The morning we arrived at Korea’s Incheon Airport, we were starving. Our guide Sulong allowed us an hour to eat in the airport before we start our tour. This was the start of a very tiring week in Korea. We were sleepy and tired and hungry.
We stopped at the first local resturant and looked at the waxed display on the window. Mike was attracted by the oyster porridge. Aaron and I decided to share a bowl of beef noddle, which was a good decision, cos the bowl was huge. Glen and Destine could not finish their noodles. We were happy to swap around and taste each other’s food.
After the breakfast, all of us dragged our many luggages to our bus. There were much confusion, as there were other Chan Bros’ group as well and we did not know which bus is ours. After sorting ourselves out, we were off to our first destination, Nami Island.
Nami Island was not an island until a dam was built. The water level rised and the island was formed. During the last financial crisis in 1998, the owner of this private island tried to sell the island, but there were no takers, even though he dropped the price many times. Finally, a director asked his permission to film a TV drama there. That TV drama, Winter Sonata, propelled the island to a tourist destination and made the owner very rich.
As we were nearing winter, the autumn colours were mostly gone, leaving barren brown hues which had its own beauty. The temperature was below freezing and we were shivering in our thin clothes.
Too bad I did not watch the series, but I was told the actress either went blind or died, which was quite common for Korean series.
After Nemi Island, it was lunch, a pan fried chicken dish cooked in a center hotpot, accompanied by many small side dishes comprising of kimchi, and anchovy. A good start to many Korean meals to come.
Unknown to many tourists visiting Korea, other than a tour guide, we were also accompanied by a photographer, sort of a job creation, whereby he earns money from the photos that he took. Thomas, our local tour guide is a fourth generation Chinese, and despite this, non-Korean residents are not allowed citizenship, and he takes a Taiwanese citizenship. Kelvin, our photographer, was a 33 year old typical Korean men, very much like a huge polar bear, (Thomas ‘s description) white and large but gentle and cuddly. During meal time, both of them were always busy serving extra helpings of kimchi, etc. Something we appreciated very much.
The next destination was the Changdukgung Palace, designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were lucky that while there, they had an enactment of the Emperor and Empress passing through.
Korean history is seeped with Chinese influence, since they started during the period of Three Kingdom. Thus, the architecture of the palace and the placement of various courts were similar to Tiananmen. Thomas told us that the Chinese tourists scoffed at the small scale of the palace, often comparing with their own Tiananmen, and reminded us the scale of the Korean peninsula as compared to the Chinese mainland. We, Singaporean of course has no such hangups, since we can only boast of the Istana. Anyway, Singaporeans have higher self esteem then to make comparison to anything.
After having Korean History lessons from Thomas, which I skipped, like when I was in school, we were dropped off in a Korean mall for some shopping before we headed for seafood steamboat dinner.
Korean meals are mostly vegetables, which we did not mind, but Thomas said many other groups had complained about the food, and so his company had added in a few slices of pork in the soup for us.
He warned us to keep an open mind for Korean food, as towards the end of the tour, he often received many complains that there were nothing much to eat, except kimchi.
Thomas, you needn’t worry about our group, until today, we are still missing it very much.