Korea 2011 – Musings

Dear1 and Dear2 have been trying for Baby2 for the past few months, so when Auntie Menses reported again, we decided to take this window of opportunity and go on a holiday.  That means we have the next 2 weeks to decide, plan and book the holiday!!

Confirm that we want to go Korea, book the air tickets online, did research on hotels and make the bookings, bought the travel insurance, took out our Korean won and USD which we had changed earlier, and packed our luggages.  Scramble to settle stuff at work, email the siblings on our flight and accommodation details, forgot to notify NS status on being out of county, and in 1 week’s time, we were off for our holiday.  Kudos to Dear1 for doing all the research on attractions, air tickets and hotel in just 1 week’s time, most of which were very well arranged indeed.  :)

We took the overnight flight to Korea, in the hope that Baby1 will sleep throughout the flight there.  And since we can ask for early check-in in the hotel, we can go straight to the hotel once we reach Seoul.  The flight will touch down around 6+ in the morning, take a 1 hour airport shuttle bus to CALT, and from there, there is a complimentary shuttle to the hotel, very nice.  *Perfect arrangement*, except that Baby1 didn’t really sleep all the way through the flight as we have imagined, groan…

Ibis Seoul Ambassador is a very nice business hotel where the staff speaks reasonably good English.  There is even a roof top garden though a bit miniature.  But it is located right in the middle of 2 subway stations including the one at COEX Mall, both of which at least a 15 mins walk away.  By the time I reach the subway station with Baby1 on the Beco, my legs were already tired out.  Luckily the taxi rates in Seoul are not expensive, so we use that mode of transport quite frequently.

For food, we ate in a couple of places where the English menu is available, so it was yummy spicy tofu soup, or ox-tail soup with rice, or cold buckwheet noodles, or ramen, or simply just fastfood.  The spread of kimchi and preserved vegetables was interesting; I even got used to eating kimchi radish and preserved green chillis.  One kind assistant even demonstrated to us how to serve the free flow kimchi from it’s pot, and to season the ox-tail soup with salt.   No wonder my first bowl was so tasteless!!  Price wise, it’s really not very expensive, compared to Japan.  Here, you can have a hearty meal at around 9,000 won, which works out to be about SGD 10.  Not very expensive, considering that there’s lots of kimchi (aka vegetables), compared to Japan which is SGD 10 for just a bowl of Ramen.

On shopping, outside the hotel, restaurants and popular markets, most retailers cannot speak English, or probably very little of it.  But don’t worry.  If words cannot work on the price of an item, the shopkeepers will just show you the amount in real cash.  Money transcends all languages, LOL.  Dear1 even manage to negotiate down $2 off a pair of Baby1’s shoes at the Myeong Dong market, LOL!

The subway experience is definitely my proudest experience out of this trip.  At first glance, it’s really very complicated.  The subway grid is real messy with so many lines in various colours.  There might be a English name for each station, but with hundreds of them on the map, it’s hard to locate where you are and where you want to go.  Many places require that you do transfers too, so you need to decide which station to transfer at.  And upon alighting the train, you’d better find the correct directions to led you to the right platform before you even start climbing the stairs up.  Oh how interesting!!

Koreans are very fashionable.  This summer, it was big black glasses (for both the men and women, some even without the lenses!), and hot shorts for the ladies.  The shorts look orbit to me though, big and flair with a cutting that looks like what I wore in the 90’s, yet you can definitely tell that it’s in season now.  And every where you go, there’s boundless shops that sell skin care products.  Everyone’s fair and well-kept, except for their generally not-so-branded-looking clothes.  Probably the Koreans have too many clothes that they need to keep for 4 seasons, so it seems like they don’t really go for branded clothes and shoes (unlike us superficial Singaporeans).

Finally, do be careful when you walk alongside Koreans, cos they don’t really watch where they are walking.  True, in fast-paced cities including Tokyo, people tend to walk fast, but Koreans do walk as if they own the roads, bumping into people without so much as a glance.  Somewhat like Hong Kong-ers except that Hong Kong is overly crowded for you to walk big.

Korea is pretty baby-friendly too.  Though the subway stations deter strollers by all that stairs, you can rent a stroller at most malls, and baby-changing facilities are pretty easy to find too.

It was a nice trip for our family.  Though short and tiring, Dear1 and Dear2 definitely had enjoyed ourselves and had fond memories of Seoul.

Till our next trip, let’s keep our fingers crossed that our Baby2-making is heading progress.

– Dear2


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