Memories of Iceland Road Trip – Europe Trip 2017

I kind of remember 2016 being year of Iceland – blogs on Iceland was popping up every time I was searching on new endeavors, beautiful photos on the scenery, the Iceland Ring Road drive, and this got us to begin planning for the Iceland road trip!  A flight to the Europe with 14+ hours of flight and high cost – naturally it would make more sense to lengthen our trip to maximise our flight tickets. So we threw in 3 weeks of holiday, London, and Switzerland as well.

We planned a year ahead – starting from 2016 to begin watching flights and finally we got our flight tickets, and began our lengthy plan for more than a year before the trip began!  I held out most of my work leave for the year so to take a 3 weeks worth of holiday off in Nov-December. I was really craving for a holiday throughout and constantly sighing and reflecting about life due to that!

A lot of hard work also went into getting my driving license from late 2016 to April 2017. Just lucky enough to pass on my first try and way in time for the dreaded-tough-weather-driving-in-Iceland in the November XD. It seriously wasn’t for the fainted-hearted the moment you google on driving in Iceland during winter seasons. On TripAdvisor too.

At one point, I had too many plans and too many accommodations to choose from depending on how I predict my trip+weather would turn out – it was a hard decision should we self-drive or not? My sis, however, was swift and steady. Chop chop, she sealed our decision and we booked our rental car – no more backing out!

Then I showed her some youtube videos on winter driving in Iceland 😏

There were so many (free!) experiences on a Iceland road trip which one would totally missed out in a tour. I was really reluctant to join a tour. Like…

Solheimasandur Plane Wreck Site

Trekking 4km to the plane wreck site, and 4km back to your car.

Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
Solheimasandur Plane Wreck

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Hiking up the canyon against the freezing wind…

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Dwarf Crags Dverghamrar

Having the entire Dwarf Crags to yourself…! This is slightly further south-west where most tour would skip through to either straight east-ward to the Jokulsarlon region within the day to beat the short daylight hours.

Dwarf Crags Dverghamrar
 Dwarf Crags Dverghamrar

Lots of Personal and Memorable Experiences

Can’t miss out personal experiences like:

– Going into shopping marts and taking our time to browse through the local food (Skyr! Butter! Some weird crackers!). And then forgetting our grocery at the accommodation

– Driving through “tough” weather. To be honest, we were lucky – no snowstorm, no crazy wind, just heavy drizzling rain.

– Finding random locations to do aurora at night. Definitely you need a car to drive out to darker regions that were not polluted by lights. But we were very fail at our aurora hunts. 🙁

– Topping up petrol at an unsheltered kiosk 😀 Against the rain and wind xD

– Checking into really unique accommodations! And fixing our own meals. I am generally ok with having sandwich most of the trips. But we had some awesome food by my chef-of-a-sis. I can still think about the chips in salad, grilled mushroom, and chicken wings overload XD

Some really funny (to us) driving experiences

I am not going to say that “it is safe to drive in winter”, and “there is nothing to fear”. But doing your homework to anticipate the risk and to be decisive enough to maintain on the safe-side is more than crucial if going on the winter drive in Iceland. Meaning killing your itinerary if bad weather ensues, or driving at slower speed than the speed limit.  I was prepared to do that. My Iceland road trip was planned using a speed of 50km/h.

I am already starting to miss the road trip there, I should try to start writing up soon! Its been like 2 years since my trip there and I fear my memories of all the fun times will start to float off soon :(!

Shopping fun in Seoul – 14D Korea Part 9

Hangang Park

Day 9 – Shopping Craze and B-Boys!

This was one of the simplest day – just shop, eat, and repeat!

I had a little craving that day and was thinking a lot about this Nakseo Pajeon that had raving reviews on many blogs out there. It was a little out of the way, outside of the city center where I was staying and I took a long time to finally decide to go there. And at 10am…

It wasn’t opened. 🙁

Sigh…a good 1 hour+ trip to get back to my city center. Anyways, at least I returned with a photo ><!

Hoegi Station Pajeon Alley
Hoegi Station Pajeon Alley

Shinchon ladies street & Ewha Woman’s University & Fashion Street

Next, headed off to Edae region (short for Ewha University) area. There wasn’t much photo I have on this journey…but to spare a few:

Fried Chicken towards Edae
Fried Chicken towards Edae
Brown - LINE Store near Edae-Shinchon
Brown – LINE Store near Edae-Shinchon

Plenty of clothes store and in this region – ladies heaven really! This place felt like Bugis street but more spacious and easier to shop at.

