1.5 days in rainy Seoul

Annyeong wonderful non-existent readers!

I have returned with a sudden burst of interest in writing a post on beautiful Seoul. 🙂

So I had the privilege to stop by Seoul for an extremely brief weekend (1.5 days) and my only wish was to cycle along the Han river. Odd, I know.

Took the red-eye into Seoul and by the time I got to my friend’s hotel it was 10am. I think I only had about 5 hours of sleep. Then off we go following my friendly colleague’s itinerary.

First stop Insadong. We stop by a sticky rice shop for breakfast.

IMG_20170819_110424

Pumpkin porridge. Not really what I expected. Tasty but a little too sticky.

 

They have some pretty streets here and also a nice shopping area.

IMG_20170819_122920.jpg

Ssamziegil. A place for instagram worthy Mary Poppins impersonators?

Walked a bit and headed to Bukchon for more accessories shopping. Not for me but my fellow wanderers.

Along the way I see many beautiful modern hanboks and wandered could I wear this to attend weddings? Kinda expensive and a bit warm for the Malaysian weather though… hmmm…

IMG_20170819_155646.jpg

Beautiful but expensive hanbok. I’ll probably need to be pretty slim too. 

Bukchon is a much nicer area to walk around than Insadong. Maybe cause it’s a bigger area and there are much more shops. Quite a number of shops were converted from the traditional hanoks too.

Time for a break and we had one of the best bingsu (shaved ice) at Bukchon Bingsu. I always felt that ice kacang was better than bingsu but the bingsu here changed my perception. hahah

IMG_20170819_171200.jpg

The entrance to Bukchon Bingsu. Yum! 

This is starting to feel like an eating trip because our next trip was to Tosokchon for Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken).

IMG_20170819_192614.jpg

We all ordered the black chicken with wild ginseng. Boy, that was one delicious ginseng chicken! I would definitely go back for this one.

And the night was still not ending yet. We headed to Hongdae to experience the “nightlife”. Wandered around a bit, did some shopping, stopped by a cafe and it started raining heavily. Not the most ideal and we only had 1 umbrella for 4 of us. It was difficult to get a cab but we made it in the end.

The next day we woke up to meet a nice Korean lady I met in Vietnam. There was light rain in the morning and were wondering where she would bring us. I had told her I felt like eating Bossam. But it seemed a little heavy in the morning. Irregardless, we took the train and headed to the Jongno 3 station.

She brought us to a back alley nearby where there were about 3 or 4 Bossam shops. There were also pig’s feet soaked in water. I’m sure this place has really delicious food.

IMG_20170820_104659.jpg

The oyster Bossam was really good! You take a piece of lettuce leaf, place a piece of boiled pork, oyster, some sauce, a kimchi, wrap it and savour the flavour. 

The shop throws in a free gamja tang (pork bone soup) and pan fried fish. We were absolutely stuffed.

Of course, when we left the restaurant it was raining heavier. We took a short walk to a beautiful place called Inseokdong. It’s kinda like Bukchon where the shops are refurbished from old hanoks. Very beautiful place.

IMG_20170820_115455.jpg

Inseokdong: My favourite place between Insadong, Bukchon and Inseokdong 

It’s not as popular with tourists yet, but I foresee it will be in the near future.

We headed to Myeongdong after that to buy some masks before I had to head off to the airport for my flight to Shanghai. I vowed to return as I obviously did not complete what I had set out to do. To cycle along the Han river. I did take a taxi ride along the Han river. LOL

1.5 day itinerary

Day 1 – Insadong, Bukchon, Tosokchon (Ginseng chicken), Hongdae

Day 2 – Jongno 3, Inseokdong, Myeongdong

It was a packed schedule but it was kinda nice and relaxing nonetheless. We made a lot of rest stops in between which was good. There are also lotsa cafes in Seoul which is not unexpected actually. If only the weather was better.

That’s all folks! Hope you enjoyed this short recap of my trip. I don’t know when I’ll write again but hopefully it’ll be soon 🙂

Advertisements

To more solo trips?

