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Hong Kong in about 36 hours: Birthday Trip 2017!!!

Hey folks:

So I recently turned another year older. (blah) But what’s a birthday without bringing it in while in another country? Over the last few years, I have made it a point to bring in a new birthday in another country. This year, I chose Hong Kong. As you know by now (or at least should know), I currently live in Korea so I needed a destination that was doable within a weekend’s time. I narrowed my choices down to Tokyo, Osaka, and Hong Kong. Based on flight price and times alone, Hong Kong won.

The good thing about living in Asia is that are many airlines to choose from. It really just depends on your budget. For this short trip I went with Hong Kong Express. The flip side to Asian budget airlines is that you usually have to pay extra for baggage, picking seats, and even meals/beverages on board. But if you don’t mind that, it still ends up being worth it for shorter trips.

I booked my accommodations at the JJ Hotel in the Wan Chai area of HK. I reserved the hotel online with booking.com. It was very reasonable compared to all other hotels in mainland HK and ended up being in a GREAT location. The hotel was smaller and reminded me a lot of Aloft hotels in the states.

I flew out from Korea late on a Friday (10:00pm) and arrived in HK at around 12:45am (HK time. So 3.5 hour flight) Unfortunately because it was a late arrival the buses and trains had stopped for the night so taxi was my only option. It was pretty pricey to get from the airport to mainland HK. So if you plan a trip make sure you pick an arrival time that allows you to catch a train or bus to your hotel. (or rent a car if you’re bold)

Since I arrived so late, I literally went to the 24 hour McDonald’s nearby for some quick food and then headed to bed. I knew I wanted to get my day started pretty early since time was limited.

I got up on schedule and headed out. I read in several blogs that a must try for breakfast are the egg tarts. They can be found at almost any bakery but there were only a few bakeries that actually get attention. Luckily, once was only a short walk from my hotel. I found the Honolulu cafe two streets over from the JJ Hotel. I ordered an egg tart, a pineapple bun, and a warm almond drink. (similar to almond milk but a little thicker and warmed) I was able to get a small table very quick. The price was about $38HKD or $4.37 USD. The egg tart was decent but not this miraculous thing. At least I can say I had one. I paid with cash and headed about my day.

My first stop was to see Victoria Peak. I took the subway from the Wan Chai station ( a 5 minute walk from my hotel) to the Central station. (2-3 stops away) From there I walked to the Central bus terminus to catch bus 15. Before I caught the subway I bought an Octopus card which is the transportation card used in HK and it can also be used to purchase food at lots of places. (best investment ever)

The bus ride from Central terminus to the peak terminus was right around 40 minutes. There were other stops along the way. I picked a seat on the second level of the bus. (Most city buses are double decker) There were some great views even on the ride up. I was like a kid at times saying WOOOWWW.

Once we arrived at the Terminus. I walked though the peak plaza mall and out near the peak tram building. I opted to take a short trail to see the view as opposed to the tram. (The trail was free.99) It was only about a 10 minute walk to the spot with clearest view. There were plenty of people also walking the trail and even folks taking their daily run. So don’t worry about thinking it’s some deserted trail. After snapping some great pics, I headed back to the bus stop. (remember, I’m on a tight schedule here)

My next stop was to the Mong Kok area which is known for the infamous Ladies Market and Sneaker Street. (yeaaaaa buddy)

Mong Kok is literally a big shopping and food area. I ended up at the Ladies market first. It is stalls and stalls of souvenirs, gadgets, clothes, and knock off bags. (some look pretty real though) The vibe in the market is exactly what you expect, stall owners trying their best to get you into their stall by making their best offers on things. (I literally heard the stereotypical “$5 dollar for you ma’am” a few times.)

I walked through the stalls to take it in and finally stopped to buy a couple of HK souvenirs for my mom. The main reason I wanted to check out Mong Kok was for “Sneaker Street.” For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a big sneaker fan. I have quite an impressive collection for a woman that is supposed to wear business casual most days. (Hey I like what I like.)

Sneaker street is any sneaker lovers dream come true. Its stores upon stores lining several streets with all the latest and greatest in the sneaker world. I was so happy, I wanted to cry! My goal was to find a particular pair of Nike’s that I’d been eyeing for months. I was let down by a few stores and was literally about to give up and buy a different pair when I stumbled upon one store that actually had them. Without hesitation I got them!!! So after that it was time to head back to Wan Chai to rest up and get ready for my fancy dinner reservation.

By this time, I was starving. The only thing I had was my breakfast from earlier and some bottled water. I was scared to try the street food in Mong Kok although it looked quite interesting.

I decided to stop by another highly recommend and even award winning place, Kam’s Roast Goose. Just like Honolulu cafe, this place was a short walk from my hotel. This was great because there is always a line to eat here, so I decided on take out. I ordered the roast goose over rice and extra veggies. OMG I don’t think I ever ate goose before but this was delicious!!! The skin was kind of crunchy and then the meat was so juicy. (my mouth is watering.) The veggies were poached in some kind of oil and still a little crunch but perfect! The meal was $88 HKD or around $11.27 USD. It was worth it.

After I devoured the food I tried to lay down for  short nap before getting dolled up to take myself on a fancy date.

I made a reservation at the Wooloomooloo (yea that’s a tongue twister) steakhouse 31 floors up in the Hennessy building in Wan Chai. I had seen several pictures of the view this restaurant offered and I knew I had to go. SO I DID! I requested a table with a view and they met my request perfectly.

