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Jul 30, 2014

Dynamic Busan: Busan, South Korea Travel Guide

Busan is the second largest city in South Korea, next to SoKor’s capital Seoul. Busan is probably one of the best examples of harmony between mountains, rivers and sea which enjoys a temperate climate that never gets too hot or cold. 

Busan has been a favorite destination for Koreans and tourists alike especially during summer because of the long stretch of fine, white, beach in Haeundae. If you want to experience culture, shopping, nature and adventure, then Busan is for you. Korea’s currency is South Korean Won which is roughly equivalent to Php 0.04 depending on the forex. 

If you are planning to go to Busan anytime soon, then this travel guide might help. 

P.S. We actually stayed in South Korea for 6 days but since we went to Jeju in between, I will write a separate travel guide for Jeju Island.


GETTING THERE:


By Air: Philippine AirlinesCebu Pacific and Air Asia fly to Busan, South Korea. Travel time is approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes. There’s a time difference between Korea and Philippines, Manila being one hour behind. 


Website: www.philippineairlines.com
Hotline: 855-8888 (open 247/7)
Website: www.cebupacificair.com
Hotline: 7020-888 (open 247/7)
Website: www.airasia.com
Hotline:  742-2742 (7am-11pm, Mon-Sun)



SOME FRIENDLY AND IMPORTANT REMINDERS:

This is an international travel so it is only necessary for you to have a valid passport. You can secure one from the Department of Foreign Affairs. If you already have a passport, make sure it is still valid for 6 months from the time of travel. Meaning, if your passport will expire on April 21, 2015, then it is still safe to travel and return back before October 21, 2014. Any date beyond October 21, you'll no longer be allowed to leave the country. If in doubt, you can always call Korean embassy in Manila, or Pilipinas Teleserve (24-hour Passport Assistance) 737-1000.

Note: This 6 months validity period only applies in certain countries, including Korea. If you plan to go to other countries, specifically in European countries, check with their respective embassies here in Manila.

- Philippine passport holders are required to secure a visa. Visa processing is free and would only take 5 working days. However be sure to apply for visa 1 or 2 months prior to your departure in case the consul asks for additional documents. Korean visa is now good for multiple entry.

- Always bring with you 2 valid IDs in case the immigration asks for it.

- Always bring your passport wherever you go. That's always an SOP when traveling to other countries.

- Koreans are not really good at conversing in english so you might find it hard to ask for directions. Even their public signages are all in Korean so better maximize Google for directions if you want to visit a specific tourist spot.

- Since majority of Koreans don’t speak and understand english, these might come handy. (Hello- Annyeonghaseyo; Thank you- Kamsamhamnida; ) This is not required to learn but sounds cute, especially when taking photos. Instead of saying “one, two, three…” say “hana, dul, cet…” instead of “Say cheese…” say “Kimchi!”


THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Accommodation: There are lots of grand hotels and cute guest houses in Busan that you won’t be having a hard time in finding one. The only problem you’ll encounter is which, for you, is the cutest and your planned activity. If you want to be near Busan’s famous Haeundae Beach, then better book an accommodation near Haeundae train station. If you want near the shopping area, book near Nampodong station.


Miss Egg Hostel


Miss Egg Hostel
HOTELS

Paradise Hotel
1408-5 Jung-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan, South Korea

Novotel Ambassador
1405-16 Joong-dong Haeundae-Gu, Busan 612-010, South Korea

Sunset Business Hotel
1391-66 Joong-dong Haeundae-gu, Busan 612-010, South Korea

Haeundae Grand Hotel
651-2 Woo-Dong Haeundae-ku, Busan 612-020, South Korea

Westin Chosun Busan
737 Woo 1-dong Haeundae-gu, Busan 612-600, South Korea

Haeundae Centum Hotel
1505 U2-dong Haeundae-gu, Busan 612-202, South Korea 

GUESTHOUSES
Miss Egg Hostel

Miss Egg Hostel (http://mregghostel.mireene.com/xe/missegghostel)
601-15 U-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan 612-020, South Korea

