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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