Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Seoul - Day 1

Hehe, if you think 'timing' is everything, then I got to have the lousiest timing ever. Of all the thousand times I dreamt about breathing the same air and walking on the same ground as HRH in Baeland, this is definitely NOT one of those scenarios i.e. HRH is NOT even there! But being the optimistic me, I comfort myself that this is the perfect opportunity to see Korea ‘free’ of any distraction of a possible gorgeous sighting. Otherwise, what else could I do? Kidnap HRH back to Seoul?? Yup, thought of that already, but golly, getting past those 52 bodyguards??? Are you kidding me? Even their necks are thicker than my thighs! Sigh!

I’ve got to confess I’m a bit hesitant to write a trip report, largely as bb said, "it’s a tiresome job". Eventhough there are tons of tourist guide books out there, still I prefer to read my Bae sisters’ trip journals. As our similarity in ‘interests’ and ‘tastes’ (hehe, u know what I mean) always leave me with a more personal impression, so I value their opinions more than any travel experts. But what more can I add when we already have such 'info & action packed' journals from our princess, camille and liezle? After all, we went to the same places, saw the same things and probably ate the same food. It’s not like I have earth shattering news, say ‘I spot HRH on the street of Seoul!’ Hahaha if I really say that, then you know I am having a case of 'desperation turned hallucination'. For this trip, instead of the popular Myeongdong, I have chosen to stay in the Gangnam area located on the south side of Han River, aka HRH's territory. Maybe you’ll like to see this different perspective of Seoul? Please be warned, this is long :) OK, let's go!

Bye bye Fujisan :) Do you see the snow-capped crater? The flight from Tokyo to Seoul took about 2 hours 45 minutes, against wind currents.

Incheon is voted as one of the 3 best airports in the world, together with Hong Kong International and Singapore Changi Airport. Hehe, notice that escalator behind these trees? Could it be the one that JunSang rode after finished reading his magazine in the cafe?

Outside the Passenger Arrival area, you can easily catch an airport limousine bus to any major hotels and city centers for just 14,000 won (~ US $15), really comfy and lots of leg room too :)

Since Seoul is to the east of Incheon, all airport buses enter the city from the west side on the highways along Hangang (Han River). That provided us with an overall idea of the city set up, and great view too.

I am sure you know (from all the Korean drama) that Seoul is divided into north and south by Hangang. Myeongdong, Namsan, all the famous ‘gungs’ (palaces) and museums are located on the historical north side, while the urban south is the prosperous shopping and business district. Hehe, remember the Trump World Tower that Hyun Bin lived in ‘My name is Kim Samsoon’?

We checked into Park Hyatt Seoul in Gangnam, a medium size hotel, opposite the gigantic Coex convention/shopping complex.

Why this hotel? Tada, the tropical rain shower!

and its bright & spacious feel

I tend to check out the guest reviews from other websites when I am hunting for a hotel. I know everyone’s expectation and requirements are different, so the hotel write-up and rating do not necessarily give the whole story. I guess I am scanning for any common complaints like space, noise, service, cleanliness etc. Overall, the staffs in Park Hyatt were extremely courteous and the sheets/towels felt fresh and clean. Hehe whether the ajumma simply sweeps the dust bunnies under the bed or not, I’ll never know. But as far as the service, comfort, proximity to shopping, restaurant and public transportation is concerned, I definitely recommend it. Will I return again? Hmmm …… probably, because it’s close to HRH ma!

OK, enough hotel review, we didn’t waste anytime as I read about Apgujeong being the ‘Beverly Hills’ of Seoul. I believe Chaerin’s boutique (in Winter Sonata) was around there too, right? Plus, I have this secret scheme of sneaking the nearby Gorilla into our dinner plan, hehe. We asked the hotel concierge to write those famous sightseeing destinations in Hangul on the back of our hotel card so we can hand those to the taxi driver. Hehe, no more finger pointing (literally) and lost in translation. So first stop, Galleria Shopping Mall as the starting point of Rodeo Drive :

And in the basement of this ‘fish scale’ building, we found this fabulous gourmet food court

Hehe, cleanliness came first

Then dig in! Our first meal in Seoul - the food was absolutely yummy and the cost so reasonable.

I proposed we should walk off those calories, where? Hehe, of course shopping on Rodeo Drive! I was sticking my head out front, left and right, eagerly searching for those ritzy boutiques with out-of-this-world designs worn by those beautiful Korean actresses in the drama.

