When I left Incheon on 13 October 2010, I didn’t imagine that I will be back to the same place a year and 2 weeks later. For me, it was that soon that I can still remember the route from the airport to Seoul.
Since this is an official trip (like the first one, albeit a very short one this time), I made a mental note to explore a bit of downtown Seoul every night after all the meetings and discussions. After all, I will be staying in fashion street a.k.a. Myeongdong.
Upon arrival, we were welcomed by a representative of the Philippine consulate office and were brought to the VIP parking. VIP parking indeed since of all people I got to see up close in So. Korea —I saw Kim Yuna! The famous ice princess (she is actually treated like a princess in her country for the figure skating accolades she brought to So. Korea) in her really goodlooking Equus (a Hyundai luxury car). Even our driver commented that he had a picture taken with Yuna.
Since the trip to Incheon to Seoul is long, I had all the time to savor the scenes without taking photos. Who wants to see a shot of nudflats anyway? I ended up reminiscing bus trip I had a year ago sans the earth shattering “do you like me?”
It was autumn in South Korea and I was more prepared this time. Thicker jackets, check. Moisturizer, check. Body warming oil, check. Unfortunately, it was icy chilly that time of the year. And it wasn’t even snowing yet! Just imagine my real kilig to the bones moment when I stepped out of the car.
It was kinda late when we arrived but we had to eat something! Something Korean! We searched for 삼겁살 or samgyeopsal or thinly sliced pork grilled over coal and wrapped in lettuce or perilla then eaten with gochugang…in short, we ended up in a nonsmoking chicken restaurant. Yay for that. Alas, it was more of an all-poultry eatery. We had 삼겨당 or samgyetang, sweet and sour chicken and a duck dish. With all the banchans and these – it took us forever to eat half of what was served.
The Daily Grind
Since we were billeted near our meeting venue, we had no choice but brave the super cold weather while walking in the underground street and across the main road occupied by Lotte. Dang, that Lotte! Ang laki-laki! Unlike in the Philippines that you’ll be perspiring within 5 minutes while threading your way to work, a morning walk in Seoul is trying to stay “cool” when your feeling cold. It sucks more when you meet some Seoulites drinking iced coffee. You got to be kidding me!
The same stuff is experienced after our meetings…but colder. One just can’t wait to get into the hotel room to layer up. Maybe I am not really built to stay in temperate countries. Let the sunshine in!
Being a lakwatsera has its advantages. For one – I am not afraid to get lost. Myeong-dong might be a tiny street but with all the alleys and people milling around, it can be overwhelming. Plus the fact that you can’t understand their language and it is night time, one can be wary to go places. Well, those don’t apply to me. I might not be a good map reader but I do remember landmarks (is this the Etude House we passed by earlier? or The Skin Food earlier was much bigger than this) and I am not afraid to ask. I know that my Korean is limited to ordering food and saying thank you but there is really no time for pride when you don’t know your way back to the hotel.
I might have a prob with my short term memory but when it comes to places, I do remember directions. It didn’t hurt that I’ve been to Namdaemun a year ago so going there wasn’t a problem since it was just a very long walk from Myeong-dong. My colleagues were amazed how I know the ins and outs of Shinshegae underground and the tiny alleys in Namdaemun-naku, kayo na ang mawala the first time!
When you love beauty products, South Korea is the place to be. One alley can have more than 5 stores selling masks, nail polishes, B&B creams, etc. What is good about buying there is the freebies one can get. There are stores that even give you a box of cottons upon entering their stores. Just imagine what I got when I bought a pack of facial masks…I know, I got carried away with that stuff.
It might be a bit expensive to buy in department stores but one can get a quarter of the price in the night markets. And I am not talking about class AA types. I scoured the alleys to have my hands on a cool satchel for the Euro chic look. I even horded a few Bausch and Lomb contact lens solutions in travel bottles, thanks to 7-11!
In between kim (or nori) and green tea boxes, the ABC chocolate candy and Peppero sticks are must-haves. ABC is pure chocolate goodness at real cheap price and Peppero is of course–Peppero! Sticks covered with chocolate or almonds is heaven. My ultimate favorite, of course, is the iced canned coffee sold in 7-11, Family Mart and Watsons. Cheopo kaayo.
Hopefully, I can see all of Seoul leisurely one day with my chingus that are dying to practice their Hangeul. There are still a lot of places to see and I will definitely be their unofficial tour guide when they want to get lost in Seoul and beyond.