Seoul-Family Trip (Part 1)

Back 2 Seoul - 19th~20th March 2011


As I have mentioned in my previous post, my trip to Seoul earlier is only a recce trip to familiarize myself with the geography, culture and economy of the city so that I would not be caught by surprise with a group of tourists whom were solely depending on me to know my stuffs and to ensure that they had a good time. The selection process is the most difficult when it comes to family trip as you have a dynamic mix of characters and preferences, what more this time around, I am bringing my housemates (PS, MM & WP) as a way to thank them for sticking with us through thick and thin.

WP is my sister and we have stayed together ever since I moved to Singapore. As the example set by my two brothers during their heydays in Singapore, I am convinced that although Singapore is small, if you don't stay together you will not see each other more than one time every month and perhaps not even once in a month! Thus, I have decided that its better for the two of us to stay together and share the rent. In the span of ten years, WP has shared rent with me and paid rent to me. She contributed to the house by cooking meals when I couldn't make it on time and currently supplying us with so much pastries that we are almost getting sick of another pastry... not there yet, but near.



PS is WP's former colleague and somehow my wife and PS hit off quite well after their first encounter. PS worked in the Japanese Restaurant and my wife and I would often dine there as WP has free staff meal and PS would top it up with some extra stuffs for us. She moved in with us after her previous landlord decided to end their tenancy agreement. She has been paying me rent since and have contributed to the house by doing the dishes.

MM is my wife's cousin and is a scholar who scored 10A1s and 1A2 but was passed off by the government in the local university and Singapore is more than happy to offer her a scholarship so she has been with us for a little more than 2 years now. MM has also been paying rent by sharing a room with PS and contributed to the household by doing the dishes and most importantly to take my boy, Bon Bon for regular walk.

So you see, we are really more than just landlord and tenant relationship, we are friends and as close as family.

The flight, accomodation and a certain budget was set aside to cater for them and any extra $$$ was borne by themselves as who would blame them? We are going Seoul where one could spend thousands of dollars just to buy cosmetics alone!


The view of my triple sharing room. Shared with my brother in law.

For this trip, I have a total of 10 person inclusive of myself to care for and without a doubt, I have to budget well so as not to burst my pocket but at the same time, ensure that they got the best deal for the money I am paying. I have opted to go for an apartment instead of hotel as I foresee that we will be spending more time outside than inside our accomodation. I chose Seoul Residence, which is really a normal apartment but have several units for rent. I booked one Quad-Sharing room, which consists of 2 queen size bed, kitchen stove, a fridge, washing machine and a dryer AND two Triple-Sharing Room which has everything the same as the former but only comes with one queen and one single bed. The rent I paid for the Quad for 4 nights is KRW600,000 while each of the triple sharing room for 4 nights at KRW560,000. It is the best deal I could find and with its location right behind the Seolleung (pronounce somewhat like Sam Nong??) station. If you need supplies for cooking, you can find a K-mart conveniently located right downstairs! If you wanted something else, you may get it at the 7-Evelen on the main street and to add on to the plus side, there is a McDonalds and Paris Baguette within 200m from the apartment!



Our flight reached late in the evening around 2120hour and by the time we checked out our luggages and clear custom, it was near to 2230hour. Due to the timing, I have decided to go with a taxi instead of the train or shuttle bus as it is safer and faster. I paid close to KRW95,000 for the Deluxe taxi ride from Incheon to Seoul Residence in Seolleung where as my FIL paid KRW92,000 for their ride. The regular taxi should be cheaper but they are smaller and since we have 9 person (My wife joining us 2 days later) and all the luggages, it would make sense to go for the bigger and comfortable Deluxe Taxi. I also realised that for the deluxe taxi, the driver supposed to be able to converse in English but sadly, none of the two drivers spoke any english. We have to resort to calling the reception at the Seoul Residence and ask the person to converse with the driver. The ride took a little longer than 30mins but I can't recall how long is the actual ride as I am only glad that all of us reached the intended destination.

