Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My Dreams - Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter 2012 (4 season of joy)

" Your DREAM doesn't  have an expiry date, take a deep breath and try again "

" Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your own SOUL " 

" Never be afraid to try something new because LIFE gets boring when you stay within the limits of what you already know "

Today is a Christmas day (25/12/2012) . Merry Christmas to all my readers, friends & family members . May you all blessed with good health & a happy new year ! 

How did you fare in 2012 ? In a few day's time, we will be saying bye bye to 2012 (the year of water dragon) & welcoming 2013 (the year of golden snake) ! For those who enjoy travelling, dream more & happy travelling before the snake year of 2013 sneaks away !

Where did the year go ? 2012 was a very eventful year for me and my wife. I made 4 overseas travels without realizing that the timing of these travels coincided with the cycle of the 4 seasons of the year - no way we could experience a 4 season climate in a single year in our hot tropical country of Malaysia - forever summer, hot & humid ! 

Indeed we had a lot of fun in our travels to Myanmar, Europe, China & South Korea at a different time of the year in 2012 ! Wonderful weather and wonderful outcome ! 

Highlights of 2012 in pictures :

Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter - making our traveling life in 2012 a most colorful & joyful one !

Spring - slow & steady (since May 2006 after my retirement), we have SPRING up our mind in travelling !

Interlaken, Switzerland - April 2012

Summer - one swallow does not make a SUMMER - in traveling, there are always ups & downs, bless you all who indulge in your own passions !

Bagan, Myammar - Jan 2012

Autumn - after retirement, we are in the AUTUMN of our life pursuing our own dreams !

Fenghuang, Hunan - China - Sept 2012

Winter - we never freeze but when the bitter cold Siberian WINTER is gone, a new dawn awaits us to face more challenges in our retirement life !

Phoenix Park Ski Resort, South Korea - Dec 2012

Salt & pepper are the two most common seasoning in cooking. We need seasoning to make our food palatable. As for travelling, whether it is hot, warm, cool or cold; the cycle of the seasons; Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter has indeed spiced up our retirement life in 2012 !!! 

21-12-2012 is the end date of a 5,125 year long cycle under an ancient Mayan calendar prophecy ! But the world did not end on this date ! So let's move on ! Let's welcome 2013 as the beginning of a new era !

Dream more ! Memories are the stars that brighten our dreams ! 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

South Korea 2012

" Watch your thoughts - They become words
   Watch your words - They become actions
   Watch your actions - They become habits
   Watch your habits - They become characters
   Watch your character - They become your  destiny 
   Your destiny will be your LIFE "   

" Be active and live longer

" Cherish your health. If it is good, preserve it . If it is unstable, improve it . If it is beyond what you can improve, get help "

" My 9 days (6 nights) Psy's Gangnam style package tour to South Korea (Jeju Island, Mt Sorak & Seoul) from 1-8 Dec - bracing the cold - my first winter experience overseas ( lowest temperature - minus 16c) " 

Total expenses incurred (9 days): Rm4,383 (Euro$1,100)

Travel Agent: Malaysian Harmony Tour & Travel Sdn Bhd Tel 603-21454226
Tour package to Seoul & Jeju Island inclusive of air ticket, hotels, meals, tipping, airport tax, travel insurance : RM4,193 (Euro$1,050) 
Flight: Korean Airlines
Departure : 2/12/2012  Flight No KE6672  ETD 0140 ETA 0900
Return : 8/12/2012  Flight No 8671 ETD 1830 ETA 0010 + 1 
Hotel ( Jeju ) : Jeju Oriental Hotel ( 2 nights )
Hotel ( Mt Sorak) : Kumho Seorak Resort
Hotel ( Ski Resort ) : Phoenix Park Hotel
Hotel ( Seoul ) : Ramada Seoul ( 2 nights )
Bus & taxi : Rm100
Food & snacks: 30,000 won (Rm90)
Exchange rate: RM1 = 334 won

Travel itinerary : Kuala Lumpur > Seoul > Jeju Island > Seoul > Everland Theme Park > Mt Sorak > Phoenix Ski Resort > Seoul > Kuala Lumpur

This was my first visit to an overseas country in winter. Since my retirement, my wife & myself were very keen to see South Korea so in early Oct 2012, we paid a deposit of Rm1,000 to a Malaysian travel agent & booked a 9 day 6 night package tour (1-9 Dec 2012) to South Korea ( Seoul & Jeju Island ) . 

Our South Korean tour group from Malaysia has 60 members but split into 2 groups. Our group of 25 was in "B" group. We were very pleased with the services of our Malaysian tour guide (Ah Fei ) & Korean guide (Amy) . There were no hiccups and the entire trip was a pleasant one leaving behind lots of fond memories. The good thing about joining a package tour ie everything was well taken care from departure to arrival in Seoul and return - so we just relaxed and conditioned ourselves during the duration of the tour - eat , sleep, sightseeing and shop .... daily morning calls, late hotel check-ins & early check-outs, buffet breakfasts, Korean steamboats, shorter winter days, a tight daily program (not my cup of tea as most of previous travels were free & easy style), cold weather (ranging from -5 to -16c); snowfall, wet & slippery roads; but most of us were happy with the outcome - we visited major tourist sites in Seoul & Jeju Island leaving behind a great impression of this well developed Asian country renowned for her ginseng, cosmetics & kimchi ... perhaps we should come back to see South Korea in autumn (most pleasant season, cool & sunny & leaves turn color) .... another dream to look forward in the near future !

