Singapore – Korea VTL: From Seoul to Busan

It has finally got to the day of flying. When the VTL was announced, I decided to just book and think later. But little did I expect the later did really involve lots of thinking. Planning for a holiday has never been so intensive, firstly because the arrangement is new and little information is available. So the first few weeks of trip planning was really quite a headache. Eventually there was more clarity which TML and telegram channel on SG-Korea VTL did provide lots of useful on-the-ground updates. All we need is to say a little prayer that the VTL will not be cancelled. Lol

My trip was scheduled for 7 days (Saturday-Friday) mainly because I wanted to avoid the additional PCR test. I had lots of obstacles then, and I didn’t want an additional one. Since I was flying with SQ, I did my PDT via Collinson with Raffles Medical which cost $138. I heard it got even cheaper now. The results came out 3 hours later on HealthHub but the notification email only came the next day. Well, at least you were aware you were cleared to fly – Checkpoint 1 cleared πŸ™‚

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I was afraid there was going to be a long check at Changi airport so I decided to be kiasu and reached 3 hours prior to departure. In the end it felt like my worries were uncalled for. They only checked if I had my PCR test result and vaccination cert and within 5 minutes I checked-in, collected my tags and I’m done. Overheard a staff asking another wah so early got people check-in already ah? Lol. #tooexcitedtofly

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The tag you have to wear upon arrival at Incheon airport. They will collect it back after you are done with your on-arrival swab

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Since I was so early, I decided to chill at SATS premier lounge and I really needed a coffee. Waking up at 3.30am is no joke. Half my mind not even functioning. While registering at the counter, the staff asked if I wanted any hot food and I looked the menu and contemplated for the longest time

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Cos having spicy food at like 5am – I’m not sure if my stomach could take it but I really wanted something to eat. She could probably sense my internal struggle and told me I could decide later. Lol

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The hot food was to be ordered at the counter and they would serve it to you. Whatever that was displayed, you can help them to yourselves

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So I made a beeline for the coffee, which cannot make it. Sighs

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Though I have to comment the braised chicken was really quite yums. I finished everything, without the rice. lol

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The lounge was quite a good space to chill – just quiet and comfy though more people arrived at later hours

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Made my way to the gate after awhile and I have to say – this looked the liveliest the airport even been

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After security check, you will receive 4 forms which you have to fill up – 1  yellow, 1 white, 1 light yellow and 1 blue. Make sure you don’t lose the forms

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Gone were the days where you just booked a ticket, grabbed your passport and fly. Now there are just so many documents to prepare and without them, you simply can’t fly. I was amused when I saw everyone in line at Incheon airport literally have a folder on hand – shows how prepared everyone was. (Yes please print everything – PCR/vaccination cert/K-ETA/safe2go/insurance/hotel confirmation/rail tickets. You never know what you need until things happen)

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Also, there’s apparently a pre-questionnaire which you have to do through the safe2go portal. An email will be triggered and sent to you (which I didn’t receive). So just make sure you fill this up before you arrive in Korea

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Hello Singapore Airlines, it’s good to see you again πŸ˜‰

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Care kits/bottles/ear phones will be displayed before you board the aircraft so help yourself to them

It was a very full flight with no social distancing. It’s like travelling during pre-covid days but with mask-on. If you ask me, I don’t think there were that many Singaporeans. There was also a significant number of Koreans on the flight, probably all going home

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Breakfast came in the form of Veal sausages, Tomato Ragout, Savoury Bread Pudding, Cream Spinach w Mushrooms, which in my opinion, tasted quite bad. The food at SATS lounge was way better

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Anyway, it was a rather uneventful flight though just very cloudy throughout. So this was the only decent shot I could get amidst the rest of the rather uninspiring window seat photos

And finally, touched down at Incheon at 3.15pm which was 15 mins earlier than scheduled. Excitement starts now

I actually got my pre-paid SIM card from Trazy (with Korean number) and it’s the most useful thing ever. Installation is easy. You connect to WIFI at Incheon airport to download the APN, then disable WIFI, enable mobile data and you are ready to rock and roll

It has been advised that you use the restroom before the plane landed cos you would need to join the queue once you see it. You will know once you see it. lol

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Part 1 – the staffs checked for your PCR and vaccination here. I read that this queue can take quite long. Well, I thought I was lucky. Somehow or rather I went into the middle queue which nobody joined after me (I have no idea why) and I moved on to the next section in 10 minutes :/ But I guess the line can be held up if people did not come prepared, like the family before me who didn’t notarise their documents. Oh dear

