Visiting Gyeongbok Palace

I left Jung District with Seoul Metro Line 4 towars Hongik University Station which was ten kilometers away. I had to put a plastic bag at Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon. Doing exploration by carrying black plastic would only make my face look more tacky.

The beauty of Gyeongbok Palace (source: http://www.agoda.com)

In thirty minutes I arrived.

Without having time to sat down for a moment, I just left the inn. That time I was going to the biggest palace in Korea.

—***—

Now I was taken by Seoul Metro Line 2. I was standing again because the carriage was full of passengers, requiring my right hand to hold the hand strap above so as not to fall because the train often braked at every station which train stopped at.

It was just, the situation got weird. A girl was whispering with a friend next to her and occasionally looking at me. I didn’t look at her but at least I could glance at her faintly. “Oh, someone is watching me,” I thought.

I occasionally glanced at that girl who continued to softly laugh. That laugh made me introspect. “Is there something wrong with me?” I tried to pay attention to myself, but still didn’t immediately find the oddity.

Until finally, I felt in shame when I found the source of my problem. It turned out that there was a large thread stitch at the base of the right hand. “Oh, why didn’t I check this used jacket when I bought it at Pasar Baru (the name of market in Jakarta)”, I slowly lowered my right hand, then checked the base of my left hand. Knowing the stitches were in good condition, I took turn holding the hand strap with my left hand. I slowly turned to that two girls and shyly nodded. It turned out that the two girls responded in the same way.

“Damn, during ten days of traveling, I just found out that in the bottom of my used winter jacket’s right hand there was a large seam to cover the rip,” I grumbled while shaking my head.

This incident made me feel embarrassed until I got off at Euljiro 3(sam)-ga Station to change to Seoul Metro Line 3. Now I was back following the pace of Seoul Metro to Gyeongbokgung Station in the north of city. This time I sat down until I arrived at the station.

To reaching Gyeongbok Palace, it was only a three hundred meter walk from Gyeongbokgung Station. Entering the gate yard of Gyeongbok Palace, many tourists were wearing hanbok clothes. The clothes were indeed effective in creating an aura of nobility for anyone who weared them.

Meanwhile, in every corner of courtyard was closely guarded by local police. It was clear that Gyeongbok Palace was closed that afternoon, no tourists were allowed in. I didn’t know what the moment would be held that afternoon?. Practically I could only enjoy my visitation by entering National Palace Museum of Korea which was located in the same courtyard as Gyeongbok Palace.

National Palace Museum of Korea (source: http://www.theseoulguide.com)

Visiting it was free, I was required to understand the story and ins and outs of Gyeongbok Palace from various relics in display at the museum. The 113-year-old museum looked clean and well-maintained. Although I didn’t fully understand it, at least I could enjoy historical objects such as some traditional clothes, ancient records, stamps and some paintings from Joseon Dynasty.

With the completion of xploration in the historical repository of South Korea, nicknamed the Deoksugung Museum, my adventure that afternoon left only one more destination….Gangnam District

Namsan Tower Without Love Padlock

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.

Huhuhu….Sad

—-****—-

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………

Dinner at Banpo Bridge

The majestic Banpo Bridge straddles Han River.

Luckily I didn’t sink into a deep nap in Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon. A little past five in the afternoon I woke up. Immediately unpacking contents of my backpack, I looked for a toiletries bag and microfiber towel for my first bathing needs since 35 hours ago.

I purposely splashed myself with warm water for a long time even though I knew there was an innkeeper who knocked on the door several times as a sign asking me to hurry up and finishing my bathing soon.

After washing my socks, I got out of bathroom and smiled at a female guest from China who had been waiting all that time. Of course my warm smile was reciprocated by frown lips from her. “I’m sorry. Ms, It’s been a long time since I’ve taken a bath, I’m so sorry …..” .

After changing clothes and wearing all winter equipments, I prepared to visit Seoul again until night.

