Ginseng from Namdaemun Market

<—-Previous Story

Namdaemun Market, Seoul.

Moments after the last sip of coffee in my paper cup, the sky blue bus number 402 arrived. Didn’t go straight to bus stop platform. It turned out that the driver got off and hunted for coffee at G-25 minimarket, where I had gotten black coffee moments before.

I was already standing in front of the bus when he approached while holding his hot coffee.”*&^%$#@!()<>”, I didn’t know what he said while pointing at his coffee cup. But I understood what he means, “Wait a minute, bro, I’m drinking coffee for a while”. I smiled nodding and he held up his right thumb for me.

I leaned against the front of bus as I waited for him to finish his coffee behind the wheel. A few moments later, the sound of bus’ front door scraping was heard. Indicated that bus doors have been opened and I was welcome. Of course it was better to sit inside a warmer bus than cold out there.

A few moments after I sat in the middle seat, the bus moved to bus stop platform. Pick up passengers who have been waiting for a long time.

All passengers had taken their seats as bus slowly started to descend Namsan Mountain and exposed the beauty of Seoul through glass windows. The metropolis which seemed to be shrouded in a layer of fog below. I endlessly widened my eyes to stare at it from above.

Until not felt, the bus was speeding in city streets which were flat. Showing the busy streets of Seoul. Twenty minutes later I was dropped off at Toegye-ro Avenue right in front of Gate 5 of Namdaemun Market.

Seen from across the street, the aura of that 75-year-old traditional market was really tempting. The many stalls of traders in very clean floor of market were decorated with puffs of smoke indicating that traditional cuisine would be easy to find inside. It was said that there were 9,000 stalls in this market.

I started walking on the edge of market, taking a quick look at spice trade among local residents. Ginseng which was famous in that country was really tempting when it was displayed in every stretch of merchant stalls. And I didn’t know, how in an instant, I finally managed to have a pack of ginseng from a stall….. Wow, Hmmhhh.

Yuhuu…I bought ginseng…
Almond also.

Not quite up there. Now my eyes were attracted by souvenir display at a side of market alley. I approached and automatically started bidding at some cute and quirky keychains. Oh my God, the trade ended with the purchase of a dozen key chains which I planned to give to my office mates after returning from Seoul.

Wow, market aura really was really strong. Now I suddenly offered some almond snacks which in my mind, I would snack tomorrow during my long flight in the plane to Jakarta.

It took me a long time to walk around market, making my stomach hungry. Coupled with the exposure of culinary smoke which wafted through market alleys. Never mind, I decided to enter a tavern that was owned by an old woman who still radiated the remnants of her beauty aura, dressed neatly clean and full of smiles.

She just smiled and kept looking at me sitting at dining table. “Dangsin-eun eodieseo oneunga?”, she kept asking me who didn’t understand how to answer. Until a young man with a small laugh spoke to me. “She said, where are you coming from?”.

“Oh, just say to her, I am from Indonesia….Jakarta….yes, Jakarta”, I answered with a light laugh. “Hooo. Indunesiaaaa…. yes yes yes”, the old woman nodded as she continued to smile. She approached me and handed me a menu.

It didn’t take long, I immediately pointed to a menu. Not that I understoodd what the menu looked like. I just saw in right column of the menu that it was the cheapest food I could find. “Hoooo, sundubu-jjigae …OK”, the old woman gave a thumbs up and went to prepare the menu.

After waiting a while. The food was served on the table. Wanted to know the shape of that food:

Huh…. Hahahaha, that was what you pay for only rice and tofu… The rest of the menu was free.

My trip at Namdaemun Market finally ended at that simple eatery. Now I have left the market from original gate and I was ready to leave that four-hectare market.

Hahahaha, that was what you pay for only rice and tofu… The rest of the menu was free.

My trip at Namdaemun Market finally ended at that simple eatery. Now I have left the market from original gate and I was ready to leave that four-hectare market.

Next Story—->

Namsan Tower Without Love Padlock

<—-Previous Story

After returning from Banpo Bridge in Seocho District, I immediately rushed to bed to prepare myself for tomorrow’s adventure. Tomorrow was my last chance to enjoy Seoul because the day after tomorrow I had to leave to my homeland.



