Study Korean Language in Busan, South Korea

Recently I studied Korean language in South Korea for 10 weeks during the summer. I had visited South Korea once before in Autumn of 2018 for 2 weeks. I fell in love with the country and decided to return in order to learn Korean. When it comes to choosing where to study a foreign language in other countries, I always choose a smaller city rather than a capital city. I don’t really like a big city with a lot of  people.  I think going to visit a capital city as a tourist for a short time and living there are different stories.

When I studied English as my 2nd language 12 years ago I went to Adelaide, South Australia when most of Thai students went to Sydney and Melbourne. I could understand why everybody heads to a big city where they think it is more convenient and would give them the best experience of  living in that country.  I also chose to study Russian language in St. Petersburg instead of Moscow 5 years ago. The two experiences of studying a foreign language in a smaller city, not a capital city, gave me many benefits, e.g. I did not meet any Thai students in South Australia and this helped me to develop English faster as there were no Thai people to talk in the school.  I also chose St. Petersburg over Moscow because I thought that Moscow was too big and too busy.  Also the cost of living in Moscow was more expensive than in St. Petersburg. I was very much in love with St. Petersburg and had so much fun living there. The city was very pretty during the summer with many beautiful places to visit. I have been travelling over the world and still no other city can beat beautiful St. Petersburg!

So, this time, I decided to study Korean in Busan, the 2nd largest city in South Korea after Seoul. Busan is located on the south east of South Korea and right beside the sea where you can enjoy eating good quality of seafood and beautiful beaches. The population is about 3.5 million whilst the population of Seoul is about 10 million.

The accommodation:

The school that I chose has 2 branches in Seoul and Busan. The one in Seoul is located in Gangnam, the most expensive area of Seoul. I could not find any nice apartments near the school for a reasonable price in Seoul, and most of the apartments are very, very small for a lot of money. And then I looked in Busan where the school is located in Seomyeon, the city centre of Busan. After looking for a while I saw a big difference in price between Seoul and Busan. Therefore I did not hesitate to chose Busan over Seoul.

I found a 40 sqm apartment near Seomyeon where I just walked about 15 minutes to the school. The location of my apartment was very convenient and everything just on the door step – even a beautiful park for jogging everyday. I found this place via Airbnb. Here is my cozy apartment where I stayed for 10 weeks.

The Korean Language School: 

After comparing many Korean language schools I ended up choosing a private language school in Busan. I took the Intensive 25 hours a week class which from 9.00 am to 3.30 pm Monday – Friday. I did not realise when I signed up that it would be too much to study morning and afternoon. If I go back again I would take the Intensive 15 hours a week then I would only study from 9.00 am to 12.15 pm. and have the free afternoon to enjoy other things.

I very much enjoyed the class and the teachers were very nice to me. They always wanted to help students to develop the language and  they were very kind and had a sense of humour which I like most. One thing I like about their teaching system is that they have an exam every Friday to measure what students learned in the past week. I really like the exam as it forced me to study hard. My speaking was the worst in the class but I knew whether my Korean skills had improved or not by the score of the exam every week.

The school also provided many activities every week, e.g. sport, visiting museums, cooking class, art, culture learning, etc. The school also organised the “Meet Up” with Korean friends. They not only teach Korean language but they also teach English. Therefore you will have a chance to make friends with Korean people. I met a few Korean people from the school and some of them became my good friends who I believe we will be friends for life. We exchanged languages and they helped me a lot with my homework and other things. I cooked Thai food for them from time to time in return! We also hung out together every week and did trips to other cities together. Having local friends gave me the best experience of living in South Korea. Without them I would not have had such a wonderful experience and fun.

Apart from the activities that the school provided I also did a lot of my own things. As I enjoy exercising, I ran regularly in the Busan Citizen  Park in Bujeon located only 2 metro stations from my apartment. The park was very well maintained and very beautiful in the summer. After running I often went to the Bujeon Market to buy seafood and bring home to cook. I very much enjoyed eating seafood here as it was so fresh and not expensive.

Busan is a city of Art. On my first visit in 2018 I visited many art galleries. And this time I continued to explore more.

Korean Food:   To eat good Korean food you need to have good Korean friends, both eating in restaurants and home cooking. I experienced eating Korean home cooking from 2 of my Korean friends. The first person is Hoyun, my Korean junior friend. We got to know each other from the school “Meet Up” and we became friends from the second week of my arrival in Busan. When we went on a trip together and it was my birthday he made me a traditional seaweed soup or Miyeok-guk. Miyeok-guk is traditionally eaten for breakfast on birthdays. Hoyun also took us to many places to eat where you would never find it on your own.

The second person is Junho, a Korean chef who I met on my first visit in 2018. I attended his cooking class and we become friends since then. Junho is a really good cook and fun person. I did recommend a friend to attend his class and my friend had so much fun cooking with him. I would highly recommend Junho if anyone wants to learn Korean cuisine.  I did not have much chance to meet him during my stay as we both were too busy. However we managed to meet up before I left. He cooked a lot of Korean food for me and my friends and I also cooked Thai food for him.

I ate out a lot of the time with my friends. I tried to eat local food and explore different restaurants every day. There are tons of restaurants in Seomyeon. I very much like Korean food as they also eat rice like Thai people. I think I could live in Korea if there is no country such as Thailand!

