Busan / Seoul 2017 – Day 5

This day started with a jump, literally. We were supposed to take the 11am KTX train from Busan to Seoul, and we overslept and only woke up at 9.45am with our luggages unpacked. Luckily our hotel was relatively near the Busan station so we managed to reach there around 10.30am, giving us enough time to exchange for our train tickets and grab some breakfast and snacks for the train ride.

There are quite a few fast food outlets, bakeries and convenience stores at the station but I had wanted something easy to eat so we got ourselves some drinks and onigiri. Time passed by quite quickly on the train (and there were also some other Singaporeans in the same cabin as us!).

Our choice of hotel for Seoul was Daeyoung Hotel Seoul, with the nearest train station being Hoehyeon. It is within reasonable walking distance to Myeongdong and approximately 20 minute walk to Seoul station. The room itself was quite small for 2 people with 2 large luggages and 2 cabin luggages. We had to ‘play Tetris’ whenever we wanted to retrieve something out from our luggages or to keep our shopping.

However, I’d like to highlight that the room and service was really top notch for the price we are paying. Breakfast is included in the price and while you don’t get extensive breakfast buffets like in 5-star hotels, you do get a variety of Korean cup noodles, freshly steamed sweet potatoes, fresh fruits, the usual cereals and instant coffee and tea.

I didn’t buy a lot of stuff from Busan as I didn’t want to carry them in the heavy luggage to Seoul, so I was more than ready to start shopping when I arrived in Seoul. On hindsight, it was really a blessing that I didn’t shop that much in Busan because the Hoehyeon train station did not have many escalators and lifts therefore we had to carry our luggages up the many flights of stairs. So damn heavy and tiring.

Anyway, first stop of the day was Shinsegae shopping mall where I stocked up on my Zymogen skincare products. It wasn’t any much cheaper than ordering from Jolse since strangely enough, the mall charged in USD instead of KRW.

Oh, and if you dislike Chinese tourist crowds, please avoid this mall. Sorry to say this, but I usually avoid Chinese tour groups because they talk extremely loud, they don’t queue and they purchase in bulk so you might run into an ‘out of stock’ situation if you’re making your purchase after them. Free and easy travellers are fine though, they are usually nice and not too rowdy.

While walking towards Myeongdong after Shinsegae, we came across yet another outlet of the Ddo-Ah bakery so we bought the chestnut variant and the red bean cream cheese. Both were awesome – soft, fluffy and chockful of toppings!

It was Christmas eve when we arrived in Seoul and there were so many activities going on! Lots of families and couples out on the streets taking photos and lots of church bands and groups carolling. The light displays are on par with Singapore, but I think the cold temperatures pushed Seoul into the winning spot.

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The crowds were crazy at Myeongdong as usual. Lots of tourists, lots of sales promoters standing outside their shops, trying to lure you in with one measly sample. It used to be better (as in more samples haha) but now they realise that they don’t need to offer as many samples and they can still get the sales in Myeongdong. Other outlets outside Myeongdong and the tourist spots do offer you a better deal though (for example, I got a really good deal for The Face Shop peeling foot masks in Busan).

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Though I’m usually a fan of Skin Food egg white pore packs, I get really annoyed that they combine the nose pack and the forehead/jaw pack together in a box because the nose pack is really good while the forehead/jaw one is just mediocre. Instead, I stocked up on some pore packs from Holika Holika this time since they also have great reviews. Funnily, the name of the product isn’t that appealing at all.

Mediheal happened to have a 1+1 sale event that day, so I took the opportunity to purchase some sheet masks for myself and my friend. I didn’t get that many for myself as I know that I tend to be greedy during such sales events and I’ll end up with many unused products 3 years later. Case in point: I still have a huge packet of 50 whitening sheet masks that I bought during my Japan trip in 2016. Glad to say that, I’ve finished the masks that I got from this trip within 4 months, and now I’m finally using the Japanese masks. I’m really diligent in running down my supplies now that I have to start preparing my move back home!!

