Look It Up!

10 June 2019

Korea Part II

May 26, Sunday
First stop on Sunday morning was the Myeongdong Catholic Cathedral for mass.

The English mass was already starting when we got there and there was a sign outside telling us to wait for the next mass because the doors were closed. Fortunately, a Korean lady arrived and she opened the door and went in. Of course we followed her. There were a number of people standing at the back of the church. An usher led us to available seats in front.

The church is really nice, like the old churches we have here. The brochure we got says the style is Gothic Revival. There were no kneelers inside, probably to maximize the space. The mass was over in less than an hour.

We took some photos inside the church after the mass but we could not stay long because the churchgoers for the next mass were already coming in.

We took some more photos outside. The entire place is very picturesque. Rafael thought the church was the Big Ben. He bought a small rosary from one of the vendors outside.

Afterwards, we decided to have some drinks (as in coffee and hot chocolate ha, not alcoholic hehe) at a nearby Leonidas. Everything was sooo good. It was probably the richest chocolate I've ever tasted in my life. :D

We explored the shops in Myeongdong. Rhuel got his Liverpool jersey from New Balance. Too bad it was not yet available in Rafael's size.

We were worried about the extra goodies we've been buying so we decided to buy another luggage. It was  reasonably priced and we got a huge discount, if we are to believe the vendor who showed us a price tag twice the price we paid. Echosero si manong hehe.

Next stop was Gyeongbokgung Palace. I can't remember why we opted to take a cab but I'm glad we did. The driver was very nice. When he learned we were Filipinos, he took us to the Sunday Filipino Market. According to Tripadvisor, it's located in Hyehwa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul. The driver said it's beside a Catholic church. A Filipino priest was assigned there and that started the market. 

  We were able to buy alcohol (could not find one in any of the Korean shops we visited). Rafael wanted to buy Stick-o and Nagaraya. Nahomesick hehe. The market sold a lot of Filipino stuff - mangoes, ulams, banana cue, turon, kakanins, etc. At least Filipinos in Korea have something to look forward to every Sunday. 

  Afterwards, the driver took us to the Bukchon Hanok Village. Good thing he brought us there because my research totally missed this. It was a nice, traditional Korean village with Korean houses. There were many people (mostly foreigners) walking around in Hanboks, the traditional Korean costume. You know it's a residential tourist attraction because there are signs all over the place asking people to be quiet because it's a residential area. 

  After our mini tour, we finally got to the palace. It was okay but Rafael was disappointed. Perhaps he was expecting something like a western castle, hihi. 

Rhuel wanted Rafael and I to wear the traditional costume. Good thing we didn't find any rental place inside the palace. Ang init kaya. :D

It was lunch time when we finished exploring the palace. I wanted to visit Insadong. We got lost a bit (as in alleys with scary looking guys hehe) going there but we eventually found our way. We had lunch at a Korean restaurant in Insadong that served really nice soup and stir fried pork and squid. Ang sarap lang ng sticky rice hehe. 

  Although we were still full from lunch, we had to try the poo bread too. Rafael and I loved it. Crunchy and chewy at the same time with just the right amount of chocolate filling. :D

We came across some cute paintings and we got some for the house. 

Then it was time for us to visit Gangnam to feel the vibe. We're not K-pop fans but we still had to check it out, right? Rhuel wanted to stay at the COEX mall, maganda daw eh. But my research says it was not Gangnam "proper" hehe. 

We eventually found the overcrowded Gangnam area. Pretty much like Hongdae the other night but I liked the Hongdae vibe more - crowded but not exhausting. Or maybe we were just really exhausted already. 

  We had dinner at a Korean restaurant with a self-order kiosk, coolness. We had fried shrimp and dumplings. Yummy and sulit. 

  It was time to head back to the hotel afterwards. 

We had to sleep early because we had an early tour the following day. 

At the end of it all, I was just glad that this trip finally pushed through. It was several years in the making and up until the last minute, I was not sure it would happen because of Rhuel's condition. But thank God it did. Sabi ko nga, kahit anong pagod ko prior to the trip, wala lahat 'yun as long as we go thru with it. So even if NAIA was chaotic, I did not mind. I was just sooo happy to be there because I know the trip was finally going to happen.

