Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Horsing around Seoul gangnam style

The first time I heard of Gangnam was when Madonna English posted "oppa gagnam sytle!" on my Facebook wall in response to my Seoul airport check-in.  Honestly I didn't know what she meant until I googled the whole phrase and Korean rapper Psy popped out in his sleek back hairstyle, dark shades and white suit riding an invisible horse.

Believe it or not,  this guy everywhere in Seoul! On gigantic video billboards, television,  radio, everywhere!  In case you don't know who Psy is (which I doubt),  watch the youtube link. As a trivia: he already ousted Justin Bieber's number one slot on youtube.

Tree-lined Gargosugil in Gangnam
Anyway, back to Seoul. To be honest, my first visit in 2007 was so horrible that I vowed not to go back. The people were unfortunately unfriendly and all out rude.

What capped it was my flight on board Korean Airlines from Seoul to Chicago where I had an allergic reaction from the meal served. My body developed rashes, my lips and eyes puffed up and I had difficulty breathing. When I asked the flight attendant for antihistamines, she handed the first aid kit and kept screaming that the airline didn't have any. She only stopped screaming when I said that I may sue the airline if I got worst in Chicago. That's when she called the purser, who then called the captain, who then requested for a doctor and yes, I was given a shot of antihistamine and an oxygen tank sat next to me throughout the rest of the flight.

I am pleased that Seoul has changed in the last five years. The people are much friendlier, can converse in English, smile a lot and they look generally happy. There were English-speaking guides strategically located in the tourist sites to help out foreigners find their way around.

Male standees all over 
Aside from the food, one thing I love about the Koreans is that they are quite disciplined and clean. I did not spot any litter on the street. Also, most of the people that I've met - both men and women - have beautiful skin, Yes skin!  This must be because beauty products are aplenty. After all, Korea made blemish balm creams or BB creams popular throughout Asia.

If you haven't been to Seoul, it's definitely worth a trip. Do plan to stay at least four to five days to shop, eat and see the sights. The flight form Manila is only four hours.

Five things to do:

1. Sights - there are five palaces to choose from - UNESCO world heritage sites Gyengbokung and  Changdeokgung are my top picks.  Visit the Cheonggyehcheon restored stream on a weekend to check out the market (we were lucky to spot a filming crew).

2. Shop - check out the specialty shops in Gargosugil Street in Gangnam;  for antiques, celadon pottery or wooden masks in Insadong, the malls in Meyongdong (do get your BB products in Lotte's  Duty Free shop); and visit the night markets- Dongdaemun, Yongsan (electronics).

3. Facial or massage - there are lots of spas! Go for a massage, facial and you may even want to get an eyebrow or eyeliner which may last for 2-3 years.

4. Eats - of course, the best thing to do is to enjoy eating! Do try their ginseng-ginger chicken, arirang, kalbi, my favorite spicy tofu stew called soondubuchigae, bibimpap, Sunday brunch in Gangnam and don't forget to drink soju (Korean vodka)!! 

5. Night light - check out Itaewdon reminded me so much of Lai Kwai Fong, Hongdae (lots of college students) and Gangnam. 

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