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Sticker received! The one that shows you are exempted from quarantine

Section 2 involves checking travel record declaration and K-ETA so make sure you fill up your online questionnaire before this. They didn’t ask for my physical K-ETA application form. I guess if you had forgotten to print it, it’s okay. I thought the line here took quite awhile. Next, you move on to section 3 – passport control which moved quite fast. By the time I was done and out of immigration, it was 4pm. And as I made my way to collect my bags, my luggage appeared as I reached the belt

Yeah, I felt like things were all in place smoothly and quickly

Remember to hand over your custom declaration form before you exit the terminal and a staff will direct you to a holding area (by looking at the blue VTL tag you are wearing) before you are herded off for your swab test

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And this is the holding area

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West Wing Testing Station

It doesn’t matter which station you had booked cos they are like 2 minutes walk away from each other. Bags are to be left outside while you make your way inside for testing. It has been advised that you book your time slot 1 hour after arrival. Time check: 4.20pm

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A staff will help you with registration and after your number has been called, you proceed for payment (KRW 180K), move on to consultation room (a doctor will ask you if you have any symptoms here), and finally onto swab. Time-check: 4.35pm

I was mentally exhausted after exiting the room I just sat on the bench to recollect myself and file all the papers I’ve received and took out since I’ve landed. There was just lots of papers on hand. And in the moment of getting ready to leave, I almost forgotten my luggage. lol

So after you are done with testing, you are on your own. Holiday starts now. ha

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I made my way to the taxi stand cos I didn’t want to lug my luggage all around. There’s a small kiosk behind this and the attendant will check that you have a sticker on the passport before he waved you off to stand number 6 to wait for your cab.  There was this grandpa driver who didn’t want to take me cos his cab is more premium so he told me to wait for the cheaper one. lol. So cute

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I had issues communicating with my driver as he did not know where my hotel was located at. So I called the hotel and let them talk to each other. ha. My cab to Seoul (KRW60k) took quite awhile cos the jam was really bad so 1.5 hours later..

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I’m finally here – Four Points by Sheraton, Myeongdong

(I took this photo the next morning cos by the time I reached the hotel, it was already quite dark)

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The lobby looks really nice

Different hotels in Seoul have different requirements. So it is most advisable to write in to your hotel to check if they allow you to check-in while you self isolate cos as per my understanding, some hotels do not. Four Points Myeongdong requires your vaccination status and your boarding pass (to make sure your point of embarkation is from Singapore) so make sure you don’t throw your boarding pass away. They don’t need to see your negative PCR status (on-arrival) so once you receive the email notification, you are free to roam around

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My cozy room facing the Namsan tower

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The hotel was newly constructed so the furnishing were all quite new

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Love the constant shower pressure

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I like how they have a business centre that is free to use so if you need to print any documents prior to flying back, there is one to use

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Was so happy to see in-room dining available. I actually brought cup noodles cos just in case I got hungry and the results were not out yet

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But clearly I changed my mind. lol

Chicken BLT sandwich (KRW21k) was so surprisingly good I finished the entire plate. I’m shocked myself cos I always have difficulty finishing my food

And as I was just chilling around, the email came at 7pm telling me my PCR test was negative. Checkpoint 2 cleared πŸ™‚

I did contemplate if I should venture out and explore the area but I was really so exhausted from waking up early to the whole day of excitement just getting into Seoul I decided to just retire for the night. So at 8pm, I said good night. Ha

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And it’s rise & shine the next morning looking for breakfast. I love how the hotel is conveniently located with the subway exit just visible from the hotel’s entrance. So after loading my T-money card, I’m ready to go!

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Half imagining if there would be someone approaching me to play Ddakji. HAHA. okay #thinktoomuch

I used a mixture of Naver / Google Maps for navigation and more than often Naver cos it’s really useful. It shows you the stops, number of transfers, exits and time to get to your location. Only in cases where Naver was not able to register my English destination, I used Google as a guide

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It was a really cloudy day

South Korea has their own form of contact tracing and for tourists, we simply write our contact information on the paper provided. Most shops/restaurants have a clipboard on a side table so you can just fill it up yourself. There’s a QR code on the self-quarantine app but I’m not sure if it’s for the same purpose. I didn’t try. But you can try if you get the chance

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First destination of the day – Egg Drop. Cos watched too much Hospital Playlist

And the first people I met, were Singaporeans. lol

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American Ham & Cheese with Garlic Bread

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So delicious. The ham, mayo and melted cheese with a crisp and flavourful garlic bread. So good

So after I was done with breakfast, I went to explore the area of Euljiro. I was having difficulties navigating cos the map kept showing me a different location but finally after some time..