Huh?! This is Rodeo Drive?

And this is the ritzy boutique?? (in Cantonese : gom doh duk?)

And this too???

Oh well, I quickly switched to my Plan B - let’s head to Gorilla! Actually, the roads in Gangnam look very much like those in Toronto, wide and easy to find. We followed the map leading to Dosan Park, before long, I saw the big Hermes store always mentioned in the 'directions to Gorilla' :

Yeah yeah, THAT building, THAT sign! This crazy woman was so ecstatic, I just dashed across the road without paying attention to all the oncoming traffic!

Yup, Gorilla is every bit like what all the sisters have shared, in pictures and in words :

Hubby liked to explore the history of Dosan Park a bit more (after all, we just ate a full meal!), but no, I was NOT going anywhere. I was gluing to my chair, not even the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ could lure me away from Yonsama’s palace.

It’s barely 5pm in this very warm afternoon, so the restaurant was quite empty. The staffs were very attentive and accommodating. I took a look at the menu but how could I swallow another bite? So they just kept pouring ice cold water for us.

Hehe, hubby turned around and asked me if it’s safe to drink un-bottled water in Korea. I teased him, “Hey, it’s served from Yonsama. Even if this water has higher lead content than the waste dump, drink up!” :)

Sorry I was too excited and totally forgot to take pictures of our entrees. Mine was spicy grilled pork with brown rice and my son had pasta with chicken in olive oil. He loved it so much that he gobbled the whole 'human' plate up in no time. In the next few days, he kept asking us to go back to Gorilla. I also thought for sure that we would be back to try out other dishes, but regrettably for the rest of the trip, we were simply too far to even make it back to the Apgujeong area. But, there’s always a next time, HRH and mini-HRH, k?

By now, we had a really long day as we were up since 4am in Tokyo. Even though I wanted to stay until dark for Gorilla to light up, but we decided to call it a day and returned to the hotel. The way to end our first day in Baeland ……. a relaxing dip in this dark infinity pool on the top floor overlooking the night sky of Seoul, simply romantic (hehe, for the 3 of us, I mean :)

Afterthought : Omigosh, I really am longwinded!


gosijo said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to write up your first day's report, dear Jaime. I've learned many things from it.

As for breathing the same air, June 1st is approaching. Wow, to think you'll be able to feel that Yonsama is in the building even before you see him!

bb said...

hee, actually you weren't long winded at all! i finished reading it and wanted more :p

love the hotel! but am sure it's pricey... this is a very poor princess :( keke, i tend to take a room on my own, and i would stay a week or more, i can imagine the size of the hole in my pocket if i do stay there :p

can't wait for more!

p.s. gorilla's really proven that healthy food can be oh-so-yummy huh? :)

Toujours_BYJ said...

Wow, you're fast my dear Jaime, thanks for sharing your 1rst day's report. Your funny style of writing is unique, I love love it.
Like bb, can't wait for more.

PS : the bathroom looks great but err why there isn't any curtains? May people at the other side take a look at it ?

Anonymous said...

yeah I was wondering that to
no curtains?

Actually I'm having a ball reading this, please go ahead,
so I'm enjoying this very much,
I find myself wanting to go to.


Anonymous said...

Hi Chinggu!

I was so engrossed reading your report that I forgot to take my breakfast, hehhehehe! I enjoy the pics especially the ones from Gorilla & your added funstuffs. The undisputed QUEEN OF COMEDY is at her best again & we are all very glad that she's back on her keyboards. Miss yah!

Take care & keep posting!

Love, Judy

xiaoyi said...

Dear Jaime, thank you so much for sharing...
i wanna go.. i wanna go... Gosh, I really hope to visit SKorea soon. Still waiting for my hubby to nod his head, and as my children are still too young, so i wouldn't be able to leave them and travel by my own.
Thanks again.
Loves, xiaoyi

Anonymous said...

Hi Jamie,

Loved your longwinded writing! I especially enjoyed the pictures of Gangnam area in the daytime, as I only went there at night, quite different from Myeongdong.

