Sunday, May 30, 2010

Winter Sonata in Korea...

Credit from my Sister, Siti Hanum

29/11/2009 till 06/12/2009
Conversion rate: RM3.20 =1,000Won
Season: Winter ( but it wasn’t snowing in Seoul)
Tour agent: Vacasia Travel & Tours

My hubby and I, together with my parents and Hajar, my youngest sis, went to Korea for an 8 days tour. I would like to share our Korea escapade with those planning to visit there. During our tour, we covered almost all the itineraries that a tour package usually offers.
We went to Mt Sorak, Vivaldi Ski Resort, Everland Theme Park(Yongin) and visited the famous Gyeong Bok Palace, National Folk Museum and passed by the Blue House.

Second day;
Once arrived, our tour guide was waiting for us at the airport. Went to the palace & museum & passed by the President’s Blue House. Had lunch at one of the Pakistani restaurant in Muslim area, Ittaewon. Mind you, the mosque and the muslim restaurants are located on an ascending hill. For my father who is a right side-body strokee, walking up the street really took its toll on him. For the oldies and those with wheel-chairs, think twice before you decide to pray at the mosque as there is no lift or escalator provided in the mosque. I’m not discouraging you from praying at the mosque, but my concern is that, for those who are not 100% fit, don’t push yourself to the limit as it may cause other complications while you are in Korea.

Info: The fruits in Ittaewon are cheap. Buy there. Strawberry nye sedap, manis2 buah you.

After lunch & zohor, we went to Mt Sorak, the National Park of Korea. Spent only 30 minutes there. Mt Sorak is suitable for hiking & camping and not for a short visit. Can’t really appreciate the beauty of this park as the time allocated is really short. If you walk up the lane, you can go down to the beautiful river in the park. Boleh cicah2 kaki ke dalam air sungai itu-kalau tak kisah kaki jadi air batu.

Info : Some tour agencies put Mt Sorak and exclude Nami Island in the tour. If you have choice, choose Nami Island as I personally think that Nami is a more popular tourist spot and famously known for the filming location for Winter Sonata)

After that, overnight at a hotel in Mt Sorak area. The hotel room is actually a small apartment with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. No beds provided, so it gives you the chance to experience Korean sleeping style atau lebih tepat lagi tidur alas toto letak kat atas lantai yang warm dek heater. Bangun pagi2 akan terasa kesakitan pinggang seperti tulang belakang yng telah tersilap alignmentnya. The room can accommodate up to 5people and the rental per night is 399,000 Won(converted into RM = RM12++) . I’ll put up photos of the room and rental rate in my fb later.

Note ; There is a rice cooker and kettle in the room. You may bring nasi himpit and boil it there. If it’s winter, your nasi himpit can lasts to 3-4 days. Bring your own packet drinks-as there is no complimentary drink provided. If you feel that you are a fussy eater, bring packet of rempah n can food so you can cook eg sardine, rendang in the rice cooker. Korean foods taste bland on Malaysian tongue like mine-rasanye seperti tidak cukup rempah buat saya. But, there is always a shopping mart nearby the hotel and usually open until 12pm. Boleh lah beli minuman lembut.

There is no muslim restaurant outside Seoul. So lunch and dinner were provided at the local seafood restaurants. Ikan2 yang dimasak tidak dibuang isi perutnye ye kawan2. Ikan goreng terus digoreng sesudah dibasuh tanpa perlu keluarkan segala stok2 yang dah expired dalam perut ikan tu. Sama juga, jika steamboat, ikan hanya akan dibasuh tanpa disiang dan kemudian dipotong lalu dicampakkan ke dalam bekas steamboat itu. Buuuurrrrppppp….alhamdulillah….

Third day;
After checked out, went to Vivaldi Ski Resort. As explained by Jenny, our tour guide, usually by then, the area should already be snowing but due to the global warming, not only the snow is late but the temperature is not as low as past years. So, we enjoyed ski with the man-made snow. Not bad. But I believe the group is disappointed as everyone thought that the resort would be covered with snow everywhere. So impian untuk membuat snowman sebesar Afdlin Shauki telah musnah ..tsk tsk..

Note : the rental fees for ski clothing is 50,000Won, exclusive of ski glasses and gloves. The ski equipment is 40,000Won. It is usually excluded from your package fees.

