Gyeongju & Spring 2014

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Gyeongju: Bulguksa Temple & flowers; Cheomseongdae Observatory

Some Korea friends I met during my 2015 trip to Jeju told me that cherry blossoms in Gyeongju is really beautiful. Gyeongju flowers don’t seem huge on the radar of Spring flowers but thinking back, I can agree with them. I was so excited to see pink, fully bloomed flowers (my favourite colour!), plus there weren’t all the buzz and traffic usually associated with flower festivals. Instead, it was all peaceful and calm that it’s easy to forget you aren’t really living there.

We didn’t have much time to appreciate the flowers since it was way past lunch time and we were all hungry. It was a pity that we weren’t too impressed with our lunch choice – some traditional korean food off the beaten paths. For dinner, we had mushroom and tofu stew. We love soups and stews – but the best mushroom stew has to be the one we had in Gurye earlier the trip.

Seeing these photos bring back such lovely memories.. I’m 6 weeks on my new role (in the same company) and man, I feel that, for once, I wasn’t living in my little-Korea-bubble, but in this almost-isolated space that lost tracks of everything that’s happening around me.

No I am not counting. 5 weeks to Bali; 14 weeks to Bangkok. A long way before Christmas.

Beautiful memories at 자연향기펜션 Gyeongju JY Pension

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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.

~ Details
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: jypension1@gmail.com (English is ok
Website: http://www.jypension.com (Korean, English)

More details and directions on KTO website here
My review on tripadvisor

BUSAN & SPRING 2014 (PART 4)

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Other places of interest in Busan that we visited include: Bujeon Ginseng Market (there’s nothing much unless you are intending to buy lots of Ginseng product), Haeundae Beach, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple and Gwangalli Beach (the last 3 doable all on the same day!).

Oh and see that pink flower-y cake? I saw a few Koreans bought that for parents’ day and posted the photos in Instagram.

 

BUSAN & SPRING 2014 (PART 3)

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People sometimes like to compare Busan to Seoul, something like how Madrid is compared to Barcelona in that sense. To me, Seoul is convenient since international flights would arrive in and depart from Seoul, hence it’s definitely a place that you will spend a few days in. Also it really does have pretty much everything you need, whether it’s food, shopping, palaces or even hiking. Though increasingly we are spending more days outside of Seoul, for there’s just so much other things to do/see e.g. mountains/ sea/ countryside/ islands!

Prior to Busan, I’ve never been to a fish market in Korea. Hence, going to Busan Jagalchi Fish Market was one of the highlights for me. Another place that I was looking forward to was Gamcheon Culture Village (though I think I might have confused it with the one in Tongyeong where Nice Guy was being filmed!).

After our brief stay in Busan, I realised I love Busan for its local specialty, shopping and Spa Land Centum City (read about it here)!

My sister definitely loves Busan street food (Hotteok!) while I love Dwaeji Gukbap/ pork rice soup (if anyone knows of a delicious place in Seoul for Dwaeji Gukbap, please share!). As for visiting and eating at Jalgachi Fish Market, I thought its a nice first experience for us. Despite prior research, it was still slightly stressful, especially when we feel bad “browsing” the seafood and taking too long to decide what fish/ seafood to get, and at what price. The maeuntang/ spicy fish soup with vegetables was super delicious, but after my 2015 trip I realised having it non-spicy can be just as/ more delicious!

In terms of shopping, Happydalki and I recently discussed that somehow sometimes Busan shopping is much better than in Seoul ^^ and I think it is because the brands in Busan seem to carry a larger variety, and the prices are lower/ promotion is better. However this could also be a timing issue – that I happened to be in Busan at the right time!

 

 

 

Happy stay with 통영 해피홈게스트하우스 Tongyeong Happyhome guesthouse

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Back when I first read about Tongyeong, its islands and its beauty, I knew it will be a place that I like. So I cannot be happier when I’ve the chance to visit Tongyeong!

This post will first introduce you to the wonderful Tongyeong guesthouse that I stayed at. (yes I will continue to blog about my trip to Korea in 2014 as well as 2015)

Among the various accommodations for this trip, Tyhappyhome is my favourite! On my last day in Tongyeong, when Mrs Ha (guesthouse owner) sent me to the bus stop and onboard the bus, I was all but in tears. I still berated myself for not reacting fast enough to bid my last goodbye to her as I struggled with my luggage and coins to pay for the bus fares. Some farewells are harder than others – and I think it is because you don’t know when/if you will ever see each other again.

