Without a car, while in Florence, we still made it to Chianti.
The picture perfect Tuscany – the vibrant blue sky with white fluffy clouds, the green vineyard just outside of the window, the hanging grapes and growing tomatoes that’s about to ripe, the Tuscan cypress trees, and the lack of bustle of a city.
I just wished I would have drank more wine…
My family and I stayed at Gyeongju JY Pension for 3 nights in April 2014. We dropped them an email (in English) and received prompt replies (in English).
When we arrived in Gyeongju by bus (we came from Busan), for a small price, Mr Moon was kind enough to pick us up at the bus terminal as we had a few pieces of luggage with us. Along the way, Mr Moon shared with us his experiences and highlighted the main sights to us.
Through the winding roads and mountains, we arrived at his pension. His pension was beautifully stunning, just like the photos on the website. The pension makes a very lovely retreat and countryhouse stay for those who want to visit Gyeongju leisurely.
The pension had a huge garden besides the parking lot, a field for playing badminton, a small pond and fountain outside our room. There was a small pool but the weather was not warm enough to swim. There was a lovely swing that I especially love, or the outdoor seats under the big tree that added nice touch to the pension. Overall, the lovely European design against the mountains makes everything feel more magical. Take a stroll around the big pension and you will find nice little corners – like Mr Moon’s woodcraft area where he made his own furniture, stacks of wood for the fire, little bridge, or the wooden post box.
Our room was big, clean, comfortable, pretty and equipped with what we needed. My parents stayed in the room with a bed – and it came with a view of the lovely garden. My sister and I slept on the mattress in the well heated room. The kitchen was huge and we love hanging around there, eating and talking together.
Out of our 3 nights there, we had BBQ at the pension twice. It was a very lovely experience to just walk out of our room and BBQ. Mr Moon would prepare the grill/charcoal/fire, the meat, and everything else that we needed/ ordered for a small fee. He would give us the vegetables as wraps and mushroom that they grew in the small greenhouse, kimchi and other condiments to go with the meal. We bought Mr Moon and his wife a little gift and in return he gifted us meat and ice cream, and discounted price for our meals. I always wanted to BBQ outside of a restaurant, in a nice mountainous environment, and hence the dinners was one of the memorable moments of our one month holiday in Korea!
Each night, Mr Moon would go through with us on the places that we wanted to visit the following day and advised us on the logistics, restaurants etc. You can either take the public transport, cab or engage Mr Moon’s services. We got Mr Moon to drive us around. His wife was also very kind and helped us collected our clothing (that we hang out to dry) when it rained (and we were out).
On our last day, as one of us was feeling under the weather, we decided to hang around in the pension. It was their gardening day, and Mr Moon and his wife were planting and taking care of their garden. Mr Moon even gave us a plant as a present as he knew my mother is fond of plants/gardening. He also came by asking if we needed medicine, and brought us ginseng tea packs.
We had a wonderful time in Gyeongju and staying in a lovely place with warm hosts plays an important part. My mother would often mention Mr Moon now that we are back to our country.
자연향기펜션 Gyeongju JY Pension
Address: 232-4, Chuwon-gil, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do 경상북도 경주시 추원길 232-4 (황용동)
Telephone: +82-54-777-2882, +82-10-6304-2892
Email: email@example.com (English is ok
Website: http://www.jypension.com (Korean, English)
During the time that I was absent from the blog, I was balancing much of life’s demands (day job included) – researching on my Spring 2015 trip, running errands non-stop, recovering from a carrot-allergies reaction etc. Yes there’s such weird allergies TT Perhaps someday I will write an entry about it, together with everything I learn about coconut oil (my recent research interest area being healthy eating).
Anyway, back to #31KoreanDays, my sister and I spent the night at Silloam Fire Pot Sauna 실로암불가마사우나 (isn’t it a great idea to sleep over at one of the Jimjibang, especially for those short nights?) before heading off in the wee morning to meet our parents in Incheon International Airport. We were slightly late despite taking the first train to the airport. After a quick breakfast at MacDonald, we took the KTX at Seoul Station to Busan (From mid-2014, KTX trains are directly connected to Incheon Airport!).
