Friday, November 27, 2015

Mummy's Solo Day 1-3: Seoul to Naju

After a hectic year of work and school, the school holiday is finally here so off we go for another family holiday. But first! My personal travel time!! If mummy is well, the whole family would be well, isn't it? So I arranged for 2 weeks in Korea (yes, again...) before the rest of the family and cousins join me for another two weeks. That is a full month of travel! To make the trip more meaningful, I helped out at an  English camp in Naju. Naju is a small town located in the northern part of Korea. You can either take an intercity bus from Incheon Airport which would take you about 6 hours or you can take the KTX from Seoul Station. With the new line, you can reach there in about 2.5 hours.

My team mates and I opted for the KTX ride so we headed to Seoul one day before the camp was due to start. We booked a one night stay in Metro hotel which is situated right in the shopping haven of Myeongdong and since we arrived too early for check-in, we went to change our money at Dongdaemum. This particular money-changer in Dongdaemum, at exit 6 and 7, has the best exchange rate I have ever seen. When most places in Korea and Singapore have the exchange rate of S$1 to 800 won, we were able to get an exchange rate of 820 won. Of course, if you are changing a small amount, it may not be that worth it to travel all the way down just to do the exchange. But when you are changing money for a month's worth of travel, every cent counts.

The view once you come out of Dongdaemun Exit 6. It is actually a shorter walk from the subway if you take Exit 7.
The money-changer is just a few stalls away from the Exits 6 and 7. 

The shop with its' yellow signboard. The exchange rate is written on the whiteboard in the store. 

Finally checked into our room in Metro Hotel. My team mate and I took the smallest Superior Room.
Clean and bright. A bit narrow for all our suitcases but since it was only for a night, it did not bother us.  

Very clean 
Standing shower. 

Simple coffee and tea. Oops, the strawberries are not included. 

We took a short stroll around Myeongdong before heading back to our hotel room early. We needed to pack for the camp and have a good rest since we had to catch an early train the next day. It was raining the whole day and we were warned that it would be very cold the next day....

Our view while on the train to was really freezing...even with gloves, our fingers were all frozen stiff. 

Snow!!! Never thought all white would be so pretty.

We had a few hours of break before the camp's young children arrived so we were brought out for lunch and a mini-tour around Naju. Having done the camp for three consecutive years, we never really had the chance to go around Naju. We have only tasted their nationwide famous Naju pears so we were all looking forward to explore what this little town had in store for us. We were first brought to this restaurant along a small road, where it is known for their galbi. I was a little under the weather so in order to maintain the stamina I needed for the camp, I intended to go slow on the food intake but when the food and side dishes arrived, the urge was too much to resist.

Mouth-watering beef galbi. The side-dishes were simply delicious as well. Indeed, the food in the Naju is simply...heavenly.....

We were brought to the restaurant early to avoid the lunch crowd. When we were outside, we were certainly not expecting such spacious, clean and warm interior. 

Hopefully with this business card, you can find your way there with a local driver.

Next, we experienced one of the locals' favorite pastime - hiking. A slow walk to digest the heavy lunch was welcomed. However, we were a bit apprehensive at first and unsure if the hike would be more intense than expected, but when we arrived at Geumsongsan, we were put at ease by the beauty of Mother Nature. The air was so fresh that we were rejuvenated and were more than ready to take on the hiking challenge.

The freshness of the air couldn't be captured no matter how good a photographer I am. 

Signs of winter setting in. Apparently, in the summer, the area in the background becomes a swimming pool. 

My favourite shot - the combining beauty of the seasons. 

Thankfully, the walk up wasn't not steep so we were able to stop and enjoy the scenery. 

The fallen autumn leaves, when mixed with the rain and snow, made it slippery. Good hiking shoes are recommended. 

The walls of a temple in the background. 

The lake just at the entrance before the drive into Geumsongsan.

We were brought to a mansion for tea! Just like the ones we saw in Korean dramas! SO romantic. 

We just need a good-looking Korean actor to share the bench with. 

The interior of the cafe matches the romantic exterior. It felt as if we were set back in time and were in an English cafe with warm wall papers and yellow lighted chandeliers. Food like pasta and sandwiches were served in this cafe but we had stomach for only the beverages. We ordered coffee and Korean red date tea and their traditional ginger tea. Everyone in the group agreed that the tea was simply marvellous. The red date tea was more like a red date soup, thick and flavorful. As a friend put it," Unlike what we have back home, where we throw in one date or two and call it red date tea." Funny but true. Their ginger tea was also thick but the ginger taste was not too overwhelming that it burns the throat. The ginger tea or should I call it soup, was sweet and warmed the body up immediately. It was certainly much needed in the cold that was creeping in even as we enjoyed ourselves.

Traditional Korean Ginger Tea. Photo Credit: instagram @janelkuuu

Caffe Latte. Photo Credit: instagram @janelkuuu

Naju is indeed a beautiful and peaceful little town. You would need to drive or engage a driver if you want to explore the place. With the new KTX line, it takes only 2.5 hours so if time is tight, you can just choose to do a day trip. Definitely a relaxing trip, away from the crowd and rush in Seoul. 

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