Whimsical city

Saturday, October 25, 2014

An yong haseyo, Busan & Seoul!

The morning sun breaking soon..
There it is :)
On board Air Asia flight D7 518

Korea, here I come! Was planning a last minute trip back to Korea since my last family trip more than 10 years ago.. I wanted to be adventurous - i.e. cover Busan + Jeju Island + Seoul (oh well.. I dropped Jeju Island because the domestic airtickets cost me around RM1,000.00 *yikes*) So, I dragged my dear housemate, Qing along with me on this 2 days Busan + 4 days Seoul trip. 

I attempted couch-surfing with a host in Busan (since I've never experienced it and since we don't speak Korean, I thought it would be nice for someone to bring us around in Busan). A kind host agreed to host us but he's only available at 2pm on our arrival day and we arrived at 8.20am.. so it's not too ideal since we have our luggages and all. So, I ended up booking a hotel via Agoda and stayed at Toyoko Inn Busan Station 2. (Don't stay here if your mode of transportation is via foot and the train) Stay at Toyoko Inn Busan Station 1 instead. I thought it was the same when I made the booking but it was another branch which was around 20 minutes walk from the main station at Busan Station 1 (Busan Station 1 is the main station for us to take the train from Busan to Seoul). The check-in time was 4 p.m.

We booked our trip from 8-14 September 2014 which was the time of the lunar festival holiday. Good timing right? NOPE. Do not travel to Korea during this holiday as it is a big thing for the Koreans and most of them "balik kampung" and many shops will be closed. Also, it's end of summer so the weather is still pretty hot. Here's my itinerary :)

Busan Day 1
BIFF Square + Gamcheon Cultural Village + Jagalchi Fish Market
That's me exhausted after checking in.. And the room is literally that big only. 
An yong !

Closed on the morning of our arrival at Busan
The 1st time I've seen a subway without anyone in the morning..
Food! We finally found food!
After walking for nearly 1 hour from our hotel, we found our Oasis in the middle of the dessert. Lotteria fast food chain next to BIFF Square.
The hawker stalls at BIFF Square started to open at noon time. This is one of the best stalls we found. We queued out of curiosity as we were not sure what was it. Happened to be some sugar/cinnamon coated dough with peanuts fillings.
Koreans call it "Hotteok". Finger licking good!

We had Ddeokbokki (rice cake in extremely spicy sauce) Attempt only if your taste buds dare!
Fried potato strips as our snack

After attending to our starvation, we decided to head to Gamcheon Cultural Village, the must-go place in Busan. We hailed 3 cabs, all of which refused to send us to the place. As you know, they don't speak English and we don't speak Korean so it's basically chicken and duck talking. We did show them our tour guide book but still, the only sign language they gave was waving their hands gesturing NO. We seriously didn't know what to do.. No one speaks English! I think God pitied us and sent 2 Samaritans at our rescue. A kind couple saw us desperate for help (it's not hard to tell when we had our guide books and the map in our hands coupled with lost expressions). We were having a tough time communicating but they knew where we wanted to go. And because they couldn't tell us how to go, they sent us there in their car! How cool is that?? Good people still exist. My faith was immediately re-affirmed that day :)

Gamcheon Cultural Village
Lots of wall paintings to be seen :)
Korea "Santorini"  They used to house refugees during the Korean war a long time ago. Some of the locals still live there so we have to be quiet when checking out the houses.
Another side of the colourful houses
Aren't they cute?? Handmade mini houses :) I wanted to buy all but I just got 1 of course :> I'm on a budget travel lol
Cute mini signboards

 Follow the mini signboards!
Qing needs love :D
And I have no idea what I'm shooting :D
Gigantic dinosaur crab!
Check out the sea creatures. Pretty scary huh!
Our dinner of pan fried fresh seafood

Jalgachi Fish Market at dusk with the Santorini houses at the background

The seafood in Jalgachi market was so fresh that the abalone was still moving while being cooked! Yikes!!

