We decided to use Seoul Wonderlust Tour Agency to save time and also to manage our Halal food requirements. They are on Instagram. After paying deposit, I settled all the remaining cost before our flight date. I communicated with cik Ain through Whatsapp but once we arrived, we were met by her sister, Ikah who would be our guide for the next 5 days. They are based in Seoul and it is a family affair who brings tourists to Seoul, Jeju and Busan. Highly recommended!
All six of us - Kak Zaiton, Kak Hafizah, Kak Fatimah, Marlinda and her hubby, Muhammad Shukor and myself - started our trip early that morning by catching a flight from Alor Setar to KLIA2. Our next flight was at 2pm-ish to Incheon International Airport and we would get there around 10pm. I think we would go straight to our Guesthouse after that. The flight was full. The majority were Koreans and Malaysian tourists, whom we would bumped into several times during the next few days! One drawback of my flight was the tasteless same food (both ways) that came with the pre-plan pack purchase. I have learnt my lesson well. No more pre-plan pack after this!
When we arrived, the weather was still cold. it was quite late so we had to rush to ride the Arex train to Hongik University Station (an hour ride) before changing to another train to get to Sinchon Station. From there, we walked and dragged our luggage to our guesthouse which was nearby. The Gaon Hostel is only 5 minutes to the subway station. No dinner tonight, because it was late and Ikah had to hurry back alone so we went to bed rather hungry that night. We were too tired to go down to the kitchen or go out to the convenient store which was about 100 metres from the hostel!
The rooms were basic with floor heater, air-conditioner, tv and an attached bathroom that was quite 'unique'. I had to climb the barrier to go into the bathroom which had a high-rise floor. The kitchen was rather small and we had to take turn with other tourists to use it. They serve bread and jam and there are also a microwave, coffee machine and a water dispenser. Every morning, before our daily trips, we would assemble there and had our maggi mee and instant Brahim's rice and sambals. We even managed to exchange Hellos with a couple of tourists from Japan and even Malaysia!
17.03.18 - Day One
Our first destination were the Gwanghamun Square and the Gyeongbok Palace. The weather was fine but rather cold for March. There was a memorial exhibition at the Square commemorating the tragedy of Sewol Ferry in 2014. It was a topic during my MUET lesson and I was thankful to be able to visit the solemn exhibition... Yellow ribbons were everywhere...
We managed to watch the Changing of the Guards ceremony at Gyeongbokgung live. The music and the drummings were exhilirating! Many tourists were also attired in traditional clothings. After exploring and selfie-ing, we went passed the National Museum to get to Hanok Village near Samcheondong.
Even though this would be my 4th visit to Seoul, I hadn't had the opportunity to explore the Hanok Traditional Village there. So, this was our third destination. There were so many people dressed in pretty Hanbok, with matching bags and hairband. You can rent it hourly or daily. Or you could pose in it for free at Korea Tourism Centre, just like what we did... There are many steep paths and alleys around the village and people still live there so tourists are advised to be quiet not to disturb the local residents... One feature that caught my attention was the intricate designs of the old main gate of each house. I would have liked to visit a real Hanok to see the inside of it.
We had our lunch at Halal Kitchen in Samcheondong, a new eatery owned by a Korean muslim, catering especially to Muslim tourists. The place was packed so we had to wait for a little while before we were seated. The food was super delicious! Japchae was excellent, spicy fried chicken was good, bulgogi and bibimbap were authentic and yummy. Highly recommended! The Samcheondong area itself was lined up with many small artsy shops and boutiques. We bought some cute souvenirs at a reasonable price from a few shops there.
Our next visit was to the Korean Tourism Center at Dongdaemun to experience several activities. There was also a Musolla available for prayers. We donned colourful hanboks and took many selfies and wefies, then we joined an art class where we were given coloured markers to to decorate linen(?) bags, which would be ours once we finished the colouring activity. There were also booths to take photos with 4D images and clips of popular K-Pop idols and many brochures to collect or read.
Our last randezvous for that day was to the Dondaemun Design Plaza and The Cheongghyecheon stream nearby. The plaza was being prepared for Korean Fashion Week. But alas, we did not spot any celebs. There are thousands of LED white roses around the plaza and I bet it would look spectacular at night! The stream was clean and just lepakking there was refreshing and relaxing.
Before we went back to our hostel, we had to go to Dota(?) Mall to buy more souvenirs! Dinner was at Gosame, a popular grilled fish restaurant at Shinchon. I loved the grilled mackerel, the chilli squids and fried anchovies. We returned to our hostel to rest and recuperate, with a full tummy. Good night, Seoul!