The past two weeks in December have been the most people-filled times of my life, if you bar the days I was on work trips abroad. I would rather do a recap on those moments because I am simply missing them more than everything else that has happened over the course of one speedy year, quite oddly, because at times, really, the family drama could push you to the brink of explosion. (Sorry, mum and dad!)
Of course firstly there was meeting Q, a time that was way too short and I did not want to end at all. It amazes me to think how much time has flown since we last shared a flat together. i miss those days! reminiscing over a touch of tea is always good, better than ever. We must have more of this when you come home again!
Korea was fantastic, so good that I think the massive food poisoning of which I still suffer is well worth it. I shared a room with my cousin and sister, and truth be told, I truly missed all of it even before touching down. The glaring HD TV on mute, music on low, and the falsetto of my sister, and the lame jokes we all shared. And of course, the cold we all pulled through, the snowfall on my birthday, and my mum bustling into our room aka the dumping ground for all snacks and food items (also where they rummage for supplies). Seeing and experiencing things with the family is always something I treasure, no matter if I was being a grouch at that particular moment!
And my sister has left for Melby again. I sunk into a low when it finally hit me at home when I returned from sending her off. There it goes again, the emptiness, the humdrum of daily life without a person to come home to wreak crazy pointless havoc about. How could the upbeat momentum leave so soon just because someone has gone? I need to learn to overcome all of this, and remind myself again that I should always be present, be in the moment, love that moment, and never take anyone for granted, only to look back in woe in the future.
Time for some tacky but true Come Home, Love now, I guess.
|Some things never change... With Q Dec 2011 at Acme Bar & Coffee, Troika.|
|With Q Dec 2012, Red Bean Bag, Publika.|
|Travelling for the first time with my cousins. Took this when we were about to land I suppose, because after all, I wouldn't be awake if it was otherwise.|
|An ode to Yoo Jae Suk, perhaps? :)|
|An omen of what was to come...|
We were so worn out but had plans to explore the vicinity of our hotel, but ended up in a Korean restaurant just two blocks down, run by all ladies. Very limited menu, but I think it operates on a very typical Korean style - meaning, you order verbally, and you get what you ask for. We were just sadly, too limited in their lexicon to know what best to request. Nonetheless, it was good in all its austerity.
|Happy to be under a warm roof.|
|Bibimbap, healthy version.|
|I ordered the cold buckwheat noodle.|
We decided to retire to the night and get some good night's rest - and look what we discovered!
|We stayed over the course of the week in Best Western Premier Hotel Kuk Do - look, they offer these stripey outfits in the rooms!|
|View from the 21st floor (apparently the highest residential floor in the building).|
|We had breakfast at The Twosome Place right next door to the hotel.|
|Experiencing Corean Coffee Culture.|
|Hitting up the subway station. Melby sis was awesome at navigating the machines and multitude of subway lines.|
|On our way to Bukchon Hanok Village.|
The Hanok Village features preserved and reestablished houses that aim to revive the lives and cultures of the past villages that surrounded the palace.
And then it was down to the real deal: Myeong Dong, here we come!
|Roadside food fans alert!|
|Gyeongbukgung Palace in the brrrrr.|
|That's Mount Bugaksan in the background.|
|Damn, I just realised the flag has covered the guard's face!|
|I found the sight of the mountain breathtaking. Imagine waking up to this panoramic view every morning. One can easily feel energised and so much stronger with that sort of visual - and mental - backing.|
|Talk about backing...|
|Torn down during the invasion of Japan in the early 20th century, it is now restored to its original state, gloriously fit for a royalty - although, a lot of the stories about the Empress especially is harrowing to read.|
|Found a nook and eventually fooled around with multiple faces and angles...|
|Tiger and me.|
|To withstand the cold, meditate (Peeping Tom behind the tree optional).|
|Koreans do have a great sense of humour.|
I think we fought the cold for an hour or two, and eventually, were defeated. I don't suppose we finished the tour, but oh well, though I didn't regret it then, I certainly doubt my decision now. Anyhow, we ambled off next to Insa Dong.
|Absolutely my favourite place, not because there was a random case of a shopkeeper leaving me his phone number -_-, but because of the quirky edge that is also brimming with an artsy aura.|
|Hanging in a cafe from the chill.|
|Polaroids festooned all the walls. It felt like a lovers' hangout, really.|
|My green tea. Looks awesome, right?|
|There are warrens that deviate from the main street, peppered with unique concept restaurants as well as trinket and vintage stores.|
|Like this one.|
|The epitome of eating shite.|
|Room 2003 was the Grand Central Station of the trip, and also the room in which I bunk with my cousin bro and Melby sis.|
|Back to the restaurant for dinner, this time to try out their BBQ.|
|The ahjumma was so shy that she immediately cowered when I raised my cam. But with all the language barrier, she really was trying her best to make us feel at home.|
A nocturnal walk after the heavy meal had me seeing the hotel facade lit with blocks of colours. Ah, I wouldn't have known if I hadn't taken the odd decision of walking out at night (not a night person).
Off to Myeong Dong en route to N Seoul Tower.
|The fam had tteokbuki (rice cakes) at Manna, a small humble store set in the subway station shopping centre.|
|The journey to N Seoul Tower for Teddy Bear Museum and Namsan Park was fraught with chilly winds and rough steep terrains.|
We gave up eventually. Back to Myeong Dong, and well, eating.
Next, Dongdaemun Market:
|Wholesale textile galore!|
After hours of walking, we finally nipped into a dodgy warren (of all places, I know, don't ask me) for a meal to mark the day's end.
|It turned out to be a place where chicken was in every dish. Specialty? chicken.|
|These ladies probably sit there all day peeling chicken.|
|PSY and the chickens.|
|Smiling in the snow.|
|Gwangjang Market, where one can find food stalls, and textile and wedding attire stalls.|
|You will find the ahjummas very well dressed and made up, stylish in a very fashion-unconscious manner.|
|Check out the piggy noses.|
|Red bean porridge made in batches.|
|The Korean pancake.|
We took the day slow, and then headed out for Insa-Dong at night again.
Truly, couples galore. At the end of the street, there is a huge junction where the traffic buzzed about incessantly.
|And then there was Mr. Waffle.|
Day 6: my birthday :)
We headed out to Sinchun area, with snow falling all day.
|Outside U Plex.|
|And then en route to Myeong Dong, one last time!|
|Guess what these mascots are for?|
|I was busy with the mascots, while they munched.|
|Real sunny side up inside!|
|Answer: they are reps of Cat Cafe and Dog Cafe respectively. Not sure what Mr. Mario is for though. We were laughing so hard at Doggie, who was reaching deep inside its mask to get brochures out. AND the way they hang their umbrellas? Ingenious.|
|Mascots were out in full force.|
|Choose your flavour and let the gavel crash!|
Everything seemed to be in a standstill when it snowed. It snowed, and snowed, all day, on the 29th. Twilight cocooned us in hours that passed unknown and undetected. Destinations seemed to be ever so nebulous, and journeys felt like forever. I can recall how we trudged the snow-laden pathways, and turned back to see the ones lagging behind, their actions and silhouettes and voices moving through the thick air, mutely. Everything was so beautiful, everything when the umbrella is removed, falling from the skies, was so beautiful to the point of intoxication.
Like everything else, like snow, everything fades. And pictures like these, they make me sad, but also, kind of happy because we did it - we made it to Seoul, we made it through with (stomach upsets sustained till now) lots of happy memories and experiences that have carved a deep notch in my life. This is what I call a real gallivant.