Next stop, was heading for Hongdae, but decided to try going on foot – I can’t really remember why I did that, but I passed this region which was near Sinchon metro and there was a huge crowd over there – so I got curious and try to see what huge crowd was screaming about.

Accidentally Attended Fan-meeting

UNB - Fan meeting
UNB – Fan meeting

I tried to find a spot where I could watch, and ended up behind the idols. The front facing section was fill with people standing on stools. Impossible to get past!

I hadn’t any idea who they were but might as well join in the fun! Shortly, their manager decided to clear a path for them to exit later on, and they chose to split the crowd right where I was! Talk about luck! We waited patiently and soon, they, 7 of them, were walking passed us and waving goodbyes! Everyone had their hands out trying to get a hi-5. I joined in late however! Got 1 hi-5 though! 😀

Later, I learned that they are UNB – formed by the idols survival show – The Unit. And when I did came back to SG, I followed their journey on the show!

Hongdae

It was a long walk, I decided. So, I continued on metro to Hongdae to visit Hongdae Free Market, which is only opened on weekends. This is a little market where students (I presumed) set up stores to sell stuff and mostly handicraft works. I didn’t linger around much.

Spotted this One-Piece while wandering around the Hongdae region! I didn’t venture in further, but it seems like a theme cafe?

One Piece
One Piece

Eventually, found a dinner spot before my BBoys concert! It was a korean-jap fusion restaurant, and I got a simple meal here:

Next, was then searching for the location of the BBoys concert. I walked this stretch of road repeatedly back and forth, because on my Google Map and GPS showed that I keep missing my spot. Yet I just couldn’t reach that place! Obviously… if only meant 1 thing but it wasn’t so obvious to me back then.

During the search, 2 Koreans guys approached and ask me directions (XD). Sadly I couldn’t be much of a help, but we chatted a little after they learnt that I wasn’t a local. Hehe, honestly I was happy for this little chat because in Seoul, I haven’t have got much of a chance to interact with people. I was really missing my stay at Busan, Gwangju, or Jeonju! Just before we part our ways I asked them for help on directions, and they pointed to that building where I had been pacing right in front for the past 10 minutes!

So in short, its actually situated just 1 level below the bank.

Kung Festival Battle B-Boy Season 2
쿵 페스티벌

121, Wausan-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul – B1 one of the bank building
서울특별시 마포구 와우산로 121 (서교동)

BBoy Kung Festival

Before concert starts!

BBoy Kung Festival
BBoy Kung Festival

Aftermath! (Phototaking time!)

 BBoy Kung Festival
BBoy Kung Festival

I raved this concert! Its a rather small stage area but it provides a better view for the audience and dancers will sometimes get out onto the floor. No-speech, awesome dance moves, and a simple story line with plenty of comedic expression. 😀 There were some interactions with the audience, asking a few of them to show off their dance moves or help out with some tricks. Really enjoyed the session throughout! And afterwards, audience are free to take photos with the dancers.

Afterwards, I hit Hongdae streets…and look at that crowd!

Hongdae at night
Hongdae at night

Plenty of buskers, dancers, singers, and many more! This street is so full of life I wish I could “import” this back home. xD! With the crowd here, vehicles wouldn’t consider moving through this place. There was one exception once while I was there and buskers have to stop and everyone had to move out of the road for that lorry to pass through. Imagine that amount of eyes watching this little lorry driving through. xD

Hongdae, hongdae! Oh man, I seriously love this spot and I kept returning for the few nights later on. Same for Edae shopping streets. xD. I couldn’t get enough!

Day 10

Yeouido Hangang Park

Hangang River
Hangang River

Day started with a trip down to Yeouido Hangang Park – There seems to be some kind of games or cherry blossom event so it was quite crowded as well. I strolled through the park and there are some beautiful decorations:

Hangang Park
Hangang Park
Hangang Park
Hangang Park

…and life-size games:

Chinese Chess -Hangang Park
Chinese Chess -Hangang Park

In this picture above, there was an interesting game drawn on the floor above the Chinese Chess. A bullseye? Couldn’t figure out until I detoured back later and spotted some locals balancing on one-foot and then kicking out their other feet – sending their shoe on that feet flying towards the bullseye. xD

Hangang Park
Hangang Park

Beautiful painted tiles – this was at one of the far end of Hangang’s Park. Chilled for a little longer before setting out for my next stop.

