Unlike many Singaporeans who are immersed in the Korean wave (K-Pop/ K-Drama, Cuisine, Culture, Language), I, however, was never really into this Korean “pop culture tsunami” and couldn’t understand the hype and buzz behind this Korean phenomenon. Well, that is until about a couple months back when MK introduced me to this popular hit show, Running Man and I have been addicted to this variety show since then! Yes, a self-confessed Running Man addict … That’s what I am!
This post comes very belated as it has been 9 months (!) since I went on a company incentive trip to South Korea as I didn’t get about blogging about it earlier. As with all my company trips, the trip to Seoul was relatively short, lasting not more than 4 days so it was really a “touch-and-go” travel trip with a very packed itinerary!
We did 1 of the most touristy thing that you can ever do in Korea – which is to don the Korean traditional dress called the Hanbok for photo opportunities.
Tried my hand at making the Korean’s national dish, Kimchi. Okay, I confessed that all I did was to marinade the fermented cabbage with the ready prepared spices and voolah, I was done in 5 minutes flat! Not a bad effort for someone who barely cooks back home.
Do you know that the Kimchi is cited as 1 of the world’s healthiest food? This spicy condiment is loaded with lots of vitamins – A, B and C – , fiber and a dose of healthy bacteria (those bacteria that aids digestion). In fact, as part of my anti-aging regime, I’m trying to incorporate Kimchi as part of my daily diet although I haven’t been quite successful with that yet.
Technically, we didn’t really get a chance to have a peek into the world’s most secretive country, North Korea, as the Korean Demilitarized Zone is a relatively large strip of land that serves as a buffer zone between South and North Korea. Despite its name, this area is actually the world’s most heavily fortified border in the world as it is guarded by both armies from North and South Korea. The only way you can spot North Korea from a distance is probably through the binoculars on a fine sunny day. So, don’t get your hopes too high to catch a glimpse of 1 of the world’s most mysterious country!
In fact, I had a close shave with the law when I accidentally whipped out my camera to attempt to take a picture of the border within the “No Cameras” boundary, only to be shouted at by the South Korean solider that this is a ‘no camera’ zone! Yes, we were kept very in line … one wrong move and you will find yourself playing with fire. The tension is still very palpable.
Our half-day excursion to DMZ brought us to the Imjingak Park, which is the main stop for most tourists. Some of the places that we visited include the Dorasan Station (symbolic place of unification of the 2 Korean countries), Dora Observatory and the 3rd Tunnel of Aggression, which is 1 of the 4 tunnels that are believed to have been planned as a military invasion route by North Korea. Apparently, it is carefully designed such that it will permit the passage of an entire infantry division of about 30,00 pax in 1 hour!
Traveled 243m up the N Seoul Tower where we were treated with a beautiful panoramic view of Seoul city! We also tried to spot the little red dot, Singapore, but to no avail (duh) since we were 4651.9 km away from home!
The Seoul Tower is probably the most romantic place in Korea as many young couples express their love for each other by hanging their locks of love at the fence at the observatory before throwing away the keys thus signifying everlasting love. Since we were in the ‘Locks of Love’ without our significant others, ZN, Ka Chun and I decided to dedicate a little love note to our beloved one. Coincidentally, ‘Stephanie’ was the recipient of our postcards – The boys are married to 2 different ladies also called Stephanie and yours truly decided to dedicate a postcard from Korea to herself! Lol.
Visited the grand Gyeongbokgung Palace, which was originally constructed in 1394 during the Joseon Dynasty. Many of the original buildings were either damaged or demolished during the Japanese invasions of Korea from 1592- 1598 and the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 – 1945 thus leaving behind only a small portion of its previous glory.
Unfortunately, the royal palace didn’t impress me as much as I thought I would as I have visited other palaces such as the Forbidden City in Beijing and Grand Palace in Bangkok that truly left me in awe of its magnificent architecture and sight.
Another must-do thing on a tourist itinerary – A visit to the Namsangol Hanok Village! The most interesting part of this excursion was probably to see both ZN and KC lifting the girls in the seemingly makeshift traditional sedan chair… Daebak!
Friends, friends & more friends!
Similar to my previous 2 company retreats (Beijing & Shanghai), I cannot be more thankful for the great company that I had during my short visit to South Korea! 🙂 The food (BBQ fiesta, Ginseng Chicken & Kimchi) was delicious, the shopping was awesome (face masks and beauty loots), the city is so vibrant (beautiful Korean people to admire) but it was truly my friends & colleagues who made it so enjoyable! 🙂
Hopefully, yet another fun company retreat to either Sydney or Melbourne this year? :p