The morning sun shone through the window in the sloping wall of hotel’s room. The hour hand had passed eight number. After morning prayer, I slipped back under blanket, refusing cold morning air which was able to penetrate window pane.

Realizing that I overslept, I jumped out of the bunk bed, grabbed a toiletries bag and an orange microfiber towel, then wet my body with a warm shower of Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon. The other occupants were still asleep, continuing their respective dreams, faint light snoring could be heard from the inn corridor. Lucky me, that was an opportunity to linger in the shared bathroom.

Actually, my habit of lingering in the bathroom when traveling always has an excuse. That consistent warm showers hit my calf muscles is the most effective fatigue-relieving therapy. No need to look for the services of a masseuse to make the body fresh again.

After showering and fully dressed in winter equipments, I went down to the first floor and chose to sit for a while in the shared-lobby. Joined by some diligent tourists, they were the first to get up and ate their breakfast which they had prepared in the inn’s refrigerator. Several beautiful tourists from “Land of Red Bears” and a group of travelers from “Matador Country” looked solemn with their own homemade breakfast.

I? ….Yup, I was just a little busy opening the map and trying to make a visitation pattern that day. As soon as they finished their breakfast and started to leave the shared-lobby, I also left the inn. I didn’t know where they were going, but I had determined myself to go to the “Tower of Love”, especially if not Namsan Tower, a television transmitter tower as high as 237 meters and 52 years old.

Before entering Hongik University Station, I carried out my morning ritual, which was breakfast with the same menu formula, cup noodles and packaged white rice, bored but had no choice.

Can you afford to eat like this for four days?….Hahaha.

Repeating the habit of fighting boredom, I shouted “Kamsahamnida” to the cashier before exiting 7-Eleven. Usually I always waited for the cashier to wave before exiting convenience store’s door. Getting the wave I meant, I finally got out of the convenience store and fast stepped towards Seoul Metro Line 2 platform.

A few seconds after Seoul Metro stopped at the platform, I jumped in. The quiet morning atmosphere made the Seoul Metro line of carriages looked deserted. The iron snake began to exploring the underground passages. Station after station I quickly passed until finally I got off at Euljiro sam (3)-ga Station to change to Seoul Metro Line 3. Now my last destination was Chungmuro ​​Station.

It took almost thirty minutes to arrive at Chungmuro ​​Station. At the final destination, I exited the gate, then rushed to find a bus stop which would be passed by bus number two to get to Namsan Tower.

Not even five minutes of waiting, the bus arrived. I took a seat in the middle and in an instant dissolved following the groans of bus engines as I climbed the road about two kilometers from Chungmuro ​​Station.

Slowly but surely, the bus arrived at Namsan Tower courtyard. The bus stops at a long bus stop to share with other numbered buses.

The distance between Namsan Tower and bus stop, which was around 600 meters, must be taken with a swing of my steps. Finally I had to be willing to pant for the rest of path to Namsan Tower. In the middle of my step, I didn’t have time to feel the gasping because I often stopped and was fascinated by the scenery below which showed the beauty of Seoul from the height of Mount Namsan. I could imagine if the night comes….How beautiful.

In front of Namsan Tower or N Seoul Tower as its official name.

Climbing Namsan Tower is indeed synonymous with lovebirds’ love. At the top of tower, lovers will buy a padlock, then naming the padlock with their names, which are then marked with a red heart. Then the couple will lock the padlock on a long display case which displays various love locks from several periods of time.

Well….What should I write when I buy a padlock?

Ups….Who’s in love?

Namsan Tower in addition to presenting an aerial landscape of Seoul, also offers several well-known restaurants which might be cheap for those who are intoxicated with romance, for me it makes no difference, restaurants are still expensive items.

Visiting Namsan Tower does feel bland if you do it alone. That’s the reason why I didn’t linger on top. I decided to get off and chose to sip coffee made by G-25 minimarket across from bus stop.

Entering the mini market, brewing a cup of hot coffee, then sipping it slowly. But I continued to be filled with curiosity with every sip. I continued to observe the passing of buses with different numbers, not just the number 2 bus like the one I was riding earlier.

“Is it possible if I can find a bus which can directly go to Namdaemun Market from here without having to return to Chungmuro ​​Station”, I critically thought with curiosity.

I decided to take a sip of black coffee while walking towards the long bus stop opposite the mini market. I was so solemn ‘combing one by one the route boards attached to the bus stop.