I still remembered words from my office mates who asked me to visit a bridge which was often used as a setting in famous Korean dramas. Even though I heeded them when I left, for some reason, that afternoon I had a strong desire to visit it too. My friends said, when night fallen, Banpo Bridge often had rainbow fountains, a mix of fountains and light show in both sides of bridge. “Okay, there’s nothing wrong with me to going there even though I’m not a fan of Korean dramas”, I finally decided on a goal.

From Hongik University Station, I would now head to Seoul Express Bus Terminal Station, where I first set my steps in Seoul. The feeling of fullness from a piece of Kimbab which I ate at Hongik University Station that afternoon was gone. Now my stomach was starting to loudly sound as celebrating my hunger. But due to concerned about being stuck by night at Banpo Bridge for that night, I decided to put off my desire for dinner.

I immediately walked to Hongik University Station, picked up the arrival of Seoul Metro Line 2 and headed to destination I was aiming for. I really understood Seoul Metro line because I had been staring at the map since that morning, making me aware that I had to transit in Euljiro 3 (sam)-ga Station first and had to change rode in Seoul Metro Line 3.

It took approximately half an hour to reaching Seoul Express Bus Terminal Station. Exiting gate 8-1 in the station, I walked to Banpo Hangang Park, the best side to enjoy beautiful Banpo Bridge.

It took 20 minutes to get to the park in the banks of Han River. Entering the park, which was getting dark with minimal lighting, was actually a little daunting. Luckily there was a group of Korean families who entered the park and headed for the same place. By pretending to show composure I stalked them from behind….Hahaha, you coward, Donny.

That family group who were busy walking while preparing some cameras made me believe that they were going to Banpo Bridge view point. It was true, that local family and I finally arrived at river bank together.

Yeaaa….. arrived too.

The appearance of Banpo Bridge with sparkling lights did look beautiful as it straddled Han River. I was very enthusiastic about sitting on the bank of river waiting for the moment when rainbow fountain show started. Second by second, minute by minute, even though I had volunteered to be rolled up in the cold city temperature, the show never came.

As a result, with the end that local family visitation because of same disappointment, I was forced to resign from that place. “Yes, It will bad when I have to be alone in the bank of a river that is quiet and dark like this…”, I growled while holding back hunger which had been really messing with my concentration.

Walking away from the beauty of Banpo Bridge, I was really lucky to see the existence of a small 7-Eleven outlet in other side of park. The light from inside indicated that that outlet was still open. Then without thinking long, I hastened my steps closer to it. “This will be delicious, if I eat cup noodles with rice …”, my enthusiasm came while remembering the simple way of eating that I always practiced during my visitation to South Korea.

I shouted with joy that I got it. The excitement grew even more because 7-Eleven outlet provided a tent in outside to eat food which be purchased from that outlet. Uniquely, the tent was warmed by a fan whose its blades were made from heating filaments.

Wow….

Napping in Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon

Forgot to take a photo while staying…. Hihihi.

I was still standing motionless in north of square to enjoying the majesty of Gwanghwamun Gate , the six-century gate belonging to Gyeongbok Palace. Gwanghwamun Square with its andesite rock floor and a mix of green garden grass seemed to be starting to fill up with the flow of tourists visiting.

Apart from the statue of Admiral Yi Sunshin, the golden statue of King Sejong, the Great-the fourth king of Joseon Dynasty was an important destination for travelers. They were too fascinated by that statues when I preferred to pay attention to the bustle of United States Embassy in the edge of Sejong-daero Avenue next to National Museum of Korean Contemporary History.

It didn’t feel like time had passed since midday, the rest of sleepiness after spending the night in Seoul Express Bus Terminal made me unable to hide the sleepiness in my eyelids. My body which hadn’t been soaked in water since 30 hours ago also made me not feel comfortable.

“It’s better to just go back to the inn”, so excited, my mind aborted my enthusiasm to continue exploration. “Damn….I give up this time”, I was groaning in annoyance, I entered the gates of Gwanghwamun Station.

