Malaysian friends take last holiday to South Korea before Covid-19

Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest royal palace in South Korea. — DIVYA ARUMUGAM

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What started as a casual chat between friends while on an evening jog turned into a last-minute decision to travel to Seoul, South Korea for a holiday.

And it was the best unplanned trip ever, at least for me.

This happened in December 2019, and I went on that trip with two of my friends. It was the first time all three of us had travelled abroad together, and travelling with girls is always an unpredictable adventure.

You can see a beautiful panoramic view of the city from Namsan Seoul Tower. — Korea Tourism OrganisationYou can see a beautiful panoramic view of the city from Namsan Seoul Tower. — Korea Tourism OrganisationIn Seoul, we were very surprised to find that there were hardly any dustbins on the streets. The streets were busy and crowded with people but the place was always clean, with not even a single cigarette butt in sight.

My friend got some strange looks from people when she boarded the train with a hot dog in her hand. An elderly man made some hand gestures telling her to put it away.

The street food in Seoul was sumptuous especially the grilled butter prawns, toasted egg sandwich which came with a generous amount of vegetables, twisty potato fries and chocolate-coated strawberries. My friend took a liking to a fruit yogurt drink, which was available at the many convenience stores there.

We visited during the start of winter so we could still see traces of autumn in the city. Brown, yellow and red leaves had fallen from the trees, and were spread out by the roadside.

The weather was very cold for us, and we had to be all wrapped up in winter clothing most of the time. Every night, we looked forward to the heater in our hotel rooms!

We took the train a lot, but by the end of our week-long trip, we were familiar with some of the streets there and started exploring the city on foot. The good thing about the cold weather is that we hardly broke a sweat after all that walking.

We also kept bumping into Malaysians everywhere we went – on the streets and trains, in restaurants and malls. We knew they were Malaysians because they spoke in Bahasa Melayu, and we greeted them, even though we were all strangers. This made it feel like home, somehow.

One of the most memorable places we visited was Nami Island, where the famous Korean drama Winter Sonata was filmed. Nami Island is about 60km northeast of Seoul. We took a ferry from Gapyeong Wharf to get across to the crescent-shaped island. The view was breathtaking and it was truly a magical place to be for us, just like the drama series.

Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest royal palace in South Korea.  — DIVYA ARUMUGAMGyeongbokgung Palace is the largest royal palace in South Korea. — DIVYA ARUMUGAMWe also visited the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the main royal palace during the Josean Dynasty, that was built in 1395. It is also the first and largest of all the royal palaces in Korea.

We took the chance to get all dolled up in a hanbok, the traditional Korean costume, and strolled around the palace. The mountain view behind the palace was very beautiful, and the architecture of the building was simply amazing.

Another place worthy of a visit is the Namsan Seoul Tower. It was the first multi-purpose tower to be established in Korea; it is a broadcasting tower, as well as an observatory for visitors. It is also an iconic landmark in Seoul.

From here, you can get a panoramic view of the entire city.

Our trip to Seoul was memorable for many things, one of which was the fact that it was our last trip before the pandemic startd. Even though this holiday took place in 2019, due to the fact that we have spent most of 2020 and 2021 at home, it seems like this happened such a long time ago!

Right now, all we can do is to keep our fingers crossed and hope that things will get better, so that we can go on another holiday soon.

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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