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Unique Accommodations in South Korea – Part 1 (West Coast)

Here’s my pick on the most unique and amazing accommodations in the western coast and islands of South Korea.

1. Happy House (HH) Santorini 해피하우스 산토리니

Photo Cr + more photos: http://blog.daum.net/j68021/13745232
Korean Website: http://www.hhsantorini.com/main.php
Korean Tourism Website Info: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_2_4.jsp?cid=1730523

Santorini, the island famous for white walls and blue roofs/windows/railings, has been a rather popular travel destination in recent years. Its definitely on my to-go list but it’s a little far and expensive holiday destination for now. I guess this Santorini-themed pension can be a lovely substitute for now.

This 20-room pension was built in 2010 (as seen in Daum Maps) and it is situated along the western coast of South Korea. This place is a perfect weekend getaway and one MUST-DOs is to have a meat & seafood BBQ by the shore in the evening while you watch the sunset. I can’t seem to find any english-writing bloggers who have stayed and written about this place so I guess I might be the first if I get to stay here in the near future 🙂

Room Rates: from 120,000W

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Bloggers Sponsored trip to Kota Kinabalu (June 2014)

I am really glad to be chosen as the pioneer batch of Singaporean bloggers to visit Kota Kinabalu. Unlike most people, my Kota Kinabalu (KK) vacation does not involve climbing the tallest peak in Malaysia (Mt Kinabalu, 4095m). Read on to find out on what Kota Kinabalu has to offer.

This 5D4N trip has been sponsored and organized by Sutera Harbour which provided 4 nights accommodation, most meals, Sunset Cruise, North Borneo Steam Train, Golf driving range lessons and Spa experience (Mandara Spa). It also received the strong support of Sabah Tourism Board (STB) which provided ground transportation, tour guide, island and water sports experience – para sailing, coral zipline, borneo reef world (arranged by tour operator: Borneo Passages). Air Tickets was sponsored by Air Asia SG.

In the following entries, I will be describing each activity and my experience in detail. Unlike most of my budget conscious vacation, this sponsored trip allowed me to pamper myself, live and play in luxury. Really thankful for the experience of a lifetime 😉

(1) Bloggers Sponsored trip to Kota Kinabalu (June 2014)

(2) Air Asia Red Carpet Experience to Kota Kinabalu

(3) Sutera Harbour – Luxurious 5-Star resort in Kota Kinabalu

(4) Sutera Harbour – North Borneo Railway Experience

(5) Sutera Harbour – Sunset Cruise on Puteri Sutera Yacht

(6) Island Adventure in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

(7) Kota Kinabalu – Half Day City Tour by Sutera Tourism Board

Would like to thank each and everyone who made the trip possible.

Sutera Marketing & Comms Team: Tracy (Main organizer and contact point), Jade, Clara & Ray
Sutera (Other Dept): Jason, Ravi, Mario & various people who took time off their busy schedule to meet and host us
Tour Guide: Grace from Sabah Tourist Guides Association
Tour Operator: Young from Borneo Passages
Sabah Tourism Board: Josephine & Jason
and not forgetting my travel mates Daniel & Swee Ong.

Rilakkuma made a new friend this trip! The Proboscis Monkey 🙂

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Sutera Harbour – Luxurious 5-Star resort in Kota Kinabalu

Sutera Harbour is a luxurious 5-star seafront resort, facing the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park islands. It is strategically located between the airport (10 minutes drive) and Kota Kinabalu (KK) Town.

There are two hotels, The Pacific Sutera Hotel (500 rooms) & The Magellan Sutera Resort (456 rooms), catering to all types of travelers, be it business travelers, families, honeymooners or groups of friends. This 384-acres resort also houses 5 swimming pools, a private beach, a full facility club house, a 104-berth marina, a 27-hole golf course, 14 dining options and 2 international spas.

Trivia: The resort had been built on reclaimed land back in 2000 by then-CEO and founder Datuk Edward Ong. As at January 2014, the ownership has been transferred to GSH Corp Ltd.

As mentioned in my previous post, the car ride from the airport to the hotel was barely 10 minutes! Together with the red carper priority, this has been the fastest plane to hotel transfer ever.