Busan is very Asian city as you can find Thai restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants and, of course, Japanese restaurants here. And not just a few of them, there are a lot of them. The 2 Thai restaurants that I went to regularly was “I’m Thai” and “Bamboo”, both located in Seomyeon. We also ate Italian from time to time when we became sick of Asian food!

I’m Thai
Bamboo

Nearby cities to visit:  I had a chance to visit 3 cities, Geoje Island, Deagu and Jeonju. The 3 of them are totally different. Geoje Island has beautiful nature, e.g. beaches, mountains and rural lifestyle. We climbed the 566 m high Gyeryongsan Mountain and visited Hak Dong beach, watched the most beautiful sunset and jumped into the rice field to chat with the farmer. Travelling on the island is more convenient with your own transport.

Geoje Island
Hak Dong beach
Windy hill
Gyeryongsan Mountain

Deagu is a modern city like Busan and Seoul but smaller. We enjoyed the modern stuff e.g. the e-world amusement park, Seomun Night Market, Deagu Art Museum and Deagu Arboretum.

the e-world amusement park
Deagu Arboretum.
Deagu Art Museum
LV at Deagu Art Museum

And the last city I visited before coming home is Jeonju. Jeonju is  a cultural village with traditional Korean Hanok & Japanese houses & calligraphy & sake museums. Visiting Jeonju you must stay in a Hanok, a traditional Korean house which we did and we very much enjoyed the experience. If you have a chance to visit South Korea, apart from Seoul and Busan, I highly recommend to visit those 3 cities.

I had one of the best experiences of living in another country. My 10 week stay in South Korea was much more enjoyable than I expected. I chose the right school, I picked the right accommodation, I explored a lot of Korean culture  and, the most important, I met good people. Kaxin, a Taiwanese girl would do anything for me if I cooked Thai food for her! She was like my personal assistant, bought me breakfast and medicine when I was sick and chased me up every times when I being late for the class! She is a beautiful, caring and loving person. Julie was the only Thai friend I met who I did not expect to meet! She was my personal translator in the class as her Korean was  better than me. She would translate what the teacher said immediately when I just looked in her eyes! She bought me Thai herbs all the way from Thailand just for me to cook one meal. She is a beautiful, funny and caring person. Hoyun, my Korean friend, behaved older than his age!  He was like my teacher and he never hesitated to help whenever I asked – even at midnight when I sent sms to ask about homework! He replied as soon as he was available. He joined us to Geoje island as he worried we would get lost! I have a lot of favours to return when he comes to Thailand!

I can’t mention about all of my friends here but everybody in the photos mean a lot to me as you guys helped create one of the best experiences of my life.

Hope you enjoy reading.

Where to go in Thailand

If you are visiting Thailand for the first time and still don’t know where to go, I will give you a big picture of Thailand and then you can decide what kind of places you prefer to visit.

1. The North – Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Nan (Mountains, nature, rural & cultural)

The north of Thailand is surrounded by mountains and it’s the only part of Thailand that has a winter season! Winter is Nov – Feb, when it’s very popular for Thai people to escape the heat from other parts of Thailand and enjoy the cool weather in the north. I don’t recommend to visit the north in the dry season from Mar-Apr when there could be agricultural fires that create a lot of smoke. This is a big problem in the north every year. You can be lucky but it would turn your trip to hell if you are not lucky enough!

Chiang Mai is the largest and most developed city in northern Thailand. Chiang Mai is steeped in history and culture; it was a former capital of the Kingdom of Lan Na. I’ve been to Chiang Mai 3 times and there are so many things to do and see in Chiang Mai. One of my favourites is Mae Kampong Village, a peaceful village in the middle of mountains. This village reminded me of my childhood. If you are interested in Thai rural lifestyle, you can stay overnight with residents in their homes. The best way to travel to Chiang Mai is by plane. However, it’s quite popular for backpackers to travel from Bangkok by train.

Chiang Rai is located a bit north of Chiang Mai, nearer Laos. There are many beautiful places to visit in Chiang Rai and one of my favourite is Wat Rong Kun, the most beautiful and unique white temple owned by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a famous Thai visual artist who designed, constructed, and opened it to visitors in 1997. If you followed the news of the national cave rescue in Thailand, you may want to visit Tham Luang cave where 12 young members of a Thai soccer team and their coach were trapped for 17 days from 23 June – 10 July 2018. Don’t visit during the wet season!

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Mae Hong Son is located on the west of Chiang Mai and is a remote, mountainous province, bordering Burma. Refugee camps of displaced Burmese are located in Mae Hong Son. Mae Hong Son is a mix of culture and people from different backgrounds, e.g. Chinese, Kayan and Shan. Here are my 3 favourite places in Mae Hong Son;

Rak Thai Village, the village was settled by former Kuo Min Tang (Nationalist) fighters from Yunnan Province, China, after the Communist takeover of China. The population is about 800, mainly Chinese-born or Thai-born Chinese and much of the population speaks Mandarin Chinese. The village is beautiful with tea plantations and a beautiful lake in the middle of the village. I did not stay overnight when I visited but I will not miss it next time!

Long neck Karen Villages, Kayan people came to Thailand from Burma, when escaping war and violence in their country. They are famous for their women, who wear golden rings around their necks. From the time when they are 5 to their 21st birthday, each year one ring is added to their collection. At the end, their necks get so long. According to Karen people, the longer the neck the more beautiful the woman who wears them is. There are 3 Long neck Karen villages to visit in Mae Hong Son, one of them is Kayan village of Huay Sua Tao.

