Monday, August 17, 2015

Sarah's Travelogue - Korea 2015 Part 3 (Getting our butt frozen on Hallasan 한라산)

Part 3 of #baojingkorea2015 is the highlight of the trip! :) Hike up the Hallasan. 

Hallasan is the highest mountain in South Korea and it's a day trip up and down. We decided to do it on a Sunday, hoping that the crowd will be lesser. :) 

Prior to the trip, I went to get some equipment to prepare myself. Don't want to get caught in any situation up there as this time it's just Mr. and myself. Gotten a pair of cleats to prevent myself from slipping (gotta admit I don't have got balancing) and a pair of windproof jacket from Marmot. Super lightweight and it kept my from the cold throughout the trip! :)
FYI, I bought these from Campers' Corner at Waterloo Street. They sell all sort of hiking stuff, highly recommended as the staff there are extremely helpful with your needs.

We woke up around 4am in the morning, getting ready and having some light breakfast before driving to the base Seongpanak (성판악). We decided to start our hike here as it is the most common trail that will lead to the Peak. On our way up, rain (or maybe I should say 冰泡) started to fall. We did not expect that and the temperature dropped to sub temperature. 







These photos were taken at the risk of exposing my hands to the bitter cold. But it's too serene and pretty not to capture it. I must say that these photos definitely do not justify the beauty of Hallasan. Breathtaking. 

On and on we walked, we started to sweat a bit since we will all covered up with our scarf and beanie. Honestly, I felt a bit out of place when I see the other hikers wearing full gear, with the hiking stick, I was dressed thinking of posing #OOTD if there's any scenic background. 



Everywhere was covered with white snow, and at some point of time the snow was falling quite heavily that my lashes was covered with it. We started to ascend and because of these fresh snow we have to take real slow steps. Our legs kept sinking into the soft snow so we had to use our hands to push ourselves up. We were quite slow and along the way more hikers caught up with us. LOL!

Anyway, we survived till the midpoint and had a quick water break and continue our trekking before our body cools down. Step by step we walked and walked, sometimes we just kept quiet and concentrate on our footsteps.



At one point of time, there was a commotion in front and I looked up to short botak trees covered with snow. First scene that came to my mind was the K-Drama "That Winter, the wind blows". Everything looked the same except there wasn't any bell ringing, but strong wind howling at us. Oh, and we're missing Jo In Sung here. *LOL!*

IT WAS SO ROMANTIC, even though there were quite an handful of people. We risked our hands again just to pose with the twist sign. The final pit stop was just a 5-minute walk away, and it was crowded with hikers taking a quick lunch. 

We brought some snickers (energy bar) and triangle kimbap (삼각김밥) for our lunch. Unfortunately, the kimbap became hard from the cold. We washed down with hot water from the thermos flask (that's the best thing I brought along). The 아줌마 (auntie) sitting beside me gave me some homemade sandwich when she saw the harden kimbap. Super sweet of her. :) 

When we're done and ready to conquer the peak, we went out to strong wind that took us off caught. Just about 200m from the pit stop, my fingers were so painful. I have never encountered such pain before and I was so scared. Seriously, this was the first time I was so scared I'm going to lose my fingers. The pricking pain was so consistent that I couldn't even bend them. 

Mr. suggested to descend as we were not well prepared for the weather. And the wind will only get stronger as we are nearer to the peak. 




The walk back to base was long and tiring. But although we didn't manage to go up the peak, it was definitely an eye opener for us. This is the first time I actually see real snow falling on me, and that was the best gift I took back. :)

video

:) Here's a video of the falling snow or ice pops?

Someday I'll be back again and this time, the Peak will be waiting for us.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Sarah's Travelogue - Korea 2015 Part 2 (Free & Easy in Jeju)

Part 2 of my Korea Travelogue starts with exploring the Northern Part of Jeju Island, mainly Jeju City.