“Goodbye Jongno District”, I quietly thought as I jumped into Seoul Metro Line 5 carriage. Without noticing commotion inside the carriage, I immediately headed to an empty seat near carriage’s connection. Without further ado, I immediately closed my eyes because of sleepiness.

Now, I was heading to Hongik University Station with one stop at Chungjeongno Station because to get to Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon in Seodaemun District I had to take Seoul Metro Line 2.

24 minutes later I arrived at my destination. Before actually leaving Hongik University Station, I took time to go to T-Money card vending machine at the corner of corridor to refill my T-Money which was almost out of balance. That time I filled my Seoul city travel card with 10,000 Won, more than enough for the end of my adventure in Seoul.

My back and forth at Hongik University Station ended up at a G-25 minimarket for a simple lunch. I managed to get a piece of packaged Kimbab for just 1,300 Won. Enough or not, that was the only lunch that I had to accept.

After eating it in convenience store table, I immediately climbed the escalator which rose to surface, passed Sinchon-ro 2-gil alley, crossed Sinchon-ro Avenue, then rushed to the inn.

“Hooohh….You, Donny. Welcome, your room is ready”, said the same receptionist who greeted me this morning.

“Hi, Sir….Thank you. I think I should go to bed soon….Hahaha”, I lihgtly answered while clutching my blue backpack which I had put in the corner of front room since this morning.

“Oh yeah, you look tired”

“Yes, I spent my last night at Seoul Express Bus Terminal”, I agreed.

After receptionist scanned my passport which I gave to him, the room key was given. Not waiting long, I immediately went upstairs, entered the room, took off my winter jacket and shoes, then immediately jumped into bunk bed to daub myself until afternoon.

Bukchon Hanok Village: The First Destination in Seoul

“Kamsahanida……”, I loudly said to a female cashier in CU Minimarket in that corner. I have finished in eating packaged white rice and cup noodles which made my lips feel hot because of its spiciness.

“Cheonmanneyo …”, that beautiful white cashier smiled while waving when I was in front of glass door and reached its handle.

Coming out of minimarket, I quickly walked towards the gate of Hongik University Station which wasn’t far away, just to left of a bend ahead.

Descending a long escalator swooping down underground, I began to open my own printed plan, then pointed to a point of destination. “I have to go to Anguk Station,” I thought as I folded my plan sheet and put it in my back pocket.

Then I was in platform. By noon, situation in underground station was deserted. Suddenly, a street romance show at the end of platform faded my enthusiasm for waiting for Seoul Metro arrival. A pair of lovebirds seemed to be hugging each other’s waist while looking at each other affectionately. Every now and then that man kissed his girl…. “Oh God….”, my envy feeling appeared. Shows like that really didn’t surprise me because I’ve often saw them in same transportation mode belonging to Singapore or Shenzen city. “Think of it as a travel bonus …”, I thought while wryly smiling.

Their intimate embrace was released for a moment after the sound of Seoul Metro could be heard when coming from right aisle. Seoul Metro softly squeaked and stopped in front of them, they ended their romance and I as the lone that romance viewer also boarded the train.

Seoul Metro Line 2 was pushing away from Seodaemun District heading east. I would travel to Jongno District which was eight stations away and had to change to Seoul Metro Line 3 at Euljiro 3(sam)-ga Station and it would take about 30 minutes.

According to the estimated time, I was now standing in front of Seoul Metro door when the announcer sound said that the train would soon be arrived Anguk Station. After a perfect stop, I jumped out of the carriage which I was already on it since several minutes ago, nothing else memorable after the romance for about half an hour ago.

Exiting Anguk Station, I was faced with Yulgok-ro Avenue. Confidently taking a step to the left led me to an intersection which was bustling with fashion, culinary and cosmetic outlets. Looked like I went to the wrong way.

I stood rooted to a side of Enso monument which was located right in a side of intersection. Enso itself is a traditional calligraphy brush native to South Korea. I observed the behavior of local people who were busy shopping. Meanwhile, several groups of tourists from Europe seemed to be conversing in Tourist Information booth which was located next to the monument. Looked like I had to go to the booth and asked for directions to my destination. I finally walked over to it.