For the first two nights, we stayed at The Pacific Sutera Hotel. It has an air-conditioned lobby with a bar and live band performances at night.

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Kota Kinabalu – Half Day City Tour by Sutera Tourism Board

On the 4th day of the trip, we went on a Half Day City Tour, organized by Sutera Tourism Board. It was good to have the chance to explore the city as we didn’t have any chance to explore the city centre as everything had been self-contained within Sutera for the past 3 days.

The first location we visited was the Museum of Sabah also known as Muzium Sabah (RM15 for non-Malaysian). It’s kind of upsetting that we were not allowed to take any photos inside the museum, not even without flash on Handphone Cameras. I really like the landscaping of rocks and waterfall for the signage. Due to the very good but hot weather, the picture below looks great (Thanks to my new Canon Camera)!

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Island Adventure in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

On the third day of our trip, we went on an island experience tour at the famous Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. This Marine Park is one of the key activities (apart from Mt Kinabalu) that tourists would visit as part of their itinerary when visiting Kota Kinabalu.

These are 5 islands are actually not very far from mainland. It is only a 10 to 15 minutes boat ride and the current is usually very calm.

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Sutera Harbour – North Borneo Railway Experience

The North Borneo Railway is definitely an attraction not to be missed and it is currently rated as #1 thing to do on trip advisor. The history of this railway is dated back to 1896 whereby the British administrators initiated its construction. It served as a major transportation tool for bringing paddy, sago, pineapples, soya beans, silk and many more, out to Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu’s british name) for export.

Today, the wood-fueled steam engine is one of the few existing ones left in the world. Its iconic “Choo Choo” sound, made from the release of  steam onto the exhaust pipe, is a major crowd-puller, especially among fans of “Thomas the Train”.

With courtesy of Sutera Harbour, We were given the opportunity to be part of this 4-hour rail tour (inclusive of breakfast & lunch) which is usually fully booked.

If you have pre-booked your tour, shuttle bus would be provided from both hotel lobbies at Sutera Harbour at around 9am. The ride from the hotel to Tanjung Aru Station is approximately 15 minutes. We had to collect the tickets from the ticket counter and we were given a “passport” and a hand fan as well.

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As you can see, the staff were all well-dressed in their colonial uniform for this themed ride. From 9:30am, you will be able to board this non-air conditioned train (think colonial times!) but most people would rather hang around outside to take photographs of this artifact.

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Air Asia Red Carpet Experience to Kota Kinabalu

Air Asia has been the #1 low cost carrier for the past five years and counting. It has been living up to its tagline of ‘Now Everyone can Fly‘ by providing low prices (sometimes free) to its many destinations all over Asia.

AirAsia has kindly sponsored the return tickets for this bloggers FAM Kota Kinabalu (KK) trip.

For our flight from Singapore to Kinabalu, we were given the VIP Red Carpet Service which gives us priority for everything.

Red Carpet Service , worth 60 (pre-booked)/70 SGD (walk-in) has been introduced to reduce the waiting time for travelers.

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Hottest Trends in South Korea – Summer 2014

In recent years, South Korea has been one of the top destination for travel among my friends, including myself. In the past 3 years, I have been to South Korea 3 times, each time exploring different areas, mainly beyond Seoul.

As much as I would hope to, the 4th trip in 4 years is far from becoming a reality. Nevertheless, here’s my hottest trends for Summer this year, or rather the places I would have visit if I’m going Korea this year.

1. You Who Came From the Stars Filming Location – Jangsado Sea Park – Camelia island

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This popular Korean Drama is the drama of the year and Kim Soo Hyun became an instant money-making cash cow overnight. He has appeared in local newspaper at least 4 to 5 times (despite the drama already ending in March), came to Singapore for a fan meet and made a lot of crazy fans spend tons and tons of money on him. On the contrary, I am not smitten by him but I prefer the female lead, Gianna Jun. She brought back the memories I had of My Sassy Girl and her acting was really brilliant.

So, why do I want to visit this place?