In hindsight, Rhuel getting sick was actually a blessing in disguise. I originally planned to do DMZ on day 1 and Nami Island on day 2. Imagine having two consecutive days with very tight schedules and lots of walking, after a very late arrival from our flight. We would have all been very cranky and tired. So sabi nga ni Catriona, there is always a silver lining. :)

Now here are some things I learned from this trip:
  1. Just like the locals, Google translate will be your friend. We were amazed by the camera feature where you can simply scan the Korean characters with your camera and it will give you an English translation. Of course it won't always be accurate. On the way to the airport,  I asked our taxi driver if most people in Seoul live in condos/apartments or in houses. He used Google Translate to reply, "Many construction companies are barking." I suppose he meant building, hehe. 
  2. In relation to number 1, love your language. Korea welcomes a lot of tourists. And while they try their best to communicate in English, it's not something they're so fixated on. Kumabaga, tayo daw ang mag-adjust. Which makes sense. Let's stop being so biased in favor of English speaking people. Korea and Japan are prosperous countries with tourism booms despite choosing to stick with their native languages. This is something worth considering. 
  3. Most restaurants in Korea practice what we call "self-service" here in the Philippines. However, they call it self-retrieval there. We were confused initially. I was asking Rhuel to get water from the self-retrieval area of Domino's, thinking that we could retrieve water ourselves there. Turns out it was an area where you can spill your excess drinks. :D
  4. While Korean weather was mostly cool during our stay, Rafael and I still got slightly sunburnt. So don't be deceived by the chilly air. The sun's just lurking behind the clouds. 
  5. Korean air must be clean. Rafael's doctors were concerned that his allergic rhinitis might flare up due to the pollen. But despite the cold weather and even if he got a bit soaked from rain during our Nami Island trip, his allergies never showed up. So it's probably the dirty Philippine air that's giving him allergies. Boo. 
  6. Their toilets are all serviceable. They're not all squeaky clean but I didn't mind using them. I'm usually averse to public toilets but I didn't have any problems here. Clean public toilets are a must if you're traveling with a child who still needs  to strike anywhere so this was really helpful. 
  7. Korea is not as clean as Singapore for example. There were some trash on the streets but these were all confined to one particular area. So medyo orderly ang dating hehe. 
  8. Their subway stations were not consistent. Some looked really new, nice, and clean. Some looked old and a bit dirty. Some were easily accessible, some were not. But the trains were all clean. And even the most overcrowded stations were still orderly and never chaotic. Rhuel says he could probably live in Korea because it's quite similar to the Philippines, na mas maayos and malinis, hehe.
When traveling with a child (and this time with a recuperating adult), you can expect to be exhausted. But as I always say, it's worth it. It was challenging to bring a lot of medicines with matching prescriptions. But we were going to a place where we did not know anyone so we had to be prepared. Berocca helped me survive this trip, by the way. :D

Web check-in saved us from long waiting times at the airport. It is so convenient. I used to ignore this feature in the past. But it's definitely useful if you're traveling with a child. :)

I'm just glad we had a smooth trip. Nobody got sick and we all got back healthy. Yes, traveling can be expensive. But after all the things we had to deal with at the start of this year, I honestly feel we deserved this break.

And I know it's worth it because Rafael can't seem to get over the trip. He recreated his own little Seoul here at home, improvising with his toys. He used his airplanes to build an airport with a tube, his trains for the subway, his boat for the Nami Island ferry, his bus for the one we used during the tours, his taxi for the taxis we rode, and his Paw Patrol lookout as his N Seoul Tower. He insisted on learning about the places we visited. He can't stop talking about Myeongdong and he keeps on mentioning Chungmuro, Dongdaemun Cultural and History Park, Dongguk University, etc. He's imitating the train announcements. And he would ask to watch vlogs about Korea. So yep, I know it was a memorable trip for him. And even just because of that, sulit na ang gastos.

Add to that my husband's appreciation for all the work I put in for this trip. He's normally not appreciative (read: makontra and maangal). So his kind words really meant a lot to me.

I hope we could take more trips like this in the future. There's something so refreshing about exploring a new place where we only have each other to rely on. Next time ulit.  In the meantime, back to reality muna and time to focus on our next big challenge - our homeschooling journey. :)