Hope it's not too late to wish all our friends and readers "Happy Chinese New Year", may The Rabbit rules this year! It's about time to tell our story on Seoul, Korea.
Maybe it was a coincidence? That’s the first thing I told Anna when she got a chance to attend a conference in Seoul, Korea. Arwah Mak once told us that she's planning to go there this year (2011) because of his nephew got transfered to Seoul. Tapi sesungguhnya "Kita hanya mampu merancang, Allah yang menentukan segala-galanya". It's a mixed feelling actually, when we're preparing ourselves for this journey. Apa-apapun, this time we're bringing "mak's" dream together with us.
This is our first working trip, and traveling with the entire itinerary been prepared seems a bit odd for us. Rasa macam manja la sikit sebab tickets and accommodation tak payah susah2 cari...hehe!. Kalau ada pun cuma hostel booking for our extended nights sahaja. (Oh yeah, I did a surprise to Ana as I quietly bought the ticket to keep her company..).
It’s a 7 hours flight from KLIA to Incheon International Airport and since we took a night flight, apalagi lepas makan tidur la… Alhamdulillah, everything was smooth and when we landed, the airport really amazed us. It’s huge and spacious while the interior design looks very modern and hi-tech. Not easy to get lost as there are direction and signages in English plus interpreters to assist you. (Incheon Intl Airport is a runner-up for Best Airport in 2010 for Sleeping In Airport website).
We took a shuttle bus just outside the airport terminal that provides the hotel drop off service. Purchase your ticket (W15000) from the counter before you take the busride and stand at the right queue to where your destination is. It took about an hour from the airport to our hotel in Gangnam. For 5 nights, we stayed at COEX Inter-Continental Hotel, the luxurious 5 star hotel located right in the middle of the top entertainment and shopping attraction and also business district like Coex Mall, Convention Centre, The Lucky Seven casino and World Trade Centre. (Shopping!… Opps! kerja..kerja..kerja…)
What we like about this hotel is the connecting underground mall that connects places like Coex Mall, Coex Aquarium, Kim Chi Field Musuem, Samseong Subway Station and the Convention Centre (a 10min walk for Anna to attend the conferences), Just remember from which entrance you use and everything we’ll be fine.
Makanan halal agak susah untuk didapati disini (most of the menu in Korean..), so we had lots of vegetarian base food like pizza, bread, Kimchi fried rice and soup. (Kimchi is a traditional fermented Korean dish, made of vegetables such as cabbage, radish, green onion, cucumber or anchovies with a mix of garlic and red chili seasonings). One of the interesting place to eat in Coex Mall is Kraze Burger. Berintikan tofu yang dibentuk seperti daging burger, rasanya agak pelik tapi menarik. (Love the packaging though). Apa-apa pun, Maggi Hot Cup and biscuit are always on standby kalau2 lapar..hehe! What we discovered here, Korean like their food “pedas” and no wonder they love to come to Malaysia and our food…
This time, Faizal did most of the wandering around because Anna’s conferences normally finished late. “Not fair!” kan, but Anna told me “the show must go on”. Lagipun takkan nak duduk kat bilik jer. Boring jugak..
Transportation is not a problem in Seoul. You can choose to take bus, taxi or subway, whichever way you feel comfortable. As long as you don’t hop on the tourist group bus dahlah..hehe!. For me, I prefer to take a subway. It’s an easy way to move around the city plus the service is good, efficient and safe even if you travel late night. It won’t take long for you to understand the connecting lines compared to Japan. For smooth and hassle free trip especially during the rush hours, I bought a T-Money Card that cost W3000. The card give you a W100 discount on every trip too and useable for buses and taxies.
The weather was cold (-11c). Even though outside the sun is shining bright, it’s not an excuse for not wearing the winter jackets. Sejuk beb!... My first day venture is to City Hall, downtown Seoul. Since Christmas was on the way, some workers were busy preparing the big ice-skating ring and a gigantic Christmas tree in the Seoul Square area. (Seoul Square is the oval shape grass field square that holds many activities and events). Just across the road is Deoksugung palace, one of few palaces that you can visit in Seoul. Actually, some of the places you can go by walking, what you have to do is bring a good map with you. Since, this is my first time going solo travelling, I took a very slow and steady approach. But after Ana finished her first day's conference, we went to Namdaemun Market but it was third quarter closed. The market is open from 4.30am till 7.00pm. Tapi kitaorang sempat jugaklah beli souvenir kat sini. (Orang Malaysia pun ramai disini). Tempat ni memang sesuai kalau nak beli souvenir atau barang2 wholesale. Disebabkan sejuk, perut memang cepat lapar, so went to this kebab place somewhere there, called Sunshine Kebabs. Not bad sedap! Atau memang tak hengat lapar...He..he.. Makan quite expensive here tapi makan untuk hidup apa salahnya kan?
The next day after felt more confident reading the map, i made my move earlier. My first stop was Olympic Stadium which is part of Jamsil Sport Complex. Just a walk away from the hotel, the stadium has been used for 1988 Olympic Seoul and venue for concerts such as Metallica, Michael Jackson and their phenomenal K-Pop Stars. (Lebih kurang macam Stadium Bukit Jalil la...). Biarpun sejuk, it's a very nice weather to walk and paling menarik after puas membelek map to find this place, rupa-rupanya tempat tu betul2 depan hotel. Damn!!.. Surrounded by Seoul high rises building and fast development (Tu sebab tak perasan..), Bongenusa is among one of the Buddhist temple that play a major role in Seoul. Other attractions here is the 23 meter Buddha statue and Temple Stay experience that offer you a chance to live a monk life.
Since the temple just across Coex Mall, i had my lunch at Coex Mall Food Court, Kimchi Fried Rice + fried egg (boleh tahan sedap!). Lepas alas perut, I went to Seoul Folk Flea Market, "my unexpected discovery" in Seoul. Unlike Namdaemun and Dongdaemun Market, Seoul Folk Flea Market is seriously an Amazing place where you can find anything from junk, collectibles and anything that you can think of, all under one "BIG" roof. Sememangnya tempat yang kitaorang suka cari everytime we travel. Located inside the 2-story warehouse building, hundred of shops were divided into sections like antiques, clothes and food court. Open from 10.00am till 7.00pm everyday except on every 2nd and 4th Tuesday.
Malam tu, Ana had to attend Reception Dinner at Ramada Seoul Hotel. So, to kill my time, I just strolling down the Coex underground mall again with the K-POP sound ringing my ear... (still terngiang-ngiang lagu Girls' Generation - Hoot). To tell you the truth, even though we stayed there for 6 days, I don't think we had been to all the shops, it is damn Gigantic!
*Stay tuned as our story in Seoul will be continue on the next post!... If you guys happened to buy yesterday KOSMO! newspaper (5 Feb 2011), their travel section (Horizon-Percutianku) menampilkan cerita pengalaman kami semasa di Iceland (written by Anna). And to those who missed it, boleh pinjam dari kawan or jiran sebelah or read it online by click this link. Selamat membaca.