view from the yongsu station, seoul
Wednesday 27 may 2015.
After breakfast we took the KTX-train to Yeosu in the South of South-Korea. This city is where hardly any Western tourist comes, how nice. KTX-train is the fast train. Punctual as always in Korea.
3 hours later we arrived at Yeosu station, called two taxi's to transport our luggage and one groupmember and we went on foot to the classy hotel. We were at the expopark. The real city was some miles away.
our transitbus to the yongsu trainstation, Seoul
lady makes chocolate cookies in the trainstation of Yongsu
Yongsu trainstation interior
Yeosu train station
The expopark served for the world expo 2012 it seems. But still in good shape and open for the public to stroll around. We didn't see any visitors except for a few lonely walking people.
We went to see the viewpoint at the bay. A short climb and then we wlkaed to the island where you can walk around different paths in the forest (luckily because the sun was still very hard at 18u) to the 'penis tree' lol and the light house. You can enjoy the dancing fountain with famous classical (artyfarty) tunes a barefoot path and the infamous medieval (or even older!!) turtleships: battleships that were used against the Japanese invasion. Replica's though.
penis tree :-)
viewpoint to the island where were were heading to
me and my other Belgian friend
After the group activities me and my mate went for te city (or which we believed was the uptown city) actually the city was miles away to the other side: this was just an uptown village, really something different as there was nothing just little houses some schools and lots of motels.
and of course there were people on the streets selling their stuff. This image is fantastic I think: rubbish and two old ladies having fun while waiting for a customer to buy their selfgrown vegetables.
This first day in Yeosu we went eating with the group in a good restaurant: baked fish: the first we had! nice!
having fun with our group
trying the local rice/grain water for free in our fridge.
trying an enormous snail... shellfish... escargot but lots of times bigger.... for the lovers only...
Tuesday 26 may 2015.
Well as I'm writing this, I probably found an explanation of the calmness in the public streets (outside shoppingsstreets) and in the subway: MERS. Reports say that people are avoiding public places. So I really would like to have experienced rush hour and normal citylife. Anyway, this second day of Seoul me and my mate decided to go into the heat again and travel to Gangnam. Metro for more than half an hour. Upperground. Endless skyline and crossing the big river. Enjoy the ride!!!
Impressionante! Gangnam is the business district and it's really worth it, to take a big stroll. We passed the Hyundai building COEX-shopping mall,
the Buddha Bongeunsa temple:
Some little streets with food and the park: admission fee only 1000 won!!!! where you can find the UNECSO-protected graves of some longforgotten kings: Seonjeongneung (Royal Tombs of Joseon Dynasty). My mate took this pretty picture:
Picture by Bart M.
We had our daily smoothie afterwards at Angel-In-Us Coffee and took the metro further to the Noryangjin Fishmarket. This is the biggest fish market i've ever seen. You can spot all kinds of shellfish, werid fish, crabs, fish, seafood,...
We wanted to taste it and went upstairs to find a restaurant. The lady made wild gestures en talked to us, but we didn't quite understand what she wanted of us, then it popped in our mind: we had to buy fish and then they would prepare it! Ok, she went down with us, we bought some "sashimi"-fish: they caught it in a net, threw it on the ground on his back: so we saw the belly was fine and the fish healthy: then they slammed the head with a hook (I don't think the fish was dead...)
and then we had to go back to the restaurant after we bought 4 red schrimps too. The fish went 35.000 won and the schrimps 10.000.
(Afterwards we asked prices at the market and it turned out to be 20.000 - 25.000 depending on the size of the fish.) We ordered soup too... didn't realize it was a fishsoup as a separate dish for anouther 20.000 and she asked if she had to BBQ the schrimp, yes we said.
Ok we sat down at the traditional table, with shoes off in a plastic bag and looked around the other clientele how they were eating. Quite amusing , people ordering spidercrabs and posing with it.
