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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Korea Trip (Day 1)

So, I've recently completed my Master's degree on May 2015 (though I'm officially graduating on December). Between then and perhaps end of December, is a total free time for me. With savings I've accumulated since 2010, this year I went all out to travel as much as I can.

My trip to Korea was on September and honestly, I was kind of an impulsive decision. Kind of meaning, I did made this imaginary itinerary for if I ever going to Korea, these are the places I'll visit though my real plan was only made a week prior the trip. Basically, it was "Let's buy the tickets now and plan later".

The itinerary was for 7 days and 6 nights. And also, I'm travelling solo. If I could give a reason, there were two; I was going to go to Japan with another friend the following month so this would be a good practice (I don't understand my own logic in this) and I intended to test myself if I can be an independent adult who can properly look after myself. But since this is the first time I'm travelling solo so I decided to play a little safe-I booked for a single accommodation only for the whole trip. Not very brave from the start eh? Shut up.

So, I booked my flight through Expedia and reserved a backpacker hostel from the same site. I would like to point out that Expedia have limited options of hotels available compared to dedicated accommodation booking sites like Booking,Agoda and Trivago but it is convenient for having all your itineraries from a single source. The total cost of flight and accommodation, RM812. I shat you not. I exchanged RM1000's worth of Korean Wons as my budget.

My flight was on 1 am and arriving to Seoul, Korea on 8 am. I'm the type that couldn't sleep in flight so upon arrival to Seoul, I just wanna sleep! My reserved hostels was Kimchee Hongdae Guesthouse, in Hongdae. If you're from Incheon International Airport, take the Airport express train and get off at Hongik University. The convenience about staying in Hongdae is the fact that you don't have to switch between stations when trying to get to your accommodation. Plus, because of Hongik University, there were a lot of chic boutiques, fanciful eateries and fast food joints, and they open till very late.

Too bad for me though, the check-in time was at 3pm. Well, at least they allow me to leave my luggage with them. That's a convenient perk about staying in Korea, the host allow you to leave your belongings with them even after you've checked out! Simply inform them about it.

After leaving my backpack behind I headed for Itaewon. Itaewon is the "foreigner" part of Seoul. Historically diplomats from China and other foreign states would reside in Itaewon. Even today, Itaewon is the most culturally-diverse part of the city. Itaewon also houses a big mosque and church which stood on the opposite ends of the town and up the hill. Itaewon feels alot like Auckland, New Zealand because of hilly streets and a lot of Asian restaurants (it's a given in Korea but why it's so in Auckland, eh?). I headed for the mosque to get a power nap but before that I stop by Mr Kebab for lunch. The kebab is quite spicy, although it is a turkish kebab cafe. It wasn't because of the sauce but the marinate for the kebab. Maybe this version was to match with koreans' liking for spicy things? Just I was about to enter the masjid I ran into an  acquaintance of mine from New Zealand. He said that he is now living in Seoul, which is shocking to me because I met him earlier this year in New Zealand! None of my friends knew he moved. After the chat, I took ablution, entered the mosque, walking towards the nook and dozed off till almost time for noon prayer. Then, I slept again. Really.
When it's around 4-5pm I strolled around Itaewon and walked till the front of the Itaewon church. From the church I could see the mosque.

Then I returned back to Hongdae and decided to try the Korean street food. At evening various hawker stalls opened around the street. It's the kind of stall where they placed stools around the stall and the customers eat around the shopkeeper. I noted that half of the hawker stalls have only korean signs but the other half have Japanese or English. To be safe, I went to the one with English signs. Generally, the food served in this kind stall is oden (fish cakes boiled in soup), ddeokbokki (rice cakes with very spicy gravy), twigim (basically batter-fried vegetables and eggs; aka tenpura they will know it if you mention tenpura) and blood sausage. Also, when you eat in the hawker stall, he would serve you a cup of soup used to boil the oden. I ordered ddeokbokki and was looking forward to the taste. It was spicy. Like really spicy. After eating only two pieces, I had to drink. To make it worse, the stall does not sell drinks other than the soup served earlier. Glad I had a bottle of water with me every time. Though I had to buy a new one right after eating ddeokbokki though. That was the last time I ate ddeokbokki in Korea. Sitting next to me at that time was a Korean student that studied abroad and he had his friend with him who's fifteen from Italy. Yeay, they spoke English well!

We had a chat for a bit and then I headed back to my hostel. After settling down, I slept again. I think it was around 8-8.30 pm when I dozed off. That late flight plus the fact that I took a bus earlier from Ipoh to KLIA airport since 5.30 pm and didn't sleep during the trip as well really took its toll.

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