Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Rainy Affair in Phuket

Prior to booking our tickets to Phuket, I remembered making a short research and concluded that the rainy season in Phuket ends in October and November is already considered as the peak season. However,  the conclusion I made was totally wrong. We found out that the time that we were in Phuket at the end of November was the tail end of the rainy season which is the worst! We were there only for 3 days and it was raining all day from the minute we touched down at the airport until the morning we check out from our hotel on Sunday morning. Ok maybe not all day (i was exaggerating as usual, haha) but it did rain about 60% of the time and we didn't get any chance to swim in the sea without being chased by the sudden pour of heavy rain. If the weather is good, i really do think that the Patong Beach is perfect for a dip in the sea and also sunbathing. From what I heard, Patong is the safest beach whereas other beaches especially the ones in Kata/Karon is quite dangerous. Luckily, island hopping was not on our plan. We were still traumatised by our Langkawi boat experience in March last year.

We stayed at the Amata Resort Patong which is about 10-15 minutes walk from Patong Beach. I was torn between staying at a beachfront hotel or a bit further away from the beach , you know why. So I booked this hotel with that in mind. It has a balcony that overlooked the city and the swimming pool. The hotel has 2 swimming pools which is located at the ground floor and on the roof. However, because of the rain we did not get to swim in it. The rooftop pool was very basic and I was a bit in doubt about its cleanliness.The room itself is spacious as well as the bed. However, the floor was uncomfortable as it gets sticky and lack of mats / carpeting made it worse. What's best about the hotel is that its close proximity to where the action is which is the Jungceylon Mall and Bangla Road. Although it's quite close to Bangla Road, it's at a quiet end and you don't really hear the noise. For Muslims, this hotel is within close proximity to a few arab/indian halal restaurants. However, the popular Kusuma Restaurant is quite far from this place (25-30 mins walking distance). It's much nearer to Novotel. Take note that the arab/indian halal restaurant is quite pricey. Well, generally, everything in Phuket is expensive except for massages. It only cost 250baht for a foot massage and around 300baht for full body massage.. really really cheap compared to the prices here in Malaysia.

We would love to go to see the Fantasea show, but we didnt have enough time to do so. On the last day we booked a car from Phuket_Easy_Tour for a half day city tour. It costs us THB3,200 which is quite pricey i think but its easy to deal with them. Their agent is very responsive to all your queries and you can settle the booking online. We got to visit Wat Chalong, Promthep Cape lookout point, a tour of the Phuket city as well as shopping for local snacks at Pornthip Phuket (you'll be spoilt for choices here and the snacks all looks delish and it's really had to resist buying them). The tour agent arranged lunch for us at Gaddafi restaurant which is located near to the Mosque and it was delish! Totally recommended! The city tour was supposed to end with a sunset tour but we skipped that as we had to go to the airport at 5.00 pm as we have to catch our flight. Well, that pretty much sums up our  trip to Phuket last year. Hopefully the next time we come the weather will be kind to us... 

View from the hotel balcony

A rainy night in Patong
Jungceylon Mall

NaRaYa on discount! Credit card accepted here at the Kanjana Shop
The ever happening Bangla Road. This is very early in the night. We did not dare to go there late at night as we were with our daughter

massage place just 3 minutes walk from the hotel
Patong Beach - the rain is about to hit the beach
Patong Beach
Wat Chalong

View from Promthep Look out Point

Kusuma Seafood
food is so so only
Thai Iced Tea- Must Try!
Banana Fritters
Mango & Sticky Rice  - Must Try!!!
heavenly tomyam @ Gaddafi
Fressh fish @ Gaddafi
Bought this at Family Mart
Pornthip Phuket


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Jeju: The Island of Three Many (Random Stuffs)

Korean Air

This was my first time flying with Korean Air. The first flight that I took was the connecting flight to Jeju from Gimpo Airport.  I was surprised to see that it was a huge carrier and thought that the flight would be empty.  Boy, I was wrong as the flight quickly became full a short while after that.  

The short flight was pleasant and I have no complaints.  But I noticed that the seats in the aircraft serving the locals are a bit small - if you're a slightly large person you can just barely fit in the seat. I also took Korean Air for my flight to return KL and it was at par with MAS except that the halal food served is at best edible. But I don't really mind about  that. What I do mind is that check in process at the Incheon Airport took so long and I'm kinda surprised with that. So next time make sure you have spare ample time for the check in process if you intend to do some Duty Free shopping after that.

our flight to Jeju

Gimpo Airport.

Renting Pocket Wifi

These days Wifi is something that I cannot live without. ;-) I have had good experience in Sydney with the Yes Optus! Data Sim Card so i decided to rent a Pocket Wifi. There are a few options out there but at that point of time I decided that it most worth to go with SRoaming Pocket Wifi. The actual rental fee was KRW7,700 per day but when I picked up the pocket wifi at the airport, the guy manning the booth mentioned that there was a further discount. So the fee was KRW5,000 per day which is so worth it! Do take note that if you intend to travel to Jeju, you have to inform the person manning the counter as it requires a different type of pocket wifi. It was fortunate for me that I asked that day as I was given the one which only works in Seoul! It was my mistake for not detailing it out when I make the reservation online. You can book the pocket wifi in advance through their website, just to be safe, make sure you do that. 

