22 December 2012

Lee Seung Gi's Return

Am I the only one who's crying when watching Return music video (MV) for the first time?

I like the MV more than the song itself. 'Return' is the new song of Lee Seung Gi (LSG) in his new mini album that came out last month. It became number one in many music charts. Well done, Prince Seung Gi! You made a successful Return. He also appeared in Running Man episode 120 and 121, and Gag Concert shows recently. He is also election ambassador for last week Presidential Election in South Korea. I wish I was in Korea at that time, because there were many banners and posters of him in the whole country haha. Rumors say his new drama will also air soon. So excited!

It has been 2 year, and I am still a big fan of him. I didn't come to his Hope Concert (it's still a mystery to me why he named it Hope Concert. Anyone know?) this year, but I hope to watch it and see him again next year.

Kissing his poster in Taman Anggrek Mall :P
And it brings back memory to LSG Fan Meeting event in Jakarta last month.

16 October 2012

Transportation in Jeju Island

These are some remarks regarding public transportation in Jeju.
  • Buses in Jeju Island accept Seoul's t-money card. You can buy and top-up it in convenience store, like GS25 and Family Mart.
  • City buses normally charge 1000won for cash, or 950won for t-money card. If you pay by card, tap it to the machine when you aboard and when you alight. If you transit between 2 buses during a certain times, fee for the next bus can be 0won, or free.
  • Intercity buses vary depends on the distance, usually between 1000-3000won. There's no different fee paying with cash or card. When you aboard the bus, tell the driver about your destination, he will tell you how much it is, and you have to pay there directly. If you pay by card, no need to tap it again when you get off.
  • There are 2 bus terminals in Seogwipo city. The main bus terminal is in the south-east of downtown, near the Jeongbang Waterfall, which is also the old one. The second one is to the right of the E-mart in front of the World Cup Stadium. I usually stopped and transited in the main bus terminal.
  • Almost every bus in Jeju equipped with English announcement, so you'll know what next stop is. Every stop also has name written so you can see it clearly, especially if you sit on the right side. I always sat on the right side.
  • Taxi fare in Jeju Island is quite cheap, compare to Seoul. The initial meter charge is 2200won.

Cute bus stop in Jeju Island

This is the public transportation I took to go to places I mentioned in this post.

East of Jeju Island

I visited East of Jeju when I was staying in Jeju-si in HKJeju II. The hostel is just 10 minutes away from Jeju Bus Terminal, so if you travel with 2-3 people, it's easier and cheaper to take taxi. I was traveling alone and I needed to safe my spending in transportation. People say, taking bus in Jeju is not easy and wasting time because the bus is not so frequent. But if you know the bus timing, you know when exactly you have to go to the bus stop, and you will not waste your time for waiting.

25 September 2012

Accommodation in Jeju Island

Last time I shared about places to go in Jeju Island. This time I am going to share about the accommodation I stayed there.

Jeju Island is divided into 2 si (cities): Jeju-si in the north and Seogwipo-si in the south. Going from one city to another would take about 1 to 1.5 hour. If the places you want to visit are mostly in Seogwipo-si, then look for accommodation in Seogwipo-si. For me, I decided to spend first 2 nights in Seogwipo-si and the rest 5 nights in Jeju-si. Why not half-half? Simply because accommodation in Jeju-si is cheaper. And it turns out that staying in Jeju-si is easier in terms of public transportation.

There was this hostel chain offering cheap price and good place to stay around South Korea: Hostel Korea (HK). It has 3 branches in Jeju Island: HKJeju I and HKJeju II in Jeju-si, and HKJeju III in Seogwipo-si. I booked one bed in HKJeju III for 2 nights, and one bed in HKJeju II for 5 nights, via email (see Booking a Hostel post). I got 15,000won per night in HKJeju III, and 13,000won per night in HKJeju II.

15 September 2012

Booking a Hostel

These are tips from me about booking an accommodation, especially a backpacker hostel. This is what I usually do.

First, I search list of hostels available for my traveling dates in HostelWorld and HostelBookers. For each hostel listed that comes to my budget, I search its website. If there is no website, remove that hostel from the list, because.. who the hell doesn't have a website these days?!

If there is a website, find the location, rates and email information. Sometimes, the price stated in the website is different, even cheaper, than the one in HostelWorld or HostelBookers. Some hostels also accept booking via email without booking fee or down payment. Like a hostel I stayed in Jeju, the price in HostelWorld was 18,000won per person per night, but when I email-ed them directly they said 15,000won per night without any down payment and booking fee!