Upon arriving in Busan (yes Kim Soo-Hyun is everywhere ^^), we took a cab to Tower Hill Busan. We really love everything about the hotel! The 2 double beds took up only half the size of our room (!), leaving us lots of space to open up our luggage, or just walk about without bumping into each other. Except for pensions/guesthouses outside of cities, we never had so much space in city hotels! The toilet even comes with a bathtub. I recalled the hotel is pretty new, and it shows from the facilities. Everything’s new and clean too! It’s a 7-minutes walk to the nearest Metro (Jungang) and near to the usual Busan tourist attractions. In fact, we took most number of cab rides in Busan, since everything is pretty near-by so its more affordable for the 4 of us. Lastly, a common deliberation in where to stay in Busan is this – do I want to stay near the beach (which is about an hour metro ride from the city/everything!) or in the city centre. We only had 4 days in Busan and considering that the weather is too cold to enjoy the beach, in the end we decided to stay in the city.
After checking in, we went to Nampo-dong Lets eat alley / Changseondong Meokja Golmok 남포동 먹자골목 for a quick meal – Dang-myeon 당면, mini kimbabs with odengs, sikhye (not cheap considering everything adds up to 17,000 Won, but we love the food and the experience of eating in a small space), and 씨앗 호떡 Seed Hotteok. We walked around but nothing interest us so we ended up at Lotte Supermarket haha! Love the fresh and cheap strawberries (compared to the prices we pay in Sg!).
(Less than 3 weeks to Korea ^^ and a much- needed haircut, hello!)
Silloam Fire Pot Sauna 실로암불가마사우나 (24 hours)
Seoul Station Line 1, 4 Exit 1 (5 mins walk from the back of Lotte Mart)
The night before our parents arrived from Singapore to meet up with us, my sister and I decided to sleep over in a bathhouse/ jimjibang. This would be one out of two jimjibang experiences that we had during our #31SeoulDays and it’s so fun that I will do it all over again! Jimjibang is a good (and cheap) place to sleepover, especially for short nights where you need to wake up early the following day!
Here’s how it goes:
- Pay the entrance fee (we paid 15,000 Won per pax, as of April 2014) and enter the compound
- Remove your socks and shoes, and keep them in the shoe locker
- There’s also a small area where people leave their luggage there – just make sure you lock yours up!
- Exchange the shoe locker key for a locker key (to put your clothing and stuff) and grab a towel or two, together with your jimjibang set of clothing (the orange set of clothing!)
- Deposit your clothing in the locker; I also had with me my camera , mobile phone and alarm clock in the locker. Wear the locker key as a bracelet
- Since you are not wearing anything at the moment, the very first instinct is get to the bath pools as fast as possible! The bath pools are located in the basement (one flight of stairs down)
- It wasn’t very crowded before 8pm on the Friday night when we were there, but the stream of people entering never seem to stop even till the wee hours
- There are some shelves right outside the entrance of the bath pools – not that it makes a huge difference but you might be glad to know my sister wore her top all the way to the very entrance before removing them (if someone spots you, they might just ask you to remove your clothing anyway). I left my jimjibang set of clothing on one of the shelves
- In the centre of the bath area are individual stations where you can (have to?) shower before entering the pool (I’ve seen many whom scrub themselves clean at the station too)
- If you are shy, just have a quick shower and hide in one of the pools (pick one that you will be comfortable in, based on the displayed temperatures!)
- You can stay there for any amount of time and no one will chase you away. I find this bit the highlight and the entire reason why you came to a jimjibang (other than first timer) because it is most relaxing and enjoyable. Probably good to visit one after a hike too!
