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June 23, 2008

Korea, the beginning of my travel chronicles

Looking at this photo really makes me miss my uni days... I couldn't believe that I represented my uni to South Korea on a research trip. And it was the very first travel trip in my life, back in the year 2003, my 2nd semester in UM. I had never been away from home all my life, and the furthest place I've ever travelled without my family was Singapore.

Travel around the world was my childhood dream, and I was once reluctant about how am I going to achieve my dream as I have not even stepped out of the country border farer than Singapore. KL was then my second home after I pursued my engineering course in UM, and before I entered uni, I had these crazy dreams of getting a chance to become an exchange student in other foreign uni...though I know how much "content" I have to become one. Thus the trip to Korea had compiled one the most beautiful pages in my life, and it was the beautiful start of my travel chronicles. Right then I fell in love with Korea, deeply...and of course, it's amazing to be able to achieve a dream in such a priceless way.

And 13 of us, all first timers travelling to foreign country, were bearing a burden besides the fun time fleeing around the attractions in Seoul city....and the most difficult of all, we had communication problem with the Koreans! I should say the Koreans are very friendly and helpful; they offered help and were trying hard to understand our Ma-nglish, while we also tried hard to understand their Ko-nglish vice versa... It was really funny then, as if we were having "chicken and duck talk". However, I really like their culture so much, because the Koreans are actually very "chinese"; you can see from their lifestyle, their language - Hangul, and they preserve Confucianism even better than us Chinese. And I think that is what which shapes the Korean to be humble and polite.

There was this day when we were required to go to Taejon to visit Pai Chai University, we even faced difficulty while trying to ask for hot water to cook our cup noodle. The hotel receptionists looked so embarrased when they realized that we had communication difficulty and were trying to seek for their help during our stay in Taejon. I said, "I need hot water. Hot water." And the receptionist started scratching on his head.... "Water. You know?" Then he shooked his head, with a very puzzled look on his face. "Erm...水, understand? Drink! Drink!" (because I thought Koreans write Chinese and maybe they could speak a little..)

Then I knew I was totally stucked in a situation which made me looked like a super weirdo, wigwaging in front of the reception counter. He felt sorry and quickly dragged one of his colleagues from the bar counter besides the lobby and asked her if she could help, but . Situation only ended when my team mate had to go all the way up to the room and brought all the cup noodles down to the lobby and showed to the receptionists. Finally we all broke silence into laughter, and we decided to finish up our cup noodles in the lobby, just in case we might need something else, because making a request through the phone surely wouldn't help at all! Back then, we learned the word "water" in Korean by heart.... "mul" it is.

Although at many times quirky things happened, but I really appreciate the hospitality and the warmth showed by the fellow Koreans. When we did grocery shopping in LG25 convenient store (Koreans seldom go to 7-Eleven), the shopkeeper even put away his duty for a while to help us find "plastic bag", but in fact, he did not understand what a "plastic bag" is. The Koreans refer our "plastic bag" as "polyethylene grocery bag", the type of grocery bag which is usable for keeping food. He brought us round and round in the shop to search for the additional "plastic bag" we asked for, so patient and helpful he was!! That moment we felt like wanna give him a hug.... This is the good value we Malaysians should learn, and I believe if the same situation happened in our country, most probably we will just say, "Sorry I don't understand." and that's it. At times we try to be helpful, but we just don't have the effort to do so...

Oh yea, this is something that I MUST share with you -- I finally can speak Korean!!! Yes, after the trip, I realize that global trotting is simply enjoyable, but in order to drive the level of excitement to the peak, understanding their language is a big credit. So, in my 3rd year in uni, I finally able to squeeze for a place in the foreign language classes. It was a very long queue for the Korean class...long enough till a year before I could get the place only during my final year. I miss my seonsaengnim (teacher) so much....and of course I miss Korea! I miss everything I had in Korea....

This article has been pending for posting since 2006, I just couldn't get it completed because it is really too long to post a travelog on Korea in a single blog post. At last, the intro is done. If you ask me what makes me complete my writing, it's the current travel program"Hi! Seoul" on TV. I love the ad as well, especially the last sentences "...the camera could only capture so much, the rest of Seoul is in my heart..."

**Next - my journey in Hanguk** .....to be continued


I think it is fun to visit korea. Anyway, i have been to Dongdaemun and some Korean can speak chinese because there are some korean chinese in korea and there are more and more chinese tourist visiting korea. Try to write in chinese if they don't understand what u said. IF not, express by drawing.

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