Saturday, 8 February 2014

The highway rest area in South Korea

Day 4 itinerary was rather rushed. We started preparing to the Jeju International Airport as early as 4am to catch the 7am flight back to the peninsular. It would be very difficult to wake up at 4am on a working day, but not on a play day! I could easily lift myself up from the warm bed on the count of 3. *whoop* By the way, it was 31-Dec-2013 and most Korean would travel to the North for sunrise on New Year and so we were arranged to leave very early to anticipate the heavy traffic. Smart tour guide!

If you followed us through the previous posts, we had International buffet breakfast in the 5-star hotel on the first morning in Jeju (Day 3). Today, we had it the Korean style. We were served with the popular abalone congee, dumpling, boiled eggs and steamed bun. I was hoping to see another big abalone in the congee; apparently the abalone was sort of dissolved in the congee after cooking it over long time. The congee tasted quite light but smelled good, it really warmed me up in the cold morning while I was still half asleep. The steamed bun was a typical one, similar like the Chinese steamed bun or mantou. I was surprised to see they serve dumpling for breakfast (even kimchi!). I don’t quite like the dumpling in Malaysia as it always tastes awful, bad minced meat marinated with pepper, salt and other seasoning to cover the strong rotten smell of the meat, then mixed and wrapped it together with some vegetables, bad combination! I like the Korean dumpling very much even though the ingredients are more or less the same, but they use fresh minced meat and vegetables, hardly any seasoning in the minced meat, probably just salt to taste. I normally take half of a dumpling in Malaysia just to taste and usually it is bad, but I could take 2 to 3 pieces of the Korean dumpling; so you can really tell how good this is. 

Abalone congee, steamed bun and dumpling for breakfast. 

The Korean Air aeroplane landed an hour at Gimpo International Airport after the departure from Jeju International Airport, and we headed straight to GangNeung for Korean rice wine making and then Seoraksan or Mount Sorak, both in Gangwon-do, on the east coast of South Korea. It was about 3.5 to 4 hours’ drive from the airport.

We stopped half way for lunch; it was another delicious meal waited us. Cooking thin sliced meat in hot soup at the centre of the table is called shabu-shabu or hot pot. It is a popular dish, similar to the less commonly steamboat. I like hot soup in cold weather. Another well-known Korean dish, the dolsot bibimbap is a rice dish mixed with 5 different type and colour of vegetables served in a hot stone bowl. It is believed different colour of vegetables will benefit our organs like liver, heart, stomach, lung and kidney.


Thin sliced pork for shabu-shabu.

Dolsot bibimbap, a healthy Korean main course, is now one of my favourites.

3-storey height of sound barrier fencing along the highway to keep the noise away from the adjacent communities.

Beautiful scenery along the journey to Seoraksan.

A visit to the rice wine or makgeolli winery was another great experience to note. Makgeolli is the native Korean rice wine made from a mixture of fermented wheat, rice and water. The Korean started the demonstration with preparing the wheat for fermentation, followed by mixing the rice with water and fermented wheat in the vessel. It was fun to get hands-on preparing the wheat for fermentation, which is used as a starter for the wine brewing (like yeast for beer brewing). We actually got to taste the makgeolli on Day 3 when we had the black pork bulgogi; the native enjoys it with a rice bowl and so did we. It was smooth, sweet and fragrant for rice wine. I find it really fun to have them walk through the brewing process with us in the very clean plant. As usual, the winery visit will always end happily with a wine tasting session. *yippee*

Preparing wheat for fermentation.

Mix wheat with water and fill the mold with it then press press press...

Wrap it with the cloth to fix the shape.

Put everything in the fermentation vessel and store them in the chamber.

Wine tasting time!

Although I wish we could stay a little longer at the interesting winery, we had to leave for Mt. Sorak or Seoraksan, another interesting place but without wine. LOL Seorak means snow (Seol) and big mountain (Ak) as the snow would not melt for a long time keeping the mountain constantly covers with snow.

The wheat field after harvesting. 

Seoraksan National Park, we were coming..!

I see. I snap. It's a beautiful and unique restaurant along the way, very much like the diner in the US.

It was very cold and windy at the Seoraksan National Park. We left the bus and walked about 15 minutes from the entrance to the giant bronze Buddha, where the Korean would pray. There is a large table in front of the giant Buddha where the prayers will buy rice or candles from the booth, write their names and wishes on it and place it on the table. Being a Buddhist, I don’t find their custom to be different, but the tour guide did tell us not to pray with incense as it is meant for the monk only. Well, I do come across no incense in some temples and it is never a surprise some would ignore that piece of advice, which happened to a family of 9 from my tour while I could see some Koreans were looking at them bizarrely.

Finally, we arrived at the Seoraksan National Park after many hours.

Beautiful Seoraksan.

Giant Bronze Buddha at Seoraksan National Park.

Writing our names and wishes on the rice pack for prayer.
More views of Seoraksan. I wonder if the river dried up.

A coffee house in oriental design? Awesome!

Another view of Seoraksan.

We had to leave after spending an hour in the park even though there are many more exciting spots to be explored, like Sinheungsa temple. Catching a schedule is always the downside of joining a tour.

It was just nice to have red crab stew and grilled fish for dinner after the chilly evening. The soup tasted so delicious and flavourful. *thumbs up*

Posing at the restaurant for dinner.

Red crab stew was fantastic! The soup was tasty, good choice after spending long hours in the chilled outdoor.

Assorted grilled fish which I have no idea what species they are.

We checked in a business suite in Class 300, a 4-star hotel near the coast line. It is a large suite with a pantry with fridge, living room, double bed room and a spacious bathroom that has bathtub and shower in it.

1 night at the Class 300, a 4-star hotel near Seoraksan. 

There is a living room as we came in to the business suite.

Specious bathroom with bathtub on the left and shower just behind where I was standing for this photo.

The smart toilet and the shower.

A double bed room with king-sized bed. The window was left open and we were chilled. 

There's a pantry near the door while I was sitting in the living room for this photo.

There is a convenience store next to the hotel. I got us some drinks and snack. I like the yoghurt drink, it's cheap, I got 5 bottles for the price of 500 won. Korean coffee is too mild for me but it was a good try though.

Unit price for each item: aloe vera drink 1000 won, snack 1200 won, yoghurt drink pack of 5 500 won, banana milk 1300 won and coffee 1100 won.

It was a clean, spacious and lovely room. We enjoyed the stay very much, especially the bathroom. It was a great day and we had a very exciting day awaiting us the next day. Stay with us to find out more. 


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