Amazing Seoul

It has been months since I posted my last travel blog. Actually a lot of travel stories are ready for writing in my mind so lets start my first travel story since my stay in South Korea – A country of Tradition, Modernism, and fun!

In this post, I’d like to share adventure at Soul, the capital of South Korea. The trip was done in last December 29th to 30th 2012. I had the honor of having my YSEP friend from South Korea to accompany me during this trip. Thanks Koo, Minyoung and Sunna 🙂

It took around two and half hour of KTX train travel from my city of resident, Ulsan, to Seoul. KTX is a super-fast train which operated at 200 km/h of speed operated by Korail – Korean national rail company. Since I only stayed for two days, choosing this super-fast train was the best solution to me.

The travel from Ulsan to Seoul ran very smooth. The train was very comfortable and the sceneries along the way were gorgeous. Since I was traveling during winter, I could see all white winter landscape of Korea. From a quite mountain to a modern city, the snow covered them all in white – Very beautiful!! After arriving at Seoul Station at 11.00 AM, I was greeted by Koo, my fellow YSEP friend. We had a very fun chat about how the things were going after we graduated from YSEP. Such a fun reunion!

Seoul Train Station

The first place I went to was the Namsangol Hanok Village. It is a restored traditional Korean house that is well located in the city. You can find 5 types of house and pavilion complete with home appliance and furniture that represent the life during old Joseon dynasty. During my visit, there was an ice carving exhibition nearby the village. It surely added more fun in this trip.

Namsangol Hanok Village Namsangol Hanok Village Namsangol Hanok Village

The second place I went to with Koo was the Gyeongbokgung Palace. The palace was built in 1395, and also commonly referred to as the “Northern Palace” because it is the furthest north when compared to the neighboring palaces of Changdeokgung (Eastern Palace) and Gyeongheegung (Western Palace). It is said that Gyeongbokgung Palace is arguably the most beautiful and remains the grandest of all five palaces. One of the interesting things is the presence of The National Palace Museum which exhibited many items related to life and history on the palace.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

The Gyeongbokgung Palace is such a very big complexes. I spent more than an hour to explore and took pictures inside the palace. One of the main attractions   in the palace was the “Guard Change” ceremony. It is a reconstruction of old palace tradition where palace guards was changed by other guards as the shift ended.

Gyeongbokgung PalaceGyeongbokgung Palace

Visiting the palace in winter and snowy time is just as amazing as visiting during other season. It is off course depending on which season you like but to me, the scenery of snow and frozen lake surrounded by walls and traditional building was very calm and beautiful.

Gyeongbokgung PalaceGyeongbokgung Palace Gyeongbokgung PalaceGyeongbokgung Palace

The adventure were continued to visit the statue of King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sun-Shin.  Quoted from Korea Tourism Site, King Sejong is best remembered as the inventor of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet. During his reign, he consolidated the basis for ruling the Joseon Dynasty by incorporating Confucian philosophy of politics. Furthermore, he led the nation’s great strides in agriculture, literature, science and technology. Admiral Yi Sun-Shin Statue represents protection and patriotism of Korean people. The two statues stand greatly in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace main gate and are a very cool spot to take good photographs.

Seoul Seoul

The next place was the Cheonggyecheon Stream. It is a water spring that was transformed into a nice and cozy park to hang out and enjoy the cool environment of the stream.

 Cheonggyecheon Stream  Cheonggyecheon Stream

Just after finishing exploring the stream, Koo and I meet up with Minyong and Sunna, also fellow YSEP friend from Korea. We headed to a traditional market for lunch – late lunch – and enjoyed the different way of ordering meals. The traditional market provided a unique way of lunch experience; we bought several replica of traditional coin and exchange that with foods that are sold in the market. In a special facility inside the market, we then gathered an enjoyed the meal.

Seoul

In a snowy day, after finishing our lunch, we went to Insa-Dong, a popular spot for shoping and hanging out in Seoul. The surrounding in Insa-Dong reminded me of Jiyuugaoka in Tokyo where small and unique shops became the main attraction in the area.

