Thursday, December 27, 2007

About Danyang

I think one of the regrets we did have about this trip was that we didn't get a chance to see many of the places properly.

Take for example Danyang. According to KTO's site, it is quite a historical place with many beautiful scenaries.

This is a map of Danyang, and Ondal, the filmsite, is only one small part of it (click on the map for a bigger picture).

There are 8 beautiful scenaries in Danyang and I would have loved to visit at least one of it or even the any of the famous Gosu caves, which I think are not too far away from the filmsite.

Unfortunately, we didn't have the chance to visit the filmsite in Danyang as they were still filming when we left.

Map of Ondal outside the filmsite

Official entrance to Ondal

Blue sky and mountains

For more information, you can go to Danyang's official site here

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tae Wang's army journey- Day 1

Our flight was at 1.40am, 29th November. Jos had already left earlier on a SQ flight. After all the usual photo takings etc, we checked in and split into different groups. Kee actually went to get her camera there. Some of us went for a drink and that's when we managed to upload that Tae Wang army photo that we took on JF site. Ahhh.. the convenience of modern technology. hehe!

I tried watching "Attack on the Pin-Up Boys" but gave up after 30 minutes. In case you are not aware, this movie stars the very popular Super Junior boy band in their first movie. At the risk of incurring all their fans' wrath, I must say, please watch it if you really, really have nothing to do. I went to sleep in the end as I figured I would be sleep deprived once I reached Korea. But I actually ended up sleeping more more than usual because there was so much travelling on the road.

We touched down at Incheon airport finally at about 8+am. Ahhh....why does the air in Korea smell different? ^^ There's something that says: "BYJ and all the other cute Korean artistes live here." haha!

Managed to meet up with Jos, who said she almost fell alseep whilst waiting for us. Julie and I went to collect the handphone that we had booked via KTO's website. There's a discounted price of 2,000won per day for renting the phone via KTO's website. I have a 3G phone but I figured it would be easier for my Korean friends and business associates to call me on a local number. For more infor, you can click here for more information. Only snag was I didn't get my number before I left for Korean even though I registered 1 week before departure.

Met up with the guide, Lily (who was a Chinese national who had migrated to Korean when she was very young) and Mgr An (who speaks limited English).

And then we loaded all our lugguages onto the bus and we were off! Everyone was excited at the prospect of seeing BYJ.

Our bus

Mgr An said that because of time constraint, we wouldn't be able to stop to eat or have many breaks. haha! This turned out to be a familiar routine throughout most of our journey. At one point, we even dubbed it the JF/BYJ diet tour. But seriously, I think the girls are brilliant coz most of them never complained about the lack of meals but they all learnt one word: "화장실" (hwa jang shil= toilet). And very often, the girls ended up going to men's toilet because well..the ladies outnumbered the guys. I mean, there were 17 women and 2 men. : )

Our one and only toilet break during the nearly 3 hours journey to Danyang

As we neared Danyang the filmsite, we took out our banner and put the last minute finishing touches to it.

Kelly, our designer for the banner, hard at work

We reached Ondal, Danyang, the filming site about noon and already, there was a whole group of Japanese fans waiting there. The place is a big long, driveway/ carpark leading into the film site but the Japanese fans were standing only in one section of the road/ driveway. We weren't sure what was happenning, but we were led to stand behind them. I was hoping BYJ might get out to greet the fans, as he did sometimes in the past.

The fans, including us, were waiting from where I took this photo to near where the big umbrella was. The film site was beyond that.

So there we were, waiting and waiting...cold and hungry. We didn't even dare to go to toilet as we weren't sure when he would be coming. It seems it would be soon. Some of the Japanese fans were rather kind and did offer us some snacks.

After waiting for more than an hour, just as I was seriously debating if I should make a 100m dash for the nearest toilet, suddenly, an murmur went through the crowd and some of the Japanese fans stood up. The LCK guides came to say that he would be passing by soon and those of us who were standing at the back, were allowed to stand up on the chairs. Yeah!