“Yes…I get it”, I cheerfully exclaimed when I found bus number 402 which could directly take me to Namdaemun Market from Namsan Tower.

So I just had to wait for the bus while I finish my coffee………

Next Story—->

Ginseng dari Namdaemun Market

<—-Kisah Sebelumnya

Namdaemun Market, Seoul.

Beberapa saat setelah seruputan kopi terakhir di cangkir kertasku, bus biru langit bernomor 402 itu tiba. Tak langsung menuju platform halte. Ternyata sang sopir turun dan berburu kopi di G-25 minimarket, tempatku mendapatkan kopi hitam beberapa saat sebelumnya.

Aku sudah berdiri di depan bus ketika dia mendekat sembari memegang kopi panasnya.”*&^%$#@!()<>”, entah apa yang dia ucapkan sembari menunjuk cangkir kopinya. Tetapi aku paham maksudnya, “Tunggu dulu ya bang, saya minum kopi sebentar”. Aku tersenyum mengangguk dan dia mengacungkan jempol kanannya untukku.

Aku bersandar di bagian depan bus sembari menunggunya menghabiskan kopi di balik kemudi. Beberapa saat kemudian, bunyi gesekan pintu bagian depan terdengar. Menunjukkan bahwa pintu bus telah dibuka dan aku dipersilahkan masuk. Tentu lebih enak duduk di dalam bus yang lebih hangat ketimbang berdingin ria di luaran sana.

Beberapa saat setelah aku terduduk di bangku tengah, bus pun merapat ke platform halte. Menaikkan penumpang yang sudah menunggu sedari tadi.

Segenap penumpang telah menempati tempat duduknya masing-masing ketika bus perlahan mulai menuruni Gunung Namsan dan memperlihatkan keindahan Seoul dari balik jendela kaca. Kota metropolitan yang tampak dinaungi selaput kabut di bawah sana. Aku membelalakkan mata tanpa henti untuk menatapnya dari ketinggian.

Hingga tak terasa, bus sudah melaju kencang di jalanan kota yang datar. Menampilkan kesibukan jalanan kota Seoul. Dua puluh menit kemudian aku diturunkan di Toegye-ro Avenue tepat di depan Gate 5 Namdaemun Market.

Dilihat dari seberang jalan saja, aura pasar tradisional berusia 75 tahun itu sungguh menggoda. Ramainya lapak pedangang di atas lantai pasar yang sangat bersih dihiasi dengan kepulan asap yang mengisyaratkan bahwa kuliner tradisional akan mudah ditemukan di dalamnya. Konon ada 9.000 lapak di dalam pasar ini.

Aku mulai menapaki bibir pasar, mengamati sepintas lalu perniagaan rempah di antara warga lokal. Ginseng yang terkenal di negeri itu sungguh menggoda ketika dipamerkan di setiap hamparan lapak pedagang. Dan entahlah, bagaimana bisa dalam sekejap, akhirnya aku berhasil memiliki sebuah kemasan ginseng dari sebuah lapak…..Wah, gaswat.  

Yuhuu…Aku beli ginseng, dong….Wkwkwk.
Duh, ga ada logo halalnya euy…..Tapi terlanjur dibeli….Udahlah di cemil aza.

Tak cukup sampai di situ. Kini mataku tertarik dengan pajangan souvenir di salah satu sisi gang. Aku mendekat dan secara otomatis mulai menawar beberapa gantungan kunci yang lucu dan unik. Oh Tuhan, perniagaan itu berakhir dengan terbelinya selusin gantungan kunci yang rencananya akan kuberikan ke beberapa teman kantor sepulang dari Seoul nanti.

Wah, setan pasar itu memang benar-benar ada. Kini aku mendadak menawar beberapa snack almond yang dalam fikiranku, akan kucemil esok selama perjalanan panjang di pesawat menuju Jakarta.

Cukup lama berkeliling pasar, membuat perutku lapar. Ditambah dengan paparan asap kuliner yang menyeruap di gang-gang pasar. Sudahlah, aku memutuskan untuk memasuki sebuah kedai yang diempui seorang perempuan tua yang masih terpancar sisa-sisa aura kecantikannya, berpakaian rapi bersih dan penuh senyum.

