Travel

Goodbye Seoul!

Although we were stunned by the cold and had planned way too many activities, more than we could accomplish, we tried to make the most of our vacation!

Throughout our stay we used Seoul’s subway system. Prior to our trip we mapped out the places we wanted to go and which lines we needed to take. I was still a little nervous about using the ticketing machines, but when we arrived I realized that all of the machines had an English option. Unlike our Japan trip, Korea’s subway system was so much easier and a pleasant experience.

DSCN8072

On our last day, we decided we needed to cut some of our plans and just do what we could. We woke up late, grabbed some breakfast at Joy Café in Sinchon, and hopped on the train to Gyeongbokgung Palace. We arrived just in time for the English tour to start. This palace was incredible, even more than Deoksugung. Despite being in the middle of winter, the beauty of the palace grounds remained. We walked with the tour group to the King’s quarters, to his Queen’s room, to the pavilion, concubine quarters, and tons of other small buildings. I love the architecture, trees, and pond. We learned about the meaning of the dragon to Koreans and the importance of the Yin and Yang.

From here we walked to the neighborhood of Insadong. We heard that we could pick up souvenirs, but we ended up also getting tons of snacks for ourselves! We tried the street food, soju, and walked around aimlessly. There are tons of art galleries here, too! Korean street food is a must! Peter and I shared a long, spiraled fried potato stick. Peter tried the corn dog with french fries fried into the corn bread. It was all delicious and an experience not to miss. I wish we had more time to explore all the little side streets. It’s a lot calmer and aimed more towards tourists than Hongdae.

Speaking of Hongdae, we headed back there for our last night in Seoul. One of my favorite things about Seoul are the coffee shops. There are many regular coffee shops, but my favorites were the themed cafés like the Hello Kitty Café, the Cat Café, and Mustoy Café. We spent the evening at Mustoy Café painting figurines, listening to calm music, and drinking orange juice. It was the perfect way to end our busy but wonderful trip to Seoul, South Korea ❤

 

Advertisements

Part Four: Birthday in Seoul!

If ever you feel sad about aging, just plan a really cool trip that will make you forget all about it! I turned the big 3-0 in Seoul this year and, up until my trip, I was a little sad. I was feeling very nostalgic and at a loss. Now that my birthday in Korea has come and gone I feel very happy and have nothing but good memories. What a great way to start a new decade!

On my birthday I decided that I wanted to catch the Seoul City Bus tour since we had been walking a lot. For about 24,000 won, which is around $20, Peter and I hopped on the bus tour. It was nice to be out of the cold for a little while.

First stop:

Deoksugung Palace

In the middle of the city lies Deoksugung Palace. We made it just in time to watch the changing of the guards.  As we entered the park, Peter spotted the gift shop where we rested and had some hot cocoa before exploring all the different buildings.

DSC_0108

DSCN7966

DSCN7971

We walked around the palace looking at all the beauty. We passed a gorgeous pond and fountain, though both were frozen, they were still pretty.

Yongsan – I Park Mall

We stopped at the I Park mall to grab a snack and buy some more winter clothes at UniQlo then caught the next bus.

Namsangol Hanok Village

By the time we arrived at this traditional Korean village, I was so sick from the bus ride. Driving in Korea is an experience all on its own. The blast of cold air was welcomed and made me feel a lot better.

We walked up a narrow street to the entrance of this village where we saw the restored homes.

DSCN7986

This photo shows traditional shoes warn by Koreans. There is usually someone making these shoes but I think we had arrived too late and missed the show.

DSC_0141

DSC_0148

What I found most interesting were the fireplaces underneath the rooms. They were used to heat the floors and warm the room. Our hostel had heated floors; although, they weren’t heated by a fireplace.

DSCN7977

The village and frozen pond were lovely!

DSCN7992

From here we could see the N Seoul Tower, our next stop.

N Seoul Tower

The last stop on the bus tour for us was the N Seoul Tower. We made it just in time for sunset and a view of the whole city. It was amazing!

