South Korea: Han River

After days that consisted of shopping and sightseeing, I decided to take it easy and spend a day relaxing at Han river.  A lot of people come her to enjoy the beautiful park. I saw many people jogging, cycling, fishing or just taking a relaxing walk. Some passerby caught my eye because their faces were covered with masks and sunglasses. The person I was with told me that some Korean celebrities/Kpop idols visit this area. They’re covered up to protect their privacy. I’m not sure if that’s true. I rather think that they’re just protecting their faces from the bright sunlight.

I brought a few snacks, so I could have a little picknick along the coastline. I just had a  with meat filling inside, some crisps and Binggrae flavored strawberry milk. I actually drunk a lot of those flavored milk drinks.

I wish I could have beautiful relaxing moments like this every day.

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South Korea: Myeongdong

Myeongdong is the place for buying cosmetics. They have many stores reaching from Etude House to Skinfood. I really suggest buying makeup and skin products in Myeongdong because they often have amazing deals and sales. For instance, I bought a few things at Etude House and I got a facial cream for only ₩4,000. They also have great deals for facial masks and so on. The sale ladies can be very pushy and I suggest people to be beware of that. One lady talked me into buying a collagen cream and an exfoliate lotion, which I didn’t really needed.  When you entered the store they also tend to follow you around. It can be very handy if you want to ask questions but I’m more of a quiet shopper. I like to take my time and look at all the options before buying something. I’m really bad at ignoring people, so it made me feel a bit uncomfortable. It was something I really needed to get used to.

You can also buy clothes in Myeongdong but the prices are a bit higher compared to Hongdae. Although, I remember buying quite a bit of fashion items there. They have many cute clothing shops, therefore, I couldn’t help myself. There are a few department stores as well. My favourite one is Lotte Young Plaza. This mall fits the taste of a younger generation and combines street style with luxury. They have brands like Pinkage, Stylenanda, Wonderplace and many more. I took many pictures as well as photos from makeup items. But my memory card got corrupted and unfortunately, I’ve lost the data :'(.

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For dinner, I had Korean chicken. I’m quite the chicken fanatic if I say so myself and watching all those mouth-watering videos it became my mission to eat Korean fried chicken. Koreans take their chicken very serious. They have all kind of different flavors and ways to prepare it. You have plenty to choose from. I even saw fried chicken with whipped cream! I took a more simple approach and ordered the natural crispy with onions, garlic. I also ordered spicy fried chicken with potatoes (양념치킨). It was so so good! When I stayed in Seoul I ate about five times Korean chicken because it was just too delicious.  

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South Korea: Achasan mountain hike scenery

Although I already did a lot of walking in South Korea, I really wanted to hike through the mountains. In my country I don’t have mountains or hills. So, I wanted to take this opportunity. I decided to take it easy and decided to hike at mountain Achasan, which is suppose to be a 30-40 minute easy breezy walk. But…ok…first, I got lost. I couldn’t find the damn mountain and walked aimlessly throughout the city. Secondly, when I thought I actually “found” the mountain…it wasn’t that fucking easy as they promised. The tour map promised  an easy hike with lots of stairs but instead I was walking on slippery rocks and landed in the “jungle”. I wouldn’t be surprised if an actual beer would pop out and attack us! Later I discovered that I actually took a very difficult route on mountain Yongmansan which eventually connects with mountain Achasan. When I arrived at the top I saw another path with lots of stairs and it became clear that was the “easy Achasan route”.

Although I was dying and trying my best not to fall. It was all worth it in the end. At the top, you have this really beautiful view overlooking Seoul city and Hangang river. The photos don’t do it justice. It’s so much more stunning in real life.  

Oh yeah…after succeeding in not falling, on my way down…reaching the ground, I fell out of nowhere.

