Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Seoul Sightseeing: Days 6, 7 & 8

A recap for days 1-5 can be found here and here.

The sixth day of my stay in Seoul started off with me having aches all over my legs and body from the marathon event of the day before even with a good night's sleep behind me. Nevertheless, I was up and about, albeit shuffling achingly around the room.

I made plans with the gang for a recovery run along the Cheonggyecheon stream as that was the best way to ease the aches. The weather was as cold as it has always been in the mornings and dressed in my shorts and a long sleeve top, I made my way to the stream to meet the gang halfway. I was surprised that I could still run decently and took a slow jog along the stream.

There were lots of other runners also doing their recovery runs this cold morning. I ran along the entire stretch of the stream but somehow due to some screw up in timing, I missed seeing the gang and doubled back towards the apartment. It was only then that I saw them and found out they went the other way along the river to find me. Once we teamed up, we continued the run, took some pictures and made plans with to join my wife and me on our rounds around Seoul. Yan Leng and Jeanie had other plans of their own.


A short recovery run with the gang.

I headed back to the apartment to grab a shower and told CY I'd text him the meet-up location once I got it from my wife who was already showered, changed and ready for our sightseeing. This time, we made sure we ate something before heading out. Didn't want a repeat of my nonsense from two days ago happening again.

Today would see us heading to find another Goblin shoot location and then to some place called the Common Ground, a mall made up of shipping containers. All these were located in a place called Seongsu-dong. After our breakfast we headed to the subway below and hopped on the subway heading to Seongsu-dong station. We would rendezvous with CY and his wife at the station and make our way to find the Goblin filming shoot location.

We arrived a little earlier and I grabbed a can of coffee from a convenience store to keep warm as the weather was still rather chilly and to wait for them while my wife took a short exploratory walk around the place. Once they arrived, we made our way looking for the Goblin place. The shops around the area were pretty quaint selling mostly custom-made shoes and footwear. We got a little confused with the directions and missed the small turning that would take us to the Goblin place and ended up going a little ways down the road.

Some of the Hand-Drawn poster around Seongsu-dong that my wife took while waiting for CY

Seongsu-dong was known for its handmade shoes

After doubling back, we finally found the small slip road that would take us to our destination. A few short minutes later, we arrived at what was the location shoot for a scene from the Goblin K-Drama series. Now, I was totally confused as I'm not a K-Drama fan and have not seen the series. But both my wife and CY were discussing it like the experts they were and I just nodded my head like I understood ... hahaha! The scene was of a building with a mural of Jane Austen and Ernest Hemingway. Of course, we couldn't leave the place without taking some pictures, after all that was the purpose of this visit. With the picture taking done, next on our list was Daelim Warehouse Cafe, a gallery cum restaurant housed in an unassuming building a short walk away.

Wife happily posing away at the Goblin Location Shoot building

The walk took us through a residential alley that housed some quaint apartment-like dwellings. One thing about winter and the cold, it makes you hungry quite fast. I was already beginning to feel rumblings in my tummy. Good thing the gallery had a restaurant in there and we could grab some food once we get there.

About 10 minutes later, we finally arrived and were hesitant to enter cos my wife had read that there was an entrance fee and we contemplated not going in. While we were lounging around in discussion, this local elderly lady came and showed us how to open the huge door to enter the place. She probably thought we were idiots who don't know how to open doors ... LOL! It was then that we also discover that there was no entrance fee.

The exterior of the Daelim Warehouse Cafe

The restaurant among trees inside the Warehouse

The inside of the building housed some modern art displays as well as a restaurant with its own indoor trees giving the place a pretty rustic look. We took a walk around and after checking out the menu, we decided against eating here as they mostly served Western stuff and we weren't up for anything Western this cold morning. So instead, we just took pictures (but of course!) and decided on grabbing Kyochon Chicken for lunch.

Some of the exhibits in the Warehouse

Choon Yuen up to his tricks again 

After locating an outlet on Google, we followed the directions towards it to get a short break and lunch before heading to our next stop for the day which was the Common Ground Container Mall. Kyochon Chicken was a 20 minute or so walk but we didn't mind since the weather was really cooling for walking outdoors. You wouldn't see me so enthusiastic about the outdoors if I was back home in the sweltering heat.

After our chicken lunch in the nearly deserted Kyochon Chicken shop and with tummies filled, we made our way towards the Common Ground Mall. It was another short 15 minutes walk and soon enough we saw some huge blue shipping containers stacked upon each other looming in the distance. I've never been in a container before let alone one converted into a mall. This would be something to remember. My wife had done a thorough research on it and was like a tour guide for me. She even Google walked this and for her, it was bringing life to pictures.

