2013 Seoul Trip – Afterthoughts

Overall, it was a wonderful trip, and had some quality family time with my mom and aunt. A few things that I’ve learned:

  • I really should’ve invested in a good travel guide, like the Tokyo one. It’s very important to have a local map, with all the marked points of interest, and I would not be standing on the street and looking at my GPS. The biggest problem was google map does not work perfectly in Korea, not sure why.
  • When I was doing the research for this trip, there was a big disconnection between all the Chinese information and English information I’ve got. Since Chinese information has all the names in Hanja, and English information has all the names romanized. I couldn’t connect them at all. Luckily all the train stations have names in three format: English, Hangul, and Hanja. It wasn’t until later in my trip that I could finally connect them together, because the romanization pronunciation are somewhat similar to Chinese.
  • Without any reading knowledge of Korean characters(Hangul), it was hard for me to stay completely calm. For example, when we returned to Gapyeong ferry terminal from Nami Island, I wanted to find a restaurant for lunch. NONE of the restaurants has signs in English or Chinese. I walked into a restaurant, and it was not something I wanted to eat. So I gave up, and bought sandwiches at 7-11.
  • Myeongdong is such a good location for tourists, just like Nanjing Rd. in Shanghai. You’ll have access to all the shops and restaurants that have English/Chinese signs/menus. All tourist areas have English/Chinese/Japanese speaking volunteers standing on the street to help you out, kudos to Korea Tourism Organization!
  • The portable wifi router – WiBro from olleh is a must. Rental process is very simple. I didn’t even need to make reservation before arrival. It helped me a lot during the trip, finding directions, finding restaurants, etc. The battery of these wibro lasts about 10 hours, and it’s just about the right time that we would call it a day.
  • Android App – Daum Maps: I installed this app because reviews mentioned it’s much better than Google map. Well, it was good and powerful app, but since I cannot read Korean, it was not useful to me.
  • Android App – Korea, Seoul Metro Navi: Very useful app if you use subway/train stations in Seoul. User interface is in English, clean, simple, and very informative.
  • Android App – Korean Translator/Dictionary: it didn’t work for me. Most sales in Seoul could speak a little bit of English. The only time that I’ve used this app was at Dongdaemun, a clothing shop, and the sales did not understand what was translated in the app. LOL…
  • Android App – qyer.com (穷游锦囊): it lays out all my itineraries, not bad.
  • hanyouwang.com: a Korea tourist information web site in Chinese language. It was very useful for me to find places to eat!
  • It felt quite differently to watch Korean drama without subtitles in the hotel. I got to watch “The Heirs” almost every night. Without subtitles, I paid closer attention to the language and their acting, oh yah, Lee Min-Ho is super handsome!
  • A snapshot of Heirs:
    Heirs_Oct24

    2013 Seoul Trip – Day 5

    10月26日
    上午: 明洞购物
    下午: 金浦机场乐天超市

    Oct 26, 2013
    Morning: Myeongdong
    Afternoon: Lotte Mart at Gimpo

    因为酒店房间朝东,每天早上隔着窗帘都可以看着首尔的朝阳起床,在首尔的最后一天,终于是看着日出起床的.
    It was wonderful to wake up with this sunrise every morning in Seoul.
    Seoul_Sunrise_Euljiro3ga

    又去明洞了! 最后在几家化妆品店淘了一点东西, 寄了几张明信片, 最主要的是明洞的友利银行星期六早上10点开门可以办理退税. 因为金浦机场没有这个服务, 所以我必须在去机场之前把这个解决了. 全部办好后,我们去了在首尔的最后一餐: 土豆猪骨汤. 在多伦多,如果是外食,我80%都会选这个,可以算是我的最爱,尤其在冬天. 来到韩国,当然要试一下这里的原味! 我点了一个2人份的汤, 锅端上来后吓了我一跳,还好,我们三人干劲很足,全部吃完了! 因为汤里有很多蔬菜,味道比多伦多的猪骨汤美味很多!

    We went to Myeongdong AGAIN! LOL…We did some last minute shopping, mailed some postcards, and most importantly, the Woori bank in Myeongdong opens on Saturday at 10am to do tax refund; since Gimpo airport does not offer tax refund service, I had to get this done before heading to the airport. After all the shopping and tax stuff, we had our last lunch in Seoul: pork bone & potato soup. It might be one of my favourite meal if I eat out in Canada, so of course I would have to try the authentic pork bone soup here. I ordered a 2 people soup size, and the big pot just freak me out a little bit; but we finished everything! It has a lot more vegetable than Toronto’s pork bone soup, and it’s very tasty!

