Seoul & Busan 2016 – Day 1: Yeouido Park & Hongdae

Hi everyone, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve updated this blog because I was busy preparing for my Korea trip and pre-wedding photoshoot. Since everything is still fresh in my head, I shall resume writing the Aust trip posts after finishing the Korea post.

It is the 3rd time I’ve been in Korea and the first 2 times were with tour agencies so this time I was pretty nervous and excited. Nervous because of the communication barrier which I am going to face there. My Korean vocab is probably limited to the few phrases and words which I’ve always heard in Korean dramas and I can only read Korean words (no single clue on what they mean though). Well, fortunately for me since I know both English & Mandarin, communication seriously wasn’t a big issue especially for tourist attractions because most staff have been trained to be able to speak Mandarin. More often than not when you try to ask some questions, the first response you will get from them is “Do you speak Mandarin?”. Sorry for English only speakers because their command of English is pretty weak.

Okay enough with the intro. Let’s start with the trip proper. Upon reaching the airport, we went to collect our wifi egg. I’ve already reserved it long before the trip from KT/Olleh so all I had to do was to print the confirmation and head to their counter for collection. The telco counters are located outside the arrival gate on the right. All companies are next to each other. The collection process was smooth and one thing to note is that you have to use your credit card to pay a deposit KRW200,000 before you are able to get your hands on the egg.  All instructions and password of the egg is inside the pouch which they will pass to you. As I rented it online, I was only charged for data/day and rental fee was waived. So in total of 10 days rental, I only had to pay for KRW50,000 on the last day when I returned the egg to them in the airport.

After which we were ready to depart for our hotel, Casaville Residences. The reason for choosing them? Because it was free (hahaha) the photoshoot package had given us 3 nights stay for free. The room is quite spacious and fret not if you will like to whip up supper in the middle of the night because they have stove and dishes there for you to use. We liked the place (not just because it was free) but more of the fact that it was situated in a very strategic location, Sinchon. Only one stop to Ehwa Women’s University and Hongdae. (If you would like to know more, can visit here)

As we were famished, we had our first meal at Lotteria which was right beside the hotel. I know, not a place that would be on the top of the list because it is fast food. We did not have a choice because we were at mercy of our growling tummies. Ordering food was a challenge as the staff wasn’t fluent in either English or Mandarin so hand language to the rescue! Bad choice because we did not manage to try out the popular mozarella burgers *sigh* The burger is relatively big and a interesting point is that their fizzy drinks are REALLY fizzy. No joke. Overall, we preferred the beef burger to the chicken  because the latter was really dry and I had a hard time swallowing it with the fizzy cola. The mozarella sticks were amazing though.

Lotteria

Once we finished our lunch, we travelled to our first destination of the trip.. *drumroll* Yeouido Park!! We were so lucky to be in Seoul right when it was the peak blooming period of cherry blossoms. Look at those beautiful pink flowers!

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

However as it was the last day of the Yeouido Spring Flower Festival,  the number of people there was crazy. It was practically impossible to take a selfie without being photobombed. Everywhere we walked, there were people holding their selfie sticks spamming the capture button. But still, it was a great experience to walk down these rows of pink trees.

After which we went for gown fitting for our pre-wedding photoshoot. At night we decided to travel to Hongdae as recommended by the pre-wedding photoshoot staff. We actually planned Insadong for that day but it made more sense for us to change to Hongdae instead because it is just one stop away from Sinchon.

Fish Cake & Chicken Galbi

Fish cakes & Chicken Galbi

Once we exited from the metro, we came across their street food which is frequently seen in Korean dramas. Street food in Korea became a major thing for us during the entire trip because who can resist these sticks of piping hot goodness in the cold?! In addition they are really cheap. A skewer of fish cake typically cost around KRW1000. For that price, you are entitled to yummy fishcake, a cup of soup and warmth from the stall (sounds stupid here but it’s really a bonus when it is 15 degrees and you are constantly attacked by winds that just can’t stop blowing away).

We continued to walk down Hongdae which was starting to get more crowded with university students. There were clusters of students along the streets dancing and singing. For some reason while watching them, I started to get goosebumps because I could really feel their sincerity and passion for performing. If you are someone who would love to witness this, do come on weekends.

Besides street performers and buskers, there were many eateries along the streets which gave us a headache on what to have for dinner. In the end, we unknowingly chose a pub (the signboard was in Korean) and realised only when the waiter barred underaged students from entering.

Spicy Beef Bulgogi Ddukbokki

Highly recommend this. It was really good even though it was too spicy for us.  Even though I was tearing away while eating this, I couldn’t control my hands from picking it up and placing them into my mouth. What a pity as I cannot recall the name of the place. All I can recall is that the exterior was that of a traditional korean house similar to the restaurant beside it. In addition, they had a sign at the right side of the door that writes “We have English menu” in cute illustrations. Hopefully if you are thinking of trying this outlet, you’ll be able to find it with these (bad) tips.

