Sunday, June 6, 2010

Korean (Seoul,Damyang

Back to my Asia travels- This week I will be sharing with you on my adventure in Korea.

We took the wee hours flight from Singapore and arrived in Seoul in the late morning. From our planning, we made plans to visit Damyang, having heard of its beautiful bamboo forest and heard that its ondul-heated floors village houses in the midst of the bamboo forest were amazing. From the airport, we then took a bus to the local terminal where we could get a ticket to Damyang. Having bought the tickets from the bus counter in the airport, we had to wait outside for the bus. Cold air hit us and we were trembling despite our jackets (which we assumed more than sufficient). It was close to 1 degree.Huddling close to one another, the arrival of the coach and its warmth was a great comfort.
At the bus terminal,we bought our tickets to Damyang.(Personally, I think if my friend would not be there to converse in Korean, I wondered if its possible to get the right tickets that brought us directly to the terminal of Damyang.)At the terminal, we sat at the exit that was told to us and had to listen intently for our destination name being called out. Finally, our a long time, our bus to Damyang arrived.

Damyang County (Damyang-gun) is a county in Jeollanam-do, South Korea. It is one of the northernmost places where bamboo is found on the Korean peninsula. The easiest way to get to Damyang is via Gwangju. The KTX for Gwangju departs from Yongsan Station – the trip takes about three hours. From Gwangju Intercity Bus Terminal, take local bus No. 225, which will take you past Soswaewon (trip takes about 40 minutes).Otherwise, you can just take an intercity bus from Gwangju to Damyang – most of the other destinations above are within easy taxi range.

Damyang is a place that I loved! After a 3 hour bus ride to Damyang, where we were dropped off at a local bus terminaland where an even colder weather awaited us, we were really looking forward to our ondul-heated lodge. We looked at the map printed at the terminal, we realised that we needed to take a taxi but that the taxi backboot can only fit 1 luggage so we had to take extra cabs just to take our luggages. Their car boots were so small. Thank God for my friends who could speak Korean, we made our way to our lodge.

As we neared our lodge, snow greeted us. And our lodge surrounding was that of a bamboo forest and the moutains from every corner. And of course, our beautiful lodge.

Having only planned for a 2 day 1 night stay in Damyang, my friends asked the owner where would be good to go. And being an area where buses were not common, we were advised to hire a taxi to bring us around the sights - to the famous 'tourist sights - such as the damyang museum, location of winter sonata, Cheongpungho Lake area,Bamboo forest and the Bamboo Tea shop outlet.

Winter Sonata Filming Location - Very nice background. Good for taking pictures. Feels very romantic! And how often do you get to visit filming site thats not very touristy and part of nature. I liked it.

Lake area - It was so comforting. Always love the serenity lakes give. And the interesting house beside it seems like a good place to chill and relax.

Damyang Museum - Personally not my cup-of-tea unless you're into the history of ancient cups, costumes etc. But good for picture taking , if you want to try on the ancient times korean empresses hats and costumes.

Bamboo Forest- It was too cold. We were shivering when we were there. So halfway through we gave up and decide to go to the comfort of the taxi.

Bamboo Tea Outlet - Worthwhile to go. Sit and relax and drink the tea.

The reason why i say Damyang is worthwhile to go is the food! We had fantastic food there and even though costly totally worth the money.
We had tteok galbi, which is incredibly flavorsome and tender. ( According to them, the secret to tteok galbi is a combination of primary and secondary cuts — the primary cut being left on the actual rib bone, and the secondary meat minced and formed into a cake around the bone. The result is amazingly succulent and sweet meat.) - Really yummy and in the cold weather, sizzling in the hot plate , it was heavenly. But the portion though looks small, should be shared unless you are really a meat lover.
Damyang's other well-known food, daetongbap, is rice cooked in bamboo. A bamboo stalk filled with rice, Korean dates and other choice ingredients is covered with hanji paper and steamed for four hours, allowing the delicate but distinct flavor of the bamboo to permeate the rice. - Totally loved this. It felt healthy yet tasty. And the mixture of the ingredients , totally yummy.
Their local side dishes are also delicious. Maybe because its in the village side, the ingredients used just tastes so raw and fresh. Loved it!

The next morning, we made slept in a little and made our way back to the terminal back to Seoul.

In Seoul, My friends and I decided to do the backpackers way by dragging our luggage with us through the metro and to our hotel. Towards our destination, I noticed the metro had alot of mirrors and was wondering about the reason. Just at that moment, I noticed the korean men and women were using the mirrors adjusting their hair and looking at themselves (in the middle of the walkway!) - such an interesting discovery. (I had heard before that cosmetic surgery was very cheap and common in korea, and had heard that children even as young as 5 years have had cosmetic surgery done) - Isnt that too extreme? Truth or not, I dont know. But this discovery of mirror peering in obvious sight of everyone - its so cute!

After dragging our heavy luggages through the 'multiple' metro stairs and across the streets and through the many metro exits, we finally made it towards our Hotel - our nice studio suite. (Definately recommended! ) It was just like a house, with the washing machine, and the area to cook, with a living room and a bedroom with toilets. Loved it!

With stomachs growling for food, we made our way to the first stop, Nan dae Mun because my friend had recommended the Zha Jiang Mian there. And seeing the characters eat it in Goong 2, I just had to try it. It looked so yummy. And it was surely fantastic! And slurping it loudly with the sauce all over your mouth is just so fun. Its a little sweet (surprisingly, I had thought it would be salty)and a little oily. However if you prefer to eat it more lady-like, they normally will give you a scissors so you can cut it up. Oh, and when they serve it, it looks like alot but when you eat it, it doesnt feel as much as it initially looked. [ I emptied the plate, all of it ]
Jajangmyeon (hangul: 자장면; simplified Chinese: 炸酱面), steamed noodles served in a lightly-flavoured black bean paste, distinctly different from the various types of zhajiang mian served in mainland China and Taiwan.