  • It’s really popular (One of the highest search keywords for my blog – If you google” You Who Came From the Stars Filming Location” on google, my blog comes up right on top.)
  • It’s inaccessible (which makes it more challenging and blog-worthy

*Do check back for updates. I might have friends visiting this place ^_^ *

2. You Who Came From the Stars / My Love from the Stars Film Set Exhibition @ Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Info from KTO: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/FU/FU_EN_15.jsp?cid=1923659

For fans of the drama, this limited-time only (June 10 ~August 15) exhibition is a MUST-GO. Although it might seem rather pricey at 15,000W, it is a really a rare opportunity as such exhibitions are not very common. Well, I paid almost 56 SGD for my Harry Potter Studio tour back in 2012 so I don’t think 15,000W is steep at all =p

Admission: Adults 15,000 won / Students 10,000 won
※ 20% discount for adults if they present a picture or printed copy of the discount coupon
found at the bottom of the SBS website: http://lovefromstar.sbs.co.kr/

Directions: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (Seoul Subway Line 2, 4, 5), Exit 1 or 2. The plaza is located right outside these exits.

3. Cafe Dreamy

If you’re active on social media, you would have probably seen photos of this cafe being shared around a couple of times. This dreamlike creation was the result of the (former air force pilot) owner combining two of his greatest passion, cameras and coffee into a camera-themed cafe.

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Img Cr: http://photohistory.tistory.com/14245

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This cafe was only built recently and if you check the street view of this place, it had been a green field. I’ll let the rest of the pictures speak for itself ❤

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Img Cr: http://freezetm.tistory.com/entry/%EA%BF%88%EA%BE%B8%EB%8A%94-%EC%82%AC%EC%A7%84%EA%B8%B0

Directions: Travel via Mugunghwa Train (start from Cheongnyangni ) or Jungung Line (start from Yongasn), alight at Youngmun Station and use exit 1.

A. Take taxi and direct the taxi driver to 중원리 꿈꾸는사진기 or just show him the image of this place. (approx 10,000W, 10-15 minutes)

B. Alternatively, you can take the public bus which only comes once every hour.

  • Upon exiting the station, walk to the main road and turn to your left.
  • Walk down slightly and then turn right into the road.
  • Walk down the road and then walk into the Bus Terminal.
  • Board bus number 7-5 and alight at the 11th Stop (중원1리강이대삼거리정류장 하차) which sounds like Jung Won il-ri gang yi dae sam geo ri jeong ryu jang ha cha.
  • The bus stop is by a stream and a mini dam. I guess if you’re unsure, do show the bus driver the hangul words and he will advise you where to stop.
  • (The walk is approximately 1km) Continue walking in the same direction as the bus and continue on the path which brings you across the stream.
  • After walking a distance, take a left turn across the bridge again.
  • Continue walking (slight uphill) and you should see this awesome cafe on your left!

**Directions given have been sourced from daum maps street view as at 2010. I do not take any responsibility if these directions are inaccurate as I have not been to this place before.

*Do check back for updates. I might have friends visiting this place ^_^ *

4. Ganchon Rail Bike @ Chuncheon

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If you have been following my blog, you would have probably know that I’m a fan of the rail biking experience! I have personally tried the Yangpyeong Rail Bike and adding on to the list:

(1) Auraji Rail Bike in Jeongseon 

(2) Samcheok Ocean Rail Bike 

(3) Mungyeong Rail Bike

(4) Seomjingang River Rail Bike

(5) Ganchon Rail Bike & Chuncheon (below)

Ganchon Rail Bike is located right outside Gimyujeong Station. By the way, this place was featured in one of running man’s episode and it can be really packed during summer. Do book in advance if possible.

Directions: Take the ITX and alight at Gangchon station, then take stroll to ganchon rail park located at the former gangchon station or change to the subway at gangchon station to Gimyujeong Station.

Do note that the rail bike package only runs 1 way from Gangchon to Gimyujeong and vice versa. You can choose to start off at either ends.

 5. Boryeong Mud Festival

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The Mud festival has been an yearly affair in Korea since 1998 and this year, it will happen from 18-28 July at Daecheon Beach, Boryeong. For only 10,000W, you can take part in a crazy carnival and splash these beneficial mud onto your body. Take part in activities from mud wrestling to mud sliding to mud soap making or even participate in a marine-style training program!

