Blend with Locals (#KoreaTrip Day 1 & 2)

I can't believe myself the first time my feet stepped on Incheon International Airport on Saturday morning. I was really in South Korea, OMG! I was having a mixed feeling. I felt weird, different, joy, warm, alone, outcast-ed. Being alone in another country's international airport was not a big deal for me since I'm used to be alone in long flight with no one to talk to but in-flight attendant.

Lack of sleep did not keep my spirit down. In fact, I was in a full of energy seeing how huge Incheon was. I was in awe seeing Incheon. Everywhere your eyes gazed you would see modern metallic designs. Even when there were a lot of people in the morning, Incheon had still more spaces for me to dance here and there. (yeah, right!) Later I know, Incheon had won the awards of being the best airport in the world for four years in a row. Can't you imagine? Incheon still won the best airport in Asia-Pacific even beat down Singapore.

Okay, skip the jaw-dropping moment of me seeing Incheon for the very first time. I was picked up by Lee Ho Joung and her mom in the arrival gate. They greeted me, "Welcome to South Korea" like I was an important tourist. Funny to know that that was the first time I was being greeted by the locals in the arrival gate. Haha!

Korea's air was too fresh. It's clearly clean. I thought I could just stand outside and breathed as much as I could. I think my lungs needed this kind of air for once in a while to keep it worked. *insert smiley face here* We then headed to Gyeonggi-do where they lived in apartment. Incheon to Gyeonggi-do took almost an hour straight without traffic. So, I assumed it was quite far with no traffic in South Korea. The distance did not make me down. In fact, I really enjoyed the ride. I looked through the window. I saw that the street was as clean as the sky. The vehicles ride flawlessly according the laws. The trees, yes, OMG the tress were all turning yellow and red. What a beautiful view I barely see in Jakarta! I was in love with South Korea for the first time.

In Lee Ho Joung's apartment, her grandma and her mom amused me with Korean festive food on the table. Rice, kimchi, prickles, seaweed soup, fish, salad, you named it. I finally understood how yummy Korean Food was in the kdrama. Yeah, I only knew about Korean food from kdrama I've watched recently (and a little taste from my Korean student). I was never a fan of Korean food. But tasting real Korean food in Korea cooked by real Korean people made me become number one fan. I could not even imagine how happy my tummy must be.

I did not even take a rest because I was keen to see South Korea. I went to Sinsa-dong Garosu-gil for the first day. It's located in Gangnam. Remember Gangnam Style music video popularized by PSY? Yep, you read it correct, GANGNAM. Gangnam is the busiest business center in Southeast Seoul. It is known among both citizens and foreign tourist.

Sinsa-dong Garosu-gil had splendid scenery in the fall, I must say. Since the trees were turning yellow and red, and leaves started to fall, it did gave me a pleasant feeling. Even though it was windy and the temperature was lower than my country, I could still feel the warmth from the trees.

Gazed around and you could see tons of peculiar stores and its unique artistic buildings. There were many many open studios, ateliers, cafes, restaurants, bars, fashion shops, and prop shops. You can just enter any shops and studios to see what are inside and what they are selling. I entered several fashion shops to see what kind of fashion they were selling. Mostly, they sold long-sleeve button, fur cropped-top, jacket, long coat, thick cardigan, big size cape, and loose cloak hooded. Well, I was tempted to buy something like long winter coat. Yet, knowing its price had made me stepped back and swallowed my confidence. Haha... Still, I loved being in the fashion shops just to see the clothes hanging in order, mannequin standing with pride, and big boxes offering sale items.

I also entered prop shop like Jaju. Jaju sells lifestyle products and brands. I think Jaju tries to compete IKEA since it sells home and living products. The difference was Jaju's products and brands were more unique and had Korean artistic style.

I walked and walked and walked..

The array of old and new shops, the combination of minimalist modern city life and the vintage of good old times made Sinsa-dong Garosu-gil a perfect place to just stroll around, have a date, hang out with friends, take pictures, or just simply sip a cup of hot tea. (Psst, it's even better if you do it with your loved ones as I saw many many Korean couples coming here just to spend their time together in the lovely afternoon).

I stopped for relaxing my feet at Twosome Place, ordered Green Tea Frappe, and read Korean magazine in English just to be looked like locals having a delight afternoon with friends. I also managed to try the a recently popular organic soft ice cream with real honey. I was being in the long line but it was definitely worth it! I ended up my first journey visiting AK Plaza and ate Nengmyun (Korean Cold Noodle) for dinner. I know it was so much walking and pictures and experiences for the first day. Yet, I was more than ready to taste another places the following days.

Myeong-dong came across my mind to be explored on the second day. So, Myeong-dong we went. Myeong-dong is one of Korea's trendiest shopping area where you can find many shops selling Korean traditional snacks, clothes, shoes, handbags, accessorizes, and cosmetics. Myeong-dong is located in Seoul. It's one of the famous places to visit in South Korea. Unlike Sinsa-dong, Myeong-dong is smaller yet the goods were much more affordable. I found long red knitted coat for only $15. Best buy ever! I rewarded myself with twisted potatoes, ddoebbokki, and gimbap for walking that long. I was so happy to be able to visit Myeong-dong. I could see some spots that were also in the Kdrama. There was also the huge Myeong-dong cathedral stood steadily in the main gate. Since it was Sunday, so people were gathering to pray.

While we're strolling...

Suddenly, the people were gathered in the small intersection in Myeong-dong. I was curious to see what had happened. It turned out to be a street performer showing off their skills of dancing. I joined the crowd and enjoyed myself watching them. They were very attractive and interactive with the crowd. They wore casual costumes and brought props to be shown during the show. What a cool performance to enjoy on Sunday noon.

We then headed Gwanghwamun Square. We passed Seoul City Hall on our way there. There was a sudden book bazaar. So, I took a rest while looking at Korean book. There was also a place where Koreans showed their grieving of Sewol Ferry Accident last April a few block from City Hall. They wrote their condolences, grieving, and mourning on a yellow thin-long cloth. I shivered looking at it. I knew I couldn't read those Hangul Letters, yet I could feel the sadness, gloomy atmosphere. May they rest in peace. Amen.

We continued our walk to Admiral Yi Sunshiin Statue at the center of Gwanghwamun Square. Yi SunShin was a Korean naval commander. He won against Japanese navy during Japanese invasion of Korea. He was like Korean heros during that time. That was Lee Ho Joung told me.

There was the 12:23 Fountains. I didn't know before why they named it 12:23 Fountain. Turned out it was because they commemorated a great victory in 1597, when Admiral Yi defeated 133 Japanese Naval Ships with only 12 ships of his own, and also recalled how he fought 23 battles without a single defeat. Wasn't he cool?

We walked along the square. We tried Korean traditional snacks (which I forgot the name) in the food bazaar and tried out Hanbok (Korean traditional costumes) for free. The weather was so hot, yet I was not tired at all. My excitement beat it down.

Well, it was truly a nice sunny Sunday in South Korea. These past two days had been very unbelievable. I was really there to witness all good things I've only seen in kdrama. It's like I was living in my dreams...




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