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When I went home I ordered pizza at the Korean Pizza Hut and chocolate oreo boba tea. Very deserving for our hard hiking accomplishment. If I remember correctly I ordered a bulgogi pizza, with cheese, green and red peppers. The pizza was of course was very delicious, I could eat the whole thing just by myself.

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South Korea: Jongmyo Shrine

Jongmyo Shrine was the only shrine I visited in South Korea. I had a hard time remembering it and had to look it up. It slowly came back to me when I recalled seeing the racoon dog scavenging around the shrine grounds. One of the few instances I saw wildlife in Seoul. Although the shrine was impressive, it still felt a bit underwhelming compared to the other attractions I have seen. To be honest, I regretted skipping Jogyesa temple for this. It still haunts me that I didn’t went to see the pretty colorful lanterns at the temple.

Anyway,  Jongmyo shrine was a place of worships for the kings throughout the Joseon Dynasty. Here is where they performed the oldest ceremony and still reenact it to this day. Our tour guide also told us not to walk on the stone footpath. It consists of three separate pavements and the middle one is only meant for the king. If you would disrespect this, the king would come and haunt you. So, she made us jump over it! Haha!

After the tour I went and explore the city for a bit.

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South Korea: Gyeongbokgung Palace & Cheonggyecheon stream

Visiting the beautiful palaces in Seoul was one of my highest priorities of my trip. One of the first palaces on my list was Gyeongbokgung Palace Also known as the North Palace. The premises were once destroyed during the Japanese Invasion. Thankfully, they were later restored and made it possible for us to admire it today. Although, restorations are still ongoing, there are still a lot of beautiful things to see. You have Gwanghwamun Gate, which greets you and welcomes you inside the palace. Geunjeongjeon, which is the Imperial Throne Hall where the king was greeted by ambassadors. Gyeonghoeru, which is a pavilion surround by water like an island. And, Hyangwonjeong pond which is truly one of my favourite. A pavilion which is also surrounded by water but connected to the ground by this picturesque bridge. It made me feel like I was in a fairytale.

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What I really love about the Korean palaces is that they are really colorful. This traditional decorative coloring art is called Dancheong (단청) and has various symbolic meanings. The function is not only decorative but also had the purpose to protect the buildings surface against hot and cold temperatures and to make the material less noticeable.

After visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace I traveled to Cheonggyecheon stream which is nearby. This creek is about 8,4km long and eventually connects to Han river. In 2005 it has been restored and transformed into a lovely and calm stream. I had a nice leisurely stroll following the stream. Afterwards, I rested and relaxed for a bit while putting our feet in the water. A quiet moment amidst the buzzing city life.

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STYLENANDA Flagship Store & Haul

STYLENANDA is one of the leading fashion companies in South Korea. In 2005 the brand started out as an online store. Now, it has many offline shops throughout Asia. Stylenanda is by far one of my favourite fashion brands as well as their makeup line 3 Concept Eyes. I adore their unique fashion and makeup looks. So, I couldn’t let the chance slide by without visiting their flagship store in Hongdae. Especially, when Stylenanda’s site showcased their new autumn/winter line.

The flagship store is a huge three storey building. The building was decorated with promo shots of the beautiful Stylenanda model Sora Park. They even have a Stylenanda vending machine and a photobooth. I was very impressed. But once I went inside, I was kind of disappointed. I don’t know if I came at the wrong time but their stock was less than stellar. They hardly had any of the clothes which were promoted on their site and when I asked they said everything was already soldout. Kind of weird because their winter line wasn’t even five days old. Also, the items on their site were still available. What made it even weirder is that this is a flagship store! Why didn’t they have anything in stock? To be honest, it was really anticlimactic. I guess, I will have to stick to online shopping.

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Although, I didn’t really find a lot of clothes that I liked. I did manage to purchase some items. Just a simple black sweater, cream colored shoes, a blue cap and a purple two piece outfit. I bought makeup from 3CE at another store but I will blog about that in the near future. I will also make a review about the quality of the clothing and makeup products.