We also tried the vegetarian dish Ulmyeon which is Japchaebap (hangul: 잡채밥), Korean cellophane noodles, meat, and vegetables served on a bed of steamed rice with a lightly flavored bean paste sauce (see Japchae). It was very filling and a very big portion. I think that was for 4 people to eat. One of the few vegetarian dishes you can find in Korea.

When we came out we were so stuffed. But I saw "Duk Boki" and was so tempted to try it. So I bought one bowl. The one I ate in Singapore at Bugis Junction was very sweet but this was not sweet but very spicy. My lips were burning. And the one in Singapore is very thick but the one here is very chewy. So my dear friend had to eat it on behalf of me.

Since we had not done much shopping, we went to the night market in DongDaemun at the recommendation of my friend.

Along the streets, night snacks (mostly fried) were displayed. My image of korean food that I always see on TV is like meat, lots of vegetables and kimchi and duk boki so I never expect to see fried food. But I guess you need balance of both. But Korea certainly had quite alot of fried food with lots of oil, its very surprising how they can still be so slim!

The shopping mall opens to wee hours so there's alot of people shopping there. You need around 5 hours there and its still not enough. There's alot of things to view and buy and there was already 5 levels and there are around 5 malls all beside one another. However, the problem was after the shopping, to get a taxi back home. It takes ages! There's so many people trying to get cabs since there was no metro or buses anymore.

And no one wanted to take the black cabs which was more expensive- because they are considered more deluxe.The fare starts at W4000 and increase by increments of W200 based on time and distance . No one also wanted to take the international taxis that had the word Chinese or English or Japanese on it- meaning that they had translation services.The taxi are entirely orange and all drivers should have passed foreign languages tests run by the city. The international taxi has a different fare system than regular cabs. For the meter fare system, passengers have to pay a 20 percent additional charge than fares charged by regular taxies. The taxi accepts T-Money cards and other credit cards as well, and must be reserved.

All wanted to only take the normal taxis.They are usually silver with a white or blue line or orange on white and has korean words on it . There is a basic fare of W2400 that increases by increments of W100 the farther and/or longer you travel. The fare is calculated by both the distance traveled and the time the trip takes. Between midnight and 4 AM, there is an extra charge (20%) for all general taxies anywhere. And for tourists, there is a number they have that can also help you translate your english/chinese to korean for the drivers to know.

Thats about taxis. Considering that the cost of metro is relatively costly in Korea, if there's more people. Just get the cab.

The following morning, after all the food we have eaten over the past few days, felt that it was time to do some exercise. So we climbed up the famous Namsan hill. You could walk from Myung-dong station. It takes around 3 hours to get up there at a slow and leisure pace. There are also directions to guide you there, though not very clear. But you will eventually reach there.
There are 2 ways to get up there, walk or sit the cable car ride. You can also walk up then sit the cable car ride down, or vice versa.
Mt. Namsan is a symbolic mountain located at the center of Seoul. Although not as high as other surrounding mountains, Mt. Namsan is a very popular nonetheless as a resting site. At the top, there are various facilities such as Palgakjeong (octagonal hall), Seoul Tower, Maritime Aquarium, fountains, and Namsan Library.
Also on the top of Mt. Namsan, there is the Palgakjeong Pavilion, which has a fantastic view. At Seoul Tower (479.7m), you can view the whole landscape of Seoul and the West Sea beyond Incheon.

The number of locks and the messages on it was so unique. Its such a romantic idea- because of all the love Korean dramas I watch, it seems Korea is always linked with romance. On the locks, you can put the messages that you want to tell someone special ( you can inscribe on the lock that will signify eternity) and most people then throw away the keys into the forest below. (However I saw a sign that says you cant throw the keys- hmmm)

After walking back down, we went to the filming site of "My Name is Samsoon" where she did her kiss scene with Hyun Bin since it was nearby. A flight of stairs that has the picture of the scene.

On Sunday, Christmas Day, I went to the famous Yoido church. And it was dynamic. Their choir was fantastic and you could feel God's presence flowing in the church. They even have translators for foreigners who are there. Imagine that! When I got there, I got lost in the church. According to lonely planet, it was saying that there were ushers but because I was late, I did not see the ushers. So I wandered around quite some time and decide to ask the information counter who could not understand English. They directed me to the another floor which was a korean service. When I got down, I tried finding the usher and thankfully, manage to find a counter and they brought me to the section where there were translators.

On the last night, we went to the famous Myung-dong to get our cosmetics products - Skin Food, Face Shop, Laneige, Hans Skin - with lots of free gifts. Wonderful!Most people who come to Korea, comes specially for the beauty products. Especially Japanese people- my Japanese friend said that it is thrice times more expensive in Japan even though they are so near each other. And since the plane cost is relatively cheap, its worth the money to fly in to Korea, even on the weekends. However in Korea, the international brands are more expensive than buying them in Singapore. I guess its good that they are supportive of their local brands. Helps spur the local beauty producers to improve and introduce more products.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    Your trip to Damyang is very interesting. I am planning a trip to South Korea this Dec. Appreciate if you could advise the name of the lodge you were staying in Damyang? In addition, is 2D1N enough to enjoy Damyang attractions fully?

    Many thanks in advance.

    Best regards,


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