The Common Ground Container Mall

The containers were stacked 3 levels up and made into a nice square that housed a mall selling clothing, accessories and souvenirs with the uppermost levels housing eateries. We browsed the insides of the mall just window shopping cos nothing caught our eyes besides we were still full from lunch earlier. We spent about an hour or so here before we decided to head back as were feeling the effects of fatigued from all that walking and coupled with the marathon the day before, our aged bodies were really struggling to keep going.



The inside of the Common Ground Container Mall

We made our way to the nearest subway and headed back to our respective apartments. I was already nodding off in the train ride back and couldn't wait to get back for a short rest and a nap. Before getting off at our stop, I told CY to coordinate with me if there was any dinner plans. Once we got off at our stop, we bought some instant noodles, drinks and tidbits from the underground subway mall in case we got hungry later.

The moment we reached our apartment, we both hit the bed for a short nap. Fatigue had got to both of us. After catching a few hours of shut-eye, CY texted me to say that he would be meeting up for dinner with Yan Leng and Jeanie and asked if I wanted to join. My wife was still feeling exhausted and told me to just go on my own instead. I was reluctant cos I wasn't sure which train to take and which subway exit to alight. All this while I've just be leaving it to her. She told me it was time to grow up and learn! But thank god she drew a map and wrote all the details on which subway lines to take and names of the stops. I supposed she didn't want me to end up in North Korea!!

I met up with CY and his wife near Insadong. They apparently didn't go back after the Common Ground visit but did some sightseeing on their own. We decided to find some restaurant nearby for dinner as all of them were due to head back home the next day. While waiting for Yan Leng, Jeanie and their spouses, we scoured the nearby restaurants and found one which we would try. Soon enough the rest of the gang came by and we headed up for dinner.

It was a decent dinner and after the usual banter, it was time to head back. The rest of the gang had to pack up as they were leaving for home the next day. My wife and me still had basically two days left so I bid everyone farewell and made my back to the subway on a very, very cold and windy night.

Day 7

While we still had two days to go, we considered this our last day in Seoul as tomorrow would mostly be spent packing up, checking out and heading to the airport even though we had a late evening flight. So we planned to make the most of the day but not without a little drama before the start of our tour.

We woke up early to make the most of the day and while we were having a quick breakfast, we noticed water pooling on the floor under us. We were startled and the first thing we thought was the washing machine was leaking as we had a load running in the machine. Upon a quick check we discovered that it was leaking from the unit next to us. Someone must have left the tap on or there was a leaky wall pipe or something.

Our flooded hall

The water was beginning to pool up quite a bit and no matter how much I tried to contain the flow, it wasn't helping much. I knocked on the door of the next door unit but no one was around. Crap, I thought, we had plans for the day. I messaged the owner and he told me he was in Vietnam and would only be back later that night but assured us he would get his daughter to come over and sort things out. He was very apologetic and luckily the unit next door also belonged to him.

A little over 10 minutes later, his frantic looking teenage daughter was at the door and upon seeing the pooling of water in our hall almost went into a fit of panic. She could speak a smattering of English but it was still hard to understand her. Eventually we managed to communicate through Google translate (Thank you Google!) and she got the door codes for the unit next door from her dad and upon opening the door, the entire place was filled with water from a busted kitchen pipe! It was like a swimming pool in there. That explained the water leaking into our unit through the walls.

The poor girl was in a state of shock and didn't know what to do. I decided to step in and help her or we won't be able to do anything for the day. I located the mains, switched off the supply and told her that she needs to get a plumber or at least contact the maintenance people to sort things out now that the main leak had been stopped. Now that she was more calmed down, she told me she would sort this out and I told her we would be going out as we had plans. I gave her permission to access our unit anytime to do what needs to be done and she said not to worry, everything would be in order when we came back.

So off we went to start our day. Good thing we didn't lose too much time. My wife had warned me that there would be some walking required (little did I realize how much walking that would be) even though we only had three places planned on our sightseeing list and I told her I was up for it. But before we hit the subway to head to our first stop, we had to grab a picture of the unique bus-stop with toilet bowls as its seat. The bus-stop just happened to be a 5 minute walk away in the Toilet accessories area where they sell nothing but toilet stuff.

When you gotta go, you just gotta go!

After some pics, we headed to our first stop on the list, another of the Goblin K-Drama location shoots. This time it was the main coffee-shop in Coffee Prince drama series. After several subway stops, we arrived at Hongdae (Hongik University Station) and proceeded for a walk to the coffee shop direction. Before that though, we came to a park called Gyeongui Line Forest Park, it was formerly an old railway line converted into a long 6.3km park!! We spent some time here taking in the beauty of the place. The sun was out but surprisingly it was one of the coldest and windy days we've experienced since we were here. Good thing we were adequately bundled up.

