가자 Korea Diary 1: Post Kimchiland Thoughts & Reasons Why I Love Korea

I am trying my very best not to begin this entry with a swear word.

F%$&*#%^ 


Okay, I know I shouldn't. It's just that I can't stomach the fact that my Korea trip has ended. It has been more than a week since I stepped out of the holy land of kimchi. Yes, the kimchi's way better on the other side. Including the rice cakes and everything. Every single thing that you can name, Korea has it in a better version FTW.

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Growing up, I'd usually travel with my mom, excluding the primary school trip that I went with my friends and teachers. It wasn't until last year when I started earning my own money, I went on a 2 days 1 night roadtrip with my ex-housemate to Ballarat. Speaking of which I haven't even completed the blog posts, damn! Only part 1 is up here.

While I dreamt (quite literally) about going to Korea for 7 years, I knew all the while that my virgin trip there shouldn’t be with my mom - it's gonna be either with friends or on my own because my mom doesn't appreciate Korea at all. She's more of the type that waves the Japan flag! I don't want to hear someone raving about sashimi as I eat my kimchi *sorry mom*


Just so you know there's a difference between "sushi" and "kimbap". Google or ask Siri if you don't know. It's important.

Initially, I asked my best friends if they'd want to go together but they were indecisive and I really needed a getaway plus the air tickets were super cheap so I told them, "I'll book my tickets regardless, buy yours if you want to tag along, you know where to find me."

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Before I flew off, my emotions were insanely racked. There were a bunch of problems that I didn't know how to solve or even digest. I was going back and forth of being alright and not alright to the extent that my friend was telling me to go to the doctor to see if I was okay mentally and physically.
To make things worse, I was stressing myself out big time despite being really excited. I was afraid that Korea might turn out to be a major disappointment and it’d prove that I had been living in my own fantasy bubble for 7 years or I’d do something to fuck things up on my own. After all, it’s my first ever trip to Korea AND my first ever solo trip in my 23 years of existence on planet Earth. It's a BIG deal! See how I emphaSIZEd that?! x)

Thankfully I had this trip which served the greatest purpose of what we call a "getaway" - getting away from my problems like an ostrich sticking its head into the sand and be unapologetically ignorant.

Now that I am back, I can seriously scream out loud that I am loving Korea much more than ever. 



The post-Korea trip syndrome is hitting me hard in the butt. 
It’s official that my life equation is now:
eat and not gain weight + earn and save money + plan the next Korea trip

You know how those travel bloggers or travel instagrammers always say that once you embark on your first trip, you’ll want to keep on going for another and another and another – as if you've just awoken the sleeping travel bug in you. 

I didn’t quite understand that...until now. In hindsight, I felt alive during the trip, much more alive than I had ever been!!!!!!

I suppose because the past 10 months of this year were too insane for me. On the outside, it seemed as if I overcame them and they didn’t cause me much harm…but because things came one after another. I didn’t really have time to let them sink in, digest, figure out how to recover myself. I was in constant battle mode and forcing myself to heal asap so I wouldn’t waste more time on it as I couldn’t afford to do so. 

I didn’t know how significant this whole “evil cycle” had affected me because downplaying whatever I was going through to others, and even to myself had slowly become a second nature of mine. I saw time as something that’s constantly ticking and I have to live my life ticking off as many to-do boxes as fast as I could. It wasn’t till one night before the trip, I realised that I could not even remember when exactly was the last time I could have some absolute ME time doing whatever I wanted to at my own pace. Hence, I decided to ditch the idea of planning my outfits and just went for the super simple and comfortable clothes (not a fashion blogger anyway so who cares) because all I needed was an unwind session. A long one.
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During this trip, I discovered so much about Korea and that's why my love for Korea just skyrocketed.

Here's the modest list of mine that doesn't include my beloved Jung Yong Hwa oppa for once because it's a given fact that everyone who knows me MUST know!

1. Korean food




I ate so much. I’m not joking because even my bestie who often says “you eat like a bird” went “I either see you eating or taking selfies with your food”. She’s the rational third person that you can trust.
 

