Thursday, October 19, 2017 | By: purple taste

South Korea 2017 - Seoul 30 Sep | Hotel Park Hill | Namdaemun Market

Happy to travel with the foodie gang, again! This time round to South Korea where they will first be doing Jeju and I will join them later on for Busan and Seoul. This is by far the furthest destination travelled with the foodie group; @littledevil_98, @chubbybotakkoala, @ivan_teh_runningman and @littletinysun.Well done to us!

Read about our 'maiden' overseas travel here: Bangkok (May 2016). 

My style for travelling? Mostly independent. We agreed to stay nearby for easier meet-up. For Busan, it was mainly at the Busan Station area and in Seoul, we'd be staying at the Hongik University area. As am not joining them for Jeju, am on my own for one day in Seoul before regrouping at Busan.

Flight-wise, it was Asiana again. Worked till 730pm that Friday night, took a cab back to house. Showered, packed the bags and go! At the airport, checked-in the luggage, picked up the Changi Recommends Wifi and then loitered till boarding gates opened. Flight-time was 230am.

Breakfast was served at 720am (SG time), and there was a choice of porridge or omelette. The omelette was nicely warm and pretty dense. Fills the tummy pretty fast.

Asiana omelette breakfast
From Incheon, take the Airport Express (AREX) train back to Seoul. Non-stop ticket is priced at ₩8000 but one could get discounted ones from websites such as Klook or Trazy. They are also having special discounts for airlines with fare at ₩6900. Non-stop train takes just 43 minutes to reach Seoul Station while the all-stop-train takes about 65 minutes.

AREX to Seoul Station
train view

As I'd be alone on Day 1, decided to stay near Seoul Station so that I could take the train to Busan on the next day. The Hotel Park Hill is located at Hoehyeon Station, which is one-stop from Seoul Station. It is really near Namdaemun Market but unfortunately, I went the wrong way. Had to ask for directions and figured out I'd wasted my energy for 1+km as I went the opposite direction. Coincidentally, the wrong direction had the same landmark, which is a Starbucks.

Take Exit 6 or 7 (escalator) of Hoehyeon Station. If you see 7-eleven, Ediya Coffee and Starbucks in a row, then walk towards Starbucks and the hotel would be just round the corner.

Hotel Park Hill
The check-in was quick and the receptionist spoke a little English. Was given a twin bedroom instead. The room door was not locked when I went in. The key is old-fashioned, so do remember to lock the doors when you go out.

twin bedroom
double bed

The hotel wifi was not so good, so I ended up using the wifi router rented from Changi Recommends. The side entrance of the hotel provided a slightly nearer route to Namdaemun Market.

side entrance
side entrance alley
exit of the alley
towards Namdaemun market
Was starving because spent too much time looking for the hotel. Decided to eat at the Galchi Jorim (Fish) Alley in Namdaemun Market. Jungang restaurant has a queue so decided to just try a random one.

Sunday, February 5, 2017 | By: purple taste

Early Autumn Japan Nov 2016 - Kyoto Accommodation - Airbnb near Fushimi Inari Shrine

The actual location would be somewhere near Fukakusa Ichinotsubocho. It is about 6 minutes walk from the Fushimi Inari Station. Main reason of choosing Airbnb was really because the hotel rooms were all so costly during autumn period. We stayed 5 nights in Kyoto and this Airbnb location was really ideal as it is relatively close to the station, plenty of food option nearby plus it was just 10 to 12 mins walk to the Fushimi Inari Shrine.

It wasn't easy to find this place as it was nestled within the residential area. Luckily, the homeowners made a Youtube video that made it possible to look out for the landmarks (practically need to look out for lamp posts!) Had to loop the video a couple of times to memorise though but it works ;)

Autumn weather means it gets cold when the sunsets around 5pm and by 8pm, the temperature dipped to less than 15 degrees celcius.

Fushimi Inari Station

The homeowner left enough instructions via messaging service so we knew how to retrieve the house key without having to meet up. So cool. The house was nice and one would walk into the living/dining room area along with a small kitchenette. There's a sliding door that separated the dining area and the washing area. There was a washing machine cum dryer in there that we appreciated and used well throughout our stay. This was because as we discovered that the washing area would be icily cold at night and it was impossible for the towels and clothes to dry. So the dryer was really handy!