We started off with Jeju Love Land (제주러브랜드) which required 18 years old & above for admission. I saw lots of people uploading photos of very erotic (maybe just for fun) photos and I decided to go there and have a look.

I would say you need to take it with an open heart, and some of the sculptures are quite funny.


PS: I'm not posting too many photos of Loveland as some of the images can be a bit too graphical for kids. Not sure who's going to be reading this blogpost anyway. :):):)

We spent about an hour plus there before driving back to the Airport to get our return air tickets changed. As mentioned in the previous post, we did not book our tickets online before arriving in Korea. Thus, we bought them over the counter and we realized that we got the wrong date back to Seoul. We were quite surprised that we did not have to pay any extra fees to change our tickets. Thank you Asiana Airlines for the help rendered even though I can see that you're trying your best to understand my Singlish. *LOL!* 

Lunch was next on the list, and since we're already at the Jeju International Airport, we decided to drop by Heuk-dwaeji (Black Pork) Street. The name already suggested what you will be eating. :) 

I remember from the last trip to Jeju, the tour guide brought us to one of the recommended shop by locals. But I can't seem to find the name and thus, we decided to try Hwaro Hyang Restaurant which is just located right in front of the street sign.





For a portion of the black pork, it costs us about 16,000 WON (S$20) which is quite similar pricing to Singapore. However, the pork is fresh and lightly marinated with just sea salt on top. The lady knows that we're not locals and helped us to grill to perfection. Each order also come with 2 stone bowls: Seafood stew (very refreshing on a cold day) + a steam egg.

I would say this is a very satisfying meal, and kept me happy before a long day visiting the attractions.

GPS Coordinates: 724-4050

Drove around in the rain is another kind of feeling, especially in a foreign country and just listening to our iPod.

After getting our stomach filled, we went to the Gimnyeong Maze Park (김녕미로공원). I read online that before going into the maze, there are lots of cats roaming around outside. I've a weakness for cats so this is a chance that I'm not going to let go off.







I'm never a puzzle girl, so asking me to walk out of the maze is like asking me to drink a bottle of coke within 10 seconds. Even though the boy gave me a 1 minute head start, in the end I decided to meet him and follow his directions. 

A short to enjoy all the greenery, and breathe in the fresh air.

GPS Coordinates: 782-9266

About 5 minutes drive away is the famous Manjanggul Cave [UNESCO World Heritage] (만장굴 [유네스코 세계자연유산]). Since we had quite a sinful lunch, we thought having a short hike underground might burn the calories away. 


It's quite cooling to walk inside the tunnels, but do bear in mind it's wet and lots of small stones, so I definitely recommend wearing shoes (rather than slippers) there. A short 1 km distance, which is open to the tourists, so it shouldn't take up more than an hour inside.

GPS Coordinates: 783-4818

After seeing the lava tube, it's time to make our way back to our house, as we didn't want to drive back when it's dark. We're still getting used to drive on the left hand side, so if there's ample lighting we will feel more comfortable.

Decided to have an early dinner, stopped by the E-Mart to get our breakfast and snacks for the Hallasan Hike the next day. What we didn't know is that in Jeju, 1 of the Saturdays of the month, the big supermarket will be closed so that the smaller marts will be able to do their businesses. So we actually kept driving around trying to find a provisional mart. In the end, we got our breakfast from those 24-hour marts (limited choices, just some snickers bar).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sarah's Travelogue - Korea 2015 Part 1 (Free & Easy in Jeju)

Just came back from our Free & Easy Korea trip 2 weeks ago. Been so busy with work that I can only start to pen down on the fun and adventure we had during our time in Korea.


First thing first, we booked our Flight tickets from Singapore Airlines. Honestly speaking, this is my first SQ experience, and I was quite excited about it. Tell me who's isn't when you kept seeing posts on Facebook about getting world class services on a SQ Flight.


Promotion tickets cost us about S$700/pax


We took the 0805 Flight which will take us to Incheon Airport by 1500 (local time) about 6.5 hours of flying time. 