Fourth day;
Headed to Everland Theme Park, Yongin after breakfast. Spent 2.3 hrs there. If you go there, don’t miss the safari. You will meet the crazy cute (kiut gilak) bears, white tigers, ligers and tigers. The bears especially, are very big like grizzly bears and seriously cute cute cute!
And there are also Polar Bears!!! Oh, I loveeee polar bears!! If you are lucky, you can see penguins too. We watched the 3D show but it is a disappointment compared to 3D show in Disneyland. It’s like sitting on a worn out Ogawa massage chair. Urat sendi bersimpul dan badan melayang2 seperti baru lepas bergusti lightweight bila keluar. Try the river cruise there. Better than the one in Sunway Lagoon. Get yourself wet in the cold weather-heh!

Add info: Everland is amongst the most visited theme parks in the world. Lotte World is another theme park that usually a tour group offers, but Lotte is an indoor theme park. I would prefer Everland personally.

After that, headed back to Seoul and had lunch at Muslim Pakistani Restaurant. They served us Ginseng Chicken. Mcm nasik air kita, Cuma bezanya, tak de rempah2 hatta garam sekalipun, masukkan ayam dan masukkan beras dan ginseng, tunggu sampai ayam hancur luluh. Siap.Sangat sesuai untuk disajikan buat ibu2 yang dalam pantang. Buurrrppp..walaupun tak sedap gilak tapi ku telan saja demi perut ini. Need energy for the shopping therapy.

But, sad to say, when it comes to the most awaited itinerary (for the ladies)- which is shopping, it is not as what we expected. First, we were taken to Doota, which is the latest addition to the DongDaeMun(DDM) market but only given 1 hour to do shopping. Only managed to buy souvenirs there. Tak de masa langsung la nak tgk beg2 or baju2 or brooch2. But we were still hoping that there would be something for our eyes to feast on at Myeongdong street and Ittaewon shopping street.
After dinner, went back to the hotel. Our hotel in Seoul is Capital Hotel and the rate is around 2++,000 Won per night for 2 persons. Additional pax is charged at 30,000 Won.

Fifth day
After breakfast, went to Kimchi School. I got selected as the best kimchi maker *clap*clap*clap* no no.. was it hubby? Or was it me?Not sure as the instructor was pointing at either one of us(we were standing next to each other), so not sure who is the winner :P. Then tried on Korean traditional clothing, saling tak tumpah seperti sedang mengandung 9 bulan dan 9 hari … TAk mungkin upload dlm fb ceh.
After that , went to Myeongdong street. With Won money screaming to go out from our pocket (and our hearts jumping up & down to see the brooches and Korean cotton and leather bags, we were again disappointed. Myeongdong street offers nothing much-since it’s winter, most of the items sold are winter clothing. They are branded shops but the price is not much different from KL. Dan, tidak ada satu brooch dan kain cotton pun yng kelihatan. Sigh.
After performed Zohor at the hotel, we went to Ittaewon street. Many shops but for cheapskate me, most of the items are pricey. I don’t think it’s worth it to spend RM 100 on a brooch whereby I can get the same exact brooch in Msia at more or less the same price. Here in Ittaewon, you will find many shops selling leather bags and winter clothing (as it was winter), but I was told by my cousin who studies there the items are cheaper at Namdaemun (NDM) and DDM. Most of the leather bags are good quality bags, nicely sewn and have no brands and most of the designs are inspired by branded handbags. End up, we didn’t buy anything (tp duit won telah berjaya menyelinap keluar dari poket utk kudap2an, meals, buah2an and souvenirs)

Sixth day
The next day, the tour group already leaving back to KL whereas the 5 musketeers continue their journey in the Land of the Morning Calm on their own. Kuasa import diperlukan di mana Amin, my cuzzy, joined us in our escapade as the leader and interpreter (tq very much Amin. Nanti knum buatkan sambal tahun ok). For the tour group, it means that the schedule has comes to its end and nobody went shopping berserk in Seoul. Oh sedih. Tiada kenangan indah membantu menstimulasikan ekonomi Korea.

So after checked out, we checked in at Iljin motel. It is located across the NDM market gate 5 and eventhough it is a ‘motel’, it’s not like chicken motel in Msia. Lebih kurang sama taraf dgn Seri Msia laa.. the location is perfect, near NDM market and a walking distance from the subway station. We had buffet lunch at Maharaja Restaurant in Ittaewon, and the cost for tourist is 13,000Won/pax and for MSian Student is 10,000Won/pax (darabkan je dgn RM3.2 to convert into RM). After that, went to NDM to buy brooches. The brooch are sold at NAMDAEMUN GATE 5, first floor , building on your left. Ingat. Mmg jual joget lambak je brooch di situ. The glittering stones can make your eyes blind so be careful ladies. So, if you want to buy brooch, go straight to NDM GATE 5. Tak payah susah2 kerahkan tenaga zahir dan batin mencari brooch di DDM atau Ittaewon atau Myeongdong. The shops close at 5-6pm and on Saturday, open until 1-2pm only. Ingat ye ladies sekalian. Jgn pulak dah sampai Seoul pergi NDM hari sabtu pukul 4pm. Itu saja cari pasal buat jiwa terseksa merana.