Pobi Guesthouse
2F 1394-328 Jung-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan, South Korea

Popcorn Hostel
11F Marine Tower, 321 Haeundae-haebyunro, Haeundae-gu, Busan 612-847, South Korea

MaruB Guesthouse
LG Hourbor town B.D., 627-1, U-1dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan 612-744, South Korea

Terra Guesthouse
F7, Jagalchi Market, 37-1, Nampodong 4-ga, Jung-gu / KTX Busan Station, Busan, South Korea


Bibimbap
Meal: Food in Busan is not really affordable. In fact, you’re already lucky if you’ll be able to buy a full meal for KRW5,000-6,000 or Php250 more or less. If you’re on a tight budget, you can always go for Korean noodles, but you can’t always go on a noodle diet because trying out authentic Korean food is part of the adventure. Experiencing Korean Barbecue and drinking Soju (rice wine) is a must.

Subway
Transportation:  The main transportation system in Busan is their subway. This is a very efficient way to reach your destination on time. Taking the bus is also comfortable although travel time is a little bit long because there are many bus stops. Since the signages outside and even inside the bus are all written in Korean, make sure you know the bus number that will pass by your destination and the nearest landmark where you wished to be dropped of. Asking the bus driver won’t actually help because most probably, he won’t understand you. In short, rely on your map, GPS and own instinct.

Touring: No need to hire a tour guide to visit the famous sites in Busan. If you already did your research beforehand and know the nearest subway stations, bus numbers and nearest landmarks, then you won’t get lost. It might also help if you print a copy of your itinerary and the photo of the tourists spots you want to visit. This is just in case you really need to ask for their directions and all that’s left is for you to show the photo of the place you wish to visit.


Haeundae Subway Station

THINGS YOU NEED:

South KoreanWon
Comfy footwear- You will do lots of walking especially when transferring to one subway station to another
Camera- You will regret if you don’t bring one. 
Money- No brainer. 
Jacket or windbreaker- You’ll never know when it will get too cold or windy
Shades- Protect your eyes
Map- You will need this, trust me
Swimsuit- Just in case you want to take a dip into the water of Haeundae Beach

BUDGET: Bring dollars with you and exchange them to Korean Won when you are already in Busan. However, you will need won when you ride the limousine bus at the airport so be sure to exchange even $100 at the airport in Manila. We exchanged our money at Paradise Hotel’s casino near Haeundae because their exchange rate is reasonable enough. 

* Good for 2 persons for 5 days and 5 nights (this budget is inclusive of the trip to Jeju
Limousine Bus from the airport
Island). Please also note there’s three of us who traveled so cost of accommodation and touring may vary if you will travel in big group.

- Airfare: Php3,188 (promo fare and this is really a BIG savings already considering it’s a plane fare to Korea.)
- Accommodation: Php3,563/night (Miss Egg Hostel, Busan) Php5,288/night (Kasan Tobang, Seogwipo, Jeju), Php3,353/night (Yeha Guesthouse, Jeju City)
- Food: Php 10,000
-Tour: Php5,500/8 hours (Jeju Island) Touring Jeju Island will take 2 days or 16 hours
- Shopping: Php 10,000 (depends if you plan to really splurge in Nampodong Flea Market)
- Miscellaneous: Php10,000-Php15,000 (airport terminal fee in Manila, bus and subways in Busan, etc.)


You need to have:  A budget of approximately Php50,000-Php70,000 (good for two and exclusive of plane ticket) is more than enough money for your Busan and Jeju trip (will write a separate itinerary for Jeju Island). You can save more if you opt to stay in a sort of dorm room, shared bathroom or a contemporary guesthouse in Jeju.


DAILY ITINERARY


DAY 1

Gwangbok-Ro 
Day 1 is just for settling down and planning your itinerary on your succeeding days in Busan. Explore the city by foot and familiarize yourself with the streets and the best place to go shopping and eating. This is also a good time to check out Haeundae Beach granting you arrive lunch time or in the afternoon.