Sometimes, hostels do not update their status immediately to external booking sites. So, I usually email-ed them directly if it was possible, to make sure the price was correct and the bed was really available.

If it is not possible to book via email, then book the bed via HostelWorld or HostelBookers. I have tried both sites, safe, secured and recommended. Now there are many other booking sites, like AirBnB, but I haven't tried any of them yet.

Both HostelWorld and HostelBookers require down payment 10% from total cost. HostelWorld charges US$2 for booking fee. It offers a Gold Card costs US$10, for free booking fee in 12 months. So if you think you might book hostels many times in 1 year through HostelWorld, then this Gold Card could be an option. While HostelBookers doesn't charge any booking fee, but honestly the choices of hostels in HostelBookers are not as many as in HostelWorld.

For booking more expensive accommodation (hotel), I use Agoda. I have only tried it once, and it was okay.

Which site do you usually use for booking accommodation for your trip?

26 July 2012

Jeju Island in 3 Days

Jeju Island, the Hawaii of Korea, where couples usually go for honeymoon, and the place of many UNESCO Nature Heritage sites, is really beautiful and romantic. Some people say we need to spend at least 1 week to explore and experience the most of this island, but in my opinion 3 days are enough. Trust me, many places in Jeju only look good in advertisement, they're good at selling it. There are no interesting places in the North and West part of Jeju Island, so you can focus on East and South. East and South parts are amazingly naturally beautiful! Here's the itinerary I recommend.

Day-1: East of Jeju Island

Manjanggul / Manjang Cave
Spending time: 30-45 minutes
Hallasan, located in the middle of Jeju Island is the only volcanic mountain in Korea. It created several small volcanic mountains throughout Jeju Island, called Oreum in Korean. One of the biggest Oreum is Geomun Oreum, famous with its large lava tube system and designated as a UNESCO Natural Heritage site. It has few lava tunnels/caves formed by lava flow in the northeast direction thousands years ago: Bengdui Cave, Manjang Cave, Gimnyeong Cave, Yongcheon Cave, Dangcheomul Cave and Seonheul Vertical Cave. I think you do not need to visit all the caves, just pick the best and the most popular one: Manjang Cave. It stretches for 1,3km, but only 1km is opened for tourists. There is a unique rock in the end of the tunnel, formed by flowing lava. There's also a unique turtle rock located in the middle of the tunnel. The structures inside the cave are different in each section. When you see that, you will realize how strong and powerful lava can be.

30 May 2012

Seoul Fortress Wall of Bugaksan

This was my first time hiking in Korea. I always admire Korean mountains from a far, but never actually climbed it (if you don't consider walking up to Namsan Tower for 20 minutes is a hiking :P). I will start with the easiest one first, until later I will (hopefully have a chance to) hike in Seoraksan or Hallasan.

Bugaksan is a mountain located on the back side of Gyeongbokgung and Cheongwadae (Blue House: president's house), and one of the mountains that passed by Seoggwak Pass or Seoul Fortress Wall, along with Inwangsan, Namsan and Naksan. So, it is special because you can walk the trail with the ancient Fortress Wall, and you can see the amazing view of Gyeongbokgung, Gwanghwamun and Namsan Tower.

Seoul Fortress Wall was constructed during King Taejo's ruling period, after he built Gyeongbokgung and Jongmyo, and had been always maintained by the kings after him. This wall surrounds the capital area, Jongmyo, and all royal palaces: Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung, Gyeonghuigung. It has 4 main large gates (Sadaemun) located in the north, south, east and west: Sukjeongmun, Sungnyemun (also called Namdaemun), Heunginjimun (also called Dongdaemun), Donuimun. Between them, 4 small gates (Sasomun) are situated: Changuimun, Souimun, Gwanghuimun, Hyehwamun.

Now, even though some of the walls are missing, but the gates are still there. We can walk circling Fortress Wall, passing all 4 mountains and all 8 gates.

23 May 2012

MBC Dramia

MBC Dramia is a shooting set made by MBC for their historical/sageuk dramas such as Jewel in the Palace, Queen Seondok, Jumong, Isan, Dong Yi. At first I thought the place name was typo, instead of Dramia it should be Drama. But no, the name combines Drama and Utopia words. I've been dreaming to visit this place since I fell in love with Korean drama Moon Embracing The Sun, because it is also one of shooting locations of that movie. Finally I got a friend to travel together to that place.

