5 Reasons to Visit South Korea
Forgive me, for the lack of posts after I return from my trip to the Land of Kimchi, because I am suffering from a severe Vacation Hangover. And thank you for all your well wishes, I return healthy and well, despite travelling to South Korea at a rather risky time where MERS affected that beautiful country! On the bright side, it's precisely because of the drop in travellers that the group I followed managed to get rooms with sea views when we were at Jeju-do. IT'S ALL BEAUTIFUL (WITH A TINGE OF ANXIETY).
Now, on to the causes of my hangover and a semi-recap of my trip.
|King Sejong, seated on Gwanghwamun Plaza, before the Gyeongbukgung|
1. HISTORYI am a huge history nerd, no matter how much grief the subject gave me during high school. Examinations ruin the best of things. Travelling allows me to soak up a lot of it, especially on a guided tour. South Korea may not have as many palaces as Japan, or as long of a history as China, but visiting Gyeongbukgung is still an eye-opening experience. Of course, it is a little bit of a blow when the guide explained how the glorious costumes and furniture we see in Korean historical dramas aren't always that beautiful in real life. In fact, it's exactly the opposite because the past monarchs followed Confucianism, so I guess splurging on materialistic things aren't exactly it. We were allowed into one of the rooms in the palace, and that's when the guide explained that the room was recreated as it is, not because it was purposely left sparse. Seriously, the room we viewed only had the very basic dividers, the traditional seat and table, lamps. More or less the same as in a Korean drama, minus all the decorative things. It was all very minimalist.
Favourite part of visiting Gyeongbukgung: the guide brought us to one of the quarters used by the King, presumably for entertainment purposes. However! (PLOT TWIST TIEMZ!) It was actually used by the King to discuss great matters with his most trusted generals and advisors. Why? Because eunuchs, who were often used between royal political battles, were not allowed into that particular room! Therefore, ensuring that the King's discussion would not be eavesdropped upon. What a great spot! Plus it's elevated on stilts on a giant pond, so that's pretty awesome.
2. FOODIf you followed me on Instagram, you'll realize the only food picture I posted was actually a video where I got a shock from my seafood pot because of the live abalone. Despite the rather horrific nature of it, it's actually a good meal (after it died, of course). But jokes aside, I can totally eat just the RICE alone, if there weren't any main dish. Almost every meal is a hotpot shared by two to four persons, with lots of side dishes, and a bowl of rice. I LIVE FOR THAT BOWL OF RICE. The main dish are delicious, obviously, and healthy. Every damned meal is healthy and despite what you may think of healthy food (if you're like me and think that good food are always sinful), THEY ALL TASTE SO GOOD. Mushroom hotpot, Korean BBQ, Jeju-do Black Pork BBQ, bibimbap, seafood hotpot. Take it from someone who doesn't even like vegetables, South Korea will change your mind about greens. I've never eaten anything fried during my trip, it was glorious. The only meal I didn't enjoy was the Ginseng Chicken Soup. It was too bland for me and it was such a CHORE to eat it. They gave each person a WHOLE FRICKIN' CHICKEN. Of course, it's a small one, like two of my fists put together.
Oh, I remembered we did ordered fried chicken takeout when we were at Jeju-do. It was also good, but that's not the highlight. I think the only Korean I spoke during the trip was when we left our hotel to get that fried chicken. WHAT A WASTE OF LANGUAGE EXPERIENCE.
|View from Namsan, featuring the Seoul Tower|
3. HEALTH CONSCIOUSNESSI think I've already highlighted this from the food alone. But I don't know how many things and experiences I've had in the trip of 7 days (the rest of the days are in China) are all very healthy things. We climbed 2 mountains, visited more than 3 places that promotes healthy things, and obviously ate a lot of healthy things. It's kind of hard not to take good care of yourself when in South Korea. I mean, you're in a place where ginseng, a great tonic, is in abundance. That's saying something for itself! South Koreans seem to place emphasis on strengthening your body, even if you aren't sick, and I think that's a wonderful habit to have. To start somewhere, I bought vitamin C tablets and omija tea. I really love the flavour of Omija tea very much, it's a little on the sour side, despite it being described to have five flavours. It latched onto me when I first tasted it in a cultural village, so I bought a bottle of it before leaving Jeju-do. You can bet that I'll be searching for it in Singapore once I'm finished with my current bottle. ;)
Verdict: Unless you're determined to rot at home all day every day of the year, it's hard not to have a healthy lifestyle, even if unconsciously, if you are going to live long-term in South Korea.