Dia hanya tersenyum terus melihatku yang terduduk di meja makan. “Dangsin-eun eodieseo oneunga?”, dia terus menanyaiku yang tak faham bagaimana menjawabnya. Hingga seorang pemuda dengan tertawa kecil berbicara kepadaku. “She said, where are you come from?”.

Oh, just say to her, I am from Indonesia….Jakarta….ya, Jakarta”, aku menjawabnya sembari tertawa ringan. “Hoooo. Indunesiaaaa….ya ya ya”, perempuan tua itu mengangguk sembari terus melempar senyum. Dia mendekatiku dan memberikan selembar menu.

Tak perlu waktu lama, aku segera menunjuk sebuah menu. Bukannya aku faham apa wujud menu itu. Aku hanya melihat di kolom kanan menu bahwa itulah harga makanan paling murah yang bisa kutemukan. “Hoooo, sundubu-jjigae …OK”, perempuan tua itu mengacungkan jempol dan pergi mempersiapkan menu.

Setelah menunggu beberapa saat. Makanan itu pun di sajikan ke atas meja. Mau tahu bentuk makanannya:

Tuh….Hahahaha, itu yang dibayar cuma nasi ama tahunya duankk…Sisanya menu pembuka gratisan.

Perjalananku di Namdaemun Market akhirnya berakhir di kedai makan sederhana itu.  Kini aku sudah keluar pasar dari gate semula masuk dan bersiap meninggalkan pasar seluas empat hektar itu.

Kisah Selanjutnya—->

Namsan Tower Tanpa Gembok Cinta

<—-Kisah Sebelumnya

Sepulang dari Banpo Bridge di Distrik Seocho, aku langsung bergegas tidur demi menyiapkan diri untuk petualangan esok hari. Esok adalah kesempatanku terakhir kali untuk menikmati Seoul karena lusa hari aku harus bertolak ke tanah air.



Sinar matahari pagi menyeruak melewati jendela di tembok miring kamar. Jarum jam telah melewati angka delapan. Usai shalat subuh tadi, aku kembali menyelinap di balik selimut, menolak dinginnya udara pagi yang mampu menembus kaca jendela.

Sadar diri kesiangan, aku melompat dari bunk bed, menyambar toiletries bag dan microfiber towel warna oranye, lalu membasahi badan dengan guyuran hangat shower Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon. Penghuni lain masih terlelap melanjutkan mimpinya masing-masing, dengkuran-dengkuran ringan sayup terdengar dari koridor penginapan. Beruntunglah aku, inilah kesempatan untuk berlama-lama di shared bathroom. Sebetulnya kebiasaanku berlama-lama di kamar mandi saat bertraveling selalu menyimpan sebuah alasan. Bahwa siraman air hangat yang konsisten menghantam otot betis adalah terapi penghilang lelah terefektif. Tak perlu mencari jasa tukang pijat untuk membuat badan kembali segar.

Usai mandi dan berpakaian musim dingin dengan lengkap,  aku turun ke lantai satu dan memilih duduk sejenak di shared-lobby. Bergabung dengan beberapa turis yang rajin, merekalah yang sudah terlebih dahulu bangun dan menyantap sarapan yang sudah mereka siapkan di kulkas penginapan. Beberapa turis cantik “Negeri Beruang Merah” dan sekelompok traveler “Negeri Matador” tampak khusyu’dengan sarapan pagi buatan mereka masing-masing.

Aku? ….Yups, aku hanya sedikit sibuk membuka peta dan mencoba membuat pola visitasi hari itu. Begitu mereka usai bersarapan dan mulai meninggalkan ruangan, maka aku pun ikut meninggalkan penginapan. Entah mereka mau kemana tetapi aku telah memantapkan diri menuju “Menara Cinta”, apalagi kalau bukan Namsan Tower, julangan pemancar televisi setinggi 237 meter dan telah berusia 52 tahun.

Sebelum memasuki Stasiun Hongik University, aku melaksanakan ritual pagi, yaitu sarapan dengan rumus menu yang itu-itu saja, cup noodle dan nasi putih kemasan, bosan tapi tak ada pilihan.

Mampu ga kamu, empat hari makan beginian melulu?….Saran terbaik, jangan nggembel ke Korea kek guweh.