DSC_0157DSC_0162

We had a short hike from where the bus dropped us off and then a quick elevator ride up to the observation deck.

DSCN8011DSCN8003

There were TONS of people here. It was nice to see the city lights and read how far and in what direction different countries, cities, and continents are from the tower. We spent a couple of hours here and then back down to leave our lock of love on the Christmas tree.

Hongdae

Again, we ended another night in Hongdae. We found this cat café near Etude House. I was SO excited! This was on my list of things I MUST do while in Seoul.

DSCN8032

We took our shoes off, ordered a drink, and read the kitty rules!DSCN8017

I haven’t pet a cat in awhile and was so happy to finally get the chance. There were so many cute cats I didn’t know where to begin. I sat down on the ground and watched as the cats went about their business, which consisted of sleeping near the heater. Peter started to pet a cat when it attacked him! It was so funny and sort of sad. I guess if I were a cat in a room full of cats and people, I’d be grumpy too. I got attacked by another cat who was trying to get away from this kid who kept poking him. So I decided to just watch them and that was good enough for me!

DSCN8023

Next up: Goodbye Seoul!

Part Three: Hongdae

I think Peter and I had the most fun in Hongdae. We spent every evening here! When we got off the subway and walked up the steps to the street I was like, “WOW!” So many lights, people, music playing; it was awesome! There were tons of street vendors selling cute socks and winter gear. Immediately I spotted an Etude House and had to go in (went there three times total!). Korea is known for their skincare. I think it’s interesting that in Asia they consider really white skin to be beautiful and sell whitening skin products; whereas in the West, people will do anything for a nice, golden tan.

DSC_0004

I passed on the whitening products but picked up loads of face masks! Thanks Peter for standing their while I took my time looking through all the beauty products!

Hongdae is the place where all the college people go to have fun. We found a few really unique bars like the Carole King Jazz Bar that was down a narrow stairway in the basement of a building. We had drinks while listening to the owner’s collection of jazz music. Hongdae seemed like the place where you could make your dreams in business come true. Anything that you might have an interest in, could be found here. We had the best fried chicken I’ve ever had in my whole life at a restaurant called Big Hit Chicken. One whole wall was dedicated to alcohol beverages from all over the world. The cool thing was that it was self-serve. So you get a basket and help yourself to the drinks, put your empty bottles in the basket, and then when you’re done take your basket to the cashier and pay.

We also found this other bar called the Chez Robert Artist’s bar on the 3rd floor of another building. It could only fit about 10 people but the vibe, music, and decor was cool. The best thing was that the owner had a cute little black and white kitten that was so much fun!

Also, in both bars I ended up with something called a “Midori SHOWER” which was pretty much a Midori sour but I think something got lost in translation.

Another great thing about Seoul are all the good street food carts. These things are so popular and very worth a try. There are a lot of different types of food, we tried the waffle stuffed with sugar. It was too good.

DSCN7916

Hongdae is full of shopping, as is most of Seoul, but here you can find Korean brands with items made in Korea. We went into Art Box and bought some heat packs and looked around a bit. I could have spent my whole life savings in that store. So many cute things!

I love places where there is art in everything. From the moment I stepped off of the subway exit there were people singing on the sidewalks, a group of kids performing a KPop dance routine, and tons of artwork and beautiful graffiti throughout the parks and streets of Hongdae.

DSCN7871-001DSCN7912DSCN7913DSCN7914-001

 

Next: How I celebrated my birthday!

 

Part Two: Gangnam Style!

During our last trip to Boracay, PI locals would say to Peter, “Ahh Gangnam style!” We were so confused about what they meant. We found out that Gangnam is the fancy part of the city. There is a fashion district, something similar to Rodeo Drive, and tons of expensive cars. So it was a compliment, ha!

My whole Korean trip now seems to be like a dream, we did so much walking and sightseeing all while being cold. I’m pretty sure there were moments when I was near hypothermia.

The first day we had only been able to find cafés that served pastries, I wanted something a little more filling to get me through the day, so Peter found an American style diner called Travel Maker. We ate breakfast like true Americans. It was delicious!!!

