Saturday, November 17, 2018

Planning your first South Korea trip : what you need to know.

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"South Korea? Interesting... but why South Korea?"

That is the most common response I got from customers at the cafe I work at when I told them my next trip is to South Korea. They gave me this interesting look and often asking, why not Japan? Hong Kong? or etc.. 

Well, I understand most of my readers are probably from Asia region which for us Asians, South Korea is one of the country that we have to visit. I mean, if you're into KDrama like me or KPOP like my friend Vivien, you might've dreamt of visiting Korea right?

So last June, I thought of traveling to South Korea. Then I randomly told Vivien about it and who would've known that Viv has been wanting to visit too! Long story short, I'll get into more details about each city we visited and how did our trip went down in the next few articles but on this one, I'd like to list down things you need to know before you plan a trip to South Korea, especially if you're a first timer like us.


VISA
First of all, VISA is really crucial when it comes to travelling. Make sure the passport you're holding is eligible to enter your destination country. For me, I am holding an Indonesian passport, therefore I need to apply for a visa to enter South Korea. But for Vivien with her Australian passport, she can enter VISA FREE. To know your passport restriction, visit South Korea visa information guide HERE to check your passport eligibility. (PS: I am going to write another article as a guide for Indonesian passport to apply for South Korea visa)

WHEN TO VISIT  
I believe each season has its charm when you visit a country, especially a country with four seasons. But a trusted-local (aka my friends who are Korean) told me the best time to visit is in April-May (mid spring) or October/mid November (mid Autumn), because the weather wouldn't be as extreme as it would be both in Summer (extremely hot) or Winter (extremely cold).
It all goes back to you and your preference on what kinda weather you would prefer. But our visit (October 1st- 13th) was given such good weather. It was perfect weather in Jeju, a little storm in Busan, sunny in Jeonju and chilly but sunny in Seoul.


CURRENCY
South Korea uses KOREAN WON as their currency. In paper form, the money are 1,000 KRW, 5,000KRW, 10,000KRW and 50,000KRW. In coins, you'll get from 500KRW all the way to 10KRW.
Here's an important tips : Exchange your Dollar in Korea!
I exchanged a little bit AUD in Sydney and I got 760KRW for AU$1 then when I exchanged in Korea a week later, I got 795KRW for AU$1. Trust me, you get more in Korea :)
I would recommend WEXCHANGE in Sydney, they have slightly higher rate than bank and they are trusted.


BOOKING A HOTEL or AIRBNB
In Korea, they have different type of accomodations. What you need to know before booking your accomodation is of course its location, but in Korea they have guesthouse/backpacker/hostel, then hotel. I often get confused when I was searching for accomodation but I would highly recommend you to always read the review before booking.
If you are torn between Airbnb or Hotel, my tips would be this :
- Travelling solo
I would highly recommend looking for a private room on Airbnb (it turns out to be slightly cheaper for an own room, especially if you're on a budget) or if you wouldn't mind sharing a room with strangers or you're used to backpacker accomodation situation then totally go for it.
- Travelling with a friend or partner.
Hotel in Seoul are slightly cheaper than Airbnb, especially if you're travelling with just one friend. I compared the price for over two months and I always get cheaper hotel than Airbnb. Plus with Hotel, they often offer inclusive breakfast (always check the T&Cs before you book).
- Travelling with groups or family.
If you are travelling with groups or family, then Airbnb is your best friend. Because when you break down the cost, it goes cheaper and everyone can stay in the same house/apartment :)

For hotel, I highly recommend booking with BOOKING.COM, they offer cheapest hotel price. If you book through my link HERE, you will get $20 off your booking (and it helps me to get some $$ to grow this website) and here's my AIRBNB link :)



LANGUAGE BARRIER
Most people worry about language barrier in Korea. You will be fine if you're only staying in Seoul, because Seoul is a metropolitan city and most of their younger people are able to communicate basic English. But not outside Seoul, for example Jeju-do. On our first night in Jeju-do in a mission to find dinner, we found this random bbq restaurant near our hotel and none of the staffs speak English but their menu comes with English translation, and I never imagine I would use my basic Mandarin in Jeju-do because the staff speaks fluent Mandarin (I believe it's because 50% of their tourists is from China).  
I have to say knowing basic korean helps so much in getting around, such as counting number, asking direction, saying thankyou, etc. It would be a plus if you can communicate in Mandarin. Otherwise, hiring a local guide would be your alternative or any translating apps will be your best friend. 