Around last year, I created a tiny “Things to do before 30” (didn’t express it in this blog, poor neglected blog) list. The list only had 2 simple things.
1. To embark on a solo trip
2. To volunteer

For #2. I actually volunteered at a soup kitchen and distributed food to the needy/homeless. However, that was just one off and the soup kitchen seems to have enough helpers now. Just need to find another avenue to volunteer my help then. So, I suppose #2 can never be struck out and will forever be something that I’ve to do.

#1 however is easily achieved but will I be brave enough to travel alone? All my trips before this (even when I studied in Australia for a year) were accompanied by friends. Travel with friends if of course safer, you get to rely on each other, more fun, builds relationship, so on and so forth….

Traveling solo however is a whole different thing. I made the wise decision to embark on my first ever solo trip to Taiwan and had this ambitious task of circling the entire Taiwan in 12 days. My itinerary was as such

  • Day 1 & 2 – Sun Moon Lake 日月潭
  • Day 3 – Alishan 阿里山
  • Day 4 – Alishan 阿里山 (Stayover at Kaohshiung 高雄)
  • Day 5 & 6 – Hualien 花莲
  • Day 7 – Jiu Fen
  • Day 8 to 12 – Taipei

“What? So packed?” That’s what most of my friends said when they found out about my itinerary. There were also a lot of questions on “Why Taiwan?” Why not? It’s safe, it’s easy to travel, it’s relatively cheaper than my other choices of Japan and Korea, communication should be alright (I speak pretty basic mandarin), this should be a breeze!

All in Mandarin. I'll take forever to figure out which bus I need to take.

Stops have English names but the other information are all in Mandarin. I’ll take forever to figure out when the next busis coming.

Research was easier than expected. They have a lot of information in English available. However, I noticed that the Chinese version of some sites are more informative. I even saw a hotel having different prices in the Chinese and English version of their website (not very ethical there). Since reading the sites in mandarin will take forever for me, I just read the English ones. Should be substantive enough. Traveling around was also smooth sailing and in Taipei particularly, even the buses announce the stop location in Mandarin, Taiwanese (similar to Hokkien), Japanese and English. I could go on forever about how I planned my days but I shall skip you’ll the boring decisions.


So to get to my main point, here are my thoughts on solo traveling, which also sort of relates to life…

  • Choices are all yours to make = Freedom!

Basically, the World is your oyster! (Ok… maybe not the world but just Taiwan) Every decision you make is well, your choice. What you eat, where you want to go, what you want to do, where should you visit. Too much freedom can be a bad thing because if there are too many choices and you’re torn between 2, there is no one to add weigh to a particular choice.

Some of these decisions were a bit difficult to make but most were a breeze. I chose to make Sun Moon Lake 日月潭, Alishan 阿里山 and Taroko Gorge 太鲁阁 must visits. Which was kinda difficult because the first 2 are on the west side of Taiwan while Taroko Gorge is on the east side. There is no public transportation across the island. Hence, my need to circle the entire Taiwan and make a scheduled overnight stop at Kaohshiung 高雄. I don’t regret it though. I ended up having more time in Kaohshiung 高雄 than expected and it was good fun (also links to being open point). The experience was good and I’m very amazed by Taiwan’s railway connectivity.

One of the many

One of the many “male & female” art installations at Kaohshiung’s Pier 2 Art Centre, which was surprisingly nice.

  • You set your own pace in life

Kinda linked to the above point. At times I realised I was rushing (walking too fast, anxious if I could make it on time) and then I thought “Why am I in a rush? What am I rushing for? I paid to be here, I should enjoy every moment of it and take my time.”. Same goes with our usual lives, why are we always rushing? Time is of course valuable but we should take the opportunity to enjoy every bit of activity that we are doing. I.e, reading, watching the television, conversing with people…

The street market in Tamsui 淡水, which I didn't browse through cause I was rushing to catch a sunset and a train to Shihlin Market. Big mistake. I just tired myself out.

The street market in Tamsui 淡水, which I didn’t browse through cause I was rushing to catch a sunset and a train to Shihlin Market. Big mistake. I just tired myself out.

