Hello Korea!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Korea has always been on the top of my travel bucket list ever since when I saw "Sungkyunkwan Scandal" (성균관 스캔들) starring Park Yoochun and Park Min Young back in 2010. I even took the initiative to learn Korean in 2013 because I wanted to be able to understand what people were saying in dramas and on variety shows. Plus, I thought that it'll be fun to learn something new for where my interests were at.

Our Korea trip was originally planned for 5 people (me, my two sisters and two cousins), but because our schedules didn't match up with our cousins', we went separately. As a result, it took some time persuading our parents (namely, my mum) to let my and my sisters go on this trip by ourselves. It took days of intense pleading and convincing, but she eventually caved in and said yes. That was in March when we bought our tickets, so from then on, it was just months and months of planning and waiting for our trip from 20 November to 5 December 2015—a total of two weeks.

The lead up was particularly exciting because I felt like my 8 months of planning was finally coming together. I had work on the morning of our flight, but I left early at around 1:30pm to go home before heading off to the airport. Our flight was at 10:15pm—flying from Sydney to Guangzhou (廣州) first before taking another flight to Seoul. The reason why we decided to do a stopover and not fly directly to Seoul is because it was cheaper. We saved like $300-$400 each. Both flights were with China Southern Airlines (again).

Sydney ✈ Guangzhou

We got to the airport at around 8:00pm, where we immediately went to check-in our luggage at the China Southern counters. Luckily, I checked-in online the day before we left so we saved ourselves probably about 40-50 minutes of waiting time—I just marched straight up to the "Online Check-In" counter, which surprisingly, had no one waiting in line. (But man, checking in checked baggage took so long.)

On the plane, we didn't manage to get a window seat so we sat in a row of 3 in the middle. The flight itself turned out to be much more bearable than I had expected and 9 hours went by pretty fast. I think the fact that we got roomier seats added to this comfort. The food was only average, but dinner was definitely better than breakfast. Since they always have two options for your main meals, Shirley and I always got both options rather than the same one so that we get to try all the plane food they have available on the flight.

When we arrived in Guangzhou, the first thing we did was to find a place to eat. There weren't many restaurants opened at 5:00am in the morning, so we just settled on some random shop near the check-in counters and ordered two bowls of noodles, which didn't taste good at all. (But at least the restaurant had free wifi!) We were in Guangzhou for 4 hours, but we didn't need a visa because Australia is one of those countries where its citizens can visit China for 72 hours visa free.

Guangzhou ✈ Seoul

We flew to Seoul in the morning at 9:25am Guangzhou local time, but for some reason, I felt more restless during the 3 hour flight to Seoul than the 9 hour flight from Sydney. However, the food was much better. The kimchi wasn't great, but the eel that we got was really good—especially for plane food. (I definitely wouldn't mind having it again!)

When we finally arrived at Incheon International Airport at around 1:35pm, we went to get our AREX Tickets for the ride from the airport to Seoul Station. We decided to catch the Express Train because it only takes about 43 minutes to arrive at our destination. However, you can always opt for the All-Stop Train which is the cheaper alternative and takes about 56 minutes to reach Seoul Station. I think I should also mention how good the airport's free wifi was. When we landed, we got connected right away—no password was needed, and there was no lag either. It was so fast.

After we got our tickets, we bought some snacks from a nearby 7-Eleven store—namely, 4 triangle kimbaps (samgak kimbap 삼각김밥) and the famous Korean banana milk (as well as the strawberry flavour one). As you can see from the photo below, they also have the milk in light banana and melon flavour. My favourite is the original one (but the light one comes in pretty close).

After checking in at our apartment, we went to eat our first proper meal in Korea: Bonjuk (본죽) in Myeongdong (명동). We ordered kimchi octopus congee (my favourite one), seaweed congee and vegetable congee—and OMG, it was amazing. Not only were the servings big, the congee was flavourful and so so hearty. I highly recommend going to Bonjuk or Migabon (미가본), congee is the best comfort food when you don't feel like eating anything heavy, when you're feeling a bit sick, or when it's super cold. It'll definitely leave your stomachs feeling very happy.

It was a long day of travel, so I didn't have anything planned on my itinerary knowing how tired we would be by the end of it. Therefore, we just spent the rest of the day exploring the streets of Myeongdong, eating some street food and buying a few beauty products here and there.

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