AirBnB: KIM'S STUDIO (Hongdae) First Impressions

Although the apartment was not very big, it was acceptably clean and comfortable enough for 2 persons with a big comfy queen-size bed, kitchenette (with utensils provided) and bathroom (with amenities).

Singapore to Seoul: Ways to Maximize Your Cash When You DIY (Flight)

With the average flight to Seoul from Singapore costing about S$1200++ per person (and that’s just economy!) on Singapore Airlines, getting tickets on promotion are definitely worth it.

Volando Urai Spring Spa and Resort (馥蘭朵烏來渡假酒店)

Volando Urai Spring Spa and Resort (馥蘭朵烏來渡假酒店) is located in New Taipei City (Wulai), close to to the Wulai Town (and waterfalls).

Wulai Hot Springs Escapade Itinerary (3D/2N)

While this trip was a simple and short one, it wasn't necessary one of the cheapest: this trip was one meant to enjoy the hot springs and just take it slow (and basically be pampered).

Bangkok Shopping Spree (4D/3N)

Bangkok would have to be one of the places where things are cheaper, much cheaper than in Singapore and a shopping paradise for the shopaholics (who like to get things in the bulk and cheap) out there!

Air Busan: from Seoul (Gimpo Airport) to Jeju

After meeting up with C at Comma Cafe (and having another round of drinks), we made our way to Gimpo Airport via the AREX to catch our flight to Jeju on Air Busan (a domestic airline). [Click here to read more about Getting to Jeju on Korean Domestic Airlines]

Getting to Gimpo Airport was easy enough with clear directions. When we arrived at the domestic terminal, it was somewhat chaotic with hoards of students in their school jackets and large groups of elderies waiting to check in their luggage.

Gimpo Airport
Tip: Purchasing the tickets online via Air Busan's website was simple and straightforward: prices and flights were clearly stated, with domestic and international flights being categorized. It would be best to create an account with Air Busan, in order to enjoy some of the benefits such as being informed if there are any promotions and to keep track of/update your bookings (where necessary). Once you have successful selected your preferred flight and made (full) payment via credit card, just print out the booking receipt.

So with the printed booking receipt, checking in and getting the boarding passes was a breeze. However, due to the influx of passengers checking in their luggage, it took about 10 minutes for our luggage to get checked in. Once we were cleared,  we were given our boarding passes which resemble receipts from the supermart.

Air Busan: from Seoul (Gimpo Airport) to Jeju
The ticket

With the luggage checked in and boarding passes in hand, the 3 of us made our way to our gate where our flight was waiting for us. Since we were early, we stopped by a convenience store along the way and bought some really yummy kimchi rice 'balls' (drools).

Gimpo Airport
They were yummilicious! ^^

Our flight was delayed for at least 20 minutes, and all correspondence was in Korean so it was a bit of a challenge but we still managed (p.s. you have to be really alert). By the time our flight arrived there was a snaking queue waiting to board.

Air Busan: from Seoul (Gimpo Airport) to Jeju
The (somewhat disorderly and) long queue

What made this boarding experience interesting was that we had to walk down a flight of stairs to catch an airport shuttle which brought us to directly to our plane! We even got to use the airstairs to board the plane; truly an interesting experience.

Air Busan: from Seoul (Gimpo Airport) to Jeju
The shuttle to the plane
The seats on board the plane were blue and the leg space between seats was comfortable (enough). Though it may have been a domestic (budget) flight, drinks were served (which were a nice touch) and the air stewardesses were polite and friendly. Of course, being a budget (and short) flight (of about 1 hour), there is no entertainment so you would have to entertain yourself.

Air Busan: from Seoul (Gimpo Airport) to Jeju
Plenty of legroom and no entertainment

After an hour, we finally arrived in Jeju! Just as we boarded to plane, when we alighted, we also walked down the plane via the airstairs and hopped onto the shuttle that was waiting for us. It was relatively crowded so we had to stand. Thankfully it was but a short (but bumpy) ride away.

Since our flight was about an hour earlier than C, we settled down at the Caffebene located within the Jeju Airport, to wile the time away and use the free wifi. 

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Comma Cafe (콤마카페)

We visited Comma Cafe on the morning before we were to depart for Jeju. After the late dinner at Haha's 401 Restaurant the night before, we decided to head down (right next to KIM's Studio) Comma Cafe for breakfast.

