Thursday, November 2, 2017

South Korea in 6 Days

It's been awhile since I've visited a country for the first time. My friends convinced me to go visit Seoul with them and it was an awesome experience. The aptly coined our trip as #SeoulMuchMore.

We arrived late night in Seoul and made our way quickly to the AREX (train) to the city. Got off Seoul Station and promptly lined up for a taxi. It took awhile to get a taxi to the hanuk and on hindsight should have just taken a taxi from the airport. It would have spared us the hardship of dragging our luggage up several escalator flights.


The Hanuk Guesthouse 201 was a quaint place. They had 5 rooms and their floors were heated. Two bathrooms and toilets were shared among all guests. You may also use the kitchen to have coffee/tea/noodles. It was good to experience how Koreans lived in the past.

Changdeokgung Palace

Our first tourist stop was a Changdeokgung Palace. This is where the emperor/king lived. The place is gigantic so make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. I would've loved to go to the Secret Garden, but we were running late for the change of guards at Gyeongbokgong.

Gyeongbokgong Palace

The palace is mainly the workplace of the emperor/king. The Korean Empire was abolished by the Japanese in 1910. The last Korean emperor, Sunjong, died in 1926 and became the catalyst to overthrow Japanese rule.

I noticed during our visit to the palaces that a lot of Koreans wore beautiful hanbok, their traditional national dress.

Gyeongbokgong Palace Change of Guards

We witnessed the change of guards at the palace. The full traditional routine is showcased at the palace grounds twice a day. The guards wore very colorful uniforms and marched to traditional drum beats.

Lotte Sky Tower

I have a bucket list to visit all the tall buidings in the world. I'm happy that I finally got to check this off my list. Standing on the glass floor was an exhilirating experience since the glass didn't seem to be too thick. After reaching the sky we went around Lotte Department Store and Lotte Mart. My friends said that it was Korea's version of SM.

Shopping in Myeongdong

We were set to visit Namsan after Sky Tower, but a protest foiled our plans since we couldn't get a taxi. We switched our plans and decided to go to the Myeongdong night market. I ended up buying a lot of socks and my friends bought different skin care products.

N Seoul Tower/Namsan

We took the cable to the N Seoul Tower. We went really early and managed to get on the second cable car up the mountain. It was there that we got a first glimpse of the beautiful autumn colors set against the towering city buildings. A gazillion padlocks lined up the place - a promise of forever.

The Hanbok Experience 

I think the best experience I had in Seoul was trying out the hanbok. I chose to dress up as a queen since it's not everyday you can be like royalty. We had a lot of fun taking photos and doing scenarios.

Nami Island

On our last full day in South Korea, we headed early towards Gapyeong. We were at Yongsan Station by 6:15am to catch our 7am train to Gapyeong. By 8am we were on the first ferry ride to Nami Island. It was freezing at 1'C, so I'm glad I bundled up for warmth (wear Uniqlo heattech to survive the cold!). We rented two double bikes to get around the island and had the time of our lives.

Petite France

The last tourist place we visited was Petite France. We took a taxi from the Nami Island ferry terminal. I liked that they highlighted the Little Prince and things that represent France. I will hopefully one day visit France.

Some costs related to the places we visited:

AREX to City - KRW4,750
Flat Rate Taxi from Airport to City - KRW65,000
Palace entrance fees - KRW3,000 (KRW8,000 including Secret Garden)
Cable car to N Seoul Tower - KRW6,000
Hanbok rental - KRW26,000 to 58,000; hairdo - KRW5,000-10,000
Train to Gapyeong - KRW5,200 (this is one way)
Ferry to Nami Island - trying to remember...
Double bike - KRW15,000 for 30 minutes
Taxi from Nami Island Ferry Terminal to Petit France - about KRW26,000
Petite France Entrance Fee - KRW8,000

Friday, April 21, 2017

Getting a Haircut in Japan

It was an adventure like no other.