I think this day was even colder than the previous. As we started walking, my sock fell off into my boot and then my boots started to go bad. In just the one day, I had walked the heels off my boots! They were now cutting into my feet and causing lots of pain. We went back to central Seoul in search of shoes at the Lotte Department store, found some, and went on about our day.

We headed to the Gangnam Tourist Center where we had just missed the tour bus. So instead we warmed up and explored the neighborhood. First stop (after tea) was Dosan Park. I can imagine during the springtime that this park is probably really beautiful, because even in the winter it was lovely.

DSC_0045

There were many people walking around for exercise AND there was this really cool area with gym equipment where people were working out. So, of course I had to give it a try. I wish all parks had these perks!

DSC_0044

I spotted a super chunky cat.

DSC_0038p

Continued walking around the monument.

DSC_0035 DSC_0050

And headed on to the next thing…

DSC_0053

Which was the Horim Museum.

DSC_0063DSC_0062

We walked to the Samsung building, admiring the amazing architecture along the way.

DSC_0061  DSC_0065

And finally down the Rodeo Drive of Gangnam. Apparently this is where Korean movie stars come to shop; although, we didn’t see any (not that we would have recognized them) shopping in the cold!

DSC_0068

We stopped at a small stationary store and picked up a few Korean Christmas cards. We also went to a café called Jacob’s Ladder, which had a Christian themed menu. At the end of our Gangnam exploration, we were exhausted. We headed back to the hostel for rest.

Next Stop: Hongdae!

Part One: It’s Seoul Cold!!!

We’ve made it home safely from my birthday trip to South Korea. Nothing could have prepared us for the cold we felt the moment we stepped outside. It has been three years since I’ve lived in the States and four since I’ve lived somewhere that gets super cold weather like Seoul. We’d bought jackets and sweaters before we left, but that still wasn’t enough. The first day of our trip was spent looking for gloves, scarves, hats, long johns and stopping for hot tea at cafés. I was stunned by the cold and the first night I was miserable. I was thinking, “Why didn’t I think of a warmer place to go for my birthday!!”

DSCN7915

Sinchon:

I’ve been wanting to stay at a hostel for awhile now and I’d heard that Korean hostels were sometimes as good as hotel rooms. So after some research, we decided to stay at Chocolate Tree in Sinchon. The room was spacious and the staff were very helpful, BUT the bed was terribly uncomfortable! After the first night, I got used to the springs from the mattress pushing into my ribs.

DSCN7852

In the evening we walked around the neighborhood and wandered into random grocery stores. Korea has GREAT snacks!! We bought tons of little treats that turned out to be delicious.

 

Next up…Gangnam!

 

 

We’re Going to Seoul!

7e211dcf9b9a0166d4f60584823bbfdb

I’d never given much thought to traveling to this side of the world prior to my move to Guam. When I was younger, I’d always been more interested in traveling to Europe to see family. I never would have thought that moving to Guam would mean I would get to explore Asia and the Pacific Islands. It first started with our trip to Philippines then to Japan (which has been one of the best trips of my life!) and soon Seoul, South Korea!

We crunched the numbers, found good deals on flights and places to stay, and decided to just do it. Although most things in Guam are pricey, flying to Asia has been way more affordable and obtainable in Guam than if we were back in Oregon. We have tried to take advantage of that opportunity. So what better way to celebrate my 30th birthday (O.M.G. I can’t believe it) than with a trip to somewhere neither of us have been, South Korea! It’s been more than a year since we’ve been off island so we are really looking forward to this trip! Very excited to add another country to the list 🙂

If you’d like to suggest anything I should do/places to eat while there, please feel free to leave a comment thanks!

 

 

Back from Home!

After two lovely weeks in Washington, Oregon and Idaho I have returned to Guam. It had been a year and half since I last saw my family, and I was really looking forward to this trip. Peter told me that when you go back home for the first time after being away for so long, you can see changes in yourself. With this in mind, I was wondering how my friends and family had changed. In a way I wanted things to be different because nearly two years have passed and I didn’t want to see anyone doing the same old thing. In another way, I didn’t want things to change too much. I wanted to come home and feel like I never left.