INTERNET CONNECTION
"Do I need to purchase SIM CARD or Pocket Wifi?" YES! but thankfully we survived two weeks without none of those. What happened was when we arrived in Jeju-do (which was our first stop) we were spoiled by free wifi on the bus and on the entire island :p I've heard that you also get free wifi in Seoul but it wasn't that efficient. Free wifi in Seoul only covers at some places and you'll definitely need wifi to get around. 


NAVER MAP
You'll need Naver Map to get around. As you know, Google Map doesn't work in South Korea because nips and naps that happened within the system. As the replacement, locals get around with Naver Map and I gotta tell you it's much better than Google Map. 
Naver Map has every detail written in English. All you need to do is enter your destination and it'll show you direction.


KAKAO METRO 
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Seoul Subway Map shown on Kakao Metro

Kakao Metro helps so much in terms of navigating Subway system in Seoul. The app is user friendly too. All you need to do is enter your destination station then input your departing station. It also tells you where to transfer, which carriage, the cost of the journey, etc. 
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How to use Kakao Metro : enter a subway station. Then from that station, you can choose whether you are departing or want to go to that station (as what shown above on the picture) 



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for example, I wanna travel from Myeongdong to Hongik University (aka Hongdae). Then it will show how long the journey gonna take, how much it will cost me, which side of subway door exit and transfer carriage, etc.
Kakao Metro also operates in Busan. 



T-MONEY CARD 
T-Money Card is a transportation card like OPAL (in Sydney). You can purchase this card at any convenient store, the card itself cost 2,500KRW (approx AU$ 3.00) and you can top up at subway station or convenient store. It's cheaper to get around with T-Money Card.
Make sure you tap on and tap off. 


INTERCITY BUS 

Let's say you want to visit Jeonju (ps: I love Jeonju). It takes approx. 2 and a half hours from Seoul to Jeonju and you can get there by BUS.
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Busan Express Bus Terminal (NOPO)

I have to admit Korea has a really good transportation system.
The bus terminal is very organised and they are very on time. Our bus from Busan to Jeonju was scheduled on 8.10 AM and we left exactly on 8.10AM. You can go to the Bus Terminal and purchase the ticket on the spot, or you can purchase it online and even pick your seat.  
There are three grades for bus : economy, excellent and premium. To give you an insight, the picture below is our excellent class seat from Busan to Jeonju. The seat is comes with arm rest, and foot rest, it was so comfortable that I slept through the entire three hours journey. We paid 23,700 KRW/per person (approx AU$30) for one way journey from BUSAN to Jeonju.

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Excellent class Seat

Then from Jeonju to Seoul we rode the economy class, but even the economy class was comfortable. 
You can book the bus ticket one month prior to your travel period here : KOBUS.


I hope I cover enough on this first article about South Korea. I hope fellow travellers who have been to South Korea can add more tips below as if I miss some of the points but I'd cover more specific ones in the upcoming articles.



Till then, xoxo Lenny.


Saturday, August 18, 2018

24 Hours in BYRON BAY

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B Y R O N  B A Y 

New South Wales


"24 hours can not fully justify a destination, but you can always take in what a place has to offer 
as much as you want... Here's to spending my twenty-third birthday in Byron Bay."


Saturday, April 28, 2018

THE MULIA RESORT, BALI

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T H E    M U L I A   R E S O R T 
NUSA DUA, BALI 



A few years ago, the name "The Mulia Bali" surfaced to public, I wouldn't be able to provide you the official source, but I am sure it was mouth-to-mouth or Instagram being the absolute source. Then, it was when Conde Nast Traveler's named it the number one Beach Resort in the world in 2014, The Mulia Bali started everyone talking. 


Saturday, January 6, 2018

THE BITTER-SWEET TRUTH ABOUT SOLO TRAVELLING

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I know you're probably trying to tell me if I have misspelled "Travelling" as it is supposed to be "Traveling" with a single L. You're welcome to have your own entitlement of that but really that's not what I am trying to discuss about here. Bye, Felicia. 
After juggling between what should I write as the first official post of 2018, I came up with this. I recently put up an Instagram-story polling (oh please, it's 2018 and if you still have no idea what it is, I'll be more than happy to give you a lecture, just email me). On my polling, I asked if the majority of my followers would travel with a partner rather than travel solo.. And the result keeps coming in, and I have more people voting for 'travel with a partner' rather than going on their own. 

