Seoul in the eyes of a non K-pop fan

This is the first time I’m travelling during festive season (Christmas and New Year) so this is also the first time I paid expensive ticket to go somewhere. I usually go to random destinations depends on the ticket price, so I would start a blog post bragging about how cheap my flight ticket is. Not this time. :(

We got a free one-way ticket to Bangkok to start holiday with and I didn’t want to be stuck in Bangkok for so long, so we decided to fly to Seoul, South Korea. We knew nothing about South Korea or Seoul in particular. There are only 2 things people tell me from their Seoul Trip:

One is everything related to K-Pop or K-drama. Two is how cheap their cosmetics are.

Both turned out to be the highlights of Seoul. I’m not a fan of K-Pop, I know nothing about K-pop and K-drama, so point number one is invalid for me; but point number two… oh boy, are they right about it.

Looking at Seoul from a non Kpop fan perspective, I must say that Seoul is interesting, Seoul is hip, Seoul is loud, but it is lack of personality. City is not an ideal destination for me, so I have certain expectation when I visit cities. I don’t say I’m disappointed with Seoul, no. Seoul has so many things to offer. I visited Seoul in winter, the most harsh weather of all, and I still enjoyed it. But if you want to talk about soul of the city, Seoul doesn’t have it. It’s not like London or Tokyo who will give you goosebumps when you explore them. Oh I really love London, London left such an impression for me. You don’t have to like a city to know its personality. Hong Kong for example, has a personality. Not the personality that I love though. I don’t fancy Hong Kong, I visited once and had returned yet. I will probably will return because my best friend lives there, not because I like it. But anyway, there is a possibility I found Seoul a bit boring because I visited during winter, it was super cold. Maybe I’ll visit again someday when the weather is warmer.

Cranky me, kept asking to go inside because it was super cold.

Cranky me, kept asking to go inside because it was super cold.

I don’t know if this makes sense. So to cut it short, Seoul has lack of personality. Contrasting to its name, Seoul is soulless. I just felt some of the part of it is artificial. It doesn’t make this statement true. It’s just my opinion.

I took a stroll at MyeongDong and totally understood why beauty products competition in Korea is very steep. There are millions of different products, you will get lost following the trends.

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Then I went to Hongdae, which is my favourite spot in Seoul, it’s full of hype and so alive. Youngsters perform in the street, clubs are loud during Friday night, Food is cheaper than the other hip neighbourhoods, beer is cheap and stores are full of promotion and discounts. Hongdae is the little sister of Orchard Road who is in meth.

But it is in Bukchon Hanook Village, I found a gem in this busy and loud city. This small village full of traditional hanook houses is just so beautiful and picturesque. It’s an Oasis in this newly developed country’s capital city. While walking around, I imagined how people lived there a thousand years ago, during spring when the flowers bloomed, must be a luxury.

Picturesque view. You have no idea the struggle I had to take this angle.

Picturesque view. You have no idea the struggle I had to take this angle.

A sticky tripod and an effort to get a good angle. Voila!

A sticky tripod and an effort to get a good angle. Voila!

We planned to visit Nami Island cause the place popped up repeatedly in everyone’s blog, so it seemed like a must-visit place. However after further reading about the small island which rocketed to fame out of a K-Drama and the fact that I couldn’t survive more than 15 minutes in the outdoor winter wind, we decided not to go.

The thing that I adore the most from Seoul as a visitor is their superb transportation system. One card for everything, just like in Singapore. Their MRT is clean, fast, reliable, just awesome. We took the bus 1 time and had the same good experience. While the best thing about Seoul is… THE FOOD, the spicy food to be precise. Just like so many Indonesians, Bandi and I love spicy food and Koreans mean it when they say it’s spicy. Their spicy is not a gimmick, it really is! If you know the famous Samyang spicy ramen noodle, there are a lot of Samyang’s spiciness equivalent in Seoul.

Dry trees during winter can be a nice prop too. The gloominess creates such drama.

Dry trees during winter can be a nice prop too. The gloominess creates such dramatic effect.

The only good thing about visiting Seoul during winter is the fact that you can go skiing, which we did. It was our first time skiing so we bought a package from Expedia for a day trip to Elysian Ski Resort which includes English speaking beginner’s ski lesson. The journey from Seoul to Elysian Resort took about one and a half hour, providing no traffic jam. Sadly we were stuck in the traffic when we returned to Seoul. It’s a big city after all, traffic jam is part of it.

