Wandering Seoul | Korea – Days 1 & 2

Seoul is such a big city. So big that 5 days and one trip to Korea is not enough. Still, we tried our best to visit the ‘usual’ tourist spots that first-time visitors to Korea must see.

If it’s your first time too, try to study the city’s layout so you can see which attractions are close to each other. That way, you can maximize your time and not worry too much about getting from Point A to Point B.

DAY 1

GWANGHwAMUN SQUARE

Gwanghwamun Square is just across Gyeongbokgung so you can go here before or after visiting the palace.

gwanghamun square
Statue of King Sejong – father of the Korean alphabet, Hangul

It’s a public space, so various events and activities are held throughout the year. When we went, they had a Public Art Festival where artists designed book benches and created chalk art directly on the ground. You can see it in the video at the end of this section. 🙂

GYEONGBOKGUNG

We arrived on a weekend, so I scheduled the palace visits during this time. Gyeongbokgung is closed on Tuesdays while Changdeokgung is closed on Mondays.

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Gwanghwamun Gate – the main gate of Gyeongbokgung

Too bad we didn’t make it in time for the changing of the guards ceremony.

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Hyeungyemun Gate is the first gate inside the palace walls.

The palace complex is huge. You can explore it on your own (so you can take more pictures :p) or join free scheduled guided tours available in 4 languages.

gyeongbokgung
Geunjeongjeon Hall

Geunjeongjeon Hall or throne hall is where coronations, receptions of foreign envoys, and the king’s affairs of state were held.

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The throne inside Geungjeongjeon
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Gyeonghoeru Pavilion is located on a pond west of the living quarters.

Gyeonghoeru was where the king threw formal banquets for foreign envoys. To its east are Gangnyeongjeon and Gyotaejeon which are the king and queen’s living quarters, respectively. Continue reading “Wandering Seoul | Korea – Days 1 & 2”

Timeless Tuscany (Florence)

It was still dark when I left my hostel in Interlaken. It was a 30-minute walk to Interlaken West Station, and I didn’t want to miss my train so I left early.

I boarded the first train, and was actually kinda annoyed that no one bothered to check my ticket from Interlaken West to Milan because it’s the most expensive train ticket (that, plus the Milan-Florence leg) I’ve purchased on this trip. haha

brig station switzerland

I grabbed a quick breakfast at Brig Station since I still had half an hour to kill. And because I still had Swiss Francs left, I lined up at the currency exchange to change it to Euros. I was third in line, but it was taking so long to serve each customer. Ten minutes before the train to Milan arrives, I left the line because I still had to haul my luggage all the way to the platform. I decided I’ll just change my Francs when I get to Milan. BIG MISTAKE!

milan central station italy
Milano Centrale Station as seen from Italo’s Lounge

Anyone who’s been to Italy and tried to change their money to Euros can attest how exorbitant Italy’s fees are! If only Euros were easy to acquire in The Philippines (I live outside Manila), I wouldn’t have brought US Dollars. Fortunately, half of my budget was in my savings account, so I just got money from the ATM the whole time I was in Italy.

Anyway, instead of being upset about the Euros I lost changing my Francs, I just savored my time at Italo’s lounge. I got lounge access when I booked a first class seat from Milan to Florence. Believe it or not, it was the cheapest I found at the time I made the booking! 🙂

I forgot to take pictures, but basically, you get to enjoy free access to the lounge with unlimited refreshments, free newspaper/magazine, and WiFi while waiting for your train.

And when my train to Florence finally arrived, I went to the platform, showed the ticket on my phone to the inspector who then ushered me to the 1st class cabin (Club Executive).

Photo from Italo’s website

Imagine, eight extra wide leather armchairs each with electrical sockets, free WiFi, and dedicated catering offering hot/cold drinks and Italian sandwiches. If only I could travel like this all the time!

Two hours went by quickly, and soon, our train was already pulling up at Firenze Santa Maria Novella Station.

The hostel was just a few a bus stops away from the station, and about a 15-minute walk to the Duomo.  Needless to say, my first agenda that afternoon was a stroll to the Duomo.

duomo florence italy
Undoubtedly the most popular attraction in Florence
duomo florence italy
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

The Duomo was a sight to behold! The facade is unlike anything I’ve seen before.   Continue reading “Timeless Tuscany (Florence)”

Tasty, Myanmar: Getting Acquainted with Burmese Cuisine

When people think of Asian cuisine, Burmese cuisine would rarely be top-of-mind.

Myanmar (formerly Burma) has been closed off from the rest of the world for decades. And while it has opened its doors in recent years, it’s still not getting as much tourists as its neighboring countries. It’s probably one of the reasons why Burmese cuisine is still not that popular.

When you do decide to visit, you’ll be treated to a variety of dishes influenced by Indian, Chinese, Laotian, and Thai cuisines. Myanmar owes this to its geographical location.

Burmese cuisine
My order (expectation)
Burmese cuisine
A Burmese feast! (reality)

In the first few hours of arriving in the country, my friends and I sat down at a restaurant. We thought the menu was pretty straightforward. You just have to choose a curry set (choice of chicken, pork, beef, fish, mutton, or venison meat), and that’s it.

But when our orders arrived, it came with bowls of soup, a plethora of side dishes, and a huge plate of fresh vegetables with dipping sauce. Needless to say, we were overwhelmed.

And did I mention they served unlimited rice and even free dessert? Now, that’s bang for your buck.

Continue reading “Tasty, Myanmar: Getting Acquainted with Burmese Cuisine”