A small section of the 6.3km Gyeongui Line Forest Park

This area was quite different in ambiance from the previous days. It was more 'small townish' like with little quaint little shops littered between buildings. We were also feeling a little hungry, the cold tends to make us hungry a lot. We looked for a shop to fill our now growling tummies but none were open. We finally discovered that the eateries here mostly only opened after 11am. There was still at least another 45 minutes to go! There were 24-hour eateries but they didn't serve the kind of breakfast food we were looking for and they were also exorbitantly priced.

Hongdae

We decided to head on towards the Coffee Prince shop location and grab something there, since it was a coffee shop after all. It took us about 20 minutes of so of slow walking to finally reach the location. When we finally arrived there, we were in for a shock cos the place looked really shabby and very uninviting. The place looked disheveled and abandoned like even though there were some people inside and a sign was posted outside that said only shop customers can use the toilet and take pictures! We felt so unwelcome that we decided to not even go in but sneaked in a few shots from outside before heading off to look for food.

The shops were still closed even at 11am which got us both a little pissed. Even one that we found open at 11am said they were not ready for customers. So we walked back towards the subway station still on our search for food on this extremely cold morning. Our tempers were raw from lack of food. Just as we were about to give up hope of ever getting anything to eat here, we came across an All American diner that was open for breakfast.

We were both too hungry to matter anymore and decided to grab a bite there till we find something later on in the day at our next stop. The food was surprisingly good and after filling our tummies, we were off to our next stop for the day, the MBC (Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation) park. According to my wife, that was one of the locations where The Avengers Age of Ultron was shot. With me being a diehard Marvel fan, that place was not to be missed!

To get there, we had to take a subway ride to the Digital Media City station and take a short walk there. The Digital Media City place had a totally different feel from the rest of the places we've been. It had a more modern and high-tech complexes for digital technologies, housing ubiquitous networked offices, apartments, exhibitions, conference halls and cultural centers in Seoul. All the people we passed by were of the young professionals dressed in suits and ties.

The futuristic buildings adorning the Digital Media City vicinity

I never knew that the Avengers had a scene filmed here and when the wife pointed it out to me, I instantly recognize the scene and almost bolted into a sprint straight to it. Yes, yes, I can be like a child at times! I'm not sure how she digs up all this places and unknown facts but heck, she's amazing when it comes to finding places for us to visit. Once we were done with pictures there, we took a tour of the place. They had some amazing gigantic structures around and like the tourists we were, we took lots more pictures.

Part of the location shoot from Avengers Age of Ultron!


By this time, we had been on our feet for quite a while and last on our list of places for the day would be the Haneul Park or Sky Park, just across the road from the Seoul World Cup Stadium. It was a ways off and we both debated on whether to walk or take the bus there. Since the weather was pretty cold even with the sun and we wouldn't even think about walking anywhere so far back home, we opted to walk. We reasoned that we could see more places along the way. Though my feet were more or less killing me, I tagged along, not that I had a choice, I didn't know the way back ... hahaha! My wife can be a very determined person and once she said she wants to walk, she will walk. I remember the loooong walk we did back in Kyoto in search of Nanzenji temple. But it was during those long walks that we discovered gems like the unexpected trail path in Higashiyama, the Ama No Iwato cave and so many more.

One of the gigantic structures found around the Digital Media City

It was a pretty nice walk and we were chatting and admiring the beauty of the place. Aside from the two of us, there really wasn't all that many people walking about. Guess not everyone is as crazy as us. After quite a while, we saw what was a huge hill in front of us and deduced that it was the place we were heading to. Google maps was also pointing us in that direction. But as fate (or arse luck) would have it, the entrance to Haneul Park was at the extreme other end which from where we were looked to be about a thousand kilometers away (ok, that was my battered legs talking). We plodded on cos my wife said, we didn't walk all this way just to give up. Who am I to argue, like I said, I didn't know the way home.

Finally after what seemed like a 100km ultra, the Seoul World Cup Stadium loomed just ahead and we were finally there. I breathed a huge sigh of relief only to be told by my darling of a wife not to get too comfortable cos we had like hundreds of steps to navigate to the top! Goddammit!


The Seoul World Cup Stadium

After a short break at a small convenience store cum cafe at the foot of the climb, we slowly made our way up to the nearly 300 flights of steps. Now, on a normal day, stairs are always difficult for me but after a marathon, double that difficulty by a factor of 100! But I have to admit, the view as we made our way up was spectacular. The entire Han river was slowly making its presence felt as the climb got higher and higher. We finally got to the top where the view was truly breathtaking. On one corner was the magnificent Seoul World Cup Stadium and on the other, the majestic Han River. We took a moment to savour the view and my wife said, she had another surprise for me and that this was really what she wanted to see in the park.

The long and winding climb up!

