South Korea in 12 days

Taking advantage of the Easter break this year, we managed to put in a quick trip to South Korea (a nice 12 day holiday). It has always been one of the destinations I’ve wanted to visit, as their unique culture interested me, as much as their kimchi and Korean BBQ.

It didn’t disappoint. I found Korea to be a cross between say Taiwan and Japan. Some streets looked old and you sometimes wondered if it was really Korea. Other streets looked modern and everything you would see in Japan.

For food, make sure you squeeze in some fried chicken and beer. It’s their thing.

I hit the following locations as part of my itinerary, and please read below for details of the strips and my comments.

Seoul – the capital of South Korea. Plenty of hotspots to hit including the below:

Insandong – creative/arty strip with the art mall. There is a busy strip with lots of shops on insadong-gil. Drop into Ssamziegil to view the collections on display in this hip little complex. Good place to buy yourself a souvenir.


Myeondong – Shopping, restaurants, and just busy! Good for people watching. Find myeongdong-gil.


Yongsan – electronics shopping and Starcraft competitions, but nothing as extravagant as Akiharbra in Japan. If you get to Yongsan station, you’re pretty much there. You can give this place a miss if running short on time.


Dongdaemon – Less touristy around here. Very arty and cultural, with lots of shops and stalls. Widely spread out, so it might take a day exploring the area. It’s where all the locals tend to hang out more. Hunt down Gwangjang Market.


Itaewon – somewhat the least authentic area that I found in Seoul. Lots of expats and western style restaurants (lots of pubs etc). Have a look, but if short on time, give it a miss.


Gangham – uptown Korea, where the rich and business people. Visit the underground shopping strip at the Gangham subway station. The main strip is at Gangham-daero.


Garosugil – upper end shopping with nice shops and restaurants down side alleys. Find Dosan-daero 13 gil. Sorry, forgot to take any photos in this area.

Samcheongdong – cool old meets new style streets. Find Samcheongdonggil road, then locate the tourist centre and grab a walking trail map. Highly recommend you walk the first half of the path at least.


Busan – Located down south about 2.5-3hrs by high speed KTX train. Second largest city, different vibe and less busy compared to Seoul. Some recommended spots below.

Busan Chinatown (Jung-gu) – Labelled as Chinatown, but not very Chinatown. Used to be a redlight district, and now overrun by Russian bars. Give it a miss if short on time, otherwise drop in a have a look.


Gwangbokro – Lots of little shops tucked in alleys. Find the roads Daecheongno and Gwangbok-ro. Explore that area.


Sasang – Stumbled across this area on my way to Jinhae (it’s where the bus terminal is). Has some nice alley ways and shops just across from the bus terminal.


Jinhae – The highlight of my trip. Cherry Blossom festival. See my separate blog here.



Credit goes to my wife Roxane, and my sister-in-law Fiona for helping me recite the hotspots.

Seoul to Busan to Jinhae (Cherry Blossom Festival)

I had some airfares that happened to go on sale, and also had the privilege of taking some leave off in April this year. This coincided nicely with being able to visit South Korea during Cherry Blossom season.

The famous Cherry Blossom festival is held in Jinhae, towards the South of South Korea. It is a bit of a trek to make from Seoul, so it is recommended you visit Busan (the 2nd biggest city after Seoul). You can take the high-speed train (KTX) from Seoul to Busan. It takes around 2.5hours.

KTX from Seoul to Busan (and return)

KTX from Seoul to Busan (and return)

You can stay at the accommodation of your choice in Busan. As long as you can get to a metro line, its fairly easy to get to Jinhae. You need to make your way to Sasang metro station. You can get here via various lines and tranfers from any other metro line.

Some quick notes:

  • Please note Jinhae is pronounced Jin-air, else locals will not understand where you are referring too
  • Jinhae is not the same as Jinae (on the light-rail train)

Once you have arrived at Sasang station, find exit 5 and once up the stairs turn left and walk past the McDonalds/Apple Outlet. You will find the bus terminal here. Buy a ticket for Jinhae, and wait for the bus. It should be Bus stop 17 outside the terminal, with a nice long line of people. The bus itself doesn’t have a number, and runs every 20mins between 6am and 10pm.


Jinhae on the ticket is probably written in Korean, so take note of below (Jinhae is written in Korean next to the arrow Busan ->). It’s probably where everyone is heading anyway.

Jinhae to Busan

Jinhae to Busan

Busan to Jinhae

Busan to Jinhae

The bus ride can be any where from 1hr to 2hrs depending on traffic. Just sit back and relax.