Since I was still somewhat full from the roast goose, I only ordered the signature sirloin salad, a cocktail, and dessert. I spent most of my time just admiring the view and reflecting on how awesome God is to allow me to see things like this! The restaurant knew it was my birthday so when they brought out my dessert, they wrote happy birthday on the plate and brought a candle. I made a wish, blew it out, and enjoyed my apple crumble cake with ice cream. Once I finished my meal I headed one floor up to see the view from the restaurants rooftop bar area. IT WAS AMAZING. The tall buildings adorned in neon lights was something special added to that was a view of Victoria Harbor in the background. I snapped a few more pics. Then headed back to my hotel on foot. (The restaurant was super close too. I was able to walk in my heels and back)

By this point I was super exhausted so I stayed in for the rest of the night to get a good night’s rest in the giant bed. The plan was to get an early start again to see a few more things before flying out the next day.

First stop was to find what’s known as “The Mansion.” It’s a giant housing building, similar to a housing project in the states, made up of five buildings connected. It was off of the Tai Koo station. (about 7 stops from Wan Chai) It was a little hard to find initially because there isn’t a giant sign for it and from the main street is looks like any other building. But after walking and reading the building signs a little closer, I saw two small signs that referenced “mansion” so I walked up the steps and through the breezeway to see. I WAS RIGHT!!! Once you walked through the breezeway and into the courtyard you are instantly amazed that 1.this structure is real and 2. that people live here. Apparently these buildings have been used in a few movies as well. It was so surreal. I almost felt bad for taking pics knowing people had to live here, but they didn’t seem to mind.

After taking it all in, it was back to the subway and off to Causeway Bay, another major shopping area of Hong Kong. Causeway Bay gives the perfect mix of high end stores with local and traditional HK flare. The HK Times Square (really just a fancy mall) is also located here. I walked around and went in a few shops before heading back to the hotel to checkout at noon.

After checkout, I had the hotel hold my luggage while I made one last stop for lunch. I had been eyeing a cute little spot called Elephant Grounds after seeing it on Instagram. It was known for it’s creative hot drinks, in particular a rainbow latte. Just like most other things, it was in walking distance from my hotel so I made the 15 minute walk to the place. It was in an area of Wan Chai that reminded me alot of L.A. It had that trendy semi upscale vibe to it. I was seated pretty quickly. Unfortunately, they were out of the ingredients to make the rainbow drinks so I was pretty bummed. I decided to stay and eat lunch anyway. I ordered the B.E.L.T (bacon egg lettuce tomato) which came with fries. It was pretty good. A lot of people ordered the fish filet sandwich and it was massive. ( I should have tried it but didn’t know what it was like until after the fact) The music and vibe was super cute. (they were playing the good music too) The service was a bit slow seeing as though the place wasn’t that big but I made due.

I headed back to grab my luggage then make my way back to the airport. This time I was able to take the airport express train which literally drops you off in the airport. After checking into my flight, I went to the service counter to return my Octopus card. If you return it, they refund you $50 HKD plus whatever balance is left on the card. I initially paid $150 HKD (which is the minimum to buy it) and added an additonal $50HKD on it just in case. I rode the subway several times, the bus, and even bought food and snacks with the card and still got a refund of $60HKD. (SWEET!) I used the cash to buy a few more souvenirs and snacks before boarding my flight back to Korea.

Hong Kong was such a melting pot of cultures and races. It was the perfect blend of trendy and traditional too! Although my time was short, I feel like it was perfect for seeing all that I wanted to see. To me it’s a city that you pop in and pop out off for short periods only. I would definitely go back though. I want to see Disney Hong Kong before I go back to the States for good.

As always, thanks for reading and Happy Traveling!

I jumped off of a mountain…literally!

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Hi folks:

I’m back. In this post, I will talk about my paragliding experience a few weeks back. I know what you are thinking, she’s crazy! But hey, what can I say, I like adrenaline rushing things. Sue me.

I had seen a few of my favorite YouTubers mention this experience here in Korea and it was something I HAD to do. I looked  up the company (Fly in the Sky Korea) and to my surprise, it was ran by an English speaking person.

I rounded up a group of friends and we made our reservation. We were initially scheduled to go in October, but due to wind conditions on our day we had to reschedule for a later date.

Our new date was November 4. I was excited yet anxious about the experience the morning off. We had to take a train to a city called Daechon which was about an hour away from our city. Once at the station, the owner sent a van to pick us up. ( It was 6 of us total)

The ride from the station to the check-in building was only about 10 minutes. Once we arrived, we met the owner Craig. He’s an American who has been in Korea over 15 years and is the only licensed American paragliding instructor in Korea. He was very nice and explained how the process would go.

Once we went over the basic instructions, we loaded up again to head to the top of the mountain. That ride was about 12 minutes.

There were other people flying that day as well, so our group was split up into two. Of course, I volunteered to go first!!!

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I was strapped up in my harness and with my tandem instructor (the man that would be controlling the parachute). My next instruction was to crouch down and start running off the edge of the mountain. (Ummmmm what!!!!!?) My tandem instructor was Korean, but he spoke some English. Once we were all strapped up he yelled GO!!! So I went.

I crouched and literally ran off of a mountain. (You can see the slight terror on my face when I realized what I did in my video from the experience. LOL) Once the ground left me, I wiggled my body into the little seat attached to the parachute, and from there it was smooth sailing.

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We flew for about 7 minutes total in the air. Before coming down, the tandem instructor did a few spirals and other tricks with me in the air. (It was scary yet awesome!)

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Once we landed, I was unhooked and given the Go Pro camera from the company to have my video and pictures sent to me via email.