Pai was a quiet village inhabited by Shan people whose culture is influenced by Burma. Nowadays is well-known among backpackers for its relaxed atmosphere. The town is full of cheap guesthouses, souvenir shops and restaurants. If you want to go a bit luxury, I recommend you stay at Puri Pai Villa. There are many things to do in Pai, e.g. elephant camps, waterfalls and natural hot springs.

Visiting those 3 places would give you a tour of 3 different cultures and atmosphere.

Nan has become popular for Thai tourists recently as the 3 provinces above are well-known for international tourists, therefore locals try to explore new placesby going to Nan. Nan is a very rural province but is full of culture, many beautiful temples and natural beauty. I’ve been to Nan once a long time ago when I was living in Bangkok. We went hiking to 1,980m high Doi Phu Kha National Park during the rainy season and camped for a night. It was the most scary camping trip of my life as it rained heavily when we camped overnight on the top of the mountain. We had nowhere to hide from the heavy rain, only a tiny tin tent! If you enjoy hiking you also can’t miss the 2,120m high Phu Soi Dao National Park located in Phitsanulok province bordering Laos, which is my home province. I did it 2 times when I was teenager and enjoyed it very much.

2. The Middle; Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi (modern city, history & nature)

Bangkok is a modern city like many capital cities around the world and Bangkok is the best place to eat and shop in Thailand. I used to live in Bangkok for 8 years when I attended university and some years working. I visit Bangkok occasionally but I don’t think I can go back to live in this busy city anymore. However, it’s good to visit for a short time. After you do all the tourist attractions, e.g. the Grand Palace, Chao Phraya River Boat Tour, Thai boxing, Thai cooking class, etc., you may want to eat, drink, shop and relax. Here are my favourites;

  • Eating – If you are looking for an evening out to have western food and a nice bar to chill out after a long day, I would recommend Oskar Bistro  in Sukhumvit 11 near BTS Nana. I’ve been there many times and I love the Passion Fruit Mojito! If Oskar Bistro is not what you are looking for then I would recommend Groove@CentralWorld, a selection of 14 international restaurants including Thai. I also recommend to eat at EmQuartier Food Court or Siam Paragon Food Court. These places have the best selection of Thai food. I usually have lunch and dinner there when I’m in the area; it’s simple and quick.
  • Drinking & get high! Don’t get me wrong; I mean go to the Moon Bar, a rooftop bar located on the 61st floor at Banyan Tree hotel to have very nice cocktails with the best view of Bangkok at night. This place has been my favourite for many years and I never get bored to come here. There are many nice rooftop bars in Bangkok but I think Moon Bar has the best 360 degree view over Bangkok.
  • Shopping – If you are looking for a colourful market at a reasonable price you can’t miss out to visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market. You will find everything here, all kinds of clothes, accessories, bags, shoes, books, house decor, furniture, souvenirs and much more! And many kinds of street food available is here. You should arrive no later than 9 am and, after shopping, have lunch before leaving. In the afternoon it becomes very hot and very busy. If a market is not your type of shopping you can go a bit up market by visiting high-end shopping malls – Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery, IconSiam, Central World and Central Embassy. Those shopping malls are located in the city centre and all near each other. The great thing about those places is you are eating and shopping in air conditioning when the temperature outside is 30+ degrees!
  • Exercising – Many people come to Thailand to attend Thai boxing training. And if you’re looking for a jogging park, Lumpini Park could be your place if your boxing stadium is nearby. The park is popular for locals to do exercise in the morning and evening. You can also do aerobic dancing with an open class at 6-7 pm with all Thai people and free of charge.

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Ayutthaya was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Siam (Thailand). It was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767 (Burmese-Siamese War 1765-1767) and it was the end of Ayutthaya Kingdom. Ayutthaya Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts tourists from around the world. If you want to learn a little bit about Ayutthaya by not getting bored from history books, you can watch the TV series called “Bupphesanniwat” (Love Destiny) that was very popular in Thailand and aired from February to April 2018. If you visiting Bangkok, the present capital of Thailand, then you should not miss a visit to the old capital, Ayuthaya. You can do a day trip to Ayutthaya if you stay in Bangkok.

Kanchanaburi is located on the west of Bangkok and it’s known for the Death Railway, built by the Empire of Japan in 1943 during World War II. I’ve been to Kanchanaburi 3 times and enjoyed it every times. A part from the history, Kanchanaburi is also well known as the city of waterfalls, e.g. Erawan Waterfall and Sai Yok Waterfall located in Sai Yok National Park. Another activity popular for Thai people from Bangkok is to stay on a floating house on Kwhae Noi River. I did that and very much enjoyed it. You may need to stay in Kanchanaburi minimum 2 nights if you plan to visit.

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3. The South – Suratthani, Phang Nga, Phuket, Krabi, Trang (sea, sun, sand & islands). The South of Thailand is famous for beautiful beaches, islands and partying. The main destination is Phuket.

Surat Thani lies on the western shore of the Gulf of Thailand and the famous islands are Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan,  famous for its’ crazy full moon party. Another place you can’t miss to stay less than one night is Khao Sok National Park.