When you arrive in Jinhae, you may notice people getting off at various stops. Some stops are closer to the actual festival. My advice is to wait until the last stop, which will take you to the Jinhae bus terminal. That way, you can get a bearing of where this is compared to everything else. You will need to come back to this bus terminal to buy your return ticket.


PS. The bus will drop you off at Jinhae bus terminal which is near the people selling food in tents as part of the festival. To get to the famous Yeojwacheon Stream (pictures below), just show the pics to an info desk at the big roundabout and they’ll give you a map with walking directions – otherwise try and google and see if you can make your own way there!

DSC_0683 DSC_0493



We arrived in Nice to a thunderstorm; if only you could control the weather when you’re travelling. This meant that many shops and restaurants were closed, because who shops and eats when it’s raining right? Only in Europe 🙂

You can visit the beaches in Nice, check out the yachts that are parked in the harbour, eat frog legs and do a bit of walking through parks. I think you will find that Nice is more a chill out, lay on the beach place. Depending on how much of a beach person you are, and whether you enjoy doing nothing will affect your opinion on Nice.


Lyon is often referred to the food capital of France. It is smallish city, but there are markets and streets you can wander down. Visiting this city, you will probably be planning your days around where to eat.

There were two memorable stories for me that both involved food. One was when we were hunting down a cheese and wine tasting place, which led us to go through some doors that happened to be hiding a whole market place behind it. It extraordinary to stumble across such a place, and we proceeded to walk around and eat endlessly.

The second place was for dinner, where I made a booking to a nice restaurant. On arrival we would find that it was a fine dining restaurant, and we were dressed somewhat casually. I had also proceeded to book the restaurant for the wrong night (ie. I booked tomorrow night). they were nice enough to accommodate us still, after some blank looks on both ours and their faces regarding the reservation.

We then found out the menu was degustation only, and were in awe of the food by the end of the night. It was at the very end that we then realised on the bill that the restaurant actually had a Michelin star! No wonder…


Paris was the final stop of our European holiday. It is one of those places that you seem to get mixed opinions about. For us, we were really enjoyed our Paris experience, and we never received any snobiness or rudeness from the locals – I think you need to put in that little extra effort to greet and thank, and it helps to have a smile on your face.

My favourite coffee variation was the the noisette, and I could not resist having a croissant a day. Bread overall is sooooo good in Paris, and we had no issues just having just baguette and french butter. To add to this, I’m also a fan of Foie Gras, which you can get at many restaurants in Paris.

There are a million things to do in Paris, but I think the main attractions would be Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Moulin Rouge, The “lock” bridge (although the locks have all been removed now), and the Lourve if you’re into Museums.

Getting around is quite easy on the subway system, and I would recommend it. Dinner at the Les Papilles was a highlight. It is hard to get a booking, and they do confirm bookings via phone so make sure you have a working number. There is no menu, and you rock up and get served the specials for the day

Lucerne (Switzerland)

In Switzerland, due to the only having a few days we decided that we would skip Zurich and go straight up to Lucerne. The beauty of Europe is how you can chop and change you itinerary so easily, and hotels are almost always available anytime any day.
Switzerland is one of those places where the landscape is so unique. The colours of green, blue, and white really don’t look the same anywhere else. Everything is so lush, clean, and crisp – truly beautiful and you can’t help but to keep staring out that window of the train.

In Lucerne I managed to pick up a cheap Swiss watch as a souvenir (practically the only thing I wanted to leave Switzerland with), pay the most I ever have for a cup of coffee (in excess of AUD$10), and visit Mount Pilatus (must do if visiting Lucerne). Make sure you try some swiss chocolate, and also drink water from any of their fountains. The water has an impeccably clean taste about it, and I think it is one of the worlds highest quality drinking water.

Lake Lucerne 1 Lake Lucerne 2 Mount Pilatus

Prague (Czech Republic)

We arrived in Prague and caught a taxi to our hotel. Fortunately for us, we managed to somehow book the last room at a bargain rate in the attic of a hotel, that happened to be meters from the (Charles Bridge). Every morning we walked out to traffic and hordes of people.

We really enjoyed our time in Prague, visiting Old Town, the Royal Palace, taking a segway tour, and bumping into another Australian couple who we had dinner with. Make sure you find a place that cooks a Pork Shoulder. It’s quite a thing, and will easily feed 2 people.

I found that the people were very nice there overall. People can appear to be abrupt and direct, but it’s normal for them. Making small chat isn’t there thing. Speaking to a taxi driver, and think the people genuinely feel a sense of freedom as they were under Communist rule for so long, and have finally become a Democratic country.

