PM Lee is unofficial tourism ambassador for South Korea

Most Singaporeans would know by now that our PM was in South Korea for a vacation. He and his wife had been posting photos of places he went on his Facebook page. And I must say… they are really well-taken photos. And it seems that almost all his photos have very appropriate captions! I am sure a number of people have been tempted to go to South Korea for their vacation by looking at the photos that PM Lee took.

So here’s my attempt to summarise PM Lee’s itinerary in South Korea (all the photos are by PM Lee, taken off his Facebook page. Captions are paraphrased from PM Lee’s captions).

Day 1

PM just arrived in Seoul. He went to Itaewon for dinner. Itaewon is a a shopping and entertainment district in Seoul.

A busy side street in Itaewon where PM Lee had dinner. He said it's a busy and vibrant district.

A busy side street in Itaewon where PM Lee had dinner. He said it’s a busy and vibrant district.

If you are a fan of the characters from LINE, you can get the mascots from here:

A colourful and inviting LINE shop along Garosu-gil which sells cartoon mascots.

A colourful and inviting LINE shop along Garosu-gil which sells cartoon mascots.

I can’t figure out which hotel PM stayed on his first night inSeoul. But it sure had a great view:

View of Seoul

A day and night shot of Seoul from PM’s room

Day 2

I think PM then went to Mount Seorak National Park on the second day. He said this of his visit there:

“Enjoyed the tranquil winter scenery and peaks of Mount Seorak National Park. This vast area is home to many rare species of flora and fauna. There are numerous routes throughout the park to ramble around and experience its natural beauty. On Sunday we hiked along the river up the valley, vigorous but not too tough for us. Yesterday we took a cable car ride up the nearby peak…”

Mini waterfall

PM came across this little waterfall on our walk on Sunday, and clambered over some rocks to get this shot.

Along the hike, PM also saw this:

The Great Unification Buddha in the National Park is the largest seated bronze Buddha statue in the world.

The Great Unification Buddha in the National Park is the largest seated bronze Buddha statue in the world.

After all the hiking, he was rewarded with this spectacular view:

Wise words from PM: "The bare peak offers spectacular views over the mountainous terrain. We were quite high up, but as the Chinese saying goes 一山还有一山高 - there were many taller mountains around us."

Wise words from PM: “The bare peak offers spectacular views over the mountainous terrain. We were quite high up, but as the Chinese saying goes 一山还有一山高 – there were many taller mountains around us.”

After all that hard work of hiking, it seems that PM had a great dinner.

PM's comments about his dinner: "Sunday’s dinner - very fresh seafood from the local catch, grilled at the table. The restaurant is called Dokdo, the Korean name for islands which are controlled by Korea but claimed by Japan (the Japanese call them Takeshima)."

PM’s comments about his dinner: “Sunday’s dinner – very fresh seafood from the local catch, grilled at the table. The restaurant is called Dokdo, the Korean name for islands which are controlled by Korea but claimed by Japan (the Japanese call them Takeshima).”

Day 3

PM then went to visit the demilitarised zone (DMZ). On the South Korean side of course…

PM's photo taken at the observation station at the DMZ

PM’s photo taken at the observation station at the DMZ

PM then went for a long walk along the hills by the coast near Hwajinpo-gil. This is what he has to say of that place:

Hwajinpo has beautiful beaches and a serene lagoon. The hills are covered with pine forests which from time to time open up to vistas of the countryside. Compared to Sunday’s trek, this was quite hard work – my iPhone reported that I took 15,000 steps, and climbed the equivalent of 87 storeys!

Looks like a good work out if you asked me. But you do get rewarded with this view:

The reward for hard work climbing the hills - a view of the pavilion and bridge on the lagoon at Hwajinpo.

PM: “The reward for hard work climbing the hills – a view of the pavilion and bridge on the lagoon at Hwajinpo.”

Day 4

PM then “drove down along the coast to Gyeongju, in the south eastern part of Korea. Gyeongju is a scenic and historic area, which was the capital of the Silla dynasty.” But he didn’t just make a beeline for Gyeongju. He had a number of stops. Including one at Jukbyeon port in Uljin city. PM said:

“It is a busy fishing port, with a fish market where the catch is prepared and sold. This boat has a string of lights which are used for squid-fishing. The fishermen turn the lights on at night to attract the squid. (It reminded me of what my mother used to tell me – that as a child, her family would go out fishing on a moonless night with a light on a boat to attract the sotong.)”

Fishing boat at Jukbyeon port

Fishing boat at Jukbyeon port

According to PM, "These fishermen were hard at work unloading their catch of crabs."

According to PM, “These fishermen were hard at work unloading their catch of crabs.”

Days 5 to 8

PM then spent the next five days in Gyeongju, ” a coastal city with many Buddhist relics and historical sites. This city is often referred to as a museum without walls.” He took a walk in the Donggung Palace, which was “constructed in the Silla dynasty, together with the beautiful Wolji Pond within the palace grounds.”

PM says this of Donggung Palace: "Intricately decorated roofs of pavilions in Donggung 东宮 palace. "

PM says this of Donggung Palace: “Intricately decorated roofs of pavilions in Donggung 东宮 palace. “

PM also visited “the Gyochon Traditional Village and its old hanok houses (traditional Korean homes). The village is very picturesque, with some families having stayed there for generations. While some houses have been converted into modern cafes and restaurants, all the hanok houses still retain their traditional exteriors.”

