Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Travelogue: Korea 2014 - Day 1 @ Seomyeon Shopping District, Gwangalli Beach & Gwangan Bridge | Busan, South Korea

I waited all year for this scheduled long break of year 2014 and it finally arrived. And then again, in a blink of the eye, it is now all over. Oh sigh! But the fact that I had done the trip, here I am commencing yet another travelogue series on my blog! Haha!

A little background information in case you are interested... The girls and I met while we were trying to earn some extra pocket money after our major exams and waiting for our results. Aside from our age, we had a couple of hiccups with the a handful of supervisors/ managers at the place we were working at and probably that helped to make us grow and bond stronger while we were dealing with it together.

And then we got separated and sent to work at other random locations, posted to different schools and majored at different courses in school but somehow the chemistry was right and we remained in contact no matter what.

Fast forward to today, and pretty much unbelievable to us still, 10 years has passed! The days of temporary part time jobs or dealing with school are all over, all of that became history to us now. It was time we do a trip together and the nonsensical side of us decided that we will do a long break with a grand total of 13 days in Korea together! Yup, 13 days covering Busan and Seoul with these dearest girls since 10 years ago and counting...

[Korea September/ October 2014]
26th Sep 2014 - Day 1 @ Seomyeon Shopping District, 
Gwangalli Beach & Gwangan Bridge

25 Sep 2014: The countdown is finally over! | Changi Airport, Singapore25 Sep 2014: Transit at KLIA2 | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The countdown is over and it was finally going to happen! Just the thought of waking up next to these girls for the next 13 mornings got me so excited but still, it isn't like we can teleport or something. We had to go through a 12-hour flight with AirAsia before we can get there.

We flew with AirAsia since they offer an affordable flight to Busan instead of the usual destination of Incheon Airport in Seoul. Also, it was 12 hours because the flight included a transfer at KLIA2 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

Never mind the airline or the duration, it was really affordable and got us there nonetheless!

Home at Busan
I always find joy in lodging at a Bed & Breakfast (B&B) rather than a hotel room some how and since we are going to plan the trip from scratch, we did our homework and a long round of shortlisting all the possibilities before we finally picked this apartment off AirBnb!

So for a start, let me introduce to you, our home in Busan for 3 nights!

26 Sep 2014: Home in Beomcheon-dong | Busan, South Korea

26 Sep 2014: Home in Beomcheon-dong | Busan, South Korea

This studio apartment is situated in a quaint neighborhood with eateries/restaurants and convenience stores located in close proximity. It takes about 5 minutes walk from the nearest metro station, Beomnaegol Station. And from there, you are basically situated right smack in the middle of Busan and very accessible to all the other areas via the metro train!

On the apartment itself, it is neat and cosy. Quite well-maintained but a little on the small side. I thought it is probably good for about two to three persons. Or a family with kids, I would say. Aside from that, one of the main reasons that the girls and I decided to take up this space for our visit to Busan because the owner was really very helpful and prompt to reply to every message I sent across. Most importantly, thank goodness he can converse well in English!

Direct link to Joonuck's apartment listing on AirBnb: https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/3096475

Seomyeon Shopping District 서면역
When we were done settling down in our apartment after arriving in Busan from an all-night flight, we had approximately half a day left. We didn't want to start any sight-seeing frenzy just yet and since it was almost lunch time, we scooted off to Seomyeon district in search for food, glorious food!

26 Sep 2014: Jjajangmyeon x Jjambong lunch!
Seafood Tray Zambong 짜장면 x 짬뽕

26 Sep 2014: Sweet & Sour Pork lunch!
Korean Sweet & Sour Pork 탕수육

I am no where keen to join the queues just to try out Yoogane Dak Galbi 유가네 닭갈비, the latest sensation from Korea that found its way to the shores of Singapore, I thought why not we try them in Korea where it originates from! But, I probably logged the wrong information with an outdated address and we had to pick an alternative from the street just beside Lotte Department Store to settle our lunch!

This eatery offers a small variety of Korean and Chinese fusion dishes in sizable portions. And they have an innovative dish that combines the popular jjajangmyeon 짜장면 and jjambong 짬뽕 together that we didn't see anywhere else. Pretty yummy I must say.