Overall, it was a crazy, adrenaline pumping, awesome time! If you aren’t too afraid of heights, I would highly recommend doing this. They have them all over the world. But if you are in Korea, then I suggest Fly in the Sky hands down!! Craig and his crew were awesome and very helpful.

As always,

Happy Traveling.

My Korean Adventure: Apple Picking and Pocheon Art Valley Tour

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Hey folks:

I’m back with a new post all about a cute little day tour I took a few weeks ago. Here in Korea, there are many tour companies that cater to foreigners in order to help us see some of the hidden gems this country has to offer. My tour was with a company called Goh Travel Korea. There is also Wink travels and a few others that are pretty popular for random tours.

Since we are in the heart of fall (more like Winter to me because it’s cold here) we decided to take a day trip to an apple orchard and then to two other attractions near the mountains.

We had to meet the bus for the tour in Seoul. (an hour bus ride from my city) Once on the bus, it took about an hour to hour and a half to arrive at the apple valley.

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Once we arrived, we were given a bag and allowed to pick up to 1kg of apples. (About 4 large apples) We honestly spent most of the time just taking photos in and around the apple trees. (Sidenote: those were the most delicious apples I’ve had in a long time. I peeled and cut them and made fried apples for breakfast a few mornings with some oatmeal.)

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We loaded back up onto our bus and headed to our next stop: Herb Island. Herb island is like a mini Disney world centered around all things herbs and flowers. It was actually a pretty interesting and cute place. I would love to go back at night to see the lights. They had everything from restaurants, DIY craft centers, an indoor garden, a bakery with free garlic bread samples, and a Gondola ride.

We started out with lunch in the fancy restaurant and then headed out to explore all we could in the remaining time there.

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Our last and final stop, was the prettiest of them all! (and the main reason I wanted to go on this tour) We made our way to Pocheon Art Valley. Pocheon art valley is a natural granite park that was turned into a tourist park. The main attraction is the beautiful valley with water flowing through it.

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There are also granite sculptures throughout the park. (Warning: one is a bit graphic but Korea has an obsession with men’s private parts as seen in many of it’s parks. It was weird literally seeing families take pictures together in front of this particular sculpture.)

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It was a long yet eventful day. I was happy that I was able to see some things that I otherwise wouldn’t see on my own. These companies are very helpful and the guides speak pretty good English as well. If you are in Korea, you should check them out.

As always, thanks for reading!!! Stay tuned for my next post about me running and jumping off of a mountain in Korea. (Literally)

Happy Traveling.

My Korean Adventure: Asan Mediterranean Village

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Hey folks:

In today’s post, I will tell you about my adventure to the Asan Mediterranean village aka Blue Crystal Village.

Just a quick backstory, Korea has 4 themed villages that mimic other countries/parts of the world. They have a German town, a France themed village, a U.S. themed village, and the Mediterranean village. I found out about them from travel company pages on Facebook and then I looked them up myself. It turned out that the Mediterranean village was very close to my city, so I made it a definite to go explore one Saturday.

I took the Metro (or Subway) Line 1 to the Asan station stop. I went out of Exit 2. Now, I made the mistake of going to the bus stop on the opposite side of the street from the station (as told in another blog) but after riding the bus for nearly 45 minutes, I realized this was incorrect. I ended up having the ride the bus in this direction for almost a full loop of the route before it arrived at the correct stop. Instead, you should catch the bus (either the special 5 bus, the general 777, or 970) on the same side as the station. The bus stop in literally a few steps outside of the exit.

You should ride the bus until you come to the Tra Palace stop. Once you get off of the bus you must cross the main street and walk through the little park. Once you walk the short sidewalk of the park you will see one of the signs for Blue Crystal Village.

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I arrived at the small village around 5. I decided to just walk the entire village first to see what all it had to offer. There are maybe 5-6 rows of buildings in the village with small alleys in between each main row. Half of the village resembles Santorini, Greece with it’s white buildings and blue dome shaped tops. There were a lot of families also out just strolling and taking in the scenery.

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Most of the rows contained small boutique clothing stores, coffee shops, Korean restaurants, and other small shops. However, one of the rows had a few American styled restaurants. There was a Barbecue restaurant, a pizza shop, and a burger place. I read the menu for each one and decided to go with the barbecue place. It was called Farmer’s barbecue.

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As with most Korean restaurants, the menu was more so catered to families or couples. They did have a single combo option luckily. I ordered the brisket set with a sprite. ( water is usually self serve in restaurants.) The set came with brisket with a side of homemade sauce, fries, 2 warm and buttered dinner rolls to make sandwiches, corn on the cob, some pickles and radish (again this is a traditional Korean side dish), and one side which I chose baked Mac and cheese.  The meal was actually pretty good seeing as though American bbq is hard to find here.

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Once I finished my meal, the sun was setting and the lights of the village were starting to come on. I walked around a little more just to see things under the lights. It began to get chilly out so I decided to head back to the bus stop.

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To head back to the Asan station you catch the bus directly in front of the small park on the same side of the road as the Mediterranean village. It was about a 10-15 minute ride back to the Asan station.

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Although the village isn’t very big, it’s still nice to see to get away from the typical Korean styled neighborhoods. Depending on your location within the country, it’s an easy day trip. I hope this post was helpful.

As always, Happy Traveling.

Travel Review: Boracay, Philippines pt. 2

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Hey folks:

So I’m back to finish my review of the amazing island of Boracay in the Philippines.

When I last left you, we had just finished up day 2 with our amazingly cheap, in-room, $12 massages.