Why did I end up choosing this topic?  
Well, as a youngster who has traveled solo during 2017 even though I am not a pro, I feel like sharing this experience might help those who ever thought of starting to travel on their own or to encourage my fellow youngsters to book that ticket and pick up their bag and leave to their dream destinations. 
The truth is it doesn't sound that easy. Not everyone has the gut to just pick up the bag and go travel. I understand the insecurities and fear and all the second guessing in making such decision because let me tell you, it ain't easy. I travelled solo by accident, my boyfriend had to cancel his trip and I can't just let the part I paid burnt off just like that. So I picked up my bag and just go. Guess what? It was the best thing that's ever happened to me and changed my perspective completely in seeing places.

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Let me get to the point why it's bitter sweet, the break down is here.

THE BITTER TRUTH. 
  • Everything about traveling solo is you are going to be in the journey alone, all by yourself.
  • You'll be sitting alone in the airport waiting room and on the plane with only your latest gadget(s). 
  • You will have to trust your instinct discovering certain places and your ability to read city maps is really needed here, if you're just like me who got lost easily, you'll have to ask local about where you're going. That means, when visiting a non-english speaking country, you should really try your ultimate best. 
  • The hardest part is to have the hotel room all for yourself. I know it sounds exaggerating and some people probably wouldn't mind that at all and as much as you're telling yourself it is okay to be alone at the hotel room because you're a grown up, it still is empty. When I say empty, I mean it. You are longing for a company and you might say 'oh call your significant other, friends or parents'... that works, only during the call period and not after they hang up. Your heart is missing a partner or a person to talk to right at that moment. When it comes to me, no matter how strong or brave I think I am, I cry at my hotel room sometimes. 
  • You have no one to talk to on the street/getting from one point to the other. Unless you're on a day tour or group tour which probably can get you one or two friends if you decided to be friendly or make some friends that day. 
  • Expenses are all at your own costs. Say you book a hotel, you can't split the payment because obviously you are on your own. You also unable to split any food bill, or even share a meal. You have to  pay everything on your own, even though splitting it in half would make all cost a lot cheaper. 
  • Securities. This is the important issue. When you are by yourself in a big or small city, you're in charged of your own safety. It can be a lot scarier to walk to your accomodation at night at some cities. You have to pretend you look scary too (not trying to look like a ghost) and you ended up having to at least have pepper spray or in my case I carry nail chipper just in case of protection. I might make this sounds funny (or not) to you because you might think it's like one of those movie scenes, but it is all for your safety. It's better to have an umbrella before it rains, isn't it?
  • No one is going to take photos for you, unless you asked a stranger/offered a help by a stranger or you carry a tripod, like me. 

  THE SWEET TRUTH

  • An instant confirmation. When you find a cheap ticket to your dream destination or just a cheap ticket in general and you have a leave you can take or a matching time but not your friends, you can just book that ticket and go.   
  • A personalised itinerary. You're free to do whatever you want, go wherever you want. Sometimes when you travel with someone else, it can be hard to arrange itinerary based on the likes of each individual and in this case, instead of being an asshole for not going to where they wanted, you can be a complete selfish person and just head to the places you wanted to. 
  • Eat whatever you want or feel like at that moment. Love a burger? Go ahead. Feels like chicken nuggets? Yes, Maccas is right at the corner. Eat whatever you please.
  • You actually train yourself to know people and make friends with strangers. Out of all the day tour you went on, it is impossible if you don't gain at least one friend. There will be people who are also traveling on their own and just go and say hi. You never know who you're gonna meet. Be friendly. 
  • I mean just like the bitter truth, the sweet truth of solo traveling has its own importance in the matter of self-growth. Again, it may sound dramatic. During my solo traveling, I find a part of myself that I never knew existed. I personally felt an internal growth and appreciation towards myself that I forever thank my solo travel for.


To end this very personal article, I would sum up that solo traveling is a life changing experience that we should all experience at some point of our lives to help us discover ourselves in a whole another level. It may come with risks and bitter sides, but we won't grow without challenges and adventures.


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With all love and supports,




Lenny xoxo