After dinner, we continued to walk down the streets to do some shopping. Hongdae has its fair share of retail outlets comprising of tiny ones (similar to that of Bugis street) and huge brands such as Bershka & SPAO.

Hongdae

Hongdae

Torched beef

We saw this on the streets and decided to try because we remembered we tried something like this in one of the night markets during our Taiwan trip and it was so delicious. This is pretty good as well though I sincerely feel that it would taste so much better without the bbq sauce.

Shortly after eating, we left Hongdae because it was getting too cold. That marks the end of our day 1 in Korea. For those who are interested to visit the above mentioned places, details are below.


  • Yeouido Park

Directions: Metro Line 9, National Assembly station

(Note: When taking this line, make sure that you are not boarding an express train because we did not notice we boarded one and in the end the train did not stop at National Assembly station so we wasted quite a bit of time)

  • Hongdae (Hongik University Street)

Directions: Metro Line 2, Hongik University station, Exit 8 or 9


Note. I will write on my prewedding photoshoot in Korea on a separate post in more detail.

Tasmania & Melbourne 2015 – Day 2: Tasmania (Hobart) – Port Arthur & Tasman National Park

Day 1 was really memorable. If you have not read it yet, hop over to here. On day 2, we went to Port Arthur in the morning and Tasman National Park in the afternoon.

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The Port Arthur Historic Site, once a Tasmanian convict site. Now it’s a popular place to visit for its rich history and its renowned ghost tours.

We booked our tours online around a month before our trip and luckily we did because when we were on one of the tour we overheard that some people didn’t manage to join because all the slots have been filled up! If I were them, I would have felt really dejected especially after driving 2 hours to reach the place from Hobart.

We booked the “Site entry + Isle of the Dead + Point Puer Boys’ Prison” tour. Costs around AUD$70/pax. You can book the tours here. I was very tempted to book the Ghost tour but I couldn’t make the timing work so I guess we gave it a miss this time. Sigh. (If you have a chance, do it! We heard the tour guides saying that there have been many sightings of paranormal activity)

Once you have reached Port Arthur, pass the purchase confirmation to the counter staff and they will print out your tickets, a random poker card and a sticker (or lanyard. I can’t really recall. It’s just for them to identify that you have paid and am on the tour). After that, descend the stairs and wait outside for the tour guide to arrive.

It is pretty chilly during October so if you are going on the same period, do bring shawls and a light sweater. Plus Port Arthur is surrounded by sea so the breeze is pretty strong.

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Our tour started with a 40 minutes brief introduction on Port Arthur and was followed by a 20 minute harbour cruise passing the Dockyard, Point Puer Boys’ Prison and the Isle of the Dead. If you booked the same tour as me, you will get to alight when the cruise reach both Point Puer Boys’ Prison and Isle of the Dead.

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The harbour where we waited for the cruise

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Departing ~

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(Above) Isle of the Dead

I personally prefer Isle of the Dead compared to Point Puer Boys’ Prison. The guides were very knowledgeable for both tours but for the latter, most of it are already in ruins and there ain’t much to see. Almost everything was from pictures printed out and handed to us while we walk around the island. More often than not, most of the places where we stood while she explained, we had to imagine it ourselves. On the contrary, Isle of the Dead had all of the tombs intact. We were more able to relate to each of the stories she mentioned.

So my advice would be to skip the Point Puer Boys’ Prison if possible but do go on the Isle of the Dead tour.

After which we had our lunch there and left for Tasman National Park. (Note: There is zero reception there for Yes Optus. Not sure for other telecos though).

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Our lunch above at Port Arthur. Do not get deceived by the roasted pork! It’s nothing similar to ours in Singapore. The fish and chips though were yummy!

After lunch, we travelled from Port Arthur to Tasman National Park (approx. fifteen minutes drive). There are several formations which you can stop by to take pictures or just admire the view!

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Pirate’s Bay Lookout

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Tasman’s Arch

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Tessellated pavement

All of these are linked so you can easily walk from one to the other except for the Tessellated Pavement where you’ll need do a 5 minutes drive. Do come early though because when we reached there, it was starting to get dark and the tide was starting to come in which was quite dangerous.