This is so heavy, ugh! I was sweating inside.

This is so heavy, ugh! I was sweating inside.

Selfie in goggles!

Selfie in goggles!

Overall, I enjoyed Seoul. I probably would love enjoy it more if I visited during spring because it was so cold when I visited (-5 degrees for the love of god, I thought I would die) and most of the trees were dead. I don’t usually go shopping when I travel, but there is no way you visit Seoul without buying their skincare products. And surprisingly it was fun to shop skincare. I am vain too afterall. Judge me.

Check my vlog about Seoul here:

Bandi and traveled to East Java during the Chinese new year break, together with Bandi’s family. It was one hell of journey. I hope I’ll have time to write it and edit the blog because Q1 is the busiest time of my work. For now until April, I will take a travel-off period because I really need to work. Help me god, I will have some time off here and there so I can do some simple blogging.

Talk to you guys next time!

Cheers,

May, literally typing this while sitting on the toilet bowl.

Serendipity called Jeju

Don’t you just love it when you have a fortunate accident, an unexpected wonder, a serendipity? That’s Jeju Island for me. I almost skipped this small island, but thankfully a friend of mine insisted I had to visit it because I would love it.  He persistently asked me to go. And yes, he’s right. I LOVED IT. I FELL IN LOVE WITH IT. I left a piece of my heart there. Yes, to that extent.

To be fair, I always love island destination and I love road-tripping, so going around an island in a car usually ends wonderfully for me. We rented a car in Jeju and grabbed a local map, the rest was history. We got to see so many wonderful things in Jeju and oh boy, this island is a gem!

The first thing across my mind whenever I found an awesome destination is to share it with the world and to tell everyone to come. So, here are the things in Jeju that I absolutely love and would experience again when I come back and hopefully inspire you to visit:

1. Staying in this cute and humble airbnb called “Sun Story”

I’m so thankful we stayed in this airbnb. The place was just so comfy and unique, and oh the owners are a happy couple who were so kind and welcoming. I happened to break their shower head and they did not fine me -ha! They also recommended us to hike Oreums, which brings us to the next reason why I will definitely come back to Jeju for more!

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The off-path humble bed and breakfast.

Surviving winter

Surviving winter

Imagine chilling during summer on that hammock.

Imagine chilling during summer on that hammock.

2. Hiking the Oreums

Oreums are like hills, big vast hills. Hiking the oreums is like bushwalking in Australia. One of my favourite thing to do while traveling. Yongnuni Oreum means dragon hill, and if we could take a look from the top, the oreum looks like a sleeping dragon. The track was easy and good to walk on with family. Bandi and I had a very good time hiking this Oreoum during winter, it was a wonderful weather and wonderful view from the top! Definitely something to do if you’re in Jeju!

Let's go!

Let’s go!

What an incredible start of the year!

What an incredible start of the year!

3. Eating Black Pork BBQ in this Ajumma’s Restaurant

We didn’t know the name of the restaurant, but Bandi read in someone’s blog that Running Man had an episode there. Eating black pork BBQ with Kimchi Soup and purple rice, surrounded by ten side dishes is one of the best meal I’ve ever had in my life. Each of them create such a beautiful symphony in my mouth and everything they say about Korean BBQ made sense. (P.s I didn’t fancy Korean BBQ until that meal in that Ajumma’s restaurant) Turned out you just need to go to the right place. If you want to visit this place by public transport, I cannot help you because I don’t know how to type the name, but if you’re driving a car, just key in this phone number (784-1007) to your GPS. Just park on the road side, the store looks like this. You’re welcome.

I don’t know what’s its name or write it in alphabets, but this is how the restaurant looks like!

A wonderful meal experience and one of the best dishes we've ever had in our life!

A wonderful meal experience and one of the best dishes we’ve ever had in our life!

4. Play on the beach and in the clear turquoise water

We did not get to do this because it was winter when we visited. Even though in the picture it looked sunny and warm, it was 7 degrees. The closest we got to the water was this boat canoeing in the bay. We didn’t so much cash left but when we were driving around and saw people canoeing happily in this sunny winter weather, I wanted too, so we stopped over, parked the car and asked how much it was. It was 10,000 won for 30 minutes per person and they accepted credit card, yay! They have credit card machine everywhere, so we could be conveniently over-budget.