Insa-Dong

Next one, the N Seoul Tower! Quoted from Korea Tourism WebSite, Seoul Tower opened to the public on October 15, 1980 and has since become a major tourist attraction. The 236.7m Seoul Tower sits atop Namsan Mountain (243m), Seoul Tower offers panoramic views of Seoul and the surrounding areas. The view is so stunning that many consider Seoul Tower the best tower in Asia. Thirty years and countless visitors later, as the structure was renamed ‘N Seoul Tower.’ The letter ‘N’ stands for the tower’s ‘new’ look, which resulted from a 15 billion won remodeling in Dec 2005. With the new lighting system and changes to the tower’s overall color scheme, event coordinators can now decorate the tower for each new season or event. It was snowing when we visited the tower. We weren’t going to the top of the tower with such low visibility. I will visit the top of the tower again in the latter chance. However, we tried the N Seoul Tower cable car on the way down the hill. Although it was a bit snowy and low light, the scenery was still gorgeous! I got to realize that the tower was very tall when the cable car slides down the hill.

N Seoul Tower

N Seoul TowerDSC_5608

The day trip with fellow YSEP friend was ended in Myeong-Dong – a stunning shopping district with countless shops and restaurants. It is like Insa-Dong, but in a larger scale. We had our stop at a nice coffee shop in Myeong-Dong – I forgot the name, but it was a pleasant and warm place to rest and chat. After another fun talk and jokes with my friends, we visited Myeong-Dong Cathedral with nice brick architecture.

Myeong-Dong Myeong-DongMyeong-Dong

To me, Visiting Seoul in winter and snowy time was so memorable. I really liked how the city landscapes were covered in snow. I’ve never seen snow in a city this thick before, so this adventure will surely be engraved in my mind as an unforgettable moment in my life. Great appreciation to Koo, Minyong and Sunna for their warm accompany on my visit to Seoul. Look forward to visit Seoul with my beloved wife soon 🙂

YSEP 2008

Useful Information:

– Korea Tourism Organization : http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/index.kto

– Korea Rail & KR Pass information (English available) : http://www.korail.com/

Appreciation :

– Thanks to Koo as the official photographer of the trip 😛

– Thanks to Koo, Minyoung and Sunna for the fun reunion 🙂

PS: The Second day trip was to Seoul War Memorial Museum and Seoul Mosque in Itaewon. As this post is already very long, I’ll try to write it in another post. See you!

Advertisements

Trip to Ho Chi Minh – Vietnam

Recently I have had a chance to visit Ho Chi Minh City inVietnam. The city, also known as Saigon City, offered much entertainment and tourism spot for me to be discovered during my short two days vacation. I did spend two nights and two days at the city from April 26th until 28th.

In summary, I arrived at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Thrusday 19.40 and headed to a hotel called Saigon Sports 3 hotel in District 1 (nice and affordable hotel with kind staff). The first night in Ho Chi Minh city was used to explore narrow streets and restaurant near the hotel I stayed. I was surprised with so many foreign tourist enjoying the restaurant and shops in the district.

The first day of my trip was filled with exploring the Ho Chi Minh City, my travel itinerary at that day was :

-Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Art
-Ho Chi Minh City Museum
– Dong Khoi Street
– People Committee Hall
– Notre Dame Cathedral
– Central Post Office
-Reunification Palace
-War Remnant Museum
– Binh Tay Market
– Ben Thanh Market

It took the whole day to visit those entire recommended place. You can see some of the sceneries from those places in the gallery section of this post. The places are a good spot of photography, both of you or the building and scenery.

The War Remnant museum is surely a place to respect the casualties of war. It exhibits various information – mostly photographs – of the Vietnam war victim, both Soldier and peasant, both Vietnam and USA. There were a lot of uncensored photographs of how the Vietnam War was very devastating and scary, really a tragedy for humankind. What we can learn from this museum is that peace is really a gift. For those of us who lives in peace, we should be very grateful for that.

The second day of my visit was used to explore Chu Chi tunnel, 1.5 hours from District 1 inHo Chi Minh city. The Chu Chi tunnel is a network of underground tunnel used as a base for Viet Con to attack, defense, live, and survive during the Vietnam War. Chu Chi Tunnel offered me the introduction to tunnel network, trap used to lured enemy soldier, how the Viet Con lives during the war, and even how the gun is shot. You can also see the surrounding of Chu Chi tunnel in the gallery.

After visiting Chu Chi tunnel, I went to Ben Than market to buy other souvenier and the concluded the day, also the vacation, with a travel back to Tan Son Nhat airport to head back to Jakarta, Indonesia.

I will need a lot of words and pages to describe how great the vacation was. However, I’ve posted a lot of picture to let you see and have a glimpse of feel on how Ho Chi Minh city is a worthy tourism travel destination.