Busan Day 2
Dalmaji Hill + Haeundae Beach + Haedong Yonggungsa Temple + Gwangali Beach

Our view from Dalmaji Hill
We wanted to see cherry blossoms at Dalmaji Hill but it was not the season

Panorama view of Haeundae Beach

By now, my feet were screaming already

A break is a must. We stopped at a cosy cafe on the hill from the way down from Dalmaji Hill
Nice nails Qing!
We moved on to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, which is also one of the main tourist attractions in Busan. We took Bus 181 from Haeundae Station and it was a pretty painful ride.. 30 minutes without a seat and cramped like sardines.. Again, as I've mentioned, it was the holiday time for Koreans..many of them came for sight-seeing as well.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

The temple is perched upon the cliffs next to the sea

Streetfood again!
Another round of Hotteok :)
Steamed pork and pork bone soup
After our dinner at Haeundae Beach, we walked back to the station and took the subway train to Gwangan station (it was a 20 minutes walk to Gwangali Beach. Apparently, getting off at Geumnyeonsan Station is closer - a tip I read from Trip Advisor after my trip, Lol.

It was full moon that night at Gwangali Beach
The walk all the way here was worth it :)
At interval times, there will be music from the Diamond Bridge followed by a showcase of lights:)

Having dessert while enjoying the night view of the Diamond Bridge
We were extremely exhausted once the night came to an end and my feet were burning! *Seriously, get a good pair of walking shoes. When I thought everything was good, it was not quite after we got back to the hotel. The "clever" me did not book the train tickets from Busan to Seoul in advance thinking that there will be plenty of seats available. And so when I checked with the hotel staff, they informed that both the normal (Mugunghwa) train and the express (KTX) train tickets were fully sold out. Our option was to buy the "standing seats" on the Mugunghwa train which was a 5 hours journey compared to the 2.5 hours journey if we took the KTX train. With jaws dropping, teeth clenching and at the verge of hair pulling.. we had no choice but to buy the standing seats. How's standing seats like? Hmm.. don't try. 

The immigrants.. Lol. The place where Qing was sitting? yup, that's our seat for the next 5 hours
The only good thing I can gather from this "standing seat" was the price. It's 24,300 won, which was half the normal price. So.. I guess we could eat more later?
My "customised" seat. Not too shabby huh!

This marked the day that I was seen as an illegal immigrant seeking for refuge. LOL

Seoul Day 3
N-Seoul Tower, Myeongdong

We finally reached Seoul Station and checked in this K-Pop Hotel which was a bit up the hill just outside Exit 10 of Seoul Station. The room is equally small but very, very clean and the staff speaks fluent English. I have no complaints :)
And the shopping starts!
Myeong-dong. I love this place
Dinner at Yoogane Chicken Galbi (highly recommended) at Myeong-dong with my lovely friend, Lena who happened to be in Seoul also!
Taking the cable car up to N Seoul Tower
Night view of Seoul
Lovely art on mini tiles at N Seoul Tower
Check out how far Kuala Lumpur is from where I was standing :)

Sending a love letter from N Seoul Tower is a must :) 

Seoul Day 4
Deoksugung, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok Village, Samcheong-dong

The changing guard ceremony at Deoksugung at 11am. Just take the subway train to City Hall Station and take exit 2

We were asked to take pictures with them once the ceremony completed. Didn't expect that!

Spotted some cool art on tiles at the subway station

The best drink in Korea - banana milk!

Panorama view of Geongbukgung Palace

There's also changing guard ceremony here! It starts at 1pm.

Lunch at Tosokchon - famous for its Samgyetang (chicken ginseng soup)

I think it would taste much much better if it was winter :)

Our next destination!

Bukchon Hanok Village
Samcheong-dong is indeed a lovely place filled with artsy boutiques and cafes. Definitely also one of my favourite spots in Seoul.