First time getting a menu on board a Flight :)

 My first meal on board the SQ

Cleared the immigration within an hour, and we went looking for our Pocket WiFi. We booked it through their online website here. It costs us US$5.25/day (all around Korea, including Jeju Island) with a refundable US$50 deposit (in case you did not return them the router after using). It's quite reasonable-priced as we didn't want to change our SIM card to a local one. Singtel is charging S$15/day for unlimited usage for the data roaming package. So all in all, we decided to rent from the Pocket WiFi.

We took quite a long time to find them as we were expecting to collect from a counter. However, they're just sitting at the passengers seats with 2 luggage full of the routers.

To be precise in locating them, you can find them at Exit 7 on 3rd floor of Passenger Terminal in Incheon airport.


After which we made our way to Gimpo International Airport for the domestic flight to Jeju Island. Initially we wanted to buy our tickets online first, but after much considerations, I decided that we should buy over the counter. It might be more expensive but we didn't want to risk missing our flight due to unforeseen situations, like flight delay, cannot clear immigration on time, etc. 

Airport Railroad (AREX) is the most convenient way to get to Gimpo International Airport. They have 2 types of tickets, Express Train (Non-Stop all the way to Seoul Station) or the All Stop Train. Just need to be careful when buying the tickets if you're going to Gimpo International Airport. 

Fare Cost: 3,550 WON (S$4.45)/trip/pax

Once you reached Gimpo International Airport, all the airlines there will have flights to Jeju Island. We took the Asiana Airlines as they have the earliest flight out (7:25pm) and return tickets cost us 389,600 WON (S$243.50/pax).

 

50 minutes of flight time and we're in Jeju Island, temperature was quite cold around 3°C. We put on our coats and sweater and waited for the Shuttle Bus which will take us to the KT Rental.

Self-drive in Jeju Island is highly recommended, as the buses are on schedule and frequecy is about an hour. You will need an International Driving Permit (IDP) in order to rent a car there. Even though the Singapore Driving License is an international license, in Korea they do not accept that. You can always get the IDP from the Automotive Association Singapore. There is a validity period for this IDP, so I suggest you to apply an least 2 weeks before your actual trip. 

Shuttle bus is free services by KT Rental, about 10 minutes drive away from the Airport.

 


When you make the online reservations, you do not have to make any payment yet. Payment is made over the counter and they only take credit cards (no cash payment).

5 days of rental cost us 185,100 WON (S$236). If you calculate daily, it's around S$47.20/day. It's so much cheaper to rent a car in Korea! The rental comes with insurance & English GPS navigation to bring us around.

2736! We love this car so much! :)


 

We rented the Hyundai Avante (automatic) and we had a great time driving it. Both of us had our first time driving on the left hand side (opposite to Singapore) and initially we kept taking reference from the right side. It takes us some time to get use to it, and after that it's a breeze to drive around Jeju.

Our accommodation in Jeju for 4 nights is at Dreaming Forest Pension. We booked through Agoda and the rates are quite reasonable. S$348 for 4 nights for a standard double house. It's about an hour half drive from the Airport, located in Seogwipo (2nd city in Jeju Island).

GPS Coordinates: 738-1010

FYI, the telephone number is the GPS coordinates used in Jeju Island. Similar to our Postal Codes in Singapore.





 

 

 

This is not exactly the kind of hotels room that we booked. It's more of a 2-storey house with Kitchen, bathroom & living room. The bedroom is on the upper deck (with dressing table & hair dryer!) whereas at the lower deck, we have a living room, dining table, kitchen and bathroom.

We also have a small balcony to enjoy the scenery outside, sipping coffee and having breakfast. Kitchen comes equipped with pots and pans, utensils & even plates. So we can actually cooked our meals if needed. 

When we arrived at the house, we were too tired to go out for food, and were really surprised to find a basket with instant noodles & eggs in it. The owner prepared these for us and we were so glad to have something to eat. 



Had our dinner, cleaned up and fell asleep before a long day out tomorrow.