    KoreanFood_PorkBoneSoup

    Seoul_Food_PorkBoneSoup

    暖暖的饱餐一顿后,我们回到酒店,整理箱子,退房。 最后一站就是要到金浦机场的乐天超市扫货了。 可惜这个计划很有问题。 第一,地铁站出来要走蛮远的,我们还要拉着箱子。 第二,原来有很多居民去机场的这个超市买东西,我们离开的那天刚好是星期六,超市里的人之多啊。 还有比较重要的一点是,我们的箱子都放得满满的,超市买得东西要塞进行李箱很头痛啊。 所以下次我还是会选择在首尔站的乐天超市购物。 我们花光了身上所有韩币,去olleh柜台退还了wifi-egg,看着这个无懈可击的笑容,圆满结束了我们的首尔5日游。。。

    After this satisfying and heartwarming soup, we went back to hotel, packed and checked-out. One last stop was the Lotte Mart supermarket at Gimpo airport! OK, it was not very fun shopping at the airport’s Lotte Mart. First, we had to drag our luggage to walk quite a bit from subway station, and I didn’t know there were a lot of local residents shopping at the supermarket, so it was quite crowded. In addition, our luggage was full, it was quite hard to fit more stuff into the bags. So next time, I would visit Lotte Mart at Seoul station. We spent all the Korean won we had on hand, returned wifi-egg to olleh counter, and ended our Seoul trip with this killer smile again! 😛

    Gimpo_LotteDutyFreeSign

    Gimpo_Departures

    2013 Seoul Trip – Day 4

    10月25日
    上午: 狎鷗亭洞/新沙洞
    下午: 麻浦区Trickeye特丽爱3D美术馆
    晚上: 烤肉

    Oct 25, 2013
    Morning: Apgujeong-dong/Sinsa-dong
    Afternoon: Trick Eye Museum
    Night: Korean BBQ at Myeongdong

    在首尔的倒数第二天。 阳光下的酒店,阳光下的清溪川。
    Second last day in Seoul. Love the Cheonggyecheon under the morning sunshine as we left our hotel and headed to subway station.

    SuttonHotel

    今天的计划是江南区的狎鷗亭洞,新沙洞。 也许你不知道狎鷗亭洞,但是去年鸟叔那只红得发紫的骑马舞你不应该不知道:江南Style。 走出地铁站,觉得这里的道路真宽阔,不过街上大部分都是整容中心,哈哈。 不过有些建筑还是很有特色的,比如这个opera gallery:

    Today’s plan is Apgujeong-dong in Gangnam-gu. Maybe you don’t know anything about Apgujeong-dong in Seoul, but I think all of you should know Gangnam Style by PSY by now. As we got out of Apgujeong station, it felt quite different than Gangbuk-gu. The streets are a lot wider, but most buildings are cosmetic surgery hospitals. Some buildings have very unique architecture. An opera gallery:

    OperaGallery

    一眼望过去,我就知道那栋是tree J 的办公楼。 🙂
    When I first looked down the street, I just knew this is the tree J building. 🙂
    treeJ-1

    tree J 办公楼的正门:
    And a close up photo of the front of the building:
    treeJ-2

    找这条新沙洞林荫道花了我好多时间。 不知道是因为买的旅游书上的讲解太差,还是我实在没办法衡量到底这300米有多远,最后找了一个韩国大叔问到了路。 这条路类似于东京的表参道(我的博客的顶部横幅),街道两边种满了银杏树。 这条街除了有各种艺术工坊外,还有很多特色的咖啡厅,艺廊,潮流时尚点,流行小物店。 在Smoothie King吃了午餐后,我们开始逛,还有一点收获哦!

    It took me a long time to find Garosugil in Sinsa-dong. The Chinese travel guide I bought is so bad in instructions, or I had no idea how long 300 meter is. Anyways, I finally found the street by asking a Korean truck driver. It’s a street that very similar to Tokyo’s Omotesando (the banner of my blog). The name Garosu-gil is from the Korean word which means tree-lined streets, as the area is adorned with ginkgo trees. It’s a well known area for its galleries, restaurants, cafes, and small boutiques. After a quick lunch at Smoothie King, we walked around the area and got a few items!

    sinsa-dong

    下午3点多,坐地铁来到弘益大学站边上的Trickeye特丽爱3D美术馆。 美术馆内展示的2维图画,用肉眼看时会有3维的立体效果,当你站在图画面前,画中的人物就会像在和你互动一样,让你融入为图画的一部分,十分神奇。 馆里随时都充满了笑声,在这里可以花上很多时间,可以说这个美术馆是绝对不可以错过的景点。 因为都是家庭照,我就不放上博客了,给一张冰雕美术馆的吧台:

    We then went to The Trickeye Museum in Mapo-gu. It is an art gallery with paintings created using ‘trompe l’oeil’ techniques that give each 2D art piece the illusion of being in 3D. Visitors can interact with the paintings, posing themselves just right so that they look as if they are part of the original work. I have to say this museum is very fun to visit, we had a great time there. It was full of laughter. Since all pictures are family related, I will not pose them here. Just a peak at the Ice museum:

    icemuseum-2

    哦,在首尔最后的晚餐去哪儿解决呢,当然是烤肉加啤酒!又去了明洞,很有名的姜虎东烤肉! 好好吃哦,原汁原味! 多伦多的韩国烧烤太中国化了。。。
    Oh yah, for dinner, we went back to Myeongdong Kang Hodong Baekjeong for Korean BBQ, plus some beer. OMG, the best BBQ I ever had! Toronto’s Korean BBQs are all Chineserized.
    koreanbbq

