Sunday, January 09, 2011

Seoul 2010: Skiing in Jisan

The main aim of coming to Seoul was for Sean to play with snow. I arranged for a day trip to one of the many ski resorts near Seoul. We went with this company called VIP Travel. We're quite pleased with their service and their funny English-speaking guide. One thing about Seoul that I realise is that the daily tours are relatively cheap. Check out the website and you'll see what I mean.

The tour cost includes gloves and ski equipment but not the ski outfit. Rental of ski outfit was about S$24 per person. Getting to Jisan from Seoul was about an hour plus. We rented our outfits and then took a short walk to the forest.

Jisan Forest. It was such a beautiful day when we were there. The sun was shining so brightly and the snow was just gorgeous.

There are different slopes for different ability levels.

The resort was teeming with people.

Our group getting our skiing gear on. This alone took more than half an hour, I think.

Listening to our ski instructor. Basic lessons are included in our tour package.

Of the 4 of us, Brian did the best. I was hopeless as expected and I don't think I'll be attempting this sport in future, wearing the boots and skis is a huge pain.

Sean wasn't too happy about skiing and gave up soon after basic lessons were given cos he said he came to play with snow, not ski! He had a blast just playing with snow from start to end. Mission accomplished, I guess :)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Seoul 2010: Lotte World

In the morning, when we woke up, this is what we saw from our hotel room, all of Seoul was covered in snow.

Sean admiring the view.

Today was themepark day. The two famous themeparks in Seoul are Everland and Lotte World. I was told Everland is very nice but not as accessible. Lotte World is right above the Jamsil train station so it was off to Lotte World we went. Lotte World has an indoor section which was nice in winter. Jamsil station was about 15 stops from Hoehyeon, with one train change. Easy peasy.

We headed out after breakfast. Instead of walking properly, Sean kept stepping on and kicking snow.

The short but precariously slippery walk to Hoehyeon station.

Korean workers getting their morning snack and cuppa.

Jamsil is 15 stops from Hoehyeon and the total fare for 4 of us was 3850 won, or less than S$5!! Crazy cheap right?

And it's not some stinky clunker of a train. It was a very spacious, comfortable, uncrowded train.

There's an underground mall before getting into Lotte World. We took this picture cos there's a fairly new Krispy Kreme in Bangkok and the queue has been CRAZY!!

We've had Krispy Kremes in London and it really isn't a big deal, J.Co is much better.

Inside Lotte World.

The indoor section of Lotte World has a roller coaster, viking and other scary rides but we went mostly on the non-scary rides. This photo was taken from a 'hot-air balloon' that went around the themepark. The rides look a bit dusty and faded but given the low entrance fees, can lah. I think we paid less than S$50 each, maybe even less than S$40 cos there was some special discount given when we were there.

There's a skating rink in Lotte World but it's not within the themepark, it's on a lower floor. I'm not 100% sure but I think you'll need to get out of the themepark to get into the skating rink. And you're not allowed re-entry into the themepark.

Panaroma function on Brian's Sony camera.

This is the outdoor section of Lotte World. We headed out cos we were looking for a Korean restaurant there.

The restaurant we ate in is the one with the Asian-looking roof. Lunch was beef and leak soup with rice.

Tower of terror I think. And next to it...

...Gyro Drop...which looks super scary! We didn't explore the rest of Magic Island (that's the outdoor section of Lotte World) as it was too cold.

We headed back around tea-time, tired of the queueing...we are so NOT themepark people. We passed a river on the train ride back to the city, oooh, so coldddd.

Seoul 2010: Namdaemun and Ginseng Chicken

The hotel we stayed in was Millenium Seoul Hilton. It's pretty conveniently located, just a short walk from Namdaemun market. Seoul station is pretty near but I think the nearest subway station is Hoehyeon. Hoehyeon is just a stop away from Myeongdong, where the malls are. It took us about 5 minutes to walk to Hoehyeon.

So anyway, after a good rest and showering, we headed out to Namdaemun Market. I think this is like Chow Kit Road/Petaling Street in KL. The streets were quite confusing to us and there were underground shopping areas too.

Mary in Namdaemun Market. It was coldddd, but thankfully there wasn't much wind, so it was bearable with proper clothing.