Samcheong-dong at day

Samcheong-dong at night

In love with the Korean desserts at this cosy Yung Cafe at Samcheong-dong
Dinner back at Insa-dong

Seoul Day 5
Insa-dong, Namiseom

A trip to Seoul without meeting my primary school and A-Levels mate is not a trip to Seoul at all! Haven't met So Young since we graduated from our A-Levels. She's still looking stunning as ever and she's a mom!
So Young treated us to a scrumptious meal at Insa-dong
Lunch for 3 ;)

After a good catching up with So Young, we headed back to the Subway station and took the train all the way to Gapyeong Station (you may have to change lines depending on where you are travelling from) to go to Nami Island. For Korean soap opera lovers especially Winter Sonata, you can't not go to Nami Island, can you? :P Once you reach Gapyeong Station, you can either take the shuttle bus or the cab which only costs around 5,000 won to the jetty to take the ferry to Nami Island.
Taking the ferry to Nami Island

Seeing green in Nami Island
Entering Nami Island

The bridge where the "1st kiss" scene of Winter Sonata was shot. Is it? I didn't really finish watching Winter Sonata.. Lol

That's us, relaxing on the grass while testing the selfie stick we bought for 5,000 won :P
One good thing about using the selfie stick in Korea. No one will think we are some narcissist freaks..

That's the groupie wefie! Met my lawyer buddies from KL, Catherine and Kok Phong who also happened to be on tour in Seoul during this time. Such perfect timing for us to meet out of Malaysia!!
Still seeing green in Nami Island :)

We are not narcissist freaks.. really

You can rent a bicycle and ride all around the island :)

The famous lane of Winter Sonata
Well, an island of love has to be put in the literal perspective..
The statute of the lovebirds in the movie Winter Sonata
and the actual  lovebirds! Lolol 
Having delicious rice cake after exiting Nami Island
Jo texted Qing if we spotted any Korean "leng chais" This is what we showed her
Back in the hotel. My feet deserved some serious pampering

Seoul Day 6

Dongdaemun Shopping Centre + Namdaemun Market

The last day in Seoul would be major shopping at Dongdaemun shopping centre. So we thought. We didn't really know which exit to take after we reached Dongdaemun station so we just took an exit and walked around without any idea where we were heading. We entered the building of wholesale fabrics (nope, not this one), then we entered the building of wholesale jewellery (nope, not this one). Anyway, I bought a Pandora bracelet with 1 charm and 2 locks at the wholesale jewellery for only 100,000 won! It'll be around RM300.00 after conversion. If I were to buy the same bracelet in Malaysia, it will cost me around RM700. No kiddin'
We were left with not much cash after I bought the Pandora bracelet so by the time we found the shopping centre that we wanted to go, we couldn't really  "do the major shopping" Lol and we didn't want to use credit card because most of the Vendors either do not have a credit card machine or for those having one, will charge a 10% fee.
One of the best thing we found albeit being lost in Dongdaemun - spicy pork bone soup. Loved it!!

Bought a Jipangyi ice-cream outside Dongdaemun shopping centre. Also a must try dessert - the cone is not any artificial plasticky cone as I thought it would be. It's made from corn and really delicious :)
We planned to head to Namdaemun Market at Hoehyeong Station to try the Jinju Jip (Korean beef soup) recommended by one of the bloggers but we couldn't find the shop! So we ended just walking around Namdaemun Market and had bibimbap for dinner.

Namdaemun market - selling household items, clothings, confectioneries (something like our "pasar malam" in Malaysia)

Bibimbap with pork on the side for dinner

To mark our finale, we headed back to our favourite place Myeongdong and decided to end our night at Starbucks.

Another round of selfie with the selfie stick - again, no one is judging
Say cheeeeseeee
Having coffee the night before(knowing you have to wake up at 5 am to catch the train to the airport) may not be a good idea because the caffeine was keeping us awake the whole night! It was a torture. Lol

In the train heading to the airport
The Starbucks items I bought to add to my collection. Particularly loved the Day in Seoul & Night In Seoul tumblers. I couldn't make up my mind which one to buy so I ended up buying the pair :P

I wouldn't mind travelling to Seoul again but this time, it'll definitely be either during Autumn or Winter. Any takers?