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I found it

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Do you think Vincenzo is home? πŸ˜€

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Cheonggye Plaza

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There’s also some cafes located on the 3rd floor in which you can find Tiger Coffee here

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and also Champ coffee

Nope I didn’t try cos I wanted to go to my next location

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Street looked so pretty dressing up like this πŸ™‚

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First you need to walk into this alleyway. I actually doubted myself if that was the right way cos it looked.. dubious. lol

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To find Coffee Hanyakbang

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Hanyakbang means traditional Korean medicine room and stepping into this little hideout felt like going back in times

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With furniture flown in from China, the whole place was tastefully decorated. Really pretty, somewhat with a touch of Shanghai nostalgia

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The place is also famed for their drip coffee which you can choose your beans from the small wooden board

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And here’s my drip coffee with Brazil beans. It’s strong, aromatic and very smooth to drink

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You will also find cafe Hyemindang just directly across. The plan was to have coffee and pop by the cafe for desserts but to my surprise, you can actually order from both places and dine at either place. So yay, high tea time

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The cakes all look deliciously inviting. If only I had one more mouth, I might just order 2 or 3 more

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Midsummernight’s Dream

Sadly, there was only space for one. Ordered their best seller and I thought it really deserved to be their best seller. The cake was good, yet not too sweet, fruity and citrusy. Overall, well-balanced in flavour

After a filling tea time, I made my way to Common Ground known for their containers shopping complex

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There was a Sunday flea going on but unfortunately, nothing caught my eye

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Even so, the shops inside the mall were.. boring. Nothing much to shop here, and there were more guys stuffs. So I exited rather quickly

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Ventured to their rooftop restaurants to take a look before moving on to Seonsu-dong

The initial plan was to walk to Seonsu-dong cos it was within walking distance. Alas, I walked in the wrong direction without realising, went into Lotte department to shop for abit before I realised what had happened. In the end, I took the train there. lol

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Very crowded on weekends

Seonsu-dong is a hip area known for repurposed warehouses that are now used for cafes and shops

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Baesan Daerim Warehouse – probably one of the most popular cafes in the area

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I popped in for a quick look before continue walking around and found..

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Grandpa Factory

Another popular joint

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This cafe is known for its treehouse. Yes, you can go up and take a look. Also a filming site for Vincenzo and My Roommate is a Gumiho

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Went around the block and found Index Caramel, and more cafes

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Sadly, I didn’t have stomach space for any of these cos I was so full from the previous meal

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So it was more exploring and following where locals were walking until I decided I was too tired to go on

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Something did caught my eye as I was leaving the neighbourhood. Nope, I didn’t go in

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Went back to the hotel to rest for awhile before walking to Myeongdong in search for dinner

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Half of the shops in Myeongdong were closed but there were still people, so it’s not like totally dead there. And I guess whatever makeup you wanna buy, can still be found from other places

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It was my first coming across a dalgona stall *cues background music*

Walked for quite abit and couldn’t make up my mind what to eat. Half of me wanted to eat Myeongdong Kyoja, and the other half of me wanted convenience food

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The latter won

Decided on cup noodles and sausage in the end (btw, this brand of sausage not nice. Don’t buy please)

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Was amused when I saw this. So apparently you grab a cup of ice..

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and any packet above it to make it like an iced drink, like our version from coffeeshop

Convenience stores from overseas really have all sorts of things

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And just as I was about to head up to the hotel, I saw people going into this cute little cafe and which, I followed suit

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Wow, the smell of freshly baked goodies πŸ™‚

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And it’s crowaffles for sale

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I realised it’s actually very popular in Korea. Crowaffles I mean

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Adding a crowaffle for dessert!

I like the thickly coated chocolate but I found the dough a little too dense for my liking. If they can be a little more fluffy, it would have been perfect

Ended the night early cos heading to Busan the next day πŸ™‚

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Choose Four Points Myeongdong primarily cos of its close vicinity to Seoul station, so at least travelling won’t take so long and I don’t need to wake up so early. It’s rather quiet in the early morning at Seoul station but I was ready for breakfast for the long day ahead. I wanted to have McDonalds but it was so packed..

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I ended up at Lotteria next door, which I regretted

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Shrimp burger with iced drip coffee

I really wished I had Macs instead. Now that explained why Macs was so crowded. But I have to say the iced drip coffee was pretty decent

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And ready to board

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KTX

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Train to Busan

Safe, no zombies involved. #kthxbye

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2 hours 50 minutes later..