Ginseng galore.

Trotter time :P

We had lunch at this noodle shop that seemed to have lots of patrons. Seating was tight and Sean didn't eat much. But the noodles were quite yummy.

It started snowing while we were having lunch. Yayyy, Sean was happy. Strange thing I realised, when it's snowing, it doesn't feel quite as cold as when it's not. We continued walking and getting a little lost and ended up at the edge of Myeongdong, in a mall called Shinsegae.

After walking about for a while, we headed back but somehow got a little lost. We jumped into a cab and fares aren't expensive at all. A 10-min ride would cost no more than S$6. There are no surcharges or call-in charges or any of those nonsense :P I like the transportation system in Seoul. The next day I was also impressed to find a very comfortable subway system with very low fares. So my impression that Seoul is like Japan was quite wrong, both in the good and bad sense. Transportation is really cheap BUT the toilets are really bleahhhh, Bangkok loos are much cleaner.

Our cab ride was most interesting. When we had gotten lost, two kind Koreans saw us looking at our maps and offered help. Well, one of them, an elderly lady, pointed us to a completely different direction, but still, Koreans are really helpful. But we also saw a very ugly Korean. Our cab driver somehow couldn't navigate the steep slope to the hotel, so he needed to reverse out the right turn he had made. Most cars behind him were reversing to allow him to do so except this idiotic young man right behind us who just refused to budge.

This fella caused a minor jam and then after a few minutes, he came out of his car, approach our driver and both started having a Korean-style shouting match. Quite funny to watch, just like what you see in Korean dramas, the men shouting and going "HAIIISSSHHHHH!!!!". LOL. An older lady came out to calm the young chap down, I think maybe his mum, and he went back, still refusing to reverse and instead drove straight on, when it was obvious he meant to turn right too.

That was fun to watch :) We had to get out of the cab there and climb up that slope ourselves. Wilson and family came to pick us up for dinner at a ginseng chicken place recommended by SQ Seoul staff. We each had our own bowl of chicken ginseng, except Sean. We ordered a roast chicken for him.

At the traditional-looking restaurant and yes, Brian is playing his DS again.

Chicken ginseng is I guess an acquired taste? I found it quite tasteless actually. I prefer our chinese beggar's herbal chicken. The rice is stuffed inside the chicken so you're eating a kind of soggy soft rice, like hard porridge.

The ginseng in the chicken.

The hearty meal did fill our tummies nicely, and Brian and Eddie liked their ginseng chicken.

Sean helping to zip Valerie's jacket...awwww :D Remember Valerie? Here and here.

She's not even 4 but poses like a pro. she's grown.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Seoul 2010: Our Winter Sonata

Sean wanted to see snow during winter break and we had our annual free tickets that were expiring soon, so we decided to fly to Seoul during the last week of 2010. Seoul turned out to be better than I had expected. The food is good, it's easy to move around, cab fares are reasonable and trains are efficient AND cheap, shopping is fantastic, and there's skiing and themeparks for the kids.

Since we were using our free Singapore Airlines tickets, we had to fly back to Singapore first before going to Seoul. We arranged for the boys to have their eye-check in Somerset 313 during the transit. This is Mary on the MRT to the city.

Sean in Changi Airport, which I think is the best airport in the world...I know I haven't been to many airports, but Changi Airport wins hands down lah, I don't care what the surveys say. Free internet, free foot massage, GREAT food, subway connection, lots of shopping. So shiok, makes transits a lot less boring.

Almost ready to board. Brian played his Nintendo DS almost non-stop during this trip.

We all slept really well during the 6-hour flight and didn't take any meals on board. The plan was to take the limousine bus to our hotel in the city but we were surprised by our friend and Eddie's colleague Wilson, who came to meet us. Incheon Airport is not exactly near to the city, so we felt quite bad that Wilson woke up so early to pick us up. Really wasn't necessary.

Seoul morning sun welcoming us :)

Wilson dropped us off at our hotel, which is located in Namdaemun area, before heading off to work. Luckily, the hotel allowed early check-in so we managed to rest and clean up before going out to explore the vicinity.

Next post: Exploring Namdaemun