Seoul - 18 Dec

Had my most expensive meals in Korea thus far. Lunch in a Western-style restaurant on the 10th floor of the Shinsagae Departmental Store. Dinner of BBQ Beef at Bulgogi Bros in Myeong Dong. Both great meals to top off the end of a trip.

Went out today to shop for my nephews and niece. Surprisingly, there are relatively little variety of toys to be found anywhere. Do Korean children play with toys? Finally found self-assembled toy cars for my little nephews and a wallet for my niece. Bought a G-Shock watch for my oldest nephew. 

I did have to change some money at a bank this morning. Quick and efficient. Enough to last me today and tomorrow.

Since I had done my packing, I decided to catch Avatar at the CGV cinema at Myeong Dong. The movie is in English with Korean subtitles. Nobody alerted me to collect 3D glasses at the door so i had to scramble for a pair when the movie started. The movie is mind-boggling good - sort of Porhantas meeting the colonists. The story is nothing to shout about - increasingly it is the kind of dewy-eyed movie about man destroying the habitat and the need to re-connect with Mother Nature. The acting is competent all around but it is the special effects that is outstanding. I would be very surprised if Avatar did not sweep all the technical awards come Oscar time. To win Best Picture - Nah. 

Summation - how was the trip? I would have chosen to come when the weather is better. Seoul is definitely more happening and interesting compared to Singapore. I like the food and the good-looking men everywhere. I can definitely do without the weather. 

Back to good old Singapore tomorrow 8-) 

Seoul - 17 Dec

No wonder I am feeling the cold. The highest temperature is -4 degrees and the lowest -10 degrees.

Today I decided to take it easy on my poor feet. I went to a Jjimjilbang - the Korean version of a bathhouse. I paid 15 000 won and the counter lady showed me where to store and lock my shoes. The same key would open my locker where I can store my belongings.

I stripped and put on the shorts and loose top, as instructed by the guidebook. When I entered the shower / pool / sauna area, I realised there was nowhere to hang my top and towel. In fact, the middle aged guy and the old man were stark naked sitting in the pool. Well, when in Rome... I took a quick shower and dipped myself in the nearest pool. The water was not too hot. There were three pools - normal, green tea and ginseng. Frankly, they all felt the same to me. I also tried the steam room and the pinewood burning sauna. Smells of pine!

It was very refreshing and I had a chance to relax my feet thoroughly. After the break, I had lunch at a nearby Fried Chicken joint. Lately, I had developed a taste for Korean fried chicken and I wanted to see what it is like. The skin is crispy and the meat tender and there were a few types of dips.

I decided to go back to Korea House at Chungmoro where I bought a lovely scarf for my ex-colleague. (She told me she had finally gotten the transfer she wanted to another school.) I also bought a tie for my best friend at work. I managed to take a photo together with the pretty Korean girl who speaks English and is dressed in Korean attire. Haha.

I decided to also re-visit Isa-Dong, which had turned out to be my favourite place in Seoul. There were simply lots of things to see and buy. Bought a hand-made purse for my mom. I had coffee and New York Cheese cake at the coffee joint on top of Ssamziegil.

Dinner was at one of the old hanok houses converted into an eatery. I had shell soup and beef bulgogi. The unfortunate thing about eating in Seoul is that when you order a meal, it comes with at least five plates of side dishes. Inevitably, one of them is kimchi. By now, I can judge how good a restaurant is by the kimchi they serve! I notice that other people do not finish all the side dishes as well so there is a lot of wastage going on. (I did see homeless people who sleep in subway stations or by the doorways of shops along the street. The temperature must be terrible out there at night.)

On an impulse, I bought a small oil painting of a sheep in the form of a cloud. Very quirky and surreal.

Tomorrow I must visit one of the banks nearby and exchange some money. Money not enough 8-)

Seoul - 16 Dec

I was taken for a very expensive taxi ride today. All because my feet was dead tired and I had no wish to tackle the subway. The taxi got caught in a peak hour jam and we had to detour to another route. To top it all, the cab driver did not know the way to the hotel so he dropped me somewhere nearby.

This is all because of the tourist mentality - to try and squeeze in as much as possible in a single day.

I went to Lotte World in the morning. It was packed with youngsters, all eager to try the death-defying rides. I stuck to the safest, a sedate hot air balloon ride around the main atrium. My fingers were gripping the metal pole throughout. I am terrified of heights!

In the afternoon, i went to COEX Aquarium at COEX mall. It was worth every cent cos the aquarium was well laid out and they even put Christmas decorations in the tanks!

I thought since I am in the area, I might as well as go to Gangnam too. Big mistake. Nothing much there to linger for. That's when I decided to get a taxi ride back. Another big mistake.

I just had a beef rib BBQ dinner to make up for the ordeal. The waitress patiently flipped the meat and cut into small pieces for me. I felt so pampered. The counter lady even gave me a lucky charm when I paid the expensive bill 8-)