Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Seoul Searching (Part 2)

11th Dec 05

“Ring! Ring!” Morning call came in at 7am. We packed up and headed downstairs for dinner. We had a typical Western style breakfast with scrambled eggs, fries, sausages, bread and orange juice.

After breakfast, we headed to a lake cruise. The morning weather was chilling and the place is even colder at the lake. All I can think about when I stepped out from the bus was to run into the boat. But you know, as a tour, we need to wait for everyone else.

I took this time to admire the beauty of the lake. It has crystal clear water with rocky gorges surrounding it. The place was basically un-spoilt, un-polluted and the gorges stood magnificent in the distance, avenging the harsh weather.

After everyone gathered up, we board the boat. Thank God they have good heater inside the boat. As we cruise along the lake, we saw an amazing sight. The gorges on the east are dry and the gorges on the west are covered with snow. It’s amazing that two gorges separated by just the small lake can have such a different effect. As we moved on, they pointed out that one of the gorges had a rock formation that looked like a giant tortoise. Those who are able to see it will have a long life. I think I saw it but I was not sure if that was the tortoise they meant
There are several other formations but sorry…I got a little bit bored and almost dozed off. Haha!

The next stop would be Groto (Gosu Cave). This limestone cave has a narrow passage way leading from one formation to another. Each formation had a unique name. I remembered a particular one which looks like an eagle. Nevertheless it was named as The Eagle. The cave is just like a typical limestone cave I saw in Malaysia. It could not beat Batu Caves though. The cave is wet but it has a pretty long journey towards the exit - for a cave. We took a stairs down and out in the blue, one of the guys in front slipped and fell down the stairs! Luckily he just slipped down a few stairs. It appears to be a slippery frozen ice. Believe me those thing are very, very slippery.

Time for lunch! We had yet another steamboat lunch. We had rice with a half cooked egg. The tour guide said we must put in a special chili sauce into the rice. I thought hmm…this may be nice and I can eat rice with egg just like home. Before I can put a spoonful into my mouth, the assistant tour guide, Jay came over. It appears that we must mix the rice with the egg and sauce. There goes my beautiful egg. All mixed up into a red goo. Okie…maybe it’s not that bad. I taste it and voila! It’s not that bad. Unfortunately I start to feel a bit sick and heat. I did not manage to finish it though it was good.
There were little stalls outside selling Korean souvenirs. I bought some really cute Korean key chains. Earlier we were taught how to bargain in Korea. “Sa-ke Sa-Ke” means how much or discount. So our whole tour group keep grabbing stuff from this little stall and asking the seller “Sa-ke Sa-Ke?” “Sa-ke Sa-Ke?”.

Chrisse keep asking us to be fast. We got another long journey to our next stop – Nami Island.

If you are a fan of Korean dramas, you will definitely recognize this place. It is the Winter Sonata winter shooting spot. Why did they choose this place? Well, all you got to do is to take a ride to the Island.

Situated 63km along the north of Han river, the island looks like a lead floating gracefully on top of the Cheong Pyong Lake.

The island is named after General Nami. A brave name in Korean history, who courageously fought in battles and died at the young age of 27. in year 1965, thousands of trees were planted by the hands of Byong-Do Min.

This island is a romantic getaway for lovers. Young Korean lovers love this place. As I enter the entrance of Nami Island, there was a fireplace where visitors crowd to warm themselves while waiting for the ferry to arrive. Not I walked on, there stood poem written by General Nami reflecting his powerful nature. General Nami was laid to rest in this very island.
Next, I was greeted by rows of pine trees. Two straight rows of pine trees form a narrow pathway to the heart of the island. The autumn season had stripped the pine trees’ of their leaves making it a sight to behold. Romantic Sonata floats lightly into the open crisp air. As we reached the end of the pine trees, there stood a small stage where a band of Santa performed Christmas songs. Surrounding this area were restaurants, art shop, book shop, convenient store and a bike rental shack. There was a water stage where a totally frozen iced tree stood. The entire tree was covered with crystal clear ice! It was so beautiful and mystical. Everyone rushed to take pictures with this amazing tree-you cant find it anywhere in Malaysia.

Following on was another row of trees. This pathway is named as Gingko Tree Lane. It looked similar with the White Pine Tree Lane earlier. Anyway, it just looked so pretty. We took a group photo here and I was told this was one of the spot where Winter Sonata was shot. We took countless pictures as we walked further into the pathway. The further we walked, the colder it was! I soon saw that we were walking towards a lake. When I looked at the map, it wasn’t a lake but an end of the island. This island is surely small. We could not stay very long here as the wind kept bringing in chilly breeze from the sea.

