A Trace of Bidam and Queen Seondok at Gyeongju

How i plan where to go among many places in south korea? Basically i found an article in CNN Travel listing out 50 beautiful places to go in South Korea. And based on that list, i group it based on the region. Of course i’m not going to cover all coz sometimes certain place is not easy to  reach and not my interest. I skip my previous trip to Gyeongsangnamdo first and will tell about my recent trip to 3 regions for almost 10 days.

My planned is to cover 3 cities under Gyeongsangbukdo which is Gyeongju, Pohang and Yeongdok.


Gyeongsangbukdo Region

Pohang to see Homigot (i remembered that my friend Olivia really want to go to this place) http://asiaenglish.visitkorea.or.kr/ena/SI/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=806298 but it’s too far and hard to reach with public transportation so i give it up. As for Yeongdok which is popular with King crab, i decided not to go to coz i’m alone and i bet i will be in awkward situation again due to “more than 2 portion” system in Korean restaurant. So i end up going to Gyeongju only which a must visit place for someone who really want to know about Silla destiny and the whole city itself is an open museum with historic culture assets.

I took a KTX to Gyeongju for around 3 hours from Seoul station. And from the train station, a city bus to downtown after grabbing myself a Gyeongju city map at the train station. Compared to how important this city as tourism city for korean, the city itself is small. Or i think i’m wrong coz Gyeongju has a University and also a big resort where the building collapsed, killed almost 10 students and injured 100 more around 2-3 weeks after my visit. Maybe the area where i stayed is the old part of Gyeongju. Just at the back of intercity bus and express bus terminal which at the same location scattered love motels and nothing more. But you can tell that many tourists are coming here with many tourist centres and staffs that can speak English.  After some lost and ask for my accommodation, i managed to settle down around 12 noon at my surprising good condition love motel (the best love motel ever) and outside my window was royal tomb!

Gyeongju, every inch of land is basically a living museum, a long Shilla history. It’s totally a big different to see the trace of Shilla history not only in the museum but at every steps you take in Gyeongju. And I love how every tourist attraction you wish to go can be easily reach by foot, bicycle or local bus. How convenience!! Check out local attractions i visited during my 2 nights stay.

i. Bulguksa Temple  – designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage


ii. Gyeongju National Museum – Not enough history lessons? hehehe….visit here for more


iii.  Cheomseongdae Observatory


iv.  Anapji Pond (Imhaejeonji) – Better if you go during the night. The view is daebak!!


v. Gyerim Forest


vi. Daerungwon Tomb Complex (Cheonmachong)   –  Not scary at all …..beautiful


vii. Shilla Millenium Park – Should come during summer for more activities but i’m glad enough to be able  to see the trace of Queen Seondeok and Bidam here


And not to forget to eat Ssambab here… You will complete an experience as a princess here!!!


Why don’t you find more about Gyeongju from here :

1. http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?cid=255885

2. http://www.gyeongju.go.kr/english/open_content/index.jsp


Hapcheon, the Small, Sleepy Town where for a Split Second I thought I met a Bad Guy…..


Watching CSI drama series and reading serial killer books, I always look at their story as a 3rd party, blaming the victim for believing strangers. But I never put myself in the story. Opsss….nothing happen to me, Alhamdulillah. But maybe next time I should think more and always remind myself that I might be the victim.

Travelling solo in South Korea, I always grateful that till now I was blessed to meet nice and good people. Maybe because I become familiar with South Korea or I never meet bad people there,  i tend to feel safe and comfortable travelling alone or asked people for help. But one accident, for a moment gives me a doubt or at least installed a reminder to me that I should be more cautious in believing stranger.

It was an early morning when I left Jinju city to Hapcheon, neighbouring town. I took a bus cost me around 7,000 won and travelled almost an hour with mostly elderly peoples to Hapcheon with my one an only place in mind, Hapcheon Image Theme Park. This theme park is the largest drama & movie set in Korea where famous drama and movie such as Into the Fire, East of Eden, Gaksital and many more used to be filmed here. From the Hapcheon bus station, I took a taxi to the theme park that cost me around 15,000 won (expensive!!!) and almost 20 minutes rides. Hapcheon is a small town, sleepy and quite. So, I’m not surprised that other tourist recommended taking taxi instead of bus coz you will never know when you can get one.