PM's comment: "A lovely garden of a traditional Korean house. Even in December, a few maples still retain their autumn leaves"

PM’s comment: “A lovely garden of a traditional Korean house. Even in December, a few maples still retain their autumn leaves”

The house apparently now serves traditional Korean meals.

PM: "Three Korean ladies in the courtyard of the same house which now serves traditional Korean meals. "

PM: “Three Korean ladies in the courtyard of the same house which now serves traditional Korean meals. “

And there was more walking and more nature along the way:

Ancient tombs built in the Tumuli Park.

Ancient tombs built in the Tumuli Park.

PM even got a shot of a cute squirrel. But of course, he wouldn’t just comment about a squirrel. He added some interesting tidbit of legend. How he knows such things, one can only wonder…

PM's caption: "A squirrel feeding on berries in the Gyerim 鸡林 Forest. According to legend, the founder of the Kim clan was found here as an infant in a golden box accompanied by a rooster."

PM’s caption: “A squirrel feeding on berries in the Gyerim 鸡林 Forest. According to legend, the founder of the Kim clan was found here as an infant in a golden box accompanied by a rooster.”

He then did some (more!) hiking “at Namsan Mountain, walking through villages and climbing steep mountain paths to temples and shrines. Many Buddhist statues are carved from the living rock, and often the temple is built to house them. There are historical sites too, like tombs and ancestral halls that go back to the ancient Silla dynasty. Visited quite a few on a cycling tour – a good way to get around the city, which had many dedicated cycle paths.”

PM's artsy photo of a "tiny Buddha at the feet of three giant Buddha stone figures."

PM’s artsy photo of a “tiny Buddha at the feet of three giant Buddha stone figures.”

PM takes really nice photos:

PM's caption: "The Three Royal Tombs on Namsan Mountain. It is a very tranquil spot, popular with photographers."

PM’s caption: “The Three Royal Tombs on Namsan Mountain. It is a very tranquil spot, popular with photographers.”

This one is almost good enough to be a postcard:

PM's caption: "A waterwheel all frozen up, though some water is still flowing over it."

PM’s caption: “A waterwheel all frozen up, though some water is still flowing over it.”

And it seems that PM got to know a lot about ancient Korean history:

PM's caption: "Yangsanjae 杨山斋 Shrine in Tap-dong, Gyeongju, houses the ancestral tablets of the six village chiefs who came together to form the Silla kingdom."

PM’s caption: “Yangsanjae 杨山斋 Shrine in Tap-dong, Gyeongju, houses the ancestral tablets of the six village chiefs who came together to form the Silla kingdom.”

Day 9

PM returned to Seoul on the last day of his vacation by high speed rail, where he feasted on different Korean food before coming home to Singapore.

PM's caption: Where all the ingredients come together. All the bowls on the table are side dishes, including of course kimchi. The main course was bulgogi, a stew of marinated beef.

PM’s caption: Where all the ingredients come together. All the bowls on the table are side dishes, including of course kimchi. The main course was bulgogi, a stew of marinated beef.

And it seems like PM likes spicy food. Or at least the Korean ramen:

PM's caption: "This supermarket lady invited us to try her spicy seafood ramen. It tasted very good, so we bought some."

PM’s caption: “This supermarket lady invited us to try her spicy seafood ramen. It tasted very good, so we bought some.”

PM also tried some street food:

PM's caption: "Met this street hawker in Seoul selling roasted chestnuts, steamed peanuts, dried cuttlefish and silkworm pupae. (We went for the chestnuts.) Just the thing for a cold day!"

PM’s caption: “Met this street hawker in Seoul selling roasted chestnuts, steamed peanuts, dried cuttlefish and silkworm pupae. (We went for the chestnuts.) Just the thing for a cold day!”

Home sweet home

Then it was back home to Singapore.

Changi Airport. Photo by PM

Changi Airport. Photo by PM

I think PM is one of the few people who can take a photo of the immigration part of Changi Airport and not get arrested. In any case, PM had this to say about Changi Airport:

“Happy to arrive at Changi Airport last night. (1) It felt good to be home. (2) I went into a men’s toilet, and found it spotlessly clean, plus it had a nappy changing station! (3) I used the automatic clearance at the CIQ, and my thumbprint worked! Congrats to Changi Airport staff!”

I wonder why PM seemed so surprised that his thumbprint worked. I suppose when he travels for work, he never had to clear customs.

So. There you have it. If you are planning on going to Korea for a winter holiday, you can try to follow PM’s itinerary. He went in from 12 Dec to 20 Dec. I think PM Lee can be a travel blogger after he retires from politics. Don’t you agree?

 

[Featured image: Image of  three Korean ladies in the courtyard of house which now serves traditional Korean meals taken from PM’s Facebook page]

[P.S.: If anyone from PMO is reading this and finds any issue with me using PM’s photos and captions in my post, please let me know. I will take down the post immediately. Please don’t sue me. I don’t have money to fight law suits and pay damages. Much thanks.]

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