On day 3 we had a full day of island hopping planned.

I had done my research prior to our trip to determine what the best excursion was to do in Boracay. These days when I travel, I try to only do 1-2 excursions at the most. I spend the rest of my time just freely exploring and/or relaxing. (After all, excursions can add up and you get better deals just bargaining with the locals for tours)

I learned that the island hopping excursion was very popular in Boracay. Although it is an island, there are many other smaller Filipino islands in close proximity too. My first go-to website to look up excursions/tours is viator.com. I more so use them to see what tours are offered in the place that I am travelling to. However, in my opinion, Viator tends to be more overpriced for most tours. Therefore, I try to find a direct local company for the same tour or I just wait until I get to the place to book directly so I can possibly bargain.

The reviews of the Viator island hop tour were subpar, so I went to my next go to Tripadvisor to find other options. That brought me to My Boracay Guide. I emailed the company directly to get quotes for my group of 3. (My 2 friends and I) They responded very quickly and they were very friendly. Initially we scheduled the island hopping tour and a helmet dive. I had done something to helmet diving before in Mexico but this was a little different and my friends were for it too. The company informed me to bring the cash on the day of the tour and they just asked for my info as far as where we were staying and well… our tour was booked.

The morning of the tour, the company called to inform us of the time that they would arrive to pick us up from the Villa. My friends’ and I had breakfast once again at the Villa and again it was delish. I had the American breakfast every morning which had: eggs, sausage or bacon, toast, and hashbrowns for about $5. I also had fresh squeezed orange juice for about $2.

We got dressed and packed our bookbags for our full day of exploring and as scheduled the guide came to get us on time. We were picked up in a Tuk Tuk (see previous post) and taken to the meeting point for the tour. The guide had us sign waivers, pay our money, and then escorted us to our boat. (we opted out of the helmet dive since we knew the day would be long anyway)

We were mixed in with people who paid for the tour from other companies but our guide was the best! He had water bottles ready for us and he explained everything to us as the day went. We set out for our first island, Puka.

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Puka was the one island that I was looking forward to. It was much smaller than I thought it would be though but still beautiful. The part of the beach that we docked at had lots of locals trying to hustle you to buy beach chairs and fruit smoothies during our 45 minute dock time. I gave in and bought a $4 smoothie which provided me with a beach chair, umbrella, and access to a giant rubber duck float. The guy who sold me the things also had someone float me around in the water. I felt like royalty. (LOL)

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After I floated for a while, I went back onto the shore and ordered my fresh banana smoothie. It was so refreshing. By this time it was time to get back on our boat and head to our next stop.

Next up was snorkeling. Now, I’m normally pretty chicken when we dock in the middle of the ocean to snorkel. I’m fine when I can ease my way in from the shore. This time however I went right in. The water was so green and clear and warm!!! I did see a few pretty colored fish. I even stayed in the whole time that we docked. I literally didn’t want to get out.

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We snorkeled for about 30 minutes then hopped back on our boat to head to the next island for lunch.

We pulled up to a very small island filled with locals and a lot of stray dogs. We were a bit skeptical but that all changed when they laid out our food spread. Our guide had tables waiting for us and we were personally served. The other people from our boat had to go through a buffet style line.

The people in the “restaurant” brought out so much food. We kept saying, WOW! There’s more???

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We ate until we were stuffed. Yet, they still managed to bring out a large plate of watermelon after all of this.

After our Filipino feast, once again it was back on the boat to head to an area with two islands that were next to each other.

The first island was Magic Island, which is a popular island that offers man made cliffs for cliff jumping. The island resembles a deserted pirate ship. I’m not brave enough to cliff dive/jump just yet so we opted for the next option.

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The next option was Crystal cove and boy was it beautiful. Unfortunately this wasn’t technically apart of our tour (Magic Island was) so we had to pay a $4 entrance fee. Our guide went up to buy our tickets and personally walked us around the cove. WOW!! So its an island with some touristy things on it in addition to two swimming coves (Water caves).

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The first cave required us to walk down this very narrow and steep spiral staircase. Once you got to the bottom, you had to walk over some rocks to get to the entrance area of the water. The entrance area was a bit deep so I chickened out, but my friends ventured on. I stayed back and watched.

After a few minutes in cove 1, we followed our guide to the other side of the island to cove 2.

Once again we had to carefully make our way down a set of narrow and steep steps to enter this cove. This cove was a bit more intricate. We first had to wade though a small pool area and then enter a low tunnel. (But not before having a photoshoot. The lighting was amazing!)

 Once we made it through the tunnel, there was the cove. This was more my speed. (lol) I hopped in and paddled around for a few minutes. The water, once again, felt amazing. You could literally swim out into the ocean. (Sidenote: no, that’s not me in the floaties.)

We met our guide once again, and headed back to our boat to head back to the drop off spot. This was about a 6 hour day total and we only paid…$28!!!!! Like I said, Boracay is cheap. I’ve paid 3-4x that for excursions in the Caribbean that weren’t nearly as good.

Once we made our way back to the Boracay shore, my friends and I decided to stay around the strip to find dinner. We found a cute little spot called Red Coconut. I had a burger and fries with a fresh honey, mango, and mint smoothie. (It was sooooo good) We walked around the some of the shops for a bit then decided to catch a Tuk Tuk back to our Villa. The plan was once again to go out and take in the nightlife, but $12 massages trumped those plans!

The next day was our last day.

Initially we thought we had to check out at 11am, so we hung out at the pool for breakfast and some amazing photos by the infinity pool.