Another dream comes true and our belated first Winter life experience !!! 

Malaysian Harmony Tour ( Group B ) - a joyful winter trip

Jeju Island - isolated, mild oceanic climate, famous for plenty of dark grey volcanic rocks & soil, strong wind and women outnumber men; a big gender issue .... 

1) Yongduam Dragon Head Rock - unusual lava formation

2) Sunrise Peak - an UNESCO site, very scenic & spectacular as seen from the peak & volcanic crater .....

3) Jeju Folk Village - numerous collections of Korean cultural artifacts, the local tour guide has lots of folk tales to enthuse you ..... old toilet culture, story of man with 3-4 wives or kitchen with 3-4 stoves .....

4) Trick Art Museum - I was born in the year of Tiger (1950), a sleeping Tiger ! A real tiger man trying to play a trick with an "modern art" tiger 

5) Locadio World - created by professionals for broadcasting set facilities ...

6) Teseum - Teddy Bear Museum; hopefully you don't ended up as a Teddy boy or girl after this visit ..... but if you enjoy doing rock & roll, why not ? 

Everland Theme Park (Christmas Fantasy) - owned by Samsung; go for the Safari and see a Liger; bitterly cold in the open theme park after a heavy snowfall overnight; found shelters near the heaters to keep our bodies warm; Lotte World Theme Park is another option ...

Seoraksan National Park (Mt Sorak) - UNESCO site, best time to visit is Sept/Oct (Autumn) when green maple leaves turn to bright red color and scenery & nature are at its best .... a natural wonder

Phoenix Park Ski Resort - Asia's Alp; the venue for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, a great place to learn skiing ....

Seoul (9.8 million) - Capital of South Korea

1) Gyeongbokgung Palace - an UNESCO site; built during the reign of King Taejo (1392), destroyed by Japanese invasion in 1592 and rebuilt in 1868; no artifact or antique to show but impressed with the ancient building design, structure & roof figurines .....

2) Bukchon Hanok (North) Village - old traditional Korean houses and a cultural heritage site, also called "the street museum in the urban core" ....

3) Kimchi Making - as easy as learning ABC or making ice kacang (desserts); healthiest & Korean's staple food, healthy bacteria helps with digestion , plenty of vitamins A, B & C, preventing the growth of cancer .... every steamboat meal has a side dish of kimchi, kimchi & kimchi .... 

4) Traditional Korean costume fashion parade - a fake Korean couple !

5) The world famous Nanta Show - frying pans, water bottles, pots, chopping boards and knives as musical instruments; first performance on 10 Oct 1997; 7.7m spectators; 24,500 shows in 278 cities covering 42 countries 

6) Shopping at Dongdaemun Market - largest in Seoul; skip your sleeping hours and just shop and shop till 4.30am ( Doota, Maxtyle, APM, Migliore ); prices are tempting & cheap ....

7) Shopping at Myeongdong (Lotte Young Plaza) - a shopper's paradise, tourist haven, crowded, renowned brands ....

8) Ginseng, herbal & medicinal outlets & cosmetic Duty Free Shop - get your Platinum or Gold Visa cards ready for Ginseng & herbal product purchases, payment in US$ ( no haggling Korean style ! ) 

9) Odusan Unification Observatory - Demilitarized Zone (DMZ); could see North Korea farm houses across the river using a binocular

10) Cheongwadae Sarangchae ( showcase the lives and accomplishments of former Korean Presidents)

" South Korea (Hangkuk), Japanese occupation for 35 years since 1910, The Korean War (1950-1953), hosting of 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul (Hanseong), ginseng & kimchi, Samsung, K-pop, Psy Gangnam style, UN Secretary General - Ban Ki-Boon, First Woman President - Park Geun-Hye elected to Parliament in Dec 2012 .....North & South Korean unification - a Korean Dream ! " 

Jeju Island, South Korea (2012)

1) Yongduan Dragon Head Rock - looks like a roaring dragon rising from the sea into the sky; stone grandfather carved from a block of basalt, try the grilled octopus at the front entrance - smell good ! 

2) Seongsan Sunrise Peak - an UNESCO heritage site, spectacular natural surroundings, a 30 mins uphill walk to the volcanic crater ....

3) Jeju Folk Village - not an old folk home but rich in traditional Korean artifacts & culture; be a good listener to the local tour guide - lot of folk tales to tell ....

4) Trick Art Museum - follow the instructions and your mimic action relates well with the tricky art .....

Tricks, tricks, tricks


5) Locadio World - nice backdrop from dramas produced by creative film directors / producers

Dramas, dramas, dramas

6) Teseum ( Teddy Bear Museum ) - you are in good company with softy bears

Bears, bears, bears

7) Jeju Island downtown shopping area - great for an evening stroll after a heavy steamboat meal with kimchi … 

8) The Casino (Jeju Island) - nice building from far but we stay clear from entering as we do not have a deep pocket ....

9) Jeju Oriental Hotel in Jeju Island - doesn't matter whether it is 3 or 4 star as long we got a good night sleep ....

" Jeju Island - 2 million years old, land of the goddess, volcanic island, honeymooning, giant basalt grandfather statutes, black pigs, abalone porridge, folklore, hardworking Jeju women ...."