2 minutes walk from Tyhappyhome, you will get to 2 bus stops. One of which gets you to Tongyeong Bus Terminal in about 15 – 20 minutes; and the other gets you to downtown in about 10- 15 minutes (where the port and ferry terminal are located). Within the vicinity, there is also a convenience store, cafe and some eateries. About 8 minutes walk away, there is a Lotte Mart and post office.

My room, for 3 nights, on Level 5 came with an attached bathroom. The guesthouse has everything that you need – ondol, free wifi, TV, refrigerator and hairdryer in the spacious room, shower and shampoo in the bathroom, water cooler and microwave in the common area. Anytime, you can grab an umbrella should you need one. There is also an elevator, which means you don’t have to climb more stairs after a long day of sightseeing nor struggle with your luggage up the stairs. Because the room is clean, nicely decorated and quiet, I rested well each night when I was there. The photos of the guesthouse and its rooms pretty much reflects the reality (see photos here!)- even the corridor is brightly decorated, making you feel welcomed in Tongyeong.

The major reason why I decided to stay with Tyhappyhome is because Jinmi (the daughter of the guesthouse owners) speaks and writes good English. This is somehow more of a concern to me when picking accommodation in Tongyeong because I plan to visit islands off Tongyeong and with infrequent ferry timings to these islands, the last thing I want is to get stuck on some islands! Tongyeong is also a small town and it might be more challenging to find someone fluent in English/ Chinese, as what we might be used to in Seoul. Beyond that, Jinmi has also been very helpful to me from the moment I made reservations till I left Tyhappyhome. She provided me all the information on their location, directions to various places and facilities, and always replying to my many questions. Prior to arriving, she also asked for my itinerary, and advised me on the logistics. Because of her help, despite arriving in Tongyeong after a four-hour bus ride from Seoul, I could drop my luggage, grab lunch and quickly catch a ferry to Jasangdo ^^ In fact, each night she would help me with my itinerary for the next day, e.g. help me plan what time I should leave the guesthouse and which ferry to take, and where to find the local dishes that I want to try. All these despite the fact that she has a day job and attends night classes on some evenings. One of the nights that she came by, she also brought along treats of homemade cookies, sweet rice drink and yakult ^^ and we chatted about our lives. So I never felt too lonely despite being alone.

While Mr and Mrs Ha don’t speak much English, they had been very helpful, friendly and caring, especially after knowing I was travelling on my own. On my last night, when I approached them for some toiletries, Mrs Ha invited me to sit down with them for some drinks and pajeon – the pajeon is not what I am familiar with as it was coated with sugar.

The morning that I was leaving Tongyeong, Mrs Ha invited me to join them for breakfast, which comprised of different stews, variety of side dishes with beans rice and fruits ^^ I felt warmth and cared for despite being away from home. Then I went off to take a walk at the harbor before returning to the guesthouse to grab my luggage and make my way to the bus terminal. When I was back from my walk, knowing that I am super afraid of cold, she again sat me down at the warmest part of the ondol in her house and made me a warm, nutty drink. She asked me to bring along an umbrella but I was too thankful/grateful of her kindness and told her that I wouldn’t need one. When it was time to leave, she helped me with my luggage, walked me to the bus stop, and sent me off. I felt apologetic that I missed out on the last farewell, but as the bus sped away and after she was long out of sight, I burst out in tears, wishing I have another day or so with the Ha family.

You would know from this post (here!) that thereafter I was sick and hospitalised. At the hospital, I contemplated on going back to Tyhappyhome to rest and recover, especially when the Hadong guesthouse that I was supposed to stay with (which I paid in advanced TT) wasn’t in any way encouraging despite being informed of my condition. In the end the decision was to depart Korea earlier than my plan.

I have lovely memories of Tongyeong and its islands (I will share more in my future posts!) as well as the memorable times in Tyhappyhome. If I am ever going back, which I hope to, I will stay with them again. If you are planning to visit Tongyeong, do check out Tyhappyhome and help me say Hi to Jinmi and her parents (:

(My post is in no way sponsored.)