Me: “Hello, Ms. Can I know which way that I need to choose toward Bukchon Hanok Village?”

Her: “Hi, Sir. You can go straight there and then turn left in crossroad. You will arrive in Bukchon Hanok Village with walking about 600 meters”.

Me: “Very clear, thank you, Ms”

Her: “You are welcome. And this tourism map is for you”, she smiled as she handed me a Seoul tourism map.

I immediately headed north. Relaxing a bit while enjoying the bustling streets of Bukchon-ro, I finally arrived at Bukchon Hanok Village in 20 minutes. That cultural village was located in west of the main road.

Notre Dame Education Center in Bukchon Hanok Village.

To my surprise, this was different from Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan which I visited a few days ago. Bukchon Hanok Village featured rows of Hanok (traditional South Korean houses) which were neatly arranged along the contour of pedestrian path. The wood which was part of Hanok building looked shiny and well maintained, the alleys which could only be passed by walking looked neat and clean. This was the residence of Joseon Dynasty-era nobles which were more than six centuries old and were the pride of Jongno District.

In accordance with its nickname as the “North Village”, this village was indeed located to the north of two main icons of Seoul, i.e Cheonggye River and Jongno District.

In addition to functioning as a Hanok preservation, this village also functions as a cultural center, traditional inns, restaurants and a place to drink tea together.

Walking through the interior of village, several female tourists looked elegant in Hanbok (South Korean clothing) in order to walking through this cultural village more solemnly.

A beauty that was stored in Gahoe area, I finally managed to come to it. A classic impression, serenity, silence, full of meaning and cultural majesty I felt very strongly during this visit.

Trying Seoul Metro: Heading to Hongik University Station

I tried to align my steps with Mr. Park who seemed agile for his age’s pace. Waiting for Seoul Metro at a side of station platform, we lightly chatted. I told him about my trip through East Asia. I tucked in some adventure stories in Tokyo, Osaka and Busan a few days before. Mr. Park seemed quite impressed to hear the story line that I told as short as possible.

While Mr. Park, In Chul Park his full name….Told about his daily activities as an Obstetrician and Gynecologist (Obgyn) at Myongji Hospital in Deokyang District.

“My job is to help the baby to be born”, that was how he conveyed about his daily activities.

Seoul Metro arrived….

Being at Line 6, the two of us entered in center carriage. The whole carriage looked deserted that morning. Not many workers have started their activities. The two of us sat in the middle seat and continued the conversation to next light topics, ranging from his small family to a little bit about the city of Seoul, I was flooded with valuable information that morning. I mostly acted as a good listener in our conversations.

Twenty minutes into a worthwhile shared journey with Mr. Parks. I said goodbye first, because I had to get off at Euljiro 3 (sam)-ga Station to change to Seoul Metro Line 2. Mr. Park still continued his journey through another 14 stations more to Hwajeong Station.

Getting off at Euljiro Station 3 (sam)-ga platform, I started looking for the passageway leading to Hongik University Station. Seeing me confused looking for the corridor, a fat man approached me.

He: “Hello, Where will you go?”, he started greeting with a question.

Me: “Hongik University Station, Sir. Which corridor should I choose?”

Him: “Wait…”

He also looked confused and took the initiative to intercept a Seoul Metro officer who was walking in a corridor. The two of them seemed to be conversing and the Seoul Metro officer seemed to be pointing at the other side of station building.

He: “You must steps over there!”, the nice fat man showed me a direction after a few minutes then asked the Seoul Metro officer.

Me: “Thank you very much, Sir. You are a kind man”, I really feel helped by his help.

No wonder it was hard to find, the corridor was at the end of station building with a corridor opening that was not too big. Walking down the corridor, I came to a platform. Now I was on the right platform with a green color code in each hint.