Row row row your boat!

Row row row your boat!

I think it's safe for Brownie to plan in the water during winter because of those layer of fats. LOL

I think it’s safe for Brownie to plan in the water during winter because of those layer of fats. LOL

5. Chill in the café watching the sun sets in the blue sea.

Bonmal Cafe. Remember this name and visit when you’re in Jeju. It was a shame that we didn’t get to spend longer time chilling here because we got to go to the airport.

A very instagrammable cafe

A very instagrammable cafe

Great coffee too!

Great coffee too!

Great place to chill!

Great place to chill!

6. Drive around the island

Hands down, my most favourite thing in life is road-tripping (so ironic because I can’t drive –  so I’m stuck with Bandi for the rest of my life), and it’s even more fun road-tripping in an island, because you’ve got to go back in the circle to the place where you started, just like coldplay song, “Oh let’s go back to the start…” Yeah, I’m dramatic that way.

7. OSULLOC Green Tea Museum (and Green Tea Ice Cream FTW)

This place is not overrated! You must have heard about this place somewhere or someone must have mentioned it before because this place is famous, and it is famous with good reasons! Yes the green tea museum is not so big, but I could still get to learn some stuffs about tea culture in Korea and do you know that green tea and black tea are from the same plants, the difference is the process of roasting! Well, I didn’t know that, I always thought they were from different plants! I also got to see the beautiful tea plantation (just like the one we have in Bogor, East Java, Indonesia). They sell high quality teas too, just like TWG, but much cheaper. I don’t understand why people have to choose to be a coffee person or a tea person, why can’t I just be both? I love both teas and coffees! I want to be both! Aaaaakkkk! So yeah, their tea is amazing. I bought some for my mom and mother in law because… who doesn’t love a good cup of tea, right?

The small but informative green tea museum!

The small but informative green tea museum!

Tea plantation!

Tea plantation!

None of these are overrated. Truly delicious products of the humble green tea.

None of these are overrated. Truly delicious products of the humble green tea.

8. Hiking Mt Hallasan!

Okay, we did not get to do this because it was winter and I would die going up to a mountain while winter. I was dying climbing in summer, how do you think I would survive winter climbing? But the next time I visit Jeju, I will conquer Mt. Halia! This is a promise!

9. Watching sunrise in Seongsan summit.

Climbing up to the Seongsan Summit (or most of people call sunrise peak) is not difficult and it’s one of the must-to-do things in Jeju. We woke up very early to watch the first sunrise in Seongsan, but little did we know, thousands of people wanted the same thing, so the hiking trails were packed with people and we were not allowed to continue to the peak and were redirected to another peak. We stayed for 15 minutes only to realise how chaotic it would be once the sun rose and everyone would leave on the same time and the road would be jammed. So we left early and watched the sunrise on some random people’s ranch, together with this horsey. :p

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10. Visiting all the wacky but informative themed museums

From Hello Kitty land to Sex Museums, Jeju offers all kind of different and unique themed exhibitions. The most famous would be the Teddy Bear museums, which we didn’t go because we chose to go to the Love Land, which is a park that celebrates all things sexual. Oh la la! Yes, I ditched the huggable Ted for some dick sculptures. Judge me.

Other themed park/museum that probably suit your fetish-ahem, I mean interest, is Maze Park, Stone parks full of penis-shaped stone, mini land (full of mini size of world’s famous buildings/landscapes), K-Drama museum, Ripley’s believe it or not museum, glass museum or Women’s divers museum.

Guess what?

Guess what?

And…. the greatest reasons of all… Jeju is feminist and environmentalist.

Jeju has long history of strong women. Jeju is well-known for their women’s divers and women from Jeju are strong and independent. My kind of women, wink. This fact just made me fall in love even more with Jeju.

Jeju uses renewable energy! Looking at those pretty windmills when we drove around island made me happy. It’s really the new time, it’s the time of renewable energy!

And of those things I listed still didn’t convince you to pack your bag and go to Jeju, I hope this clip I put up together will. Enjoy!

Cheers,

May, missing Jeju already.