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Phang Nga is located just north of Phuket and easy to do a day trip from Phuket, e.g. Phang Nga Marine National Park and Similan Islands. If you don’t want to stay in Phuket, Khao Lak is an option as it has beautiful beaches and less crowded with tourists. You land in Phuket airport and all the hotels in Khao Lak provide a pick up from the airport.

Phuket is the biggest island in Thailand and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Phuket is the most developed city in the south. There is Phuket International Airport and high end facilities that attract visitors from nearby countries like Hong Kong and Singapore to enjoy a weekend in Phuket. Phuket has a lot of beautiful beaches and you can still find some culture here even though half of the island is tourist area but still half of the island is mixed between Thai, Chinese and Muslim. I have been living in Phuket since 2008 and still very much in love with this place.

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Krabi is famous for beautiful islands and popular for diving and snorkelling. People who want to escape busier Phuket and who enjoy the sea and islands come to Krabi. The best known  are Railay Beach, Phi Phi island and Koh Lanta.

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Trang is more lay back than other provinces and more popular for Thai people as we like to escape international tourists. Trang has many beautiful islands, e.g. Koh Lipe and Koh Kradan.

I grew up in the north of Thailand, in a valley surrounded by mountains, a river and a small army camp. I used to pick mushrooms, bamboo shoots and insects in the forest with my parents at the weekend and many times I did not take a shower before going to the school because the water was too cold! When I look back nowadays, my childhood life was perfect. I was never hungry, my parents always provided food. My father was very tough with me and I did not like it but this made me become a stronger person. I’m glad that I was born in the mountain countryside and had an experience that city people would never have. Visiting some villages in the north of Thailand would enable you to see my childhood.

I went to Bangkok and lived there for 8 years for university and work. City life was not easy for me but I had great experience there. Bangkok has much more things to do and see than the other top four spots in Asia-Pacific like Seoul, Tokyo Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Moreover, the cost of traveling in Bangkok is much cheaper than those cities.  It was probably one of the reasons that Bangkok was name the world’s most visited city for the 4th years in a row. (2016-2019). 

I moved to Phuket, the paradise island in 2008 and I’m still very much in love with this place. One of the reasons that many foreigners choose to retire in Phuket is probably everyday feels like a holiday here! Phuket is my home and will be for the rest of my life. 

If you don’t know where to start you can follow my foot steps of life by starting to travel from the north where I grew up in a rural mountain village and later visit Bangkok where I challenged my life in the capital for 8 years and end your holiday by visiting some paradise islands on the south of Thailand and visit me in Phuket! Minimum 10 days of travel would give you a taste of Thailand.

Hope this helps you to plan your wonderful holiday in Thailand.

Autumn in My Heart, South Korea

In the last few months I was very stressed and bored at with my work. This happens occasionally when I keep doing same old same old stuff and not being challenged. I though I really need to get out of here and go somewhere to have some fun, reboot myself, meet new people and find inspiration. 

I decided to visit South Korea only 2 weeks in advance because recently I have been watching too many Korean soap operas on TV! I also have a Korean friend who I met in Australia when we were studying English together in 2008. It was excited to reunite with my classmate after 10 years!

Day 1 – Train to Busan

After I arrived at Inchoen Airport I went straight away to Busan by train. How many times in my life would I have a chance to take a train to Busan? Maybe just once. Therefore, I would like to dress like Gong Yoo in my favourite zombie movie “Train to Busan”. Gong Yoo wore a suit in the movie when he was on the train to Busan and fought with zombies, therefore I wore a suit on the train to Busan but no zombies to fight with! The funny moment was that after I landed and before going through the immigration, I went to a restroom and changed from pyjamas to a suit! I looked at myself in the mirror and l laughed a lot at my reflection, what the hell am I doing?! Well, after all I looked so smart in a suit and this was probably the reason that the immigration officer let me in to the country without hesitation!

I arrived in Busan at 3 pm and just walked a few minutes from Busan Station to the apartment that I booked via Airbnb. I very much like this place as it was a brand new apartment with perfect facilities. The location was the best and easy to get around the city by metro. I would stay here again if I ever return.

Day 2 – Cooking class & Gamcheon Culture Village

I booked the market tour + a cooking class via Airbnb Experience. We visited Jagalchi Market and Kkangtong Market from 9:30-12.00. Jagalchi market is full of fresh seafood, it was very impressive how many kinds of seafood they have and many things I’ve never seen in my life before. If you want to try seafood here, come in the evening when all seafood restaurants are open.

Kkangtong Market is full of pre-cooked food. You better come here when you are very hungry! If I was not in a hurry to return home for work, I would probably stay in Busan for a month and just come to eat here everyday!

After some appetiser at the market we went to the cooking studio. We learned 6 dishes in 3 hours and Junho was a very good at cooking. I love all of them and I really enjoyed eating Korean food with Soju! I also met 5 women from Malaysia, they were fun and very much enjoy eating!

After over eating at the cooking class, JunHo dropped me at the Gamcheon Culture Village located only 5 minutes from the cooking studio. It was a beautiful blue sky day and I enjoyed walking around the village for 2 hours.

Day 3 – Yonggung Temple & Busan Art

I started my day at 9:30 am by taking a bus from Busan station to Haedong Yonggungsa  Temple. I arrived at the temple around 10:30 am. The temple is located by the seaside with beautiful scenery. I did not enjoy much at the temple as there were too many tourists.

