A group of eight of us assembled at KLIA check-in counter on Saturday night of 11 October 2014. Altogether there were nine people but Mr. Wong Vui Yin flew direct to Incheon Airport from Kota Kinabalu. He will meet us at Incheon airport. We were denied a group check-in because we had less than 10 people in our group so with the help of our agent, Mr. James Lee, we tried to do self check-in at the MAS kiosk. However, we had difficulty doing the self check-in so we had to get the MAS staff on duty at the check-in counter to do all the check-in for us. Some were waiting for us at counter L16 for the group check-in and thanks to the whatsapp group that I had created it was easy to redirect them to Counter E with just one message to the OCLC JEJU group whatsapp. Once that was settled all of us proceeded to the Immigration counter and then boarded the aero train to Gate C.
It was a fairly smooth flight and alhamdullilah we touched down at Incheon international airport at 7.10 am on Sunday morning of 12 October 2014. After collecting our luggage we straight away head for the exit hoping to see our local tourist guide and Mr Wong. As we came out I could see Mr. Wong busy talking to a big size man which I had presumed to be our local tourist guide. He introduced himself as Mr. Louis, the friendly local Korean guide. We were taken to our mini bus and the weather was great and the temperature was about 20 degrees Celsius. Our first destination is the Korean National Folk Museum and Gyeongbokgung Palace. The journey was going to take about an hour so along the way Louis was giving us a narration of the history of Korea. Everyone was excited when we arrived at our destination and to start our tour though for some of us this is not the first time. I remember very well when I came for IFLA in Seoul in 2006. That was my first trip to Seoul and was equally excited when we were taken for a tour of the National Folk Museum and Gyeongbokgung Palace at that time. The sun was shining brightly and before we entered the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Louis pointed out to us the persimmon tree which was full of fruits. When I was in Guilin last year I saw a lot of persimmon trees but never had the chance to take a close-up photo of the trese so you can imagine my excitement of being able to take a photo at close range. The sun was shining very brightly and we were feeling quite hot by the time we finished the tour and was so happy to be back on our mini bus for the cool air conditioning. Much to our surprise we were treated to a melon stick ice cream courtesy of Datin Diana. I have never tested a nice melon ice cream before and everyone was enjoying that on the bus. Our next destination is Halal lunch within the Itaewon area. By then we were so hungry and looked forward to that. After the sumptuous buffet lunch many of us proceeded uphill on foot to the only mosque in Seoul to pray.
After prayers we headed to Gimpo airport where we had to take a domestic flight to Jeju. Much to our surprise Louis followed us to Jeju. There was a slight problem when checking in for Norliza Nordin because her name was not in the system. The local agent had apparently made a mistake by entering Datin Nordiana Muhidin’s name twice in the system. I told Louis they probably got the names mixed up but eventually all was settled and we board a local flight by JinAir at about 4.25 pm. after the flight was delayed for an hour. We landed at 5.25 pm and headed for the Jeju Grand Hotel, our hotel for our entire stay in Jeju. While Louis did the check-in for our rooms Datin did us a favour and went to register for the OCLC conference and collected our conference bags. The organiser had changed the conference venue from Jeju National University to the Jeju Grand Hotel and we were very happy as it would be very convenient for us. Once we got our room keys we said goodbye to Louis who was flying back to Seoul that night. Once settled in, we retired early to get ourselves ready for the conference the next day. The first day of the conference was time for networking and we were busy exchanging name cards with our Korean friends from the National Korean University during tea breaks. Our Halal lunch had been arranged specially for the Malaysian group and 2 librarians from Indonesia in the Azaria restaurant. The first day presentation ended early so at about 3.30pm we boarded our respective buses for a visit to the Jeju National University Library and Museum. When we visited the Museum, we came across this dark stone statue which is a symbol to JeJu Island. Aripah and I wasted no time trying to capture this great moment with our new found friend. By the time we got back to our hotel it was almost 6 pm and since we had an hour before the conference dinner we decided to freshen up by going up to our room for a change of clothes. Much to our delight there was a Halal corner for us but that did not stop some of us wandering to the other buffet tables where they discovered prawns and crabs were being served. While we were having our dinner we were entertained to a cultural show of the famous drum assemble and dances such as the fan dance and the ribbon dance. Truly entertaining and mesmerising!
