Sunday, 12 May 2013

Day 5: Versailles, Champs-Élysées

Woke up pretty early in the morning cause we have to go to the outskirt of Paris to visit one of the famous tourist spot -- Château de Versailles.

After finishing our brekkie prepared by our host, we walked through the estate to go to the RER station. We are really lucky cause along the way, they have all these stalls selling groceries, it gives us a chance to have a look & feel of how the Parisians goes about their daily lives. 

 Parisian going round their daily lives with their trolley.. 

 Playing with my camera mode.. 

 Fresh chicken with their feathery head..

Wondering what is this? Skinned rabbit..

 Along the way we can feel the vibes of Paris, it is really a very nice walk. It took about 15 mins for us to reach the nearest RER station. RER is a rapid transit system in France serving Paris & its suburbs. To get to Versailles, we have to go by RER C-train & alight Versailles-Rive Gauche station. The whole journey will take about  30min & cost about 6.20 Euro for round trip. 

 @ the gantry of the RER Station

The train itself is packed with tourists & I got a feeling that we came out abit late. 

After we alight at Versailles-Rive Gauche station, we still have to walk about 5-10min to Versailles itself. Along the way, you can get your tickets at various sales counter. We were totally shocked by the long queue, it was then we realised that we came at a wrong day. Versailles is closed on every Monday, so naturally there will be more visitors visiting it on Tuesday. 

But luckily, the queue to get the Paris Museum Pass is not as long as the one queuing just for the Versailles ticket. We got the 2 day Pass which cost 39 Euro, it can gain us access to quite a number of museums we want to visit, that is why we decide to get this. The sale office for this Paris Museum Pass is on the left of the main road leading in front of Versailles. 

Just a tip to those visiting Versailles. Do not queue at the first ticket sales office you see when you step out of the station cause it tends to be the one with the longest queue. There are still like 1 to 2 sale ticket nearer to Versailles itself with shorter queue. 

The square outside Versailles.. Look at the number of tour bus & the amount of people!!

We were quite prepared by the queue into Versailles after looking at those people at the ticket office.. But still, we were really really shocked when we saw the CRAZILY long queue at the square!!!

This is just part of the queue!!

After looking at the queue, we decide that we should go for our lunch first since its already 11plus & we do not know how long we need to queue to get into Versailles.. We went to the Mac nearby & its all about queuing once again... 

 The queue to buy our lunch.. Seems like today is queuing day for us.. 

We went back to queue after our lunch and we took close to 2 hours before we stepped into the security area.. The sun is out to play and alot of the tourists were take the chance to have a tan while queuing in the early spring.. 

 Back to the queue and seems the same as before..
 Taking a rest from the queue and suntan..
Find the back view familiar?? Yes, that is me hiding under the small brochure.. 

Finally we are inside Versailles!!

Once you went into the building, there will be a counter where you can collect the audio guide FOC.. There are different languages for you to choose so feel free to pick whichever that suits you the most.. 

Palace of Versailles itself is a very huge place.. We only went to The Palace and that already took us more than 1.5hours to explore the place.. The walk to The Queen's Hamlet by foot if I do not rem wrongly will take at least 30min.. After looking at the time, we think we will not have enough time to visit all the sites inside and decide to return back to Central Paris.. 

Below are some of the rooms inside Versailles which I like:

 I cannot rem exactly what is this room but I believe this is the Queen's Chamber..
 The place where the King & Queen have their supper..
This is my Favourite -- The Hall of Mirrors
The Coronation of Napoleon
This is just part of the Garden of the Palace of Versailles..

By the time we reached Central Paris, it is already close to 5pm.. After taking a rest, the 4 of us decide to go to the famous Champ Elysees to take a look.. Well, that includes taking a look at the legendary LV flagship store which alot of ladies have been talking about... 

Our wonderful hubby helping us to queue!! :P
WOW!!! That is the only thing I can think of...
That is our damage for stepping into LV!! Opps..

Initially we wanted to have a meal nearby so that we could go and visit Arc de Triomphe after that.. But most restaurants were full and some waitress were staring at our humongous carrier bag & we realised that it might not be a good idea to eat with those bags cause most restaurants are pretty small in the area.. 

So we took a cab back to our B&B and went to eat at a Pizza place nearby.. And it was very sumptuous..

 Hawaiian Pizza
 Some toast with ham and tonnes of cheese
I forgot what is this.. Haha.. 