Charles Bridge Old Town Prague

Vienna (Austria)

Vienna was essentially a stop over destination for us on the way through to Prague. It is a lovely city with rich architecture and people. Unfortunately for us, the night we caught the overnight train to Vienna it was daylight savings. This meant that the train had to stop in the middle of nowhere for an hour, so not to affect the arrival time into Vienna. We also arrived on a Public Holiday which meant that a lot of shops were closed. This wasn’t too much of a problem, as we took advantage of the lack of people on the streets to do walk around the Vienna Ring Road (Vienna Ringstrasse).

The things I would recommend in Vienna would be to visit Stephanplatz (their main shopping district) and try their bread dumplings, and their beer. Not a big beer fan, but I found one that I really liked there.




Rome was our entry point into Europe. It provided a great experience into what would become our great euro trip. We arrived and taxied to our hotel, which happen to be down the road from the Vatican City.

Rome is known for it’s rich history, and sites to see including: Vatican City, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon. Getting around involved lots of walking, and we tried not to overcrowd our days by only planning to see 1-2 sites a day, and freestyling the rest of the day. This allowed us to get infinite amounts of coffee, eat lots, and visit lots of shops.


We hired a car in Rome, and drove to a bed and breakfast in Tuscany. This was one of our most memorable experiences as we got a taste of what it was like to be “live” in Italy with home cooked meals to staying in a cottage. The owners had little to no english, but this made it more exciting, and you always seemed to work it! For the couple days we stayed here, we experienced great cakes for breakfast, and some of the best pasta for dinner. During the day we drove around the area, visiting the different cities and taking in the sites, and managed to squeeze in a bit of wine tasting.

Toscana Field Toscana Narrow Roads


We used our car to drive onwards to Florence. On the way to Florence, we stopped by a designer factory outlet. The fine good lovers will find this place to die for, with the endless supply of designer outlets including Prada, Gucci, Montblanc.

We finally returned the car in Florence, after endless loops around the city looking for the car hire place (which would result in a traffic ticket 12 months later for driving down an alley that was designated pedestrians – how could you even differentiate in a city like Florence lol?)

Florence allowed for more great food, and visiting of museums and sites such as the Spanish Steps (watch your wrists to not have a bracelet tied to it and be charged, and don’t take any roses).

We took a day trip out of Florence to visit Pisa and check out the the Leaning Tower of Pisa. What a famous attraction, with an endless number of tourists taking selfies.

Cinque Terra

The train from Florence took us to Cinque Terra, to visit the 5 little fishing cities. Each would be a little different to the other, and allowed for great photos that you always see on Instagram. This is where there are mountain trails for those who wish to hike a bit. It is definitely worth a stop, with lots of cheese, wine, and food to try. It’s a place where you can hang around and do “nothing” and be at peace at somewhere that feels left behind in todays ever hectic lifestyle.



The fashion capital as most people would call it, with lots of shops and people. It is more of a business city, so you can limit your time here a bit if you wish. Great place for shopping, but you may run out of other things to do. It was also the place where a gypsy stole a couple euro from me as the change dropped out at the ticket vending machine – TIP: use exact change, or just smile and walk away 🙂


I don’t think you will find anywhere else in the world quite like Venice. It has an impossible look about it when you first arrive – people live in houses where the streets are water?

Getting around Venice involves a lot of walking, but you can catch shuttle boats, Gondolas and Traghetto (shared gondolas that people use to cross the canals instead of find a bridge).

I really enjoyed my time in Venice, getting lost daily, finding shops, and eating. You’ll find famous attractions here as well including Piazza San Marco and Rialto Bridge. Make sure you try squid ink pasta, Bellini (alcochol), buy bread and prosciutto to picnic, and go on a Gondola. You will find that there are endless reviews on TripAdvisor with Gondola love and hate stories. I think you will find that investing a bit of your own time in walking around and talking to the Gondola owners will give you an idea as to whether you will like their personality instead of jumping onto the first one you see.

Ask questions, and see if they laugh or tell you to get stuffed (ie. do you sing?). When we found one we liked, we watched him take another couple out, and made sure he came back on or after the time allocated. After all, one of the biggest complaints on TripAdvisor is that people were short-changed for time. In our case, we observed another Gondola depart after ours but arrive back before!

Venice was the final leg of our visit to Italy, and it was one of our most memorable experiences. We spent almost 3 weeks here to really allow us to travel unrushed, as we are not the type of people that go on tours. We prefer to freestyle and encourage you to do the same!