 As the depression set in that we had to leave, we went to the front desk to start asking about our damage from our tab at the restaurant. That’s when the receptionist informed us that they had us booked for one more day!(WHHHHAAAATTTTT) Apparently it was a mistake on their part but hey! We didn’t ask any questions.

We had a late flight so we rushed back to throw on our swimwear, grab our beach bags, and head back to the beach for a few hours.

We managed to snag our same spot from the last time. We were in heaven. There was some rain that day but we slept under our umbrellas until it passed. Once the sun came back out, we jumped in the water. I even walked the shore a little to find the daily sand carving.

After saying our goodbyes to the beach, we headed back home to shower change and prep for the journey home.

I’ll end by saying this: Boracay, you owe me nothing! You were everything I could have asked for and more. So THANK YOU!

As always, thanks for reading and Happy Traveling!

 

 

Travel Review: Boracay, Philippines

Hey folks!

I know it’s been a while, but I’m back with a review of my latest travel destination. As you know, I currently reside in South Korea and we recently had an extended 10-day national holiday called Chuseok. (Korean Thanksgiving plus another holiday I’m not sure of)

I knew in advance when the dates for the holiday was, but I didn’t know as soon as people who were already here. Therefore, I paid a little more than I wanted for the flight since the prices had been basically doubled and tripled to all destinations out of Korea for these dates. I was lucky to even get a seat though because most return flights were sold out.

I went with my two friends who also reside here as well.

We ended up finding a hidden gem for our lodging. The initial plan was to find a resort on booking.com (since you can usually book now, pay later with them) but I stumbled on our resort on airbnb for much less than resorts on booking. (If I told you the price, you wouldn’t believe me anyway) It was a fully serviced resort and it did not disappoint AT ALL!! I have been sworn to secrecy by my friends on the name of it because they don’t want the prices to rise lol.

We reserved a 2-bedroom 2-bath villa overlooking the water. The villa was HUGE and the balcony was even bigger. We could have easily housed 6 people in there comfortably so you can imagine how comfortable it was for only 3!

When I say the resort was full service I mean FULL SERVICE. Most airbnbs don’t have housekeeping services. Not only did we have housekeeping but we also had room service that was so cheap all we could do was laugh once we left. We had breakfast and dinner almost every night charged to the room. In addition the resort had a free shuttle that took guests to the main beach in Boracay (White Beach). There was also the prettiest infinity pool on the premises that changed colors at night and the water was soooo warm.

Now if all of this doesn’t sound amazing, the icing on the cake was the in room massage services that were provided by a 3rd party company. A full-body 65-minute massage cost us each a whopping $12!!!! Yes you read that right, 1-2. We ordered massages two nights in a row before bed. (It was heaven)

Ok, I think you get the point on how amazing the resort was. (and no I still can’t reveal the name)

I need to back track a bit to explain our arrival into Boracay. Boracay is a small island in the Philippines. You can’t fly directly into it. We flew into Caticlan airport. (The smallest airport in life.) We landed on a random runway and then had to take a 10-minute charter bus to the cargo area. It was literally a room with a single carousel for luggage.

Once we got our luggage, we then took another van to the jetty port. We had to take a boat from Caticlan onto Boracay island.

 Once we arrived on Boracay island, we took one more shuttle to our actual resort. (It sounds like a lot which it was, but it didn’t take a long time)

We arrived kinda late in the evening our first night, so we opted for dinner at the resort, welcome drinks, and the pool.

Day 2:

We started the day SUPER early (earlier than I wanted but my friends are early risers and they wanted to see the sun rise!)

After a delicious and filling breakfast at the resort, we put on our swimsuits and set out to see the beach that Boracay is famous for. (White Beach) As mentioned our resort shuttle drops off for free in D’Mall which is the shopping strip along the beach.

We made our way down the strip and WOW!!! The water!!!

We ended up finding beach chairs that belonged to a resort and just paid the fee to rent them for the day. It was only $20 to rent three chairs with umbrellas and side tables for the full day. It was also a perfect spot because it was in front of a restaurant that served us on the beach as well for no additional fee. We spent about 6 hours just eating, napping on the beach, and cooling off in the water. (We even rented a paddleboard for an hour)

After literally spending the WHOLE day at the beach, we took a tuk tuk (a local transportation car that is powered by a motorbike) back to the resort.

It was at this point that we discovered the in-room massage service. One of my friends called the number to see if they had availability within a hour for all 3 of us, and sure enough they did!

As requested, and on-time, 3 Filipino women knocked on our door for our massages. Let’s just say we were all snoring not even half way through the service. That was probably the best $12 we ever spent.

The plan was to go out and see some of the nightlife on the island (which I hear is pretty popular) but after those massages we didn’t really make it. It was lights out for us since we had a big day head on Day 3!

As you can see this was just a 24-hour period and I have so much more to talk about, but I will stop it here for now.

Until next time…

Happy Traveling.

 

 

 

 

The things you NEED to know before moving abroad!