Five minutes later the Seoul Metro arrived, I immediately flowed down the underground passages of Seoul City with it. Seoul Line 2 was bustling with students. The faces of educated youth seemed to be crowded in the carriage. Didn’t get a seat, made me have to stand for 20 minutes onward journey.

Finally I arrived at Hongik University Station…..

Time to head to Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon

Seoul Metro dari Pusat Kota ke Incheon International Airport

<—-Kisah Sebelumnya

Suasana di dalam Seoul Metro menuju Incheon International Airport.

Usai shalat Subuh, mataku tak lagi terpejam. Sudah menjadi sifatku yang selalu saja terjaga ketika dihadapkan pada sebuah jadwal penerbangan. Sementara di pojok dormitory, backpack biruku yang berkapasitas 45 liter sudah terpacking rapi sejak semalam, sepulang dari Distrik Gangnam tepatnya. Malam tadi, aku memang memutuskan melakukan packing seusai mandi.

Sekitar pukul setengah tujuh pagi, ditengah nada-nada dengkuran ringan para penghuni Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon, aku perlahan berjingkat-jingkat menuju shared-bathroom untuk mengguyur diri dibawah shower air hangat. Sehingga, satu jam kemudian aku telah rapi dan terduduk di shared lobby lantai bawah untuk sekedar bersosialisasi.

Di sebuah kursi, perlahan aku menenggak air mineral sisa semalam sembari membuka peta Seoul Metro. Aku harus mencari rute terbaik menuju Incheon International Airport Terminal 1 siang nanti.

Sekitar lima belas menit kemudian, datanglah gadis berjilbab biru dengan wajah cantik khas Melayu duduk di hadapan. Dari penampilannya dia sedang bersiap diri untuk melakukan eksplorasi.

Dari Malaysie kah?”, pertanyaan itu sudah pasti tertuju untukku.

Aku mendongak dan menjawab, “Jakarta, Indonesia”.

Oh, Indonesia. Sudah berape lame di Seoul, Abang?

Tiga hari. Saya Donny, boleh tahu nama kamu?”, jawabku singkat.

Mariya, saya dari Kuala Terengganu”.

Sepagi ini sudah bersiap, mau pergi kemana, Mariya? “, aku terus saja bertanya penuh rasa penasaran.

Oh, saya nak melawat ke Itaewon, tengok sekejap Seoul Central Mosque. Abang mau kemane?

Saya siang ini akan pulang, besok singgah di KL dulu”.

Orang Indonesia dapat free visakah ke Korea, Abang?

Oh, tidak Mariya. Saya harus membayar senilai 150 Ringgit untuk mendapatkan visa Korea. Kalau orang Malaysia bagaimana?

Orang Malaysia free visa ke Korea, Abang”.

Mariya adalah seorang solo-traveler asal negeri jiran yang berbekal dengan rasa percaya diri yang tinggi. Dia bahkan bercerita tentang perjalanannya berkeliling Asia sendirian tanpa menunjukkan sedikitpun rasa takut. Satu jam aku terlibat percakapan yang sangat menarik dengannya.

Mariya sendiri sangat tertarik dengan beberapa kota di Indonesia yang ingin dia kunjungi di waktu mendatang. Dia banyak bertanya perihal Bandung, Malang, Labuan Bajo dan Ambon. Mengimbangi rasa antusiasnya, maka aku tertarik mencari informasi darinya tentang beberapa kota di Malaysia yang hendak pula kukunjungi seperi Kuching, Ipoh, Penang, Kuantan dan Kuala Terengganu.

Percakapan kami berakhir ketika Mariya berpamitan untuk pergi ke Itaewon. Usai percakapan itu, aku pun menuju ke kamar dan bersiap diri untuk check-out.

Pukul setengah sepuluh, aku mulai memanggul backpack, menuju resepsionis untuk menyerahkan kunci loker dan mengambil uang deposit. Kemudian aku melangkah mantap meninggalkan Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon menuju Stasiun Hongik University.