We arrived in Seattle to spend the weekend with Peter’s family. I went to the Seattle Space Needle for the first time! It was a really pretty day and I was lucky to be able to see the entire city! Later in the week I visited my sister, mom and dad and was able to celebrate my dad’s birthday with him! Most of the trip consisted of business and we had to squeeze family and friend time wherever we could. I’m really thankful that all of our friends and family were so understanding.

I met my girl friends at the Portland City Grill where we caught up. It was a nice evening! I was happy to see that although they were all pretty much the same, they were all doing very well and seemed happy! I missed them a lot, but everything seemed relaxed and normal and it felt like we had just seen each other last week.

Peter and I survived our first road trip together when we drove across Oregon to Eastern Oregon and Idaho. Our entire time spent in Portland was COLD and rainy. Everyone kept telling us, “Oh but last week it was so hot, I don’t know what happened.” Now that we’ve adjusted to island weather, anything below 80 degrees is COLD! So as you can imagine we were freezing the entire trip. I didn’t have any  cold weather clothes with me so I borrowed things from family. Half way through our road trip, the Oregon scenery changed to desert and the sun was shining so bright. We went back to my hometown to visit with my dad. I was so happy. I couldn’t imagine ever leaving again. I jumped out of the car as soon as we arrived and my dad was waiting outside for us. I felt overcome with a lot of emotions, but mostly I was just joyous! Home sweet home.

My dad’s house was under construction so it was an interesting week. Other than that everything went smoothly. He cooked Spanish food for us, took us out to the desert, we visited the Owyhee hot springs and taught Peter how to shoot a rifle and shotgun. Peter and I went to Boise and found the Record Exchange where we bought tons of used CDs. Later we went to the Senior Citizen Center dance and I danced with my dad while Peter danced with the ladies haha. On the weekend my grandmother celebrated her 80th birthday that turned into a family reunion. My aunts hired a Mariachi band to serenade my grandmother, which brought her to tears. We ate tons of delicious Mexican food, danced and talked. Peter met nearly my entire family on my mom’s side. They all said, “Oh what a handsome boyfriend you have!” I guess they approve of him 🙂

Throughout my trip I was sad. I knew that each day brought me closer to my departure back to Guam. I love Guam a lot. But if I have to give it up and be cold for the rest of my life just to be near my sister, mom and dad, then I will. That’s what I realized on my trip. I don’t want to miss out on anything else and I want to enjoy my life with my family. I can always come back to Guam when I’m older. I’m not leaving anytime soon, I just know that my goal is to move closer to home ❤

Life is Better in Boracay

Most people in Guam go to the Philippines for the shopping in Manila or to visit family and then head back home to Guam. Shopping in Manila is like a sport and it’s pretty awesome. The HUGE city of Manila is very hectic and we wanted some time to unwind and really feel like we were on vacation, so we decided to return to Boracay. We flew to Panay Island where we boarded a bus at the Kalibo airport and headed on our two hour journey to the port where we would catch a boat that would take us to Boracay island. When you’re going to Boracay, there are two airports that you can fly to, Kalibo and Caticlan. Kalibo is further from the port. After a quick boat ride to Boracay, we were ushered onto a VERY small vehicle where about seven people crammed into the back seat, our suitcases piled on top. We drove to our hotel, Nigi Nigi Nu Noos. Because there isn’t a road that stops directly in front of the hotel, we parked in an alley and walked along the beach, suitcases in hand, until we reached the hotel! After all that traveling, I was ready to relax.