Hi folks:

So many of you have expressed interest in teaching abroad, and I highly recommend doing it. Cause well…YOLO! Anywho, this post will give you some tips and tricks to help prepare you for such a big move. (at least these are the things I think are helpful)

  1. Try to learn some of the language of the place you are going. I feel that Americans are very spoiled (yes I said it) and we think other countries should cater to us even while in that country. Ummmm NO! Do you follow other people’s rules in YOUR house? Ok, well it’s the same concept. Before I came to Korea, I watched a few simple YouTube videos that helped me to recognize and read the alphabet. (it’s a lot easier than people think because they have less letters than us) Being able to read Korean by far has been one of the most helpful things I did. From there, I also enrolled in free online course to begin learning to speak and say some basic phrases. (coursera.com and they have an app)
  2. Do your own research before going! In the months before my move, I watched several YouTuber’s vlogs to get a general sense of what to expect. I also read lots of blogs and even reached out to some of the people. Of course, their experience won’t necessarily be yours, but it’s good to have a general knowledge of what to expect. I don’t recommend going in blind, but going in with an open mind.
  3. You must be able to adapt easily. Again, moving to a brand new COUNTRY is major. It’s not like moving to a new state. Things won’t necessarily be like what you’re accustomed to. They may do things different. (They WILL) But you have to be a person that’s able AND WILLING to accept this and adapt accordingly. That’s why point 2 is important so you can begin to get an idea of the differences.
  4. BUDGET! It’s likely that wherever you go will be cheaper than the country you came from (ex. US to Korea) but don’t let that allow you to mismanage money. You still need to be mindful of what you are purchasing so that you are not scraping pennies well before the next pay period.
  5. This brings me to point 5: have backup money just in case! Always have a credit or debit card as backup. You will need to have money with you if you become a foreign teacher when you first arrive since you won’t be paid until a few weeks after you arrive. So you need to notify your bank about foreign purchases ahead of time. I say have about $500-$1000 dollars at minimum when you first come. You may not need most of this but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  6. As I stated in number 2, having an open mind is key! Once you get to your respective country, make native as well as foreign friends. (So native to that country and then people from the country you are from) Having both will help you to survive. The way to make native friends is to participate in school activities (if you are a teacher), go to cultural events and actually talk to people, and go to local restaurants. Surprisingly, it will be easy to find other people from your country. Although the people you meet may not be what you would hang with at home, having someone who understands some of the struggles you face from being away from home is very comforting. You never want to feel alone in a foreign place.
  7. This ties in to point 6: don’t be afraid to try the local food. Again, this is where I say Americans are spoiled. YOU ARE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, THE FOOD WON’T ALWAYS BE THE SAME. Coming to Korea, I knew that my diet would change. But to my surprise, Korean food is really good and healthy. (minus all the rice they eat) Don’t be afraid to go to restaurants and try new stuff or even eat foods with your coworkers. Eating local will also help you to save money. Yes, you can find most of your staple items in a market, but they may be more expensive if it was something that needed to be imported. (This goes for toiletries too). I actually stocked up on certain toiletries before I came because I knew they weren’t available or they were super expensive here. So research this ahead of time too! BUT, if you must have American foods most countries have popular fast food and restaurants. (we have McDonalds, Outback, Chilis, KFC, Popeyes, Starbucks, Subway, Burger King, and I’m sure there’s others in Seoul)
  8. Ensure that your cell phone is unlocked before time. Unless you are rich and can afford an international phone plan, getting a local number will be something you’ll eventually have to do. Since my phone was unlocked, I was able to just get a SIM card with a local Korean number and plan. If your phone is not unlocked, you will have to purchase a phone AND plan in your new country.
  9. Research the weather of your new country to prepare your clothing. Most likely, your airline will allow two checked suitcases and then 2 carry-ons. Some people pay for the extra luggage too. Whatever your case may be, make sure you are bringing clothing for the weather in your new home. Korea has all seasons so I had to bring a little of everything. (Of course I couldn’t bring everything!) Obviously you can also purchase clothes in your new home, but again be mindful that the sizing may be different. The one things I wish I would have known was that we don’t wear regular shoes at work, we wear new slippers or slides around school. I could have brought more casual shoes for the weekends when I’m out.
  10. Pray and GO OUT ON A LIMB! Many times we get so stuck in comfort zones that we hold ourselves back from what could possibly be the best experience for us. People asked (and still ask) are you not scared there? My answer: I feel more safe here than I did in the states. I hear about murders daily back home. Guns are illegal here. Are Koreans perfect people? No! But if you can live a normal life in the states without fear, you can do the same in another country. So don’t let fear stop you from the opportunity of a lifetime. The same things that happen in foreign countries can easily happen at home but it’s not always the other way around.

Bonus: Research the healthcare in your new country! I knew prior to coming to Korea that they had great healthcare and that it was cheap. Therefore, I cancelled my American insurance once I got here.

I hope this post has helped in some way. As always, Happy Traveling!

So you want to teach abroad?? Here’s how!!

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Hey folks!
So I’ve had several people ask how I ended up teaching in Korea and was the process hard. In this post, I will walk you through the steps including the info for the coordinator of the program I am employed with. I’m posting this now since most programs will begin the application process this month to come in February. The next one will be around February/March to come in July/August.

Contrary to popular belief, the process isn’t that hard (if you go through the right recruiter). I heard about teaching in Korea (and China) from a few friends that had done it in the past. I knew I wanted to live abroad but I also wanted to get paid in the process. This was the perfect way.

I initially wanted to go through  EPIK  (English Program in Korea) which is probably the most popular option that people seek. I did some research via the Dave’s Esl cafe website. It posts job openings for Korea and China. You then contact the recruiter to start the application process. Now choosing a good recruiter is all trial and error. You will get some who reply and some who won’t. You will also learn quickly that some recruiters only look for certain skin tones. (I’ll let you assume on that one but don’t let it stop you)

My first recruiter was staffing for the EPIK program. He was recommended by others but we quickly didn’t mesh well. He would schedule things for me at unreasonable hours and then talk down to me when I couldn’t make the online interviews. He eventually dropped me as an applicant. (Thank God!) I wrote in a forum that I am apart of on Facebook (Brothas and Sistas of south Korea) and also found that several other people had run ins with him too. A girl in the forum messaged me and told me about the program she went through (which is the one I ended up in!). In the meantime, I also sought out one more recruiter just in case.