Located right next to Hongik University Station (subway) Exit 3 is Comma Cafe, a quaint unique cafe that resembles a cozy, trendy library: there are tons of books and shelves. Comma Cafe is a concept by one of the largest publishing companies in South Korea, Munhakdongne, where you can not only enjoy a cuppa with friends, but also read and buy the books stacked from floor to ceiling (there is even a ladder which you can use to reach the books on higher selves!). Most of the books are sold at half-price, and some of them are not even available anywhere else, so book lovers out there rejoice! Of course, the books are mostly in Korean (but hey, English books like "Fifty Shades trilogy"), so take note. 

Comma Cafe (카페콤마)

The environment at Comma Cafe is pretty conducive for reading and (even) studying, and being near Hongik University, it is no surprise that there are students happily mugging away in such a conducive environment. There are also other interesting products (besides books) on sale (e.g. environmentally friendly handmade soap etc...).

Comma Cafe is really a nice cozy cafe (whether you love to read or not), and I have to say, having breakfast in such an environment was very relaxing and a nice reprieve from the cold morning autumn breeze.

Comma Cafe (카페콤마)
My unique breakfast: iced tea and melon cake. The cake was nice and melony, and the tea was not too sweet
Comma Cafe (카페콤마)
M's breakfast: a nice hot cuppa coffee and sandwhich

After hanging out at Comma Cafe we decided to take a walk around the Hongdae area before meeting up with C and heading to Gimpo Airport to catch our flight to Jeju. As it turned out, most of the shops open from 1130am onwards, so there went out ideas of shopping as there wasn't much to see (at about 1030am). But after meandering for a while, M still managed to get 3 (leather) jackets at Forever 21 at a really good price. 

With (some) shopping in hand, we made our way back to KIM's Studio to collect out luggage and head to Comma Cafe to wait for C and have another round of coffee before heading off to the airport.

Comma Cafe

Address: 마포구 동교동 155-27 1층 (2호점), Seoul
Opening Hours:
7-12 am
Tel:  +82 2-323-8555

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Haha's Hongdae Restaurant 401

Haha's restaurant has undergone a facelift, no longer is it named Pal Ja Mak Chang (팔자막창) and gone are the affiliations with reggae (graffiti) and Running Man (Korean variety show). Now, it is called 401 and in place of the (loud) reggae inspired graffiti (that used to adorned the place), it has more of a Jamaican pirate-y theme to it (with earthy shades of brown and matching fonts to match).

Haha's Hongdae Restaurant 401
The exterior of 401
Haha's Hongdae Restaurant 401
The interior

For Running Man fans, worry not, though there are no more memorabilia or connections to the variety show (i.e. no more nametags), you can still see Haha posters. And if you are lucky enough, you might just bump into Haha (p.s. he apparently still grills the customer’s meat himself when he is there).

Anyways, 401, like its previous reincarnation Pal Ja Mak Chang (팔자막창), serves Korean BBQ food and the waiters will help you with the grilling. Other than the facade change, the menu also has changed with lesser variety for the BBQ selections (i.e. no more intestines and more of the expensive parts of black pork).

After meeting up at Hongik University Station Exit 9, the 4 of us made our way to the restaurant, which was an adventure in itself as we kinda got lost. But we still managed to find our way in the end. So by the time we reached 401, we were cold and hungry.

Unfortunately, the waiter who served us that night wasn't too friendly insisting that we had to take a minimum of 2 persons portion in a pretty rude way. However, other than the service hiccup, the food was alright: the black pork pieces, which went nicely with the vegetables and sauces, were nice and juicy, and the cold kimchi noodles was refreshing.

Haha's Hongdae Restaurant 401
BBQ pork!
Haha's Hongdae Restaurant 401
Refreshing cold kimchi noodles!

And of course, how can we leave out the banchan? [^-^]

Haha's Hongdae Restaurant 401

The pricing was relatively reasonable, about 27,000 won per person (which included a bottle of soju). All in all it was a relatively good dinner, but not one I would exclusively recommend unless you love Haha or happen to be in the area. After all, there are tons of Koran BBQ restaurants in the Hongdae area, let alone Seoul.

From Hongik University Station Exit 9. The restaurant is just opposite the Sang Sang Ma Dang, an art exhibition hall.