Tokyo Disney Sea 2011

During my second visit to Japan, I have had a chance to visit Tokyo Disney Sea, a part of Tokyo Disney Resort which is one of “Must See” place in Japan and based on Wikipedia, it is the 5th most visited theme park in the world (1). The Disney Sea was the fastest theme park in the world to reach the milestone of 10 million guests, having done so in 307 days after its grand opening and also the most expensive theme park ever built, estimated to have cost over U.S. $4 billion. Those reputations were some of the reason why I must visit the Disney Sea.

The ticket price was 6200 Yen for adult (18 years & older), 5300 Yen for 12 – 17 years old, and 4100 Yen for below 12 years old. It is surely far more expensive than Indonesia newest theme park but it sure worth the price. ( For example : Trans Studio : Rp. 200,000. or 2000 Yen and Disney sea Rp. 620,000. or 6200 Yen). The official website can be found in :http://www.tokyodisneyresort.co.jp/en/index.html

The theme park area is categorized to seven areas which are :

1 Mediterranean Harbor

Mediterranean Harbor is the entrance “port-of-call” and themed as an Italian port city, complete with Venetian gondolas that guests can board and ride. It is very good spot for going out with your lover 🙂 The surrounding is so romantic and pleasant.

The main purpose of this harbour is as a main stage (or water stage I prefer) for Disney shows such as “Fantasmic”. This spectacular shows combines laser, lighting, water spray, Disney figures in a story about the magic of many Disney’s stories. (http://www.tokyodisneyresort.co.jp/tdr/movie_en/index.html)

2 Mysterious Island

Mysterious Island is a “port-of-call” within Mount Prometheus, the giant volcano that is the Park’s centerpiece and most prominent feature. It relies heavily on the storytelling of Jules Verne and, specifically, the mythology of the volcano fortress mentioned several times in the books called “Vulcania”. Two  attractions in this area are “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” and  “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. To me, I like “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” ride in this area.

3 Mermaid Lagoon

Mermaid Lagoon is home to the characters of The Little Mermaid. The facade is made to look like the Palace of King Triton and features fanciful seashell-inspired architecture. This “port of call” is unique in that it is mostly indoors and recreates the feeling of being underwater.

4 Arabian Coast

This “port of call”, like Mermaid Lagoon, is themed after a popular Disney animated film, this time Aladdin. It recreates an exotic Arabian harbor combined with an “enchanted world from 1001 Arabian Nights”.

5 Lost River Delta

Located at the back of the park, the dominant structure in this “port of call” is a huge, ruined Central American Aztec pyramid which houses the E.M.V. attraction Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull. The Indiana Jones Adventure ride was my most favourite attraction in the park.

6 Port Discovery

This “port of call” is hailed as “the marina of the future”. It is sometimes called the “Tomorrowland” of Tokyo DisneySea and is somewhat of a cross between the never-built Discovery Bay concept for Disneyland and Discoveryland in Disneyland Park (Paris).

7 American Waterfront

This “port of call” represents the northeastern seaboard of the United States in the early 20th century. It features two themed areas, an “Old Cape Cod” section, and a “New York Harbor” section with an elaborate backstory.

Additional Reference : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disney_sea

I spent 12 hours in the park 🙂 The crowd was so huge that so many main attractions offered queue up to 2.5 hours each ride. If I may advice you, come not in a holiday session,  come in a week day so you can have less queue and you can enjoy many ride as many you can.

The disney resort, especially the Disney Sea really offers a day of dream for me and I am sure for many other visitor. The surrounding are  designed in detail to fulfilll our expectation of a Disney dream world. What really amazed me was the warm smile and gesture of Disney Sea staff. They really showed their spirit in doing their best to makes us feel like living in a dream world. This is a part of Japanese culture in doing their best for any responsibility they bear, I think.

Finally, I really recommend you to visit this theme park if you have a chance. It is very worth the price and provides you uniqueness compared to other Disney theme parks. Some snapshots during my visit can be seen in the gallery. Enjoy )

The Doger Monyet

What do you think after seeing the picture above? strange? funny? scary?

Well, don’t think too far. It is a kind of Indonesian traditional art of Monkey Attraction where the monkey is trained to do many movement to entertain the audience. Indonesian people called this “Doger Monyet”.  It is an art of training  a monkey to perform many funny and interesting movement to be shown to audience. The monkey master who train the monkey will then collect money as a donation for the monkey and the master.