Seperti pagi-pagi biasanya di Seoul, aku mampir sejenak di CU minimarket yang letaknya tak jauh dari stasiun untuk bersarapan. Usai bersarapan, aku segera berburu gerbong Seoul Metro Line 2 menuju Stasiun Sindorim yang keberadaannya hanya berselang 4 stasiun saja dari Stasiun Hongik University.

Dari Stasiun Sindorim aku berpindah menggunakan Seoul Metro Line 1 menuju Stasiun Bupyeong. Berdiri di bagian tengah dekat pintu gerbong, aku menikmati laju Seoul Metro melewati sebelas stasiun sebelum tiba.

Dari Stasiun Bupyeong aku masih harus berpindah keSeoul Metro Line I menuju  tujuan akhir yaitu Stasiun Incheon International Airport Terminal 1 yang berselang lima belas stasiun ke depan.

Melintas jembatan di atas laut.
Pemandangan Laut Kuning.

Secara keseluruhan perjalanan, dalam waktu satu setengah jam, aku tiba di Stasiun Incheon International Airport Terminal 1 yang bejarak 60 kilometer dari pusat kota. Aku tiba di bandara beberapa menit sebelum tengah hari.  Kini aku menunggu  penerbangan Air Asia D7 505 dari Seoul menuju Kuala Lumpur yang akan mengudara pada pukul 15:55 nanti.

Sebetulnya aku masih sangat berminat untuk menikmati pusat kota Incheon sebelum menuju bandara. Tetapi karena sadar diri bahwa uang di dompet hanyalah berupa beberapa lembaran tersisa, maka daripada bermain resiko dan rawan ketinggalan pesawat, aku akhirnya lebih memilih untuk menghabiskan waktu berjam-jam untuk berada di bandara saja. Yang terpenting perjalanan pulangku ke tanah air aman dan lancar.

Kisah Selanjutnya—->

Mengunjungi Istana Gyeongbok

<—-Kisah Sebelumnya

Aku meninggalkan Distrik Jung menggunakan Seoul Metro Line 4 menuju Stasiun Hongik University yang berjarak sepuluh kilometer. Aku harus menaruh tentengan plastik di Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon. Melakukan eksplorasi dengan menenteng plastik hitam hanya akan membuat wajahku semakin kampungan saja.

Keindahan Istana Gyeongbok (sumber: http://www.agoda.com)

Dalam tiga puluh menit aku tiba.

Tanpa sempat duduk sejenak, aku langsung saja meninggalkan kembali penginapan. Kali ini aku akan menuju ke istana terbesar di Korea.

—***—

Kini aku dibawa Seoul Metro Line 2. Kembali berdiri karena gerbong penuh dengan penumpang, mengharuskan tangan kananku merengkuh hand strap di atas supaya tidak terjatuh karena kereta sering melakukan pengereman di setiap stasiun yang disinggahi.

Hanya saja, situasi menjadi aneh. Seorang gadis berbisik-bisik dengan teman di sebelahnya dan sesekali melihat ke arahku. Aku memang tak menatapnya tetapi setidaknya aku bisa meliriknya samar. “Duh, ada yang memperhatikanku”, aku membatin.

Aku sesekali melirik gadis itu yang terus tertawa pelan. Ketawaan itu membuatku melakukan instropeksi. “Apakah ada yang salah denganku?“. Aku mencoba memperhatikan diri sendiri, tetapi tetap saja tak segera menemukan kejanggalan itu.

Hingga akhirnya, aku terjungkal dalam rasa malu ketika menemukan sumber masalah itu. Ternyata terdapat jahitan benang besar di pangkal tangan sebelah kanan. “Aduh, kenapa pula aku tak memeriksa jaket bekas ini ketika membelinya di Pasar Baru”, Aku perlahan menurunkan tangan kanan, lalu memeriksa pangkal tangan sebelah kiri. Mengetahui jahitannya dalam kondisi bagus maka aku bergantian memegang hand strap dengan tangan kiri. Perlahan aku menoleh ke kedua gadis itu dan mengangguk penuh malu. Ternyata kedua gadis itu merespon dengan cara yang sama.