We bought some chips and drinks from the nearby supermarket so that we can chill at the terrace of our B&B.. But we did not stay out there for very long cause the temperature is 3degrees!! Hahaha.. In the end, we went to my room cause it has the same view!!

 Totally awesome view of the Eiffel Tower from our room.. 

My best travel mates.. :)

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Day 1: Sg to Seoul, Myeongdong

After a close to 7 hours flight on the comfortable SQ ride, we finally reached our destination.. Incheon Internation Airport, the gateway to the sacred land of Kpop & cosmetics!! The airport is really big and we had to take a internal airport train to go to the immigration counter.. 

According to the instruction given by our guesthouse, we can either take airport limousine bus number 6015 or take Arex ( Airport Rail Express).. But we decide to take the limousine bus even though its more expensive than AREX because its more fuss free.. The bus will bring you straight to your destination & save you the trouble of transferring & climbing up/down the stairs during the transfer.. 

In addition, we have a discount coupon for the bus ride as well.. 

Forgive his grouchy face, we only have less than 4 hours of slp the previous night.. 

There are timing for the bus but the average interval is about 20mins.. The bus ride itself will take about 60-70mins into central Seoul.. By the time we reached Myeongdong, its already 530pm and the sky is starting to turn dark already.. 

Lotte Shopping Mall

We alighted @ the last stop of 6015, which is the Sejong Hotel stop.. Felt abit disoriented cause the street is so so busy!! We just follow the direction of the crowd & found the landmark, Pacific Hotel.. Eco-guest is right on top of the street along the hotel.. Within minutes after we alighted, we arrived at our guesthouse!! 

The owner, Mr Kim ( if i am not wrong ) was already waiting for us at the dining area and what surprise me is he can speak fluent mandarin!! He is really very helpful & warm towards us, just like how the review mentioned him..Come to think of it, I should have booked my last night stay with him also.. :(

He brought us to the room personally & helped me with my luggage.. Just a sidenote, the guesthouse does not has a lift so you have to lug your luggage up the stairs.. That is 1 thing you have to take note when booking your stay with guesthouse cause its pretty common over there.. 

Here is how the room looks like ~~

 We are going to slp on the floor tonight.. Fret not, the floor is heated... 
 The small dressing table is so cute.. 
 The room comes with a private bathroom.. 

After freshening & taking a quick rest, we walked towards Myeongdong.. We did not know where we should go, so as usual we just follow the crowd.. I guess that is the best thing to do when you are unsure and we are there!!

First thing first, we went to have our USD changed into Won... There are tonnes of currency exchange over there.. Compare the rates first before changing, the rates differs shop to shop even if they are just beside one another.. But what I heard is, its better to change at the bank itself.. I din get to go there cause we reached on the Saturday night.. 

There are numerous recommended restaurant in Myeongdong.. In the end we went for the cold noodles.. According to a travel prog, korean will go for cold noodles when the weather is cold so we are trying to be a local here.. :P

The restaurant we zoomed in is very near the money exchange we went to ( rates not the best), its behind the busy street.. Check around for this stall Basic House, the walkway leading to the restaurant is on the left hand side of Basic House and on your left should be a nature republic store.. 

Once you are in the restaurant, they will serve you this super yummy soup in a small cup.. (beef? pork?) It is so nice, I kept asking the ajuma to help me refill it.. hehe.. 

 Cold noodles in clear soup.. 
 Spicy cold noodles with raw stingray 
This is just his default mode that day due to lack of sleep.. 

Frankly speaking, I am not sure if we can drink the cold soup.. Cause from what I observed, the locals just leave the cold soup intact, so I just follow them. 

Recommendation: For 1st-timer should come and try it out. Noodles are really chewy and I like the pear inside the noodles.The cold soup one is pretty bland but you can taste a tinge of sweetness in it, it comes with 2 small slice of boiled beef. The spicy noodle is skewed towards the sweet spicy kind, so for ppl who dun take spicy stuffs, I think its still pretty manageable. The raw stingray is chewy as well. For me, I dun think I will come back for the noodles but will definitely come for the complimentary refillable hot soup (hehe).. For Mr Mah, he say he quite like it.. 