Yoojung Sikdang 유정식당

14 Dosan-daero 28-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
+82-2-511-4592

Yoojung Sikdang - BTS frequented restaurant
Yoojung Sikdang – BTS frequented restaurant

This was a restaurant that BTS frequented during their early pre-debut days! They specialise in black pork, and I got the following pork-bulgogi which came with a tofu soup! Delicious and great value!

Bulgogi - Yoojung Sikdang
Bulgogi – Yoojung Sikdang

 

I actually started eating the in my asian way – a bit of rice, a bit of meat. The restaurant server saw me and gestured me to dump my rice in the bulgogi and mixed it up the Korean way. Ooooh! Yeah! Wished I had more people to share food with! There were many things on menu I wished to try – the pains of a solo. And heres a take of me and the restaurant internals – all of BTS posters pasted over the restaurant!

Yoojung Sikdang
Yoojung Sikdang

After that, decided to walk from the restaurant to Apgujeong Rodeo Street – where Google says fashionable people walks. I didn’t spot much people there and many stores were closed on that street when I visited. The description on blogs didn’t match up to my observation sadly. So, it wasn’t much of a fruitful trip there.

K-Star Road

Headed next to the K-star road for Idols Bears!

K-Star Road

Long street with Idol’s bear lined up! Took me to while to walk to the end…then think about walking back. xD

K-Star Road
K-Star Road

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If you were into K-pop, then this might be an interesting street to visit! Along the way, I spotted a SM building where they exhibited their creativity and ideas behind the icons and logo design. There was a small (fan) crowd gathering at the door where they were “queuing” to get their idol’s namecard? Wasn’t sure how that works however…

As this was near Gangnam area, so the next stop would naturally be the Express Bus Terminal underground shopping. A huge underground stretch of shops that I think would be an at least good 2-3 hours spent. After some while, I felt that the clothes was a little repetitive however. But its a good place for find cheap buys as well.

Evening time was setting in, and it was raining heavily at then. I headed back to Myeongdong region was jumping in and out of departmental stores to dodge the huge rain while trying to do some shopping. Finally, decided to head for my much anticipated dinner in Korea:

Gaehwa 개화

107-1 Myeongdong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
서울시 중구 명동2가 107

Gaehwa Restaurant
Gaehwa Restaurant

This restaurant was located within Myeongdong region – and they specialised in Korean/Chinese cuisine I believed. I didn’t take much look at the menu because I already pre-planned before the trip to have…

Jjajangmyeon - Gaehwa
Jjajangmyeon – Gaehwa

…Jjajangmyeon! This dish I often saw it in dramas and dream of eating it! I found a good Chinese store that served this in Singapore, Causeway Point Food Republic years back but they had closed after the revamped. I haven’t found my replacement for this dish after then. And now, I am finally in Korea to satisfy this craving for the long years!

I was having some kind of internal conflict when you anticipated something for too long and when eventually it didn’t match the expectation. Especially after I had some non-tasty Jjajangmyeon before in Singapore’s restaurant. However, this dish met my dreamed expectations and it was delicious! Smooth, and non-too overpowering bean-paste taste! The noodles gave a good bite without being too tough. This will not be my last visit on this trip, and I will try to come back again!

It was plenty of shopping for 2 days, and the next day I shall go back to sight-seeing!

Simple 1 Day Seoul Itinerary – 14D Korea Part 8

Gyeongbok Palace

After the hectic week of running across South Korea for sights, finally, I headed for vibrant city, Seoul, and my final destination! I had a total of 5.5 days here. But for this first part, which is just a half day itself, I felt like I had stuffed plenty of stuff which is a little bit of everything within the same region. Need a simple 1 day Seoul itinerary? Try here: Read on for ginseng chicken, K-BBQ, historical and cultural indulgence at Gyeongbok Palace and Seodaemun Prison History Hall, and immersed in cuteness overload at BT21 and LINE merchandise at the LINE Flagship store at Itaewon!

Continue reading “Simple 1 Day Seoul Itinerary – 14D Korea Part 8”

BT21 – LINE Flagship Store Itaewon

BT21 - LINE Itaewon

Quick look at BT21 – LINE Store Itaewon – visited in April 2018. At then, BT21 merch weren’t for sale, and they were just for exhibition only. Things might have changed since then, and perhaps more merchandise offerings! Of course LINE merch were available, but I focused on BT21…

First up – Stationery:

Stationery - BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Stationery – BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Staionery - BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Stationery – BT21 LINE Store Itaewon

Skateboard too!? Really super cool as collectible with the graphics!

Skateboard - BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Skateboard – BT21 LINE Store Itaewon

All the huggables/wearables.

Wearables/Huggables - BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Wearables/Huggables – BT21 LINE Store Itaewon

This following set felt more like a cool-kid theme?

