It’s been a while but I’m back, back, back, back!
This is a long procrastinated entry (as always) and I’ve been leaving this ‘New Post’ window open for the past two weeks but somehow not finding the ‘moment’ to sit down and type. Well, the plan was for me to draft something while I was in Korea last month; and maintain my monthly update but it’s really tough for me to be disciplined these days. My blog is no longer a priority in my life and I’m not even sure if I will do a detailed travelogue of my 16 days vacation in South Korea. I do have these memories in my Instagram Stories and Instagram posts but I’m starting to feel that ‘blogging’ is becoming less and less relevant in today’s environment. People these days are increasingly attracted to short-form content, and they will not hesitate to swipe away if it doesn’t capture their attention in the first 5 seconds. I myself am guilty of that and I tend to scroll IG Stories instead of IG feed (posts) or FB posts.
Well, as mentioned earlier, I had an ultra-long holiday last month in Korea – a country I visited countless times over the past 13 years (my first trip was in 2011 during the summer). Given a choice, I usually don’t go on long vacations as in my past jobs, I’ve always felt afraid to be away from work for an extended amount of time. I do have trust issues where I don’t feel comfortable handing over tasks to another person but in my current role, they made it compulsory for each and every staff to be away from work (and be uncontactable for work-related stuff) for at least 14 days. To be honest, it really felt weird during this break as in my previous jobs, there’s always a team WhatsApp group where I am still aware of the happenings at work cause it buzzes non-stop but right now, I was truly undisturbed my entire vacation. I only have one colleague on social media which is not too much of a bad thing but basically, when I was travelling, there were moments that I forgot I was employed. *Recalls the painful days when I was managing social media accounts and because the venue was a 24-hour establishment, I was replying to customers at all times of the day, as long as I saw the message* The current work-life separation I have now is something I would never have imagined 5 years ago and I’m not complaining, or trying not to.
Alright so back to my travel, 16 days sound like a long time so I actually had many plans in mind for my trip but as always, master procrastinator me did not make it happen. If you’ve been following me for a long while, you know I always talk about how I wanted to write a book when I’m older with more life stories to share. So.. the plan I had in mind for Korea was to enter a bookstore in the first few days and buy a notebook and a pen. While staying in my accommodation alone for the first 5 days, I was supposed to start writing the prelude/introduction of my book which will go something like “It is XX May 2023 today and I am sitting down in a dormitory-styled accommodation in Seoul, being a solo traveller for 5 days. From my window, I am able to see the Namsan Tower, which is a pretty iconic ‘tower’ representation of Seoul. It is a popular filming location for many dramas and movies, a destination where many tourists visit and also a common hangout place for couples to hang couple locks.” Yea, I had all these in my mind even before flying to Korea and I wanted to ‘write’ instead of ‘type’ as I thought it had more ‘feel’ of truly being an author. Sadly, all these remained in my imagination and I came home without any new notebook.
On the other hand, I did manage to attend some workshops, only because I had made reservations. I used to be a planner but as age caught up with me, I preferred having loose plans with flexibility for spontaneity, but as I was not travelling alone for 2/3 of my trip, I was given some plans (after extensive research by my friend) as a reference point.
- Personal Colour Workshop
I might be doing a blog post in greater detail as this is currently a trending thing in Korea right now. How it works is that your san-makeup face will be analysed by a personal consultant and you will be assigned to one of the 16 labels which come from permutations of the season (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) and tone (Bright, Light, Mute, Deep). At the end of the workshop, you will know what type of colours you wear will radiate your image more and what makeup style and celebrity icon you can seek inspiration from. The workshop is not cheap – it was 120,000W when I went with another friend (2 pax) and the session was about 90 mins long. Towards the end, you could bring your makeup and get them to review to see if the colours that you are using are suitable or not. You can also ask questions about anything too – like recommended hair colour or make-up style. It is pretty pricey but I guess it is worth a try if you’re always unsure about your makeup and colour options. Also, while the number of companies providing such services is increasing, there’s still a lack of options if you need translation services. For us, our consultant spoke in Korean but there was a staff translating to us in Mandarin. I would have preferred the English option but it was not available despite us trying to book the moment the slots were open. I guess our preferred dates couldn’t match their English-speaking staff’s ability. Anyway, booking (and possibly upfront payment) is required. For mine, the booking was discussed and made via Kakao Talk and I made full payment using a foreign credit card via a payment link they provided.
2. Personalised Perfume Workshop
This was another activity that has been popular for a long time already but I’ve never done it before and actually, it’s pretty affordable in Korea compared to Singapore. There were various options available on AirBnB experience but I ended up choosing a majority korean brand and the ‘lost in translation’ did affect a bit of the experience. Well, I did ask if they were comfortable with English and they said ok but.. the staff was still caught by surprise. We survived but it would be useful if I could understand more of the explanation rather than just smelling and determining which was my favourite. We chose the more premium course which included a selection from 36 scents at 45,000W (inclusive of 50ml take-home perfume). The basic course (30 scents) was priced at 35,000W and despite visiting on a weekday afternoon, all 10 seats were occupied! How the workshop works is that you are given a selection to define what ‘style’ you want your perfume to be. After which, you will be asked to smell like 36 scents from 3 categories (top, middle, base) and you’re asked to write down whatever scents that you enjoy (no limit). Based on your selection, the staff would recommend a blend of 3 fragrances which you will mix and smell again. Then, you will be asked to give your feedback – whether you want it to be more fruity, more refreshing etc. and then they will recommend other mixes and all in all, you will get 6 different scent blends. At the end, you will have to choose your favourite out of the 6 mixes and that would be the perfume that you are bringing home. They staff will instruct you on the composition for the blend and you will be given a weighing scale to weigh the drops. Sadly for us, time was running out (cause they have sessions after sessions) and the staff offered to help us finish the work. We were told to let the perfume rest for 2 weeks before using it. Given that it is a scent that I have selected on my own, it really feels extra special and I do spray it on into the air randomly to reminisce the smell. I’m not too concerned with using it too quickly as if I really like it, I can always bring my ‘formula sheet’ back to the shop for them to mix it for me. Alternatively, I can always go for another workshop and bring home another personalised scent!
