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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Korea Trip (Day 2)

Seoul City Tour Bus. Its distinguishable by its red bus and also having the red bus stop sign. 

On the second day, I took the Seoul Downtown Tour bus ticket. You can purchase the ticket on the bus at the cost of 12 000 won which means you could get the bus pass by simply waiting for the bus at the nearest seoul tour bus stop. This pass covers the palaces (and some gates) that can be found in Seoul and the course also includes the Namsan Tower. You can freely hop off and hop on to any of the stop with the ticket and the bus comes every 40 minutes with their timetable supplied with the brochure so I didn't had to wait long as I could plan how long for each place. For my case, I decided to take the tour from its starting location, Gwanghwamun and exiting via exit 6. The bus stop is in front of Koreana Hotel. If you're confused just follow along to the direction of the red bus (that's what I did) when you exit from the subway. Also, know that you cannot visit all the places in the course in one day unless you just hop off, quickly take a selfie in front of the place and hop on the next bus. Where's the fun in that?

My first stop was the Korean War Memorial. It shows the history of wars that had occured in Korea from its ancient times to a much recent Korean War.Though, the Korean War was given the most prominence in the displays. I was there quite early and managed to reserved an English guide to tell me the history of Korean War. It is amazing that the foreign language guides were all volunteers and mine happened to be a first year university student majoring in English language. I learnt how during the war the young high-schoolers and the elderly were recruited. The high-schoolers were sent to the fronts where they were meant to be as a distraction to the North Korea so that the South Korea could mount an offensive on the other fronts whilst the North Korea army fight against the South Korean high-schoolers. These high-schoolers were only given few hours of training using the weapons before being sent off to the front lines. One artifact on display that moved me the most was a letter from one of these high-schoolers screaming out for his mother and telling the mother how horrendous the condition he was experiencing. The writer of the letter died the day after the letter was written. The elderly on the other hand, because they can't engage in battles, they became the supplier for munitions and rations for the soldiers in the battlefield. Because of heavy burden they are carrying and their poor physical conditions, many of them were gunned down by the North Korean soldiers.

On the outside of the Memorial building, there lies tens, if not hundreds of military vehicles, from fighter jets to the armored personnel carriers and ballistic missiles. Really cool stuffs especially if you're into military stuffs or you're like me, who enjoy playing WWII games. There were  groups of kindergarden and primary school children on their field trip, learning their history and also playing in armored tanks!

Magnificent view of the military vehicles, taken from a military ship

My second stop was the Korea National Museum. I had my lunch here; vegetable kimbap (sushi) for 2000 won. I was frugal so in the cafeteria a load my plate with a lot of free radish pickles to make me full. They do free self-service kimchi as well, but I never liked the taste. Just my personal preferences. In the National Museum, they showcased the medieval history of dynasties that existed in South Korea along with works of art from those time, including artifacts that were from foreign cultures, showing the exposure and influence of many cultures into Korea which translated into their fashion, works of art and also religious rites. Outside, there is an annex museum dedicated to Hangeul (Korean alphabet system). In here, tragedy struck. I lost my bus pass. However, because it was already late in the afternoon, I decided to visit other places by subway instead of purchasing another pass. Fortunately, in front of the Korea National Museum is a subway station conveniently located. I got on the train and head for Olympic Park.

The Olympic Park is a pretty big park, housing numerous stadiums that was built for the Olympic games in Korea in 1988. In the middle of the park lies the castle ruins and in between stadiums, the walking course is filled with flowerbeds and artistic sculptures. So, it is technically a botanical garden as well.

The grand "gate" to Olympic Park. Right in the middle of the path there is a torch to symbolise peace. I find that paradoxical; peace and the nature of fire

On my way back, I hop off at Lotte World theme park station. The area outside the Lotte World is also a park. The cool part of the Lotte World theme park is that it is like a castle, with moat. Technically, it stands on top of a river. Around the park, I saw a lot of retired folks exercising or playing Baduk. It is a traditional board game. In Japan it's known as Go and in Malaysia, we played them using square notebook (that was meant for math lesson) instead. It's called Main Kepung. I did a little excursion aroung the park and also inside the Lotte World shopping mall. I thought of having dinner in the Mall, but instead I returned to Itaewon for dinner.

A small free library found in the park.

My dinner in Itaewon was in Makan Restaurant. It is a Korean cuisine eatery that serve halal meat. The owner and the cook are Koreans whilst their servers are Indonesian students. It's clever when I think about it. The Indonesian servers could easily accommodate for Malaysian and Indonesian tourists because they speak the same language and because English is the second language in Indonesia (I hope I'm right), they could also accommodate for other foreigners as well. Korea and Japan has this similarity of the younger generation could understand but speak little English but the older generation generally hardly knows them. Well, Malaysians are the same too, but our exposure to English is much more apparent, thanks to American TV shows and multicultural backdrop of Malaysians. Apologies for going off in a tangent here. Anyway, I had their reccommendation Makan Bibbimbap. It is a set of grilled beef chunks with rice along with numerous side dish. First time I are bibimbap, I did it wrong. I did it the Japanese way where I picked bits from the dished, transferred it to the rice bowl and eat it. The actual way of doing is I put ALL the dishes (including rice) into the grilled beef bowl (which is the largest bowl in the set, screaming out "put them here dammit!"), mixed them thoroughly and eat them. Well, I get to eat meat and that's what matters.

Well that, is a wrong way of doing it!

After dinner, I stop for prayer in Itaewon Mosque and then I headed for Dongdaemun. It's a popular place for tourists to buy clothes, especially the traditional Korean clothes. It's a bit expensive, if you're Malaysian. If you're folks from First World Countries, you get a pretty decent deal. I got there pretty late, so although the district is still live and loud, the places to get these traditional clothes are already closed. Well, I did the second thing that Dongdaemun is known for; the Dongdaemun gate (well, -mun means gate). The gate is actually situated around a roungabout and you cannot enter the gate. I walked around the roundabout taking a good look at the gate, then I rested in front of one of the mall in Dongdaemun, trying to spot other Malaysian travellers. Most of them comes as group of friends wearing trendy clothes or young families with their small children and parents.

Around 10pm. I returned back to the Guesthouse, took a hot shower and immediately fell asleep. I had a long day as it's going to be the same again tomorrow. Yeay!!

Recommendation time!

Alright. for this post I would like to share a very catchy tune covered by a talented utaite (term used for Niconico Douga users that perform covers for music be it vocaloid, anison or mainstream jpop) EVO+.

Yes, EVO+. Not a brand model of new Mitsubishi Lancer series. Anyway, her voice is really Westernish and that combined with her flair in Japanese (as she is Japanese) made the song really pleasent to the ear. Let you judge her talent yourself. Here's sugarvine

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