Only five minutes later our fish cam in freshly cut sashimi: what a big portion!!! then the soup came!!! another enormous bowl. And our exteremely good cuisined schrimp... We didn't care about the ripp off...but as told we checked prices afterwards.
What is really worth doing is when you go with the metro from Gangnam to the Noryangjin fishmarket, pop-out at the Seoul National Cemetery. It's great, there's a war memorial too and the fields with graves stretch out as far as you can see.
In the evening we went eating barbecue again! in the Hongdae district: the univcersity hood were lots of young people go out and eat and yes the strets voer there were quite crowded. We entered some karaokebar afterwards, guess you must have don this once :-)
Monday 25 may 2015
This was the first real day that we had to spent in Seoul, South-Korea's vivid capital. Though it didn't feel like any capital. Streets were pretty empty, traffic didn't rush nor was it stuck in traffic jams.
Update: mayby this was due to MERS and people avoiding public spaces. We didn't worry about MERS. Mouthmasks were more a fashionstatement, then something serious. And be honest: where in Seoul do you have dromedarissen? camels or something else?
First we bought a T-moneycard and uploaded money on it. We could thus easily take any metro, bus or even taxi and other services with that single T-money-card. It's like the Oystercard in London, but in London I got pretty ripped off by that card, yeah how dumb can you be, well I don't know but it did ripp me off by wrong use and due to circumstances. Anyway in the end T-money-card in Korea proved to be solid and most practical.
The Gyeongbokgung Palace, the greatest of Palaces in Seoul was the first thing we visited. Soon our way departed from the group. The story will continu with pictures and comments on those pictures.
The first thing when you get upground from the underground is this view. The old ancient gate with the new skyscrapers in the background. Protect your eyes and your head from the beating sun if you are sensitive to it.
Funny to see all those umbrella's.
Oh yes this was the first place where we encoutnered the smartphone-selfie-addiction of Asian people. So I joined them.
The Palace has a nice park with a pond and lots of rooms and pagoda's. You can walk freely almost everywhere.
Samsung S3 neo selfie :-)
From the palace of Gyeongbokgung we walked westwards to the other park and palace, which we didn't enter. we strolled a bit amongst the more modern hipster neighbourhood with restaurants and shops and art galleries and then we crossed south straight to the Namsan Tower of Seoul. The walk to the top of the Namsan Tower takes more than 1.6 km from the starting point! You can take the cable car if you like. The hike goes upwards. Upwards in the sense of Belgian upwards: steep!!! It is worth it, but my mate died several times going up :-) You come across the stream of local tourists doing the same thing. When you finally reach the upperdeck of the mountain at the foot of the N Tower it's disappointing. Hahaha shops, bars, snacks, lots of loud people, crowded like hell and those love-padlocks all over the place in the shape of a x-masstree... I kid you not!
Try to take a viewpoint and try to get some air by being overwelmed by the sight of Seoul.
Take the cablecar down for only 6000 won (pretty expensive if you know the entrance for the palace was only 3000) but hey: we then walked for another couple of hours so, we needed to save some time :-).
selfie in the cable car down. Well not all the way down. We walked again some minutes downtown and ate a local lunch.
Porksoup with dumplings and rice in a very local rerstaurant.
After that we took the metro back to the hotel where we joined the group again to go to some neighbourhood in Seoul with the traditional houses: Seoul's Bukchon Hanok Village It's really nice to stroll around over there and watch all the Korean tourists wandering around.
After that we all went to the more shopping streets in the hipster Meyong Dong quarter and went to a temple to celebrate the birthday of Buddha. Quiet some experience to see all the lights and singing people.
The subway never was so crowed as this time. Mostly even in the busy neighbourhoods the subway is pretty calm. Strange in a city of millions.
Great watching point in the traditional neighbourhood: Bukchon Hanok Village
watching people posing for the same picture
streetlife of local tourists
The shopping street. They have everything.