Yesterday, this attraction came over in front of my house. The monkey master usually held the attraction in the place  where many children can gather.  The Master and his monkey will then perform many funny attraction for the audience such as Islamic Praying (as shown in the first and second picture), playing guitar, farming, cycling, collecting money, and using riffle  (shown in the picture below). That were all very funny to see monkey were able to do such movement. Me and the other audience were very entertained by the attraction. The monkey master said that it took around 6 months to train the monkey those various movements. I think it is a difficult task that requires patient and affection. That’s why I told this attraction as one kind of arts.

You can see how was the crowd from the picture below

The attraction was held for around 15 minutes. Just before finished, two of the adult audience gave money to the monkey for 14 thousands rupiah. Not all audience gave money but that is not a problem since it is not a formal attraction. People may give or not give money freely. For me, it is an art that requires skill and patient so I think it was an obligation to give money. To respect their will and skill.

Ps : I have seen the same type of performance in Japan. unfortunately I could not find the image in google. I also don’t know how Japanese people called this kind of attraction. Please inform me when you know bout it. Thank you.

Tips Mengatasi Home Sick

Home Sick adalah perasaan rindu akan suasana rumah dan kampung halaman. Perasaan ini timbul terutama ketika kita berada jauh dari rumah dengan segala suasanannya sehingga membuat perasaan serasa tak menentu. Tinggal selama setahun di Tokyo membuat saya mengalami pengalaman home sick terberat yang pernah saya alami. Selama berada di Jepang, saya sangat merindukan semua hal mengenai Indonesia. Oleh karena itu, dalam menghadapi home sick saya melakukan langkah-langkah dibawah ini.

1. Berkomunikasi dengan Keluarga di Indonesia

Komunikasi dengan keluarga di Indonesia merupakan obat home sick yang paling mujarab bagi saya. Dengan cara ini, saya bisa langsung mendengar kabar dari keluarga tercinta di Indonesia dan juga bisa langsung berbagi keluh kesah – susah senang dengan mereka.

Metode komunikasi adalah dengan menggunakan sambungan telefon langsung, sms, Skype, dan Yahoo Messenger. Metode telefon langsung adalah metode yang paling mahal karena saya harus membeli layanan kartu telepon khusus bernama SADIA card seharga 2000 yen untuk 2.5 jam masa bicara ke telefon selular di Bandung.  Metode SMS dapat dilakukan dengan berlangganan layanan SMS ke Indonesia melalui layanan SMS Pelangi. Kita dapat mengetik SMS langsung dari HP kita atau dari website mereka. Dengan membayar 2.000 yen, kita bisa mendapat 240 SMS ke nomor HP Indonesia. Metode selanjutnya adalah Skype dan Yahoo Messenger. Keduanya menyediakan layanan chatting dan video call dengan menggunakan media internet tanpa memungut biaya apapun kecuali biaya akses internet

2. Makan masakan Indonesia

Keterbatasan jenis makanan yang dapat dimakan membuat saya semakin rindu untuk memakan masakan khas Indonesia. Untuk mengatasinya, biasanya saya berkunjung ke restoran Cabe yang terletak di Meguro. Restoran Cabe menjadi favorit warga Indonesia di Tokyo karena sebagian besar masakannya halal dan letaknya yang dekat dengan pusat aktivitas warga Indonesia di Tokyo. Menikmati makanan Indonesia bersama teman sebangsa menjadikan home sick semakin terobati.

Selain pergi ke restoran, saya juga suka memasak sendiri masakan Indonesia kesukaan saya. Masakan Indonesia seperti opor ayam, nasi goreng, sup bisa dibuat dengan mudah dengan bantuan bumbu instan yang saya beli di Tokyo atau yang saya bawa langsung dari Indonesia. Terlebih, kamar saya memang dilengkapi dengan dapur yang sangat nyaman tuk digunakan.

3. Berekreasi Keliling Kota

Jepang merupakan negara yang sangat berbeda dengan Indonesia baik dalam hal budaya, penduduknya, orang-orangnya. Karena itu, selalu ada hal baru yang saya temukan setiap saya beranjak dari satu sisi ke sisi lain Jepang. Hal inilah yang membuat rekreasi keliling kota semakin menarik. Baik menggunakan kereta, bus, sepeda, atau jalan kaki, hal-hal baru dan menarik yang ditemui dapat mengobati kerinduan saya terhadap Indonesia.

4. Bertemu Rekan Sebangsa

Pertemuan dan perbincangan dengan rekan sebangsa dan senegara akan sangat membantu dalam mengatasi home sick. Aktivitas seperti makan bersama, berekreasi bersama, atau sekedar bermain futsal membuat perasaan rindu tanah air menjadi terobati. Dengan demikian, selain dapat mengatasi home sick, juga dapat meningkatkan semangat berjuang menempuh studi di Jepang.