After an hour at the temple I went to an art tour in Haeudae located not far from the temple. I booked this art tour via Airbnb Experience with Kyungmi, a lovely young Korean artist girl. We started our trip by walking through the old railway and caught the view of the Gwangandaegyo bridge and beautiful Haeundae Beach. Here is the list of the galleries I visited;

I very much enjoyed the art galleries that  Kyungmi took me to; some of the paintings were very beautiful and I just could not believe that what kind of person can create such beautiful art pieces!

Near the end of the tour Kyungmi brought me to a very stylish coffee shop + a gallery. I loved everything in this cafe, everything was modern and stylish. The interior was done by paying a lot of attention to detail and I have seen the most stylish cafe toilet here! We spent 3 hours together from 13:00-16:00. Kyungmi even bought her friend to join us and this made the trip even better. Kyungmi was a bright girl, full of energy, speaks perfect English and has a sense of humour like me, therefore we shared a lot of laughs.

After the art tour I went to the Busan Cinema Centre where they host Busan Film Festival every year. I came here to see the lights that would turn on at 6 pm but I arrived too early so I went cycling along the river in front of the cinema. This was not in my plan but I saw an OFO bike parked there. I enjoyed watching fish jumping in the river – never seen anything like this before, and seeing art everywhere along the river and a lot of local people around who were enjoying the weekend. It was a very relaxing atmosphere.

Later I returned to the cinema. It was really worth waiting. My day ended very colourfully and beautifully!

Day 4 – Busan Tower & night hiking

After a long day of tour on day 3, I decided not to do much on this day. I left my apartment at 12 noon for lunch and went to the Busan Tower located only 2 metro stations from my apartment. I did like normal tourist, went up to see the view over Busan, took photos and walked around the shopping area a bit before returning to the apartment around 3 pm. It was nothing special for being such a normal tourist, I needed more fun on my last day in Busan!

At 6.30 pm I met Young, a Korean hiking man and we went to a night hiking at Mt. Hwangryung. I booked this trip via Airbnb Experience. There was only 2 of us in the trip. We started hiking around 7 pm and it took us about 2 hours to reach the top. It was a new experience for me to hike at night and it was an easy hike. Along the way we stopped from time to time to enjoy the view. When we reached the top of the mountain there was a spectacular 360 degree view over Busan; the city was so brightly lit and very beautiful. After enjoying the view, Young unpacked food and Korean alcohol drink that he brought from home. The food was simple but I very much enjoyed it and I even joked with Young that this is a very romantic dinner, he laughed!

Young made me laugh a lot during the hike but the best one was when we were in the car on the way home, he asked me if he is handsome for Thai girls! He was very serious and even said to please give him an honest answer! He had given me much more difficult time than the hiking! I just could not stop laughing from his innocent question. I love you, Young Jin Jeon!

Young also asked me a very interesting question that why Thailand has so many transgenders like lady boy. I answered his question that because we are free to be whatever we want as long as it does not result in harm to others. And also our culture is quite open to this. Most of their family would not stop them from being a transgender as long as they are good people. I also said to Young that I believe that there would be a lot of transgenders in other counties, as much as in Thailand, if those countries are open to it. Unfortunately, they are not open like Thailand.

I very much enjoyed 2 hours of night hiking, talking and had dinner with the best view of Busan with Young. You can see this amazing view without hiking 2 hours but you would not have such an unique and fun experience with Young like I did if you just being an ordinary tourist.

Young also mentioned that I was the fastest walking guest since he started the business, something I can be proud of!

Day 5 – Train to Seoul

After had such a very good time in Busan for 4 nights I left for Seoul by taking a train. I wish there was a movie called ” Train to Seoul” starring Gong Yoo!

I booked an apartment just next to Samgakji metro station, located just next to the War Memorial of Korea. It was a residential apartment located only 2 metro stations from Seoul Station. It was the best location for me to get around in Seoul.

Day 6 – Making Kimchi & Haneul Park

I booked a cooking class in Mangwon via Airbnb Experience to make Kimchi because I love to eat Kimchi very much. We met up at 10 am at the Mangwon station. Jomin, our chef, took us to the market, did some shopping and we went to her house. There were 2 other girls in the class with me, Vanessa from Singapore and Bianca from Canada. I very much enjoyed the Kimchi class and Jomin was a professional chef, her cooking studio was comfortable, well prepared and her recipe book looks very professional with beautiful photos. Her class was high standard and she has many classes available not only Kimchi. I highly recommend Jomin if you are interested in Korean cuisine.

After the cooking class in Mangwon I visited Haneul Park located near the World Cup Stadium and only a few stations from Mangwon. This place was beautiful and full of tourists.

Day 7 – Gyeongbok Palace & Bukchon Hanok Village

As my place was next to the the National Museum of Korea, I went to kill time there before going to the Gyeongbok Palace at 11am. At the museum I met a group of Korean soldiers who were also visiting the museum. They seemed very passionate and proud to be soldiers and chatting with them inspired me to learn more about Korean history. I wish I could have more time with them as they offered to be my guide. Unfortunately, I could not stay longer.

After that I went back to the history of Korea by visiting the Gyeongbok Palace and dressed up in Hanbok. I booked this tour with Geo via Airbnb Experience. I decided to dress up in a male costume as I had inspiration from Gong Yoo in the Korean drama “Goblin”. I even brought my own accessories from home to be exactly like him! There were another 3 girls who joined the tour and they all dressed up in a female costume as ordinary girls. I very much enjoyed the experience dressed up in a male costume and it turned out to be so much fun with those girls!

