DAY FOUR - MY FIRST TRIP TO SOUTH KOREA
The last day of our trip had arrived. So I wanted that day to be extra special and fun. We would be visiting old palaces, art scenes and drama location and eat tasty food before we fly home to Malaysia that night! our breakfast was tuna samgak kimbap and french cafe and chocolate milk. Yummy...
The first destination was the Ganghwaemun Square where the statue of King Sejong sat in grandeur. He is known for introducing the use of Hangeul alphabets 570 years ago to replace the old Chinese characters called Hanja.
From visitkorea.com :
October 9 of every year holds a very special place in the hearts of Koreans. This year, it is the 570th birthday ofhangeul, the native Korean alphabet invented by King Sejong (r. 1418-1450).
The invention of hangeul was no accident, but rather the culmination of a methodical and logical process. Before hangeul, Chinese characters called “hanja” had been used in writing. However, hanja, for its sheer plethora of characters, was difficult to learn, especially for people of lower social status with little or no access to education, and this led to rampant illiteracy throughout the country. In order to resolve the problem, King Sejong began developing a new writing system that would be easy to access as well as to learn. At last, on October 9, 1443, hangeul (Hunminjeongeum) was invented and was disseminated with a thorough explanation of logic behind each stroke of its characters. It was published for the first time in 1446. The invention of hangeul had since then contributed substantially to reducing illiteracy in Korea.http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?cid=631659
From there, we walked to Gyeongbok-gung @ Gyeongbok Palace which is located near the statue to watch the Changing of the Guards event. The guards were dressed in traditional attire and they all looked very stern and serious. The ceremony was accompanied by live traditional music. The scene reminded me of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, London. once it was over, we went inside after paying 1000 Won at the entrance. We actually spent around 3 hours here discovering all the traditional buildings and appreciating the architecture.
We wanted to go to the National Folk Museum but we were short of time. We had to make way on foot to Insadong. I took the opportunity to take photos outside a school here. How I wish I could visit a Korean school to see how it is run. There are many art and craft shops along the main street of Insadong. Souvenirs are abundant but the price is a bit more expensive than those sold in Nandaemun. We had our lunch at Sinpo Woori Namdo where we ate bibimbap, kimchi fried rice and seafood udon. The price was around 5000 - 7000 won each.
Along the way, we stopped by Tapgol Park or Pagoda Park near Insadong in Jongno where we performed our prayer in a secluded corner. We first took ablution in a nearby washroom. The water was very cold! Several elderly citizens were resting in the park and were probably curious about our physical movements. Then, we made our way to Dongdaemun Market via the famous Cheongyehceon stream that is so clean and clear. A lot of events are held here like the Seoul Lantern Festival in November.
In Doangdaemun market, we browsed the shops, especially the Korean silk and cotton shops. The business owners were familiar with tourists from Malaysia and they even have signs in Malay ("Kain Untuk Baju Kurung dan Baju Kebaya") to attract the Malay-speaking customers. Korean silk is pretty but quite expensive. There are many tailors making hanboks... how I wish I could have one made for myself....
After window shopping at the market, we rode on a bus and then took the subway to go to Hongdae where we went in search for the famous coffee shop that was the set for the Kdrama - Coffee Prince (Gong Yoo and Yoon Eun Hye). It was quite a distance before we reached the shop. there were other tourists there and all of us / them were busy taking selfie and wefie at every corner of the shop. It wouldn't be complete without us having a cup of coffee. At 7000 won, it was certainly delicious to sip between chit chat...!
It was evening when we left the shop to go back to the city centre. We had to find a place to pray and this time it was near the emergency stairs of a shopping mall. Luckily nobody used the stairs while we were praying...
After that, we went back to Shinchon to have our last dinner at Gosami seafood restaurant where the main dish is the grilled mackerels. We ate the fish with assorted banchan and calamari in chilli. This was my favourite set of food during this trip. All the guides were there to say goodbye to us since we would be going back to Malaysia that night. I wonder where are they now....?
We walked back in the cold of the night to get our luggage and to check out from the guest house. We reaached the bus stop near the guest house at 8.30pm. Our flight back was at midnite so we were quite worried if we could not make it in time. Fortunately, the airport limousine bus was on time and we arrived at Incheon International Airport after about an hour. There were only a few passengers on the bus. The driver was very kind to help us load our 8 heavy bags on to the bus. We were happy that we managed to board the plane in time and after a tiring 6-hour flight, we safely landed in Malaysia....
Alhamdulillah. I was glad and relief that we had completed our first adventure in Korea. I said to myself then, I would definitely visit Korea again.... and we did, our second group adventure was the trip to Jeju Island and Busan in 2015. I also went back to Seoul in the same year as part of the Korea Tourism Organisation VIP Members Invitation Tour with 13 other K-fans from all over Asia.
Now, I am hoping there will be a 4th visit to Korea, perhaps to Jeju and Busan again...!
Saranghaeyo, Daehan Minguk!