I eat a lot of Korean food even when I’m in Melbourne anyways so I thought the food would be pretty much the same because most Korean restaurants in Melbourne are run by Koreans but I was wrong. They have so much more to offer. So many other things that I had never heard or seen before. Most importantly they were reasonably priced, especially the cheap street food that’s basically MAH LIFE!

2. The people
Alright I have to come clean that not everyone on the streets are as good-looking or half as good-looking as the Korean celebrities. Sad to say that throughout my whole trip, I only came across one cute guy busking in Hongdae. End of story.

However, I did meet a lot of really kind-hearted, friendly and helpful people. Because I was travelling alone, I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to take nice photos, especially when I wore their traditional hanbok. However, I got approached by some old men who were out doing leisure photography in a group and they offered to be my photographer, told me how to pose and also explained the history of the palace to me. 

My Korean friends told me that it's because I do speak a little Korean and can understand basic Korean, the locals might feel a smaller gap between us and that’s why I was so spoilt while I was there. I got a free bracelet while buying a denim coat, extra freebies when I was buying skincare, and got tonnes of free food at a hawker stall. Even when I was eating my meals alone in restaurants, the restaurant owners would walk up to me and started chatting with me asking me things like where I was from, how did I learn Korean and etc. Some even asked me if I was a Korean who had lived overseas for too long and has now returned with broken Korean :P Now I know why people say knowing an extra language always benefits you!
3. The weather


I was blessed with awesome weather when I was there for half a month. It was chilly in Seoul and I loved it. One morning when I woke up, it was raining and I was thinking “shit, how am I suppose to go out” but after I finished dressing up, the sky cleared and the rain stopped.  

Busan was much warmer than Seoul and I didn’t have to wear any outer wear. Although I prefer Seoul’s weather, I was so thankful that at least it wasn’t pouring when I was there and it wasn’t as hot as Malaysia or Australia’s current situation. A thankful heart goes a long way! 

4. Shopping 
Like many girls, I love fashion but of course I am no where near a fashionista. I love Korean fashion because they are really simple yet cute, especially sweaters. Funny thing about is that I love dressing up when the  weather’s cold but when it’s hot I'm all in my “DGAF” mode. Hence, having autumn in Korea meant that I could shop for sweaters and also long coats. Let's not forget the makeup and skincare too although I didn't splurge too much in that category. RIP luggage weight quota (mind you I didn't go overweight) and wallet but who cares! 


5. Coffee 



Although I live in Melbourne which is a place known for its coffee, I am obsess the coffees that I had in Korea. They are not exactly cheap comparing to Melbourne’s, especially when you visit themed cafes or some fancier cafes, they are pretty pricey. However, you do get ‘exotic’ coffees pretty easily in Korea. I had flower Americano (in Australia, I believe it’s called the long black) that came with flowers in its ice cubes, sweet potato latte in purple colour, custard latte, latte with bubble tea pearls and my all time favourite latte from FNC WOW with Jung Yong Hwa as the latte art. Most importantly their coffee shops are all too cute to handle. 

6. Desserts  

As much as I appreciate the western culture, I still am born with Asian tastebuds. I prefer the desserts in Korea much much much more than Australia’s. They are cheap, less sweet and less disgustingly creamy. I ate so much desserts when I was there. Sometimes I would even replace a main meal with just desserts, guilty as charged. Hence now I'm back to clean eating, day 4~

7. Cute little things 



I am actually an avid fan of stationery and knick-knacks. If you give me enough storage space at home and money to spend, I’d probably build a cabinet for merely all these cutesy stuffs. Because I’m trying to overcome my habit of collecting knick-knacks, I only bought a few things. My favourite’s a Little Prince notebook that I got for around 6 dollars and a map of Korea for 15 dollars. Don’t step into Artbox, Kakao Friends or Line stores if you don’t have any self-control over things like that *just saying*

8. Universities


I graduated from Melbourne University, the number 1 university in Australia. However, visiting Korean universities really put Melbourne University to shame. Their universities are so majestic and beautiful that I actually teared up as I arrived at Ehwa. Unlike a normal tourist, I went university hop quite a fair bit. I visited 4 universities when I was in Seoul. Even took the subway for 1.5 hour (one way) to visit a university in Ansan. What a weird thing for a tourist to do huh! 