26 Sep 2014: Pojang Macha 포장마차!
Pojangmacha 포장마차

Pojangmacha 포장마차 is a typical mobile food stall that you can find on the streets of Korea and they usually come with tents attached to shelter the customers stopping by for a bite. Of course there are various choices of food you can find off a pojangmacha but the most common, just to name a few, are namely tteokbokki 떡볶이 and odeng 오뎅.

Anyway, it's not that we didn't have enough for lunch, we were just being greedy and cannot resist it when we walked pass a pojangmacha outside Lotte Department Store! Hehe... 

26 Sep 2014: Daehyeon Underground Shopping at Seomyeon Station | Busan, South Korea
Daehyeon Underground Shopping

26 Sep 2014: Seomyeon Streets | Busan, South Korea

Seomyeon Shopping District on street level

From what I had gathered, Daehyeon Underground Shopping is a shopping arcade that runs under Jungang-daero, the main street that cuts through Seomyeon district. It stretches from Bujeon Station, pass Seomyeon Station until somewhere near Judies Taehwa or even further.

And aside from that, the area revolving around Seomyeon Station or what everyone calls it as Seomyeon Shopping District, offers countless of malls and other shopping and food options on street level. [Read: Be prepared to shop till you drop!]

26 Sep 2014: Seomyeon Streets | Busan, South Korea
Walk, eat and shop all day at Seomyeon!

26 Sep 2014: Seomyeon Streets | Busan, South Korea

The sun setting over the streets of Seomyeon...

Map of Seomyeon Shopping District for illustration of the places I had mentioned.
Click for an enlarged view!

Gwangalli Beach 광안리 해수욕장 & Gwangan Bridge 광안대교
We were slowly growing tired of shopping and starting to feel hungry all over again despite munching on all the street food non-stop ever since we arrived in the district so we decided to make a move and hop over to Gwangalli Beach when the sun is gradually setting over Seomyeon.

When we got there, the streets along Gwangalli Beach is actually so overwhelming. There were one too many options in that area from local eateries to big franchised names and the horrifying thing is that all of them are crowded to the brim so we had a tough time deciding what to eat for dinner.

26 Sep 2014: Dinner at Mummy's Hands 엄마손식당 near Gwangan Beach | Busan, South Korea

Mom's Hands Korean Restaurant 엄마손식당

We chose Mom's Hands in the end as it definitely looked like it serves authentic Korean dishes and simply because it was starting to get windy and chilly when we were closer to beach and a hot bowl of stew is all we really want. Besides, what are we going to do with a hamburger in hand while we are in Korea right? Haha! 

26 Sep 2014: Dinner at Mummy's Hands 엄마손식당 near Gwangan Beach | Busan, South Korea

The hungry girls are hungry! Haha...

26 Sep 2014: Bibimbap at Mummy's Hands 엄마손식당 near Gwangan Beach | Busan, South Korea

Bibimbap 비빔밥

26 Sep 2014: Duruchigi 두루치기 (Stir-fried Pork) at Mummy's Hands 엄마손식당 near Gwangan Beach | Busan, South Korea
Stir-fried Pork 두루치기

26 Sep 2014: Sundubu jjigae 순두부찌개 (Soft Tofu Stew) at Mummy's Hands 엄마손식당 near Gwangan Beach | Busan, South Korea
Soft Tofu Stew 순두부찌개

Thank goodness our random pick off all the choices was right and a kind local helped to recommend some of her favorite dishes from the eatery, our dinner turned out awesome! The dishes were all very scrumptious and I cannot stop thinking about the Soft Tofu Stew. The tofu was so soft (no pun intended) and smooth that I would love to believe that it was homemade. And all that awesomeness decked together with generous helpings of sliced pork and cabbage in a savory and slightly spicy bean paste broth. Oh man... how I miss this bowlful!

26 Sep 2014: Gwangan Beach & Gwangan Bridge
Gwangalli Beach with the beautiful view of Gwangan Bridge!

Each building was brightly lit with lights as colorful as the rainbow, there was a concert, so many restaurants and coffee places to check out. What a happening place!

26 Sep 2014: Gwangan Beach & Gwangan Bridge
A beautiful night view calls for a selfie with the beautiful-est people! Hehe!

26 Sep 2014: Birthday Patbingsu at Gwangan Beach | Busan, South Korea

Birthday patbingsu 팥빙수 for the birthday girl!