1st stop:  Gwangbok-Ro. Check out the long strip of Korean restaurants along Gwangbok-Ro street in Busan.  When in Korea, do what the Koreans do. Choose a cozy restaurant that looks like a carinderia and order some spicy chicken, match it with Soju then dine outside al fresco style. If you are fond of watching Koreanovelas, I’m pretty sure you have seen Koreans doing this, dining along the street while enjoying a Soju. Just a warning though, Soju is really a hard drink that it tastes like our local Gin Bulag. One Soju is too much for one person so just like tequila, you consume it by shots.

2nd stop: Stroll or head back to your hotel. You might want to grab a quick dessert at a nearby convenience store or head back to your hotel to catch some rest to prep yourself for a rather long walk the next day.
Dream Pig restaurant along Gwangbok-Ro
DAY 2

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
1st stop: Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. This temple is a must visit when in Busan. The temple is situated on the coast of north-eastern Busan  which makes it an ideal spot for meditation and even picture taking. The temple houses a big golden buddha and I must say that this is probably one of the best temples I’ve seen so far, mainly because of its location. Haedong Yongggungsa Temple was built in 1376 by the Buddhist teacher Naong during the Goryeo Dynasty but was destroyed during the Japanese occupation in Korea. The said temple was later on rebuilt or recreated in 1970.

Operating hours: 4:00AM-7:00PM
How to get there:  From Busan station, take Bus 181 and get off at ‘Yonggungsa Temple’. You need to walk for 10 minutes before reaching the temple.
Admission: Free

Shinsegae Centum City
2nd stop: Shinsegae Centum City. This mall is considered by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest shopping complex in the world. If you are someone who loves shopping or even window shopping, then you’d definitely enjoy strolling here. However, I advise that you just save your money for Nampodong Fashion Street instead. Just take your lunch at the Food Hall and buy yourself a Bibimbap. Purchasing meals at the Food Hall is by ticketing system.  You first need to buy a ticket at the main cashier to purchase meals at any of the food stalls available at the Food Hall.

How to get there: From Busan station, take the subway to Centum City station (Busan Subway line #2), the station is connected to the mall.
Centum City
Nampodong Flea Market
3rd stop: Nampo-Dong Flea Market. Definitely a bargain hunter’s paradise. The long strip of clothes, shoes, accessories, etc. will leave you breathless and your pockets empty. Make sure to also try their very own version of Buchi. It’s being sold in a hawker’s stall along the flea market.

How to get there: Take Subway Line 1 and get off at Nampo-Dong station

4th stop: Yong-Dusan Park and Busan Tower. If you still have enough time and energy, visit the Yong-Dusan Park and Busan Tower. If you are currently in a relationship, don’t forget to bring with you a padlock. Write you and your partner’s name in the padlock, lock it and put or throw away the key in a key bin provided. This symbolizes commitment between sweethearts never to separate. 

The yummy buchi/mochi in Nampodong Flea Market
Operating hours: 9:00am-10:00pm
How to get there: At Nampodong Station, take Exit 7, Go 350m on Gwangbok-Ro Street towards the Yongdusan Park escalator on the right.


Nampodong Fashion Street

Nampodong Flea Market

Gwangan Bridge
5th stop: Gwangan Bridge. Another option instead of going to the Busan Tower is to head straight to Gwanggali Bridge, Korea’s longest two-storey bridge, which looks amazing especially at night because of it’s beautiful light show. 

How to get there: Take Busan Subway Line 2, get off at Gwangan Station, take Exit 3 or 5 then  take a 10 minutes walk towards Gwanggali Beach

6th stop: Dinner time. Take your dinner at any restaurant near Gwanggali Beach to give you more time to marvel at the beautiful Gwanggali Bridge.

DAY 3

Haeundae Beach
1st stop:  Haeundae Beach.  Wake up early to catch the sunrise at Haeundae Beach. Grab a coffee at a nearby 7-eleven convenience store (stores and coffee shops in Busan open late) and stroll along the powdery, white sand of Haeundae Beach while waiting for the sunrise. If you are in the mood for swimming, you may also slip into your swimsuit and take a quick dip in the water. Although best time to take a swim is during the months June and July.



