Korea Trip 2018: Day 14 – Seoul

This was from my second-last day in Korea in September 2018. Yes, as of the time of this post, that trip took place seven months earlier, but I’d been swamped with so much work that I hadn’t had the time to post all these photos. …


This also happened to be the Korean Thanksgiving weekend, my final two days in Korea during my two-week stay. There was obviously mixed feelings on my part… knowing that it was nice to return home soon – but also sad to be leaving.

IMG_8319

Just like my trip to Los Angeles back in August, I enjoyed the carefree “lifestyle” where I didn’t have to rush anywhere (other than to make sure I got to the airport early and also to not miss the tour bus every morning during the four-day tour at the beginning of this Korean trip).

On this final Saturday in Korea, N.H. took me out to enjoy the city of Seoul. It didn’t matter where we went; the important thing is we had a chance to hang out.

IMG_8639

We stopped by this booth which had a book of proverbs and customers could choose one from that book and have it written out in Korean. N.H. told the lady my name and they tried to figure out how to write my name in Korean too!

If I was asked what that proverb said and meant, haha, during that time and the week I returned home, I could recite it. But now, seven months later, it’s a blur. All I can remember is there was reference of the obstacle of snow in the path and how the successful person clears the path instead of waiting for it to be cleared.

Anyway, it’s something about being proactive instead of being passive – as far as I can remember.

IMG_8640IMG_8641IMG_8643IMG_8644IMG_8645IMG_8646

N.H. wanted to take me to a street food place but it was closed because of the holiday weekend. So, we had a change in plans… we also stopped by a bookstore near the subway station nearby.

IMG_8647

And then dinner time… unfortunately, I don’t usually eat a lot, and there was plenty of food…. My regret was that I didn’t eat more. This was really delicious. I hope I didn’t come across as not liking the food… because I really did. I just don’t usually eat that much.

IMG_8648IMG_8649IMG_8650

I don’t normally drink either… but this time, I gladly drank and I enjoyed every minute of it. This was, up to that point, the best part about my trip.

IMG_8651IMG_8652

But all good things must come to an end… this photo was taken near my hotel. This wrapped up the second and final Saturday of my time in Korea. And the next day – late afternoon on Sunday – would be the time to say goodbye and return home…

Advertisements

Korea Trip 2018: The Tale of the Two Ginsengs

IMG_7938

It was the best of times… it was the worst of times…

Well, not quite the best of times but a good one nonetheless. During the first day of a four-day tour I had with HanaTour, where I was on a Eastern tour of South Korea, the first stop was at a ginseng tea/coffee shop called Mieene Coffee – located in a small shopping area – for a short break.

IMG_7934.JPG

The tour guide highly recommended this coffee shop, which was manned by a young woman on this particular morning. She didn’t seem to understand – or speak – English, so the guide was the one who spoke to her.

According to the tour guide, this shop was opened within the last couple of years and the owner was the woman’s brother.

IMG_7936.JPG

I had never tried “Ginseng and Juice” (or, ginseng juice) before, so I ordered a cup.

IMG_7937.JPG

It wasn’t as bitter as I thought it would be. There was some honey available for customers, but I didn’t need any.

IMG_7935.JPG

The worst of times – or one of them anyway – came in the second week of my stay in Korea. I was part of a half-day tour with another company, and at the end of the tour we came to a high-end ginseng store, which was located in an office tower.

There were many photo opportunities on the ground floor in the lobby area…

…until we were summoned to enter the elevator.

I initially had no idea what this part of the tour was – as it wasn’t on the itinerary. So, we entered the elevator and were guided to the second or third floor – I can’t remember – and a Filipino woman started explaining ginseng information to us.

I took a picture of a display (the red sign below) but she told me, “No video or photos, sir.” Well, I guess I didn’t know.

20180919_191825.jpg

As we all walked in – this was some kind of hallway with charts and stats and info and history about Korean ginseng on the walls – she was explaining different facts about Korean ginseng. She tried to be funny but I really didn’t think her jokes were that good. I guess I found her to be “corporate,” so to speak. Hey, that’s her job, so good for her.

Anyway, we soon came into a room which was essentially a store room, with all kinds of ginseng products in display cases. There was a group of us, and the Filipino woman asked us all to come close as she continued explaining the benefits of Korean ginseng.

I was standing near the counter… and as soon as the presentation was over, one female sales rep began doing her sales pitch on me (and others on some of the other members of the tour group).

I found her to be pushy. She kept going on and on, trying to make me buy something. I didn’t appreciate it. Finally, I thanked her (out of courtesy, of course) and walked away from the counter to join two other members of the tour group, both of whom were not badgered by any of the salespeople as they were smart enough to stand away from the counter.

I’m simply not a fan of this sort of tactic by the salesperson; it’s like she didn’t care about you as a person but she looked only at you like you were going to make her extra commissions.