Of course, not forgetting to end off our day with a quiet celebration for the birthday girl at one of the cafes along the beach! A change in environment and location calls for a different kind of birthday "cake" so it shall be patbingsu from Cafe Pascucci! Happy birthday once again, Xin! Hehe!

Map of Gwangalli Beach & Gwangan Bridge for illustration of the places I had mentioned. 
Click for an enlarged view!

And with that, we ended off the very first day of our escapade in Busan and headed home to catch up on proper rest and prepare ourselves for more activities the following day! Stay tuned!

More posts from Korea September/ October 2014 travelogue series:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Travelogue: Koh Lipe 2014 | Satun, Thailand

Some time late August, I had a long weekend trip with the colleagues. Prior to the trip, there was a sudden influx of work and it had been a crazy month for some of us and all we needed is somewhere less mainstream yet complete with what we all affectionately calls it, Vitamin SEA.

Yes, sea as in that sea we all know!
And we decided to explore one of the many islands of Thailand, Koh Lipe!

Koh Lipe | Satun, Thailand

Koh Lipe (pronounced Ko Lee-pae and translated as Paper Island) is the southern most island in Thailand, an hour away from Langkawi (Malaysia) and one of the many Butang islands located in the beautiful Tarutao National Marine Park.

Lipe island was first discovered by the Chao Ley (sea gypsies) who would travel from island to island in search of the best fishing spot in the area to feed themselves and their tribes. The Chao Ley eventually found a permanent home on Koh Lipe and were given a grant to settle on the island's eastern beach and have since remained there.

Anyway, here's a not so quick post on our 4D3N long weekend escapade!

Boarding Gates | Changi Airport, Singapore
At the boarding gates at Changi Airport with the all-time favorite partners in crime!
Including the photobombers behind! Hehe...

Boarding Gates | Changi Airport, Singapore

On board with a confused and unsettled mind.
Probably I had a hectic time prior to this trip and so many things left undone! 不管了 休息了再說!

It is not difficult to get to Koh Lipe since it is in close proximity to Hat Yai and Pak Bara. And just for the records, it took us about five to six hours, covering all three traveling mode, to get from Singapore to Koh Lipe!

On flight Singapore bound for Hat Yai, Thailand

Hat Yai International Airport | Hat Yai, Thailand
We took a direct flight from Singapore's Changi Airport to Hat Yai International Airport and arrived even before I managed to warm my seat and complete a chapter on my book. Haha ok I am exaggerating, the flight is actually slightly more than an hour...

Outskirts of Hat Yai | Hat Yai, Thailand

Rubber Plantations | Hat Yai, Thailand
After the flight, we did a land transfer that took us approximately 1.5 hours from Hat Yai International Airport to the Pak Bara Jetty. And en route, we cruise through the sleepy towns of Hat Yai with mountainous views punctuated with countless of rubber plantations!

Bound for Koh Lipe from Pak Bara! | Hat Yai, Thailand

wefie on boat ride from Pak Bara | Hat Yai, Thailand
Then last but not least, from Pak Bara Jetty, we hopped on a speed boat good for all 22 of us for a ride that took close to two hours to get us to the final destination!

Arriving at Pattaya Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Arriving at Koh Lipe!

While planning for the grand retreat, we had a list of resorts like Castaway Beach Resort and a couple of others to pick from. But those photos of the beautiful and spacious villas of Mali Resort, constructed with natural and sustainable materials that looks so high end yet grounded to the authentic tone of island life, had us sold on the idea and we settled for the place without a doubt!

And when we got there, my jaw dropped and I was in awe. There were no harsh structures to indicate either the boundaries of the resort or a structured pathway to dictate the way you move around. But instead, we were greeted by a vast open view of the resorted nicely nested within a well-maintained lawn and lush greeneries!

Mali Resort | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Each individual villa is nicely planned to look like it was sporadically nested within the lush greenies and nothing but a beaten path over the well-maintained lawn to lead you to your villa!

Mali Resort | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Talking about a vast open view of the resort from the beach, you also get a clear view of the beach and sea every time you walk out from the villa!