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South Korea: Hello Kitty Café

When I was in Hongdae I visited the new Hello Kitty café. When I was younger I used to really adore Hello Kitty. I even had a Hello Kitty mobile phone. Nowadays Hello Kitty isn’’t really doing it for me anymore but I still wanted to visit the newly opened café in Hongdae. I know my inner child would be screaming at me if I didn’’t.

It’’s hard to miss the entrance to the café. I was greeted by the vividly pink gate with a huge ribbon on top. There are steps leading up to the building. The café is a two-storey building and of course decorated in pink. There’s a giftshop located at the left side. Here you can buy all things Hello Kitty. The stock ranges from stuffed animals to stationary. I must say that they put a lot of effort in decorating the place. At every corner there’’s Hello Kitty themed art, merchandise and statues. On the second floor there’’s even a Hello kitty themed bedroom.

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The food and beverages are quite affordable. The price ranges from ₩5,000 to ₩12,000. I ordered a lemon drink and a Hello Kitty waffle covered in chocolate sauce, with icecream, fruit and whipped cream. The drink was way too sweet and made my teeth scream in agony. The Hello Kitty waffle tasted really good but the aroma of the icecream was a tad too heavy for me. Overall, the dessert was leaning more to the okay side, but then again most people who visited came here rather for the décor than the actual food. That’’s why, I recommend visiting only if you’’re a true Hello Kitty fanatic.

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South Korea: Hongdae (Hongik University)

Travelling throughout Seoul is pretty easy. You have three transportation options, by bus, subway or taxi. I mostly travelled by subway. I also recommend getting the T-money card. T-money is a transportation card you can use for any public transportation and taxi fares. This card makes travelling through Seoul so much easier and it also offers travel discounts. You can recharge the card at a T-money vendor or recharging devices inside the subway stations. You can purchase the T-money card at most convenience stores.

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Hongdae (Hongik University) is one of the most vibrant regions in Seoul. If you love shopping, urban lifestyle, art, indie music, street performances and a bright nightlife, then this is really the place to be. Hongdae is also known for its variety when it comes to shopping. Reasonable priced street fashion shops, to higher end boutiques and unique accessories. The prices may vary from store to store. Don’t be surprised. A lot of shops have the same item in stock but often with a different pricing. So, it’s better to explore to find the best deal. Also there are plenty of restaurants and cafés. I suggest checking out the newly openend Hello Kitty café.

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In the main shopping district I came across a lot of familiar shops. I visited the LINE STORE and ARTBOX. These stores mostly sell stationary, home supplies and miscellaneous items. They really had a lot of cute products, which made it hard for me to choose. Looking back, I’m kind of dumbfounded why I didn’t buy more supplies. I guess, I will never know. Also there are some cosmetics stores, like Etude House, Watsons and The Faceshop. But I highly suggest to shop for makeup and skincare in Myeongdong. I will elaborate why in another blogpost.

There is a bakery called Chocolat Yum. They sell the most adorable bake goods I have ever laid my eyes upon. The store’s interior design is very beautiful and feels so comforting. I wanted to buy everything in the store. I planned to come back another day because I was already carrying a lot of bags and was afraid that the pastries would break. But in the end I never got the chance to revisit. It still haunts me in my sleep!

After a while of exploring we came across a street full of cute boutiques. I never saw so many cute clothes at once in my life. The prices are bit higher in comparison but the quality of the fabric is much better. The STYLENANDA flagship store is also located in this area.

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When night time was upon us and it was close to dinner time, we decided to go for Korean BBQ (Gogigui). You can eat relatively cheap in Hongdae and there are a lot of restaurants/cafés to choose from. Thinking about all the Bulgogi, Galbi and Samgyeopsal make me drool. What I love about Korean culinary are the many side dishes that goes along with the food (banchan). The Korean side dishes that are served the most are kimchi, guk, gochujang and jjiggae. There’s also a Korean way to eat grilled meat. Korean BBQ always comes with sangchu. You’re meant to wrap the grilled meat like a decorative present. The savory juicy taste of the Galbi goes well with the green leaves. I mostly just add garlic and spices and wrap it together and just cram it into my mouth. Yeah, I’m not really ladylike while I’m eating. But I just really love Korean BBQ after a nice long day of shopping. It was a successful day. A day I will always keenly remember.

