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The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace

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S-21

S-21 Prison Museum

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Russian Market where you can find anything here

Vibrant night lights

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Busy, hectic, messy, vintage but yet developing and vibrant; the best words to describe the city of Phnom Penh. As the Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh is now the centre of economic and governance. Used to be ruled under French, a lot of French colonial architecture can still be found in the cities. French language still also holds a privileged place in Cambodian society and widely spoken especially among the educated members of the older generation.

Behind the current developing state, Phnom Penh keeps Khmer’s dark history. The city becomes the silent witness for the worst genocide history in 20th century.  Up to 2,000,000 Cambodians, nearly a quarter of the country’s then population were mass-killed. The remaining of the victims (bones and the clothing) have not been excavated in the memorial park at Choeung Ek and the Killing Fields and (Tuol Sleng) S-21 Prison is now opened as a museum to public as a commemoration to the victims.

I did not visit the memorial park and the Killing Fields, but the (Tuol Sleng) S-21 Prison Museum. It was already heart-wrenching enough for me. The feeling of walking through the memorial places of the mass killing has never been not soothing at all. However I learnt to understand how the genocide was carried out and how the aftermath still affects the people in Cambodia today.

If the memorial park is too disturbing, try The Royal Palace. The grant architectures remind me of the Royal Palace of Thailand. The complex is not as complex as the Thai’s and it is easier to explore too. Guided tour is also available for visitors. I did not spend too long at the palace compound, probably less than an hour as we still had the next stop to visit ; RUSSIAN MARKET!

Russian Market, what more can I say…. shopping, shopping and shopping! The place is very huge to the extend you may get lost here. It’s pretty similar as Chatucak Market in Bangkok. You can find almost everything here. There are actually 2 main markets in the city, Russian Market and Central Market. My driver was the one who recommended the Russian Market. Well, the locals are always be the best tour guide, aren’t they?

The night life in Phnom Penh is more vibrant compared to Siem Reap. The riverside is where the most swarmed with tourists. The innermost part of the city is the alive at night with many cafes and restaurants around. Every night, there will be a night market held in the area, goods sold varies from clothes, arts and handmade accessories to local food. It is better for ladies travellers to wear modest clothing while in Cambodia. Although there are many Caucasians, sexy attire still attracts attention and it can be uncomfortable. I, myself was annoyed with the unwanted attention from those wandering eyes because of my tank-top.

After all, visiting Phnom Penh is another unforgettable experience. For those who love to blend in authentic South East Asian culture, Phnom Penh is the perfect place to show them all.

hahoe4Hahoe Folk Village , or in korean 안동하회마을 is a traditional village from the Joseon Dynasty. It is located in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk. The village holds an important value for Korean culture and history and is listed as one of the World Heritage sites by UNESCO.

The clan that used to live in this village was the Ryu clan of Pungsan. The village preserves the old traditions of clan-based village and architecture style from Joseon era. The village is also known as the birthplace of famous scholars such as Gyeongmam Ryu Un Ryong and Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong.

Walking around the village somehow brought me the vision of how the people during Joseon era lived. Inside the thatched roofs, the traditional interior is well-preserved. During my visit there, there was an old grandfather demonstrated the making of traditional basket. He was nice enough to take picture with people too…

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Another unique thing about the village is that the aristocrats lived together with the commoners. The largest home can be distinguished from its large tile-roofed, is located in the middle of the houses with thatched roofs.

hahoe2Upon entering the village, I noticed there are masks displayed around, carved in different facial expressions. These masks are used in the dramatic mask dance and shamanistic rituals which is the special tradition from the village. The tradition is to poke fun of the yangban and apostate monks and a way to relieve some of the oppression of the hierarchical society through satire. Visitors can see the mask dance performance in the month of January. 

