Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Travel Tips: Myeongdong, shopping district in Seoul


Myeongdong is one of the most popular shopping district in Seoul, South Korea. It features from mid to high priced of local and international brands for young people and tourists who are fancy for up-to-date fashion. You can find all kinds of things such as fashionable clothing, accessories, handbags, shoes, skincare products and various international food offered over 300,000 square meters of perimeter in Myeongdong. The prices are fixed in the retail outlets but you still can bargain at the stalls along the streets if you intend to buy a lot. Myeongdong opens the whole day but it becomes very crowded with people at night.

The cosmetic and skincare outlets are very competitive in Myeongdong. They are situated nearby to each other thus, in order to draw customers, the pretty sales girls will stand outside the outlets and invite you to visit their stores by giving you some free door gifts. The Korean cosmetic and skincare products are cheaper a lot than the international brands. If you are a supporter to the Korean cosmetic and skincare products, be prepared to bring extra luggage.

To get to Myeongdong, you can take subway line 2 to Euljiro 1(i)-ga station and exit at  5/6 or subway line 4 to Myeong-dong station and exit between 5-10.




On the way to Myeongdong, Seoul South Korea
On the way to Myeongdong




High rise buildings nearby Myeongdong, Seoul South Korea
You can see many high rise office buildings and apartments/condominiums in Seoul




Fashion and Skincare outlets at Myeongdong, Seoul South Korea
Welcome to Myeongdong




Crowded people at Myeongdong, Seoul South Korea
Myeongdong is getting crowded with people by late afternoon




Crowded with people at Myeongdong, Seoul South Korea
Myeongdong covers about 3-4 rows of streets with many kinds of things to offer.




Fashion outlets at Myeongdong, Seoul South Korea
At the main street of Myeongdong with international brand outlets




Hello Kitty Donut at Dunkin' Donuts, Myeongdong, Seoul South Korea
Special Hello Kitty donut can be found at Dunkin' Donuts




Picture taken at 3rd floor of Dunkin' Donuts, Myeongdong, Seoul South Korea
Took this picture at the 3rd floor of Dunkin' Donuts at Myeongdong




Giant Shoe Stool at Myeongdong, Seoul South Korea
Giant Sneaker Stool at Myeongdong




Lotte Shopping Mall at Myeongdong,  Seoul South Korea
Lotte is a very huge Korean company which ventures into shopping malls, hotels and amusement park (Lotte World)




Check out Giant Cup at Homestead Coffee, Myeongdong, Seoul South Korea
Spotted a giant coffee cup on the 2nd floor of Homestead Coffee outlet. It must be designed for seating.




Food Valley at Myeongdong, Seoul South Korea
Food Valley at Myeongdong which looks similar to food valley at Shibuya, Tokyo




Cosmetic and fashion outlets at Myeongdong, Seoul South Korea
Many Korean cosmetics and skincare retail outlets are located along this popular street




Promoting Cat Cafe at Myeongdong, Seoul South Korea
Promoting Cat Cafe at Myeongdong. You can bring your pet or play with other cats at this cafe.




Promoting Dog Cafe at Myeongdong, Seoul South Korea
Promoting Dog Cafe at Myeongdong. You can bring your pet or play with other dogs at the cafe




Welcome to Taiwan billboard by Fahrenheit at Seoul subway station in South Korea
Spotted Taiwan Tourism Billboard with the popular Taiwanese band, Fahrenheit at Myeongdong subway station




Replica Trevi Fountain Rome  at Jamsil station, Seoul South Korea
A replica of Trevi Fountain Rome at Jamsil station

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Travel in China by trains


If you think that the public transportation in Beijing, China is overcrowded, wait till you board a train at Beijing Railway Station. Railway stations are always overcrowded with people in China, no matter it's during the peak or non-peak season. The locals in China prefer to travel by trains because they are cheaper than taking flights. Besides that, the train services are more accessible to smaller towns and villages compared to the airports which are normally located in the cities of China. Although the ride in a train is longer than taking a flight, you will be definitely enjoy the nature and countryside scenery during the train journey.

Traveling in China by a train is similar to taking a flight at the airport. The railway stations are always crowded with people and all the luggage need to be scanned before entering the train stations. As such, you should arrive at the train station about an hour and a half (1 1/2 hours) early before your departure.