We took bus 8.30 from Nambu Bus Terminal. You can buy the ticket directly with the lady in ticket box, or using automatic machine, or tap your T-Money card when you aboard the bus. There is no seat number in the ticket, so you can sit wherever you like (available). The fare to Baekam Terminal was 4,200 KRW, and it took about 1 hour to get there. Show your ticket or tell the bus driver in advanced that you're going to Baekam terminal, or listen carefully the announcement in the bus.

Don't expect Baekam Terminal would be big, you would be dropped off on the street (and the bus would continue its trip to somewhere else). According to the website, you can take city bus 35-1 from Baegam Terminal, but I and my friend took a taxi today. It cost about 7,000 KRW. The location of MBC Dramia was really isolated, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by forest, fields, and mountains. Well, it's a perfect location for filming historical drama.

We really amazed on how they made all these props for drama. They have replica of scholar's house, folk village, old market, royal palace, temple, fighting arena... so complete and detail! They sure spent a lot of money in making this, but look at those drama they created, all became big and famous drama and reach oversea audience. They're really serious on making their drama, not like Indonesian Sinetron.

Fighting scene in Moon Embracing The Sun where Prince Yang Myung died. It looks really similar with Geunjeongjeon in Gyeongbokgung

In this site, you can also try Korean traditional clothing, each 20,000 KRW. Quite expensive tho (especially if you compare with free Hanbok services in Myeongdong and Gyeongbokgung), but their clothes are the ones from the drama. You can wear the exactly same cloth that Queen Seon-deok or Misil used in the series.

There were not so many explanation about Moon Embracing The Sun drama in this place, maybe because it's a recent drama. I couldn't find King's Quarter, where the King sleeping. There were many important scenes around the King's residence, I'd really love to see it. But I was already happy to see this!

I love the moving character boards!

Silver Moon Building, where Yeon Woo stayed after becoming Crown Princess

Some pictures inside MBC Dramia

The entrance ticket 7,000 KRW for this place is totally worth it, especially for a sageuk lover like me. Happy!

17 May 2012

Hadong Green Tea Festival

Do you know Kongbubang? It's a community in Seoul that offers free Korean language classes. For more info, you can see in their website and facebook group page. I never came to their classes again since last year, but they still posted me about new classes and... field trip!

I love field trip. Recently they had a free trip to Hadong Green Tea Festival (one of Spring festivals in Korea), only 35 people or something, and I managed to register myself and my friend. Hadong was located in Gyeongsangnam-do. Do you know where it is? It is far.

Our meeting point was in Seoul Sports Complex subway station. We met a lot of new friends there. Most of the participants were foreigner, only Songsaenims (teachers) are Korean. Some people were not new for me.

We arrived in Hadong around 1.30 PM (5 hours journey!). We had 30 minutes to have lunch. We heard the famous food for green tea was Nokcha Mul Naengmyeon (green tea cold noodle), but we couldn't find it there. Everywhere only selling Bibimbap. The recommended one was Sanchae Bibimbap (vegetable Bibimbap, without any meat), and it's the cheapest food in any restaurant, so we ordered that one.

After lunch, we gathered in one place to experience roasting green tea leaves. We split into 3-4 groups, each group circled one table. The guy explained it in Hangugeo (Korean language), but then our Songsaenim translated it to English. We wore farm clothes, and learnt how to mix the leaves inside hot oven, then colded it on the table.


18 April 2012

Around the World

I've been around the world and I've seen it all

How to visit UK, France, Austria, Italy, Spain, Germany, Russia, Greece, Egypt, Jordania, Tanzania, Iran, Turkey, Morocco, Peru, Mexico, Australia, US, China, Japan, India, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Korea all in one day? Come to Aiins World, Korea! It is a theme park which displays miniature of famous buildings in the world. Here are some pictures to compare between the real one (on the left side) and its miniature in Aiins World (the right one).

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

Twin Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Sacre Cour in Paris, France

17 April 2012

Things I don't Like and I Like About Seoul Subway

Things I Don't Like
  • Train is coming not so frequently, sometimes 10 minutes!
  • Train often waits for another train passed by, with a lot of stops in the middle of nowhere. The rails should not be connected, right? Why is it difficult for 2 trains walking together on different way?
  • Because of the above facts, there are too many people queuing at the station, especially in Line 2.
  • Most rails often located in the middle, so the passengers need to go up/down the station if they mistakenly go to the wrong way. Worse, some stations required us to go out first to go into the other direction which means our t-money is charged for unnecessary ₩1050.
  • There are street sellers and beggars inside the train, same like Indonesian KRL. Sometimes they forced foreigners to buy his products as the tax for living and visiting Korea.
  • There are not so many escalators available. Elevator is not easy/visible to reach, very old and scary, and sometimes not working. Well I don't mind using stairs, it's also good for me to exercise. But it's very troublesome for my parents (especially my Mom) who are old and cannot walk too long anymore. In a nutshell, Seoul subway is not too friendly for oldies.
  • Young people cannot sit in elders seats even though there's no needy people around.
  • In weekends, the last trains are around 11 pm from each endpoint. Too early!