Towards the exit, there are Korean traditional games such as the seesaw or Neolttwigi and the swingsI tried the seesaw, but although it’s a girls’ game, it is challenging for me. You have to synchronise your jump with your partner. As for the swings, it is slightly different from the normal swing in which we sit down. Koreans stand up while swinging.

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What impress me the most is the scenery surrounding the village. The village is located just next to the Nakdong River, where we can see the magnificent Buyongdae Cliff. 

And if you come in spring, don’t miss the chance of walking in between cherry blossom trees

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Website: http://www.hahoe.or.kr

 

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Bulguksa Temple 불국사 the most important buddhist temple, located in Gyeongju. It is another relic that was designated as a World Heritage List by UNESCO. It was built in Silla era and was famous for its stone relics.

Just before we reach the ticketing gate, there is a small park where cherry blossom trees grow. In spring, the cherry blossom flowers blooms and the trees full of these pretty pinkish-white flowers.

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After entering the gate, we still need to walk for about 10-15 minutes to reach the temple site. Since the temple is located quite a distance from the car park, it is very serene and quiet. While walking, visitors can breath a fresh air from the trees naturally grow along the walking path.

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The temple went for a few cycles of renovation. So it did during my visit that time, so I did not see the complete site of the temple. The most distinct features of the temple are the pagodas, Dabotap 다보탑 and Seokgatap 석가탑. Both pagodas are listed as Korean National Treasures nos. 20 and 21. Buddhist visitors are seen taking their turns to pray in front of the pagodas.

Within the temple complex, there are a few other national treasures : the Lotus Flower Bridge Yeonhwagyo 연화교, the Blue Cloud Bridge Cheongungyo 청운교 and the White Cloud Bridge Baegungyo 백운교, the seated gilt-bronze Vairocana Buddha statue and the seated gilt-bronze Amitabha Buddha statue, and the stone-lantern stupa.

 

One of the distinctive features of the temple, Seokgatap

One of the distinctive features of the temple, Seokgatap 석가탑

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Exploring the site of the temple, I reached the Geugnakjeon. In Korea tradition, pig is an animal symbolises wealth and good fortune. It is also believed that the animal drives away the evil spirits.

Within the structure of the Geunakjeon, there is a hidden pig. Finding it will be a bit tricky. I found it because there was an English-speaking tour group there, so I took my chance to listen to her too :p. The tour guide showed the location of the hidden pig, which is behind the Chinese-written ‘Geugnakjeon’ signboard.

Gotcha!

Gotcha!

The golden pig statue was placed in front of the Geunakjeon. It is said that those who touch it will be lucky and bless with good fortune. So don’t forget to try this tradition and see if you’ll get lucky!

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Website (in Korean): www.bulguksa.or.kr

Admission: 
Adult (over 19): 4,000KRW
Youths (13-18 yrs old) / Group (over 30 people): 3,000KRW / 2,500KRW
Children (7-12 yrs old) / Group (over 30 people): 2,000KRW / 1,500KRW
Children (under 7) / Group (over 10 people): Free / 1,000KRW

Opening Hours: 7AM-6PM (Ticket booth closes at 5.30PM)

Mount Seorak is one of my most memorable spot in Korea. I’ve been hearing good review about the mountain from many people who visited the place before. It was designated as the 5th national park and also a nature preservation in Korea.

The mountain has multiple hiking courses and because Koreans LOVE HIKING, it is one of the most popular hiking spot in Korea! As for me, I have never enjoyed hiking before. So, initially the itinerary to visit the mountain did not excite me at all.

Luckily the cooling weather in the month of April made the hiking enjoyable. Indeed, as it is a national park, you can expect to breath the fresh air. sorak

To go up the mountain, we need to board on the cable car. The cable car station is located about 10-15 minutes walk from the gate. While walking, visitors can take picture of the beautiful scenery of the mountain, cliffs and cherry blossom trees (if you come in spring season). I believe the national park serves different sceneries in every season.

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Cable Car Station

Be prepared to queue to board on the cable car. Even though we came before 9AM, we have to wait for about 45 minutes for our turn.

