Travel: 10 Things I Wanted To Do in Korea (when I was 5 years younger)

Just realised I’d done up this entry sometime in 2012 for a Korean Tourism contest, and decided to repost it with some slight edits.

Ever since the first time I visited Seoul in 2009 at the invitation of Seoul Metropolitan Government, (organised by PRAIN, flown on business class via Korean Air), I’ve fallen in love with the country and its culture. Back then, I had the good fortune of attending Seoul Fashion Week and Seoul Design Festival – read my writeup in CLEO here.

Since then, I’ve re-visted the country at least 10 times, spent a lot of time (and money) on Korea and studied Korean for 3 years (which has made my travels so much easier). Of the places I’ve visited, I’ve blogged about the more popular places such as Gwanghwamun, Namsan, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Cheonggyecheon Stream, and Dalki Theme Park. I have also visited Jeonju for their bibimbap, visited an all-boys and all-girls high school and given an impromptu English lesson to the super adorable high school children, visited Yonsei, Ewha Women’s University,  and a whole lot of other things that I haven’t had time to blog about.

However, I haven’t even done half of what I really want to do (since I spend most of my time just shopping in Myeongdong). Heh. Anyhoos, here’s what I really would like to do in the alternate reality that I’m not a shopaholic 🙂

1. BE A FANGIRL AT A MUSIC BANK / MUSIC CORE / MNET / INKIGAYO MUSIC SHOW

Everything in life is much better live – having a face-to-face meeting is better than a teleconference, and of course, there is nothing, I repeat, nothing like attending a music show live.

I’ve always wanted to attend one of these music shows – Music Bank, Music Core, Inkigayo etc, but my Korean hip-hop dancer friend from the Prepix crew (they dance for Beast, Jay Park etc) doesn’t know how to get tickets… even though he performs on these shows all the time. -.-” Even with 1080 HD YouTube videos playing on my 21-inch iMac and my Harmon Kardon speakers blaring, there’s still that element missing – atmosphere, excitement, adrenaline, and good ole’ screaming vapid fans waving banners around.

 

Some of the idols mc-ing for one of their music shows – L-R: Nicole, IU, Goo Hara

I wouldn’t call myself a crazy Kpop fan – however, I do know how to appreciate a good industry. Korea’s music industry is so huge and has so much potential. It can seriously rival that of America, and for good reasons too. Their singers/idols, as factory-produced and similar they may be, put a lot of hard work into training. They really care about the feedback that they receive from their fans, and are really appreciative of all their fans’ love. This is so different from the Western singers – some may be talented, others may be hardworking, but there’s a certain element of interaction / passion missing. They don’t seem to care as much as Kpop singers whether they gain or lose a fan – more of a top-down communication method and one-way.

I’ve asked around and checked forums, but apparently you have to queue up outside the broadcast centres to wait for tickets, and even then, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a ticket after 4 hours of waiting. Since I’ve queued overnight for Hello Kitty dolls in 2000 when Singaporeans were rioting for those dolls, I honestly don’t mind waiting, but since I’m on a holiday, I have to maximise every single second.

However, one day, I’m certain that I’ll find my way into one of these awesome shows 😀

Imagine being able to watch awesome performances like Gangnam Style live – major electrifying I tell you! 

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2. STAY IN A HANOK WHILE WEARING A HANBOK 

The hanok that was featured in Personal Taste starring Lee Min Ho

Some may say that the shopping malls are my second home, but there’s really no feeling of warmth there (unless it’s winter and there’s a heater in the stores). I’ve been to Bukchon several times and blogged about it, and also visited Jeonju, but all I’ve done is to stand outside their traditional houses (known as hanok  한옥) looking all stalker-ish, peering in through the gaps to try to get a better glimpse of what’s inside.

I’ve grown up in a concrete jungle and been brought up in apartments- Singapore’s all about high-rise buildings since we’re such a tiny island at just 704km² – that’s almost comparable to the size of Seoul – about 605km², and that’s just their capital. I really want to experience living in a landed property – one where I don’t have to take an elevator up, one where I have a large gate to open, one where there are greenery and shrubs on my land. I want to have to make an effort to walk from one room to another – I can pop over to my brother’s room in 1 step.

Picture taken from KoreaITtimes – the interior of a hanok

Plus, you can’t say you’ve actually been to a country unless you’ve experienced their traditions and culture. It’s like how you haven’t been to Singapore unless you’ve reserved a seat with a packet of tissue paper.

I love how hanoks are all woody and environmentally-friendly with their recycleable materials, have floor seatings and floor sleeping arrangements, and various living spaces. I’m targeting to book a hanok for a homestay the next time I’m there, and I’m gonna make sure I’m wearing a hanbok 한복 – the Korean traditional outfit – when I’m staying there. 😀 Just think of the number of selcas and photo opportunities I’ll have, not to mention how comfortable it’ll be sitting under that huge pouffy skirt –  no need to act all demure muahahaha.