I was having trouble at first to find their counter at the Incheon Airport. It have moved from the arrival floor to the departure Floor (5th Floor if Im not mistaken - be sure to double check.) The booth was towards the end of the airport and the booth was one of the last booths behind. I went round and round the place so many times I almost gave up when I realized that they used a different name on their signage. Their booth is botth No. 35 but the name they used was SRT instead of SRoaming. Dang! When I came back to the place a few days later to return the pocket wifi, I noticed that it had changed the booth name to the correct one. So make sure about the booth number to save you from hassle. 

there are a lot of booths in this area. mostly travel agents
SRoaming Counter - #35. It's the last booth
My lifeline

(So called) Hidden Gem Shopping Place in Namdaemun

I only had a few hours to spare on Friday morning before my flight back to KL . My original 
plan was to head out to Namdaemun to buy some brooches and then to Dongdaemun to look for blankets (i have a knack for blankets). I went out as early as 9.30 am and reached Namdaemun around 10 or slightly before 10. It was just 1 stop away from where I stay. I was a little unsure as to wether the e-lengdang (the building which has a lot of stalls selling brooches and accessories) was already opened at that time but I was relieved to see that they were. If you're in Malaysia, most of the shops are still closed at this time of the day. They only open at 11.00 am and some even at 12 pm! Most of the shopkeepers were having 
breakfast and some are already at their stalls crafting jewelerries. It looked like I was the only shopper at that time but they minded their own business and it did not felt awkward at all. I only bought a few brooches as they were quite expensive. 

After spending like half an hour at the place, I proceeded out the place and decided to just walk around and do some ppl watching since it was still early. Some of the shops were open and some was just about to open but there were still not many shoppers and the roads were 
clear. I totally love the ambience at that time. Not far from the e-lengdang, I stumbled upon an alley where there was a shop selling Korean cookwares and cuttleries. At first I was quite unsure if I wanter to walk into the alley but somehow i did. I explored a bit further inside, and somehow went inside an entrance and bammm.. there it was a bazaar filled with local stuffs like comforters, clothes, accessories, toys, handphone casings, souviniers and everything in between! there were a few floors and there were even floors dedicated to wedding / bedding stuffs, souviners , cookwares etc. It was like i hit a jackpot! (yes, drama.. haha) It was like a wholsales centre or something. Im not sure if this place is actually popular but I did not know anything about it before this.

And after that, my KRW was drained in no time. huhuhu.. one of my most prized acquisition was the jewellery box which costed me KRW 40 k (if im not mistaken) . That piece easily costs KRW70k in Insadong. So I scrapped my plan to go to Dongdaemun and spent all the time that I had at that place. Half a day is certainly not enough to explore the maze of alleys in the bazaar *sigh*.. Boy, how I wished I had the whole day ! Just be sure to be prepared with cash money as some shops do not accept credit cards. 

On another note, I was surprised almost all shops in Jeju accept credit cards including restaurants and small souvinier shops. You'll be surprised! and one thing that amazes me the most is how fast it takes to swipe ur cc South Korea. In Malaysia it takes ages to verify ur cc at the cashier at the wrath of people queing behind you....

Arrived Seoul quite late the day before. This is Myeongdong at 11 pm.
The alley I was talking about is near the yellow signage
I love!!

Bundles of comforters. I did not buy any though as I have spent all my money on something else ;-)

Buying Korean CDs in Myeongdong

Those who knew me will know that I'm a K-Drama junkie. I also listen to some Korean music as well. Mostly i listen to kdrama soundtracks and I dig Leessang. During my last trip to Myeongdong in 20011, I was not able to find any CDs store in the area. So I googled and found this guy's blog post about buying CDs in Myeongdong and I succeeded in finding the shop! I agree with him that shop #2 is the cheapest. I tried to find Leessang old CD - Assura Balbata but it's really  difficult to find :( . However, I'm still contented with my loot of CDs during this trip :D 

Loot :D. Stuffs bought in Jeju and Seoul. CDs on the bottom right.

Sejong Hotel

I picked Sejong Hotel as the place to put up the night due to its location. It's situated in Myeongdong - a shopping heaven and very very close to the metro station and the Airport Coach Bus Stop is right in front of its doorstep  - what else do you need? :D I will definitely come back to this hotel in the future if I return to Seoul (hopefully). 

Definitely recommended! 

Sejong Hotel Entrance
Take bus 6015 to go directly to the airport. Super cheap.

Jeju Cuisines

These are some Korean Foods that I had in Jeju. I had one of the best bibimbap at one of the Korean Restaurant near the Lotte Duty Free area at the Jungmun Resort Complex. I think it's because of the sauce (gochujang if im not mistaken). The ahjumma seems pretty upset and refuse to give me a second helping of the sauce when I requested it.. me and my friends were perplexed but we guessed maybe the sauce is expensive or something.. But to tell you the truth, I may had to much bibimbap during this trip I've had enough of it after the 6th day. erk... 

I only can take the abalone porridge.
this one is a no go for me. too adventorous
this one too. i wish they had salmon or tuna
the yummiest bibimbap of all!

bibimbap (again) at the airport
fell in deep love with pascucci hot choc

New Year Hotel Prices

Ok this is digressing from the whole topic, but i just have to share this amazing finding. I found out very recently that hotel prices are very-very cheap this week (1st week of 2014). I'm not sure if this is the norm, but it's really cheap yo! (In Malaysia, that is) Even for 5 stars hotels the prices are really worth it.. So, I'm making a mental note to check this out early next year to see if my theory of hotel prices are really cheap during early of the year is actually true. :D