Other than that, loved the scenery. Will update Day 3 real soon 🙂

A short summary on our itinerary:

Day 1: Tasmania (Hobart) – Mt. Wellington

Day 2: Tasmania (Hobart) – Port Arthur & Tasman National Park

Day 3: Tasmania – Barilla Oyster Farm, Sorrell Fruit Farm, Freycinet National Park – Wineglass Bay

Day 4: Tasmania (Launceston) – Elizabeth Town Bakery, Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Cafe, Ashgrove Cheese, 41 Degrees South Tasmania, Melita Honey Farm

Day 5: Tasmania (Launceston) – Table Cape Lighthouse, Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park

Day 6: Tasmania (Launceston) – Seahorse World, Platypus House, Tamar Valley, The Cataract Gorge

Day 7 & 8 : Melbourne – Great Ocean Road

Day 9: Melbourne – Phillip Island

Renting a car in Australia

Tasmania & Melbourne 2015 – Day 1: Tasmania (Hobart) – Mt. Wellington

It has always been my dad’s dream to travel together on a free and easy trip where we can self-drive around and obviously Australia became the best choice because it is right-handed drive and there is no language barrier.

I started to plan for this 10 days 9 nights Tasmania + Melbourne trip around half a year before because it was our first. Previous trips were always with tour agencies but we have started to hate how we had to be forced to go to places where we ain’t actually interested in – basically a waste of time and money.

Please scroll all the way down for individual days link & other detailed guides eg. reservation of car, Airbnb etc

We departed from Changi Airport late at around 8pm.

My cute little travel buddy

After which we had to transit at Sydney. As there was more than an hour of free time, we went to get our tourist SIM card at Optus. Once you exit from the arrival gate, just turn right and you will see the 3 telco shops at the right. I was actually more inclined to get Telstra because of it’s coverage but the price difference was too great. Optus Prepaid Card costs only AUD$30 for 30 days with 1.5GB data & unlimited standard national calls. 10 days would actually mean only AUD$3/day. The staff was very efficient so we still had time to grab a bite.

We settled for breakfast at Hungry Jacks (which is actually just Burger King).

Hungry Jacks for breakfast while transiting at Sydney Airport

Once we reached Hobart airport, half of us went to get our baggage while my dad and I went over to collect our car for the next few days in Tasmania. The car collection place is just beside the baggage collection area. Once you are at the baggage area, walk all the way right and exit from there. Cross the road and you’ll reach. All the car rental companies are there.

We booked Avis because I compared all the car rental companies and Avis came up to be the cheapest even after you add on a “reduce liability to zero”. (For tips on renting cars in Australia, refer to here)

Our first destination was our Airbnb guesthouse! We booked with Jacinta for our stay in Hobart. It was very easy communicating with Jacinta. I’ve told her this was the first time we were doing Airbnb and had no clue on how it worked. She was very responsive and was very flexible especially with our “check-in” timing because the plane got delayed.

The house is huge and it’s exactly what you see in the Airbnb page here. The view is definitely a plus and from one of the bedrooms, you get an elevated bed which gives you a spectacular view of the river without even needing to stand up. Some pictures of our awesome guesthouse below!

A place to park our car outside the house

The view of the river one of the bedrooms

The living room (please pardon our clothes lying everywhere)

The view from the balcony

Seriously love this place. Hop over to the link I’ve mentioned above to check out more photos of the place. Really recommend it. Jacinta also left us many brochures and maps of Tasmania which we could use for our reference.

(Get $28 off your first Airbnb booking by following this link. Do take note that you must go to this link before you register. If you have already registered before, you will not be able to get the credit because this was what I did. In the end I had to delete the account and remake one to get the credit)

After settling down, we were all hungry. We had no choice but to cancel our plans of going to Salamanca Place because the market was already over due to the delayed plane *cries*. In the end we continued from there and went to Woolsworth to buy groceries for our picnic at Mount Wellington!

Our cart which is getting filled

Australia food is expensive and if you want to save on meals, definitely go to either Woolsworth or Coles for groceries. You can buy an entire roasted chicken at AUD$10. It’s so worth it! Plus there are many other ready made meals such as lasagna, pasta, etc. All you need is either a microwave or oven which we do have in our guesthouse.

After stocking food, it’s time to head up to Mount Wellington!

Mount Wellington, officially known as kunanyi / Mount Wellington, is a mountain in the southeast coastal region of Tasmania, Australia. The mountain is the summit of the Wellington Range on whose foothills is built much of the city of Hobart.

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Greeted by the lights of Hobart

We took around an hour and half to reach the summit of Mount Wellington. On the way up, we were busy snapping photos of the pretty view of Hobart at night. This photo above was taken on our way down. The reason for only 1 photo? The winds were SO STRONG. I am not kidding. My dad stopped the car near the ledge to let us take a few pictures but we could feel the entire car shaking. It was totally impossible to snap a photo properly.

We will never forget the epic moment which happened at the peak.

*Dads stops at the peak beside the lighthouse to let us alight and snap some pictures*

*Husband tries to open the door*

Husband: It’s locked.

Dad: No it isn’t. *Checks the car* Yeah it isn’t.