Wearables/Huggables - BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Wearables/Huggables – BT21 LINE Store Itaewon

Of all the exhibitions, I find the little homes of each BT21 characters most fascinating! Really cuteness overload!

TATA – with the game controller from Fire MV?

Tata - BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Tata – BT21 LINE Store Itaewon

Chimmy got a boxing bag…maybe from Cooky?

Chimmy - BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Chimmy – BT21 LINE Store Itaewon

I think KOYA is trying to grow a tree so it can go back to its natural habitat XD

Koya - BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Koya – BT21 LINE Store Itaewon

MANG is so cool with the skateboards though!

Mang - BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Mang – BT21 LINE Store Itaewon

Theres, just, plenty of SHOOKY everywhere. And no milk, no milk, no milk!

Shooky - BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Shooky – BT21 LINE Store Itaewon

Cooky, muscular Rabbit in training! Now I feel the punching bag had no space here, so it ended up in Chimmy’s room.

Cooky - BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Cooky – BT21 LINE Store Itaewon

RJ, the alpaca – I think he made the rug with his fur during summer. Teehee~!

RJ - BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
RJ – BT21 LINE Store Itaewon

The stairs!

Stairways - BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Stairways – BT21 LINE Store Itaewon

And can’t miss the huge mascots!

BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Mascots – BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Mascots - BT21 LINE Store Itaewon
Mascots – BT21 LINE Store Itaewon

Do wish to go back there again!

Iceland Winter Driving for a Noob

Iceland Winter Driving

Only obtained my driving license back in April 2017, and since then I had negligible driving experience. November that year, we had planned an Iceland road trip. Yes – Iceland winter driving road trip!

Plans to Driving in Iceland

Honestly, after reading through TripAdvisor I almost freaked out about the idea of winter driving in Iceland. Planning the itinerary for the known unforeseeable conditions was really hard. At one time, I had up to 3 different plans:

  • Go with tour
  • Self drive (initial plan to drive full Ring Road)
  • Self drive with back up days

I had to plan my accommodations as well and with the dilemma of deciding to drive or not to drive, we had to make a decision – should we go with a tour or do a self-drive. So I spoke to sis who hadn’t read a single thing on TripAdvisor nor seen the winter driving videos on youtube yet.

“Just go for it”

So we signed up a car rental and we were booked. So, few months after, I showed her some driving videos on youtube in winter condition. Her turn to freak out.

Driving Stories 

We were lucky, ended our trip with smoothly and didn’t end up in any bad shape. So here are some stories on our drive – hoped it could be some help (or laughter) for anyone else.

First one to take the wheel on the left side

Iceland was left hand driving – different from Singapore which was right hand drive. And particular for us, we had too little experience with a car, and even attempting to drive it in imaginable scary winter conditions. So that day when our rental company guy came to pick us up, and hand over the car to us – I remember this sis of mine egging me on to take the wheel first. So, I brazenly took up the challenge – and drove us for the first lap.

Down many months later after the trip, I thought of it and asked sis why did she not take the wheel at first and asked me to drive first after all I was even more novice than a novice.

Sis: “I wanted to observe how to drive on the right side first.”

Someone who had more skills prefer to watch a novice drive 

Fogging and misting on car windshield

In cold weather, when the inside of the car is all warm up and toasty, your windshield can get frosty and the misting/fogging can happen. When that happened, the driver loses visibility. Right on the first day and and first hour of driving – that happened. A small amount of misting began and I dismissed it, thinking it would fade off by itself. But that patch gradually grew bigger and became more and more opaque. So I did what I did – I panicked. I was the one driving.

Perhaps I lost my wits at that moment, I could have pulled to the road shoulders, and then investigate this – but I continued driving all the while shouting to my sis to quickly google a solution! So, she did just that, and our first initial solution was to tune the air-con so we are on the match with the temperature outside.

Of course, once you get to the car manual, you will find a function to demist the front windshield and the rear window. (Usually those are the 2 round buttons, one for the front one for the back, so just activate them both by pressing it and a loud windy sound should go on)

😀 stay cool, don’t panic. And read the manual.

Brake after overtaking

Frankly, my sis did overtaking well enough, so sometimes I slacked off and did not watch out for her. I was surfing Instagram at the passenger seat and with a side glance I was aware that shes trying to overtake a vehicle. Ok, back to my surfing. Suddenly, a huge drag, and in a short span of time and the car was suddenly swinging in a manner that was out of control.