After dinner, its only 7 plus.. We walked around Myeongdong to have a feel of the bustle & hustle of one of the world's most expensive rental place.. There are so many different cosmetic & skincare shops just along 1 street itself & I nearly lost my control.. To name a few, there are Etude House, Laniege, Tony Moly, Missha, Nature Republic, Face Shop, Skinfood, Beyond, Clio, Innisfree, It's Skin, Banila Co.. (Where is my HANSKIN!?!) 

 Roadside stalls in Myeongdong
 Myeongdong Theatre on the main street
 Look behind me, the yellow leaves & the amount of ppl!! 
 Nature Republic occupies the whole building.. Btw, this is not the only Nature Republic in Myeongdong.. 
 3 storey Uniqlo.. And you need to queue to get in!!
 Seoul famous snack.. Tornado Potato Chips.. 

We went back & rest pretty early cause we need to catch a flight to Jeju the next morning and we also din sleep much the previous night..

Good night Seoul.. 

Anyway, one thing I want to mention & am perplexed on is how come the price of products for the same skincare brand will cost differently at different stores in Myeongdong.. I bought a makeup remover wipe @ Store A for 13800 and the same thing is selling for 11800 @ Store B.. Store A is located at the busiest street of Myeongdong, whereas Store B is on another less busy street.. 

PS: There are a number of brands participating in the korea tourism board Coupon Service. You can print those coupon out and enjoy discount from the brand.. 


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Seoul Fun Itinerary

Just came back from the 8 days Korea trip.. Weather was getting colder when we reached there but we are more prepared this time round after the Europe trip.. This is the 1st trip which I did not plan that much & followed the guidebook like its a survivor guide.. I felt rather insecure but I like the surprise factor it brings to the trip.. 

There are some preparations beforehand cause being in a foreign country which most ppl doesnt understand your language can be challenging.. I read up some itinerary of fellow travellers on the net to have a rough guide of what are the must-do & must-visit places in Seoul.. 

Below are the brief itinerary of my 8 day adventure.. 

Day 1: SG to Seoul
Arrival in Seoul @ 330pm
Check into Eco-Guest
Walk around Myeongdong 
Dinner @ Hamhueng Naengmyeon Cold Noodles

Day 2: Seoul to Jeju
Board plane @ Gimpo Airport
Arrival @ Jeju

Check into HK Jeju 2 
Manjanggul Cave - 2000won

BBQ dinner @ restaurant near hostel

Day 3: Jeju
Hallasan - Up via Eorimok Trail
                - Down via Yeongsil Trail 
Cheonjeyeon Fall
Dinner @ Dongmun Night Market

Day 4: Jeju to Seoul
Board plane @ Jeju International Airport

Arrival in Gimpo Airport
Hotel Echae 2
Ewha University neighbourhood
Hongik University neighbourhood

Day 5: Seoul
Gyeongbokgung Palace - 3000won

Lunch @ Tosokchon
Bukchon Hanok Village
Dinner @ Myeongdong Gyoza
Check in Hotel Echae 3

Day 6: Seoul
Nami Island

Cheongyechong Stream
Dinner @ Gwangjang Market

Day 7: Seoul
Noryanjin Fish Market
Dragon Hill Spa

Dinner @ Tosokchon
Namsan Tower 


Day 8: Seoul
Board plane @ Incheon Airport
Home Sweet Home!!

This is not my initial itinerary but the actual one. Sunset really early in Korea so it limits the number of places you can go per day. We started every day around 9 plus in the morning and end around 10plus but still, we cannot went to all the places planned..

Monday, 22 October 2012

Day 4: London to Paris, Eiffel Tower, Rue Cler

We woke up really early this morning cause we have a 9am train to catch to Paris.. I was craving for the English brekkie we had yesterday morning but since we are not sure how long it will take from our hostel to the train station, we just went downstairs to the canteen of our hostel for brekkie.. 

Took a cab to the train station & took us less than 10 min.. Everyone was so quiet on the cab ride there & not looking very excited as well.. Wondering isit because we are going to leave London or its more of the after effect for waking up so early.. 

Arriving @ St Pancras train station & I was rather surprised by how 'modern' it looks..  It is definitely not as old as I thought it to be.. Erm.. Think I watched too much Harry Potter & got influenced by it.. 

 Outside St Pancras Station..

I was searching high & low for a mailbox before we went to the station but couldnt find any near our hostel.. Luckily after the check-in area in the station, there is 1 available beside the information counter.. The waiting area was pretty crowded with travellers like us.. The boarding is just like when you are at the airport.. You must wait for your gate to open before you can move to the boarding area & usually it will only open 15-20min before departure time.. 