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For dinner, we tried out a place recommended by my Korean friend, called Ouga. It is popular for its bamboo rice and homecooked dishes. I felt really guilty for spending so much on shopping during the day so I got myself a steamed egg set to make up the budget. Though it was cheap and meatless, it was super delicious and healthy! I really enjoyed the fragrant steamed rice but my husband… meh… he prefers quantity over quality, so he was disappointed by the meagre amount of food he got from his samgyeopsal order.

 

Total expenses for Day 5: 195,400 won

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Busan / Seoul 2017 – Day 4

Wow oh wow… Day 4 of our Busan trip was quite spectecular as we visited some locations which were really awesome.

We made our way to Gamcheon culture village, touted as the Machu Picchu of Busan. I’ve not been to Machu Picchu, but Gamcheon does have its own charm. A little quiet village with houses located close to one another, and many small alleys. It is still a residential area, so be mindful not to enter private property, nor climb onto people’s rooftops. Of course, it goes without saying that you have to be respectful and not be too boisterious.

Gamcheon village also has a Little Prince statue where you have to queue up to take pictures with the statue, overlooking the village. The queue was at least 30-40 minutes long when I visited the village, so naturally I skipped it, and also because I didn’t know what the hype is about.

It is best to allocate at least half a day for the village as it takes about 30 minutes by bus to reach the entrance of the village, and then you’d want to explore the alleys and small shops located within the village. There are some accessories and food shops located at the main shopping/walking street of the village.

For dinner, we settled for a small diner as we wanted a proper meal, something hot and a warm place to sit down. My research told me that pork soup, or dwaeji gukbap, is famous in Busan, so we set out to find a restaurant that sells this. Luckily we didn’t have to go far in our search. There is one such restaurant near BIFF square, just a few steps away from the famous ssiat hotteok stand.

Since ZH was ordering the dwaeji gukbap, I decided to play safe and ordered a kimchi jjigae. You know, just in case we didn’t like the dwaeji gukbap, there’s still something to fall back on. As with most Korean restaurants, we were served a wide variety of side dishes after we ordered, and our main dishes arrived very quickly. We also gobbled up our food very quickly.

We were contemplating if we should go to Spaland after dinner, it being our last night in Busan. In the end, we decided to go, just for the experience. I have been to a Korean spa before on my first trip to Korea and I loved it. I had a body scrub by one of those ajummas using the exfoliating towel/glove and boy, I now buy those gloves in bulk whenever I visit Korea. I love how satisfying it is to see the dirt and dead skin cells being rubbed off and how smooth the skin feels after the treatment.

Besides the spa area, you can also enjoy outdoor foot spas and 13 different sauna rooms (with temperatures ranging from 10 degrees to 70 degrees). I don’t do too well in hot temperatures so the hottest room I entered was only 40+ degrees, and even then I only stayed in there for 5 minutes. Not too long because the floor was burning my feet. Haha! But we both loved the SEV room at 38 degrees. It was so comfortable in there, several patrons were napping in there!

The size of Spaland is sprawling… you can easily spend the whole 4 hours in there without getting bored (your ticket allows you to stay for 4 hours, additional charges if you exceed the time. If you enter Spaland after 8pm, you get a discount on the entry fee. We paid 13000 won each.)

It was a Sunday when we went, and we wanted to watch My Golden Life on KBS2, so we went up to the 2nd level where they had a relaxtion room filled with chairs with individual headphones and TV screen. It was almost like having your own private cinema.

On the 2nd level, you can also purchase some beauty treatments for your face, scalp, body and health. But we didn’t have much time nor money for the treatments, so we just indulged in the massage chairs.

Total expenses for Day 4: 80,000 won

Busan / Seoul 2017 – Day 3

ZH has a Korean friend who lives in Daegu and so they decided to meet up for lunch in Busan since she was available on Friday (Day 3 of our trip). She researched and found a popular Tonkatsu restaurant close to our hotel (Aventree hotel), and so we headed there together.

The place must be really popular as many items were sold out when we arrived slightly after 1pm. We ended up ordering a cheese tonkatsu, a spicy tonkatsu and er… some other tonkatsu which I forgot to take note of. Hawaiian?? This happens when you want to blog but feel lazy to take notes. Haha.