That had never happened before and we were all lost in the panic moment – a split second and everything happened dangerously and I really don’t recall how did we managed to get back to control of the vehicle.

So what happened was – she overtook a vehicle, signaled to change lane, and changed successfully – but perhaps a misjudgment – she decided to brake (maybe hard?) and it went haywire from then on. We lost control of the vehicle for a while, and it was really dangerous – we could have went off the road and the vehicle we overtook may end up running into us.

Moral of the story – don’t brake rashly after overtaking (unless really necessary). Let engine brake takes its own course.

Dozing with eyes wide opened

Daylight went out early in Iceland winter. And at then, sis was again at the wheels without daylights. We were approaching a speed limit area and a speed camera thing was flashing at us and will be telling us what speed we were going at. I spoke out “70km/hr” but I didn’t hear a respond. I thought she got it. We were still flying at 90km/h.

In all the panic mode as we were reaching the speed estimation sign really soon enough I exclaimed to her “70KM/HR!!”.

At then, I realised, she might have been sleeping while driving with eyes opened.

This was a possible state if you were feeling fatigue and driving in such condition was really unfamiliar to you. Outside of city area, there are no street lights and everything out there in the big nature felt like a lullaby.

Roundabouts

The thing about roundabouts is that they bigger they are, the more confusing they become. Especially you are looking out for a specific exit that is obstructed from your view with a garden of greens in the center!

The record spins we took at the same roundabout due to misjudgment – 3 rounds 😀

Into the wrong lane

We were back in Reykjavik and driving in city was really very stressful. This one time, we were making a left turn at the intersection and so my sis said “turn left”, and I did just that.

Except that I turned into the wrong lane.

I missed that road divider, and at then I was really confident that I was turning into the correct lane. In Singapore’s driving, when turning left, you turn into the immediate nearest lane. But with the that mistake I’d made, I actually drove into the furthest lane but of the opposite direction, because I really thought it was the correct lane.

After that incident, lol I was real scared about driving in cities for a short while.

Iceland Winter Driving Tips

We were lucky on our road trip, considering the worst weather we had was incessantly drizzling and foggy weather that continued for more than a day. That lowered visibility such that we had to slow down our journey considerably. Other than that was probably the icy road, but the winter tires had served us well.

You might realise, that most of the stories was actually due to unfamiliarity with the very different conditions that we were used to. And if you do want to drive overseas, you need to be prepared for the differences. Some tips here – something that might have been aplenty on the web:

Checking conditions for driving

Don’t go driving in dangerous weather condition – and don’t get caught in one. That means

  • Check the weather for the road/path you will be heading today. You don’t wanna get caught in snowstorm – if you were caught in one, you can’t stop until you found a shelter otherwise you will get snowed in.
  • Check the road conditions before heading out. Some roads might be closed, or indications about ice and slippery roads.
  • Check the wind speed where you are headed. In Iceland, wind speed could run high enough to overturn a vehicle and cause damages. Wind speed going at 20m/s is the max value I would use.

Night driving

If you are out driving at night (for auroras maybe?) and its your first time to ever experience driving without street light – this was precisely us:

  • Go slow, adapt to your night vision. My first night driving – I did just that and calmly relied on the headlights and road markers – and now I like night driving more than the day. 😀
  • Stay focus and awake. Sing or scream, you decide
  • Be alert of lights ahead or behind you.
  • Keep to your lane in areas where you don’t have full visibility, ie up slope or bends and turns that are obstructed by nature.
  • Learn how to activate/deactivate and flash your high beam – I actually only learnt this only during my Australia 2018 road drive. Deactivate high beam when you are behind someone or approaching another vehicle – don’t go blinding others – it is rude. If someone high-beamed you, flash your high-beam or brake light – hopefully they catch the hint.

If you are uncomfortable with night driving in such conditions, then plan your road drive well to maximise the daylight for driving but don’t miss your itinerary spots, after all you came so far to Iceland :D. Start slightly before sun rise, and end slightly after sun sets. Usually, you can squeeze in about 1-1.5 hours before sunrise or after sunset before total complete darkness.

Learn from videos

If you had no experience in driving such conditions or the road traffic, being prepared is better than have nothing prepared at all.

What I did was to check out Youtube videos on Iceland driving rules, and right hand driving rules. And as a Singaporean, I get really excited about roundabouts that were plenty in other countries – they have tons here! At the very least, learn the road rules, right of ways, and how to handles some of the unique roads infrastructure (eg. narrow bridge)

Specifically for winter driving if you had zero experience, check out videos on icy road condition, and how to handle a skidding vehicle.