The program that the girl suggested was in a city called Cheonan (about 1 hour by express bus from Seoul) and it is run through a Christian college here. (It is not apart of the EPIK program) I had to first contact the American recruiter ( Martha Wilson: pastormom1985@yahoo.com) to get the application sent to me via email. She instructed me to get a copy of my undergrad college degree, get that apostilled, get an FBI background check, get that apostilled, and of course complete the application. EPIK asks for the same things in addition to two sealed college transcripts and a 120-150 hour TEFL or TESOL certificate (which I completed online after purchasing the class on Groupon for around $40). Luckily the program I ended up going with provides an in person TESOL class which is more useful even after I leave Korea. (so you won’t need to do the online one if you go through my program)

Once you get a copy of your college degree you send it off to the secretary of state in your respective state (regardless of where you attended college) to have it apostilled. (Some states may have a different office that apostilles but NC is the secretary of state in Raleigh) You can go online to get whatever forms you need and find out payment info before sending it off. The turn around was less than a week.

With the FBI background check, you have two options: go directly through the FBI’s site (which takes up to 10-12 weeks) or spend a little more money to go through a 3rd party to have it done within a week. Once you get the background check, you have to then send it off to D.C. to be apostilled. (I believe it’s through DOJ but I don’t remember. This is where you use GOOGLE lol) There is a fee for each step just FYI. I know the 3rd party background is around $50 but the apostille is only like $10 at most.

In the process of gathering all of this, I sent my application back to Martha. We then did a Skype interview. Once she approved me, I had to mail all of the documents I collected to the Korean recruiter. The documents are used to issue your E-2 visa which allows you to work and stay in Korea for the year. It takes a few weeks (up to a month depending of when things are sent) to get your Visa number issued.

At this point, I had was offered the job and signed my contract to work as well. (this was also sent to issue the Visa) I then received my Visa issuance number from my program coordinator in Korea and from this point forward Martha was no longer needed.

Once you receive the visa issuance number, you must fill out yet another form to send to the respective place to have your passport officially stamped with your visa. (I was a bit nervous sending my passport in the mail but it worked out with no issue). The visa is about $40 and I had to send it Georgia along with return postage. The turn around here was about a week as well. At this point the only thing left was to schedule my flight.

The program I ended up going with did flight reimbursement (which is pretty standard now). So I paid for my flight initially and once I arrived they reimbursed me in my first paycheck. (another reason why I love my program because I have heard horror stories about people not receiving their money back or being paid on time).

Now for the deets on pay and housing.

We receive about $2100 a month (2.1 million KRW). Our housing and utilites are paid for. (We pay our own internet and phone bill though) I live in a studio apartment which is actually has loft and still has a separate small bedroom too. (my view is amazing. I live in the downtown area of my city). Health insurance is included and the insurance here is very good and SUPER cheap. (to get my wisdom teeth pulled will be less than $100) I try to send about $800-$1000 to my american account per month and keep about 1 million KRW in my Korean account. (that is more than enough if you budget properly and yes I travel around on weekends sometimes.) Once you complete your one year contract you are also given a $2,000 severance and a $2,000 pension. (So an additional $4,000) For every full year that you renew your contract your pay increases and you add another pension and severance bonus. (So after two years you would take an additional $8,000 plus your monthly salary) So as you can see you have the chance to save a good chunk of money.

My program did a 1-week orientation when we arrived which also included taking us to the office to apply for our Alien registration cards. (this is like your Korean ID but is needed to pretty much purchase anything in which you need to be billed.) They also set up our bank accounts for us. (And again we are paid ON TIME)

After our 1-week of orientation, we started our 4-week TESOL (teaching english to speakers of other languages) program. This certificate is recognizable in Asia, so we can pretty much teach English all over Asia now. (remember I also have my online TEFL too) so I could probably come home and become an ESL teacher as well.

Once TESOL is complete we begin teaching officially. (However, depending on when you do intake, you may start teaching then go back and do your TESOL. It varies but EPIK does not provide the in person class so you are basically thrown into the fire once you arrive.) Although TESOL was long, it was very helpful and made me more comfortable when I actually started my teaching.

We are required to teach 22 hours per week but have to be present at school for 40. (The down time is called desk warming since you are in your office/at your desk during this time mostly) The typical school day is from 8:30-4:30 (may vary by a few minutes depending on your school) The teaching is pretty straight forward. We use a book to help us as far as the lessons go. The students also take English class other days of the week, but I see most students only once per week. (6th grade 2x). We are off for all Korean holidays and also get two weeks off in January and two weeks in July. You are only allotted 6 sick days per year though. If you need more, they take it from your other vacation time. (Still a pretty good deal if you ask me. Also we are so close to other countries like China and Japan that you can still fly out for a weekend trip for only $200 or less)

I’m very thankful that I chose the program that I did. (Well God chose it for me) They have made this transition thus far pretty smooth. (yes there are hang ups here and there but they always get resolved) If you aren’t a person that can easily adapt at a moment’s notice, this may not be the thing for you. Koreans tend to be very last minute people at times and you have to be able to adjust.

I hope this post has been helpful for those considering moving abroad. If you have any additional questions don’t hesitate to contact me!

Happy Traveling.

 

Korean School Lunch vs. American Lunch

Hey folks!