|View from top of Seo-rak san|
4. SCENIC VIEWS
I mentioned before that we climbed 2 mountains. Strictly speaking, it's 3. First, Seo-rak san, probably my favourite of the three because it's not that exhausting for me, and second, there's a temple nestled at the bottom of it, so I sort of like the spiritual and peaceful vibes there. I posted two videos up and down Seo-rak san on the cable car so you could see how beautiful it is. I love that the sun's out and yet, the wind that blows is cooling. Spring is the bomb! The second one was in Seoul, Namsan, where the significant tower stands. The picture is above so you can see the entirety of Seoul. It was alright, nothing really impressive. My second favourite is Sunrise Peak on Jeju-do. The picture in the header of this post was taken when I was at the top of the peak. You can see the Instagram version of it here. I killed my legs going up and I thought I was going to have a heart attack halfway up the mountain trail. I had to hold on the railings as I went down the mountain, accompanied by my cousin, in case I really rolled down the slope. THIS GIRL NEEDS SOME SERIOUS WORKOUT!
Guide said that Koreans actually take hiking as a leisure activity, not exercise. On hindsight, I can see why. When I stood at the top of Sunrise Peak, dying and feeling like heaving, I also saw the beautiful view. There are various views that make you speechless and beautiful doesn't even cut it for how you feel at that moment. I had one of those moments. It was very rewarding. :)
|Teddy Bears from the drama, Goong (Princess Hours), in the Teddy Bear Museum|
Nobody is messing with you when they tell you to buy (or help them purchase) face masks, make-up items, or any item to do with cosmetics, when you announce that you are travelling to South Korea. Other than being the Land of Kimchi, the beautiful country is also the Land of Cosmetics. Not talking about cosmetic surgery, but on the products. They are much more affordable there, if you've got the luggage space! Even for someone like me, who has never used ANY kind of product in her quarter of a century life, I bought a tube of cleansing gel. I do wash my face with a cleanser, thank you for your concern (lmao). I am weak, when it comes to a convincing salesperson, and convincing salespersons are ALL they hire there. Plus they give you a on-the-spot demonstration, for those that can be demonstrated of course.
Elaboration by the Korean guide: The common brands we see, such as Etude House, Nature Republic, are targeted at teens and youngsters, as they have lesser spending power thus the products' prices are geared towards those audience. Young South Koreans start using products as young as the tender age of ten, thus the cheaper products. The lesser known products but just as effective, though more appropriate for older skins, are not those brands that Kpop idols are endorsing. I don't remember all the brand but the one that I bought, that is effective (in my honest opinion), is ODBO. I bought a cleanser -- called Peeling Gel. It's not as scary as it sounds, trust me.
|TO THE NEXT DESTINATION!|
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of my semi-recap. I didn't take a lot of photos because I'm not one to snap before I eat, I just shared and linked some of my personal favourite scenic ones. I would love to show you Gyeongbuk-gung but I didn't have really have one that showed its simple glory. I could also tell you a lot more if we chat in real life (my godma is probably sick of my South Korean tales already), or I could write more but this post is hella long already. ;) I left out places like Le Petit France, Rail Park, Lotte World, Teddy Bear Museum, and Hello Kitty Island. But I feel that those wouldn't help me express how beautiful South Korea is (okay, maybe Rail Park will, a little). It's just something you have to experience for yourself! Breathtaking beauty does not exist in the form of a person, but in the form of Mother Nature.
Some other information of my travel, in case anyone else's interested, you could ask me for anything else you are curious about! (I can't remember half the hotels' names I stayed in so uh, yeah.)
International flight: China Eastern Airlines (transited from Shanghai)
Domestic flight (to Jeju-do): Jin Air*
Tour Group: CS Travel
Tour Guides: Jacqueline (SG), Sammy (KR), Happy (KR, photographer)
The domestic flight was pretty interesting, they had in-flight quizzes and while I didn't understand two of the questions, the third was simply a game of scissors-paper-stone. It was a unique experience on the domestic flight and I enjoyed it (plus handsome air stewards and pretty stewardesses, hehe). Also, our tour guides were fabulous and knowledgeable, and I think that makes my trip a whole lot more awesome because of the knowledge I've gained. :D
(This post is NOT endorsed by the company, I just enjoyed my adventure in South Korea very much, personal issues and MERS aside!)