After the Gyeongbok Palace I visited the Bukchon Hanok Village and Vanessa from Singapore and Karen from China also joined me. We enjoyed walking and ended up having a very nice tea in one of the traditional Hanok houses in the village. I had another wonderful day in Seoul.

Day 8 – War Memorial of Korea, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art & Cycling

I finally made an official visit to the War Memorial of Korea after stopping by 2 times! There were 3 main floors of the museum and there was also an art exhibition on the 1st floor which I enjoyed a lot. I learned a lot about the Korean war and the history of Korea, some of the stories in the war even brought tears to my eyes. I felt so sad for all of the people who had a hard time in their life during the Korean War and the period when colonised by Japan. In contrast, I admired those Korean heroes and many people that were very brave to fight for their country and for freedom. I believe that freedom creates better people and a better world.

After being harshly colonised by Japan for 35 years from 1910-1945, and the three years of the Korean War bloody fighting from 1950-1953 in which three million Koreans were killed, I very much admired South Korea for what the country has become nowadays and could not stop comparing it to Thailand. Thailand was never colonised by any countries and the wars in Thailand were not as bad as the Korean War but Thailand is still many steps behind South Korea in many ways.

I agree that history is relevant to the problem we face today and this reminds me about The sinking of Sewol that happened in 2014 in South Korea and killed 304 passengers and mostly secondary school students. I believe that if South Korea accepted help from The Japan Coast Guard, it would have saved more innocent children on that disaster ferry.

History is a great thing to remember and to be proud of our predecessors who fight for our countries. However, people should not let history affect life nowadays by not accepting help from other countries when your country is in trouble because you are too proud, and at the end it doesn’t help to develop anything, only losing.  I wish all the readers who run their countries nowadays would make important decisions for their countries base on the present situation and what the countries and people need most right now, more than based on history that we can never change. History doesn’t change, but a better understanding of it can change the world to be a better place.

If you have kids you should not miss to take them to see those outdoor showcase. Some of them you can even see inside.

Later I went to visit the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art. I loved the design and decor of the museum much more than all the ceramics and old paintings that are challenging to understand!

Later I went cycling along the Han River with Jason who hosted this experience via Airbnb and Clotilde from France also joined us. We cycled for an hour around the island and there was beautiful scenery; I enjoyed it. After that we were supposed to order a delivery of food and eat near the river but I asked Jason if he could take us to eat like locals. He made my wish come true by taking us to Gwangjang market to eat Yukhoi which is a dish of raw beef, enhanced by fresh egg yolk on the top, joined by fresh pears and with a touch of sesame oil. One of the most sensitive and special dishes among all Korean traditional dishes. We also ate live Octopus! It was the most exciting eating experience in my life and I loved it! The evening turned out to be very enjoyable as we also had Soju with those dishes. Soju is a common alcohol in Korea with different kinds of fruit favour. The food was good, the drink was excellent and my companions were the best! Thanks to Jason who was an extraordinary host. My day ended very drunk!

Day 9 – Rainy day

I had been very lucky with the weather since I arrived but today, unfortunately, I needed to cancel all outdoor activities and I only visited the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), a very modern and stylish looking building designed by Zaha Hadid, a famous British Iraqi architect. I very much admired and was jealous that South Korea could create this major urban development landmark which Thailand lacks.

Day 10 – Namsan Park & Songdo Central Park

The temperature was around 10 degrees today, it was the coldest since I arrived – winter is coming! I visited Namsan Park in the morning with Clotilde, who I cycled with the other day. It was too cold then I ran home!

In the late afternoon I decided at the last minute to visit Songdo Central Park in Incheon. It was recommended by Kwon, a lovely young soldier who I met at the museum the other day. The park is the centrepiece of Songdo IBD’s green space plan, inspired by New York City’s Central Park. The park also displays sculpture and artwork such as the swooping neofuturistic metallic architecture of the Tri-Bowl. In front of the park there is the Songdo Hanok complex. Hanok is traditional Korean architecture. The complex  includes traditional culture and tourism facilities, including 30 traditional ondol-type hotel rooms, a guest house for banquets, restaurants, culture experience halls, a concert hall, and a marketplace. I had Korean Beef Bulgogi at HANYANG, one of the restaurants in the complex and it was really good and looked very popular for the locals. Songdo is a perfect combination of the traditional and modern style.  I would diffidently stay here a few nights on my next visit.

Day 11 – 12 Healience Seonmaeul

I reunited with my Korean friend, Kiwon who I met 10 years ago in Australia when we were studying English together. Kiwon greeted me by taking me to stay one night in the Healience Seonmaeul in Hongcheon. They advertised themselves as a Korea’s first “well-aging” and healing centre that will help you learn good eating and exercise habits, in addition to maintaining a peaceful mind and a rhythmic life cycle, all for ageing in a healthy way.

The location of the resort is up a mountain which has no telephone signal. They provide a hot spring, spa, sauna, meditation class, Yoga class, hiking, healthy food, etc. The resort seemed very popular with Koreans; I was probably the only foreigner there which is what I loved the most! Kiwon and I very much enjoyed the experience there and we wish we could stay longer. I felt like I could live for 100 years if I stayed in this resort for the rest of my life! The air was so fresh, the food was so delicious and healthy and all the activities that they provided were great.   This treatment was what I really needed after travelling for nearly 2 weeks.  If you want to get away from a busy lifestyle, find somewhere peaceful, reboot yourself, live with nature, you can’t miss out this place. My holiday in South Korea ended so healthy and perfectly!