Damn, sepanjang sepuluh hari perjalanan, aku baru tahu bahwa di pangkal tangan kanan winter jacket bekasku terdapat jahitan besar penutup sobekan”, aku menggerutu sambil menggelengkan kepala.

Kejadian itu menyematkan rasa malu hingga aku turun di Stasiun Euljiro 3(sam)-ga untuk berpindah ke Seoul Metro Line 3. Kini aku kembali mengikuti laju Seoul Metro ke Stasiun Gyeongbokgung di utara kota. Kali ini aku terduduk hingga tiba di stasiun itu.

Untuk menggapai Istana Gyeongbok, hanya diperlukan berjalan kaki sejauh tiga ratus meter dari Stasiun Gyeongbokgung. Memasuki pelataran gerbang Istana Gyeongbok, banyak turis yang mengenakan pakaian hanbok. Pakaian itu memang efektif menciptakan aura bangsawan bagi siapapun yang mengenakannya.

Sementara itu, di setiap sudut pelataran dijaga ketat oleh aparat kepolisian setempat. Tampak jelas Istana Gyeongbok ditutup sore itu, tak ada seorang turis pun yang diperbolehkan masuk. Entah sedang ada momen apakah sore itu?. Praktis aku hanya bisa menikmati kunjungan dengan memasuki National Palace Museum of Korea yang terletak di pelataran yang sama dengan Istana Gyeongbok.

National Palace Museum of Korea (sumber: http://www.theseoulguide.com)

Mengunjunginya cuma-cuma, aku dituntut memahami kisah dan seluk beluk Istana Gyeongbok dari berbagai peninggalan yang dipamerkan di museum. Museum berusia 113 tahun tersebut tampak bersih dan terawat. Walaupun aku tak faham sepenuhnya, setidaknya aku bisa menikmati benda-benda bersejarah seperti beberapa helai pakaian adat, catatan kuno, stempel dan beberapa lukisan era Dinasti Joseon.

Dengan selesainya eksplorasi di tempat penyimpan sejarah Korea Selatan yang berjuluk Deoksugung Museum tersebut maka petualanganku sore itu hanya menyisakan satu destinasi lagi….Distrik Gangnam.

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.

Huhuhu….Sedih

—-****—-

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—->

Makan Malam di Tepian Banpo Bridge

<—-Kisah Sebelumnya

Banpo Bridge yang gagah mengangkangi Han River.

Untung aku tak tenggelam dalam pulasnya tidur siang di Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon. Lewat sedikit dari jam lima sore aku terbangun. Segera membongkar isi backpack, aku mencari toiletries bag dan microfiber towel untuk keperluan mandi pertamaku sejak 35 jam yang lalu.

Aku sengaja berlama-lama mengguyur diri dengan air hangat walaupun aku tahu ada seorang penghuni penginapan yang beberapa kali mengetuk pintu sebagai tanda memintaku untuk mempercepat mandi….Jahat banget guwe, kannn.

Usai mencuci kaos kaki, aku pun keluar dari kamar mandi dan melempar senyum pada seorang tamu perempuan asal Tiongkok yang menunggu sedari tadi. Tentu saja senyum hangatku itu berbalas cemberutan bibir darinya. “Maaf neng, abang dah lama kagak mandi, hampura nyakkk…..” .

Usai berganti baju dan mengenakan semua perlengkapan musim dingin, aku bersiap melanglang Seoul lagi hingga malam nanti.

Aku masih ingat dengan kata teman-teman sekantor yang memintaku untuk mengunjungi sebuah jembatan yang sering dijadikan latar dalam drama-drama Korea terkenal. Walaupun aku mengindahkannya ketika berangkat, tetapi entah kenapa sore itu aku berkeinginan kuat untuk mengunjunginya juga. Kata teman-temanku, jika malam tiba, di Banpo Bridge sering ada air mancur pelangi, perpaduan antara air mancur dengan permainan cahaya di kedua sisi jembatan. “Oke lah….ndak ada salahnya aku kesana walau bukan penggemar drama Korea”, aku akhirnya sudah memutuskan tujuan.