*Everyone else tries to open the respective car door beside them*

Finally my older brother managed to open the door but only slightly. We realised in the end that the force of the wind prevented us from opening the car door. Yes, sounds ridiculous but it’s true. In the end we couldn’t have picnic since we couldn’t even open the car door. I think even if we did try, our food will probably end up in the wind.

Lesson learnt, always check how strong wind speeds are before attempting to travel up a mountain.

In the end we have dinner back at the guesthouse (no regrets) and had  a great night sleep.

*Note: I will slowly update the links once the post for the individual days are completed.

A short summary on our itinerary:

Day 1: Tasmania (Hobart) – Mt. Wellington

Day 2: Tasmania (Hobart) – Port Arthur & Tasman National Park

Day 3: Tasmania – Barilla Oyster Farm, Sorrell Fruit Farm, Freycinet National Park – Wineglass Bay

Day 4: Tasmania (Launceston) – Elizabeth Town Bakery, Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Cafe, Ashgrove Cheese, 41 Degrees South Tasmania, Melita Honey Farm

Day 5: Tasmania (Launceston) – Table Cape Lighthouse, Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park

Day 6: Tasmania (Launceston) – Seahorse World, Platypus House, Tamar Valley, The Cataract Gorge

Day 7 & 8 : Melbourne – Great Ocean Road

Day 9: Melbourne – Phillip Island

Renting a car in Australia

Renting a car in Australia

Self-drive in Australia may sound like an awesome holiday dream come true but when you start researching for more information and comparing the different car rental companies, you’ll probably end up as confused as me. Especially when it is the first time you are actually renting a car.

There are more than 5 car rental companies in Australia and they all have their individual price/day, discounts, add-ons etc. Here are a few important points to take note when booking.

1. GPS

Having a GPS is extremely important in Australia. Do not rely on your smartphone’s GPS. There were many times while my family and I were driving on the roads and we get zero reception (emergency calls only) so if we wanted to change our destination last minute, there was no way to because there was no data for your phone to load the changed route. You can either bring one from your home country or just rent it for a price from the car rental agency.

Another advantage of GPS is that it is much more accurate in timing than Google Maps.

2. Excess Reduction

This is the most confusing point to consider when renting a car and you’ll probably end up with a headache like me in the end. Excess reduction is a product that the car rental agency will offer in order to reduce your liability if there is any damage to the car. Some agencies have a variety of excess reduction options you can choose from and the price of your car will vary significantly depending on what you choose.

As kaisu Singaporeans, my family and I opted to reduce our liability to zero which means that there won’t be a scenario where we will need to pay any amount if something happens to the car. However there is a trade-off for this which is the hefty surcharge. So if paying that cash can make your trip more enjoyable, do it.

3. Sealed & Unsealed Roads

If you ever read the Terms & Conditions when renting your car (which you should), you’ll notice these 2 terms popping up frequently – sealed & unsealed roads. Unlike Singapore where most roads are sealed and there is almost zero probability of you driving on an unsealed one, there is a high chance of you driving on an unsealed road in Australia especially for less urban areas and for us we encountered them frequently in Tasmania.

“A sealed road is a road of which the surface has been permanently sealed by the use of one of several pavement treatments, often of composite construction.”

Most car agencies will not cover you if damage is done while driving on unsealed roads. But I would say this isn’t much of a worry if you just try to be extra careful when driving on unsealed ones.

4. Check your car before driving off

Always check your car before driving off the car rental site because if there are any scratches or damages to the car later when you return, you’ll be held responsible for them. They would give you a car rental slip and remind you to check the car for any damages before you leave the counter. If you do find any, just let the staff at the parking area know and they will indicate them on the slip and sign off to void you of any of the damages caused by the previous driver. Note that sometimes when they pass you the slip, there may already be indications but  do not take it for granted! It is always best to check again yourself because we found several dents and scratches which weren’t already indicated on the slip.

5. Driver

Insurance only covers one driver – the one who rented the car online. (I didn’t realise that and only after I completed the entire booking, I realised the insurance only covered me but I wasn’t the one who will be driving so I had to delete the entire booking and do it all over again). Moreover, insurance will not cover drivers who are under the age of 25. If there is no other drivers who can do that, you can still drive but there will be a surcharge for that.

There are many other points to take note of but I feel that these 5 are those which are more of importance. You can read this article here to understand what else you have to take note of.

The rental company which we went for was Avis which we were very satisfied with during the trip. Oh another thing, if you are unable to collect your car at the timing which you’ve booked beforehand, do not worry because they actually do reserve your car for several hours in the event there is an unexpected event such as a flight delay (which was what we experienced).

Then, have a safe and fun trip in Australia! Feel free to ask me any questions and I’ll try the best of my knowledge to answer them 🙂