The weather was pretty fine after lunch, so we took a short walk to Lotte Mart. Again, Sujin eonni was well prepared and she told us that there’s a sky garden, and that we ought to check it out. It was pretty viewing the waters and the city. 2017-12-22 142607

We are all not the type to do shopping, so we headed into the sky garden cafe to have some drinks. I had a hot hazelnut latte, she had an iced Americano while ZH had a (weird-tasting) hot peppermint latte. My drink was quite alright, but it was pretty sweet from what I remember. I was surprised that Sujin was taking an iced drink because it was cold outside and we entered the cafe, wanting to hide from the cold. Haha.

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We split ways quite early, around 3pm because she had to catch her train back to Daegu (1 hour traveling time from Busan). So ZH and I left to do some shopping near our hotel before we headed back to relax before venturing out again for an early jokbal dinner.

Busan is famous for jokbal, so of course we had to try it right? There’s a jokbal street near Nampo-dong, so you can just head over and try any of the restaurants. I reckon it will be good, regardless of which restaurant you go to.

We visited Busan Jokbal restaurant and the place was bustling! Thankfully, service was fast. As we are only 2 pax, we couldn’t order too much and so we only ordered the naengchae jokbal (30, 000 won), which is jokbal with a cold salad with wasabi dressing. The dressing was too overpowering for us, so we didn’t really enjoy the salad. I was choking and tearing up with every bite.

After dinner, it was time for us to walk off the calories at Busan Tower. ZH had wanted to enter the observatory for the Busan night view, but we were hugely let down. The view did not justify the entry fees (8,000 won per pax).

The way we travel now really resembles an old retired couple – we keep taking rest breaks in between. Haha. We returned to our hotel (again!) after Busan tower because we were cold, but not before checking out the Line friends store! There was a humongous Brown in front of the store, it was so cute I just had to take a picture with it!! But items at the store were really overpriced… many cute stuff which I liked, but the price tags… *gulp*.

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Total expenses for Day 3: 146,600 won

Busan / Seoul 2017 – Day 2

Day 2 is the highlight of Busan as we headed our way to Haedong Yonggungsa, a temple built by the sea. I think the temple is included in Singapore tour packages as we encountered groups of Singaporean tourists (they came in a tour bus).

Lunch was at Gijang market – I had wanted to eat crabs this trip and I read that Gijang market is a better choice than Jalgachi market, the latter being better for sashimi. We walked around and compared prices before deciding on a restaurant (King Crab House) that offered us a 3kg king crab for 139000 won. It was prepared and steamed on the spot, and for a cover charge of 3000 won per person, we were served a variety of banchans (delicious steamed egg!!) together with our main dish. Do not miss out on the fried rice served in the crab shell after you’re done eating the legs. Though we were feeling quite full, we somehow managed to stuff the fried rice into our full bellies. That’s what you do when you are faced with tasty food – do not waste anything.

Besides crabs, Gijang market is also a haven for seafood. It was quite a culture shock for me to see fresh fish and seafood being sold in tubs and tanks out  the open (it did smell a little, though not as much as in Singapore, probably due to the cold weather). You could also see stacks of dried laver being sold, starting from 100pcs.

After lunch, we took a bus to Haeundae Beach and just walked around, waiting for the sun to set (we had plans to eat at the pojangmacha there). There were families feeding the seagulls with prawn crackers… I stayed far away from them because the seagulls are too overwhelming for me.

We headed to the food cart ‘village’ after the sun had set, in search of food. Pojangmachas are usually drinking holes serving tze-char styled food. However, as Busan is near the sea, the pojangmachas at Haeundae only had seafood to offer. Our seafood ‘quota’ was maxed out for the day after the king crab lunch so we decided to skip the pojangmachas and went to Gwangalli beach instead.