While waiting, our tour guide brought us to see the Great Unification Buddha statue which is located very near to the cable car station. Not only we can see the statue and pray if you are a buddhist, but also we can enjoy the scenery surrounding. The statue is 14.6m high and it is the largest seated bronze Buddha in the world. The Buddha or also called “Tongil Daebul 통일대불” is seated on the 4.3m high lotus pedestal. 

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The Great Unification Buddha

There is a rocky river with the mountain as its background. Such a beautiful scenery.. There are 2 bridges which I did not cross over. But I read from other sources that if we cross over the bridge, there is Shinhungsa Temple 신흥사. It was unfortunate that I did not have time to visit the temple.  

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Finally, it’s time to go up the mountain!

The weather when I went up was not friendly at all. It was foggy and nothing could be seen at all. Once I reached the cable car station at the top of the mountain, I saw a staircase where it leads to the path towards Gwongeumseong. It was too foggy, so we could not go up since it is dangerous and miss our chance to see the peak too 😦

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We stayed at the top for about half-an-hour. There are cafe where visitors can buy some snacks and coffee too.

Despite of the foggy weather, I really enjoy my hiking experience at Mount Sorak. I don’t mind visiting the mountain again when the sky is clear so I can climb up to the peak 😉

 

Jeju offers more places to visit than what I’ve expected. Another attraction that is famous as a tourist spot in Jeju is Miniature Park 제주미니랜드. The park displays the smaller replicas of famous buildings around the world.

I remember visited something similar to Miniature Park in Shenzhen.However when I visited Shenzhen’s was more than 5 years ago, so I don’t have much memory about it. So going to Miniature Park somehow help me to recall back the feeling. 

A few miniature buildings displayed here are the Forbidden City, Eiffel Tower, Pisa Tower, Bulguksa Temple, Taj Mahal, Sydney’s Opera House, Borobudur and Statue of Liberty

London Bridge – UK

Borobudur – Indonesia

…and many more!

…and many more!

I amazed on the details of each miniature. No wonder it took 5 years to complete the park to be built. Walking around the park one would feel like giants going on a round-the-world adventure. That must be the reason in the entrance there is a statue of Gulliver.

Before stepping out from the park, we were directed to an indoor exhibition halls. Exhibition Hall 1 is about mirrors, where one can experience the tricks of magic mirrors. Whereas in Exhibition Hall 2, witty and humorous pop-artwork of Korean artists are exhibited mixed with sculptures of superheroes. 

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Admission: 
Adult 9,000 KRW / Group 7,000 KRW
Youth (under 19 years old) 7,000 KRW / Group 3,500 KRW
Children (above 3 years old) 5,000 KRW / Group 3,000 KRW

Disabled 
Adult 7,000 KRW / Group 5,000 KRW
Youth (under 19 years old) 5,000 KRW / Group 3,000 KRW
Children (above 3 years old) 4,000 KRW / Group 2,500 KRW

Senior Citizen / Military 7,000 KRW / Group 5,000 KRW

Opening Hours:
December – March: 8.30AM – 5.30PM
April – June: 8.30AM – 6.00PM
July – August: 8.30AM – 7.30PM
September – November: 8.30AM – 6.00PM

Website: www.miniminiland.co.kr

Famous as Korea’s Santorini, Gamcheon Culture Village 감천문화마을 is located at Busan. In 1950s it was built by the refugees, but has turned into a beautiful and distinctive tourist attraction in Busan. 

Another name for the neighbourhood is “Lego Village”. It may not be the most famous tourist attraction in Busan. Compared to my previous trip at Busan, which most of them were temples, sea or mountain, for me the place left a unique and picturesque impression and that’s why worth a visit.

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The view of the colourful Lego-like houses from the observatory

What we can see here are the multicoloured terraced houses with concrete alleys. Each alleys will show you something different. The walls are painted beautifully, even the stairs. The great thing is that these houses are still occupied. I’d love to have such house with colourful painted and drawn walls!