Dari Stasiun Hongik University, kini aku akan menuju ke Stasiun Seoul Express Bus Terminal, tempat pertama kali aku menginjakkan kaki di Seoul. Kenyang nanggung dari sepotong Kimbab yang kusantap di Stasiun Hongik University siang tadi sirna sudah. Kini perut mulai berdangdut ria merayakan kesewotanku menahan lapar. Tetapi karena kekhawatiran terjebak malam di Banpo Bridge aku memutuskan untuk menunda keinginan makan malam itu.

Aku segera melangkah menuju Stasiun Hongik University, menjemput kedatangan Seoul Metro Line 2 dan menuju ke destinasi yang kusasar. Saking fahamnya jalur Seoul Metro karena sedari pagi terus-menerus memelototi peta jalurnya, menjadikanku aware jika aku harus transit dahulu di Stasiun Euljiro 3 (sam)-ga dan harus pindah tumpangan di Seoul Metro Line 3.

Kurang lebih memerlukan waktu setengah jam untuk sampai di Stasiun Seoul Express Bus Terminal. Keluar dari gate 8-1 di stasiun itu, aku berjalan kaki menuju Banpo Hangang Park, sisi terbaik untuk menikmati indahnya Banpo Bridge.  

Perlu waktu 20 menit untuk bisa untuk bisa tiba di taman yang berada di tepian Han River. Memasuki taman yang mulai gelap dengan minim penerangan sebetulnya sedikit menciutkan nyali. Beruntung ada serombongan keluarga Korea yang memasuki taman dan menuju tempat yang sama. Dengan pura-pura menunjukkan ketenangan aku menguntitnya dari belakang….Hahaha, dasar pengecut kamu, Donny.

Rombongan yang sibuk berjalan sembari menyiapkan beberapa kamera itu membuatku yakin bahwa mereka akan menuju Banpo Bridge view point. Benar adanya, saya dan rombongan keluarga lokal itu akhirnya tiba di tepian sungai secara bersamaan.

Yeaaa…..nyampai juga.

Penampakan Banpo Bridge dengan gemerlap lampu memang tampak indah mengangkangi Han River. Aku sangat antusias duduk di tepian sungai demi menunggu momen pertunjukan air mancur pelangi itu dimulai. Detik demi detik, menit demi menit, bahkan aku sudah merelakan diri digulung suhu dingin kota, pertunjukan itu tak kunjung hadir.

Alhasil, dengan berakhirnya kunjungan keluarga lokal itu karena kekecewaan yang sama, membuatku terpaksa ikut undur diri dari tempat itu. “Masa iya, aku harus sendirian di tepian sungai yang sepi dan gelap begini….”, geramku sambil menahan lapar yang sedari tadi sungguh mengacaukan konsentrasiku.

Berjalan meninggalkan keelokan Banpo Bridge, aku sungguh beruntung bisa melihat keberadaan gerai mungil 7-Eleven di sisi lain taman.  Cahaya lampu dari dalamnya mengisyaratkan bahwa gerai itu masih buka. Lantas tak berfikir panjang, aku mempercepat langkah mendekatinya. “Enak nih, cup noodles disantap dengan nasi….”, semangatku hadir sembari mengingat cara makan sederhana yang selalu kupraktikkan selama berkunjung ke Korea Selatan.

Aku berseru girang berhasil mendapatkannya. Kegirangan itu semakin bertambah karena gerai 7-Eleven itu menyediakan tenda di sisi luarnya untuk menyantap makanan yang dibeli dari gerai. Unik, tenda itu dihangatkan dengan sebuah kipas angin yang baling-balingnya dibuat dari filamen pemanas.

Tuh……..

Kisah Selanjutnya—->