It was our first time, traveling by trains from Beijing to Xi'an and vice versa for a trip to Terra-cotta Warrior. Since it was a day trip to Xi'an, we decided to engage a private tour who could arrange our transportation and tour trip from Beijing to Xi'an and back to Beijing. We preferred to have some privacy hence, we took a private room with double decker bed and a small private bathroom in a train during our journey. It's not cheap for the private room in a train, which costs us about US$250 for 2 people on a single trip. On top of that, refreshment isn't included in your train ticket hence, it's advisable to bring your own water bottle and some snacks (such as bread, noodle in a cup, 3-in-1 coffee packet, your cups and utensils) during the trip in case, you are hungry in the middle of the night. Moreover, cafeteria is not available in all train services so, bringing your own food and drink is very essential throughout your journey. For us, a single journey takes an overnight trip (about 11 hours).

The locals in China eat noodles all the time. Thus, all the train services provide hot water dispensers for those who want to make their hot noodles in cups or to make hot drinks. As water storage is limited in the train services, bathing isn't allowed in the private and public washrooms. You are allowed to bring some small towels to freshen up yourself, brush your teeth and wash your face during the journey.  




Beijing Train Station, China
Welcome to Beijing Railway Station




Crowded people at Beijing Train Station, China
Overcrowded with people who are waiting for their departure and some of them who just arrived.




Waiting area at Beijing Train Station, China
This is the departure waiting area. These passengers were waiting for their train no. to be announced before boarding.




Outside departure area at Beijing Train Station, China
These passengers came too early and waited outside the departure area.




Private room with 2 bed and washroom in a train, China (2)
This is the private room with double decker bed and a private washroom in a train




Private washroom in a room in a train, China
A private washroom




Xian Train Station, China
Welcome to Xi'an Railway Station




Xian Train Schedule, China (2)
These people came too early and had to wait outside the departure area.




Xian Train Schedule, China
The departure and arrival board in the train station. It looks similar to the airport.




Waiting area for departure at Xian Train Station, China
Overcrowded with people who came very early and waited outside the departure area.




Waiting Area at Xian Train Station, China
These passengers came very early (more than 2 hours early) and waited outside the departure area.




VIP waiting area at Xian Train Station, China
This is a VIP departure waiting area in Xi'an Railway Station. Only those who bought tickets for the private rooms in the trains, are allowed to wait and relax at this air-conditioned waiting room here.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Travel Tips: Visit Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea

The Secret Garden or it's also known as Huwon is located behind the Changdeokgung Palace. The rear garden takes up 60% of the entire area of Changdeokgung Palace which was built for the kings and royal family members to relax, stroll and enjoy the beautiful nature. The Secret Garden has also been claimed as UNESCO World Heritage because the garden is well maintained with over 26,000 specimens of a hundred different species of trees in the garden. Some of the trees behind the palace are now over 300 years old.

In order to preserve the species in the Secret Garden, all the visitors must follow the official tour groups strictly. All the tour groups leave on time as posted in the schedule. The tour to the Secret Garden is more popular than the Changdeokgung Palace. Limited tickets are sold for the tour to the Secret Garden each day hence, it's advisable to get your combination entrance ticket (Changdeokgung Palace and the Secret Garden) early in the day before entering the palace. The tour to the Secret Garden takes about one hour and a half (1 1/2 hours) so, you need to put on your comfortable shoes as you need to walk a lot along the steep hills. Walking along and into each of the hollow to the lotus pond and its pavilions taught me to cherish and appreciate the greenery nature a lot. You can't find this kind of garden with beautiful nature in other palaces in Seoul, South Korea.

To find more details of the tour schedule, please visit here:


p/s: This Secret Garden tour is not related to the popular Korean drama, Secret Garden. It's just coincidence that the drama producer adopted the similar name for the drama title :)






Strict Guided Tour at Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Strictly guided tour at Secret Garden




Buyongji and Juham-ru and vicinity at Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Buyongji and Juham-ru and vicinity




Buyongji and Juham-ru and vicinity. Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Buyongji and Juham-ru and vicinity




Korean model on the production shoot at Changdeokgung PAlace, Seoul South Korea
A beautiful Korean model/actress was friendly to take a picture during the break from her shoot




Aeryeongji and vicinity at Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Aeryeongji and vicinity




Beautiful landscape and scenery at Secret Garden, Changdeokgung PAlace, Seoul South Korea
Enjoying the beautiful nature as we strolled along




Male workers' dorm at Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Approaching the male workers' dorm. The entrance is higher than the female workers' dorm. During the ancient time, males were portrayed as the leaders in the society but now, both females and males have equal rights.