Visitors can get the best panoramic view of the village and the harbour by going up the observatory. The stairs to go up to the observatory is just next to the stone wall with colourful wood planks pasted in the shape of a fish. Something that is eye-catching, you won’t miss it out!

There were colourful bird-like statues on the railings too, but they are actually statues of bird with human face. Visitors are not advised to go up the observatory after 6PM. It is to respect the residents’ privacy.

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People are going up the stairs (taken from the observatory)

People are going up the stairs (taken from the observatory)

The distinctive features are the narrow alleys. You can explore the alleys if you have time and you’ll be surprised to see different paintings. I personally find this penguin painting the most 🙂

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Some of the buildings here are used as a shophouses too. There are kiosks of snacks and Korean street food. For example, the hotteok (Korean sweet pancake filled with brown sugar syrup filling) kiosk on the  right hand side on picture below, is one of the popular ones. 

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While exploring the neighbourhood, I had a familiar feeling as Insa-dong or Samcheong-dong in Seoul before. Maybe that’s why I like this place. So if you like those both places, I’m sure you’ll like Gamcheon Culture Village 감천문화마을 too.

How to go there: 
Take the Bus no 2 or no 2-2 from Toseong Station from exit #8. Get off at Gamjeong Elementary School. You will see the signage, directs you to the neighbourhood.

teddy1From all places I visited in Jeju, this place excites my inner child most. Imagine the whole museum filled with cute plushies and adorable teddies! At least girls and children will love Teddy Bear Museum at Jeju. Sorry guys!

If you’ve been to Teddy Bear Museum at N Seoul Tower (it was closed recently, link here to Teddy Bear Museum N Seoul Tower), you’ll find this place is much larger. The museum exhibits various teddy bear from all countries with their historical origins.

The museum opened in 2001 and exhibits the changing face of teddy bear through over a century of development. The gallery is grouped into three sections: the History Hall, the Art Hall and the Project Exhibition Hall.

What I found adorable here was those teddy bear dressed up as famous icons and celebrities. You’ll see the teddy bear versions of Marilyn Monroe, Bruce Lee, Michael Jackson, Charlie Caplin, and you mention it… There are replicas of famous paintings such as Monalisa, The Last Supper and Michelangelo’s The Creation too.

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The museum was promoted in “Princess Hours 궁” K-drama. So there are teddy bears from the drama exhibits at the museum too. Find them familiar?

궁 Goong Teddy Bears

궁 Goong Teddy Bears

It took me less than 2 hours to tour around the museum. If you have time, you can visit Elvis Show where they play a short performance by Elvis Teddy Bear and shop for Elvis souvenirs. There are timings for the show.

After finish touring the museum, it’s time to shop for some souvenirs! The lowest level is the souvenir shops where we can buy teddy bear souvenirs. They have various teddy bear soft toys in different costumes, keychains, stationaries, etc..

From cherished childhood mementos to priceless collectables, you’re sure to fall in love with the furry inhabitants of this delightful museum. When visiting Jeju, this place is not to be missed by teddy bear lovers and parents with children. 

Website: www.teddybearmuseum.com

Admission: 

  • Adult 7,000 KRW / Group (more than 20 people) 5,000 KRW
  • Youth 6,000 KRW / Group (more than 20 people) 4,000 KRW
  • Child, senior and disabled visitors 5,000 KRW / Group (more than 20 people) 3,000 KRW
  • Free admission for children under 3 years old

Opening Hours: Tickets are available for sale until 19:00
Low season: 09:00 – 20:00
High season: July 18th to August 23rd 09:00 – 22:00

How to go there: 
Take an airport limousine No.600. Get off at Yeomiji Botanical Garden in Jungmun sightseeing complex, then walk for 5 min. It is a 50 minutes ride.

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