Haeundae Beach
Haeundae Beach


Puppy Cafe
2nd stop:  Puppy Cafe. if you are a dog or cat lover, then going to the Puppy Cafe in Jangsan should top your list. Entrance fee to the Puppy Cafe costs KRW 8,000 or roughly Php 340 and is inclusive of a free drink of your choice (smoothie, iced tea, coffee, etc.) and a buffet of bite sized cakes and pastries.

However, the main attraction of course are the cute and cuddly dogs and cats that will excitedly welcome you once you step into the cafe. Don’t fret, these furry and adorable creatures are very friendly though they tend to mob you when they get really excited by your presence, which is actually really adorable.

Liz with the cute and friendly dogs at Jangsan Puppy Cafe
How to get there: From Busan subway station, get of at Jangsan station, take Exit 3. Jangsan Puppy Cafe is across Tous Le Jours


The Face Shop store along U-dong Street
3rd stop: Face Shop.  The Face Shop is proudly Korean made so it is understandable why products from The Face Shop in Korea is dirt cheap compared here in the Philippines.  When we went there last September, all Face Shop stores are on 50% SALE. To give an estimate, Face Shop’s 365 Herb Day, which usually costs Php265 in Manila, only costs less than Php40. So yes, even though they are not on SALE, products are still very affordable.

Various Korean facial brands like Etude House, Missha and Tony Moly among others are also everywhere, especially in U-dong, Haeundae-gu.





MUST TRY AND BUY IN BUSAN

Never leave Korea without trying their famous Soju. It's alcohol content varies from about 16.7% to about 45%.
Geonbae! (Cheers in Korea!)

If you are a fan of Korean Barbecue, then you know that eating authentic Korean Barbecue  should top your list when in Korea, you can even partner it with Soju. 


Korean Barbecue at Pig Dream

Be adventurous and try having a haircut in Korea. If you are fond of going to Korean salons, then having your haircut in Korea is a must try. I consider it to be an adventurous move because majority of hair stylists in Korea don't know how to speak english so all you have to do is to show the photo of your preferred hair style and pray that the hair stylist understands what you want. =D


Having my haircut in Jangsan, Busan

Bike or wander in Busan. We haven't tried biking in Busan yet but if ever your guesthouse or you find a place where you can rent a bike, then do so by all means. You can also try this U-Bike website although the site seems complicated. If you're not in luck and can't find any bike rentals, then exploring Busan by foot is not a bad idea either. Just wander around, who knows what you'll discover.
Biking and walking in Gwanggali

The Face Shop skin care products. As I have mentioned, their products are very affordable. Great 'pasalubong' or gifts to your family and friends back home. Shopping at The Face Shop can be pretty addictive. You have been warned.
The Face Shop products




Jul 21, 2014

Visit If You Dare: The 3 Creepiest Trees In The Philippines

Photo by Kaye Pintac
 In the Philippines, the Balete tree is often associated as homes not for just insects, but also for supernatural creatures like tikbalang (demon horse), dwende (elves), kapre (smoking giants), and diwata(fairies).
Urban legend has it that at night, if you drive through Balete Drive in New Manila, Quezon City, a street named after a huge Balete tree that used to stand there in the middle of the road, a White Lady will suddenly appear out of nowhere and try to flag down your vehicle.
But if you really want to get scared, you’ll have to go out to the province and visit these three mystical trees.
At night.
Alone.
These are not your ordinary trees.
Make sure to bring your camera (or phone) to document any unnatural sightings or suspicious sounds emanating from these mysterious local attractions.

Where is it?

Brgy. Campalanas, Lazi, Siquijor

Why see it?

When in Siquijor, don’t miss the chance to visit this century-old Balete tree. Because of its humungous size and eerie outline, this 400-year old tree easily became a tourist spot in the province of Siquijor.
What makes this Balete tree unique is the spring that emanates from the roots of the tree that goes directly to the man-made pool beneath it. It is interesting to note that the locals don’t know where the water is coming from.
Surprisingly, the water is very clean with fish swimming in it. If you want an instant fish spa, you may even dip your feet into the water and the doctor fish or the garra rufa will gladly exfoliate your feet for you. Everything in here is for free but you may wish to give a donation for the maintenance of the place.
As for hair-raising stories about this ancient tree, locals claim that they have seen old little people or elves surrounding the tree when the moon is full and apparitions during rainy nights. It’s up to you to find out the truth at your own risk.