Details~
통영 해피홈게스트하우스 Tongyeong Happyhome Guesthouse
Address: 경상남도 통영시 안개4길 11-26 (무전동) 11-26, Angae 4-gil, Tongyeong-si, Gyeongsangnam-do
Telephone: 612-07-15227, or (from Sg) +82-10-2004-0516
Email: tyhappyhome@naver.com (English and Korean)
Website: http://tyhappyhome.blog.me/
Photos of the rooms: http://ty.guidein.net/cyber/main.php?num=186
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tyhappyhome
Nearest bus stop to Tongyeong Terminal/ downtown: 2 mins walk, across the street from each other
To Tongyeong Terminal: 15 – 20 mins by bus
To downtown: 10 – 15 mins by bus
Other nearby facilities: convenience store, cafe and some eateries (2 mins walk), Lotte Mart and post office (8 mins walk)

Sick overseas

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In my most recent 2015 Spring trip to Korea, I was sick – in fact, I was sent to the hospital via an ambulance and hospitalised for a night TT

It happened on 1st April 2015, when I was travelling from Tongyeong to Hadong. On one of the bus rides, after having a packed strawberry cream sandwich (which I did find it too creamy), I vomited three bags of everything-I-had-since-morning. And that was the day that I was especially blessed to have been invited by the guesthouse owners to join them for their breakfast, consisting of rice, various soup, side dishes and fruits TT

So by the time I arrived at the bus terminal, I was sick and extremely cold (as you know I am extremely sensitive to cold; in fact before this episode I was briefly down with fever but after a bowl of ginseng chicken, self medication and lots of sleep, I recovered). I cannot quite remember what happened exactly but at some point I was in such pain that I was unable to stand straight. A fellow passenger asked where I was heading to (I was heading to my guesthouse) and suggested that I get to a clinic or hospital as medical support would be further from the guesthouse should I later require them. Freezing, in tears (due to the pain?) and confused, I asked for some warm water and I was left alone there, presumably the fellow folks went to get an ambulance.

Not long later, the medical staff arrived and asked if I want to be sent to the hospital, which I agreed. At the hospital, it took some time for things to be sorted out. Meanwhile I was lying on the bed in ER and put on a drip, which I later asked and understood it was painkiller. Not long later, the doctor came around to check where I was in pain (I was in pain everywhere? haha).

To cut the story short, everyone in the hospital barely spoke any English. But thankfully to two Korean friends who spoke English (thanks to Stew who called the hospital to speak to the doctor and Prof BS who also spoke to the doctor), my poor command of Korean, and Google Translate, the situation was better managed. I was told that I had enteritis (I don’t know what it was at that time as wifi was slow haha), or inflammation of small intestines. I didn’t think it was just food poisoning since I was in pain all over. I was also freezing – despite five layers of clothing, being under two blankets and on a heated bed. There was also no public transport by then so discharged was decided for next morning. I was also hungry but I was told I cannot eat and later there wasn’t food in the hospital (by then it was 3 am).

I hardly slept since somewhere somehow I was always in pain (and cold). Also, since I was in ER, every other interval someone would be wheeled into ER, usually an elderly who fell and once a drunk ahjussi who hurt his foot (and he couldn’t stop arguing with the nurse). Going to the washroom was also a tedious task – I had to wheel the drip stand along with me.

All through the night, I had five drips – painkiller, something to bring down the fever and glucose. By the following morning, I painstakingly finished a plain bowl of porridge then felt the rumbling of stomach. Like the previous time I prepared the bags and vomited everything again. By then I also decided to depart Korea earlier. All I wanted was to go home (to a large extent not knowing how long my condition will last and how serious it was; and it was definitely discouraging when the guesthouse owner whom I was supposed to stay with for the next few days didn’t sound in any way helpful after being informed of my condition. Perhaps she was occupied but from the viewpoint of a female sole traveller who was sick and hospitalised, I think you can understand how confused/ lost I might be).

I was full of will (haha) and energy when my sister informed me that she has managed to change my air ticket back home. A pastor who sent a fellow church member to the hospital helped me with the procedures to discharge and even gave me a ride to the bus terminal. I took a 4 hour bus ride (thankful I slept much better on the bus) back to Seoul. Had dinner and vomited again. I decided no more meals for a while – save all the trouble of vomiting! The next morning I rushed to pack everything and couldn’t be happier to reach the airport. The dinner on the plane was the first I had that I didn’t vomit. In fact I must have been somehow dehydrated from not drinking for 2 days @@ Everything got better by the time I was back home (read: warm weather!).

Of course I did think if the decision to come home early (or even to be hospitalised) was too dramatic but under that circumstances of being (alone and) sick, frozen and confused, that decision was made. And some lessons distilled from this episode..