  •  Be open

I suppose being on this trip. I wanted to try out what it would be like. I guess I was open to a lot of things, suggestions from other people, and multiple changes to what I was going to do, other than things that I thought would be dangerous, i.e., walking around alone after 10pm.

– I rented a bicycle from a breakfast place’s owners friend

– I drank beer at a kiosk and chit chatted with the barkeep

– Walked a path suggested by a guard (there were other people, so it was pretty safe)

–  Randomly took a bus to another part of Yang Ming Shan 阳明山, turns out there was a Calla Lily Festival there. 😀

– Sat a Taiwanese lady’s rented motorbike around Taroko Gorge 太鲁阁

– Met and spoke to quite a lot of random people. From the temple worker to other travelers. Quite a lot of them were surprised that Malaysians can speak mandarin. And the younger China travelers are actually quite adventurous (traveling alone, lots of them) and are much nicer than their tour bus counterparts.

One of the farms at Yang Ming Shan's Calla Lily Festival

One of the farms at Yang Ming Shan’s Calla Lily Festival

  • Stepping out of your comfort zone

I’m not saying that You need to be the exact opposite of who you are, but just change how you usually act a bit. I’m personally an introvert. Making the first move to talk to strangers can be a bit difficult for me. In previous travels, I wouldn’t be the one making friends with other travelers. I enjoy my own free time, but I know that if I travel without talking to anyone or engage in conversation with anyone for 12 days would be a waste of an opportunity to meet all sorts of people.

So at hostels, I tried to greet my fellow roommates (if I had any) and most of them were quite eager to meet other people too! We shared stories and where we have been in Taiwan. Very surface level sort of conversation but it was good. Changed my general perception of China tourists definitely. Funny thing though, the first thing that most of us ask first is not “what’s your name?” but “where are you from?”.

  • It’s nice to have some familiarity

Stepping out of comfort zones aside. Having a bit of familiarity is also good (yes, it’s quite contradicting to the above point). In the first 8 days of my travels, all I spoke was mandarin. Back in Malaysia, I barely speak any mandarin. Even if I do, it’s mixed a lot with Manglish and Canto. Once I checked in at the Taipei hostel, I finally gotta speak English with 3 Germans and a Singaporean. On my last night at the Taipei hostel, I finally got to use my lahs with fellow Malaysians too! How exciting!


The above are are of course my main thoughts on traveling solo. I’m sure there are a lot of other things that cropped up in my mind. The 12 days will forever be etched in my mind and although I just left Taiwan 2 weeks ago, I have been entertaining the thought of returning. There’s just too many things to see.

12 days was definitely a bit long for my first solo trip. A fellow Malaysian, whom I met at a dorm in Taipei, was surprised that I took 12 days to travel alone for the first time. I initially wanted 14 days, so I was only 2 days short. There were definitely downer days. I.e., when it rained the entire day when I reached Hualien 花莲, the occasional thoughts of “wouldn’t it be nice if I could share this (trip) with someone?” and the tiredness. Once I reached Taipei or rather Jiu Fen, I felt tired. Must have been all the moving about. In that 12 days, I stayed in 6 different accommodations. The longest was for 4 nights in Taipei. But once I started walking around the attractions, I felt rejuvenated. Especially at Yehliu 野柳, where you get to enjoy the cooling winds of the Pacific ocean.

Reaching the top of the filial piety hill in Yehliu Geopark. Such a nice breath of fresh air, although the wind was slightly dying down then. Bummer.

Reaching the top of the filial piety hill in Yehliu Geopark. Such a nice breath of fresh air, although the wind was slightly dying down then. Bummer.

To sum it all, I had a blast in Taiwan! Met quite a number of random strangers along the way. I kinda enjoyed the solitary moments, although there were definitely times of loneliness. Sharing food was difficult as was taking pictures. Moving around was a breeze because transportation was great and I didn’t bother with a huge luggage! Furthermore, the Taiwanese people are so helpful and friendly! (Everyone I met in Taiwan also said the same thing) 9 of 10 people there will be helpful and friendly. 9 of 10 people in Malaysia will be the exact opposite. I would most definitely return. “When?” would be the most appropriate question.