It was quite cool to see a real kotatsu in the dining area. Unfortunately, it wasn't working so we couldn't warm our legs via that. There was a separate heater though so that was always turned on when we're downstairs in the evenings/mornings.

living/dining area
living/dining area - open the sliding door to the bathing area
bathing area
washing machine cum dryer

The toilet was tiny even for Asians. There was just enough room to manouvre in to sit/stand and do your business. The knee would just be probably one inch away from touching the door.

Upstairs was where the sleeping area was. Though listed as one bedroom, there really isn't any door that separates the sleeping area.

careful on the stairs
decorations upstairs
bedroom (his sleeping quarter)

Since I was travelling with a guy friend, I chose to sleep on the sofa bed instead.

across the bedroom - sofa bed area (my sleeping quarter)
my small cosy hideout with TV (but it didn't have any reception on bad weather days)
my sofabed

The food choices around this area included Kendonya and Ramen Hiwamatanoburo both of which I'd recommend. There's also a Chinese restaurant besides these but we didn't try that. There's a Lawson convenience store in case you'd like to get some oden or instant noodles. My breakfast is usually cakes from Lawson since we'd be up early to go sightseeing and the ramen shops don't usually open till 10am.

matcha baumkuchen from Lawson - breakfast

Here are some scenaries near Fushimi Inari Shrine:

walking towards the shrine, passing by a canal
the path towards the shrine - full of tourist
shops along the way
nearing the Shrine
The Fushimi Inari is the patron for businesses and is traditionally worshipped by businessmen and merchants.

Since we were staying nearby, we also dropped by Fushimi Inari Shrine during the night.

Fushimi Inari - at night
This was my first experience with Airbnb. Booking was a breeze and selection of the right accommodation was made within one or two nights of virtual discussion with my friend. The photos helped and we did read through the reviews before deciding on one that we thought was suitable for our travel plans. Our main criteria was a safe area, near train station, comfortable place (entire accommodation) and price.

The Kyoto Airbnb that we booked was owned by Shinichi and Yuka. Here's the link to their listing in Airbnb. The response that came upon a successful booking was within the same day. All necessary information pertaining on house rules, how to get there, map etc was shared within the same day.

Monday, January 2, 2017 | By: purple taste

Early Autumn Japan Nov 2016 - Inuyama Castle 犬山城

After spending the night at Nagoya, we were up early next morning to take the train to head to Inuyama. Destination was to Inuyama Castle which is somewhere between Gifu and Aichi Prefecture. We went via Meitetsu Line which means JR Pass not usable here and stopped at Inuyamayuen. Train journey was about 40 minutes ride and cost about ¥600.

train station
getting our bearings

Luckily, there were signs to point us to the right direction. The walk to the castle was a scenic one. I think the distance was about 2km from the station to the castle.

Inuyama Castle (on the far left ontop of the hill)
feels slightly like autumn
zoom lens in play
getting nearer
after walking for 20 mins
Inuyama Castle

Clear blue skies, cool weather and nice view made the trek to the hill interesting. Soon, we reached the shrine that eventually leads up to the castle.

at the foot of the castle
pass through the tori gates

The view of the castle was certainly rewarding. Very beautiful. Inuyama Castle is one of the 12 surviving original castles in Japan that was constructed before the Edo period. The castle was built by the Oda clan. Visiting hours are from 9am to 430pm and entrance fee is ¥550.

Tenshu (main donjon)
front view
highest level
One could climb up the castle and get a bird's eye view from the balcony. But I chickened out because the high steps looked abit terrifying. If you are interested, just go to the front steps and take off your shoes and place them in plastic bag provided. Then you may proceed to climb up those scary steps.

how's the view from the top?
autumn colours

Meanwhile, I'll just explore the ground while my friend went up.

view from Inuyama Castle ground (is that Kiso river?)

Found myself a sakura tree on the castle grounds. Not bad, eh?

Sakura blooming with Inuyama Castle in background
We took a different route on our way back to the train station. Passed by many shops and some were pretty interesting. There seemed to have many flower shops in Inuyama. Mostly felt like a sleepy town.

looking back at the entrance to Inuyama Castle
flower shop
shop selling dango
soy glazed dango
Yup, bought myself a dango and it was quite nice. I think it was ¥100 for a stick. But, had some trouble looking for a rubbish bin after that. Haha!