Finally at Busan station

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My plan was to take a bus to my first destination, so I followed the crowd to exit

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And that’s the bus stop in the distance. You can use T-money in Busan as well which made it really convenient to travel

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The start of Taejongdae Resort Park

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I was appalled to find that the trams were not operating which meant I had to hike up to the lighthouse with my barang barang. Oh dear

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Why oh why? The trams looked so cute 😦

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I took a look at the map, and half of me died inside. But okay, armed with positivity, I started my hike. It was really difficult

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South Port Viewing Point

At the first rest stop, I was already sweating like crazy

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Taejongdae observatory

Finally reached the second viewing point and I felt like the end was near

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Though I was less than impressed with the view

That’s the tea kettle island. You can supposedly see some more little islands but the weather was rather cloudy that day. I was lamenting to the friend, I think I brought the clouds from Singapore to Seoul to Busan. She laughed and told me well, Singapore is very sunny right now. Maybe you will bring the clouds back with you

… 😦

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There’s a small little eatery opened and also a cafe on the second floor as well

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Also home to a few cats

Finally, after what it seemed like forever, I finally reached the path to the lighthouse

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Like light at the end of the tunnel. lol

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After 45 minutes hike upslope and a lot of steps involved, welcome to Yeongdo lighthouse

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I really can’t tell what’s so nice about this place that it is a top attraction in Busan. It’s a mystery :/

All I knew was I was so tired that I just wanna get this over and done with. But you will be surprised. This was actually quite a popular route to visit, like so many people were on their way up while I was on my way down. If you had asked me, I would say skip Taejongdae. Not worth visiting. lol

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The only consolation was I got rewarded with a scenic view on the way down

So pretty πŸ™‚

All that hike made me hungry. The plan was to visit this seafood area near the park for some seafood lunch, but given my energy was at all time low, I just wanted somewhere nearby

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And the first restaurant I spotted it shall be

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It’s quite a random store and everything is in Korean. So I whipped up my friendly Papago app and translated. Use Papago if you need translation. It works better than Google Translate

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I tried pointing to them I wanted the stew but sadly they don’t get it. I realised 이거 μ£Όμ„Έμš” (igeo juseyo) is a very powerful sentence. Once you said it, they get it immediately. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anything else, but please remember that sentence. It really helped a lot

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Banchan. Yup, all mine

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Fishcake and Kimchi Jiggae

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Processed with Focos

Was so happy to dig in

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It was a delicious stew. I finished all the fishcake. There were pieces of meat inside as well. I didn’t like the tofu cos it was the rough kind, but still it was a good lunch

After a satisfied lunch, I took a cab down to Gamcheon culture village (KRW11k). It was the best decision ever. lol. The taxi driver was very funny. Knowing I was from Singapore, he got even more enthusiastic. I think they must be happy to receive international tourists

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Gamcheon Culture Village

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A little village full of character

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There are shops lined up the streets but also bear in the mind there are also residents living in there so one would need to be a little more considerate as well

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Aww. Like a picture from a postcard

So half of me wanted to cab to my next destination but as luck would not have it, there was no cab around. Hence, begin my journey to my next destination

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Random fruits on sale

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Oryukdo Skywalk

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So at the entrance, I got really confused when the attendant told me to call a number. Like huh why? And I doubt I would understand what they were saying too. But it later dawned on me that it was a way to check-in for contact tracing. So, I thought it’s definitely better to have a Korean number since some places (even in Seoul) does require you to call rather than using a QR code/writing down

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I was also fortunate there was nobody on the skywalk, and hence such a pretty shot πŸ™‚

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Also explored the sides, where the stairs led me to another area

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And as the sun was setting, such nice lightings for photoshoots

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I was glad it was less cloudy then

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Definitely a much better view/attraction than Taejongdae

Finally headed for the hotel after such a long day

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And ooh, the skyline πŸ˜€

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Took me quite awhile to get to the hotel and I love how the lights welcomed me home

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And that’s home for the night – Paradise Hotel Busan

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The hotel is split into the main building and the annex but guests can use the facilities on both ends

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Somewhat reminded me of Shangri-La. They even have a kids village. lol

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My really huge room

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I didn’t quite like the shower room cos the pressure was a little inconsistent but other than that, the bed and the view was more than great

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Went straight back out for dinner and decided to explore the area

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Settled on this plaza that was right next to the hotel that housed a few restaurants. Initially wanted to have Lobsterlab but after seeing how eerily empty it was, I changed my mind. Ha