Arrived after a long chat with the taxi driver, paid the entrance fee for 3,000 won if I’m not mistaken i found myself hesitating either to go right or left to start the tour. And I heard a guy voice advising me to go left first in English. I turned around and a Korean guy wearing tracksuit with sleepy face smiling at me and not long after that we somehow ended up touring the whole theme park together.

Having watched some of the dramas and movies filming here, I quickly matched up the drama and movie scene with the building, road, view at the theme park while touring. “Oh, this is where Gaksital saved his girlfriend, this is where Gaksital jumped from the bridge and fight” . My new tour buddy will add some info from the movie and drama that I didn’t watched and 1 hour passed by without we realized. “I don’t know how you come to know this place and have an idea to come here coz even myself, I wouldn’t be here if I don’t have some business to do in Hapcheon” my tour buddy keep repeating that to me. “ Man, I wouldn’t be here if this place not open and been promoting in your tourism website” But I just smile instead of answering like that coz I understand for locals they can’t imagine why a tourist would like to go to a place that locals find it nothing.

Walking out from the theme park, I started figuring out on how I can return back to the bus station. 1. I have to go to the ticket counter and asked the staff to call a taxi but another 15,000 won …emhhhhh 2. Cross the street and wait for a bus and waiting and waiting in the cold winter. And I just say yes for the 3rd option offered by my tour buddy who is willing to send me to the bus station by his car. Upon entering his car and the car start moving, I can’t help asking myself If …if my tour buddy happen to be a serial killer, a psycho, a thief, a bad guy. If anything happen to me, I don’t think I can get any help. I was regretted choosing this option without a long thought. OMG, please help me …. Please..Please ….let my tour buddy be a normal person, a kind person who just want to help a friend.  Panic button was hit!!!

My Tour Buddy “What are you planning to do after this? I think I want to grab a lunch before I leave to Seoul”.

Me “aaaaa…..i have to travel back to Jinju coz not many bus going there from here”

My Tour Buddy “ I see but I can only drive you to Hapcheon bus station”

Me (Thank God) “Its ok. Bus station is good enough” fuhhhhhhh

While waiting for a bus back to Jinju, I keep thanking God for sending  another good guy to me. But thinking that possibilities he can be the opposite freaking me out. And I prayed hard that in the future too, God will send me only good people along my way.  Soon, riding the bus full with elderly people and watching the driver who without any complain and will stop whenever the elder asked him to stop without ringing the bell or at designated bus stand, I smiled …. Somehow this world still has good human being.

Jeonju ….. Hol….Why didn’t I come here earlier?


I heard a lot about Jeonju. A place with the most Hanok style houses in South Korea. But how many is many can it be and how different it is compared to Hanok Village in Seoul? I never give it a second thought and gladly settled with Hanok Village in Seoul’s experience gave me before.

But on one afternoon after my bus safely arrived at Jeonju from Jinju ( sound alike) and a taxi ride to the village, I keep asking either I made a right decision to come here coz Jeonju as for what I saw in 15 minutes just like another city in South Korea. But I was wrong until I arrived at the entrance of the village.

Hundreds of Hanok Style houses upon my eyes. Wait, I think I love it more than what I saw in Seoul.  It has warmth, more beautiful and more welcoming. And I’m so excited that finally I had a chance to stay for 2 nights in Hanok Style house. I have to pay more but it just once and my only experience and I already here, why not to enjoy it to the fullest. Back to past!!!! Slowly…

I can’t get enough of Jeonju. Big and beautiful Hanok style houses converted to coffee shop, restaurant, gallery and accommodation can be found at the main alley. I really took my time, strolling at each alley and enjoy the view, checked out the small and creative shops, and at every back alley you can find new things. And at one time I accidentally found the old confusion school that happen to be the filming site for the famous Korean drama Sungkyuhwan Scandal.

And another must thing to do at Jeonju is to eat Jeonju delicacy. I eat a lot here and fall in love with Jeonju’s food. Jeonju Mixed Rice ((비빔밥/Bibimbap), Rice in Bensprout Soup (콩나물국밥/Kongnamul Gukbab), Loach Soup (추어탕/Chuotang). I really want to eat Korean Table Food (한식/Hanshik) where you can eat full course of Korean traditional food. But this dish only can be cater at least 2 people per course, so for a single traveller like me ..its no..no…This is the only thing I felt very offended to enter hanshik restaurant in Korea.

