Khalda is an account coordinator in Maverick, who has been working for more than a year. In December 2016, she took her Personal Development Fund (PDF) to visit a country that has always been her desired destination – South Korea. This is her story.
South Korea is a top destination listed by many travel sites, from Lonely Planet to CNN Travel. Its abundant charms have made this country too irresistible to be ignored. Korean culture has also made its way worldwide and is especially popular with the younger population who seem engrossed with K-Pop,K-Drama, K-Food, or K-Beauty.
For me, like many who knew what Korean Full House is, my first encounter with Korean culture is from its drama series. Somehow, they are really good at portraying and making their culture, top destinations, and food really appealing through their TV programs. A shot of Korean Ramyeon being eaten by an actor, or people making Kimchi on a winter day in the beautiful Hanok village, is enough to make us wonder “how great it is to live there”.
These instruments of “cultural diplomacy” finally got me hooked. One day, after way too much time spent watching Korean drama, my spontaneous nature suddenly kicked in. I searched for a winter flight to Seoul and started to make two lists: one of places I want to visit and another of foods I want to eat. This is going to be my second time going abroad alone, and I promised myself to enjoy it to the fullest.
Maverick had helped me keep that promise. With Maverick’s PDF – Personal Development Fund, I was able to make this Korea trip happen. As the name suggests the fund is set aside for Maverick’s employees to travel to new places, try something new, learn something new so that they can develop themselves as human beings. I’ve seen how my colleagues used their PDFs, and I’ve seen how taking a trip made them feel refreshed or how enrolling in a course gave them new skills. And now I have the opportunity to tap on the fund.
One activity that I had on my list is going to a Korean sauna, known as jjimjilbang. It was a really unique experience. I thought all the readings and TV shows have prepared me for what I’m going to see and experience at a jjimjilbang, but I was really caught by surprise.
I went to a famous jjimjilbang in Seoul with a friend that I met in my hostel. We paid our entrance fee and went our separate ways to the changing room. What I saw next still shocked me until this day. I saw naked women casually walking around the room, drying their hair, putting on make-up, or even casually chatting with a friend.
Thanks to the Internet, I already knew that I will see naked women at some point. It’s a sauna and public bath after all. But I was not prepared to see them casually doing things without a single stitch on! I was surprised and flustered. I did not know what to do, should I try to “blend with the locals” in the public bath (like how some well adjusted foreigners did), or keep my covers and go straight to the sauna?
That was the moment I remembered how I promised to enjoy this trip to the fullest. So I tried the public bath, local style. And I’m glad that I did. The public bath refreshed me after a long flight. I also tried their various saunas, which are awesome! The saunas ranged from super cold, just cool, medium hot, to super hot. My favorite is the Red Clay sauna. It was hot enough to make you sweat in a good way, but not too hot to burn you.
I also went to several beautiful places in Korea. I visited Mount Seorak, a well-known hiking spot covered with snow. Coming from a tropical country, I was really excited to see snow, which was also everywhere when I went to Gangwon-do to visit the Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm. The weather was great so the winter view from the hill was stunning.
Other beautiful places that I visited were Nami Island, Korea Folk Village, and Morning Calm Arboretum. The arboretum was exceptionally beautiful because all the trees had shed their leaves for winter and the staff there has decorated them with various lights. When the sun goes down, the staff turned the lights on. The lights, the decorations, and the snow created an amazing view for us to gaze upon. Everybody wanted to take photos of every corner, so the place was packed, but this is still a must visit destination if you come to South Korea in the winter.
The thing that made me most excited about coming to Korea is the food. I know there are a lot of Korean restaurants in Jakarta, but I wanted to taste the original, the true taste of Korean cuisine, and I wasn’t disappointed at all.
From street foods like tteokbokki, eomuk, and bungeoppang to local delights such as kalguksu, samgyetang, and chimaek, they are all awesome. They all have this balanced flavor in their dish, a taste of sweet, spicy, bitterness, and savory. It’s enough to make my palate dance every time I eat those. Oh, and don’t get me started on the kimchi. I love their radish kimchi that’s very hard to find in Indonesia.
And the verdict is?
My 10-day trip to South Korea was definitely one of the best trips I’ve had so far. I did keep my promise until the end; I enjoyed every single moment to the fullest. I ate and explored the beautiful South Korea, met a lot of nice people along the way, communicated with the locals (with my broken Korean and ability to read hangul), and had a great time along the way. I will definitely be back for a second time, and even a third time, given the chance.
The experience I got from the trip was priceless and I will always thankful for the PDF program that enables me to have this amazing trip.