Peter and I wanted to make the most of our second trip to Boracay. This time we had more funds to do more activities, so we made sure to book activities through our hotel for almost everyday. The first activity we chose was the glass bottom boat excursion. For about 500 pesos each, we got on a boat and road around looking through the bottom at all the sea creatures. For the most part we saw coral, starfish, sea anemone, schools of brightly colored fish and random things like chairs. I think the entire boat ride was about two hours. They gave us snacks and drinks and gave us a chance to snorkel. I put on my life vest and snorkel gear and began my adventure. The waves were very strong so it was easy to get swept away. While snorkeling in the Philippine waters for the first time, I spotted a long, skinny, silver and black striped creature. It was a snake. I freaked out but took a second look to be sure. Yup, I was right it was a snake! I told Peter, of course he didn’t believe me, and I got the heck out of the water! So as usual Peter thought I was being dramatic, when we got back home I searched for the creature that I saw and here it is banded sea snake…that is exactly what I saw! So now Peter believes me. When I got back on the boat Peter was still swimming around and even swam under the glass bottom of the boat! I’m glad he enjoyed his time, I on the other hand enjoyed the snacks and looking at the starfish they brought on the boat!

The next day we booked a land tour in an air conditioned van. We started early and headed to Mt. Luho. There is a small fee to get into this as well. We climbed up the steps, where there were many friendly dogs laying in the shade. Mt. Luho is primarily for tourists, as is most of Boracay. They have many caged animals throughout the walk up the mountain. We saw the Tazmanian Devil, bear cat, monkeys, reptiles, birds and owls. I think bear cats are cute and I wouldn’t mind having one as a pet. Apparently they can grow to be six feet long. We spent a lot of time around the monkeys because the older monkeys were chained to a tree. You could get as close as you wanted to them! I kept my distance, while Peter got close and even made them a little mad! For much of the walk up the mountain, the flooring is made from bamboo. It was a little scary, I couldn’t imagine how it was holding all of us up. At the very top was a beautiful view of the island! As we walked down Peter talked me into ziplining down the mountain. I was scared because I wasn’t really sure what ziplining was and I imagined that it was very fast. I was pleasantly surprised after we were pushed off the ledge to the other side, it was a swift and smooth ride. Now I want to zipline everywhere haha. Once we’d finished with Mt. Luho, we spent some time at Puka Beach. As soon as we sat down, people selling jewelry bombarded us, of course we gave in! After a nice time at the beach we went on to our next adventure, the animal expo center. Here, we were introduced to many Filipino animals like snakes, tarantulas, birds and Wally the CROCODILE! On the Philippine island Palawan, there are salt water crocodiles! This one was massive! It was definitely a fun-filled day!

Our final activity was what we thought would be a nice, smooth island hopping paraw sail. The first time Peter and I were in Boracay, we had a sunset cruise on a paraw. It was very smooth, and relaxing. So we assumed it would be the same kind of conditions. Right before our trip, I bought some french fries to eat along the way. Not soon after we left White Beach did I realize that I was in for something completely different than what I initially thought. The further away we got, the rougher the waves became. Soon we were going VERY fast and my french fries flew off the boat as we held on for dear life. What we thought was island hopping turned out to be a sail around the entire island with only one stop. Before we made it to that stop, I thought I was going to die! The waves were about seven feet high and splashed into my face. Before I could spit the salt water out and catch my breath, another came and slapped me again! After awhile I forgot about trying to keep my hat on and instead just held on as tight as I could. I thought I was going to cry, but couldn’t help laughing at the insanity of this ride. That was some EXTREME sailing! If I never do it again, I wouldn’t complain. My entire body was drenched, Peter looked worried and kept apologizing. I looked at the three men who were guiding us around the island and they seemed calm. It really felt like the sail boat was going to flip over. FINALLY, we stopped at Puka Beach. I got off, a little bit traumatized. Peter said if I needed to I could catch a trike back to the hotel. The sailboat crew assured me that we had passed the roughest side of the island and the rest of the way would be calm. So I gathered my thoughts, tried to calm down and agreed to carry on. As promised, the rest of the trip was exactly what I needed. It was so calm, smooth and slow. I loved it! Even though I felt like I had a near death experience, it was fun and now I have a good story to tell.

