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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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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