Friday, April 15, 2011

My Seoul Tour Journal (Day 1)

Our flight to Incheon, South Korea will commence at 12:30 am (02-23-11). After our Tuesday class, I immediately went to SM Sucat to buy stuffs for me to use in Korea such as thermal wear, face cream, and mints of course. When I got home, I hurriedly packed all my things, charged my phone and camera, double checked my documents (passport, e-ticket, boarding slip, etc.), and prepared my winter attire in my hand carry. I felt the thrill as night time falls because after some hours, I’ll be flying to Seoul—my first international getaway. My parents brought me to the airport (NAIA Terminal 1) at around 8:00 pm. I didn’t ride the bus from UST because we’re just 10-15 minutes drive to the Airport. I, together with a friend/classmate, went inside the airport after a long time of waiting. We saw our other classmates sitting with their half-full baggage (or is it?), and waited for the rest to arrive. It was around 9:30 pm when we checked-in our baggage (that should not exceed 20 Kg or else you pay) in Korean Air flight KE624. After checking-in, we were directed to the Immigration (it was my first time!), and had security check where we placed our hand-carry bags, shoes, belts, in a tray and have it scanned. After that we went to the waiting area for like 2 hours before boarding the plane. While waiting, I amused myself by doing our StraMa Paper (very diligent, huh? LOL!). I was also inspired by airport crews, pilots, and cabin crews because I want to become one of them someday—good-looking, classy, confident, and head-turner? LOL! I drowsed a bit while waiting for our flight because I haven’t slept yet, thus giving me a med mark in the forehead as we boarded the plane at around 12:20 am. I was a bit nauseous because of lack of sleep, yet my excitement generates more energy from me.

I was really happy when I got inside the plane, though I’ve ridden planes many times for domestic travel, it’s still different riding inside a big, international carrier. The flight attendants were Koreans (obviously), the announcements were made in either Korean or English—it was totally a different environment! Instead of demonstrating the safety of the flight manually by the F.A’s, there was a safety video shown in each of our monitors (in Korean, English, and Visayan-accent Tagalog which we find really hilarious!). It was approximately a 4-hours flight, but the trip was really enjoyable. I watched movies, listened to music, played games on-board. After an hour, our meals were served and I ate “Bibimbap,” a Korean dish, mixed with rice, veggies, beef, chili paste, and sesame oil. Others find it intolerable to eat because it is spicy, but as for me, I like spicy food. After 4 hours, we landed at Incheon International Airport—the top 1 airport in the world (let’s find out why).

As we stepped out of the plane, it was freakin’ -2 degrees outside! And there was no signal (even though we activated our roaming). For the first time, I saw Incheon. It was really big, super clean, and the facilities were high-tech. Airport procedures were quick (unlike in NAIA). We went directly to the Immigration for us to enter the country safely. Then we went to claim our baggage, and then proceeded in their in-house restaurant—Global Chow Buffet—for our breakfast before we go on out first destination. Since we still have some time to spare, my friends and I went around the airport to take some pictures. And I must say, even their airport is a tourist destination. We went to meet our tour guides near the exit. But before we get out at the airport, we have to change in our winter attire because it’s freezing cold outside to the point that our breaths were smoky! We boarded our bus, introduced the tour guide, Julia, as well as the photographer, Ellie. We also learned some Korean greetings like, “Annyeong Haseyo” (standard greeting), “Kamsahamnida” (Thank you), and “Ye/Ne & Aniyo” (Yes and No). Now we’re ready to explore the land of K-pop and Kimchi!!!

PAJU ENGLISH VILLAGE (02-23-11, 9:15 am--Korean Time)

This is the place where I saw snow for the first time. I was like a child, playing and stepping in snowfalls, even though it was really chilly to the extent that my hands and feet were starting to numb. Julia gathered us first inside the entrance before we could roam around the area. It is called English village because it is where English is taught to the locals. The place is actually the shooting place for “Boys Over Flowers,” which is a big hit in the Philippines. I was so excited to take pictures because I know a lot of friends who are fans of BOF, and I want to share to them my experience in the place thru pictures. The place was really enormous and like a European destination because of its structures. I recognize some areas from the BOF and took pictures of it. We met Korean children there and they were so cute. LOL! We left the place around 10:30 am (Korean time) because it will still be a long ride for us to reach our next destinations. We first went for lunch before we continued our tour. We ate different cuisines like Shabu-Shabu, sushi, pork dishes, seafood, etc. in a local restaurant called Ocean Seafood, but the best part was their ice cream (YUM!). After eating, we proceeded to our next destinations.


