“안녕하세요 (Annyeong Haseyo)!” greeted our tour guide Colin every morning, rowsing the weary coach-load of travellers during our recent holiday in Korea. With an action-packed itinerary packed into 7 days, one could hardly consider Korea as the “Land of the Morning Calm”.
Squeezing a population of 50 million packed into 100,000 square kilometres of mostly mountainous space, South Korea is both an economic and cultural miracle. With a GDP of US$1.164 trillion (2011), the “Miracle on the Han River” is fast overtaking Japan in global prominence. Korea’s tremendous influence on popular culture in terms of K-Pop and soap dramas is also unprecedented.
did we do there? Plenty! After mercilessly culling some 2,700 photos and videos, here are the highlights of our holiday. Enjoy!
Dressing up in the traditional Korean Hanbok was a must…
…so is getting our hands “dirty” (with hygienic gloves) making spicy kimchi.
Korean strawberries are sweet and delicious! Unfortunately, we could only pick 6 precious fruits each.
Yee Ha! We sure had fun riding horses on Jeju Island – a first time for Tina and I.
On the other hand, the All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) ride on Jeju was somewhat subdued as we had to follow a group. It was still fun nonetheless.
The Jet Boat ride in Jeju Island must be the highlight of our trip. Ethan certainly had lots of fun on this one!
Going under the sea proved slightly more serene, allowing us to explore the marine sea-bed tinged in a blue-green hue.
We also had a game (or two) of bowling at Phoenix Park, a ski resort in winter.
At Jeju Island, we also “feasted” with Teddy Bears at the Teddy Bear Museum while rubbing shoulders with “Bear-lebrities” like “Mona Lisa”, “Gandhi” and the “Bear-tles”.
Cinderella wasn’t the only one who found her Prince Charming at the Glass Castle. Special thanks to our boy for helping us to take this shot!
At the sprawling Everland – the world’s 7th most visited theme park – we battled huge crowds to get onto the T-Express, braving a 77 degree drop that literally put one’s heart in one’s mouth.
More importantly (at least for Ethan), we also saw a natural born Liger – one of only 4 in the world.
Lotte World was the other theme park we visited, with a huge and cavernous indoor theme park complete with ice-skating rink and lots of rides.
As poor Tina was unwell, she became photographer for our ride on the Bungee Drop, a thrilling experience of zero-G forces for Ethan and I.
After all that action, what else but food, glorious food! In Korea, almost everything was either a steam boat with meat and lots of vegetables…
…or barbequed meats over a hot griddle. Ethan sure had fun trying his hand at cooking!
Of course, one mustn’t forget their famous Samgyetang or ginseng chicken.
Naturally, we had to catch the famous Korean broadway hit Nanta to see how the “professional” chefs do it, complete with throwing knives and flaming stoves.
On certain nights, we had supper in bed with delectable Korean style buns, cakes and pastries.
Our love for nature was satisfied with hikes up the Seongsan Sunrise Peak – a UNESCO World Heritage Site at Jeju Island.
Along the way, we saw a dragon head-shaped rock called Yongduam…
…Trekked through serene vegetation to encounter the Cheonjeyeon Waterfall which purportedly resembles the white celestial robes of 7 nymphs…
…Encountered the breathtaking Jusangjeolli Cliffs (also known as God’s sculpture) made of laval flows…
…And trekked in the cool 14 to 15 deg darkness of the 7.4 km long laval Manjanggul Cave – another UNESCO Heritage Site.
Taking a cable car ride up Mount Sorak was also a highlight for us, in an environment splashed with lush vegetation, granite peaks and sub-alpine forests.
Our eyes couldn’t believe what we saw at the Mysterious Road as the coach “rolled uphill” here.
As we journeyed, we also took in man-made splendours such as the Seonimgyo Bridge (Heavenly Angel’s Bride)…
…marvelled at the fierce gate guardians of the Shingheungsa Temple constructed during the Shilla era…
…and were awed by the resplendent residence of the former Korean kings at the Gyeongbok Palace which was rebuilt after they were torn down during the Japanese war.
Being Singaporeans, we shopped till we drop (almost) at the Chelsea Premium Factory Outlets (no prizes for guessing what Ethan bought)…
…Bought ourselves some spiffy Korean fashion at the hip and happening Dongdaemun Market…
…And even indulged in some amethyst jewellery – albeit the cheapest we could find in the tourist shops!
On our last day, we were greeted by these tourism hosts at the Shincon Shopping Street, a trendy place for the latest youth fashion with numerous shops offering Korean branded cosmetics and fashion.
Finally, and most importantly I guess, the trip to Korea was a great opportunity for us to spend time with each other and bond as a family.
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.