The one time I’ve ever worn a hanbok – during my Korean class in 2010/2011. Our teacher brought it to class and I wasn’t looking my best 😦

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3. JJIMJILBANG 찜질방 MY FATS AWAY & GET GOOD SKIN IN THE PROCESS

My friend Romeo has introduced me to the most addictive activity ever – going to a 찜질방 jjimjilbang. Even though I’ve done it before (3 days in a row at that!), I still want to go to a jjimjilbang.

Me and my crazy friends at a jjimjilbang – check out my nicely-folded yangmori. My friend would kill me if I uploaded this photo onto a public domain, so I had to give him a nice smiley face 😀

Basically, it’s a large public bath/sauna where you can do so, so, so many things! Most of them are open 24 hours so we even slept overnight in one. Somehow, the warmth and the high ceilings made for a better snooze.

  • Steam open your pores and detox in the hot domes.
  • Shrink the pores in the ice rooms.
  • Relax in the various rooms – charcoal, salt, oxygen rooms etc.
  • Eat the eggs.
  • Watch tv.
  • Soak in the hot tubs in the bathrooms.
  • Scrub your friend’s back if you’re comfortable with the thought of seeing your friend nude.
  • Get a massage.
  • Get eyelash extensions or trim your brows.

Plus, because of the detoxing effect, I actually lost weight after going there 3 days in a row. I really kid you not – the water retention was decreased spectacularly, and I am now slimmer and more svelte. Tempted to go yet? I’m just so sad that there’s none in Singapore – I’d be staying there everyday if there was one. Romeo says that’s not true though – Singapore’s so damn hot and humid that we are living in a jjimjilbang. muahaha.

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4. MAKE KIMCHI BY HAND AND FEED IT TO SOMEONE

Like what you see in the dramas, I’ve been fed hand-made kimchi by a kindly Korean mum wearing gloves – woahhhh, the amount of love you can feel cannot be described (even though I’m a journalist/editor and write for a living). You really have to experience it for yourself.

Photo taken from LoveThatKimchi.com – just look at the large piles of delicious kimchi! 

Similarly, I want to be able to spread that love. Kimchi is not just delicious, but it’s really super healthy. Did you know that it’s one of the healthiest foods  in the world? It’s high in fibre, low in calories, and because of its fermenting process, the final product is also high in vitamins A, B and C. I personally think that the reason why there are so few overweight Koreans is because of kimchi – it’s really good for your body since it also aids digestion. That, and the amount of walking they do.

Plus, I want to make different types – kimchi isn’t only made with cabbage. Other variations include cucumber, radish, green onion, green mustard leaves etc. You can read more about the types of kimchi here.

It’ll be such a handy recipe to know, since kimchi can be kept for a long time. They’ll make such wonderful additions to my unhealthy diet (a lot of Singapore food is full of oil and carbs). Diet! I have to go on a kimchi diet! 다이어트 해야지 ㅠㅜ

5. ATTEND A KPOP DANCE CLASS AND BANISH MY TWO LEFT FEET

Judging by the way I attempt to jiggle myself while I load YouTube videos of Sistar’s mirrored dance moves and try them out after locking my room door – I’m genetically 90% penguin and 10% Kpop star. After seeing myself massacre what was supposed to be a really sexy and well-synchronised dance, I have come to the conclusion that I need professional help. Plus, it really helps tone up my body in the right parts. Just check out Sistar’s members’ bodehs.

Sistar has some killer dance moves

6. GO ICE FISHING AND COOK MY OWN STEW ON THE SPOT. IN CASE OF BAD FISHING SKILLS, GO ICE SLEDDING.

I once saw this on We Got Married and some travel variety shows and it immediately went onto my list of Must-Dos. Our world is fast turning into one where we’re too dependent on technology. There are urban stories of the girl who asked what a potato tree looked like, and also a story from a friend whose baby was so used to the iPad that he tried to screen-swipe an actual physical book – the poor tot didn’t know how to physically flip a page!

Photo taken from here – ice fishing is for all ages, which means that no one can laugh at me for starting late

That’s why I really want to try ice fishing – going all caveman and catching my own food for the day. It’s also an excellent excursion activity with friends/ family – must better than staying home cooped up in front of the tv or computer. Read more ice fishing experiences  or here – omg they look like they’re having so much fun! Plus, it’s been listed as CNN’s Top 7 Winter Wonders, so I’m definitely up for it.