I particularly reviewed this video a few times which was very informative for me

Check out the Roads that are not part of Ring Road

The Ring Road, or Road 1, is the main road in Iceland for driving. At time, you might have googled a shorter path to get to a spot. But they may not be the safest looking road if you are afraid of cliffs.

Bonus tip: for the really Noob ones:

Lol, those who drive frequently might scorn this. But still, I have to share:

Iceland Winter Drive - Sun
Iceland Winter Drive – Sun

This is a frequent view when you are driving. Gazing into the burning egg yolk!!!

Bring a pair of SUNGLASSES! 

We, the noobs, didn’t think about that prior the trip and had our eyes fried throughout the day time driving. In Iceland, the sun constantly followed us and most of the time it was just right in front of us! That was way too uncomfortable to be watching the sun and the road both at the same time.

So we did something simple that was perhaps a little bit helpful…

Counter-measurement for the gazing into the sun at Iceland
Counter-measurement for the gazing into the sun – Iceland Winter Driving

So long we can see the road and vehicles ahead :D.

Good luck with the drive!

Other than the above tips, get enough insurance coverage, and read the car manual that comes with the rental car, and also factor in some backup days if you are anticipating tough weather conditions..

Driving in totally different condition from what you are used to can be fun. But do your homework and be prepared and constantly remind yourself not to make dumb decisions: you can stay safe!

Good luck, drive safely, and have lots of fun!

Gwangju & 5.18 Democratic Uprising – 14D Korea Part 6

Continuing on my recap on Gwangju – in this city I hadn’t much sightseeing to do, but only included a visit to Songjeong market, some watching-out for architecture along the way. My main focus was actually all about the 5.18 Gwangju Uprising event. Additionally, on my trip so far, I had gotten 2 similar recommendation when I spoke to travellers or my airbnb host about this – “Have you watch ‘I’m just a Taxi Driver’ – the movie?”

Day 7 – Evening

Came back from my Damyang day trip, although exhausted I continued on my itinerary, very much anticipating the 5.18 Memorial Park.

18th May Memorial Park

Took the bus 518 to reach here – and it was evening about 6pm plus by the time I had reached. The light was dimming and the park looked so huge with only a few souls wandering – I had to admit, it was feeling creepy. So I quickly snapped a few photos:

5.18 Gwangju Uprising Memorial Park
5.18 Gwangju Uprising Memorial Park
5.18 Gwangju Uprising Memorial Park
5.18 Gwangju Uprising Memorial Park

There are quite a few items regarding the 5.18 Gwangju Uprising event around this area that I didn’t manage to get to visit/see as it was already after office hours. At then, was somewhat disappointed as this was the only 5.18 item I had in planned ahead for Gwangju – and I was really looking forward to check out the full history behind it.

Nevertheless, I had one last stop to complete my night:

1913 Songjeong Market

13, Songjeong-ro 8beon-gil, Gwangsan-gu, Gwangju
광주광역시 광산구 송정로8번길 13

To get here: take metro to Gwangju-Songjeong Station, and it will be just across the street – rather well directed by the signs.

1913 Songjeong Market - Gwangju
1913 Songjeong Market – Gwangju

I read about how they tried to revive this market with the 1913 theme. However, it wasn’t really opened in the evening so there wasn’t much to see – only handful of stores were opened:

1913 Songjeong Market
1913 Songjeong Market
1913 Songjeong Market
1913 Songjeong Market

Evening was the time-out for this market – it wasn’t exactly convenient to reach here (located at the almost far end of the west of Gwangju by metro) and it fell short of expectation with most of the stores closed. Supposedly – I had this “ddeok galbi street” near the Songjeong market area in my plans – I wasn’t craving for it since the mega ddeok galbi lunch – skipped it altogether. Decided to call it a night and return home:

Awesome night time by myself

Part of the enjoyment from my airbnb – they have a CD player! And yes, they’ve got some CDs as well. Decided to blast it at reasonable noise level and make the living room more lively. And of course, do some work by studying the map and deciding what to do for my next half a day at Gwangju.

Day 8: Gwangju rushed city exploration

I set out early, packed up my baggage and locked the doors behind me. Goodbye, my short (fantastic) airbnb stay – and set out to the U-square bus terminal – decided to get there ahead, lock up my stuff, and go wander in Gwangju – also, to get a ticket to Jeonju

Weirdly, I guessed my luggage locker was faulty as it sort of automatically unlocked itself or something. Anyways, my luggage was sitting in there safe and sound – but for its comfort I had to pay for it to lock up again at full price – which was a waste of money. 🙁 As far as the counter staff had advised, if you had locked it overnight, the next morning when you wanna retrieve it, it will just ask you for additional top-up cash.

