Saturday, 26 April 2014

Accommodation in Seoul is the most expensive in South Korea, so I really don’t mind getting up early and head out from the small and expensive room. It was difficult to wake up so early in the morning as we shopped until midnight yesterday, but we were very happy spending some lovely and private time in Dongdaemun without being chased to catch up the schedule. That’s the minus of taking a packaged tour.

An early and cold morning with assorted of congees seems to be a great way to start off the day. Korean likes kimchi so much so that they would make congee with it. Besides kimchi congee, there were also pumpkin congee, abalone congee and seaweed congee for us to try together with some typical banchan or side dishes. Whether it’s the kimchi, pumpkin or seaweed, it’s cooked until dissolved in the congee, making it smooth and clean.

Assorted congee for breakfast sounds really good in the cold morning. 

Warm breakfast in the early morning. 

Day 7 was more of a shopping day, a happy and excited day for ladies. There are 3 must-go shopping spots in the itinerary and ginseng shop was among the list. I think we spent more than an hour in the building, which the sales person explained the benefits and grade of ginseng in Korea. Wild ginseng takes 6 years to grow before it can be harvested and there are 6 grades of ginseng in the market, while this shop sells only the first grade according to them. After about 15-20 minutes, we were taken to a room where they started introducing their products and of course, they are super expensive. Unquestionably, this is one of the highest grade seller, if not the best, producing good ginseng products. We were told these products are only available in Korea, so that’s the only chance or place we could get it if interested. Did we buy? No, because it is way too expensive. Those ginseng capsule that they recommended us, costs about USD 2,000 or easily more. Anyone buying it? Of course, and they bought a lot!

Shopping for ginseng

Skincare product was on the list, too. I have a little feeling that we were being kidnapped as the exact location was unknown, we were taken to a factory-alike place, climbed some staircases to reach a room with two long tables with mirrors and chairs, where the sales person walked us through the basic skincare steps, from cleansing, toning, moisturizing to sun protection and facial mask. In the class, we got to test their products, Odbo, which is under the same holding with The Face Shop and some other brands that I couldn’t remember. Odbo product is formulated for sensitive skin, but one of my tour mates developed rashes during product testing, so I am not really sure if it works well on sensitive skin. I bought some red ginseng mask, essence (though the lady said it can be used as moisturizer), SPF50 sheer sunblock in compact form and a special treatment product that I called a secret weapon against ageing. LOL Back to the skincare products, the compact form of sunblock seems to be a big thing in Korea according to the salesperson as it is fairly easy to carry and apply. Here is the list of items with price that I've bought:
  • Odbo anti-aging product 91,180 won x 4 
  • Odbo sunblock 36,860 won
  • Odbo O2 cleanser 32,010 won
  • Odbo aqua soothing essence 36,860 won x 2
  • Odbo ginseng mask 36,860 won x 2
It costs me a total of 581,030 won, that was about RM 1,860+. I hope I did not just make myself broke here, but they did offer a better price if we were to buy more, on top of getting more free gifts, of course. Not just me, I think most people will enjoy shopping in Korea especially for skincare as they are very generous in giving out free gifts or samples. With the spending, I got an eye cream and many pieces of masks as free gifts.*yippee*
After the tiring shopping tour, it was wonderful to have charcoal BBQ pork. It's always enjoyable to savour in local cuisine as the taste and flavour is more authentic. In addition, the meat and vegetables are fresh, the Korean uses very little seasoning in cooking and yet they can bring out the taste of the meat so well. There is hardly any MSG in the food making me feel good and healthy dining in Korea. It’s simply delightful!

Charcoal BBQ pork tasted so much better than those in Malaysia. It could be the fresh meat, the weather or my very good mood that made me enjoying every moment in Korea. 

The last compulsory shopping spots was planned for tomorrow. So, we got some time to shop at Donghwa duty free shop for some branded items or skin care products. Dongwha Duty Free accepts USD or Korean won or credit card. There are branded stuffs like Louis Vuitton (LV) and we made a visit, price was slightly cheaper than in Malaysia. If you plan to buy any, do drop by. 

At the entrance of Dongwha Duty Free. 

I did not leave this place empty-handed. I bought some skincare for myself, was told it's the first company that comes out with snail skincare products. It's worth trying. 
  • It's skin snail mask USD 21 x 6
  • It's skin prestige snail ginseng cream USD 56
It was a mini free and easy session at the duty free shop. We didn’t shop much here as the prices for skincare weren’t differ much from the retail shops, so we planned to save the shopping time until tonight at Dongdaemun and took the time to roam around for a little while. I enjoy walking on the street, seeing what the Korean do and wear, and breathing every Korean air while I can. It is just so great to be on this land!