And you will never regret staying at Hanok style house. Sleeping the old style, on the floor, in the room that may aged more than 100 years, it’s just another special and unforgettable experience. It will be more memorable if your night been entertained by strange sounds and explainable one. Either it was due to the house being old or the aircond or just simply coz I was scared knowing that the only human being occupying the whole house that night was me and me alone. I hope these are the only reason.

Places i went :

Hanok Village itself DSC04085


Omokdae/Pavillion DSC03979


Jiman Village – Mural Village DSC04025


Gyeonggijeon ShrineDSC04177

Jeonju Hyanggyo (Confusion School) – Sungkyuhwan Scandal Filming Site DSC04109


Jeonju Traditional Living Experience Park DSC04073


Jeongdong Catholic Cathedral DSC03968


Pedestrian & Cinema Street DSC04173


What i ate :

Jeonju Mixed Rice ((비빔밥/Bibimbap)DSC04100


Rice in Bensprout Soup (콩나물국밥/Kongnamul Gukbab)DSC04188

Loach Soup (추어탕/Chuotang)20140206_183742


And a must experiance to sleep in one of Hanok  Syle GusthouseDSC03997


More info about Jeonju from this website

1. http://www.jeonju.go.kr/open_content/en/main_page.jsp

2. http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264285

Shinkansen or Bullet Train to Hiroshima …… syuzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

My first time to experienced Japan Bullet Train was on my way to Hiroshima which took me 5 hours and 1 transfer. Without Bullet Train it will took you a day to travel to Hiroshima ( I heard from my Japanese friend)..hahahha.. Or you can fly.

Board your Shinkansen from Tokyo Station and change at Shin-Osaka (change platform) and board another Shinkansen to Hiroshima. Easy, fast, comfortable and at your own convenience as I not reserved my ticket beforehand (not holiday period), I can just hop and off at any time and sit anywhere within the unreserved coach.

I reached Hiroshima around 5.00 something in the afternoon. But as its winter, outside already dark like 8.00 pm. Compared to crowded and busy Tokyo, Hiroshima is very calmed. But in contrast, I had a hard time to find my way at first to Hiroshima Street Car. Hahahha….Yes, there are using electric train simillar to HK tram, roaming on the same road that other transportation such cars are using. After a help from a station staff, I managed to find it and I found out that my IC card is useless here. Another card is used and I just decided to use cash instead. Waiting for my number 2 Stretcar to my accommodation and a map of Hiroshima Stretcar, I boarded it and only to found out that I need to pay only when I get off at my station, fix price 220 yen 🙂 Learn and learn….

It was dark and not many people around at my get-off station. I circled around only to found out that I lost!!! The map or me the one who can’t read it well, I gave up and asked an auntie who happened to passed by. She who can speak a decent english helped me to find the Japanese Style small hotel and only left when we found it at last. I was thankful to her and before she left she wished that I had a great time travelling at Hiroshima!!!! huhuhuhuh….Arigato hozaimaseu

Today must be a day for small and continues problems to happen…hahahahahah….when I arrived at the Japanese style hostel, the owner can’t find my booking and I need to wait. I’m quite nervous and worried but everything was settled later. The kind lady or I can called her grandma showed me my room which I super love…..tired and cold, I just decided to stay in and wake up early for my trip with Natsuki.

Meet Natsuki at Hiroshima station where Natsuki arrived early from her house 1 hour away from Hiroshima city… we took the JRline to Miyajima Island. Being one of Japan’s three most scenic spots and UNESCO, I was thrilled. You can used your JR Pass card to ride a boat but I opt and pay another 2000 yen for 2 days pass that included ferry, cable car and also streetcar usage . We were welcomed by deer, yes a real deer and magnificent view of red coloured O-ttori gate. After a tour at Itsukushima Shrine, we headed to ropeway/cable car to Mt Misen and our hiking was begin. We ate at Machiya Street and back to Hroshima City.

