Tuesday, 1 July 2014

I guess it's about time I've posted. The last I did was back in May, and time has flown past again and already hello July. It feels like ages ago since I was just in Korea, when actually it's only been two months. Already I'm missing the feeling of travelling again, terribly as evident by my constant grumbling on social media and in real life, but we'll leave that to another topic very soon. (let's just say that new plans are definitely in the works hehe)

So pictures galore aside, what about Korea? Or more specifically, Seoul. Can't say much that most wouldn't know already. The city is extremely modern and fast-paced, but with a touch of traditional spices in the mix. No doubt Korea has never been on the top of my go-to list, but the city is safe and vibrant, and I do love myself some awesome Korean food.
  • The architecture of buildings, mixed between the modern and the old, is pretty fascinating. I visited the grounds of Ewha Womens University and was so gobsmacked by the stunning view of the place. Yeah, you'd wish your school looked that cool too.
  • Food-wise, you gotta learn to appreciate the sour and spice, and thank goodness kimchi is just one of my favorite Korean dishes cause no meal is ever complete without it. A pity that I was alone most times and Korean meals are better shared with people with the large portions. I also had my very first at the spiciest noodles I'd ever had in life. I kid you not, I literally teared up and sniveled my way through the bowl of jazz while sweating up a storm. And, I fell in love with Nangmyeon (Korean cold noodles), thinking about it now makes me drool in this hot Singaporean weather.
  • The locals are generally friendly if you get to know them, but of course the rude ones are pretty abundant too. Rough shoving and pushing on public transport, speaking (shouting?) in loud voice, it can get pretty overwhelming at times. The culture is to behave that way, so I guess feel free to shove them back? I kid. Be nice and be polite. Well okay, I did shove a little.
  • Language is an obstacle as many, even the young kids working in 7-Eleven, may not understand you. But hand gestures and basic phrases suffice most ways. Those K-dramas and Running Man series didn't go to waste after all then.
  • The public transport system is extremely reliable and convenient, and making my way around wasn't too hard. Like Singapore, the people love rushing and fighting for seats like their life depends on it. It's always quite the hilarious scene.
  • If you're into North Korean stuff, the DMZ & JSA tour is definitely worth a visit. It's not cheap, but a worthwhile experience and hey, it's the closest you'll ever be to N Korea within safe boundaries. Okay, I did step on N Korean soil for about 5 minutes and stood beside a N Korean soldier. It was pretty surreal, not gonna lie.
  • When people say that plastic surgery is everywhere, it really is everywhere. Lines and lines of posters advertising 'aesthetic enhancements', with pictures to follow showing before and after looks. In fact, most of the after looks pretty much looked the same. Perhaps is that why most of the pretty ones look just about the same? Some girls I met there even said so themselves that plastic surgery is the way to go for them when they're old enough to do so. Because their society revolves around the constant need and obsession to be pretty - to attract guys, to score a well-paid job or to please the in-laws. Yikes.
  • I had a great laugh trying on the traditional hanbok. You can totally tell I look so out of it and I couldn't stop snorting at myself for looking so ridiculously feminine. Probably also explained why there wasn't a single male tourist around bothering about trying them on. I shall say that the getup makes a great buffet outfit though. Yep, hiding that huge fat belly is just what you need.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

And I am officially back from my trip guysssss. My first ever solo (Seoul-o, get it? Perfect pun ever.) trip, in fact. I'm pretty much still in my holiday mood as I mourn through the work week which has begun ever so grudgingly. Time really flies doesn't it, as I recall that it was just a while ago (late last year actually) that I decided upon embarking a lonesome holiday to somewhere, booked my tickets, and so recently still scrutinizing over the 'perfect' details as I tried to complete my itinerary as the travel dates loomed near. And all at once, it's ended already so soon. Too soon.

Before I pursue the whole lowdown of my trip and all them fanciful pictures, I thought it wise to pen down some thoughts about it before I (because I know I typically would) get too lazy about it.

Some friends/colleagues/family, naturally, have questioned me on my decision to travel alone. And typically in the past, I would never have thought of doing such a thing myself. I might say that the decision came at a spur of moment, having read one too many Thought Catalog inspirations. Additionally it's been increasingly frustrating organizing travel plans with friends, with multiple excuses 1) no money 2) no time 3) no interest 4) boyfriend, etc which to be honest was no less an annoyance. Now I'm not saying that everyone should follow my thoughts for everyone has their own opinions and agenda, but it wasn't going to be my excuse not to move forward myself. Back then when I was all puppy-loved up and obsessed with designer bags, I used to think that traveling was a waste of money. Now, with a different mindset but no less love for bags, I love traveling more than ever. Just to point out that I'm no rich kid nor am I paid a handsome salary for a honestly boring job, but I do save for things that I want, and those include bags (well, lesser these days) and more importantly, travel. It was either to pathetically wait for someone as company, or go ahead myself. I chose the latter just cause I'm impatient like that. So there you go, a simple reason for a simple decision.

Next up, my choice of destination and why. Let's see, 1) Seoul is incredibly safe 2) it was still a first trip alone so it was a good place to start with 3) a new place is still a new place and always worth a visit, duh.

When it came to the planning, I was pretty anal about it I'm not gonna lie. I guess my previous trips to Japan and Taiwan sort of trained me into it, having been precise in every detail down to the very minute. I was out on 'perfectionist' (or to put it bluntly, 'kiasee' as Singaporeans call it) mode once again and made a shitload of notes and details. Which ultimately I learned, wasn't all that necessary after all. Being a solo trip, it was a trip for myself and no other. In the end, I did end up ditching some of my initial plans and changed my routes to suit my pace. Reasons being, 1) I got tired and lazy 2) I loved my room and rooftop so much I spent way too much time dragging time than heading out 3) I just wanted to do what I wanted to do rather than following where to go/what needed to be done. I did go to most of the places I had initially planned for, but ditched the few left for next time perhaps. Instead, I chose to spend more time walking along narrow streets and sitting at cafes people watching (and watching videos on my mini). I headed back early almost every night too, just to relax at the rooftop which honestly was the best part of my whole trip. I really wish I could've brought it home with me.

I made some friends during my trip though. I initially considered a hostel for the sake of making friends with strangers but ended up booting the idea for comfort. So I chose a single room instead. I love having my own space, and while I don't seek luxury in my accommodations, I do ask for comfort after a long day out and about. And that was possibly one of the best choices I made cause my stay was almost perfect. Funnily enough, I actually bumped into my dentist (of all people) along the streets during one of the days. Aside that, I met some others interesting, some friendly, and some rude-as-hell people during my trip. Interesting, as is the learning experience that comes along with it.

It's been a liberating experience to travel alone, and I wouldn't hesitate to try it again. Till the next one.

Monday, 5 May 2014