    2013 Seoul Trip – Day 3

    10月24日
    上午: 昌德宫和后苑,北村韩屋村
    午餐: 土俗村参鸡汤
    下午: 仁寺洞
    日落前一个小时: 首尔塔

    Oct 24, 2013
    Morning: Changdeokgung and secret garden, Bukchon Hanok Village
    Lunch: Chicken ginseng soup
    Afternoon: Insa-dong
    One hour before sunset: N Seoul Tower

    在酒店吃完早餐后,我们向昌德宫出发了,10分钟路程。 还早,才10点,人比较少。 首尔的宫殿很多,我只选择了昌德宫,因为它的后苑。 我喜欢游览花园。 在购票处,被告知游客不可以独自游览后苑,必须得跟着导游。 可是下一个英文导游团11:30am开始,下一个中文导游团12:30pm开始。 不知道我做功课时怎么漏掉了这么重要的信息,哈哈。 然后灵机一动,我决定跟下一个日文导游团10:30am。 宫殿不错, 后苑好大! 我原本以为后苑也类似于日式花园,所以有点失望。 日式花园都是人为打理,每一棵树木每一支花都有专人修剪,很精致。 昌德宫的后苑全为天然,没有被人精心修理过的痕迹,虽然没有那么精致,但是和家人在里面走上一圈也是很轻松写意的事情。

    After bread and tea as breakfast, we walked from our hotel to Changdeokgung Palace, about 10 minutes. Not a lot of people, since it’s still early, 10am. I chose this palace out of all others in Seoul because of its secret garden. I love visiting gardens. At the gate, I was told that one cannot visit the secret garden alone, we have to join a guided tour. The next available English/Chinese guided tour was at 11:30am/12:30pm. Oops, I somehow missed this information during my research. Then I decided to sign up the next Japanese guided tour at 10:30am. The palace is quite big, and the secret garden is huge. I was somewhat disappointed at the garden, because some reviews said it was beautiful. I guess my expectation was somewhat close to Japanese garden. It’s not, and it’s not even close. However, it does have its beauty. Having a walk with my family there was very soothing and relaxing. Cost: regular admission 3000 won + secret garden admission 5000 won.

    参观完昌德宫后,我们去了北村韩屋村,在首尔有着600年历史的韩国传统居住区。 在当时是王室的高官们或贵族人士居住的高级住宅区,因而非常有名。 因为我对建筑的喜爱,所以这个景点完全是我的菜。 房屋虽然小巧,但是装饰精致,我喜欢每家每户门前的一草一物,每个小巷都有它的亮点。 不过这里好多上坡下坡,体力被消耗了不少!

    After finishing the palace, we walked to bukchon hanok village, Korean traditional village. Although I loved the architecture very much, it was very tiring with all the steep uphills and downhills.

    中午找到了这家很有名的土俗村参鸡汤店,排队20分钟。 还好这家名店有420个座位, 原本以为这么长的队起码要一个小时。 一个童子鸡,肚子里有10几种材料,外加一棵人参和糯米,补回了我们所有的体力! 每锅15000韩币。

    However, after lining up for 20 mins, this famous chicken ginseng soup made up for all the energy lost! Thanks to its 420 seating, we thought we would need to wait for at least an hour. It was well worth waiting! Cost 15000 won.

    吃饱喝足后,我们又有了体力,开始朝仁寺洞出发。 仁寺洞是韩国最有代表性的文化商品街,大街上画廊、古董、古代书籍以及各种艺术作品琳琅满目,让人流连忘返。对游客来说,仁寺洞是买小礼物的必到之处。 我才发现我的相机里一张照片都没有,我们三人大概都忙着买礼物去了。 日落前一个小时,我们坐公交车来到了南山顶的首尔塔。 为什么选在日落前一小时,因为好多人说在首尔塔上看日落很漂亮!

    With my Nexus 4’s GPS, we walked to Insa-dong. This unique area contains a mixture of historical and modern cultural atmosphere. It sells artwork, antiques, all kinds of traditional papers, and cookware. It’s a well known area for gift shopping, because you suddenly see a lot of foreigners on the street. I just realized that I did not take any picture of the area, I guess we were too busy shopping. One hour before sunset, we arrived N Seoul tower by bus. It was simply amazing to watch the sun goes down, and the light comes on in the city of Seoul!

    好可惜,我忘记我带了偏光过滤器,残念! Forgot that I had my polarizing filter with me, argggggggg…….