Friday, February 3, 2017

Frustrations on Failed Taiwan Trip + Jeju Island Weekend Trip

Gimpo Airport (Check-in located on upper floor)
My original plan of studying in Korea was to take advantage of my weekends and be able to travel to another country. The advantages of this is that flights are much cheaper considering you're practically neighbors with other foreign countries that you may want to visit. However, it turns out planning a weekend trip is much harder especially when there are unforeseen weather conditions when you are there. From experience, I had already booked my flight to Taiwan for the weekend (Friday--Sunday), but unfortunately, we never ended up going. The airline we booked with was China airlines because it was the cheapest option available to us at the time. Since 2 of my friends had later classes, we booked 2 separate flights departing on the same day. But since it is monsoon season in Asia in the summer, it was difficult to predict the weather--the weekend we booked our trip turned out to be the weekend a typhoon was passing through Taiwan. My friend's flight ended up being cancelled because their flight was booked under a subsidiary airline company owned my China Air, whereas my flight was not cancelled. The night before the departure day I found out my flight was delayed by an entire day, yet I received no notification at all.

Historical Displays at Gimpo Airport Lounge
This is where my frustrations began--we weren't sure whether to cancel our flight as well due to safety concerns of the weather conditions in Taiwan or to still leave without my other friends. As a college student, the cancellation fee was another concern since we were canceling so last minute. The day of our flight, we continuously reached out to the airline only after my other friend received an email regarding how to get a refund for their flight. On the other hand, I still received no news at all whether the flight was going to take off or not. Being fed up with the lack of response, I contacted the same person that sent my friend the refund form to see what was wrong. She was definitely trying her best to contact the headquarters and find answers for me, and it was something I appreciated in comparison to the airlines lack of responsiveness. Luckily for us, we were all able to get our refunds, and it took a while, but the cancellation fee was also resolved. But ultimately, the disappointment remained since we weren't able to visit even though we had the entire itinerary planned.

Pork Noodle Soup (Gogi Guksu from Manse Guksu)

On a brighter note, I decided to continue with my plan to leave Seoul each weekend, the next trip being Jeju Island, infamous for being the "Hawaii" of Korea. To get to Jeju, we booked a domestic flight. Thankfully, the airports in Korea are separated so that domestic flights are mostly flown out of Gimpo airport, which was much closer to the Yonsei campus than Incheon airport. The flight itself was short and I arrived in the evening. My friend and I booked a guesthouse for the duration of our stay, closer to the airport so it would be easier for us to get back to Seoul.

Places we visited:
Teddy Bear Museum
Jungmun Beach
O'sulloc Tea Museum
Innisfree Jeju House Cafe
Glass Castle
Jeju Citrus Museum
Ilho Tewoo Beach (Cute Red and White Horse-shaped lighthouses)
Noodle Street (Guksu Alley)
Raw Fish Street
Nolman Cafe (Best seafood ramen!!)
Monsant Cafe (for K-pop fans, this is the cafe owned by G-Dragon from Big Bang)

Entrance of the Teddy Bear Museum

It was interesting to see the history of teddy bears and to see displays of historical moments and famous figures depicted as bears. One thing I noticed a lot about Korea is how they have many "concept" stores where there is a theme going on throughout the place.

Jungmun Beach is one of the many beaches in Jeju Island. We decided to go to this one because it was supposedly scenic and known for its mixed sand. However, I was slightly disappointed because the mixed sand felt rough against my bare feet and it wasn't as scenic as I expected. Seeing darker sand colors across the shore was a new experience for me because I was used to expected tan sand or the iconic white sand beaches from the tropical areas.

The Osulloc Tea Museum and Innis free cafe are both nice spots to grab a quick snack or light meal in the midst of exploring. O'sulloc is a well known franchise with aromatic teas and wonderful desserts whereas innisfree is a famous road-shop brand of cosmetics. But in the Innisfree cafe in Jeju, they actually serve food as well as having a station where you can customize your own soap bar.

The Glass Castle Museum stood out to me the most due to the beauty of the massive art pieces. Everything in the museum was made of glass fragments, from huge arches, fake lakes, smaller displays, mirrored light rooms, to the gigantic spider web. It was fascinating to see the creations made all from glass.

Unfortunately, the citrus fruit wasn't in season when we visited the Jeju Citrus Museum. It was pretty empty on the day we went, and the cooking classes weren't available. Though we were disappointed at the lack of things to see inside, we did get to try the citrus ice cream and bring back some souvenirs from the store there!

Jeju Island is known for their fresh seafood and specialty noodle dishes. As a country that consumes the most ramen, it was an obvious choice to go to the famous seafood ramen restaurant in Jeju, Nolman Cafe. I first discovered this restaurant from watching a Korean television show (Superman Returns), where a celebrity family ate there during their vacation to Jeju. You have to take a ticket from the machine and give in your order. Once your number is called, the order is ready for pickup. The broth itself was extremely flavorful from the abundant amounts of seafood--there was crab, mussels, shrimp, etc. It was easily a fan favorite over famous ramen shops back in NYC such as Ippudo, and definitely better than the iconic red Shin ramen packages. Nearby is the Monsant Cafe--the building exterior is a perfect place to watch the sunset since the walls are glass and quite reflective.

On our way back to the airport, we stopped by Ilho Tewoo Beach. The beach was very family friendly compared to other beaches in Korea that I visited. Near the beach was a mini campsite where many families had tents and brought food to grill. We wondered past the camp area to the lighthouses. There were two lighthouses, each quite a distance away from the other. We opted to walk towards the red lighthouse instead.

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