way to our resort at Mount Sorak. Everyone was so tired after posing for many shots, and slept all the way. So, the 2 hours journey was not felt. Some were so reluctant to get down from the bus because it was really cold in the evening. At 6.30pm, its already dark, like 8.00pm in Kuala Lumpur.

Left: the choices we had | Middle: Variety of dessert, but not included, need to pay yourself
Right: Spotted something interesting for men
The restaurant looks like a rest station along the highway. We had Korean Buffet dinner, serving a lot of variety of local delights (not our local delights; nasi lemak, mee goreng, etc). Its Kimchi, rice, soups, eggs and more...So far, our meals are fine, not that many choices but enough for some selection. I think it is good for me.

After dinner, we proceed to the Sorak Daemyung Resort (known as Del Pino Resort) for a night stay. The hotel looks nice and really like a up market resort. Never thought the package we bought got such nice place to stay, kind of meeting my expectation at this point of time.

The Interior of the resort. We got a 2-rooms apartment. 1 room is a normal  double bed room and the other room is the tatami bedroom. The living is spacious, with LCD TV. We got a kitchen too, which no reason for us to use it. Toilet was clean and the water pressure for shower was great. The flooring was heated so it is warm in the entire apartment. Thumb up!
From the balcony, we had a very nice view of the entire resort. The walkway was elegant and there was a garden outside our resort. Nice landscape with that blue light beam, awesome!
There was a CVS inside the other block of the resort too. They sell everything...the convenient stuffs.

I have never experience such a productive day in my life before. It was fun and exciting, seeing something different from one place to another. I don't even feel tired at all because the beauty of nature landscaping and the historical infrastructure drives me all the way from morning until night. The cold weather was fantastic.

That's the end of Day 2. Will be posting Day 3 adventure to Mount Sorak National Park soon. More eye opening experience to share, not just 'something'! Follow my blog to get the latest update :P Good night for now.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Visit to Seoul, Korea - Day 2 of 6 (Part 1)

DAY 2: 22/11/12 (Thursday)

Got a morning call at 6.00am and went down to the lobby at 6.50am. Even working days I don't wake up this early, but the feeling of want to see more about this country wakes me up early and started my day well, even without coffee. We all gathered at lobby on time and left the Incheon, heading to Seoul for breakfast. One of the reason Melvin the tour guide told us to leave early was to anticipate the morning traffic jam where people rushing in to the city for work.

Seems like many people who works in Seoul stays at Incheon because of the inflated price of apartments and condominium. With US$100K, a person can buy a 3-rooms apartment in Incheon, but may not be able to find a good 1-room studio. Hence, they rather drive or use the Metro (train) to work in Seoul. Travelling time around 1 to 1.5 hours for 1 way.

We had simple buffet breakfast which were included in our tour package, can't expect much as many tours goes to the same place. The food was nice as there are quit a variety to choose from. Eggs, sausages, noodles and more; of course there are lots of Kimchi! We saw groups from Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and many more...

Saw something very interesting there nearby the restaurant, the parking, awesome!!!

After breakfast, we proceed to the President Blue House. This was a very serious place as Melvin told us the do and don't when walking near the Blue House. There were roadblocks for the bus with lots of policemen around the area. No tourist can get near to the Blue House and were advised not to take pictures. We just follow the instruction...We passes by the Blue House and went to visit the Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Visiting the Gyeongbokgung Palace also allowing us to enter the National Folklore Museum. Here, they introduces the culture and custom of Korea.

After spending about 1 hour in the museum, we gather at the garden and proceed to the see the main buildings of the palace. The surrounding was so nice, with the autumn feeling, seeing maple leafs everywhere and the natural colours which make the whole palace like a dreamland.

Most of these buildings were destroyed in World War II and the Korean Government is now trying to rebuild the architecture from historical research, in order to re-construct the actual look of the entire palace.

The scenery there is great and you don't need to be a professional photographer to shoot nice pictures. Just snap anywhere you want and the photos looks great. That's the feeling I had there...

Lunch Time!

By noon, we departed from the palace and went for lunch. Yes, day 2 lunch was included in the package and we went to the famous Ginseng Chicken Soup. The restaurant is in Seoul, meaning there will be lots of people and need reservation. According to Melvin, the Ginseng Chicken Soup is very popular especially during the winter time. We are so lucky that the tour included this for us and make all the arrangement.

At first we thought we have to share among four person for 1 bowl of soup. Not at all, everyone gets their own Ginseng Chicken Soup, served with noodles, and Ginseng Wine. There were rice stuffing in the chicken. Yummy, it was so tasty and the soup is great!!! I can still remember the taste until now. Also, this was the last time we had chicken for the entire trip. Seems like chicken is very expensive in Korea. Here, per person is around US$20.

After lunch, we proceed to Namiseom Island, the Winter Sonata drama shooting site. Stay tuned for Day 2 part 2 for the autumn beauty of Namiseom Island.