I remember there was one stop I made and I kind of believed I may have returned to the 5.18 Memorial Park again to visit the library/center by it – I didn’t have much recollection though. I remembered there was a pictorial exhibition, but little to zero transcript on those photos. There were books on the 5.18 Gwangju Uprising and I stayed for 10 minutes or so trying to rush reading through them. But that idea didn’t work out well…

Anyways, I set out for my first stop:

Breakfast at Cheongwonmomil (청원모밀)

174-1, Jungang-ro, Dong-gu, Gwangju
광주광역시 동구 중앙로 174-1 (충장로3가)

This had been recommended around on sites online – so of course, I was out hunting for this as my breakfast. So I got off the nearest stop which is Geumnamno4(sa)-ga, and imagine my surprise when I chanced upon this billboard on a building right outside the station exit…

Joy Dance, Plugin Music - Dance academy home to many kpop stars!
Dance academy home to many kpop stars!

I wasn’t even trying to find this although I did read up and did consider including this in my itinerary – it was home to TVXQ Yunho, BTS J-hope, and of course a lot more Kpop stars! I didn’t go in however, was really surprised with my finding though. 😀

Shortly, reached the restaurant but there wasn’t staff at the counter and I stood there for quite some time before poking into the kitchen looking for a waitstaff to take my order. I understand I might have been a tad too early, it was just past 10.30am which was their opening hours.

Menu at Cheongwonmomil
Menu at Cheongwonmomil

This place is popular for their Buckwheat noodle (momil-guksu) or in my interpretation – momil is “buckwheat”. So essentially, most of the items on menu are talking about variants of the Buckwheat noodle. I went for the simplest variant which was the momil-guksu: Buckwheat noodle soup.

Sad part of going solo – not being able to order items to share. I’d been wanted to try wang-mandu for quite some time, having seen it on so many menus 🙁

Momil guksu
Momil guksu

Back to my momilguksu which arrived rather promptly – I felt it was rather underwhelming, in a way – it is comfort food. Locals might appreciate it more? And given the raves (even recommended by Michelin) – it didn’t unseat the mulmilmyeon from Busan for me. I might still return to try the dry version which some blogs prefers over the soup version though.

Out on Gwangju street for Follies

After the comforting breakfast – I am back out on the streets, and just wandering along as I head to my next spot. But – I have a few sights to catch. If you googled around, you might have read about Gwangju’s Follies – art-architecture? They were scattered in areas surrounding Geumnamno4(sa)-ga. I recommend you get a local map which should already have marked those spots, and then mapped out the artsy locations and then take it to the streets.

And heres a really in-depth blog post by another wordpress that documented the Follies visiting.

I wasn’t bent on catching all of them – just so that these were along the way:

Gwangju Folly
Gwangju Folly
Gwangju Folly
Gwangju Folly

Truthfully, I wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t out looking for these follies ><

Hopped into one of the NC wave stores at Gwangju and got this:

Shoes from NC Wave - Gwangju
Shoes from NC Wave – Gwangju

I could walk in this, but I kind of regret purchasing as the size was still a tad too small. Like I said, EU 40 and above, don’t try too hard finding shoes in Korea ><

5.18 Archive – UNESCO Memory of the World

Continued on towards this archive exhibition on the 5.18 Gwangju Uprising – I was really glad to have included this based on previous night effort on analysing the map. I actually immersed myself in this archive exhibition as it was very informative and there were plenty of English translations.

5.18 Archive Center - UNESCO Memory of the World
5.18 Archive Center – UNESCO Memory of the World
Bloody Geumnamro - Splendid Holiday - 18 May
Bloody Geumnamro – Splendid Holiday – 18 May

Terror on the streets – when the martial law was in placed and finally set to action, the troops took to bludgeon anyone looking like a student (or) demonstrator – yes just civilians in fact – and they don’t even care if the citizen really participated or were even hostile at all. Beat them, stripped them down, and humiliated them. This was a really terror event. And wait till you read about this operation’s code name – Wonderful Vacation / Splendid Holiday – wtf? Of course, down the future, this code name would totally smear the operation upside-down even if they had *ever* meant to do good any at all (bring peace etc etc) – I mean, FFS why did they even choose that name to begin with???