9. Korea's way better than what I had in mind. This statement says it all. Period.  

Don't give me the shit "you are just being blinded because you started loving K-Pop and you thought everything's better there and when you go your bubble will be burst".

I went and I am loving it more.

Hypothesis proven true. Nuff said. The marshmallow clouds, pink bubbles and unicorns of Korea are still in my head! 

10.  I love the person who I became when I was there

I'm not sure whether it's just me or whatever...When I was younger, dating means having fun and being pampered like a princess. However, as I grew older, I realised that one of the most important things in being in a relationship is that you love the person YOU yourself are turning into by being with your partner. That's the true essence of being in a relationship.

That explains my perfect relationship with Korea!

Every morning I woke up to a bottle of banana milk. It's a 1300 won thing but I was so incredibly thankful towards it. And this is just one of the small little things in my entire list. Before I flew off, I drank 2 bottles of it and the very last bottle, I held it in my hands and muttered, "Thank you for playing such a big part in my trip, I promise we will meet again."

Not forgetting my favourite 1000 won O-deng as well!

I learnt to muster my courage to speak as much Korean as possible despite my poor grammar and vocabulary when I was there. I often thought to myself that one day, that one faraway day, I'll be able to speak Korean in Korea. Now I did it. No where near perfect but I did it and managed to delude people to think that I'm Korean! That's a small little milestone for me, especially throughout all these years I have not really studied it with any books. Or that's the help of the law of attraction which made Korean come to me so naturally.

On top of that, I also gained more shamelessness in talking to strangers. I did things that were out of Fion's norm. I volunteered to translate for those non-Korean customers who struggled with language barrier when communicating to the Korean staffs in restaurants and shops, offered my help to help people take photos without them asking (usually they'd happily return the favour) and being more opened in listening to other people's stories as well as trying things that I would not normally dare to try, such as eating pig blood and sitting on a 'swing' across a river!

I learnt to truly unwind and take time to enjoy the small little things in life. To me, taking breaks in Melbourne often include me lazing in bed watching Youtube while scrolling through Instagram and Facebook mindlessly. It will seem like a pretty laid-back moment but often these things make our brains more restless than ever. When I was in Korea, I found solace in just sitting somewhere looking at people or getting lost in my own thoughts. By that I mean just letting my thoughts fly randomly in my brain. I didn't particularly dwell on anything or determine to find solutions to my problems but just allow my mind run. It was as if time had stopped and I would get a lot more calmer. I could sit on a flight of stairs in their university doing nothing but thinking how amazing it is to be alive and to be in Korea experiencing the beauty of this country.

I learnt to be relatively patient and optimistic in Korea. If I missed a train or something, I wouldn't be cursing in my heart like I normally would. If something that I like was out of stock, I'd just think to myself, "It's okay, maybe it's just not meant to be, you'll probably find something better". Or even I didn't have the chance to go to as many places as I initially planned, I was fine with it because it meant that I got to spend more time immersing myself and soaking in the experience more thoroughly.

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These things may not seem significant to anyone else but to me, being a very on-the-go person, I rarely enter this type of chill mode, let alone take breaks in life to be this thankful towards everything. If only I could and everyone could take our normal lives with this attitude, I believe everything good will be happening in all of our lives.

I can go on and on with this list forever. Maybe sometime down the road I'll return and expand this list but for now, these are the 10 reasons why I love Korea. Like I said in my 10th point, it's really your take on life that changes your life.


I'll be back Korea. I promise.

ps: I don't usually do travel blog posts because I suck at picking out photos but I got so many requests from my friends asking me to share my travel itinerary so I will be doing it. That explains why this blog post doesn't have many photos because I don't want to spoil the upcoming posts! Hopefully I'll get the whole Korea trip series up before the end of 2017!! Stay tuned!