Female workers' dorm at Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
This is female workers' dorm




Yeongyeong-dang at Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
The tour guide was standing next to the concrete stand. She explained that the horses were huge so, the ancient people stood on the concrete in order to reach to the horses' heights before getting on the horses at ease.




Yeongyeong-dang at Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Workers' dorms




Female and Men communicate from their dorms at Yeongyeong-dang, Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
In the past, female and male workers were staying in separate dorms. This is the only female room where the female workers could interact with the male workers directly from their dorms through this window.



Architectural design of Yeongyeong-dang at Secret Garden Changdeokgung PAlace, Seoul South Korea
Wooden architectural design for the workers' dorms





Lotus flower at Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Lotus flower in a pond




Jongdeok-jeong and Gwallamji and vicinity at Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Jongdeok-jeong and Gwallamji and vicinity




South Korea map in a pond-size at Secret Garden, Changdeokgung PAlace, Seoul South Korea
Resemble of South Korea map in a pond size




On the way to last stop of Ongnyucheon at Secret Garden of Changdeokgung PAlace, Seoul South Korea

On the way to last stop of Ongnyucheon





Ongnyucheong and vicinity at Secret Garden, CHangdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Ongnyucheong and vicinity






Tall tree with many histories at Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Spotted a historical large tree at Secret Garden



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Friday, August 19, 2011

Travel Tips: Changdeokgung Palace, UNESCO World Heritage in Seoul, South Korea

Changdeokgung Palace or the “Palace of Prospering Value” is one of the original five grand palaces that were built during the Joseon Dynasty in 15th century. It has been proclaimed by UNESCO as one of the World's Heritage site in 1997 as it is the most preserved original shape among the existing palaces of Joseon Dynasty.

The main reason that I like about Changdeokgung Palace is because of the beautiful and well preserved landscaping with the nature around the palace, which is located in the city center of Seoul, South Korea. Since this is my first visit to Changdeokgung Palace, I decided to get the combination entrance ticket, which costs 10,000 won (US$10) per person, in order to visit the palace as well as the guided tour to the Secret Garden. You have the options to be on your self tour or to join the free tours in English, Japanese, Korean and Chinese around Changdeokgung Palace. However, Secret Garden is strictly arranged on guided tour which leaves on scheduled time. For more details of the tours schedule, please refer to the main website here.



Donhwamun Gate Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Donhwamun Gate – the largest of all the palace gates that was built in 1412 which is also the entrance gate




Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Waiting for the free tour near this signboard upon entering the entrance




Gwolnaegaksa, Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Chinese characters were used before 15th century. All the Koreans use Hangul as their main language




Changdeokgung Palace , Seoul South Korea
Similar architectural design with Chinese dynasties in China





Unique design on the ceiling at Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Korean dynasties use flowery designs while Chinese dynasties use dragons designs    





Tortoise stone Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Chinese and Koreans dynasties have similar belief  that turtle statue represents longevity and a sign of good health.





Be careful with your head at Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Be careful with the low beam of every entrance in the palace




Entrance to Injeongjeon Hall, Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
The Entrance to Injeongjeon Hall





On the way to Injeongjeon Hall, Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
On the long way to Injeongjeon Hall





Injeongjeon Hall , Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Injeongjeon Hall – the palace’s throne ball where major state affairs were held.





Inside the Injeongjeon Hall of Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
In the Injeongjeon Hall





Unique architectural design at Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
At the corner of Injeongjeon Hall





Unique architectural design of Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Uniquely architectural designs of Chinese and Korean culture





Entrance to Daejo-jeon, Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
The Entrance to Huijeong-dang and Daejo-jeon which is the king's and queen's residence





Queen's bed at Daejo-jeon, Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
The queen's bed





Telling time by the sun at Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Telling the time by using the sun





Changdeokgung Palace at Seoul South Korea






Kitchen area at Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul South Korea
Huge kitchen area for the palace workers to prepare food for the royal family




*** Next post: Pictures from the guided tour to Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace. ***


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