So, the story of two ginsengs… one positive, one not so positive…

Korea Trip 2018: Days 2-3 in Seoul

IMG_7899

Okay, so I arrived in Korea on Sunday, September 9, and the following day in Seoul I was checking out Ssamzigil and some street food along Insadong Street. I even had some food from Subway. I also checked out a temple near the hotel.

IMG_7898

IMG_7897

IMG_7900

On the evening of Day 2, a couple of friends visited my hotel and we went out for food nearby in what was a very busy area – which kind of reminded me of Robson Street with all the food places around.

After walking around for a bit to find a good restaurant, we finally stopped by one. We had beef tripe, which is popular in Korea (according to the two friends).

IMG_7926

IMG_7921

IMG_7920

For me, it was a lot of food – too much. It was warm too, and because I wasn’t used to the time difference between Vancouver and Seoul (a 16-hour difference), by the night of Day 2, I was exhausted and restless.

I know I’d said earlier this busy street/area reminded me of Robson Street back home. I should say too, when we were walking around this area, for me it also felt like a maze. It’s a place I could easily get lost in. And yet it reminded me of Gastown – and even a little bit of Yaletown – back in Vancouver.

Anyway, I couldn’t tell you the names of those streets other than to say that the whole area felt like a maze. You turn left and walk along, then turn right (or left), and so on…

After dinner, we also walked around an area called Gwanghwamun and Gwanghwamun Square.

IMG_7923

Meeting the friends marked the end of Day 2 in Korea. After that, I was completely spent. I could barely open my eyes.

Day 3 would be when I started my tour with the tour company. The guide and driver were to pick me up from the hotel at 8 a.m.

img_7930-e1537244423219.jpg

IMG_7931

After breakfast at the hotel – I got up really early and ate at 6:33 am – I started on the journey. The first stop was Jinjuseong Fortress, which is historically linked to the Japanese invasion in 1592.

But before that, there would be a three-hour drive, we were told by the tour guide. (When I say “we,” I mean myself and a family of three who was part of the group.) As it turned out, it was a four-hour drive… and for part of the ride, I closed my eyes and fell asleep… zzz…

The guide did a good job of explaining a lot of things to us during the drive. He mentioned something about a special lane that we could use because there were four or more people in the vehicle… the difference in house prices in different parts of Korea… some history… he was very good.

The photos below were taken at around 8:25 and 8:30 am, as we were starting out on what turned out to be a four-hour drive…

IMG_7932

IMG_7933

More to come…

Korea Trip 2018: Street Food (Ssamzigil area, Seoul)

During my second day in Korea – on what was a fairly warm day in Seoul – I checked out what appeared to be a tourist part of the city, near the Ssamzigil area along Insadong Street.

20180909_230051.jpg

I came to this little stand run by an elderly couple and was intrigued by the pictures showing the different chalbas that he was serving. I decided to get the Hot & Spicy Chicken Chalba, which cost 3,000 won each.

What’s a chalba? Well, according to the English words, it’s a Korean burrito.

20180909_225645

20180909_225823-e1536969890578.jpg

20180909_225714.jpg

Well, it was really spicy – and greasy. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be any napkins – and there was no garbage can around! (I had to walk several blocks along Insadong Street before finding one.) But really greasy…

20180909_233228-e1536967783367.jpg

I also tried the chicken skewer stand further down Insadong Street. It was 2,000 won per stick, and the options were – according to the displayed sign – spicy, regular, not spicy, barbecue, and salt & pepper. I picked the regular and found it to be spicy! I guess that explained the difference between “regular” and “not spicy”… or maybe the English words on the sign were not the proper translations.

20180909_233153

20180909_233204.jpg

Once again, very sticky and messy like the chalba… and also the guy who ran the stand gave very tiny pieces of napkin.

Obviously, there were other things to try too on Insadong, but on this afternoon these were the only two things that I had.

Korea Trip 2018: Day 2 (Cont’d)

Monday morning, September 10, 2018 – Day 2 of Korea Trip 2018: Sights from around my hotel area… I was staying at the Center Mark Hotel in Seoul…

After breakfast, I took a walk outside the hotel – this was 8:30 a.m. and there were many people commuting to work (or school). It was WARM…. holy cow…

IMG_7896

IMG_7895

IMG_7893

The walk had come after my breakfast at the hotel:

img_78891.jpgIMG_7888

20180909_143641[1].jpgView from one of the top floors in the hotel – looking out the window…

IMG_7886Then, to a temple near the hotel… Man, tons of people were here – it was now after 10 a.m. … I guess these folks don’t have to work!

20180909_1753461.jpg20180909_175631[1].jpg20180909_18083120180909_18041120180909_175346-e1536929308805.jpg20180909_18100020180909_17594320180909_17570820180909_180724Food time… first, Subway for lunch….

Then, in the late afternoon, street food…

20180909_225645

20180909_233153

(More to come later…)