In the first place, the civilians had no part in it at all. The demonstrations actually began with students peaceful participation to put an end to martial law. But, on the 2nd day of the terror, when civilians came out to street and saw all the terrible state of the yesterday aftermath – blood, bodies laid strewn on streets, and injured people everywhere – imagine that sight, how angry would you have been. This brought them altogether – to give aid, to come together and put a fight back at that abuse of power. The Civilians Army was formed.

At that point in that archive center, I felt a chill from behind me.

While people were happy with the successive retaliations, they were eventually really tired out and there were disagreement on negotiations and how it should be continued. It wasn’t an easy task for the civilians who were barely armed or trained to continue the fight against well-nourished and equipped troops. Some wanted to fight on, while many more wanted peace. Those who persevered as demonstrators were eventually massacred. The most chilling part – they knew of their impending doom, and were waiting for it. In the very last moment, they broadcast the message – as quoted from the book (see below):

“My fellow citizens, the army is entering our city now. Our dear brothers and sisters are being killed by their guns and bayonets. We will fight against the army to the last. Let’s fight together to the last. We will defend our Gwangju to the last. Please remember us…!”

With that, the massacre started and the “so-called riot”, came to an end. While it had been concluded as an ending, this was the spark that awaken the civilian spirit and eventually led to the an end of martial law. It was a slow process, but a fruitful one.

“May 18 – Gwangju Democratic Uprising” – a free copy of the book was available at archive center here. It was perhaps hastily translated into English from Korean version(?) as there were many inconsistencies with the names such that I was confused half the time through the pages. Still, this provided a good insight of the various events that eventually led to the massacre and the fight for democracy.

5.18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising Book
5.18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising Book

Going up the archive center, there was also a photo exhibition about the Sewol ferry sinking event.

Photo Exhibit on Sewol Ferry Sinking Event - UNESCO Memory of the World
Photo Exhibit on Sewol Ferry Sinking Event – UNESCO Memory of the World
Photo Exhibit on Sewol Ferry Sinking Event - UNESCO Memory of the World
Photo Exhibit on Sewol Ferry Sinking Event – UNESCO Memory of the World
Pondering on history, violence, and peace...

At then, I was thinking of how people in the past can initiate violence on each other so easily, especially when they were of the same root? I mean, theres no problem with race, religion, and soldiers and civilians were practically same skin color same nationality same root. Of course they have stronger pride for their respective cities and are proud of their Satoori, but how can violence be so easy back then? This might be a whole lot of history and human nature behaviour I shall just leave my disbelief up to here ><

Democracy was a tough fight for especially in the past for many countries not just Gwangju-Korea itself. Peace we now enjoy doesn’t come free and easy – don’t take it for granted and remember the past events that led to achieving it.

Gwangju – it was a short trip here, but I was a lot more satisfied with this stay here than expected. It wasn’t just blatant sightseeing, but historical indulgence which I found it really meaningful with lots to ponder on. Additionally, there are some spots which I hope to visit the next round – Penguin village, Geumnamno-sa-ga, and Songjeong market in the afternoon. The 5.18 Memorial Park as well as I did it really hastily this trip.

And I realised later – there were no cherry blossom photos in my Gwangju stay! 

Day trip to Damyang – 14D Korea Part 5

Juknokwon Bamboo Forest Entrance

Heading to Gwangju next, again I was there for about 1.5 days – a really short stay. Gwangju is pretty small, but I found out more things to do after I was there so, regretted the really short stay. Part of my reason for visiting Gwangju was the day trip to Damyang, to take a walk through Juknokwon bamboo forest, a scenic walk through Gwanbangjerim, and the amazing trees at Metasequoia-lined Road.

Continue reading “Day trip to Damyang – 14D Korea Part 5”

Haeundae Beach and Jjimjilbang Experience at Spaland – Korea 14D Part 4

This is my last day of fun at Busan and I concluded it with a Haeundae Beach visit and at the gigantic mall – Shinsegae Centum City – but I am there purely for the Jjimjilbang at Spaland! Also, at the Centum City – I found my favourite delight from Daegu – stay tune!

Continue reading “Haeundae Beach and Jjimjilbang Experience at Spaland – Korea 14D Part 4”

Day Trip to Jinhae – Korea 14D Part 3

Jinhae Day Trip

Still based in Busan, I would be going on a day trip to Jinhae – famed for its abundance of cherry blossom and scenic takes – a place you surely can’t miss in the Korea’s Spring Festive. Another highlight at Jinhae would be temple visiting – I was very much excited to go for Sammilsa Temple after seeing the pictures online! Can’t wait to view it in its full glory!

Continue reading “Day Trip to Jinhae – Korea 14D Part 3”