I had been to Korea once before, but this time when I returned, I experienced a different side of Korea, and of traveling.
The first experience was doing Fajr prayers on the plane. Having only been told briefly before on what to do, it never occurred to me to watch at least some youtube videos on how prayers should be done in the plane. It was kind of my fault for not having researched it earlier. Luckily, there was a Malay guy (ok, I assumed he was Muslim as well anyway) sitting in the same row as me, so I half expected that he would be doing Fajr and I could see how it was done.
So I waited.
I forgot to change my location settings on my phone.
and when I saw the sun before the alarm for Fajr came, I realized my mistake, and I realized that the guy wasn't gonna pray.
Lesson learnt: never ever rely on others but yourself. Also, remember to change location settings in phone.
My train ride from Busan to Seoul took a whopping 5 hours (all for the sake of saving some cash), and I somehow had this misconception that I can only pray the Qasr Salah (traveller's prayer) on the plane and not in any other moving object, like the train (you can!!!). So I decided to immediately go to the one and only masjid in Seoul once I reached. After all, I'd reach well before 5pm, just enough time before Mahgrib.
But I didn't factor in the possibility of delays or getting lost, or people taking really long doing wudu in the only toilet available. Which all happened. And I ended up missing the prayer time altogether. Astaghfirullah. :(
Lesson learnt: Don't leave everything to the last minute! >:(
But always being on the alert of the time for prayers really makes one remember Allah at every part of the day, even more so while traveling. And this trip was made a wholesomely more enriching one because I realized I became more thankful for the small things, like--
- Seeing snow fall from the sky for the first time in my life (it was a brief moment, but I ran out to catch some before my hands got too cold).
- Drinking cold, fresh mountain spring water from a well in the middle of a 1000-year old temple, Subhan'Allah!
- Doing wudu, and praying in the midst of Allah's beautiful Creations of Nature. Who cares about the cold!
- Finding a lone halal kebab pushcart in the middle of Myeongdong's busy streets (just at the moment I was about to give up and eat at the assumed-to-be-halal McDonalds), Allahu Akbar!
- Having accommodating friends who'd especially look for seafood/pork-less restaurants to eat in (You can't imagine what a challenge that was, even KFC had pork!)
- Meeting and making friends with other Muslims when your ticket refuses to let you out of the subway gantry. That's when you really see that "Assalamu alaikum" really links Muslims together no matter where they are.
وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَا نُكَلِّفُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا أُولَٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ ۖ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ
"As for those who believe and do good deeds - We never burden a soul with more than it can bear - they are worthy of Paradise, wherein they will live forever." (Surat al-A'raf, 42)