5. Bersosialisasi dengan Teman Seperjuangan

Sosialisasi dengan sesama anggota lab atau sesama pelajar asing yang menempuh program yang sama merupakan salah satu cara yang cukup ampuh dalam mengatasi home sick. Sebagian dari beban home sick timbul karena masalah yang timbul selama menempuh studi, oleh karena itu berbagi beban dengan teman seperjuangan dirasa sangat membantu. Meskipun demikian, berbincang dengan sesama warga negara asing dirasa lebih nyaman dibanding dengan warga negara Jepang yang memang dikenal cenderung tertutup. Selama di Tokyo Tech, saya senantiasa berbincang dengan WNA di lab saya, atau lab lainnya untuk mendiskusikan riset, mencari penyelesaian masalah riset, atau saling membantu penggunaan alat eksperimen.

6. Berdoa

Hal terakhir yang sangat manjur dalam mengobati home sick dan bahkan mengatasi semua masalah selama masa studi adalah berdoa dan berserah diri kepada Allah SWT. Dengan berdoa dan berserah diri, saya berada pada titik kesadaran bahwa saya bukanlah apa-apa di dunia ini, tidak memiliki kekuatan apapun, tidak memiliki kelebihan apapun, semua yang ada pada diri saya hanyalah kehendak Allah SWT. Oleh karena itu, ketika menghadapi suatu masalah, semuanya adalah kehendak Allah SWT yang harus kita lalui dengan tetap berusaha, berdoa, dan akhirnya berserah diri. Sungguh kenikmatan yang sangat besar ketika akhirnya kita bisa dengan fokus berserah diri kepada Allah SWT ketika kita hampir putus asa ketika menghadapi masalah.

Selama di Jepang, saya sangat mudah mendapat akses ke kegiatan keagamaan. Ibadah Shalat di Tokyo Tech biasa dilakukan di refresh room tiap bangunan atau ruangan dekat tangga darurat di lantai teratas gedung Minami (South) 9. Selain shalat, Pengajian Midori (Midori : Hijai) , pengajian yang dibentuk oleh pelajar Indonesia di Tokyo Tech rutin diadakan setiap Jumat malam sehabis Isya. Pematerinya berasal dari pelajar Indonesia di Tokyo Tech sendiri dan sesekali mengundang narasumber yang kebetulan sedang berada di Tokyo.

Uraian diatas adalah beberapa langkah untuk mengatasi home sick, kalo mengatasi Japan Sick gimana  ya? ada ide? ^_^’

The Book Off

Unlike the other day, today I went home from lab at 8 PM. It is uncommon because recently I went home after 11 PM. Moreover, for some days I stayed at lab to prepare my experiment.

Going home at 8 PM, I felt like I wanted to go to Jiyuugaoka. A place with many kind of store and restaurant. Though it has many store, restaurant, and its crowd, I heard Jiyuugaoka is the most popular living place for Japanese people. I do also like this place. Many unique and beautiful building can be seen here.

Anyway, at first I only wanted to see the crowd at Jiyuugaoka. I wanted to see a chocolate store since my girlfriend wanted me to buy her a chocolate as a present. However, the store was closed. Since I didn’t want to spend my precious 8pm – 9 pm in the train (Most interesting place in Japan close at 8 to 9 PM), I decided to visit a book store called “Book OFF”. Actually this store doesn’t only sell book but also cd and video game cd. This store sell used product as well as brand new product.

That time, I went to foreign book section. In that second story store, there were only 3 shelf provide foreign book (mostly English language). It was obvious since most of Japanese people cannot speak English. Then I took a look to the shelf and found four interesting book. The first one was Lonely Planet : Japan. It is a book about tourism spot in Japan and how to explore it. The second book was Lonely Planet: Tokyo, same like the previous book, but this one focuses on Tokyo region. The third one was a novel,Tom Clancy’s : Red Rabbit. The last one was history book, Stalingrad.

I decided to buy the Lonely Planet : Tokyo and Stalingrad. For the first one, I choose because I wanted to explore more about Tokyo in my last 2 month of stay in Japan. For the second book, I just wanted to practice my reading English skill while learn about WWII history. The most important point is that I bough those two used book for just 360 yen only (Rp. 36,000.00). 250 for the Lonely Planet (brand new price: $15) , and 105 for the Stalingrad (brand new price : $10). I am getting curious to visit other used book store.