Saturday, 5 November 2005

First Trip to Korea - A Journal (Part 12 - End)

This was my last full day in Korea and I had no plans for sightseeing except that Hwa-joo would take me for a walk in the afternoon along Hangang (Han River) and Itaewon, the area where most foreigners in Seoul get together. For most of the morning I was reading until I saw the re-run of Dae Jang-geum on MBC. Interestingly, it was the first two episodes that I have missed in its premiere in Hong Kong, and I could not help being distracted from my book to the television set. Although I could not fully understand the lines in Korean, the plot seems so familiar that language is no longer a problem. Now that I have seen Park Myeong-i, Jang-geum's mother, Choe Seong-geum and Han Baek-yeong in their "nae in" costumes, I just think that Kim Hye-seon who played the role of Myeong-i was the most attractive before Rina's appearance. For some reason she just looked so charming in a humble make-up. I have also seen her appearing in one of the latest dramas on television here in Korea, but she looked so different in heavy make-up and the charm was just gone.

At about 1 pm I left the hostel and walked along the main streets to Myeongdong through Jongro, Euljiro and Chungmuro. I forgot to bring along the map but I am now so familiar with this area that there was no difficulty in telling the directions. I was trying to look for some nice restaurants along the way, before I met Hwa-joo at Dongjak station, but to no avail. It was almost two o'clock when I arrived at Myeongdong and decided to have a quick lunch in a pork cutlet fast food shop. It was cheap but the food was quite good.

After joining Hwa-joo at the subway station, we walked along the riverside path to the east. Unlike previous days, the weather was quite hazy and cool. Then we came to a bike-hiring shop and rented two bicycles to have a ride to the west to reach the tallest building of Seoul. It was a very good exercise, although some ups and downs along the cycling way were somewhat challenging for me, having not cycled for years. We took a break in a food kiosk next to the building before we returned along the same path.

Then Hwa-joo took me to Itaewon but it was a bit disappointing - just like the rugged streets of Tsim Sha Tsui around Chungking Mansion 20 years ago. But that was easily compensated with a delicious dinner of "samgapsol" (three-layered barbeque pork), "bibimbap" (rice with mixed vegetables in a pot) and "naengmyeon", cold noodles.

Afterwards Hwa-joo took me to a nice, cosy coffee shop for a mouth-watering dessert of waffle with ice creams, where we had a long chat of two hours until about 11:30 pm. She told me about her concerns at work and I shared my experience in managing stress, among other subjects. It was a bit long-winded but definitely rewarding and relaxing. It was a pity that Sun-mi was unable to join us for a friend's wedding.

I will fly back home tomorrow evening but Hwa-joo was very kind to invite me to lunch again before I leave her country. This concludes my wonderful and first trip to Korea and I am definitely going to miss my friends and the nice food and scenery there.

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