- When you are done (some people tried to cover themselves with the towels but I bundled up my hair with them instead), shower (shampoo and shower foam provided) and change into the jimjibang set of clothing
- Dry your hair – you got to pay 200 Won for a couple minutes use of hair dryer (my sister and I shared 600 Won worth of drying)
- Venture upstairs – we were pretty excited at that moment, discovering more of the facilities – various room e.g. soil fermentation room, ice room, jade sweating room, oxygen cave
- If you went with someone of the different gender, it’s this common area that you can meet up with them – watch telly, eat (they sell anything from snacks to a proper meal!) or just hang around
- We decided to sleep in the capsule room (the very last picture) – you can grab one of the clean towels as your bedding/ blanket
- Just take note to bring around your belonging with you – I lost an alarm clock because I had the Singaporean mentality of “choping” (aka reserve, like how we like to reserve tables at hawker centres with a pack of tissue) the capsule with my alarm while my sister and I went out for a walk. It was gone when I came back not long after. It isn’t the price, rather the inconvenience of losing an alarm clock when you are a tourist. I needed the alarm to wake us up on time to grab the first train to Incheon airport to meet our parents
- I didn’t have much sleep (knowing that I’ve to wake up pretty soon) but I think my sister slept well
- I recalled that there’s wifi too but I am not entire sure
- Lastly, I think I fell sick after that night – developed a super duper persistent cough that lasted for more than a week or two. Either I caught a cold or the gems but glad that I was alright after my second jimjibang experience in Busan
Look out for my entry on my second jimjibang experience! It’s a whole new different experience. You totally should visit them if you are ever in Busan:
Spa Land Centum City 스파랜드 센텀시티 (4 hour limit)
Centum City Station Busan Line 2 Exit 12
Other Seoul & Spring entries
(First 4 photos – Namsan 3; Next 5 photos – Namsan 2 with deckered bed; Last 3 photos – Namsan 2 with mattress on the floor)
In Seoul, my sister and I stayed at both Namsan Guesthouse 2 and 3 (next to each other).
Namsan Guesthouse 3 is the newer addition to Namsan’s – recalled that the rooms in Namsan 3 are slightly more expensive than Namsan 2, NG3 is equipped with an elevator, has a bigger common pantry area (that sort of double up as luggage storage space, while luggage storage in NG2 is sheltered outdoor area), and offers bottled water in your room. Both Guesthouses have Skype Phone, which is a blessing for people who need to call back office (yah @@ to fix my laptop that couldn’t seem to login).
We stayed in NG3 for a night (with mattress on the floor), and spent most of the remaining 2 weeks in Seoul in NG2 (ground-floor room next to reception area with double decker bed, though we had a night or two at a 2nd floor room meant for 3, with mattress). All are nothing to shout about – a reasonable, budget private room with private toilet. Do expect the room to be typically small, but it’s equipped with a TV (where we often caught our favourite variety/music shows and dramas!) and hairdryer. I will appreciate a mini fridge, but then again that would be picking bones from egg considering the price we paid. Since it’s summer days, strawberries and makgeolli are fine without refrigeration.
The most attractive point of NG2 and NG3 is the location – it’s so easy/convenient to return to our room, put down our purchases and zoom out for another round of eating/buying. Cannot be happier that our room is within walking distances to the streets where we spent most of our time.
Of course in recent years, there are nicer, more conducive guesthouses popping up in other areas but then again that’s if you want to live away from Myeongdong. It would have been nice if some of these are located around the Myeongdong area (perhaps airbnb will have some offerings).
Lastly, while sometimes noise level could be higher than ideal (but it’s not crazy) when we were staying in ground-floor room next to the common area in NG2, what happened on the last day while we were checking out seal the deal – that if I have to stay in Myeongdong on a budget, unless I find something more competitively price, NG2 is my default place to stay in. We had heavy luggage (2 big and 3 small?) and one of their staff offered to drop us at where we wanted to go when he was leaving, even carrying the luggage to his car. ^^ It wasn’t expected and we were freaking out on how the two of us can move 5 pieces of luggage (dont ask why so many!) even an inch. Of course we could have gotten a cab but that kind gesture when someone offered to help you is what makes the difference.