As tired as I was, my curiosity was piqued. I followed her along a path that branched out into a road even higher up which had lots of cyclists either struggling determinedly up or zooming like mad down the steep road. I was afraid for them cos the road was really steep down, Once we reached the extreme top of the park, my wife pointed to me what looked like a weave-like basket structure in the distance. I gave her a look that said, 'this is what you dragged me all the way up here for?'. The structure didn't look at all spectacular and surely not something I would be wound up about but how wrong I was. That didn't dampen her spirit one bit but dragged me even faster to the structure!

I climbed up here to see this wee tiny basket?

As we neared the structure, I began to see the artistry and beauty in it. It was huge, not gigantic or anything but huge. It was constructed to look like an amphitheater with decks you could climb on that led you to the top for an even more spectacular 360 degree view of the surrounding area. This place was ripe for some spectacular vain shots and I wasted no time in whipping out my camera. God bless this woman, she knows me and my conceitedness so well that she picks the best spots and places for my vain shots! Once we were done with soaking up the place, we made our way down slowly to head back for home, by this time, my Garmin fitness data has indicated we had walked nearly 13km up to this point! We still had a ways to go before we reached the apartment.

The interior of the amphitheater like basket!


As we walked down, the view of the Han river was mesmerizing. We both unanimously agreed that we would return and this time stay nearer to the river. It was a vow that we will be both definitely be fulfilling one day. Our subway stop was along the World Cup Stadium and it was a ways off. We made our way there slowly and just before we reached the subway, we came across a somewhat wholesale like market which we decided to explore. Our tummies were already hungry from the long walk and climb in the cold.

The place was selling all kinds of fresh vegetables and local delicacies. There was also a hypermart like grocery store in there selling all kinds of stuff at some unbelievably cheap prices. My wife bought some brownies that she bought in Myeongdong a few days back but this time at a much cheaper price and I couldn't resist two bottles of Soju, again at a price so much cheaper than what I've been paying for the past few days. Sadly we only found this place on our last day or I would have bought crates of Soju and take showers with them. They were that cheap!



Once we were done, we finally got on the train that would take us home. We were both exhausted but satisfied that we covered quite a huge chunk of sightseeing for one day. We were also extremely famished and once we reached our stop, I remembered that we had passed a few eateries just opposite our apartment on the first day we got here. We made our way there and found a small fried chicken shop where the owner mistook me for an American (LOL) until I corrected him that I was from Malaysia instead. At least there was at least one Korean who thought I looked like an American! We ordered a meal of a mix fried chicken and beer and wolfed it down like starving animals before making our way across the road back to our apartment.

We were both bracing ourselves to see if our apartment would resemble a fish tank full of water but to our surprise, everything was in perfect order. The owner's daughter was true to her word and the place was spotlessly clean. She even washed and dried all the towels we used to stop the water flow and even cleaned the bathroom for us. I was speechless but grateful that she did all she could to make our stay a pleasant one.

Our cleaned up room awaited us when we got back

I heard some activity from the next door unit (the walls are kinda thin over here) and went over to see if everything was in order. I saw the owner there with a maintenance guy trying to figure out which main I had shut off earlier as there were many valves in there and when he saw me he was so apologetic about the entire affair. I was more thankful that he was so efficient and accommodating and after showing him which one to turn on again, I could see the relief on both their faces.

After a short chat with him where I discovered his flight had just touched down and he came directly from the airport to the apartment building to make sure everything was in order. From day one even before I flew to Korea, he had been extremely helpful and right up to the day I was leaving, he was as helpful as ever. I would even say that he made sure our stay wasn't ruined by the drama earlier in the day. Kudos to him and I highly recommend his place to everyone.

It had been a long day but we still had some packing to do before we called it a night as we were checking out the next day. Once the packing was done, we both dozed off in mere seconds from fatigue!

Day 8

We woke up pretty early on our final day in Seoul. Our flight was scheduled to depart around 3:50pm and we wanted to get a head start without having to rush. We took our time packing up the final bits of gear we had, cleaned the room, we didn't have to but it's something that we always do no matter where we go. We believe to return the place as close to how we got it. With that all out of the way, we headed to the subway to take the long train ride to the airport. I was sad to be leaving the place. While Korea has its moments, I loved the place. We didn't nearly have enough time to see everything but what we brought back would last a lifetime.

My last vain shot in Korea before boarding the plane for home!

We reached the airport, stowed our luggage in a locker since we still had lots of time to spare and got ourselves some very late lunch and just chilled till it was time to check in. Since we didn't check in our luggage, we were done in no time and was soon on the shuttle to the departure hall and ready to board the plane back home. No matter the disastrous outcome of my marathon and one or two minor incidences, I still had an amazingly good time in Seoul.

Thanks for the memories, Korea! #iseoulu

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