So I am almost finished with another full week of teaching in Korea. Things are actually going really well and the kids seem to like me.

In this post, I want to talk about the Korean school lunch experience versus American ones and also show you some of the meals I have had so far.

So, when it comes to Korean lunch the kids first go wash their hands. They then walk together with their homeroom class to the cafeteria. Once they get to the first station, they grab a spoon, a set of chopsticks, and a tray. (Everything is stainless steel/metal)

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From there, they walk up to the window where lady one serves the rice, lady 2 serves the main dish, lady 3 serves the side dishes/desserts, and lady 4 serves the soup of the day. As I mentioned in an earlier post everyone eats the same meal so the students do not choose what they want. Everything being served that day goes onto their tray. (I’m assuming if a kid has allergies the lunch ladies know and handle it accordingly.)

Each lunch consists of: rice, a main dish usually with protein, kimchi (or some variation), soup, and another side or dessert depending on the day.

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I typically eat with the other teachers that speak better English.

Students (and teachers) are allowed to second helpings of any of the dishes by simply going back up to the window. Once a student is finished, they must show their tray to their homeroom teacher to ensure they are eating properly. I have seen teachers tell students to take a few more bites of food before being excused. (So yes eating properly is important here)

Students take their empty (or almost empty trays) to the food disposal area. The first bin you place your spoon then the second your chopsticks. Next, there is a food waste bin. Before you walk up, you scoop all remaining food into your soup bowl then dump it all out in the bin. You then place your soup bowl and tray into the last bin.

So, the thing I LOVE here is that no drinks are served during lunch. (not even water) This way students are actually filling up on food and not drink. After they clear their trays, they can get a small cup of barley tea (which is popular here and very refreshing.) The tea is served at room temp or sometimes warm and without any sweetener. (It’s actually not bad.)

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As you can see, Korean school lunch is different from American school lunch. Kids in America have choices, can drink during lunch, and can opt not to eat. Furthermore, I haven’t seen any of the students here actually bring lunch. Everyone eats the prepared lunch.

Thanks for reading and Happy Traveling. ✈️

I’m officially an English teacher!

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Hey folks:

So it’s been a few weeks since my last post and I wanted to update you. As you can see, I’m still alive! The last few weeks have been busy but I’m still enjoying my time here in South Korea.

I believe I shared with you all that I was in a 4-week training program (TESOL) to help prepare us for teaching foreign language speakers English. I completed the program in August 25 after passing 3 mock teaching lessons. We had a complete graduation ceremony that day and even received certificates in real diploma folders.

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Later that same day, we met with what’s called the “Head Teacher” of our respective schools. As you know, I was assigned to two schools so I met with two teachers that day. A head teacher is typically the liaison you work with in your school and at times teach with. Both of my head teachers speak pretty good English, although at times there are some words they don’t know.

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That brings us to the current week of August 28! August 28 marked my first official day of class. I teach at my main school, Seonjong Elementary, on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I go out to Cheonan Upsong Elementary on Tuesdays only.  In both schools I only teach 3-6 grade. In Korea, they begin English lessons in 3rd grade unless their parents pay for them to go to private academy early on. (Academies can cost around $1500 per month!)

So what was day one like??? Well, I took the bus to my school which has it’s own labled city bus stop. There are 6 periods in each day and school starts at 8:40am with first period beginning at 9am. Each period is 40 minutes. On Mondays, I am with the 3rd graders only and for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th period only. So I have a LOT of down time on Monday especially since we are required to be at our desk until 4:40pm.

During my classes that day, I had three different sets of students. Since it’s the first week I simply did an “All About Me” presentation so that the students could learn more about me. They were so excited from the moment I walked in. These kids will make you feel like you are Beyonce. Everytime they see me in passing they giggle and say HELLOOOO. I can’t tell you the amount of times I had to say hello in one day.

I did the same presentation for all classes (and will do it 1000 more times this week. LOL)

Now for day 2! This school is out in the countryside of our city. So I had to take a subway then a taxi to get to it. Thankfully, we are paid extra if we have multiple schools to help cover our transportation costs.

This school is A LOT smaller than my main school. There is only one class per grade with no more than 13 students in a grade. Therefore, I will see all of the 3rd – 6th grade students in the school on Tuesday when I’m there.

My day started with teaching 3rd grade for 2 periods, so 80 minutes. Of course, my “All About Me” presetation wasn’t THAT long so I actually taught my first full English lesson. It went VERY well. The kids seemed to pick up on the key words and phrases and they enjoyed the game we played as well.

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After that, I had 5th grade for 2 periods, 4th grade for one, and then I didn’t see my 6th graders because they had a test. So just like Monday, I had a lot of down time until 4:40 pm.

Now for the question you all want to ask (if you could): Did I eat the lunch??? Yes! As a matter of fact I did! Korean school lunches are pretty good. They are prepared daily by the cooks and everyone eats the same meal. Each meal typically has: soup, kimchi, rice, a meat, and veggie. This way, kids don’t get a choice and it’s a guaranteed balanced meal. Drinks are not served with lunch either. Students can drink warm barley tea AFTER they are done. Juice is not a big thing here either. (So I expect to lose a few pounds over time) A really cool thing, is that you can also get seconds and students must show their teacher their tray before they are excused to leave to ensure they eat. See some pictures of my lunches from Day 1 and 2 below!

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All in all, my first few days have gone well. The kids are really cute, they say hello to me 5 million times, and all of the Korean teachers say WHOOOOA when they find out I’m really a lawyer since that’s a well respected profession here. I hope you enjoyed this update.

Happy Traveling.