I came home just in time to see – Team Singapore entered the 2014 Incheon Asian Games Opening Ceremony, JYJ sang “Only One”, Lee Young-ae recieved the sacred flame, South Korea President declared open the games, PSY danced to his famous “Gangnam Style” and the fireworks lit the skies of Incheon. I was really excited considering I spent a good five months writing and promoting the IAG.
And of course, one of the IAG honorary ambassadors JYJ’s Junsu’s Jeju Toscana Hotel is also finally opening on 25 September 2014. I actually didn’t know Jeju Toscana Hotel is just 10-15 minutes walk from Memory in Jeju Pension, where my family and I stayed previously!
If you read my entry on Memory in Jeju Pension (here!), you probably can guess that Memory in Jeju Pension is one of those places that I will keep going back to stay. Compared to hotel chains, I find it more value for money, since we spent a good portion of our days outside. My family and I enjoyed the conducive environment where you can feel the sunshine, breathe in the greenery and the beach’s not far away. It also has this personal touch that we really appreciate – from the architecture perspective, as well as service. Rather than being one of the many tourists, it makes you feel comfortable as if you are settling down in a new home, and with a friend next door to help you whenever you need to. The Pension is well equipped, so most often you hardly need anything other than travel information that Darcy will patiently plan for you. One of these days I am going back to Memory in Jeju Pension. Probably soon?
Ah, now you can always stay over at the beautiful Memory in Jeju Pension and walk over to JYJ Junsu’s Jeju Toscana Hotel ^^*
That’s Jeju Toscana Hotel
and Memory in Jeju Pension…
JYJ Junsu’s Jeju Toscana Hotel – Website
(Photo with Pension owner) Just a quick post – I’ve previously written about Hwayapyeong Pension, Gurye (here) and finally my Tripadvisor review of it has been posted ^^ It took a while since the pension was not previously listed on Tripadvisor. But I am really happy to see it posted.
Read more about my days in Gurye here
[Updated] 화야평 Hwayapyung (Gurye): comfortable, makes you feel that home is up there on the mountains through the winding roads,
and not forgetting the pension owner who will put you at ease, get off his car mid-way back to the Pension to switch on the signal lights and fetch you even when he’s having a flu.
Those days at the Pension, whereby we added the 5th night spontaneously, were days when I felt relaxed, and not fuss over what time exactly to wake up or move off, because things would just naturally happen even without a plan. There is no city lights or noise, the air’s crispy and we would often wake up before the alarm does its job, have our breakfast (usually kimbap, pajeon or instant mee) and find the pension owner ready to fetch us to the bus stop. Like how after the first night sleep we had one of the best days of our #31KoreaDays- starting from the long wait for village bus, to be invited to share a cab with fellow travelers, meeting father Harry and off to Gwangyang, then meeting JY and friends for the Sansuyou Festival and dining together (if not because the Pension was full and didn’t have extra mattresses, we would share our room with them).
The other staff are equally friendly and helpful, and I cannot think of anything that we need that the Pension hasn’t catered for. I am starting to think, because of the positive experiences thus far, that it will give me more confidence in finding a place to stay (how about not finding one in advance!), after 44 days cumulatively in Korea already.
On the day that we checked out, the owner drove us to the terminal. Along the way he tried numerous times to get me to pronounce 꽃 accurately, that I suspect it was because of this that I can instantly recognise the word now.
And, he left us with the most touching words he ever spoke to us, before turning around and left.
It is this kind of warmth and environment/wildness that I yearn for, and keep wanting more of.
… [to be continued]
Gurye Hwayapyung Pension
Address: 전남 구례군 산동면 좌사리 541-3, #541-3, Jwasari, Sandong- myeon, Gurye-gun, Jeonnam
Telephone: 010-9221-7507, 061-783-7800
Website (in Korean; but you can look at the photos on their brand new website, which reflect how the pension looks like), description on VisitKorea (English), my review on tripadvisor
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (simple english works!)
Facilities: We stayed in a double bed room, with an attached bathroom, TV, refigerator, hair dryer, bathtub and internet cable. You need to check if there is wifi, which is rare in Gurye.