Those washbasins look familar though, same type of Gosireh's.

cloud nine

jaime said...

my dear gosijo,

thank you for your patience in reading this longwinded report as my trip was really not spectacular - just so so :)

hehe, my heart pounds already whenever I think about June 1. I know he'll so far that I can't even see the face, but like u said, just being w/ him in the same space & time ...... sweating!

please take care my dear!

jaime said...

hehe princess, we have 3 people mah, so need more space to wiggle ourselves around. Yeah, I'll say the room is big enough to accomodate ONE more 180 cm, long hair, gorgeous Korean man - hehe, especially in the shower department :)

love ... jaime

jaime said...

my dearest camille,

I am so happy to read your comments here. I'm not that open-minded la. Actually, there are remote-controlled automatic blinds coming down from the ceiling for all glass walls (for both interior and exterior). Hehe, the design isn't that practical, is it?

love ... Jaime

jaime said...

hehe dear moontime,

so do automatic blinds solve your wondering now? I sure don't want to scare the people in Seoul away :) Thanks for reading my tedious report, I appreciate it so much.

love... jaime

jaime said...

hehe chinggu,

You'd better eat your brekkie la, otherwise how do you find energy to fight with me? :)

love ... jaime

jaime said...

dear xiaoyi,

I totally understand what you mean. I could only drool when I read about other sisters going to Baeland just to do BYJ stuffs. We have young kids and taking care of them is our top priority now. Every minute that we can squeeze out from our busy day to look at Yong Joon is like a bonus! Please hang in there (I tell myself too), we will have our chance later (much later :) In the meantime, I am happy to read all about BYJ from bb's and your fabulous blog. Thanks for providing so much good info to us.

Please take care!

love ... jaime

jaime said...

hehe cloudnine,

I'm back home now. Thank you for talking to me for so long while I was standing in the dark :) Have fun with Papa, wish I could go :(
See u soon!

love ... jaime

bb said...

hee... how come you've got 'lahs' and 'mahs' in your writing now...? :p spending too much time with people who just won't write properly...? hee...

and oh man, that certain korean in that certain shower?!!! wish wish wish that the remote control's spoilt or run out of batteries or something!!

okie, it's almost 3am now... i really gotta go sleep now... see you real soon!

xiaoyi said...

Dear jaime, thank you s much. I do hope this day will come really soon.. ha ha. At least now i can leave the 2 with their daddy for half a day, so i can sneak out to join the Malaysia Bae family gathering.
And about my blog, he he... thank you, but as i'm always rushing to post, so sometimes may be missing bits and pieces, so hope you all could bear with me 'lah'. ^.^
Loves, xiaoyi

vegasbyj said...

Hi Jaime!

Thanks for your post. Wow! As always, I enjoy your "longwinded" writing. LOL Just like BB, you have a unique way of taking us on your journey and through your words and pictures allow us to experience all things you have done. Ok, it's not exactly the same as being there, but it's close enough..for me...for now...till I get there myself.

From the flight, to the room to the shopping and FOOD, especially GIK - thanks for sharing! Can't wait to read more.

take care!!

liezle said...

jaime, i just read your 1st trip report in korea. thanks for sharing. i'm so happy that your hubby love what he had in gorilla. hee, and he even wanted to go back and try other dishes.

my friend and i will be in seoul on the 3rd or 4th of june until the 8th. we will be staying at Grand Hyatt ^^

btw, we will be in japan on the 30th of may. will spend 1 night in saitama area then on the 31st will be in tokyo, jun 1 in osaka then back to tokyo on the 2nd. hope to see you, sis! ^^

jaime said...

hehe princess,

excuse me for using for these 'la's and 'ma's. Since I came to Tokyo, the only one I can talk in Cantonese to is myself ma! So please excuse me for subconsciously translating my Chinese thinking into words la ;)

love ... jaime

jaime said...

dear xiaoyi,

It's very nice of your husband to take care of your precious princes so you could attend the BMF gathering. Thank you for posting the pictures in your blog, from your pictures and yokee's post, it sounds like you girls had so much fun. So happy that you enjoyed it. Please take care!

love .. jaime

jaime said...

my dear liezle,

Thank you for letting me know about your travel schedule. Wow, it looks like you have a full itinarary. I sure will love to meet and talk to you. May I squeeze in sometime when you are in Tokyo? I'll email you, ok?

I am so happy that you are able to come to Tokyo. And Seoul right afterwards?! I know how much you like Grand Hyatt in the Philippines, please remind the concierge to give you a river view room. Hehe but you probably will get an upgrade to the Presidential Suite too :) Errr liezle, HRH will go to Tokyo after Osaka, you sure you don't want to stay longer?

love ... Jaime