We had read that the Gwangandaegyo bridge at Gwangalli was a highlight and so we headed there directly. There were also several restaurants and cafes facing the water – I’d imagine it being a hotspot for couples and tourists during summer period. We were feeling a little peckish by now but we wanted cheap street food. So we headed back to Nampo and had dinner near our hotel.

We initially only ordered gimbap and a spring onion pancake to share… however as we stood there eating, I was facing the tteokbokki tray. It looked absolutely enticing and I lost the battle – we added one portion of tteokbokki to our dinner menu at the end.

Shortly after we returned to our hotel, ZH told me he was craving for chimaek. So we googled online to find a fried chicken shop and thankfully there was one down the street from us. Upon reaching the shop, I realized that it’s a franchise shop of Cultwo chicken – I love watching them on ‘Hello Counselor’!

We ordered takeaway for ‘half-half’ which is half portion of original flavor and half portion of spicy flavor. As you can imagine, it was too much for us to finish especially after the street food dinner.

Total expenses for Day 2: 198,000 won

Busan / Seoul 2017 – Day 1

Our original plan was to do our home trip in October 2017 and then go to Norway for Christmas, but in August, we changed our minds and decided to go back to Asia for Christmas since we also had to collect the keys to our new apartment in December. Not wanting to stay in SG for 2 whole weeks, we planned to go to Korea for Christmas, which wasn’t the best choice we have made as we have been so busy the week before we departed Germany, and we had full day schedules during our time in Singapore, we were really exhausted when we were in Korea. Nevertheless, we enjoyed ourselves as we can understand the language (not perfect, but at least our Korean is better than our German!) and we just love Korean food.

Both of us have not been to Busan before so it was a major part of our trip. Not many airlines fly direct to Busan, so we had to take China Eastern airlines and transit in Shanghai. Urgh… I would not do that again… they had a new system for transit travelers which was not 100% working and I was one of those unlucky ones because the order of my name and surname was different on my passport and boarding pass. The customs staff were not friendly at all.

But my mood was instantly lifted when we arrived in Busan! The weather was perfect – clear blue skies, fresh air and it wasn’t too cold! We stayed at Aventree hotel in Busan – getting there was relatively easy: take the airport bus (6000 won per person) and alight at Nampo-dong. From there, it was a short walk of 5 minutes to Y’Z Park Mall (the hotel is located above the mall).

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Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived at noon so we left our luggage there and headed out to lunch. Mr Goh wanted to eat pizza at Ijaemo Pizza, a popular pizza place near the hotel. We ordered a small Special Bites pizza to share and the bill came up to 29000 won, including a hot tea. Look at that stringy cheese!

 

After lunch, we took a walk around the area before heading back to the hotel to rest. The location of the hotel was really good, being near BIFF Square and Gukje market. We are more foodies than shoppers so it didn’t bother us that Seomyeon (the main shopping belt) is quite far from us. The famous Ssiat Hotteok (1200 won each) was just a short walk from the hotel, and we may have indulged a little too often 😉

 

For our first dinner in Busan, we opted to have street food, because street food in Korea is the best! We started at Gukje market (so interesting with so many household products… an entire shop front stocked with POTS of all sizes!) and had a stick of fishcake each (1000 won per stick). That broth was so comforting in the cold! We walked further and ended up at a street near our hotel, with many food carts. We stopped for some fried dumplings, and due to my rusty Korean, I ended up ordering 2 portions instead of 1 (2000 won per portion of 5 dumplings). Oops… I shall indicate using my fingers instead. The dumplings were nice, but 10 dumplings were just too much for us.

 

I also came across this bakery which looks interesting and bought a loaf of bread for breakfast the next morning. I fell in love with the soft and fluffy bread and ended up buying a loaf of bread almost every day.

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I wanted to do my hair in Korea and had originally planned to go to Juno Hair, Hwamiju or Soo Casa, but the locations were all quite far from me, and I had read that they’re expensive, so we decided on Liso Hair instead after seeing its price banner. It was also very convenient for us as it was just across the road from the hotel. Mr Goh had a haircut, while I cut my hair and also did a type of hair perm called Volume Magic. The cost for the 2 of us only came up to 85000 won – super affordable! If we were to do the same in Singapore, it would have been at least SGD300.