Hiroshima city was calmed and peaceful compared to Tokyo. Beautiful bridge and river cross the city. Without the historic dome left carried the sad and painful Hiroshima Atom story in the middle of the city. Nobody will ever imagined that this beautiful city was involved in first ever atom war. Visit the Hiroshima Museum for better knowledge about what happened on that day. We ended our day with Hiroshima Okonomiyaki style at Hiroshima station.

The next day before I left Hiroshima to Kyoto, I paid a visit to Hiroshima castle to end my visit.

Hiroshima Tour Website : http://visithiroshima.net/about/


JR Pass

I thought I can just buy the JR Pass online and print out the copy of the ticket and exchange it to the real pass once I reach Japan. That was what I believe and knew based on my reading. But I just realised a few days before I left that I can buy it online but it need to be post to me which my departure date is too near and it can’t be done…aiksssss… My nervous mode is activated!!!!

But once I read carefully again..really carefully … I can also buy it from appointed travel agency. As i’m in Seoul, I just went to the most well known travel agency in Korea which is Hana Tour and their branch is in Itaewon. I went there on Monday and thanks to God that I managed to secured my JR Pass and as I went to branch office, I need to pick up on Wednesday, just enough time before I left to Incheon Airport on Wednesday night.

Once you arrived in Japan, you can exchange your JR Pass with a real one at any JR office. I exchanged mine at Tokyo Station as I only going to used mine on my first location which is Hiroshima. After filing up a form and show your passport and stated the first date you are going to used it, tadaaaa… you will receive your valid JR Pass which you can use for all Shinkansen except Nozomi or certain route of Shinkansen, JR subway, JR Bus or JR Ferry unlimited during your chosen period.

JR website : http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/suica-nex/index.html


JR Pass Exchange Order received from Tour Agency


JR Pass received after exchange it at JR Pass office in Japan

One Confused Foreigner Getting Used to Tokyo Subway

Taxi is out of question coz its super expensive and i’m alone. If you do not have any confidence to move around by subway in Tokyo, you also can opt for Tokyo Sky Hop and Off bus to travel to any tourist spot in Tokyo. They offer 1 day pass and 2 day pass with several route you can choose. Check their website.  http://www.skybus.jp/?lang=en&no=&bno=

As Tokyo has around 10 million population and subway is the main public transportation which tend to be super crowded, I opt for IC card. A transportation card which you can top-up and use to skip the hassle of needing to buy a ticket before departing. This card can be used with any subway lines in Tokyo which been operated by several different companies. It also can be used at Kyoto and Osaka but not at Hiroshima (based on my experienced).


The normal ticket


IC card. Mine is PASMO. Other cards also available but all can be used on the same IC slot machine.


Top-up machine

Reading the Tokyo subway map already gave me a headache and finding out the available, the fastest and the cheapest route to commute is out of question. So, I prepared myself beforehand with the how to go to each locations using navitravel (This application can’t be used offline – if i’m not mistaken and its hard to find free wifi in Tokyo). To go to 1 location which required 2 or 3 transfer will cost around 160 yen, so basically I used not more than 800 yen a day for transportation to go to 3-4 attractions a day. And sometimes you can just walk in between locations. So, prepare your comfortable walking shoes and walk alot!!!


Tokyo subway map

After the second day, I had confidence to move around using Tokyo subway. Although it can be really crowded and confusing with several difference trains bound to different places using the same track and platform, take your time to re-confirmed the right train with the digital information panel. And travelling is all about being prepared to be lost and learned. Or why don’t asking Tokyo people to re-confirmed. Believe me, they will help!!!!

Land of Rising Sun : Tokyo

My mind and heart always go to South Korea and never i have a mindset to go to Japan. The next trip i said is to Europe. But being in South Korea which Japan become the nearest country i can go when my student visa ended and my Japanese friends all in Japan for the semester break and without any detail preparation, i flew to Tokyo. I just make sure that my accommodation already booked and paid and also bought JR Pass coz i will not only stay at Tokyo but also Hiroshima, Kyoto and Osaka. JR Pass is very important coz you cannot buy it in Japan. Transportation cost in Japan will burn a big hole of your pocket and if you gonna move around a lot, JR Pass is definitely a must!!! (even it still damn expensive if i convert it to RM..hahaha)

A few days before i left, i still can’t figure what should i do or go in each city. Tokyo especially give me a headache only by looking at the subway map… much complicated than Seoul Metro!!! and i can’t speak any japanese language beside Arigato, Konichiwa, gambate and watashiwa anatawa sukidese…hahahah…But what i learned was, you really need to know at least how to get to your accommodation by subway and if you survive, your days in Tokyo will be easier and pray really hard to God!!!!