Day 13 – Homestay

I experienced Korean homestay by staying one night with Kiwon and her mother at their house in Seoul. Kiwon is the most caring friend that anyone could ever ask for and I appreciated a lot her hospitality. 10 years ago in Australia she cooked Bibimbap for me and this time I returned by cooking chicken green curry for her and she loved it!

I very much enjoyed my 13 days in South Korea. Even though I traveled on my own, I met many interesting and nice people, both locals and foreigners. There was not a single day in South Korea that I was lonely! Only going to visit all the tourist attractions that recommend on the Internet e.g. top 10 things to do and see, to me it sounds very boring and not being any extraordinary tourist at all. My trip was much more enjoyable than I expected because I met local people and  those local people took me to do local things. My 13 days in South Korea from 18-30 Oct 2018 is one of the best autumn and awesome trips in my life!

Hope you enjoy reading!

Phuket Old Town

Most  tourists who come to Phuket would probably head to the beaches and Patong nightlife which are located on the west coast of the island. After you have had enough of sandy beaches and have recovered from your hangover, you should make a trip to Phuket Town or stay there for 1-2 nights. Phuket Town is not a tourist area but it’s where the original Phuket people settled and where Thai people live today. If you stay in Phuket Town you would get a feeling of being a local person and most of the restaurants, bars, shops, market and street food are local style.

Here are a few things that I enjoy of what Phuket Town has to offer.

Sunday night street market at Thalang Road

Thalang Road is one of the most important and oldest roads in Phuket Town and along 350 meters of this road you will see  beautiful classic buildings in “Sino-Portuguese” style. The road is full of chic cafes, restaurants, traditional Chinese shops, some boutique hotels and some residential buildings. Every Sunday evening the road is closed for a street market which starts at 4 pm till 10 pm. The market is full of food stalls, drinks, fruit, clothes, bags, souvenirs, accessories, tattoo stalls and many more things at a Thai price!  There will also be music bands and a traditional show from local kids to entertain you and some kids’ activities like painting.

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Two girls wearing traditional Thai custom during Thai New Year or Songkran at the Sunday market

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The girl performed at the Sunday market on Thalang road

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Thalang Road on Sunday

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A lot of chic cafes on Thalang Road

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Some of the local products at the market

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Sunday street market

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Dibuk Road parallel to Thalang Road

Khao Rang View Point

If you want to see a big picture of Phuket Town, Khao Rang View Point has a stunning view over Phuket Town and is located on top of Khao Rang Hill. I have visited this place many times and one reason is because I love the food at Khao Rang Breeze Restaurant and enjoy a chill out evening at one of the highest places on the island. The menu is a mix between Thai and European and I have never been disappointed with the Thai food so far but I guess the restaurant maybe is not the best place for European food. Khao Rang View Point has a park with a chidren’s playground and a shop that sells ice cream and fruit shake – an ideal place for a family with young kids. From 4-6 pm would be the best time to visit as the temperature might be a bit lower (average 30 degrees all year round)  and to have a chill dinner at the restaurant would be a bonus. Before you reach the view point there is a Buddhist Temple that you can visit. I also think that Khao Rang View Point is the best place to see the sun rise as it is located on the east coast of the island but it’s a shame that I haven’t had an opportunity to wake up at 5 am yet!

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The park at Khao Rang Hill

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The view over Phuket Town

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Khao Rang Breeze Restaurant

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Khao Rang temple

Night market street food

There is a lot of street food in Phuket Town but my favorite one is the night street food located at the fresh market. There are a lot of food stalls here with open kitchens, e.g. seafood, one dish menu (pad Thai, noodle soup, rice with pork or chicken) and all kinds of fried rice and some local desserts. I have eaten there many times and enjoyed it every time. Tourists who visit Thailand for the first time might be a bit nervous to eat here but there is really nothing to be afraid of as all the food here is not strange. Go ahead and try the most delicious food in the world!

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This is what a street food in Phuket looks like!

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A lot of food stalls to choose from

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Busy time at 7 pm with local people

Shopping in Phuket Town

If you would like to buy good quality of T-shirts, trousers, jeans, shorts, accessories and all kinds of fashion for a reasonable price, The Expo Market is the center for this.  This place sells clothes for men and women made in Thailand and the quality is worth for the price. The price here is cheaper than in tourist areas, e.g. Patong 2-3 times. if you want to do serious shopping it’s worth a visit and It opens from 10 am – 10 pm everyday. If you are there around lunch time I recommend to have lunch at Up Town Restaurant next to the Expo Market or if you are there around dinner time you can walk to the night street food.

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Accommodation in Phuket Town

There are some of nice boutique hotels in Phuket Town but if you are looking for bargain accommodation and to stay in a place that you can feel more like home, renting an apartment from Airbnb is an option.

The nearest beach 

I highly recommend you visit Ao Yon Beach located on the east coat of Phuket Island where is very quiet as not many tourists go there. From Phuket Town take Soi Ao-Yon Khao Khad Road, this road runs along the sea with beautiful scenery. You can also stop at Khao Khad View Point Tower to check the most beautiful view point in Phuket.

