Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Seoul in Winter (Day 1: Getting There Fast and Taking It Slow)

We've made it to the much anticipated year-end vacation to none other than.... no prizes for guesses!

We've been to Korea a number of times now, and you'd think that with every trip we would get more and more adventurous. Sorry to disappoint, but this year has been one of those when we really needed a vacation that would allow us to relax and recharge, and we made sure the two week itinerary for this trip allows that. Hence, we decided to plonk ourselves in the heart of the city, make plenty of time to just be together as a family, and hopefully visit something interesting everyday.

The excitement was just overwhelming coming into D-day. It was written all over the faces of the girls since they woke up but thanks to work and other responsibilities, there was still so much last minute packing and housework to be done. When we finally made our way to Terminal 3 for dinner, it finally felt real.

The online check-in allowed us to get into the transit area quickly after arrival at the airport. The airline staff from SIA were on site to help us with the printing of boarding passes and dropping off our (very many) check-in luggage.

After a treat at Burger King, Mummy wanted to get a gift for our friends from another terminal and the girls pleaded to stay at the T3 play-area where they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. We were surprised that although it was already very late, there were still so many active and energetic children all over the place. They made new friends very quickly and I hardly heard from them until it was time to board.

Quite an awesome play-area with slides, plenty of climbing, and most of all, plenty of company!
The younger girl knocked out for most of the flight but the older one indulged in the entertainment system on board our flight before falling asleep only hours after. It was a far cry from the days when we used to struggle with crying babies and diaper changes. As expected, they struggled to wake up and have some breakfast before arrival, but there were some items we could take with us from the kids' meal.

When we alighted, there was some confusion as we lost Daddy after our toilet break and ended up being so delayed trying to link up again that the ground staff collected all our baggage and were about to take them to the Lost-and-Found counter. We finally found each other, cleared immigration and got our bags and boarded our bus for the apartment that we booked via Airbnb.com.

Glad to be on our way. We all spent most of the hour-plus ride in dreamland.

Alighting at Myeongdong we were faced with the full-force of the cold and immediately we opened our check-in luggage to pull out all our heavier jackets. Thankfully. the apartment was just a short walk away, and we were impressed with the spaciousness of the single-room apartment on the fifth floor. The girls got unpacking automatically like they rehearsed the whole drill and Daddy and Mummy were so impressed at their housekeeping and effort to keep the place tidy. It was not a hotel so there was no room make-up service, and it would help if they kept this up. The host who spoke fluent English (which we found out later he self-taught) patiently brought us through the facilities of the building, the workings of the room, and even recommended his favourite places to eat Korean BBQ and fried chicken. He even offered to call in a delivery if we were too tired to go out and have lunch. One of the things about staying in Korea is the recycling culture and we were also informed how to separate the different recyclable materials into various trash compartments and where and when to empty our trash.

The room came with a dressing table, a dining table, a kitchenette, a small sitting balcony and a beautiful toilet. Everything seemed to be provided from hair-dryer, adapters and charging ports, towels and toiletries, dishes and kitchen ware. Even the washing machine came with detergent.

Floral decorations on the beds.

The dressing table. The large mirror is useful when you for the three ladies and you can guess the table was covered in girl-stuff very quickly after.

The sitting area in the balcony.

But our tummies were rumbling and we heeded to the call to visit one of Mummy's favourite local eating houses round the corner for our welcome-meal. There was no agenda today except to clear some of the items ordered by our friends (mostly cosmetic and skin-care items), catch up on some sleep, and pay a visit to the family who hosted Mummy on her very first visit to Korea.

The girls shared a dumpling soup with rice and Mummy had a hot bowl of kimchi soup.

Daddy loves the meaty broths, and had ox-tail soup this time.

Hitting the streets for a stroll, we soon found out that we forgot to bring along our passport to facilitate the tax-refund, and had to come back another day to get more shopping done. Good thing we only stay upstairs!

Post-lunch was spent napping in the room. The girls were knocked out cold for the next four hours, and Daddy (the avid runner) went out to clock more mileage. Perhaps he will summarize the running experience in a separate post for those who wish to know more about the beautiful places to jog. Seoul in winter is where you have to layer up for the cold run during the hottest part of the afternoon! Daddy took the opportunity to check out the money-changing rates at various parts of town, but came to the conclusion that the changer just below our apartment was still the best.

Beautiful marsh gardens beside the Cheonggyecheon stream.

The stream is bordered by the the cityscape nearer Myeongdong.

By the time the girls finally woke up, Daddy had showered  and we got ready to meet our friends. We took the subway even though it was just two stops away, and spent a meaningful couple of hours catching up with the family over some food, taking photographs, playing with their dog, exchanging gifts and souvenirs. We were so amazed by the size of the apples and pears here that our friends passed us an entire bag. I learnt they were called Busa apples and we have been seeing them at the local markets here. Always wanted to try one. There was some time to check out the street-food at Myeongdong for supper before turning in at almost midnight!

Baked sweet potato is comforting on a cold night.

Daddy takes a bite into the massive Busa apple, ... ... and another bite, and another bite, and another bite...

Day one has come to an end. We like the pace, and hope to keep it up tomorrow. For now, it's going to be a good night's sleep and we're so excited what awaits us tomorrow!

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