10 April 2012

List of 2012 Spring Festivals in Korea

Spring has come!

April and May are really good times to travel to South Korea. Why? Because there are many spring festivals going on during these months throughout Korea: from Spring flowers and foods, to cultural and art festivals. Some festivals have already finished since the end of February, but here I am listing the rest of festivals that will be held after this posting (not sorted). I wish I could go to all these festivals, but as you can see there are some festivals held in the same time in different (faraway) locations. I have already decided some interesting festivals I would love to visit. What's yours?

View 2012 Korea Spring Festival in a larger map

Jongmyo Jerye
Location: Seoul
Date: 6 May
The royal ancestral rites, featuring Jeryeak, the royal music, and llmu, the royal dance, are held annually on the first Sunday of May.

Lotus Lantern Festival
Location: Seoul
Dates: 18-20 May
Experience the beauty of traditional Korean art and culture, as light, hanji (traditional paper) and dancheong (traditional multicolored pattern) come together to portray Korea's distinct beauty.

Chunhyang Festival
Location: Namwon
Dates: 27 April - 1 May
A world-class love story festival that strives for "more love".

Bamboo Festival
Location: Damyang
Date: 1-6 May
Clean bamboos and clear minds.

Butterfly Festival
Location: Hampyeong
Dates: 27 April - 8 May
Lively festival held amidst wide-open fields of white rapeseed flowers and butterflies.

21 March 2012

Everyone is Irish on 17 March

Have you been to St Patrick's Day Festival?
This is my first time attending St Patrick's Day Festival. It is not really common to celebrate in Indonesia and Singapore (even though many foreigners there), but in Korea it is a little bit huge. I'd never seen so many foreigners like that in one place. It didn't feel like in Asia at all.

What is St Patrick's Day?
It is a religion holiday celebrated by Catholic Irish to commemorate Saint Patrick, the most famous patron saint in Ireland that brings Christianity to that country. Ideally they who celebrate it will attend service in church, but in some parts of the world (like Korea), it is just a festival to have fun, watch parade, dance to Irish song, wear green stuff, and drink beers.

How is the festival in Korea?
There was one big event in D-Cube Sindorim for Seoul St Patrick's Day Festival held by Irish Association of Korea, with some performances of dances and songs. From there I become to know about BARD, a Korean band playing Irish songs. At first I thought (maybe not only me), 'Why Asians? Where's the Irish?' But they're really good! I felt bad to underestimate them in the beginning.

Anyway, this was the complete schedule:
12:30-13:00 US 8th Army Band
13:00-13:20 Introductory speeches by Irish Ambassador, Dr. Eamonn McKee and IAK chair Conor O’Reilly
13:20-13:50 Banu (traditional Irish group)
13:50-14:20 Tap Pung dancers (audience encouraged to join the Irish dancing)
14:20-15:00 Have No Name (Korean U2 tribute band)
15:00-15:30 Bard (Korean traditional Irish band)
15:30-15:45 Rince Dancers
15:45-16:00 Bard (Korean traditional Irish band)
16:00-16:30 Tap Pung dancers (audience encouraged to join the Irish dancing)
16:30-16:45 Banu (traditional Irish group)
16:45-17:20 Dara Sheehan (Irish contemporary)
17:20-18:00 Sweet Murphy’s Fancy (contemporary rock band)

Many people totally dressed up funny and unique. That's one thing I like from western foreigners, they are confident with what they're wearing, and do not really care about what other's thinking.

12 February 2012

Traveling to Harry Potter World

Intro. This is my project #3 speech in Toastmaster meeting last week. Because my audience might be not familiar at all with Harry Potter terms, I did not want to make them confused with too complicated words. I tried to explain it as simple as I could.