I've wanted to get a haircut in Japan since my cousin cut her beautiful long hair. It looked really good on her (my cousin though is a model). My aunt (her Mom) has also kept her hair short and has lived in Japan for two decades already so I figured it must be good to get a haircut in Japan. It's been two years since my cousin cut her hair short and I was just always too chicken to set time to get a haircut whenever I was in Tokyo.

The universe conspired early this week. I managed to get off work just before six and hubby was lost somewhere in Nakano. I took the chance and marched into Kakimoto Arms in Ropponggi to check if there was an available hairstylist. I've been eyeing the salon for more than a year now. It's probably the most expensive haircut I would have in my entire life, but I figured that the hairstylist would hopefully not butcher my hair. I was very nervous.

The salon was very interesting. They had lockers where you could keep your things. They offered a case to keep my eyeglasses in. And they gave me a tiny ziplock bag for my earrings. Never had any of these in my home country. They also had beverage available in case you got thirsty.

The hairstylist sat me down in front of a mirror to interview me first on what I wanted to do with my hair. I told him I just wanted it short. A new look I said since I've had my hair long for about 15 years now. He didn't want to cut it short at first, but he took heed when I said I'm bored with my look.

I then moved to get my hair shampooed. The staff was very nice and made sure I was comfortable.

When Kamohara-san started to cut my hair I whispered to him that I wanted to get bangs. He wasn't convinced I should have bangs and just said, "I'll think about it." As he finished cutting the back area he asked me if I was sure I wanted bangs. I said, "Yes I want to try". He probably thought I'd hate it so cut sample bangs first and then when I said it's fine and proceeded to finish it.

I've always been wary about going to the salon. My long-time hairstylist retired a few years ago and I have not found the "right one" since he left so my hair has been subjected to a wide array of heavy-handed hairstylists. I just go whenever my hair is already too long and need a haircut. I even do home hair spa just to spare me from going to the salon. Kamohara-san though has the gentlest, expert hands and I think I may have found the right hair sylist for me. So I have to think about how to make this manageable for me (and my pocket).

I honestly wasn't sure if I did the right thing since it took long to finalize and blow-dry my hair. Midway I snapped a photo and sent it to my friend Chelle to get an affirmation I was doing the right thing. She said it looked good and that I shouldn't worry. Eventually Kazuro-san finished and I went back to the hotel to wait for the hubby.

I did not tell hubby that I was getting a hair cut. I wanted to surprise him. He was really surprised to see my new look and has been very fond of my bangs (haha). It's been a few days since I had my haircut and I finally figured out how to properly blow-dry it (had a punk look the first time I blow dried it haha).

Getting a haircut in Japan was a big, risky adventure for me. I'm glad I took the risk since my family loves my new look and friends have been raving how my hair suits me.

Kakimoto Arms - Roppongi Hills
Kazuro Kamohara, executive stylist
*off days: Tuesday and Saturday
Telephone: 03-5786-9810

Friday, March 10, 2017

How to Commute from Caticlan to Boracay

Booking your transfer from Caticlan to Boracay through a hotel or airline can be very expensive. For my trips to the beautiful island I usually just commute. Here's how you can get from the Caticlan airport to your Boracay hotel.

Step 1. From the airport take a tricycle to the jettyport. Cost: PhP50

Step 2. When you arrive at the airport go to the windows on the left side of the door and pay for the following per person:

Pump boat fee - PhP25
Environmental fee - PhP60
Terminal fee - PhP100

Step 3. Fill out the manifest form (available at the window where you purchase the pump boat fee).

Step 4. Go inside the jettyport.

Step 5. After the security check you will be asked to fill out another form on the tourism desk.

Step 6. Head to the departure area. Make sure you have your tickets and manifest ready because security will check this.

Step 7. Hop on the next available pump boat.

Step 8. After about 15 minutes you will reach the Boracay jettyport. The tricycles inside the compound are more expensive. Just outside the gate is where other tricycles line up. Hop on one and they'll bring you to your hotel. Depending on the location the ride will cost between PhP100-120.

The process is the same heading back although there would be no need to pay the environmental fee anymore.