(my thoughts before I fell asleep on my earlier post)
I have always been anti-social, and is happily comfortable with the few friends I managed to make in this lifetime. I don’t talk to strangers and would be glad to be happily left alone, without prying questions or people wanting to make “small talk”.
In Korea, I morphed into a very upbeat version of “Ms. Congeniality” — smiling all the time, exchanging pleasantries with the natives and striking up conversation at the slightest provocation. In the seven days that I have spent in Seoul and Busan, I probably chatted up more people than what I have chatted up in Manila in my lifetime.
I can’t help it. Koreans–in spite the first world awesomeness and their to-die-for beautiful skin–we found out, are a very friendly and amiable bunch.
The Queen and I got lost so many times than we care to admit, but in each and every instance, there will be someone who will not hesitate to talk to us (language barrier be damned!), whip out their smart phones to search for the nearest landmark or the easiest route, or if in doubt, even call another friend to ask for directions and when needed, personally march the sister and I to the place.
I also had a great conversation with a girl who was visiting Nami Island on her own. She borrowed my ballpen and started telling me about the time she’d been to my country about five years ago, as well as some personal issues she had these past few years. This after telling me that she doesn’t speak or understand English, while I was explaining to her that I understand Korean either. While waiting for the train at the Dongdaemun subway, the Queen and I were chatted up by a bunch of grandpas and grandmas who seemed to be amused that two girls from the Philippines were answering their questions.
It’s impossible to get lost in Seoul. As long as you have the Seoul City Map (you can get one at the Seoul Culture and Tourism Office, located at the 5th Floor of M Plaza in Myeongdong), your korean won (or T Money) and basic common sense, you will not get lost. And if you do, there is always a kind soul who will be very much willing to help. In our case, it’s the aforementioned artistic looking guy in Busan, Key who helped us in Gangnam, Song Hae who helped us located the street nearest the Coffee Prince and the ajumma who helped us find Exit 6 in Busan.
The subway is easily accessible and is very manageable as all signs are printed in English, Chinese, Japanese and of course, Korean. There are also on-air announcements inside the trains, as well as on the subway station.
When going to Gapyeong station and you made the mistake of riding the ITX when you are holding a regular subway ticket (like what happened to the Queen and I on our intended visit to Namirara Island), there are train stewardesses inside the ITX who will sell you the appropriate tickets. No problem, just inform them before hand and they will approach you prior to the end of the trip to sell the tickets.
Here’s our itinerary for the blissful six days:
Arrived in Busan, checked in at the Toyoko Inn 1 (read my review here) and checked out the surroundings. Unfortunately, we got scared by hobos and a lot of drunk guys within the vicinity of the station so we hightailed it back to the hotel as fast as you can say “Lee Min Ho”.
Traveled to Seoul, went up the N Seoul Tower and visited the Teddy Bear Museum and Observatory, posted my contribution in the Locks of Love perimeter fence below the N Seoul Tower and went around Myeongdong.
Third day: Our Cultural Day
Went to M Plaza in Myeongdong to visit the Seoul Culture and Tourism Office and posed wearing hanboks, we also picked up a map of Seoul. After a very spicy lunch, we went around Myeongdong and the City Hall area, visited the palaces and the Museum of the Great Sejong. In the evening, we decided to check out Banpo Rainbow Bridge, but it got too late and we had to veto going down on an abandoned tunnel just to see the bridge up close. Anyway, we were able to eat street food in Gangnam. Developed a particularly fond affection for “Odeng” — these are fish cakes skewered on a long stick and served with hot soup.
Fourth Day: The visit to Winter Sonata’s Namirara Island
Spent a day in Namirara where aside from the shoot locations for “Winter Sonata”. Then we spent the day shopping in Myeongdong and pigging out on various street foods we can lay our hands on.
Fifth Day: What is Korea without K-Pop?
We spent the day looking for The First Shop of Coffee Prince”, located in Hongdae. Since this shop is located from the usual hub of activity, the Queen and I got a bit lost until we met Song-hae on the street and veered us towards the right direction. Then, we went around shopping for cosmetics and stuff to bring back home. We also started the day hearing mass in Korean since we missed the English service. The funny thing is, in spite it being in Korean — it was a good service and somehow, I managed to translate the messages inside my head.
Sixth day: Finding Sam-soon’s stairs and Saying goodbye to Seoul and Busan
Went around Mt. Namsan (again) and finally finding the God-forsaken stairs which was featured at the ending of “My Name is Kim San Soon”. MY sister has been looking for this set of stairs for the last four days and we’ve almost circled the rest of the foot of Mt. Namsan until we finally found it before we leave for Busan. Oh my God, I don’t know if I will hug the railing (which is likely dirty with sweat and what not) or find a danged jackhammer and blast the stairs to pieces so that I will not have to visit it again when I come back.
Incidentally, my sister marked her 30th birthday during our last day in Seoul and she celebrated it with a huge lunch at this over-priced resto in Namsan. Apparently, the restaurant was featured in some of Korea’s top TV programs hence the heavy price tag.
…on my next post, how much did I spent for the six day trip? Let’s say, it’s less than what you think.