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South Korea: First night, First day – Yongsan (Sookmyung Women’s University)

It’s already 2016. It’s kind of fascinating yet terrifying how time flies by. Last year a lot of great things have happened. Good and bad. But either way, I have gained a lot of new experiences. One of those experiences was travelling. When the year 2015 was almost nearing its end, I went on a trip to the Republic of South Korea. To be honest, I didn’t know much about the country. An acquaintance already visited South Korea once. The person suggested that I would love the country as well and that I really should visit someday. And so I did. I’m truly excited to blog about my travel adventure. I will first make mini posts with all the sightseeings, shopping and food. Later on, I will make a master-post with travel advice, tips, experiences and necessities. I have a bad long-term memory but hopefully I can recall a lot of things while looking at the photos.

I still remember the anxiety I felt when boarding the plane for a 13-hour long flight. With all the plane crashes happening I couldn’t help thinking that this may be my last flight. Yes, I’m always dramatic and I always over-analyse things. But this was my very first time travelling on my own. Thankfully, the flight went smoothly and I didn’t run into much trouble. I landed safely at Incheon Airport. I remember vividly the excitment I felt when walking through the airport. I even took a brief moment to look at the scenery. The fact that I was in a country I never visited and far away from home was indeed a new adventure. The airport is relatively large and very clean. Passing time here wouldn’t be a problem. There are lots of shops, lounges and eateries.

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I took the train from Incheon Airport Railroad to Seoul Station. The price per ticket is about 8,000 won and the ride takes approximately about 40 minutes. It’s kind of puzzling at first to find ones way and it’s best to just ask personnel for help. Most airport staff can speak English. Also signs are written in latin alphabet and they announce stations in English as well. I will elaborate more about the Korean transportation in my master-post.

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When we arrived at Seoul Station we took a taxi to our accommodation which is located near Sookmyung Women’s University in Yongsan-gu. I was told that it’s better to make an agreement in advanced about the taxi-fare. Also you have to pay attention which taxi you take! Some are more expensive than others.

I did forget to take photos of the accommodation. But it was very comfortable and it had all the basic necessities. There was even a television, fridge, stove and a washing machine. In Korea they mostly use digital door locks. You only have to press the code and it plays a tune when the door is opened/locked. It’s truly innovative!

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The location of our accommodation was ideal. There were lots of shops, supermarkets, cafés and restaurants. The subway station was also located nearby. The streets were filled with stylish college students. I kept forgetting to take photos of the city. So, you have to take my word for it.

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I decided to try out one of the dessert café in the neighbourhood. Most cafés or restaurants have menus in English but unfortunately this one didn’t. Thankfully, there was this lovely employee who could speak English very well and she helped us with ordering. I ordered Ichigo Daifuku, Injeolmi Toast, and a matcha green tea boba drink.

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_DSC0683 Ichigo Daifuku大福餅
This dessert is called Ichigo Daifuku. It originates from Japan and it’s mostly served with tea. It’s made out of mochi (rice cake), filled with anko (red bean paste) and a strawberry. Mochi is quite chewy so make sure you always have a drink with it. The savoury sweet red bean paste goes awfully well with the strawberry.

Honeybread Injeolmi Toast (Rice Cake Toast)인절미토스트
I don’t really know how to describe this dessert. Just picture a toast drenched in lots and lots of honey. Well, maybe not that extreme. It’s a very sweet and sugary white grilled sandwich filled with a soft chewy rice cake, sprinkled with soybean powder, honey and almond seeds. Yeah, I’m really not the best when it comes to describing food. But it’s just so sweet and yet so evil. Combined with the Daifuku…I was afraid my teeth would fall out.