I want to inform you about an interactive reading experience. After hearing this speech reading this post, I hope you will be interested to try this website when it is opened to public. Pottermore.com. Have you heard about it? If you haven't, then you're definitely a Muggle :P

Well, you must have heard about Harry Potter, the legendary wizard story by JK Rowling. The first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was released in 1997, and the last movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was finished last year in 2011. From 1997 to 2011, 14 amazing years for me and for other Harry Potter fans in the world who grew up with Harry Potter. Just when everybody thought Harry Potter was over, JK Rowling suddenly announced a big news about a unique online Harry Potter experience. It's called Pottermore. It is a website, with the same story but different feeling. Here are the reasons why Pottermore is unique.

First, it contains a few crucial additions that have never been told before in any Harry Potter books. For example, in the first book there is a character named Professor Quirrell. We didn't know much about Professor Quirrell background from the book. But in Pottermore, we can find out how he likes learning dark magic in young ages, and so on and so forth. JK Rowling didn't only create a story but she created a complete world of Harry Potter including the backgrounds of each character. Also, in Pottermore we can know how JK Rowling got the idea of the name Quirrell, and other unique names. You know there are so many unique names in Harry Potter. See, this is not only fascinating for Harry Potter fans, but also for book authors and writers out there who want to learn writing skills from JK Rowling.

18 January 2012

Gapyeong Tour

Many people may know Nami Island in South Korea, famous with the beautiful tree lanes and shooting place of Winter Sonata drama, but not so many people know about Petite France, which is near Nami Island. Petite France is located in Gapyeong-gun (gun = county), the eastern part of Gyeonggi-do (do = province), and Nami Island is 3.8 km away from Gapyeong, in the border between Gyeonggi-do and Gangwon-do (but it belongs to Gangwon-do). If you come all the way from Seoul (or basically from anywhere) to Nami Island, it is worth it to also visit Petite France in the same day. I call it as Gapyeong Tour. Gapyeong is beautiful with natural views like mountains, rivers and lakes. There are many villas and resorts over there as it is one of the favorite relaxing and vacation destinations in Korea.

View Gapyeong Tour in google map

Petite France

The way to go to Petite France by public transportation from Seoul is to take subway/train to Cheongpyeong Station in Gyeongchun Line. For example, if I go to Cheongpyeong Station from Seoul National University Station (near my home), it would take about 100 minutes by subway with 2 transfers. So the distance depends on which part of Seoul you are going from.

Map from SMRT website

From Cheongpyeong Station, take exit 2 to the bus stop to catch Gapyeong City Tour Bus (I know the website link from Jim who commented this post, thanks Jim!). If you're lost, don't worry, there is a Tourism Center in exit 1, so you can ask them. This shuttle bus passes several stops including Petite France, Nami Island, and the nearest subway stations and bus terminals. You can hop on and off at every stop you want by using single ticket, which costs 5,000 KRW ($5) per person. Ticket can be purchased to the driver inside the bus. You need to keep the ticket and show it to the driver every time you hop on to the bus. It runs 5 times a day. Here is the timetable (click it to enlarge):

My route was on the red timetable: Cheongpyeong Station - Petite France - Nami Island - Gapyeong Station. If you want to travel the other way around, see the green timetable

Gapyeong City Tour Bus

During the bus journey from Cheongpyeong Station to Petite France, which took about 20 minutes, the TV inside the bus showed us Running Man episode #40 which was located in Petite France. It looked funny even though I didn't understand Korean, and it is indeed funny when I watched it after that at home with subtitle. Not only funny, it also shows us the beauty of Petite France. It's hard to split my attention between the funny show inside the bus and beautiful white lake along twisty road outside the bus.

So, what is exactly Petite France? Petite France is a theme park designed like a French village in the middle of Alps mountains. The buildings are in European style, narrow and high, with bright colors. It is located in the middle of nowhere on the hillside, and surrounded by mountains (in the winter covered by snow) so it really looks like a Mediterranean village in the Alps.

04 January 2012

2011 - Real Adventure

My only one resolution in 2011 was: "Moving out from Singapore". I made it... after so much praying, thinking, debating, and crying. I am really grateful for the encouragement I got from my closed friends, to make this happened, to help me taking the risk. I almost canceled it. It was indeed the hardest decision I made in my life so far.

Now I feel good about it. Even though sometimes I think I am walking on the spot in term of my career, but I don't regret this. I get more in returns. This adventure is irreplaceable.

My highlights of 2011:

Most things happened in the second half of the year. Thank you Allah for everything. I still expect more adventure in 2012, but I hope I will be more focus in my learning and career. Someday this year, I will come back for good.