Inside the Buddha temple, I just joined the queue of people greeting Buddha :-)
And then we had some barbecue again in a restaurant that called itself " a good restaurant".
Afterwards we strolled the river, recreational park Cheonggyecheon: it lays down the streets, completely separated from streets with nice green and walking paths. There were lot's of light-art installations.
And then it was time to earn some sleep. With the airco on and most blankets of the bed :-)
Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul
So, if you are a first timer or not, this is a travelreport about our journey to South-Korea. We are firsttimers. Me and my friends subscribed in a Dutch grouptravelagency Koning Aap. First time either with this agency. Didn't regret it.
Gyeongbokgung palace, Seoul, Totems are often very funny, used to mark borders and keep away evil spirits and demons of the village
What I liked:
- freedom to do what you want
- travelmonitor is just responsible for your transport and accomodation, organizes groupactivities and does suggestions
- the overall program
- the accomodations are really good hotels with more than just basic comfort and good breakfast overall
- we had a local agency that provided a local english speaking guide: she turned out to be a real asset for the group as to creating a good atmosphere and having fun.
- the cities: I am not used that they call a city of 300.000 inhabitants a boring sleepy place where there's nothing to find or do. It's strange but indeed these 'small cities' are very laidback in daily streetlife (don't know how workaholics behave in the office at that moment)
- tourist attractions: are way too cheap!!!!!! No way! what about 1000 won (about 0.80 euro) to visit a park in Gangnam? Or 3000 won (about 2,5 euro) for the Gyeongbokgung Palace? Why would one bother so visit everything you come across?
Gyeongbokgung Palace, pond, Seoul
What are the odds
- it's not really a cheap trip. So people that are used to South-East Asia low budget prices will have some problems saving money and will have to look for another kind of service.
- the food is extraordinary delicious: if you try the traditional kitchen that is and not the Korean Fastfood the hipsters and youngster eat in fancy places serving tasteless meals. But some disliked it. Sideshishes all over, and hot hot hot! Vegans and vegetarians will have troubles finding sufficient variety in food.
- cities are clean
- neonlights all over
- shoppng addicted people everywhere
- shoppingstreets are busy as in Europe, and loud music fills the street
- there's no traffic jams, pedestrians don't have priority, but cars really drive very slow in normal streets
- underground: there's more people underground that in the sunbaked streets: transfer in subway can take a walk of more than 10 minutes.
- safety: safest country in the world I've ever been: there seems to be no crime! people and also taxi-drivers are honest with prices and money.
- language: be creative to make clear what you want to order at a restaurant: point at the pictures, make slow clear gestures, or point at the thing your neighbour is eating.
- smartphones & selfiesticks all over: the one person we saw reading a book in the metro must be the one sole lonely weirdo of the group ;-)
Gyeongbokgung palace, Seoul, everybody is taking selfies, I did my best without a stick
- local train from Gent to Antwerp - Roosendaal - Breda - Schiphol Airport
- Emirates A380 to Dubai
- Dubai to Seoul
- it's a very long trip!
time for a salade niçoise and a smoothie in Dubai airport at Giraffe's
DAY 1 SEOUL sunday 24 may 2015
We arrived in the airpot of Seoul somewhere in the late afternoon. Our two local guides were waiting for us.
We were slightly screened for MERS and took a long queueing time in immigration...really...
Our Dutch guide lived in China, turned out to be a very nice guy with very dry humor feeling the dynamics of the group very well. Our Korean guide was a nice young funny girl. Kinda liked her very much in the end.
our first Korean Barbecue in Seoul
We took the airportbus to our hotel in Seoul for more than 1u30!!!! Aaargghhh!!!!
Anyway checking into the hotel with nice spacy clean rooms , good bath/shower, high-tech toilet! feel free to push every button you see! (don't complain about the consequences), free bottle of water, free wifi!! and airco made us feel welcome. And then we had our first Barbecue with the whole of the group in the streets around our hotel.