Mengulang-ulang kebiasaan untuk melawan kebosanan, aku berteriak “Kamsahamnida” kepada kasir sebelum keluar dari 7-Eleven. Biasanya aku selalu menunggu sang kasir melambaikan tangan sebelum keluar dari pintu minimarket. Mendapatkan lambaian tangan yang kumaksud, akhirnya aku benar-benar keluar dari minimarket dan berderap menuju platform Seoul Metro Line 2.

Beberapa detik setelah Seoul Metro singgah di platform,aku melompat masuk. Nuansa pagi yang sepi membuat barisan gerbong Seoul Metro tampak lengang. Ular besi itu mulai menelusuri lorong-lorong bawah tanah. Stasiun demi stasiun kulewati dengan cepat hingga akhirnya aku turun di Stasiun Euljiro sam (3)-ga untuk berpindah menuju Seoul Metro Line 3. Kini sasaran terakhirku adalah Stasiun Chungmuro.

Memerlukan waktu hampir tiga puluh menit untuk tiba di Stasiun Chungmuro. Di tujuan akhir itu, aku keluar dari gate, lalu bergegas mencari halte yang akan dilewati oleh bus bernomor dua untuk menuju Namsan  Tower.

Belum juga lima menit menunggu, bus itu tiba. Aku mengambil tempat duduk di tengah dan dalam sekejap larut mengikuti erangan mesin bus kala menanjaki jalanan berjarak sekitar dua kilometer dari Stasiun Chungmuro.

Perlahan tapi pasti, bus itu sampai juga di pelataran Namsan Tower. Bus berhenti pada sebuah halte nan panjang untuk berbagi dengan bus bernomor lain.

Jarak Namsan Tower dan halte bus yang berkisar 600 meter harus ditempuh dengan ayunan langkah. Akhirnya aku harus rela terengah-engah menanjaki jalur sisa menuju Namsan Tower. Di pertengahan langkah, engahan itu ternyata tak sempat kurasakan karena aku justru sering berhenti dan terpesona melihati pemandangan di bawah sana yang memamerkan keindahan Seoul dari ketinggian Gunung Namsan. Bisa dibayangkan jika malam tiba….Betapa indahnya.

Di depan Namsan Tower atau N Seoul Tower nama resminya.

Menaiki Namsan Tower memang identik dengan percintaan pasangan kekasih. Di atas tower, pasangan kekasih akan membeli sebuah gembok, lalu menamai gembok itu dengan nama mereka berdua yang kemudian dibubuhi tanda hati berwarna merah. Kemudian pasangan tersebut akan menguncikan gemboknya pada sebuah etalase panjang yang memajang beragam gembok cinta dari beberapa kurun waktu.

Yah….Aku nulis apa dong kalau beli gembok?

Duh….Siapa saja tuh yang jatoh cinta?

Namsan Tower selain menyajikan lansekap aerial kota Seoul, juga menawarkan beberapa resto kenamaan yang mungkin akan terasa murah bagi mereka yang dimabuk asmara, kalau buat saya ya ndak ada bedanya, tetap aja restoran adalah barang mahal.

Kunjungan di Namsan Tower memang terasa hambar jika dilakukan sendirian. Itulah alasan mengapa aku tak berlama-lama di atas. Aku memutuskan turun dan memilih menyeruput kopi buatan G-25 minimarket di seberang halte.

Memasuki minimarket, menyeduh secangkir kopi panas, lalu menyeruputnya perlahan. Tetapi aku terus diliputi rasa penasaran di setiap seruputan. Aku terus mengamati lalu lalang bus dengan nomor yang berbeda-beda, bukan bus no.2  saja seperti yang kutunggangi tadi.

Apa mungkin aku bisa mencari bus yang bisa langsung menuju Namdaemun Market  dari sini tanpa harus kembali ke Stasiun Chungmuro”, batinku kritis penuh rasa ingin tahu.

Kuputuskan menyeruput kopi hitam sambil berjalan menuju halte panjang di seberang minimarket. Aku begitu khusyu’ menyisir satu demi satu papan rute yang tertempel di halte. “Yes…I get it”, aku berseru riang ketika menemukan bus bernomor 402 yang secara langsung dapat membawaku menuju Namdaemun Market dari Namsan Tower.

Jadi aku hanya perlu menunggu bus saja sembari menghabiskan kopi………

Kisah Selanjutnya—->