 On the travellator up to the boarding area.. See, its pretty modern right... 
 Finally found our cabin & waiting to board the train with our big luggage.. 
 Time to camwhore while waiting for the train to depart.. 

I was quite excited to see the scenery along the way towards Paris.. Its so different from what we usually see here in Asia.. Farms, windmill, rivers, small mountains etc.. Everything was a new concept to me..... I felt like a mountain-turtle!!

We decide to explore around & walk to the food cabin, leaving the guys to catch their beauty slp.. For someone who has not taken any train ride apart from our MRT since 5 years old.. Eating on the train is a novelty to me & seeing a small eatery is even more so... And this leads to us buying microwaved food @ SGD13!! 

Upon arrival @ Gare du Nord we went around trying to make seat reservation for our upcoming train rides.. This is the downside of getting Eurail, you still have to pay additional to guarantee u a seat in some countries, France & Italy is one of them.. And its not cheap to get a seat reservation.. Like for ours, from Paris to Bern, we have to pay 21euro per pax for First Class seat but that includes a meal onboard.. 

Took a cab to our B&B near Eiffel Tower.. The ride is so cheap!! OK, it is still like 10euro for a 10-15mins ride but after the taxi culture shock we had in London.. Paris taxi fare is relatively cheap in comparison.. On the taxi ride, we also notice some differences between London & Paris.. 
 The road is wider than London.. 
And there are leaves on the trees already!! Spring is round the corner.. 

Our B&B is right opposite a school & the security is very good.. You will need to have access card to get inside & there is a guard around.. Apparently it is a high-end residential area in Paris.. Our B&B host is already waiting for us at home & welcome us warmly.. She is so so friendly & helpful.. Recommending places for us to go, guiding us on how to go, where is must-see etc etc.. I really love her man.. 

Did I forget to mention that our B&B is a penthouse!! It is 2 storey & has a terrace overlooking the school & the most important attraction of Paris -  Eiffel Tower!! 

This is the exactly what you see when you are at the outdoor terrace!!

After freshening up & resting on the cosy bed of our B&B.. We went for a walk around the neighbourhood & found a cafe along the way towards Eiffel Tower.. The seats outside the walkway were all taken up, whereas inside is so empty.. 

Lunch of the day that was taken @ 4pm.. Beef Tartar & Barammundi.. 

After lunch, we continue the walk towards Eiffel Tower even though we could just take a public transport there.. Walking can let us look at more things & get to enjoy the feeling of walking under the sun with a cool breeze.. We just look at the Eiffel Tower & walk in the same direction of where it is, having no idea where we are.. 

 Neighbourhood of Paris.. 
Suspended subway trail.. Identical to our mrt track.. 

Along the way towards Eiffel Tower, there are alot of souvenir shops selling small Eiffel Tower key chain ( in all sorts of colors), tabletop display, drawings, paintings etc.. DO NOT rush into buying your souvenirs cause MOST of the shops carry the same souvenirs & price differs from shop to shop.. 

Example: 1 shop might be selling the keychain @ 5 for 1Euro, another shop might be selling the same keychain @ 4 or 6 for 1Euro.. Gauge the situation & try to bargain with the sellers nicely, you might be surprised on how much discount you can get.. 

PS: For those who will be going to Notre Dame, there is a small souvenir street beside it, on the left hand side of Notre Dame.. According to the travel guide, the souvenir there is cheaper.. I went there before & did a small comparison.. Certain things are cheaper in comparison but NOT all & their selections might be slightly different from those at Eiffel Tower as well.. So if you think you really like whatever you are holding in your hand already & think its within your budget, just get it!!

After passing tonnes & tonnes of souvenir shops along the Seine River, we finally reached our destination -- Eiffel Tower.. It is so HUGE!! I felt so small & tiny standing right in front of it...... 

 Taken from the side of the Eiffel Tower where there is a small park..
Below the tower where we get the ticket office is.. 
Looking so small & tiny under the Tower.. 

We were ahead of our meeting time with Billy & Lishan.. So we went to the square in front of Eiffel Tower to take picture.. Frankly I think its quite a good spot to admire Eiffel Tower cause there is no blockage.. This is also where we sat later to watch the Eiffel Tower light show at night.. 

 I love this picture!! 
Mr Mah feeling tired already.. 

