Monday, May 30, 2011
One thing great about our hotel was, the shopping center was just next door and was accessible from the lobby.
Besides, it was located at the centre of the transportation hubs, linking the Express Bus Station with many subway trains.
In fact, all the buildings in the vicinity were extensively linked and connected through various undergrounds exits and one need not need to cross the roads to get to the other shopping buildings. It was unimaginative how extensive and complicated this rat nest was.
My last window shopping was at Gangnam Underground Shopping Center which I discovered by chance after wandering off to the numerous exits from the Central Bussiness Shopping Centre next to Express Bus Terminal.
Finally, I found the mother of super-extreme cheap bargain here. Almost all the shoppers were from the middle age and above. I was literally sandwiched by all these aunties salvaging the goods as if they were free of charge. 99% of the shops here sell ladies fashions. Prices were fixed at a very bargained prices of between W5-10K. Some ladies socks and undies even sold at W1K. I estimated this underground extends about a km long and one can just spend the whole day here for just shopping, is enough.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Our next shopping was this place named Namdaemun Market. This place is something like P'taling Street back home. Most of the shops did not put up price tag and it was difficult to bargain without speaking their language. Bargaining for price is something I don't like to do. But then, with bargain, only can one get good price.
Along this small lane also, one get to savor the best of the Korean's street foods. There were almost hundred varieties from all the shops. Prices were very reasonable, ranged from W4K to W12K.
It was last day and we decided to skip the sessions. This was probably our once-in-a-life-time, and we were told 'a-must' to make a visit to the DMZ aka de-militarised zone of the border between north and south Korea. We booked a half-day tour via the hotel and was lucky to have a good tour guide who was very fluent in English
On the way, we were told that this was the stretch of road where one could see North Korea at the nearest point. We were also well-briefed about the history of Korea and the reasons why they went separate ways. I supposed one should just listen with one side of the ears, as one only got one side of the story. South Korea was so glorified.
The South Koreans were also very smart. This was evident by how they managed to turn this 'zone' into big tourist attraction and a money making machine.
On a scheduled tour, everything went through so fast. We were rushing from one place to another. We hardly had time to properly saw through the place and took many photos.
The train exhibit with hundreds gun-shot holes was to remind the people how deep the grief and how horrendous the war had done to mankind. This also indirectly showed how big the influence of Russian and American on shaping what the Korea was about today.
Of course, many were hoping for the unification but still there were many hurdles to go through. They may be the people with the same skin color, speak the same language, practice the same culture and religion, which in-short, were of the same blood, but it was so difficult to comprehend why that hacked globe could not be stick back together. So sad.
Everybody was so excited upon seeing the other side. We were not allow to take photo behind 10 meters from the wall. Through the W500 operated binoculars, one was able to peek through what was happening on the other side. How exciting, wasn't it? To see through between heaven and earth.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Our 4th night programme was to watch the Nanta show, apparently the longest running show in Korea history. But before we proceed to the theater, we had dinner nearby. This time we wanted to have something more "Chinese" and this Korean Ginseng Chicken or Samyetang was the closest. Yeah, this was probably the best meal we had in Korea.
Again, performing art was not my cup of tea. I wasn't that impressed and thought the show was just overrated. The entrant fee was W60K for the VIP seat though, the most expensive one spent.
As the shops nearby also closed early, we headed to another shopping haven called Dongdaemun Market. This place was jam packed with shoppers till the wee hours and it was the best place to shop for cheap fashions just as what we had in Sg Wang Plaza. The only different, they were all originally-Korea while we had most of the imported-China.
Friday, May 27, 2011
The sessions started as early as 7.00am, but that was the best time to just lie lazily in bed. Instead of been dictated by the shuttle bus schedules, we decided to wake up a bit late and took the subway trains by our own. More flexible this way. We traveled hundreds kilometers and it was a waste if we did not take time to go sight-seeing. Forget about those lectures.
It was also a waste, as we could only attend one session out of more than 20 concurrent sessions. Every topics seemed to be interesting, so it was really a hard decision. One thing, in this kind of conference, we were disallowed to take picture. But sometimes understood if it involved showing patients' photos and confidential issue came into play. But then, certain slides only contained words, yet one could be told off on the spot. I managed to snapped a few photos stubbornly. No doubt, some of the slides were recorded in DVD form to be sold, but it was at a ripped off price of USD90 per disc.
Night time, shopping again and this time we went to Insadong, supposingly a place to look out for antiques and artworks. It was nice to walk down the street and yet nothing could be bought over. Even if one wants to buy, it may be difficult to carry back home hundred km away.
The main reason we were here was this Italian restaurant as recommended. So, it was kind of a change after been subjected to bouts of Kimchi-an assaults for the past few days. Anyhow, Italian was not my type, lots of grass and semi-cooked meat in fact, and how I wished I could have Wan Than Mee in Korea.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Talk about Korea, shopping is a must but it does not mean we need to spend. Window shopping is just as sufficient as most of the goods there were considered expensive after the currency conversion.With the temperature as low as 23 degree, it was just nice to walk along the street looking at the night life while enjoying the cooling air after a heavy dinner.
Most of the shops sell cosmetic and beauty products here. Certain gimmick was, customers were given sample door gift upon entering the shops, when ones might not neccessary need to buy anything. Don't be surprise to see some Mandarin speaking sales assistants, as they were actually Chinese.Myeongdong is like some middle to upper market place. Bargaining seems not be so attractive.
Our hotel was strategically located at the centre of transportation hub, with the express bus terminal linked to the extensive subway lines in the city.
The Koreans are terribly very punctual with their time. We were late by few seconds and the bus was gone. We tried chasing after the shuttle bus but it didn't stop. So, we went underground and traveled by subway trains, which were faster actually. Meanwhile, we managed to do some eye washing along the way and saw how colorful the place can be. A 20 minutes trip with one transfer from Express Bus station to Samseong station cost W1K, very cheap indeed.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
I was fortunate to be able to attend the once in 4 years international event like WCD. It was held in the COEX, the venue of class. To walk from one exhibition area to the other end might take one 10 minutes. Imagine how vast the place is.
What's more, for a start, we went hunting for freebies. There were almost 1000 exhibitor booths, probably one won't be able to finish in one day.
So, we selectively went to the booths with long queuing lines, indicating nice goodies to be collected.
The day started as early as 5 am when the sky was already so bright. The sun rose so early in the morning while back home, we probably still in the dreamland.
We reached the hotel next and was welcomed to a room with a spectacular view overseeing the magnificent Hangang River.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
I was kind of excited as this was my first trip oversea (other than Singapore).
And luckily with AirAsia, the 'self-sponsored' ones can fly without getting a big hole in the pocket. Even then, a return ticket cost me RM900++ which I booked 6 months earlier.
Even the landscape was nicely done and and it was kind of a warm welcome after a tiring 7+1 (added 1 hour Korean time) hours of journey.
The airport was deserted when I reached there almost midnight. So the benches served as 'hotel' beds for the night while waiting for my other 'kaki''s arrival in the morning.