My day started as early as 12 midnight at Incheon airport, sleeping at the airport for my early check-in around 5.40 am. Can’t get any sleep at all, i boarded the plane but stranded for 2 hours due to heavy snow and icing…flew to Narita and arrived of course really late. The first thing i did was to connect to wi-fi and kakaotalk my friend Kana to inform her that our plan to meet should be delayed to 3.30 pm instead. Took my bag, found the information counter to ask where should i took the subway.. Follow the signage and in front of me was a a ticket machine which i suppose to use to buy the ticket but i do not know how. Instead of the name of the station, it only show the ticket price. I was glad that the place i stay Sakura Hotel Jimbocho stated the name of the station i should go with price ( ahaaa…now i know why they put it in their information). Choose as the price stated, pay and took the ticket. Just make sure you go to the right subway….not like Malaysia or South Korea, Japan has too many choices of subways/Trains you can choose based on your destination and price and time, lalalala…from the airport to downtown.

I survived with Allah help to arrive at my hotel around 3.20 pm and the first i saw was my friend Kana waiting at the cafetaria of the hotel. hahahahha… I’m alive!!! i told her..ehhehe (believe me i really meant it). Check-in, throw my luggage and carry my backpack, both of us went out directly to explore Tokyo!!! Heavy rain accompanied us to our first destination Sensoji,a famous temple at Asakusa. It was beautiful, more beautiful if the weather is kind. On the road to the temple, many shops selling japan delicacies, and souvenir. We stopped at least 4-5 shops bought and tasted Japan snacks, sweets, breads, etc. Goshhh, i was full  before i reach the temple. From the temple we can actually see Skytree, but due to bad weather, nothing can’t be seen.

The next destination is Tokyo Station. Wow, i’m in Tokyo!!! hahahah…. why i still didn’t felt like i am.. Tokyo Station is so big, so beautiful and too many people!!!! Outside the Tokyo station we walked to Marunouchi Nanadori Avenue to watch illumination. Due to Christmas, Tokyo night was bright and beautiful (I believe even on normal days). We met Kana’s sister who work at Tokyo after her office hour ended and head to Tokyo Midtown at Roppongi. Rain still pouring and we had no option but to stay indoor most of the time. Christmas celebration in Tokyo or Japan is a big deal. Not as a religion festival  but as a holiday that being celebrated by all. And we end our day with dinner at Izakaya along the Happy Street. What a long day for me who didn’t sleep for a night and travelling from a country i’m yet to fully known to totally unknown country, bad weather, and not fully prepared made me exhausted ..too exhausted that i cannot slept well ..And yet tomorrow and the next after tomorrow, i will exploring Tokyo by myself!!! What a day ahead…

Basically my Itinerary in Tokyo for 3 days:

Day 1 : Incheon Seoul to Narita, Japan, Sensoji Temple Asakusa, Tokyo Midtown at Roppongi, Tokyo Station, Marunouchi Nanadori Avenue at Marunouchi

Day 2 : Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observation, Shinjuku, Takeshi Dori, Omotesando at Shibuya, Harajuku

Day 3 : Tsukuji Fish Market, Meiji-Jingu Shrine, Edo Tokyo Museum, Akibahara Electric Town, Ginza, Tokyo Tower


I love this coz i can get a big picture of Tokyo area so that i don’t waste my time, money and energy by grouping the the places i want to go based on location.

Tokyo pictures : https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152116497019171.1073741827.692994170&type=1&l=d4cb8fd141


Site that i found useful for research preparation:

1. http://jprail.com/

2. http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/

3. To download navitime for japan travel for your smartphone

4. Arrived at Tokyo and grab as many as booklet, pamphlet, subway map about Tokyo = This one give me more better  and clearer idea about Tokyo (at least for me)

I will try to give more details on the transportation cost at Tokyo by subway later 🙂 .. Got to sleep and wake up early in the morning to explore Hiroshima with Natsuki… huhuhuhu.. i always end up waking up late lately!!!! OMG!!!