The next day, the second day of the conference during the tea break, apart from taking the opportunity to take pictures with our Korean friends I asked one of the librarian what is the name of the statue of the black stone that is so symbolic of Jeju. It is called Dol Hareubang. Dol means stone and Hareubang means Grandfather , in other word it means grandfather’s rock or statue.
At the end of the conference it was announced that the next host for OCLC 2015 is Melbourne, Australia. There was no dinner for the second day so Datin had suggested we all go to a sea food restaurant. She had asked the hotel for advice and wrote the address for the taxis to take us. The restaurant is called Shabu-Shabu. Sounds familiar? The owner speaks good English and was very friendly indeed. We decided on seafood steamboat. The company and the wonderful menus made that dinner a wonderful memory.
We had to retire early for the night because a local tour guide was meeting us at 8 am the next morning and therefore we need to have our breakfast early and check out before 8 am. Our local Jeju tour guide’s name is Ang and met us in the lobby of the hotel. I had asked him where he will be taking us. Ang replied “Up to see the Pig and Pork land”. Can you imagine the horror on my face and I quickly said No, No Pig and no Pork. Actually it was his pronounciation that got me worried. He meant going up the Peak and Folklore village. All of us started laughing after we knew what the mistake was all about. After making sure our luggage is loaded on the bus we started our Jeju tour by heading to the Mysterious Road. The journey took an hour and because all of us were still sleepy we decided to catch up with our sleep on the way. When we got to the Mysterious Road, the bus driver switched off the engine and the bus moved by itself for about 500 metres. The Jeju people believed the strange phenomena has got something to do with the Halla mountain. Next, we headed towards the Seongsan Ilchulbong mountain which literally means sunrise peak which is 180 metre high but with very well laid steps to ascend and descend making it an easy climb for tourists. Only four of us made to the top, i.e. Wong, Zawawi, Sabri and I was the only lady. The view up there was breath taking but it was hot as the sun was shining down on us. From there we were taken to visit the Songup Folklore village as the last stop before our flight to Seoul. We were given a briefing by a local guide who mentioned there are three “No” in Jeju. There three are: No gate, no thief and no beggar. In Jeju there are more women than man, a lot of wind and a lot of black stone. We were told the oldest sea woman (who dives without an oxygen mask) is 92 years old. They are strong because they take the bones of the Jeju pony which is well known in Jeju for its strength. Once we completed the tour, we were taken to the airport to catch our flight to Seoul. We bid farewell to Jeju Island. It was certainly a wonderful stay at Jeju Grand Hotel and we learned a lot of new things during the conference.
When we exit the arrival hall at Gimpo, our friendly Korean guide, Louis was waiting for us. It was almost 3 pm and we were feeling very hungry. I told Louis we better stop for takeaway of fast food to save time. We were required to visit an amethyst factory, cosmetic shop and the ginseng shop and therefore time was really limited. We bought shrimp burgers and fries for everyone and ate our so called late lunch on the bus on the way to the amethyst factory. A few of us bought some amethyst rings and pendants. Since I was wearing my clove amethyst bracelet bought from that factory way back in 2006, the shop assistant insisted to have mine polished. From there we went to the cosmetic shop which was supposed to be famous among the Japanese and Chinese tourist. Our last stop was a ginseng shop and by then it was already dark even though it was only 6.30 pm. After that we were taken to a Turkish restaurant near the mosque in Itaewon for our dinner which consists of chicken kebabs, lamb stew and rice. It was a very nice change of menu and goes well with everyone. By the time we finished dinner it was almost 8.30 pm and Louis said he will take us to Dotta in Dongdaemun market. It is actually a night market which stays open till 5am. Dotta is actually an eight floor building where we can shop for Korean souvenirs and brooches but nothing is comparable to Namdaemun market. We could not go to Namdaemun because it closes at 7 pm. We were given up to 10.30 pm before we board the bus back to Capital Hotel in Itaewon. Once in our room it is time to start packing because after breakfast we will be taken to the airport for our return flight home. Alhamdullilah another smooth flight back and we arrived at KLIA at 4.35 pm on Thursday of the 16 October 2014. All in all we had a great conference and enjoyed our stay in Jeju and Seoul and what is most important we had bonded as a group by exchanging photos of the times in Jeju and Seoul via our group’s whatsapp.