3. Free makeup session at ‘BeautyPlay’
I stumbled upon this activity on social media and it was really something free that foreigners can sign up for. The location was at this building opposite myeongdong cathedral and it started off as a makeup experimental zone where up-and-coming brands can have a space to showcase their products. In addition, they provide makeup services for people as well! The catch is that they will take photos/videos of you and you may be featured on their social media pages. It has been 3 weeks and I’ve not seen any photos/videos of myself yet so I guess they don’t feature everyone *phew*. I’m not a huge fan of beauty and I’ve only gotten make-up done for me a few times in my life so it was nice to see what they would do for me. As always, I asked for something natural and it was just as what I asked for – a ‘barely there’ make-up, which somehow is aligned with my personal colour. It was quite interesting as the staff could somehow assess my skin well and gave me the moisturizing pad (which I know I needed to cause my face is dry on the inside). Also, the way she did my eye makeup and the colours she used were also aligned with the feedback that the personal colour consultant gave. I guess makeup is truly an art and there’s really a ‘recommended’ way such that two different people be advising me on the same thing.
As my trip was really long, I somehow manage to travel on dates which clashed with random friends/ex-colleagues. It was quite fun to hang out with people that I would have hardly ever arranged to meet in Singapore. As funny as it was, we 3 girls ended up at a pub for round 2 because I didn’t think there was any Korean drinking place where you wouldn’t have to feel pressure to order food. The interesting thing about this pub is that on their menu outside, they mention that we can request for any songs (to play on their relatively decent sound system) but Kpop. and we were in Korea o_O My friend took her chance and requested a BoA song (which was in Japanese) and the staff came back and apologise saying that he can’t play it because she was Korean. LOL.
Another thing that I did differently compared to all my holidays was that I decided to quit being a multi-tasker and focus on ‘one thing at a time’. The first thing I decided to do was to stop listening to my AirPods (Audiobooks / Music). Usually, when I travel (especially for solo trips), I tend to finish at least one audiobook and I do remember it as part of my holiday memories but this time round, I concluded that I should not ‘attempt’ or be pressured to achieve anything for the sake of it. By putting down my AirPods, I started to slow down and appreciate the sounds of the streets, trains and anything at all. Noise cancelling is an awesome function which I really love but I think once in a while, I need to remove that silence and have more awareness about my surroundings. Since returning from my trip, I’ve also tried to be more conscious about doing one thing at a time in my life. The pursuit of efficiency and always wanting to achieve something with my time seems to be something of the past and I guess now I’ve decided to slow down and (hopefully) be present in the moment, rather than putting too much emphasis on the past and the future.
Other thoughts about Korea
My first visit to Korea was 13 years ago and it’s inevitable to keep comparing the past and the present. I remember the transport starts from 700W back in those days but these days we are paying 1,250W. In smaller cities like Gangneung, I think the price was starting from 1,500W? Well, with growing petrol and electricity prices, I guess it is hard to hold back inflation. Just hoping that the salaries are increasing in sync with these increase. I also remember that the ‘banana milk’ used to cost 900W and I’ll drink it for breakfast. These days, the price is 1,700W which is almost double from 13 years ago! Also, I used to eat rolled Kimbap whenever I wanted to have a convenient and filling meal which would keep me full. I remember I could get a roll for 2,000W back then but these days it is at least 3,500W to 4,000W for a roll with the most basic ingredients! The only consolation above all is that the SGD dollar is very strong. Over the years, it went as low as 1 SGD = 800W, but these days we are looking at 1 SGD = 950W, which makes our spending power higher in Korea, easing out the ‘inflation’ woes.
Also, one thing that has improved significantly is that there are now more escalators and lifts – only if you make an effort to find them. I would say that about 50 to 60% of the stations (especially the newer ones) are now wheelchair accessible and my knees can hurt a little lesser when I travel. Every station platform will have a map which shows the stairs/escalators/elevators which allows you to plan your route if you hate stair climbing like me. In addition, you can even find information (like which door to be at) for faster transfer/exit at stations. If you’re using Naver Maps, this information is also available within the app as well. I really found this information useful and an A+ point for user experience. One little annoyance I have about the public transport system is that they still do not allow debit/credit card payments. I know it can be possible if you’re on Samsung Pay, with a Korean card, but for now, foreign cards are not accepted. I guess if the switch happens, T-money, the major card provider would be incurring massive losses so who knows, it might never come.
That’s it for my random updates and I hope I’ll have the determination to update more travel content in the months to come.