Seventh day
Early in the morning, after stuffing our tummies with the rations we brought from home, we headed to Nami Island, the filming location of Winter Sonata.
Winter Sonata has popularized Nami Island and brought waves of tourists to Korea. But we were a lucky bunch that day as it was snowing in Nami Island that morning. Kalau sudah jumpa seno, gambar poyo mestilah dirakam utk memberitahu tourists yng lain bahawa kami datang dari negara beriklim khatulistiwa . Ha ha ha.. My Abah couldn’t stand the cold and stayed inside the tourist info cottage for the heater. We managed to make a snowman (but not as big as Afdlin of course) but it looks more like a snow owl.

Info : The total transportation cost (including subway, train and entrance fees) is 20,000 Won/pax. Compared to Mt Sorak, Nami is a better choice-many beautiful photo spots and has more tourist attractions. If you go own your own, better bring something to eat as there is no muslim restaurant available.
There is a fast-food restaurant called Lotte Ria, you can buy the prawn and squid burger there. They use vege oil and diff utensils to fry these two burgers. The price per set (soft drink + fries+burger) is only 4,000Won.Please note that the sauce in McDonald’s Korea is not halal.

Returned to the hotel and went out again to DDM market. With Amin as the translator, makes life easy to bargain. Some tour guides will tell you that the price is fixed in DDM, but you can actually bargain the price at least 30% from the display price provided that you pay in cash. So, jgn dgr kata tour guide itu. Tawarlah selagi boleh. Gunakan segala kepakaran dan bakat terpendam yang ada dalam dirimu. And, most of the items you see in Ittaewon can be found in DDM.

Note: Tips utk menawar ; mesti menawar secara suara kuat dan firm ala2 harga yang diberi tidak padan dgn kualiti barang (mesti lagak dan sombong tp jangan berlelampauan). Jangan buat muka kesian, or kata saya tak de duit ke hape, nanti diaorg tak layan n buat tak tahu. Kalau tak de transalator, tunjukkan riak muka (contohnya geleng2 kepala dan menjuih bibir sedikit ) smbil membelek2 barang.

You can also find Korean silk cotton here in DDM (exit station 9 subway).

Eight day
Early in the morning, we took a cab to the Seoul Station (from NDM to Seoul Station is 4,000 Won) and buy the airport limo ticket at 14,000Won/pax. The bus is comfy enough. Don’t’ fall asleep. Make sure you stop at Incheon International Airport and not at their domestic airport.
At 4.30pm-safely arrived home.

Note :
1. If you want to bring rendang, sambal and nasi himpit, make sure you place it in the check-in baggage. Boleh bawak tu semua. Jalan je lah dgn confident kat Custom tu.
2. Tour will usually take you to ginseng and amethyst centre. At NDM, you can find the same ginseng at much lower price. So, jgn terpedaya dgn pipi gebu,usikan , suara lemah gemalai dan jelingan manja onni2 di ginseng center itu. Tak sesuai utk stimulate economy di situ. Tolonglah peniaga di NDM :p.
Sekian, terima kasih.

p/s: I have the contact no of the korea agency that served us during the tour. Whoever wish to deal directly with them, feel free to email me for the details.
p/s/s; No worries, i dont charge anything/take commission for the Korean tour's contact.

Additional notes:
Phrase utk diingati ;
1. Anna hi seyyo - Selamat pagi/ malam/siang/petang
2. Kamsaha mida- Tq
3. Onni - Miss (digunakan bila hendak menawar barang, tidak kira penjual wanita itu tua atau muda)
4. Oppa - Mr (digunakan oleh gadis dgn nada manja ececehhh utk menawar dgn penjual lelaki)
5. Ahjumma - Auntie -agak2 Onni tak bagi harga kurang dan kita pun tak nak beli barang tu, jgn lupa
cakap Kamsaha Mida AHJUMMMAAAA sebelum balik ..heh!
6. Ahjussi - Uncle - sila guna dlm keadaan sama seperti no.5
7.Kakaju seyyo- oohh, ini penting, azimat ketika bershopping-maknanye, tolong kurang lagi boleh...

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