Before we go to the National Folklore Museum, we first passed by the Presidential Blue House, the counterpart of the Malacanang Palace in the Philippines according to Julia. When we reached National Folklore Museum, I’m starting to feel the spirit of Korea because I was about to discover its history. The museum was really interesting because its architecture (internally) is well-designed and big enough to accommodate large number of people, yet still spacious inside. The artifacts, antiques, and dioramas were really cool and well-organized. After our museum tour, we went to Gyeongbok Palace, the main and largest palace of the five grand palaces, at around 2:00 pm. We had a chance to see the place where the emperors of Joseon Dynasty lived before. The place has a vast area, and the landscape was really beautiful, and we took the opportunity of the nice background to take pictures. Even the photographer, Ellie, took our photos as we pose for her. That was hilarious!


Before we can ride the cable car going to N Seoul Tower, we visited Namsan Hanok Village first. It has a nice ambiance—very laid-back and very traditional. It has a great environment because it is also incorporated to nature—a pond (though frozen), lots of trees and plants too. It is actually a traditional park, where you can see Korean people hanging out here, children playing, and couples dating. Instead of doing a walking tour around the place, we sat by at the mini, temple-like structure and rested for some minutes because we were so tired (our feet aching as well). The place rejuvenated our senses after resting, making us more energetic for our next destination, N Seoul Tower via cable car. We went to this tall building and walked up our way to the cable car port. I was really excited because it is my first time riding a cable car. When I got inside the cable car, it was really crowded. As we ascended to N Seoul Tower, the view became spectacular! The city of Seoul could be seen. When we got there, unfortunately, my camera’s battery was discharged (Tsk!). We first went to the Teddy Bear Museum and all I could see was C-U-T-E-N-E-S-S. There were lots of bears (big and small), from traditional lifestyle to renaissance masterpieces. It was really amusing. After that, we got up via the elevator to the topmost level of the tower, where the whole city of Seoul could be viewed 360 degrees from above. We had our picture taken and printed it as a souvenir, in which I paid 10,000 won (just then I realized how impractical it was. Hehe!). Before boarding the bus, we went to check out the famous Love Padlocks, where there are millions of padlocks locked in the fences/railings. It was really romantic for people locking their names in it and throwing the key because they believe that it will be together, forever. When we got in the bus, most of our classmates were still in the place without noticing that we are running out of time! Because of that, some people were dismayed of our delayed departure from Namsan Tower. After that, around 7:00 pm, we arrived to a local restaurant to eat dinner—Korean barbeque!!!


Before checking in to our hotel, there is still one last activity in the itinerary for the day, the traditional performance of the “Miso” show in Chongdong Theater. I can say that the show was really good. It’s very entertaining and cultural. The leading lady was really suitable for her role—beautiful and smiley—because as the title would suggest “Miso” meaning “Beautiful Smile.” The actors and actresses were full of expression as they act in stage. The singer who sang traditional Korean songs was weird to hear at first, but gave me goose bumps because she sang it so well, with feelings. The sword dance reminded me of a Korean TV series, Hwang Jini (shown in GMA7). The performance was too long (I guess?) which makes me sleepy at some point in time during the show, but overall, I can say that it was marvelous, it was outstanding!

HOTEL CHECK-IN @ LA MIR (Around 9:45 pm)

We were so beat up during the day and we were actually craving for a good night rest. Time for check-in! (YAY!) The hotel was not that grand and enormous, but for a 3-star hotel, it is definitely worth your money because it is actually comparable to 4-star hotels here in the Philippines, only smaller. All of us were situated in the 8th floor, and my roommate and I were assigned to Room 817 (Now I'm starting to miss that room). The room was really nice. There's a TV, plasma to be exact (too bad CNN was the only English channel available); a bathroom with bath tub; 2 beds--one queen size, and a twin; no sink, and fridge was not working (but who cares, opening the window is like an automatic fridge! LOL!); carpeted floor; and ventilation and water is modulated well. During the night, I didn't sleep right away, but rather I took a bath in the tub. Refreshing! And before going to bed, I made sure to charge my cell phone and my camera for tomorrow's activity. (^_^)d

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