Further away is the Gwanghwamen, the statue of Admiral Yi Sunshin stands the nearest to the camera while the statue of King Sejong the Great sits between these two. 

The Statue of Admiral Yi Sunshin.

Bus stop.

A tourist information booth. 

We stopped by Holly coffee, which is just across the road, for caffeine fix. I ordered the signature real Belgian caffe mocha at 5,800 won, that was about RM 19. I have tried a few cafes in Korea while I can, I have to say if you are a true coffee lover, you can just skip having any in Korea. The coffee is way too weak for my liking and with the stiff price, it is just not worth it. 

Getting my caffeine fix at Hollys coffee just nearby Donghwa Duty Free. 

I ordered a regular Real Belgian Caffe Mocha at 5,800 won. 

Moving on next, it was the Deoksu Palace. It is famous for its elegant stone road and also the only palace that sits alongside many modern buildings that add to the uniqueness of the surrounding scenery. The guided walking tour was short and there was not much time to really enjoy the scenery and take as many photos as we can, but it was worth visiting. 

The second last stop of the day was the best time for the ladies. We spent about 2 hours in Myeongdong for shopping or sight-seeing.


Feeling excited stepping my feet in Myeongdong while studying the map on whereabouts.

After finishing the palace walking tour, we took the tour bus to Shinsegae for the most exciting activity of the day. It's Myeongdong! From where we were dropped off, we took a 15-minutes walk to Lotte Young Plaza where the hot cosmetic brand 3CE launched by Stylenanda can be found. In fact, I've planned a long shopping list prior coming to Korea so that I won't be having pain deciding what to buy on the spot and I find it really efficient with this. Still, I spent about more than 30 minutes choosing the shades. Let's see what I've got for spending 97,800 won, about RM 310.
  • 3CE eye brightener 19,000 won
  • 3CE nail colour 4,000 won x 2
  • 3CE shimmer stick 15,000 won
  • 3CE loose powder 19,900 won
  • 3CE face glow 22,000 won
  • 3CE face maker 13,900 won
After getting what I always wanted, we walked back to Myeongdong to experience the best ever atmosphere surrounded by Koreans. I do feel a little regret spending too much time in 3CE as it was quite rushed after that. If  you are on similar tour, forget about helping out friends' with the shopping list in Myeongdong as you can always do that at the airport. 

Street food in Myeongdong. 

Skin Food can be found in Myeongdong. 

Some cosmetic and skincare shops would give free masks or samples to attract the customers. There are different promotions running by different shops even though it's the same brand, so buy if the deal is good. 

Too many shops to visit within 2 hours. It's wise to plan ahead. 

Are you familiar with this brand?

Myeongdong is a very happening and popular spot with so many locals and tourists. I can't find a good example in Malaysia that is same as Myeongdong, it is rather difficult to find a similar spot in Malaysia. Despite of the variety of snacks and street food, it was a shame that we didn't try any as the tour guide advised us on the first few days not to have any street food, worrying it would cause stomach discomfort. Alas, we shouldn't be bothering that since we would be returning home the next day. So, if you were on the same, go ahead and taste everything you find it interesting. 

It was another thoughtful and tasty dinner after spending half day in the outdoor. It was like steamboat with pork. Soup and pork were really a good choice for us needing to replenish moisture and recover energy from the walking and shopping. 

Soup and pork for dinner. 

One of the things one shouldn’t be missed in Seoul is going for a musical show. Bibap, a bibimbap performance, is one of the popular shows. It is a very hilarious and enjoyable non-verbal performance, so you need not to worry if you wouldn’t understand the show, but warn you, go while you’re still full. We were arranged for front centre seats, and with the interaction between the performer and the audience, these are the best seats to take.

A lady tour mate disapproved this photo saying it's ugly. Hahaha...

It was about 9pm by the time the show finished. After returning to the hotel, we still had energy and time to walk to Dongdaemun again to do more late night shopping as there are multiple malls run business until early morning. There was an outdoor stage near the Migliore where some Korean hobbyists were doing free-style dance. It was very entertaining to watch them dance. We got some souvenirs from Doota, been to a few but this offered more choices and better price. These were among the items I've bought. 
  • Tony Molly CC cream 16,800 won
  • Laneige BB cushion 37,000 won
  • IOPE BB cushion 40,000 won

p/s: You may refer more of our spending here


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