I’m pretty damn sure I’ll be doing this, or even trying to stick my whole head in. 😀 Photo taken from here

 

If all else fails and I don’t manage to catch anything, there’s always alternative activities, such as ice sledding (even though I’ll prolly be doing it on an empty stomach). Also known as 썰매 sseol mae, this is one activity that even me, with terrible motor coordination, will be able to do with ease. All you have to do is sit/kneel, and use the two sticks/oars to propel yourself forward.

Photo taken from this Korean’s blog – isn’t the kid adorable?! 

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7. GO FOR BLIND DATES 소개팅 (SO-GAE-TING) / DO A BOOKING AT A NIGHT CLUB (IF YOU’RE IN URGENT NEED OF SOME LURVE)

This one is really awesome, trust me. I’ve heard so many stories from my Korean friends. In Korean culture, it’s really commonplace to meet your other half / new friends through a mutual friend (this will be called a 소개팅 so-gae-ting) aka a blind date or a set-up. They don’t do it the Western way – approaching someone randomly in the bookstore and asking for a contact number is considered weird.

 

소개팅 so-gae-ting: There’s always the boring introduction set up by a mutual friend at a cafe where both parties just turn up on time. There’s also the traditional straw thingy – men and women sit on opposite sides of the table, and the women point their straws at the men they’re interested in. If the men point back to the same women, there’s a connection and they take things from there. There’s also the fun ones – I’ve heard a story from a friend: There was an entire building (just a short one) filled with men, and women will take the elevator. If the doors open and they see some men they are interested in, they’ll alight at that level. If not… next level! It may not necessarily be for marriage – it can be for friendship too.

Photo taken from here – beware of the auto music player starting up.

An unusual setting for a sogaeting – it’s more of a meeting because it involves a larger group of people – photo from K-popped.com

부킹 booking: If you’re in urgent need of some lurving tonight (ahem, not for the under-18s), you can do it at a club (called a 부킹 booking). Once again – ahem – I’m not one to opt for the second option because… let’s just say it comes with some strings attached.  Men and women go to nightclubs which have numerous sofas and tables. If a certain bunch of men take a fancy to a bunch of women, they signal the waiter over and he’ll go over to tell the women and pull them over to join the men’s table. For this, they get tips. And ta-dah, a booking is made! In a way, it’s kinda like paying for a hostess, except that the women aren’t staff, they don’t get the money. Of course, it’s a different way of getting some lovin’ tonight (which explains why I have never / and probably won’t ever try this).

That said, there is a possibility of growing a relationship with someone you meet here. I’ve got a friend who met his girlfriend (10 years his junior ) through a booking.  I’ve actually gone to a night club before, and it’s called 클럽 보보 – I didn’t do any bookings even though I did get my arms grabbed a couple of times by the waiters.  😀

8. PARTICIPATE IN RUNNING MAN

NOTE TO SELF: MUST TRAIN MY RUNNING MUSCLES BEFOREHAND.

That show is more than just variety for me – it brings back fond childhood memories. The children these days don’t seem to know how to play anymore. Good ole’ school games like rope skipping, hopscotch, 5 stones and of course, catching. Plus, each episode brings you to a new part of Korea – it’s like travelling for your work.The fact that the cast are so amazing will make this game even more fun – of course, I bet I’ll spend half the time drooling after Jong Kook and Gary.

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9. VISIT THE TRAINING CENTRES OF BUDDING KPOP STARS 

There have been many reports about the notoriously-tough training regime that wannabe Kpop stars have to go through – 15-hour days, restricted diets, lack of social networking outlets, time away from home and family etc. I’m really curious to know how these teenagers do it, how their daily lives are like, how they deal with it. This is like Biology 101 – I wanna know how the birds and bees work, and where babies come from, with the babies here referring to the Kpop stars.

Photo taken from here – there’ve been talent scouting contests in Singapore, but of the two that were selected, one dropped out. Tsk. I think Koreans are much better at withstanding pressure and hardship.

10. WORK AS BACKSTAGE / BEHIND-THE-SCENES STAFF FOR ONE OF THEIR VARIETY / MUSIC SHOWS.

Everyone thinks that working in magazines is all glitz and glamour, but I know otherwise. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy my work – in fact, I love it even more, now that I know very well how much work and effort goes into producing a magazine.

Similarly, I really enjoy watching their variety shows, but I am also really curious to know how much work and effort goes into it. Plus, it’ll be nice to see the off-screen personas of the celebrities. Just check out how nice Yoo Jae Suk is to his VJ Kwon Ryeol. I think it’s just an occupational hazard of being a journalist – I just have to find out more about everyone and everything 😀

Note to self: Do not get caught on camera like this – although it really cracked me up and I laughed till I cried.

Of course, there’s still tonnes of other things I’d love to do in Korea, but for now, these are at the top of my must-do list.

2 thoughts on “Travel: 10 Things I Wanted To Do in Korea (when I was 5 years younger)

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