Up went our banner! And then we were rehearsing our shouting slogan. You can really sense the thrill and excitment in everyone. ^^ Me, being so short, of course had to stand on one of the chair lah.

And then, suddenly, he was there, in front of us, waving to us through the car. It went passed all the fans slowly. He was in his mostache look. Now for many of us, this would be the first time we see this new look, even though there were a couple of pictures floating on the internet. He looked really serious and didn't smile. Not sure if it was because he was getting into his character or tired. Sigh... But it was over very quickly.

In all the excitment, our shout didn't really come out well (I think many forgot to shout when they saw him. hehe!) and we weren't even sure if he saw our banner as it was held rather high up. Sigh...

But, hey, we saw him for that brief few minutes and I think for many of us, that was all that mattered.

Highlight over, it was time to settle our hunger pangs. Lunch would be in one of the restaraunts there. Some of us wanted our things from the bus, so we walked back to bus. And guess what? hehe! I was rewarded with the sight of Joomochi walking up and down, as if practicing his lines. He looked preoccupied, so I just smiled and greeted him. He smiled and bowed back. Alamak, should have told him I was from Singapore, then maybe could have taken a photo with him. And then on my way back to restuarant for lunch, Kelly, Jessica and I saw General Ko preparing to change into his armour. We saw 2 Korean fans approaching him and getting his signature. Unfortunately, we didn't have any paper with us. :(

Ok, things to note in future- always have your camera and notebook with you just in case.

This was our lunch...not sure what's it called but it was quite good..especially in the cold weather. Anyone any idea what's this dish?

And then after lunch, it was photo taking time. hehe! Of course lah.

The big banner of could we resist it?

This seems to be the centrepiece of the place but I have no idea what it is.....

Now the above is a strange phenomena that occured shortly after the afternoon drivepast by BYJ. The Japanese fans had taken all the chairs from the earlier location and moved them here and 'reserved' them with their bags, clothes etc. Again, we couldn't understand why they were in rows of 2 and 3 for just that particular section when the driveway was big and long. But this would become our major source of unhappiness later on in the night.

In the midst of the phototaking, this little child came out. Of course, we didn't who he was as he only appeared in Episode 23 (that very night's episode!). We heard he was Dam Deok's son but we didn't really believe it because hehe....he looked like a girl. But he was so adorable. And then Julia, became the envy of all of us when she picked him up. Aiyoh, this little boy really not shy leh. He even gave Julia a kisss on the cheek! Hmmphf! We wanted to shoot arrows at Julia after that. Not sure what his parents thought of a bunch of nutty foreign women going crasy over their son. :)

Isn't he just adorable? Think he will break quite a few hearts when he grows up

Group photo infront of the TWSSG banner

At about 4pm, we went back to our hotel to deposit our lugguage and to wait for the cue for BYJ's next drivepast, which would be at night....Though we were not sure what time that would be, but we were told to assemble at 6pm at our hotel's lobby.

We stayed at 대명리조트 (Dae Myeong Resort). The place is actually quite nice and the room big and comfortable enough. But unfortunately, not much time to explore the place. Apparently, there's a suana or hot spring or something in the hotel ...but we did go in search of the supermart and the PC room. Very important! :P

Room with a view...sort of

At about 6+, we all set off for the filmsite again. No idea when or where dinner would be as it all depends on when 임금님 (the King) would mke his appearance. But we were well armed with snacks and biscuits. hehe!

It was almost dark by the time we reached the Ondal filmsite again. This is winter afterall. We thought we would be able to have dinner later in town as the vibe was that he should be going off soon. So we satisfied ourselves with these delicious snacks like 국화빵 (Gukwa-ppang) and 오뎅 (Odeng). And if you never tried Odeng on a cold winter night, then you don't know what you've been missing. It's just fish cake in hot broth. But gosh, it's really, really delicious as a simple snack and it's cheap too. I think it was 500won? I'm actually salivating at the thought of it. But somehow, this food is best eaten from a Korean side food stall and not in a restaurant.