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Soi Ao-Yon Khao Khad Rd. The road to Ao Yon beach

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Stunning panorama view point beside the road

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Stunning view

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Beautiful & peaceful Ao Yon beach

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Not many tourist on this beautiful beach..they all in Patong!

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There is a sailing school for kid on the beach

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Tourists enjoy sunny day with amazing view

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I hope you enjoy Phuket Town as much as I do!

3 days in Krabi

Day 1 – drive from Phuket to Krabi

We left home in Phuket around 11 am and we arrived in Krabi late afternoon. It would normally take only 2 hours from Phuket to Krabi if you drive non-stop. We checked in to a lovely 2 bedroom house which I booked via Airbnb. I like to stay in a private property or apartment rather than in a hotel because those properties provide better facilities than in a hotel and you get more space and of course better value.

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My accommodation is located in a quiet local village  surrounded by green trees

After unpacking and a bit of relaxing, it was just time for dinner. Because I’m a Thai I would definitely not go to eat in a tourist area like Ao Nang. We decided to try one of the restaurants on the riverside in Krabi town called “Baitoey Seafood”. The food was the real deal and the price was reasonable, a great view over the river and the restaurant full of Thai people! The Thai style of eating is sharing all the food on the table and, as we were 3 people, we ordered a few things to share and eat with steamed rice. I understand that the western culture is to order your own dish, but it’s not common here for Thai people to order just one dish for yourself accept in a single dish restaurant. If you travel to Thailand with your partner or with a small group I highly recommend to eat in the Thai way and I’m sure that you would have a better experience of eating Thai food rather than just have your own dish!

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A very pleasant evening, after eating just a bit of walking a long the river

Day 2 – Chill out

My day started with a simple local breakfast just opposite my place which was recommended by my host. This local breakfast is a serving of rice noodle with many kinds of sauces that you can choose from, some spicy and some not, you eat the noodle mix with sauce and fresh vegetables to which you help yourself and boiled egg. It cost me only 45 Baht including iced tea. The restaurant was busy with local people. The name of the restaurant is called “Kha Nom Jeen Mea Well Sai Thai” (ขนมจีนแม่แวว ไสไทย). The restaurant is located on the main road half way between Krabi Town and Ao Nang so you can easily get a bus to here in just 15 minutes. The restaurant closes around 11 am. Opposite the restaurant on the other side of the road also have one of the best Chinese steamed buns you can find in Thailand.

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My healthy breakfast cost only 45 Baht

After breakfast we headed to Nopparattara beach which is next to Ao Nang. This beach is part of the National park and less crowded than Ao Nang beach and Railay beach. The beach is 3 km long and has nice shade from trees along the beach. The shade was perfect for me as I don’t enjoy being in the sun all the time. The beach is popular for Thai people to have a picnic under trees. The other side of the road is full of shops and restaurants at a reasonable price. This beach can be your everyday beach after a boat trip to islands and if you have had enough of Railay beach.

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Nopparattara beach

Day 3 – Boat trip

We decided to take a day trip to 4 islands on our last day in Krabi (Tup island, Chicken island, Poda island, Railay beach). There are many boat trips you can choose from and many kinds of boats are available, e.g. long tail boat, speed boat or a big boat for a big group of people. The trip advertised 1,200 Baht for each person including lunch and transfer from hotel and drop off. The agency gave me the best price at 900 Baht each person so we booked with them. Later I found out that the Thai lady in the same trip has paid only 750 Baht! Never mind!! There are a lot of agencies in Ao Nang that compete with each other so go around and check the best price. After you believe that you got the best deal do not ask anyone in your trip that how much they have paid!

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Tup island

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Poda island

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Poda island

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Railay beach

Dinner time

We went to a seafood restaurant on the island near Krabi town called “Kanabnam View Seafood and Fish Farm”. This place was recommended by a local couple who I shared a dining table with at the night market on the previous evening. They said that not many tourists know about this place but it very well known by local people. The unique thing about the restaurant is that all the seafood is taken fresh from the water before it is cooked for you. The restaurant can be reached only by a long tail boat from the pier in Krabi town next to the night eating market. It took us less than 10 minutes to get to the restaurant and the long tail boat cost 100 Baht each way. A boat driver will be waiting for you at the restaurant to take you back. The restaurant is just on the water side, stunning view, simple decoration, nice breeze and the food was really good! Please note that alcohol is not available in the restaurant as it located in a Muslim village.

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View from the restaurant
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The restaurant

How to get to Krabi by public transport;

  • By air plane to Krabi airport
  • By Bus, can be from Phuket or Bangkok and other provinces nearby
  • By ferry from Phuket or from other provinces nearby

The best area to stay – it depends on what you prefer to do in Krabi. If you enjoy the beach very much and believe that you will go to the beach often and
visit islands most of the time, you probably would like to stay in Ao Nang but Ao Nang  is maybe not the best place to eat. A lot of people choose to stay in Krabi town which may have cheaper accommodation than in Ao Nang. The great thing about staying in Krabi town is that there is more variety of local food at a reasonable price but the disadvantage is it is not near to Ao Nang where the beach is located. I stayed in a place that is located in the middle between Ao Nang and Krabi town which is about 15 minutes by car to each location but you probably need to rent a motorbike or a car for it to be more convenient. The local bus is very frequent from Krabi town to Ao Nang.

This is my 3rd time in Krabi and I always enjoy coming here as Krabi is more lay back than Phuket.