During our stay, we visited the D Mall to do some shopping and we also crossed the street and walked to the other side of the lake to do some shopping. The further away from White Beach the cheaper things get. We ate at Cyma, a greek restaurant, which is my favorite place to eat on Boracay. We also ate Italian food at Aria on the beach and had tapas and Sangria at Dos Mestizos. Those were my three favorite restaurants while on Boracay and I recommend them!  Oh and after seeing Wally the Crocodile, Peter was inspired to eat crocodile sisig at a restaurant on White Beach! We tried to catch every sunset and walk as much as possible. The only downside to our stay was that the usual crystal clear water of White Beach was full of seaweed and wasn’t very nice to swim in. Occasionally that happens on Guam too. I’m sure it is cleared up by now.  Our hotel was pretty old but very interesting. If you want a more authentic island stay, you’d probably like our hotel and staying in the cottages. Within the first five minutes of entering the room, I was bitten about 10 times by mosquitoes. We never figured out how to use the mosquito net. The hotel gardens were very nice and now I can say I slept in a hut.

Most of all, it was very nice getting to know Peter’s parents! Peter and I enjoyed our vacation and we are pleased with how everything worked out perfectly!

It’s More Fun in the Philippines!

Well hello there! As you can see, I’ve made it home safely from my vacation to the Philippines. Since I’ve already written a few posts about my Philippine vacation last year, I will try to keep this one short. Just like last year I went to Manila and Boracay, unlike last year we hired a driver and Peter’s parents joined us on our vacation! After co workers of both Peter and mine had recommended their driver, we decided to give it a try. Bright and early at 8:00am Rally, the driver, was waiting for us at the airport in Manila. It was nice not having to worry about finding a taxi. We just asked Rally to take us where we needed to go, and he knew exactly how to get there. He also suggested places for us to visit and helped us out when we went to Greenhills and needed to get good prices on things. On the other hand, it was VERY weird for me because he opened EVERY door and held my bags. It took me awhile to get used to all the services he provided. Overall, I am SOOOO happy Rally helped us out during our stay. He showed us parts of Manila that we’d read about and wanted to visit, but didn’t know how to get to.

When we arrived, Rally took us to Hotel Celeste to check in and freshen up. Hotel Celeste is a boutique hotel located near Landmark department store and just down the road from where we stayed last year. That was the first time that we stayed in that Hotel.  We didn’t enjoy our stay in Metro Manila last year, so we decided to stay in Makati City for our entire time in Manila. Hotel Celeste is very nice, the furniture is unique, the shampoos and lotions provided were by L’occitane, we received delicious welcome drinks and the pillows were extra comfy! It’s also in a great location for walking to Greenbelt. Very safe!

Peter and I asked Rally to take us to Greenhills so that we could shop around. Greenhills is known to have all the replica designer clothes and accessories. This time, we explored more and had Rally with us to show us around. Greenhills is a neverending maze of vendors. Upstairs are electronic items, mostly for phones. Downstairs is where EVERYTHING you’ve ever needed would be. I knew exactly what I wanted to buy, whereas Peter knew what he wanted but couldn’t make up his mind. We went again a few days later without Rally to show Peter’s parents around.

When Peter’s parents arrived, we asked Rally to take us sightseeing. He took us to Quiapo and we shopped in the street markets where all the locals shop. I found an AMAZINGLY affordable bead shop where I stocked up on beads for my bracelet making. We visited beautiful churches and I was touched by how big of a role religion plays in the lives of Filipinos. It seemed so pure and the epitome of what religion SHOULD be like to people. Locals stopped by the church to leave a prayer on their way home from work or while they were going about their daily business. In Quiapo, the Black Nazarene is very important. Peter and I stopped to say a few prayers and it brought tears to my eyes. I was very overwhelmed by the hope and faith I felt around me.

Rally drove us through China Town in Binondo, we also drove through Metro Manila and past Coconut Palace.  He was very helpful and I recommend him to anyone visiting the Philippines. In Manila we went to Fort Santiago, where we learned about Rizal’s history. On one of the evenings in Makati, past Greenbelt we found Ayala Triangle Gardens and walked throughout the park. This trip to Manila was so much better than last year’s trip!