Although it is already late in the night, most
of us can't resist our urge to go out to find
some eating place. Saw this makeshift tent
and without any hesitation, all of us make a beeline into it.

Its regular Korean noodle (I would even think it is instant noodle) but I suppose when you are hungry and the temperature is raging at 2°C outside, it is impossible to NOT enjoy a pipping hot bowl of noodle!
Top it off with a sizzling plate of stir fried pork, its simply heavenly~


 
We stopped by another stall to pack some rice cake and fried fritters
for my mum who decided to stay in her room instead.



I'll say, food in Seoul is NOT cheap. A simple bowl of rice
cake costs KRW2,500 i.e. S$2.80 and mind you,
 this is not even a staple meal! Staple meal like
a bowl of rice costs around KRW5,000 i.e. S$5.70
if you are lucky, otherwise it will be an
average KRW6,000 i.e. S$6.80!

The Neo and Oh clan at Gyeungbokgung


This will most likely be very much impressionable to me even when I became old one day. From Gyeungbokgung, our next destination is Dongdaemun and instead of taking the subway which will require plenty of walking (I have 3 middle aged folks with me), we decided to take the taxi and since we have 7 of us, we need to take 2 taxis. I have hailed a cab and told the driver that I am heading to Dongdaemun and ask the folks to take the taxi while I hailed another before actually communicating the actual location to stop as I assumed that the taxi driver would be smart enough to know that we need to drop at the same place (Bad mistake!). Much to my horror, the first driver sped off without allowing me (The tour guide for the group) to follow them! Well, after several expensive calls, we ended up in 2 different locations and chaos ensued as to how do I direct the folks in the other taxi to meet me (The 3 middle aged folks are with me, thus walking to find them will be out of the question). Having faced with the following handicap, how would you fare if you are me?

1. No one speaks even simple english around you;
2. You are with 3 middle aged folks;
3. The other gang does not have any bearing of where they are;
4. You know where you are but couldn't find a landmark to give accurate direction;
5. Both the other gang and yourself have mobile phones.

For my situation, the first thing I do (much advised from my MIL) is keep looking for someone who can speak simple English/Mandarin. Once I found one, I asked my other gang to hail a taxi and pass the phone to the taxi driver while asking the person that I found (thank God there is one young Korean lady who speaks some English) to speak to the taxi driver to direct him to drive our gang to our current location. Thank God, after several minutes, we managed to regroup and continue with our itinerary. Much to my dismay, after a short while, majority of the group said that the location is too boring and wanted to head elsewhere... I propose we go Myeongdong as I knew that these peeps are only in for the shopping. We spent 3 hours at Myeongdong. Four of the group left for their shopping spree while the 3 old folks, my brother in law and I sat at the coffee stall to have a cuppa & chill.
 
Kimchi soup with rice at Dongdaemun. Cost around KRW6,500



As the clock strikes nearer to midnight, a few of us got hungry and in Seoul, there is food everywhere and as long as you bring your stomach and a hungry stomach, you will be rewarded! ;)
 
Korean BBQ strip pork belly. Its yummo! (Must try! 5/5)


 

Bibimbap (Korean mixed rice or rice salad if you prefer it that way)
Read as Bee-Beam-Bop: Usually comes in a hot bowl made from
volcanic rock. with plenty of vegetables and sometimes
meat/seafood. The rice and ingredients are mixed with a sweet
red pepper paste (Not spicy) while the bowl is still hot and
sometimes, there will also be an egg in it.
Healthy and tasty! Its a must try else you have not been to Korea at all!



 
There will be lots of pickled vegetables and green to go give
every order of meat. Greens such as mint, lettuce, coral cabbage
are provided to be eaten together with the BBQ meat, garlic and
a sweet pepper paste. Once the meat is done, just wrap it with
the greens of your choice together with the garlic, dip a little
of the sweet paste and pop it into your mouth. They also provide
bean paste soup which is slightly spicy but very appetizing.

Happy reading!


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