Finally it was time for us to go up to Eiffel Tower.. The ticket we booked online has a specify timing for you to get INTO the queue for the lift and the staffs are quite particular about it.. They will not allow you to queue even if you are there 5mins before your time slot.. 

 This is the queue for the lift with pre-booked ticket online.. 
After 40mins, we are finally nearing the end of the queue.. 
Did you see those ppl queuing below? That is the line to buy the entrance ticket if you did not pre-booked online!!

Upon reaching the 2nd level of the Eiffel Tower, my feet starts to get wobbly.. Please do not be deceived by your eyes when u look at the tower from below, thinking the 2nd level is abit on the low side.. I am glad we did not buy the ticket to the summit, I doubt I will have the courage to stand near the railing at all.. It is also a blessing that we did not choose the summit cause the queue for lift up there via 2nd level of Eiffel Tower is crazy!! 

This is what greeted me when I stepped out onto the observatory deck... 

Breathtaking view of River Seine.. Time seems to have stop for this beautiful city.. 
Look at how tall we are versus the buildings surrounding us.. 

And the camwhoring session starts after we get accustomed to the height.. 
 I took this without him noticing.. Quite nice right.. 
The lighting looks really nice & everything looks really soft & gentle.. 
On the other side of EIffel Tower.. 
Palais de Chaillot, quite a famours spot to take pic of Eiffel Tower
Finally a shot of us together.. 
One of the most romantic sunset I had ever seen..

It is totally worth the queue & wait to come up to Eiffel Tower.. The view is simply breathtaking & awesome.. Especially so during sunset, that explains the queue downstairs to come up.. The golden hue further enhance the beauty of Paris & gave it a more romantic touch..

After touring the Eiffel Tower, its already 830pm but the sun has not set yet.. And the highlight of the day is just about to start -- The Eiffel Tower Lightshow!!  We decide to go to the grassy area where we took pictures earlier to watch the show.. When we reached the bottom of the Tower, its already lighted up.. Words cannot described how I feel at that point of time.. I can just say, Paris really live up its name as the City Of Romance.. 

 Billy & Shan with lighted Eiffel Tower
Our turn.. 
Look at the number of people behind us, all waiting for the show to begin.. 

We waited for 15mins & the show begins on time @ 9pm sharp.. To many rational people, the light shows is just the Eiffel Tower blinking lights for a duration of 5mins together with the laser beam on the top.. To another group of irrational people, including me, it just make the night looks more beautiful with its sparkle.. 

Eiffel Tower before the light show.. 
Light show started - Can you see the sparkle??
 I still like to take picture in black & white in Paris.. Gives a totally different feel..

Lying on the cold & damp grass, enjoying the cool weather & the lightshow.. A sudden surge of emotions overcome me.. Its a feeling of blissfulness & peace.. Paris, thanks for mesmerising me with your beauty & charm.. I will definitely be back.. 

After the lightshow, we make our way to Rue Cler.. A frenz has introduced me a restaurant before I come to Paris & it is only 10min walk away from Eiffel Tower.. Along the way to the restaurant, we passed by a small park nearby & I took this picture.. 

Bye Eiffel Tower.. We will meet again.. 

Rue Cler is one of the best market street in Paris where the locals like to go.. The restaurant which we are going is one of the locals favourites as well.. When we reached there around 930pm, the restaurant is packed with the locals.. We are the only asians & maybe even the only tourist there.. 
The restuarant where I had the best meal throughout my trip.. 

We ordered a number of starters to share & each of us ordered different main course so that we could try more thing.. If I do not rem wrongly, they have different set meals everyday, do check it out with the staffs.. They are really friendly & helpful, whoever says French is a bunch of snobs & selfish people must have been down on their luck to meet those minority there.. And do order their house wine, its really good & we totally enjoyed it.. 

Our starters - Escargot, Chicken soup ( a tad too salty), Foie Gras ( Billy said tasted like salted egg)

Our main course - Pork Stew, Super yummy steak (how i miss this!!), Marinated Chicken breast with herbs & Spice 

We had a really satisfying meal at the restaurant & by the time we finished which is like 11pm, the place is still pretty crowded and its a Monday night!!! 

Look at how red our faces are.. 
 How the exterior of the restaurant looks like.. Looks pretty cosy isnt it?

We were lucky to get a cab back right at the doorstep of the restaurant & took us back to the comfort of our B&B in this chilly night.. Goodnight Paris..