Time stands still in this island and I wish time can really stand still so that I would not need to leave. As I am writing now, I reminiscence the island again and it almost made me cry-I wish I was there now when everything was so happy and free. (Nami Island at
As it was too cold, I bought some hot hot-dog. Believe me, when it was too cold, food can really warm you up. We went back to the wrath to wait for the ferry. Everyone gathered around the fireplace while we waited for some tour mates who were lost or just do not want to leave the island. The ferry came and they are still nowhere to be seen. Another ferry came and still no sight of them. Chrisse was getting impatient again. Soon, we saw them coming and we just rushed into the ferry before we lose it again.

Goodbye Nami Island! I will always miss you…

As we reached our bus again, we found out that two of our tour mates lost their passport!
We waited while they search for their passport from the bus until back to the island. The sky got darker and darker and all of us were concerned will they ever find their passport?
It would be really messy if their passport was really lost. As the clock ticked away, we soon heard that they had found their passport. Thank God! It appears that the passports were left behind in the Island. Thank God they were not lost or worse still – stolen. Korean people are really a bunch of good citizens.

The bus took off and Chrisse told us that tonight we will reach our hotel quite late. After dinner, we still have to go to a ski rental store to rent our gears for our climatic ski trip tomorrow.
We went to a shopping bazaar to have our dinner. It was a fried kind of food.
After dinner, we went out to look at the shops. Outside the street, there are stalls selling candy and cuttlefish grilled on top of hot stones. The candy tasted special and it can be made of any shape you want. It is brown and crunchy. Totally delicate and will break into pieces with a slight touch. I bought some of these goodies. I wonder how the sellers could withstand the cold the whole night selling cuttlefish and candies? They must be strong!

I dozed off in the bus and was woken up when the bus stopped at the ski rental store. Still dazed from my sleep, I bleakly tested out my pink ski outfit. I chose my ski goggle and decided to buy the ski gloves as the ones for rent looked worn out and revolting. I hurried up the bus to catch some sleep but was woken up before I even doze off as we have reached our hotel.

Outside, the wind was crazily blowing and it hurts as it hits my face. We were now at the high mountains where the ski resort lies. No wonder it was so unusually cold. I was basically frozen from head to toe and inside out. I just wanted to get inside the hotel. We were so cold that our entire group looked like war victims scurrying in the midst of the night dragging our belongings inside. In our mind, all that we wanted was to get inside immediately. We ranged the fierce wind as it hit us hard. I can barely breathe or open my eyes as the wind was so strong that it hurts. This was the coldest time that I have ever experienced. The hotels were strangely numbered and soon we found out this was not our block of hotel.

Oh no, we have to go outside again? OK, once again, we ran outside in search of our hotel. Come to think about it now, the whole thing was pretty comical. Soon, we reach our block. Even inside the building, it was still very cold. Never mind the luggage. We carried it up until we reach our room. Open the room with our key, threw our luggage inside and shut the door for good!
When we were inside our own rooms, we soon found out that this hotel was instead an apartment. It has a living room, a kitchen with a separate room to sleep. This apartment looked very traditional and old. Earlier, we were told by Chrisse how to set up our beds.
Unlike other hotels, this one is different. We have to set up our own beds. Although it is not like the Survivor Series where we are given some items to build our own shelter, all we need to do is to place the mattresses, sheets and blanket correctly. My cousin, who was good in this just made the bed in a blink of the eye. Although it looked kind of eerie as all the sheets are white on one side and bright red on the other side. The white sheets will face us while the red sheets will face outwards. I went outside to get more pillows but I dare not open the cupboard. I just thought about Ju-On and decided not to open them.

Chrisse rang our doorbell which chimed a short music. Earlier, she informed earlier she will be making an inspection to see if we were able to set up our beds properly. Voila! We passed the test. We wished her good night and she left.

The heat comes from the floor. The floor was heated and it feels good on my feet. We took advantage of the heat to dry our clothes. The clothes in our luggage were basically dampened by the cold. We laid all our clothes on the floor and they were dry and warm after several minutes. We could not stay up too late as we need a lot of energy for tomorrow.

I rested my head on the pillow stuffed with straw. It made a clickety-clak noise as they brushed onto each other. However, they feel good on my head. I had a hard time to sleep as my nose was blocked.

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