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Also spotted a few Korean eateries right down the road. That is if you are in the mood to walk a little bit further in the cold

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I chose the place that seemed most crowded. And as the saying goes – when in Rome, do as the Romans do

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Sangria (KRW8k)

which was quite nice

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Gambas (KRW16.5k)

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I was amused the restaurant was named Clam but they didn’t seem like they serve any here. So I went for this hotplate of spicy prawns which was fresh and quite spicy indeed. The bread was awesome. Like you could lick off the sauce with the bread

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Sweet Potato Chips (KRW12k)

And then I got an order of chips cos I wanted to munch it with my Sangria. Well, I was clearly too ambitious :/

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Decided to walk off my dinner abit by exploring the hotel. The lounge looked inviting but it didn’t seem like it was opened

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Popped by the retail shop as well

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The bakery was clearly ready for Christmas

And that concluded day 1 of Busan

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Woke up with quite a view and so glad I chose to stay here

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I must say I got a really good room as well since I could see the outdoor pool from my room

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I went down to breakfast at 7-ish and was surprised to see so many people inside already

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And buffet lines!

I haven’t seen them in such a long while

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You just need to wear the gloves provided and you could grab anything from the table. I was like in a state of confusion cos I couldn’t get used to seeing so many people helping themselves to food. lol

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Breakfast was really bad here. The food was cold. It definitely looked better than it tasted but nothing was memorable

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And hence my shock when I exited the restaurant and saw so many people in line queuing. Guys, it’s really not worth it

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Went out of the hotel cos I wanted to see Haeundae beach in daylight

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It was really really cold at 4 degrees with the wind blowing in your face. So, I never lingered any longer

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I wanted to see how the kids village looked like

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Well, it’s definitely a happy place for kiddos I think

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There was also a wedding shop located at the basement and I thought, wah so smart to be located at the hotel –  one can use the services and the facilities together. lol

And then I checked-out cos I had a final destination to go to before heading back to Seoul. So I got the hotel to get me a cab

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in which the doorman told me to stand under the heater (I never even realised that’s the use for it. lol)

This cab driver was pretty smart as he asked if I wanted him to wait while I finished visiting the temple then cabbed to Busan station (using a translation app of course). I thought, given how bad the traffic jam in Busan can get and my experience the day before, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea. And plus, the cab was running on meter

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So off I go to visit Haedong Yonggungsa Temple while he waited for me at the carpark

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I thought the sculptures were pretty intricate and I really felt at peace here

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So zen

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The view blew me away

You can also visit the Goddess of Mercy that was located at the back of the temple, but first you had to climb up a flight of very steep steps. I was so afraid I was going to lose my balance

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And you can make a wish here as well

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Candles are chosen according to your zodiac. Then you write your wishes on the cup, lit the candle and put them in the cabinet below the Goddess of Mercy

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Say a little prayer and may your wish comes true!

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Spent about 30 minutes here just exploring the grounds and taking photos. If you had never been here before, I thought you should come take a look since it’s quite rare for a temple to be located along the coast line with such a view

My time in Busan was really short so there were only so few attractions I could go. I think Busan is a can-visit, not a must-visit. But it’s a good change for something scenic and outdoors rather than cosmopolitan and city-life Seoul. If you don’t mind squeezing that extra time out of your itinerary, maybe you can consider Busan as a stop as well

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Busan is so hilly and slope-y every time I walk down the stairs, I thought about the number of steps I had to climb back up and I cry internally. lol. No wonder Koreans are so healthy

And the taxi driver took me back to Busan station which the whole journey (including tolls and parking) cost about KRW44k. It’s a little expensive I thought but I consoled myself that point to point in Busan is very far, and I saved on the time and convenience. lol

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My original train ride was scheduled at 12pm but given I was so early, I changed my ticket to the one departing at 11am instead

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All ready to head back to Seoul

And since I earned that extra hour, I decided to buy some snacks home from Lotte mart

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I have never seen Lotte mart this empty before. I remembered it used to be so packed.. so I took my own time here. And cos there was nothing to buy in Korea, all my friends will get snacks from me

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This was what I bought πŸ™‚

Get the fish and the crunky. It’s good

And that’s it for part 1 of my trip!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. kristalicious says:

    Hi! I’m heading to Korea in a couple of weeks on the VTL and I would love to join the telegram group you mentioned. Would you be able to share how do I join the sg-korea VTL telegram group? Thank you!

    Like

    1. irisslove says:

      hello! you can search @SGKRVTL in telegram

      Like

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