How do I get there?

Get to Siquijor from Manila by taking a 1-hour flight to Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental and then taking another 1-hour ferry ride to Larena, Siquijor from the Dumaguete Port.
Hire a multicab to bring you to Campalanas where the tree is located. It is 10 meters from Siquijor’s National Highway and just few minutes away from Capilay Spring.

Find out the two remaing Balete trees. Continue Reading HERE

* Originally written for and first published on Looloo.com



May 17, 2014

5 Provinces in the Philippines You’ve Probably Ignored But Should Visit

The Philippines has a total of 81 provinces, how many of them have you visited?

Are you the type to stick to the trail and go to the places where tourists usually go, or are you the kind of person who would rather choose adventure, deviate from the norm and take the roads less travelled?

For the curious and adventurous traveler, we put together a short list of Philippine provinces that seriously need more attention.


One of Surigao del Sur’s prides is the Enchanted River in the town of Hinatuan. This entrancing river continues to fascinate tourists and residents alike not just because of its crystal clear water but also because of the many unexplained mysteries that surround it.

It may be reminiscent of Coron’s Kayangan Lake but with its widely spread stories of mystical creature sightings to beautiful fish that can’t seem to be caught, this river has a whole lot of reasons to call itself “Enchanted.”

Not a fan of otherworldly stories? How about this: rivers are generally bodies of fresh water but the Enchanted River has salt water flowing through it. What’s interesting is that there is no visible source of where that salt water is coming from.

While it’s been reported that the river is about 25 meters deep, many still claim that no one has ever reached the bottom of the Enchanted River.

Photo taken from Adrenaline Romance


Another spot that should not be missed when in Surigao del Sur is the Philippines’ “Little Niagara Falls” called Tinuy-An Falls. This three-level white water curtain in Bislig has the widest waterfalls in the Philippines. It’s also said that a rainbow always appears in the area between 9:00 AM to 11:00AM. Definitely another grandeur to behold.

Photo taken by Rawen Balmaña



✈ The easiest route to get to these places in Surigao del Sur from Manila is via a 1.5 hour flight to Butuan City, Agusan del Norte. From Butuan City you can get to either Hinatuan or Bislig by bus with both destinations taking approximately 4 to 5 hours of travel time.



Find out the other remaining province. Continue Reading HERE

* Originally written for and first published on Looloo.com




May 11, 2014

Discover These 5 Hidden Beaches in the Philippines Before Everyone Else Does!

As an archipelago with 7,107 islands, you’ll never run out of beaches to explore in the Philippines. Boracay may get mentioned a lot when it comes to Philippine beaches due to its long stretch of powdery white sand but there are other wonderful beaches to see. It just takes a bit of effort getting to them.
If secluded beaches boasting pristine white sand and a gradient of sapphire and emerald water interest you, then prepare yourself for a rugged journey and don’t forget to pack camping gear as well. These hidden paradises may be difficult to reach, but as the saying goes…sometimes the best things in life don’t come easy.
Casapsapan Beach, Casiguran, Aurora

Photo taken by Ian Limbonis


Situated 4-5 hours away from Baler, Aurora, the sleepy town of Casiguran boasts of a long stretch of white sand beaches that gives Boracay a run for its money.
The rough journey to this secret paradise involves a steep trail and a river crossing which you can do in a small vehicle like a tricycle. However, once you set your eyes on the azure water and sink your feet into the powdery sand, you can really tell yourself that the trek was all worth it.
Most of its areas still remain untouched although there are talks about developing this virgin beach. Now is the time to take the opportunity to visit before it gets commercialized.
Find out the other 4. Continue Reading HERE:
* Originally written for and first published on Looloo.com