Total expenses for Day 1: 138,100 won

Europe city hopping: Prague attractions

Truth be told, Prague has never been on my travel list. It always seems that there are other more interesting and exciting places to visit but of course I cannot go to all of them for budget and time reasons. We had 2 weeks off work last Christmas but we decided to spend one week traveling and the other week in Germany because most of the attractions would be closed over the Christmas/New Year period. With only one week, and not willing to spend too much on our holiday (since we’re planning a big one for 2017), we decided on Prague. We heard it was lovely from some of our friends who have visited the city before.

When we knew we were moving to Germany 2 years ago, we heard many comments like “oh lucky you, you can travel to *this place* and *that place*”. That is true, but not without spending a lot of money. The distance is relatively near, but it doesn’t mean that transport is cheap as peas, neither is the travel time. Case in point: Prague is nearer to Bremen, than Singapore, obviously. However if we were to take the bus, it would take us close to 13 hours, 8 hours by train, or pay triple the cost of a bus ticket and take the plane for 45 mins.

But after visiting Prague, I’m glad I did because I enjoyed the city SOOOO much! First of all, they all speak very good English (a very much appreciated fact after living in Germany for more than a year now), and very welcoming to tourists. The city is safe and the shops open till late!

Here’s are some of the places we visited

  1. Charles Bridge
  2. Old Town & New Town
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  3. Jewish Museum
  4. Lennon Wall
  5. St Vitus Cathedral
  6. Prague Castle
  7. Petrin Tower
  8. Clementinum
  9. Mirror Maze
  10. Wenceslas Square
  11. Prague Underground Tour
  12. Old Town Hall Tower
  13. Old Royal Palace

What I enjoyed the most were the Jewish Museum (a lot of history, and it can be quite emotional to read the history), the Clementinum (gorgeous library that is out of bounds to public and no pictures allowed to preserve the centuries-old books) and our absolute favorite was the Prague Underground Tour (interesting to see how modern Prague was built city upon city)

Europe city hopping: Zakynthos, Greece (Day 3)

Read about Day 1 & 2 here

The next morning, we took a boat tour to the main highlight of the trip, which was to visit the shipwreck beach amongst other places *cue Descendants of the Sun music*. There were 2 types of tourists on the boat with us: the westerners who wanted to go the beach for the waters, and the Asians who were there for a romantic trip like us. Haha.

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As we were on a boat tour, we couldn’t spend too much time at the beach. It would have been nice to just sit on the pebbles and enjoy the cool breeze, while having DOTS OST playing in the background. Instead, we quickly took pictures, found ourselves 2 nice smooth pebbles and wrote ourselves a love message on the pebbles. We left one behind within the shipwreck and took the other one home. It’s now sitting on my display shelf and I still catch myself smiling fondly at the memory when I see the pebble.

It was almost lunchtime when we were done with the boat tour and we were starving so we didn’t drive far to find food. There was Taverna Faros nearby and we just decided to grab lunch there. The food there was amazing as the taverna was situated on top of a small hill and it offered a clear view of the sea. Gorgeous.

We drove down the road after lunch to Windmills Snack Bar as it was even closer to the water and we were once again faced with the vast sea and all its gorgeous turquoise waters. It’s a view that you just won’t get sick of.

Our time in Zakynthos was relaxed and idyllic because we were there mainly for Navagio. The remaining of day 2 was spent exploring Zakynthos town, as well as visiting the Turtle Rescue Center and Gerakas Beach (within walking distance to the Turtle Rescue Center).

On our last evening, we ventured out to Zakynthos town for dinner at a recommended place called Yard of Taste. It was a lovely restaurant, decorated tastefully like a country cottage. We must have been there quite early because there were only another (Asian) couple there besides us. Maybe Asians just eat dinner much earlier than the Greek. Haha.

We had a warm seafood salad (recommended by the owner) and pork chops, both of which were superb! I had especially loved the seafood salad because it was unlike anything I have tasted before. The portion was huge and I almost couldn’t finish it.