The very pretty lady doing the red bean paste buns

You can tell how much they're enjoying their Odeng from the look on their faces.

At one point, we all got bored and cold and crowded into the restaurant wher we had lunch earlier in the afternoon. There were many Japanese fans there and the guides were there as well, having their dinner.

And then suddenly, at about 8+, we heard some commotion, and so we quickly got in line. And that's when the trouble started.

It seems the Japanese fans, who've been camping at these filming sites and were almost the only fans so far in all these situations, had some unspoken rules, which was never explained to us. Remember the photo earlier where they had reserved a spot at the driveway with the chairs and their belongings? Well, it seems, we were supposed to go behind them. Which really puzzled us no end coz as I explained, the driveway was very big and his car would have to drive past the whole stretch. So in other words, he would see everyone if we lined the driveway in a single file. Because it didn't make sense to us and we couldn't understand what the fuss was all about, we chose to stand next to the Japanese fans instead of behind them, but we didn't block their view. There was also a few Korean fans a little further from us. But the Japanese fans didn't like it and they also didn't seemed too happy when we raised our banner. Hmm...

So they kept going up to their guides to complain, who then went to Mgr An to complain. To give Mgr An due credit, he didn't say much though he was under much pressure. I shall not elaborate much further on what went on for the next 30 minutes as it wasn't very pleasant but we were made to move back quite a few steps so that we were stadning a little behind the Japanese fans' line.

The guides were still trying to get us to move behind when suddenly, his car drove by and as the girls raised the banner (not me lah, I'm too short to do such a job), some of the big burly guides blocked our view and banner. Now, I'm not sure if this a deliberate act or accidental.

Anyway, I still managed to see him, as did most of the girls, though it would have been clearer if the guys weren't in front. This time, he looked much better than the afternoon drivepast. He was at least smiling and looked more relax. Maybe because it was the end of the day and he was going to have his dinner? ^^ Whatever it was, it was good to see him looking happier and waving to us. But whether he knew the Singaporean army was there, we didn't know as it was so dark and there was so much confusion.

After this incident, we had completely lost our appetite for dinner and were in a most foul mood. Text messages were flying fast and furious between me and bb as I 'reported' on the incident back home to Singapore. So we went back to out hotel to catch that night's Episode 23 of TWSSG.

As we got off the bus, Mgr An apologised and bowed to us. Like I said in my first post, I think they didn't realised that we do not behave like the Japanese fans (afterall, we are not Japanese). Their mistake also lie in the fact that they didn't explain the situation to the Japanese fans earlier, so when we didn't follow their unspoken rule, it caught them by surprise and also made them unhappy.

For most of us, it was instant Ramyeon for dinner in our room as we sat down to wait for TWSSG. Actually, instant Ramyeon taste really good, especially when you are in Korea. Out of the 17 of us, only Jessica, Kelly and myself were the most updated about the drama. Kelly was one up on us as she had managed to catch Episode 22 the night before (the night we were leaving for Korea). The rest had either watched only a few episodes or hadn't watched it at all.

So I think for many of the girls, it didn't make much sense. Even for me, I had a hard time trying to understand the dialogue and I couldn't pause or rewind. Sob! Sob! But it was good to watch him on screen, looking all handsome and charismatic. And of course, we saw Ajik, the little adorable boy that we met that afternoon. And for some strange reason, that particular MBC channel was all fuzzy when TWSSG started. But it was ok moments before and the other channels were perfectly clear too. I figured maybe got too many people watching the same channel?

At about 11am, the girls all assembled in Lynn's and my room. We discussed about the earlier incident and in the end, we decided to just and watch and observe for the next few days..

Of course, it was not a great start to the first day of our tour. The only consolation was that we managed to see him twice.

But it did get better as the tour went on, except for another hiccup. Which would be another story.