Brazil 2014

I was fortunate enough this year to visit Brazil for a friend’s wedding. This was in March 2014, just months before the World Cup.

We visited Sao Paulo, Rio De Janeiro, and Bahia. The experience was something very different to anywhere I’ve been to previously, and it’ll probably be a while before I will be heading back to South America again – so it was even more compelling to visit!

First impressions of Brazil was that it was an extremely populated concrete jungle. Because we were travelling as a large group, safety concerns were somewhat lessened. Nonetheless, it’s best to be a wise tourist and not get into any situations that you will regret.

Sao Paulo is the capital, and is where the wedding was held. It was the most populated and dense out of the cities we visited. Rio De Janeiro is what most people associate Brazil with. The nice long beaches and people playing volleyball on the beach. Bahia is somewhat more isolated, and more culturally untouched.

We were here for Carnival season, and Rio has the biggest and most famous. These are what people see photos of on the Internet. We went to Carnival in Bahia, which is more about song and dance. All the famous musicians play here on floating stages, and spectators can choose to dance around the floats, stand on the circuit, or in the stands that surround the circuit.

I have attached some photos of my trip!


Hong Kong and Taiwan 2013

This year I revisited Hong Kong, and visited Taiwan for the first time.
I’ve been to Hong Kong before, but it was my first time to Taiwan.

Hong Kong was even more fascinating than the first time I visited back in 2006. It must’ve been a combination of traveling young, and also knowing more about what I wanted to do this time.

This trip consisted of a lot more shopping, finding good eats, and revisiting some of the touristy locations.

In terms of food, Hong Kong is Yum Cha paradise, with so many places to choose from, you just need to know where to find them. As ground floor shop space is  mostly retail, you’ll find a lot of Yum Cha places hidden on the upper floors of buildings (except big places like Din Tai Fung). Apps such as TripAdvisor and UrbanSpoon are very useful in hunting these places down. Don’t forget to check out the Michelin Star restaurants scattered throughout HK!

Shopping is also great, with lots of variety. Prices are ok, nothing bargain paradise. I think the USA is still the best for that.

This was my first time to Taiwan. It was very different to Hong Kong. Best described as somewhere between Hong Kong and Vietnam, Taiwan has some new buildings, but a lot of old run down buildings, motorbikes, and plenty of street food.

The people of Taiwan are some of the friendliest I’ve ever met. As there is little English spoken in Taiwan, you have to brush up on your Mandarin or improvisation. At one stage, I recall asking for instructions from someone on the street. He spoke almost no English, went inside to ask a shopkeeper, where the conversation was overheard by a female customer who happened to speak a bit of English. She came out and tried to explain the directions the best she could!

In terms of what there is to do, I think there is plenty if you venture out of Taipei. I had a week in Taipei, and I did struggle to find things to do after 4-5 days. However, for me having not much to do also meant I just had to relax – not a bad thing for a holiday.

Here’s a quick list of things to do:

  • Taipei 101
  • CBD for some shopping and food
  • Hunt down some Din Tai Fung
  • Night markets – there are plenty of them!
  • Pub food – try frog legs!
  • Monuments, memorials, and temples

Hamilton Island (The Great Barrier Reef) – QLD, Australia

It’s not often I decide to travel my own backyard. This was one of those rare cases. The thought came after seeing so many beautiful beaches around the world, and not realising that the Great Barrier Reef was only a few hours away by plane.

The mission was set, check out what I have been putting off for ages. For those outside of Australia – I should let you know that Australia is an expensive place to travel, especially to a resort such as Hamilton Island.

After a bit of research and obtaining a few quotes, it was booked. I was flying to Hamilton Island and staying at the Reef View Hotel for 7 nights. I also purchased a water-proof camera in anticipation (Sony Tx-10).

Hamilton Island itself is quite small (4 x 7km approx) and there are people that live on the island – but most people are tourists. There are close to no cars, and you either walk or drive around in golf buggies. There are plenty of pools to spend your days, and there is Cats-eye beach, where there is a reef with fish that you can practically walk out to during low-tide.

Most of the adventureous stuff requires travel – boat, helicopter, plane. Take your pick from the various tour operators. This includes snorkelling and diving in the middle of the reef. I would highly recommend this, as you will get much clearer waters and experience the reef in it’s full glory. You may get sea-sick travelling out to these locations (as I did), so medication for those affected is recommended.

Have a look at some of my photos below. You may find that a 7 nights is quite some time, so you can probably reduce it to 5 or less. Just keep in mind that food and general expenses can be quite steep on this island. I was quite happy to chill and do a whole lot of nothing most of the times.