Address: Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, 395-17

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Hongdae Hope Market (Weekend Market)

Once we were rested, refreshed (with waffles and caffeine) and had enough of sheep, we departed from Thanks Nature Café and made our way to the Hongdae Weekend Market. Although the market was not very big, it was an interesting experience with the unique items (e.g. hats, shoes and t-shirts painted with interesting characters, ceramic accessories/jewelry, dolls made from wire, diaries with handmade covers etc…) and a bustling youthful crowd. 
Hongdae Hope Market (Weekend Market)
Hongdae Hope Market (Weekend Market)
The Hongdae Market is held regularly on weekends and is located front of the main entrance to Hongik University, right next to the playground. Known as the Free Market on Saturday and the Hope Market on Sunday.
On Sundays, the Hope Market is held from about 1pm to 6pm (same timing as the Free Market) and shares the same ideals as the Free Market, serving as an art platform for innovative artists to show their work or performances. There are no used goods, only creative unique items that are created by innovative artists. Besides quirky handmade items, there are also performances at a corner of the market: artists of various genres transform the corner of the market into an open stage for music, dance, performance art etc… Unfortunately for us, we were there pretty late (around 5pm, just before closing time), so some of the artists and stalls were already packing up for the day. 
Hongdae Hope Market (Weekend Market)
Adorable street snacks!
Once we were done browsing the market (with a little shopping, of course), we wandered around the some more and did (even more) shopping before heading off to meet DramaQueen and MX for dinner! 
more shopping before dinner

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Thanks Nature Café (Hongdae): where the sheep come out to play

After walking and shopping for some time in the cool autumn breeze, it was time to head to our next destination on our itinerary - Thanks Nature Café, or better known as the sheep café. The café is located at the basement of a building, so if you are not careful you might miss it. 

Thanks Nature Café (Hongdae)
Thanks Nature Café (Hongdae)

Anyways, the café’s interior has a warm earthy theme with plenty of brown and woods. There are 2 dining areas – outdoors (where the sheep are) and indoors. There wasn’t much of a crowd the day we were there, so we found a cozy corner to rest our aching feet.

Thanks Nature Café (Hongdae)
The interior with cute sheep figurines found everywhere in the café!

Being a sheep café, do expect some animal smell (but it’s minimal). Other than the slight sheep smell, the café was clean and spotless so you can dine in peace. The owner of the café is a middle-aged Korean man who loves his sheep and keeps them clean.

Thanks Nature Café (Hongdae)
The stars of the cafe - the adorable sheep! ^^

Once we settled in our seats and accessed the free wifi (one of the nice things in South Korea), we ordered our drinks and a yummy waffle (with lotsa fruits and a scoop of ice-cream!) to share. The prices for the waffles and drinks were reasonable.

Thanks Nature Café (Hongdae)
Coffee, Pomegranate Tea and a  fluffy fruity waffle with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream!

Interesting facts about Thanks Nature Café (Hongdae)
1. This was the location where Super Junior Leeteuk and Korean actress Kang Sora visited together during MBC’s "We got married".

2. You can give food to the sheep but please ask for permission.

3. The sheep are only in the café during winter and the cooler seasons (e.g. autumn). During summer the sheep hang out at a farm to escape the hot summer heat; at least welfare of the sheep were thought of.

    Thanks Nature Café would officially be my very first animal café, and I have to say that the experience was enriching and fun. So if you love fluffy white(ish) behing and mehing sheep (or cute animals), than Thanks Nature Café is one café that you should put in your list of cafes to visit when you are in Seoul!

    Thanks Nature Café
    Address: 486, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu Seogyo Prugio Apartment store B121
    Directions: Hongik University Station (Line 2), Exit 9. Turn left to go up hill at the first intersection. Walk towards Hongik University’s Main Gate. Look out for a neon sign that reads the café name and photos of sheep attached.

    Daytime in Hongdae: Lunch at 아포길매기 and Shopping

    After our photo fun time at Trickeye Museum, we wandered into a nearby eatery (just around the corner) for lunch. The menu wasn’t very extensive, serving simple Korean food like Korean BBQ, dry/soup cold noodles (nyeongmeyon), bibimbap, stews etc… But we still managed to select our food and made our orders (to a pretty adorable waiter haha). On average our meal cost us 6,000 won each, which was pretty reasonable.
    Lunch in Hongdae
    아포길매기: The menu
    Lunch in Hongdae
    Side dishes a.k.a banchan
    Lunch in Hongdae
    Bulgogi stew (I think)
    Lunch in Hongdae
    Noodles in clear, refreshing cold soup
    Lunch in Hongdae
    Dry version of cold noodles with sauce
    Lunch in Hongdae
    Kimchi stew
    Once we were done with our lunch, we went our separate ways: DramaQueen and MX wanted to go ‘star-gazing’ (e.g. YG, SM Entertainment etc…) and attend a charity event/concert with ‘stars’ (of course), while M and I had our own agenda (e.g. shopping and the sheep café!). The plan was to meet up later that night for dinner at Haha’s restaurant in Hongdae
    With DramaQueen and MX off on their ‘star’ adventure, M and I were left to explore the whole of Hongdae on our own. Being a Sunday (and a weekend), Hongdae was bustling with activity and youthful vibrancy throughout. It was an afternoon of frenzied happy shopping and browsing. There were many things to see and so many tempting items to buy. 
    Hongdae Shopping
    On the way to the sheep cafe after lunch!
    M stumbled across a stall selling phone accessories and ended up buying a pretty (and durable, not to mention cheap too) iPhone 6 cover which would have cost at least 3 to 4 times in Singapore. She even bought… a selfie stick (which ended up being used for many 360 videos throughout our trip)! Well, after walking (and shopping) for about 2 hours or so, we made our way to the Sheep Café, enamored with the many shops and things they had to offer along the way. 