End of Day 1, 29th November

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tae Wang's army journey- The preparations

Can you believe that I'm still sorting out photos ans the things I bought during my Korea trip? And I came back about 2 weeks ago! The girls already had 2 gatherings during this time!

I've been busy everyday since I came back. Sigh.

Anyway, finally managed to find some time to start on my 1st post about the trip today.

I've been going to Korea every year since 2003 and out of the 5 trips I made, only last year's trip was not JF related. We always have members asking every year when the club would organise a trip. It's not easy....and whenever we do organise one, it's always lots of hard work way before the trip.

When to go?
Why should we organise the trip? There has to be a reason as JF is not a tour agency.
Which agency to use?
How long should the trip be?

And the number one question members always asked us..."Will they get to see BYJ?" They will sign for the trip if they can see him.

Heck, if we can guarantee that they can see BYJ, we'll have thousands signing up. So our disclaimer when we announce such trips, which we always put in big, bold red letters: "We do not guarantee that you will see BYJ."

Hehe! But hor....we've always been quite lucky, we've pretty much managed to see him on almost all the JF trips.

Anyway, when we organised this trip, the main purpose was to watch the last episode of Tae Wang Sa Shin Gi in Korea. Somehow, it felt more exciting this way. And of course, we would be visiting all the filming sites.

Julia and Lynn did alot of preparation work...planning the itinerary, checking with the various agencies and sending out emails to the members. Believe, it wasn't easy.

Although some of the quotes from the other agencies were slightly cheaper, we still decided to go with LCK Tour. And your eyes aren't playing tricks on you...their website is in Japanese because their customers so far have been Japanese, with the odd number of Taiwanese or Hong Kongers joining the Japanese tours. So, Joon's Family was the first non-Japanese group to join their tour.

Unfortunately, their staff doesn't speak much English and our Korean was limited company. We have to thank one of the Korean sister, S, who very kindly helped us with the communications and translations. I'm not sure if she wants to be named, but we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to her.

LCK is well known for being very updated and well informed about BYJ's whereabouts and intinerary. We found out later they are also very knowledgeable about the various filming sites...especially those relating to BYJ. ^^

But because, we were the 1st non-Japanese group to join their tour, I think they were not quite prepared for us. Or rather, I think they found out that we are very different from the Japanese fans. This threw them off a bit. So there were hiccups along the way, and unfortunately, the first major hiccup happened on the very first day, so that spoilt our image and impression of them quite a bit. But I believe these were all due to different expectation, preparations works and miscommunication. It got better with each passing day. I'm certain LCK Tour placed quite alot of importance on our group (the fact that GM An was on the trip with us was an important indicator) as it would be a good step for them to expand beyond Japan. It's been a good experience for them and as for the majority of us, we still enjoyed oursleves during the trip. I like to think Mgr An enjoyed our company too. Now, I really hope they get some English speaking staff on their team soon...that would help alot.

This trip had lots of difficulties even during the preparations stage.

One of the girls had to pull out as she was hospitalised the weekend before the trip. Then another almost pulled out because her son was going for a surgery a week before the trip. Yokee asked me how many people were going on the trip, I replied: "either 16, 17 or 18...don't know' and this was about one week before the trip. So you can imagine Lynn, Julia, Jos and me pulling our hair out. I seriously think I had a few more white hairs because of this trip. Hmm...if I go highlight my hair, can claim back form club fund or not huh?

Then we almost couldn't get air tickets. For this, I would really like to thank Korea Tourism Organisation and Asiana Airline. hehe! I think we may still be in Singapore if not for their help.

And oh.... just 5 days before we were going to leave on trip, we received word that BYJ would still be filming during our trip in Korea.

Now this was totally unexpected.

We were leaving on the early morning of 29th November and he was supposed to have finished filiming by 25th November. Of course, we heard the reasons for the delay later but for the moment, there was only one important decision to make:

"Do we want to change our itinerary to have that one possible chance of seeing him?"