As you can see…my diet wasn’t really the healthiest in Korea.

Travel: The Island Crete

Travel: The Island Crete

A short while ago I traveled to Greece. Crete to be precise. Crete is the largest among the Greek Islands and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean Sea.

Honestly, I didn’t want to go because the trip would clash with my other obligations. Also, I have this huge fear of flying and try to fly as little as possible throughout the year. After some contemplation I decided that I should just go. I never been to Greece, never been to a tropical island before and I’m sure I would regret not going in the end. And you know what? I had such a wonderful time.

The first day we went to the sea and we decided to hike along the coastline. The sea is breathtaking. I remember being mesmerized by the  greenish, blueish, clear water. The photos I have seen online didn’t do it justice at all. There were locals fishing too, which was nice to see as well. All I wanted to do was throw myself in the sea because of the heat. The heat was unbearable. The sun sits high in the sky and was shining really bright on my face. Even with SPF 50+ I got sunburned like a roasted chicken that’s been in the oven far too long. One of the locals explained that in the past “the pale faces” cut all the trees and planted olive trees instead. That kind of explains why there is hardly any shadows and only dry land. But it wasn’t all that bad, the heat did wonders for my skin, hair and nails.

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We walked from Hersonissos to Stalida, Malia & Sisi. All very touristic but still breathtaking towns. The towns were surrounded by sea and by the mountains. At the west coast of Hersonissos, there’s a haven and an Orthodox church. We went inside the church for a bit and lighted a candle inside to make a wish. Also there were this two geese, one of them was so fat that it couldn’t swim properly. We laughed forever but it was actually quite sad. I guess gluttony is in all living beings.

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Although the water is really salty, swimming in the sea of Crete is ideal. The quietness, small waves, no weird sea creatures to be sighted and it wasn’t that deep near the coast. If you have enough, you can just lie down and read a book under the parasol. Have a refreshing summer drink while you are at it. This is truly heaven.

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We lodged at this cozy village Koutouloufari. Away from the touristy Hersonissos and its crazy party animals. There are a lot of cute shops and restaurants to be explored. The village Piskopiano is also nearby. Located in the center, a beautiful church with a stunning view of the city below. A few meters further there’s also this park with benches and trees. It took me a while to leave that breezy place and go back into the hot oven that’s the sun.

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After a few days of relaxing, swimming and exploring the villages nearby, we took the bus to the capitol Heraklion. About 30-40 minutes from Hersonissos. When we arrived they handed us a map of the city. That was really thoughtful. We first visited The Venetian Harbour and its fortress. In 1204 Crete fell in the hands of the Venetians, hence the name. Apparently at this harbour you can take ferries to other Greek islands like Santorini. It would be a really nice experience but regrettably, we were too far away and only a one-day trip would be a waste of money. As we walked through the harbour, waves from the other side of the shore hit the pavement. The sea nearby the port was the wildest I have seen so far.

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After visiting the harbour we went to explore the city. We looked through some shops, a church and we ate sunflower seeds at the square. The city was dazzling. Although full with tourists, it still had a calming effect on me. But what left me really in awe was the church Saint Minas. Beautiful architect, one of the most fascinating churches I’ve ever seen and I have seen many…far too many in my still short-lived life. I was truly perplexed that there were hardly any tourists visiting this area. But this gave me a chance to sit on a bench under the trees to admire it peacefully.

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Overall I had a fantastic time and I’m glad that I decided to go along. The Cretans were really friendly and helpful. They speak English rather well. At one of the restaurants the owner could even speak my native language. He told me he learned it from the tourists visiting his establishment. Pretty impressive! The only downside was that we were running out of time, so I couldn’t visit Agios Nikolaos and other alluring cities. Maybe next time?

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