    Hongdae Shopping
    Shopping spoils and more shops after the sheep cafe!

    Singapore to Seoul: On Singapore Airlines to Incheon Airport Once Again

    Singapore to Seoul: On Singapore Airlines to Incheon Airport Once Again

    Thanks to the Singapore Airlines promotions (again), we were able to get our tickets to South Korea for about S$662 (yeah, lesser than last year!). As mentioned previously, the booking process on the Singapore Airlines website for a return trip is a breeze. You can choose your preferred seat when booking online as well. Navigation around the website was fairly simple enough and the payment process was a smooth, with the simple input of the credit card number and a click of a button. When payment was confirmed, the itinerary and receipt will be sent to your email (for future reference).

    Checking-in can be done online and only at least 48 hours before the flight takes off. As I had input my mobile number, a SMS reminder was sent to inform when I could check-in online. The process was easy, and after checking-in I was able to print out my boarding pass and (any) necessary documents. Being able to select your preferred seat, checking-in online and printing out the boarding pass really saves a lot of time!

    Unlike the previous flight to Seoul which was in the morning, this was a flight that was set to depart in the early afternoon, arriving at Incheon Airport at night (around1030pm); not an ideal timing but the promotion price was the deal breaker.

    Anyways, the day arrived and we made our way to Changi Airport Terminal 3 on a Saturday afternoon. Once the luggage was checked in, it was time to head to the departure hall for take-off. And as usual, the security screening conducted at the boarding gates was relatively simple, efficient and uncomplicated.

    Boarding time for Singapore Airlines is very orderly; passengers are called section by section: First Class, Business Class, PPS, followed by Economy Class passengers with families, then Economy Class passengers.

    As with all Singapore Airlines flights, entertainment-wise there is the KrisWorld entertainment system presented on a 10.6-inch personal screen with entertainment options such as watching movies or television shows, listening to music, playing games, and applications such as Flight Path – an application that gives you an amazing view of your flight in and provides the aircraft’s position, flight path, as well as other associated information. There are also ports for charging electronics or power up that laptop.

    Singapore Airlines
    KrisWorld entertainment system

    Seating-wise, there was enough leg room and the seat was comfortable (enough), with the headrest able to be adjusted as desired for greater support. A small pillow and blanket were provided.

    Dinner was served and there were two options: Korean or Western. Both of us chose Korean, which consisted of beef bulgogi and rice, shrimp with vermicelli cold salad , along with bread, butter and cheese on the side. What really stood out about this flight (again) was the attentiveness and friendliness of the crew (thumbs up to the crew!). 

    Singapore Airlines Korean Meal Beef Bulgogi
    Korean Set: Other than the sauce being a little too salty for my liking, everything else was platable
    On route, I entertained myself with “The Four” (Chinese movie), all 3 of them. ^^ After being in the air for about 6 hours, we finally arrived at Incheon Airport! Once we landed, we made our way to the shuttle, through immigration and collected the luggage. The process was relatively fast and took less than 30 minutes. Just in time to catch the last train to our Hongdae accommodation.

    Note: Do remember to fill up that arrival card fully with address and all.

    Once out of immigration, we collected out luggage made our way to the AREX station. I still have mine from the last trip and DramaQueen so kindly loaned M hers, but I forgot to bring it! Thank goodness I had the complimentary one that came with the SIM card purchase at Changi Airport. The T-Money (Seoul’s version of the EZlink card for transport and small purchases at places like convenience stores) can be bought at the GS25 convenience store located at Incheon Airport Arrival Area. Unlike the last time, where we had to collect the SIM card at Incheon Airport, this time we actually bought the SIM card at Singapore Changi Airport prior to our arrival.

    EG (EverGreen) SIM Card
    The 'empty' T-Money which came with the SIM card

    By the time we cleared immigration, we were still in time (very much in time) to catch the AREX to our Hongdae accommodation. The journey took us about 45 minutes and it was past midnight by the time we arrived at our Hongdae accommodation.
    Hongdae Accommodation

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