Of course, the answer was a no brainer. Again, I would very much like to thank Asiana Airline for being so accomodating in our mad scramble to change our Jeju ticket at such last minute. We received confirmation for our Jeju flight the day before our trip. Whew!

Now it would mean that we would have one less day to shop and see in Seoul. But I think none of the girls minded.

Also, due to a slight change in our flight, I ended up having to book rooms in Seoul Tower Ville for the last night for everyone (those leaving on the 7th December)except for 3 girls.

Forgot to mention that there were actually 5 departure dates.
7th Dec- 7 pax
9th Dec- 1 pax
10th Dec- 6 pax
11th Dec- 2 pax
13th Dec- 1 pax

Complicated huh?

So, orginally, this was our itinerary:

Incheon-> Jeju-> Wando-> Gwanju-> Naju-> Yongpyong-> Seoul

Then it was changed to this:
Incheon-> Danyang-> Jeju-> Wando-> Gwanju-> Naju-> Yongpyong-> Seoul

But there was another change later on during the trip and it was changed to this:
Incheon-> Danyang-> Jeju-> Hwaseong-> Naju-> Yongpyong-> Seoul

I think this map that Jos did would give a better idea of our trip in the end and how much travelling we did (you can click on it for a bigger and clearer picture):

And so this became a rather eventful trip, right from the start. ^^

But who cares, we were on our way to Korea. In fact, Bessie, one of the girls, was so excited, that she started emailing all of us with currency conversion, shopping links and weather updates and even a countdown to the day before our departure.

And so, on the night of 28th November, the group of us were at the airport, all ready and excited about the journey to Korea. As usual, for some of the girls, it would be their first trip. But whether it was the 1st time or the 5th time, we were still happy and thrilled about the trip.

The Tae Wang's army from Singapore was ready to start the journey in search of our King.

credit: Kellybyj

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Excuse me, are you a Korean?

Came back last night...was and still is tired out.

Took too many photos---over 1,000. Don't know how I'll finish sorting them but finish I must coz I know many are just waiting for a report of the trip. ^^

Anyway, this was taken on the last day of the trip, whilst waiting for the transport to take us to the bus stop where we can take the airport bus.

During this trip, I and the other girls have been approached quite a few times by Koreans for directions. I look like a Korean? hehehe! ^^

Most of the Koreans are stylishly stressed, especially the ladies. Many of young ones still wore shorts or bermudas, with black tights or stockings. Very nice. I remember my teacher was telling me even the housewives going to the market in the morning would be also beautifully dressed and made up. I totally agree. The lady selling sandwiches in a small shop near my hotel was carefully made up, with lipstick and eyebrow plucked. I so admire them for taking pride in their appearance andf their dress sense.

Otte? Can I pass off as a young Korean lady? hahaha!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cold in Korea

Have been on the road alot the last few days....really seeing the countryside. We were saying that we saw more fields, trees and birds than human beings. A couple of nights, we reached the hotel really bump was really tired after sitting in the bus for more than 4 hours. Told the manager of the tour group that I would have gone around Singapore four times. ^^

And no internet access either. :( Hopefully it will be better from tomorrow onwards and I would be able to post more.

And it's been really cold as well. Think it's supposed to snow...according to forecast...which is what some of the girls are hoping for.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

In Kimchiland

Finally, after a year, I'm back in Kimchiland again.

This time, the weather is slightly colder but it still feels good.

On the 29th November, I left with 16 other girls on the 1.40am flight to Seoul.

This is a customised trip and most of the places we visit will be related to BYJ and TWSSG. We managed to see him briefly twice on the first day, Thursday. We've been in Jeju since yesterday and absolutely enjoying ourselves. The weather is not as cold here.

Tomorrow, there's a slight change in our plans and we will be flying back to Seoul instead of going to Wando. Will try and give a more updated report with photos when I can.

P/s- Korean food taste really better in Korea. ^^