Korea Travelogue: Hong Thai Tour Review, Mapo Market, Mysterious Road, Dragon Head Rock

Hi everyone! Sorry for my lack of updates as I have been so busy with work and meeting up with friends. First post of 2014 is on travel! I finally found the time to start blogging on my trip to Korea in April last year. Hope that this may be of some benefit to peeps who are considering a holiday there. Hubby and I chose to travel in mid April because we wanted to admire cherry blossoms.

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I did some research and decided Jeju Island is a must in the itinerary. Jeju is South Korea’s largest and most famous island with beautiful beaches, waterfalls, gardens, folk villages and museums. I was pleased with my choice: Hong Thai’s “9D All in Korea” tour. This tour is an extension of “8D All in Korea Deluxe”, with an addition free day for shopping to your heart’s content. Another factor which attracted me to this itinerary was because it received an award by Korea Tourism Organization for being one of the 8 best Korea tour programs in the world.

The tour has a good mix of sightseeing, amusement parks and shopping. Hotels were clean and meals not bad. While following tours, I usually lower my expectations when food is concerned. Fortunately, Hong Thai’s choices of restaurants were satisfactory.

The following is the itinerary:

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Here are some of my personal tips while traveling to Korea in April with a tour:

-Pack sufficient clothing such that you have fresh clothes each day. Because it’s cold, most of us re-wear the same top/pants since we don’t perspire in the cold weather. The advantage of this is that we can save on luggage space and weight to do more shopping. This is a good idea everywhere in the world except Korea. Why?  This is because you never know when you will be brought to eat BBQ! There are 4 BBQ meals included in the tour, plus the guide brought us to  try another famous BBQ restaurant. At the end of each meal, your clothes will stink. Trust me, you won’t want to wear them again!  And leave your coat in the coach, do not bring it into the restaurant.

-Have “cooling” drinks daily and pack sore throat lozenges. Kimchi and BBQ are “heaty”, and most of our bodies find it difficult to cope with the increase in “heaty” foods. Our guide advised us to drink herbal teas and isotonic drinks daily to neutralize the “heatiness”. The hubs drank beer, haha!

-If you wish to iron your clothes, bring a portable iron. All the hotels we stayed in had no irons at all, except for the hotel in Seoul.

-Bring a bath towel. Yongpyong Resort and Hanwah 100% Hot Spring Resort only provide limited hand towels; they charge a fee if you request for bath towels or additional hand towels.

-Bring heat packs and gloves for Mount Sorak National Park. Its freezing up here and watch your step as the icy grounds are slippery. Our tour mate slipped, fell and cut himself.

-Pack good moisturizers for your skin and lips as it’s very dry in Korea.

-Once you see Korean skincare and cosmetic shops eg Missha, Skinfood, Faceshop etc, BUY BUY BUY (40% cheaper than Singapore). Do not wait for the guide to bring you the DFS outlet where the skincare course is conducted. This is because this DFS outlet only well stocked for The Odbo products but poorly stocked for other brands.

So that’s all for my review and tips, now I shall start on my trip 🙂

Terrible food!

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Upon arrival, we were whisked off  to a modest restaurant for breakfast.

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Our first stop in Seoul was Mapo Market, a large scale market selling local agriculture produce, seafood and meat.

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I was quite tempted to buy these huge strawberries but gave it a miss we won’t be able to finish them.

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Lunch was Gamjatang (Korean Bak Ku Te) before the catching a short flight to Jeju Island.

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Public bus service is available (no rail or subway), but they may not take you directly to tourist sites, which are scattered around the egg-shaped island. Hence, for free and easy tourists, hiring a private tour guide (car included) is your best bet, albeit the cost.

We visited the Mysterious Road (Dokebi Road), where vehicles can move upwards the slope while the engine is turned off. This slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope due to the layout of the surrounding land. So the car here is not defying gravity, it’s just an optical illusion!

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Dragon Head Rock (Yongduam Rock), created by winds and waves over thousands of years. According to a local legend, a dragon descending from Hallasan (highest mountain in S.Korea) was petrified in place upon reaching the sea. Another legend says that the dragon landed up in the sea because it was caught stealing from a mountain deity in Hallasan, who shot it down with an arrow.

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You can walk down the coast to catch a better view of the rock.

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Traditional Korea Dinner……

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Eco-friendly toothpicks made from corn starch…

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Our stay for the night was Jeju Oriental Hotel. There is a casino on the 1st level and a small convenience store next door. Do get up early for the buffet breakfast because this is the best one in the whole trip. The guide explained that breakfast is a simple affair in Korea; most locals have rice or porridge. Therefore you will notice limited varieties in most hotels’ buffet breakfast, but Jeju Oriental Hotel is an exception.

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Must-try food in Jeju: Jeonbokjuk aka Abalone bits congee. Pity the abalone bits are so small I could not find any.

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