Note: Fireworks fantasy happens on the 19th and 27th of July.

Directions: (From Seoul) Take the Saemaul (Express) train from Yongsan Station (Line 1) to Daecheon Station. Then, transfer a bus to from the station to Daecheon Beach (40 mins). Alternatively, you can take the bus from Express Bus terminal (Line 3, Exit 2) to Daecheon Intercity bus terminal. Then, take a local bus to Daecheon Beach.

Cr: http://www.boryeongmudfestival.com/

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Alright, these are the places which I would be covering if I were to go to Korea this summer.
Picked up any ideas for your next vacation to Korea? Do remember to share your experiences with me when you’re back!

🙂

We’re having a KRABI-LICIOUS May!

This is my third trip of 2014 and its not even June yet =p

Well, even though this was the last trip of the three (Bali, Hong Kong), this was the trip that had been in my mind for the longest time. If I didn’t recall wrongly, I’ve been wanting to visit this place since Nov 2012. Really thankful to have met this two crazy girls who are willing to follow my super random itinerary for this trip. They were even willing to fork out $ for our 5-Star Resort Stay on the last night!

There’s something really special about this 4D3N trip. Something that has never occurred in most of the trips that I’ve been on: I actually had leftover money (approx $100+) remaining!

My exchange rate was 25.55 which I felt it was pretty good! The last time I went to thailand, it was about 23 ~ 24.

Here are the usual numbers:

Used Exchange Rate of  1 SGD = 25 Baht for simplicity purposes

Details Price for 3 Pax / Per Person (SGD)
Airfare – Tiger Airways(1 for 1 promo) + Normal Price  $396 / $132
Accommodation –
3 Star Hotel (2 nights) Ananta Burin
5 Star Hotel (1 night) Sofitel Krabi
 $439 / $146
Day 1 – Private Sunset Longtail + Island Hopping (2500B+600B park fee + 200B tips)  $132 / $44
Day 2 – Private Hong Island Longtail (2800B +600B park fee + 300B tips)  $148 / $49
Transportation –
Airport Transfer (600B + 700B)
Krabi Town Round Trip (800B)
Ao Nang to Sofitel (600B)
Public ‘Bus’ within Ao Nang (150B)
 $114 / $38
Food –
Day 1 (Lunch) Ao Nang Boat Noodle (740B)
Day 1 (Dinner) Red Snapper Restaurant (820B)
Day 2 (Dinner) Night Market approx 200B each
Day 3 (Lunch) Kru Thara Seafood (1090B)
Day 3 (Dinner) At Sofitel (1100B)
 $174 / $58
Misc –
Data Sim (3 days unlimited 3G) – 200B
 – / $8
 Total $1403 / $475

Here’s a few disclaimers to my prices above:

  • Air tickets were booked 4 months in advance
  • Without the 5-Star Hotel, accommodation can go down to $20-30/person/night
  • Private Longtail boat prices were up to 70% discounted from displayed rates. If you choose to join a tour, prices can be as low as 400B for 4-island and 800B for Hong Island.
  • There’s public transport to Krabi Town at 60-80B/way

Effectively, if you’re all out to cut cost and save money, we can keep that number safely under $400 for a 4D3N vacation to Krabi, all expenses included 😉

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Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra – Luxury Sofitel Resort‎

The long waited 5-Star Resort Stay was finally here. The real reason shall be hidden within.

The purpose of this trip has been centralized around this hotel. This was the first hotel booking I made and it had been strongly recommended by Onew’s SHINee One Fine Day Krabi Adventure. Yes, this was the exact hotel (room) which Onew Stayed at in this resort which holds the largest swimming pool in Thailand.

What a perfect chance it was for me to officiate mr Pretzel & ms Donut’s virgin use in the largest pool in Thailand.

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Once we alighted from the vehicle, the bellboy proactively took our luggage away even though we said it was okay. We walked into the lobby, which felt rather palace-like with the huge daybeds.

We were then given welcome drinks, a cold towel and a bouquet of 5 pandan roses each!

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