1. Avoid being hospitalised haha (obviously it disrupts your plans)
2. But if you are, it is always a blessing to have local friends who are ever so helpful and caring. As I have a few friends to meet up, over the days and even when I was back home, everyone has been so concerned about my condition and offered to help.
3. Having internet access and having purchased travel/medical insurance are certainly useful.
4. Speaking some local language will come in handy but otherwise use Google Translate.
5. Adequately pack the mediation you bring along when you are overseas – in fact my list is ever increasing, e.g. cough medicine when I don’t even usually cough back home (due to the stubborn cough I had during my #31KoreanDays).
6. For me, heattech works well only in Singapore haha though I was later told wearing two layers of them might work (will try next time!)
7. It’s a blessing to take warm and long showers back home. Even when I was well, when I am overseas, I only take quick showers for fear that I would catch a cold.

It must have been an unforgettable experience for me and for awhile maybe no more of Korea in Spring or Autumn but Summers haha!

(Yes I hadn’t completed my #31KoreanDays entries, and this is my 100th post on this blog!)

Busan & Spring 2014 (Part 2)

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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!)

Busan Spa Land Centum City

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We didn’t hit the Jimjibang the first thing we arrived in Busan (via the KTX), but since the last I shared about #31KoreanDays was our experience in Seoul Siloam jimjibang (read here), I decided to talk about our experiences in Busan Spa Land Centum City 스파랜드 센텀시티 ahead of the other Busan posts.

It being our second experience in the jimjibang (my parents’ first!), we sort of expected what to do. Its pretty much the same as what I shared earlier. But Busan Spa Land is newer, and thus makes the whole experience more comfortable and relaxing. We went on a Tuesday evening and it wasn’t too crowded as well. There are various saunas rooms to visit, which is really fun – though I didn’t spend much time in the cold ones.

You got to note that there is a 4-hour limit, so unlike other jimjibang where you can sleep over for a night, you can’t do so here. I also find myself torn between spending more time in the bath pool or in the various saunas rooms (I definitely can stand/ enjoy being in the super hot rooms).

We also managed to grab some snacks – eggs and patbingsu (despite my persistently stubborn cough) to share. I thought my cough would stop after being in the saunas (with all the sweating) but it didn’t happen.

If you visit Busan, I would highly recommend you to enjoy the Spa Land! I’ll grab the chance to visit them again the next time^^

(I read that foreigners get to enjoy some discounts from the entrance fee but was told there wasn’t true when I was there. The discount might have expired but if anyone know otherwise, do share with us!)

Details~
Read more about #31KoreanDays here

Bangkok Christmas 2014

As I mentioned in my previous post (on Mandarin Oriental Bangkok), I don’t have much free time in Bangkok, so that’s pretty much what I managed to squeeze in:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESTailored two blouses for my grandmother (you can read my review here) ^^

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMy first meal in Bangkok – A&W, pretty much a Singaporean thing. For those who might not be familiar, we used to have A&W in Singapore (I probably love that more than Mac?) until they left our shores! We may have our favourite fried chicken stores to go to now, but this is nostalgic!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESChristmas at Central World – snoopy!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDuring a cruise (part of work though)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDinner at Platinum Fashion Mall food court – northern Thai style curry noodles, Tom yam noodles soup, pad thai and green papaya salad, all for only S$10. Yummy! Thanks to fellow delegates who treated us while we (sort of) brought them around. For those planning to shop at Platinum Fashion Mall, do note that they really close at 8pm. All in all, I only had 20 minutes on my last day to shop there (it wasn’t even shopping! All I did was walk continuously and “scanned” the shops, but I did get myself 3 dresses, so the 25 minutes walk from the nearest subway (one way!) was worth it @@ )

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter the massive breakfast buffet, glad we still managed to have this for lunch on the last day before rushing back to our hotel to get our luggage. It’s probably braised pork noodles soup, served under the subway no less – appreciated this compared to all the richness we had over the last few days.

So yap, while I didn’t have much chances to eat local food, it was a fulfilling trip. I was so tired that I slept on the flight back (:

Note: I’ve been really slow on my #31KoreanDays (2014), thinking that since I wouldn’t be back in Korea so soon, I can pace my updates. Haha, but guess I am going back to Korea for Spring 2015 ^^ I will try to keep up with the updates, though I am running behind the entire idea of at-least-one-post-per-week.