Mali Resort | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Nested in lush greeneries too, there's the Dining/ Relax/ Kids' play area... Whichever you prefer it to be! :)

Mali Resort | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Meet Mi, the fluffy, handsome and sweet boy of the resort! On a side note, the small island is inhabited by quite an alarming number of stray dogs aside from Mi so that actually freaked out some of the colleagues even though the dogs were mostly all friendly!  

Mali Resort | Koh Lipe, Thailand

The pavilion that serves as a tavern where you can get food and drinks from morning till late, as well as the concierge for your needs within the resort and even island hopping tours. Basically every thing at the resort revolves around this pavilion!

Mali Resort | Koh Lipe, Thailand

Mali Resort | Koh Lipe, Thailand

And guests are welcomed to use these picnic benches that are lined up along the beach right in front of the hut too, may it be for breakfast or catching the evening sunset over some drinks!

Mali Resort | Koh Lipe, Thailand
And of course, how can such a beautiful resort do without a massage hut with an open beachfront concept! They offer massages like Thai massage, Oil Massage and Foot Massage and there's even manicure and pedicure services.

And of course, not forgetting to introduce their beautiful villas too!

Mali Resort | Koh Lipe, Thailand
The room mate for this trip!

Mali Resort | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Check out the awesome villa! So spacious and comfy, and I love the bay window on the left!
If not that we will get direct sun in the afternoon, I think I can found there throughout the day! Hehe!

Mali Resort | Koh Lipe, Thailand

Mali Resort | Koh Lipe, Thailand
The open air bathroom!

The open air concept is nothing new and I always find it interesting and cool how you feel connected to nature even if you are still separated from the outside with walls. But there's a down side to this idea! You cannot take a shower when it rains and it is awfully hot when you try to use the bathroom in the afternoon! Both of which I experienced during this trip! Haha!

And just like any other island/ beach destination, you can expect activities directly at the beach like a game of beach volleyball together with your travel buddies or even kayaking or you can choose to join a tour to the other islands nearby or even go for an off-shore snorkeling or diving trip.

Island Hopping | Koh Lipe, Thailand

Island Hopping | Koh Lipe, Thailand

Island Hopping | Koh Lipe, Thailand

Island Hopping | Koh Lipe, Thailand

Island Hopping and Snorkeling

There are two routes for the island hopping tour from Koh Lipe and we managed to go for only one of them since the second route that will take you further from the island of Koh Lipe is unavailable since it was the peak of the monsoon season and the currents were relatively strong.

By the way, did I mention earlier? The best time to visit Koh Lipe is actually from middle of November through to late May. When we were there in August, it is one of the lull-est and most off-peak month in fact!

And by off-peak, I actually meant that you probably will be unable to go for snorkeling or diving trips or even get to the island because of a heavy storm or strong sea currents. There on the island itself, you will have limited choices when it comes to meal times, limited shopping options and close to no entertainments because this is the time of the year when all the shop owners go on a break themselves. But then again, I found Koh Lipe on its lull-est month enjoyable after all!

Sunset at Pattaya Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Sunset at Koh Lipe

This shot above was the best sunset out of the three we experienced! It was all fiery and the sky looked just like a painting the very first evening shortly after we arrived! Beautiful isn't it?

And in case you are wondering how I am always so amused with sunsets, I actually work in a typical day job that overruns till late at night more often than not and I probably never had the chance to spend time outdoors during the day in Singapore ever. So just like in Boracay, I appreciate how I can catch the sunset every evening!

In the hammock with me and my book at Mali Resort | Koh Lipe, ThailandMojito | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Reading in a hammock or just enjoying an afternoon cocktail

Mali Resort has a couple of these bamboo hammocks near their concierge and tavern and I am in one of these hammocks and reading my book, having either a glass of milk or a mojito every afternoon while waiting for my evening massage! 

Again, in case you are also wondering what's so special about reading in a hammock, I have to say that to me this is really a luxury to just sit back and read a book these days. The hours and days outside of my day job are mostly dedicated to the business that I am running together with the family, so I am truly glad that I manage to do this during my trip to Koh Lipe!

American Breakfast at Mali Resort | Koh Lipe, Thailand
American Breakfast style with Bacon and Scrambled Eggs
or also known as the Breakfast of Champions! Hehe...

Tea time | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Toast with butter or jam and a glass of milk!

