In­theLandOf The Morn­ing Calm

New Straits Times - - Jom! -

So, how did our seven-day South Korea hol­i­day go?

AIR­PORT TO AIR­PORT

Cold air greets us as we make our way to the im­mi­gra­tion counter at In­cheon In­ter­na­tional Air­port.Lines are al­ready form­ing as we pro­ceed to get our pass­ports checked. As we need to catch our next flight to Jeju Is­land, the first stop in our hol­i­day, we make sure we have all the doc­u­ments ready be­fore mak­ing our way to Gimpo In­ter­na­tional Ai­port.

Thank good­ness I had ar­ranged for a later flight, oth­er­wise all four of us — Mom and Dad, my lit­tle sis­ter and I — would have to dash around like mad trav­ellers.

At Jeju In­ter­na­tional Air­port, Joanne, my Korean friend, who is also a Jeju na­tive, greets us with bags of lo­cally-pro­duced tan­ger­ines and their fa­mous hal­labong, a va­ri­ety of the man­darin or­anges. Her ges­ture makes us feel more wel­come. Af­ter a brief ex­change, she shows us to our car and in­tro­duces us to our driver, a hap­pygo-lucky ajushi (or un­cle), who in­sists I call him Johny.

The seven-seater car is big enough to ferry us and our bulky lug­gage around. At around 200,000KRW (about RM800 for eight-hour ser­vice) a pri­vate taxi ser­vice can be pricey but con­sid­er­ing we’re trav­el­ling in a group, com­fort and con­ve­nience are more im­por­tant.

We don’t do much sight-see­ing on our first day in Jeju as it’s rain­ing. We check into our ho­tel to freshen up be­fore head­ing out again to meet Joanne for BBQ din­ner, a must-have when in South Korea.Joanne has booked a ta­ble for us at a rel­a­tively new BBQ restau­rant that serves the fa­mous Jeju black pork. Again, Joanne ex­tends her warm hos­pi­tal­ity when she of­fers to pay for our din­ner.

Sur­rounded by na­ture, Jeju Is­land re­mains one of those places where it’s un­spoilt by pol­lu­tion. Ev­ery­where you go, you’ll be amazed by the nat­u­ral beauty of rock for­ma­tions, flow­ers, trees and moun­tains.

As it starts to driz­zle on our ar­rival at the Gam­cheon Cul­tural Vil­lage in Bu­san, a kind-hearted grand­mother and per­haps, daugh­ter-in-law, in­vite us to go into their hum­ble stall and stay as long as we have to. I love how these lo­cals are al­ways so wel­com­ing and treat us like one of their own. Per­haps it’s my at­tempt to speak Korean that warms their hearts or maybe that’s just who they are ... peo­ple who are gen­uinely nice.

Lady luck smiles on us again as our trip in Bu­san is made ex­tra spe­cial with the bloom­ing cherry blos­som trees. Just right across the street from our guest­house is a long stretch of pub­lic park, where cherry blos­som trees line up both sides of the road.

Ro­man­tic is per­haps the right word to de­scribe how it feels to see tiny petals of the cherry blos­som are car­ried by the wind and gen­tly laid down on the ground.

Any­one who has watched that South Korean hit film thriller will def­i­nitely re­mem­ber how its lead char­ac­ter tries to out­run the zom­bie apoc­a­lypse. Rest as­sured that Bu­san is quite a rel­a­tively safe city. Not a sin­gle zom­bie in sight, just plenty of pic­turesque scenes, friendly peo­ple and easy ac­cess places.

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