Ham, Cheese and Egg sandwich at Mali Resort | Koh Lipe, Thailand

Ham, Cheese and Eggs Thick Toast Sandwich served with mash potatoes and bacon bits

It sure seems that I don't quite care if it's Thai cuisine that I should be having since I am in Thailand because the thick toasts done by the in house chefs at Mali Resorts are really too awesome to resist! So hard to resist that I actually had it for breakfast, lunch and tea or any chance I have! Hehe...

Not a Singha advertisement | Koh Lipe, Thailand BBQ Chicken Skin on stick! | Koh Lipe, Thailand

Then also, I am pretty thankful that I still manage to find a stall selling an assortment of barbecue items on stick even if many others are not opened! My favorite every time I am on a beach holiday! And a stick of barbecued chicken skin marinated in whatever specialty homemade sauce is definitely the best snack to go with my beer even if I am already so stuffed after dinner!

Pattaya Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand
A storm is brewing!

Just like what I am saying about the monsoon and weather at Koh Lipe that determines that August as the most off-peak month of the year, we experienced watching a storm brewing in the distance over breakfast and it actually rain down quite hard for about an hour before it gradually returned to a clear day again!

Sunrise Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand

And since we didn't manage to go for another round of island hopping and snorkeling on our last day at Koh Lipe because the route was shut off and it was impossible to head out in the storm anyway, we ended up exploring the island on foot when it starts to clear up!

It took us about 3 hours to go around from Pattaya Beach, through Walking Street and weaving through the village to Sunrise Beach and Karma Beach eventually. Here's a quick rundown of what you can see on the small island of Koh Lipe!

Pattaya Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand

Pattaya Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand

Pattaya Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Pattaya Beach

The main beach on Koh Lipe, the beach that is covered with white fine sand on all the 1.5km of it, the beach on which most accommodations on Koh Lipe and Mali Resort is located, the beach and view I woke up to for 3 mornings! :)

Pattaya Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand

Because there is nothing more beautiful 
than the way the ocean refuses 
to stop kissing the shoreline, 
no matter how many times it is sent away...

Pattaya Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Long-tail Boat

Long-tail boats are a common sight at Koh Lipe and the front of traditional long tail boats in Thailand are typically decorated with colored scarves and flower garlands. These colored scarves and flower garlands ain't just for decorative purpose. It is there to honor the spirits of the water and Mae Ya Nang, the Guardian goddess of boats!

Walking Street | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Walking Street

I can totally imagine how this street will be bustling with life when the shops are back in operation in full force on any given non off-peak month!

Town | Koh Lipe, Thailand

Lotus Pond | Koh Lipe, Thailand
The village, the livelihood and a beautiful lotus pond!

Sunrise Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Sunrise Beach

Sunrise Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand

To thine own self be true.

Sunrise Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand

A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.

Sunrise Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Spotted 3 men mending their damaged fishing equipments

Aside from the fact that Sunrise Beach is the best location on Koh Lipe for snorkeling right off the beach, we spent slightly more time at Sunrise beach, or rather we actually walked down the entire length of it so we saw so much more of it! 

Although the beach is less 'touristy' and it is nearest to the small Chao Ley village on Koh Lipe, so the sight of these 3 men actually made me wonder if they are the descendants of the sea gypsies that founded the island!

Sunrise Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand

Sunrise Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Karma Beach

Last but not least, Karma beachwith the view of Koh Adang just in front!
And the beautiful scenery with the photo ops summoned the inner vainness in us and we can't resist posing and taking photos right there!

Sunrise Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand
The groupie! All 22 of us and spot the dog who guided us throughout this walkabout on the island!

Mountain Resort | Koh Lipe, Thailand
Leaving Karma Beach and heading back to Pattaya Beach via Mountain Resort!

Check out that steep slope we had to ascend! I broke out in cold sweat with the thought of rolling all the way down to the end of the slope if I ever trip and fall there! Gosh!

Sunrise Beach | Koh Lipe, Thailand

If we were meant to stay in one place, we'd have roots instead of feet, he said.

With that, it's a wrap on my weekend getaway in August!
And true to that saying, I've got feet so I deserve to travel! So when you read this post, I am actually preparing for yet another getaway in a couple of days. Look out for the next travelogue alright? ;)

p.s. Photos without the lobsterpaints.com watermark are kudos to the fellow travel mates!