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A Korean Island Escape – Camping on a Deserted Island

5 Jun

When I signed up last-minute to a weekend camping trip on a deserted island off the West coast of Korea last weekend, I had no real idea what to expect.

As some poor unfortunate soul dropped out on the Friday morning, I jumped at the opportunity to take their spot and spend what was predicted to be a scorcher of a weekend camping with 60 other waygooks on an island. Although WinK (When in Korea, a travel group I often go on tours with here in Korea) described this island as having ‘no electricity, no running water’ they also said their would be the chance to see bioluminescent plankton and build a campfire to beat all campfires!’ Sounded like my kind of place!

panorama beach shot

I had less than 5 minutes to pack my bags for the weekend before I ran out the door to work, and spent my lunch break frantically running around HomePlus in search of a tent, snacks to munch on and sufficient alcohol to survive 2 days on a deserted island.Later in the day another friend of mine secured the last spot on the trip, I managed to borrow a tent from a friend and we were al set for the weekend ahead.

After many hours of traveling (4 hours standing on a subway!) Coral and I eventually found the motel we were staying in and joined the group for dinner. I mean, who doesn’t love eating galbi (Korean bbq) at 1 o’ clock in the morning. After a few beers, some shots of soju and talking to both old and new friends, it was time for bed. Despite only getting 2 hours sleep and having to wake up at 5am Saturday morning, I leaped out of bed with a smile on my face and was ready for the journey ahead. We would need to take a bus to the port, a large ferry to a  nearby island and the WinK leader had prepared 3 smaller boats to take us to the private island which would be all ours for the weekend!

group on ferry

peeps on ferry

We waited at the ferry port for about an hour for everyone to arrive and I couldn’t help but laugh when people started cracking open bottles of beer at 7 o’clock in the morning. I followed suit soon enough and the weekend was suddenly off to a fantastic start! The ferry journey was really relaxing, withe everyone sitting up on deck watching seagulls follow the ferry as local Koreans through big chunks of bread off the side of the boat. Beers were drunk, jokes were told and many photographs were taken.

One more, smaller, boat ride later and we arrived at our final destination, Sa Seong Bong Do. Considering the amount of stuff everyone had with them, the half hour walk to the camping spot was a bit painful. If I was to do this trip again I would re-think what i consider ‘essentials’ and pack as light as possible. That said, the people with the most stuff happened to be carrying ice-coolers and canopy to provide shade to the masses, things which would have been greatly missed if left at home!

arriving on deserted island

boat drinking

We were all pretty wrecked, and a little tipsy in my case, by the time we set up camp and pitched out tents. Many decided a quick dip in the sea was needed while others went for a nap. The day was spent playing games on the beach, making new friends, searching for wood for the campfire and relaxing with new friends while sipping on cold sangria and laughing and the ludicrous card combinations turned over in the always-popular ‘Cards against Humanity’!

Later in the day, people started preparing their food for dinner. Turns out just because you are going camping does not need you need to starve yourself. In fact, judging by the food and crazy-innovative ideas thought up by the dozens of other super-prepared campers, I realised that camping food can in fact be bordering on ‘gourmet’ if you are fully prepared.

While I munched on doritos and salsa, apples and a few protein bars, others were cooking steaks (one guy managed to eat more than SIX steaks in a 12 hour period!!), grilling sausages and meat kebabs, wrapping potatoes and a mixture of veggies in tin foil and cooking them over the camp fire. There were smores, breakfast burritos, fried eggs, french toast, potato salads and an array of other things to make your mouth water. Gas cookers, frying pans, saucepans and an array of other cooking utensils that I would never have thought of bringing were on offer, as people cooked up fresh clams, pasta and who knows what else!

sunset

colorful sunglasses

cards against humanity

 

The night was spent playing drinking games, singing along to typical campfire songs and some people braved the cold water in search of the bioluminescent plankton which we had all being told about. Lighting the fire was a pretty amazing moment, as everyone gathered around in a circle, mesmerised by the flames, watching with anticipation for Skofes ‘Bird effigy’ to explode into a Burning Man-esque fireball. Less than a few minutes in and the masterpiece was pretty much ruined, but it sure was fun to watch!

Waking up a little hung over Sunday morning, I crawled out of my tent to see just a few stragglers stil sitting on the beach chatting. I wasn’t too sure whether they had simply woken earlier than I had or they had decided to stay up all night. The campfire was smouldering, the surrounding area was littered with empty bottles and remnants of what had happened the night before but best of all there were half empty bags of marshmallows  scattered about the place. The wonderful Ashley provided us with chocolate biscuits and whoever was awake got treated to delicious smores for breakfast. As they say, the early bird catches the worm!

bonfire

breakfast

seagulls ferry 1

All in all, it was probably one of the best weekend I have had while in Korea. The fact that it was so isolated made it all the more special. In Korea, we are so used to being near to the every-day comforts like toilets, corner stores which never close and restaurants which stay open til the wee hours of the morning. We are surrounded by people, cars, buses, subways and flashing lights on every street corner. It was so great to just get away from city-living, even just for one weekend, to relax on a beach with not a worry in the world and sort of ‘get back to nature’.

If you want to go on this trip, or similar ones, check out the WinK Facebook page for a list of their upcoming events! I would HIGHLY recommend it!

Spring has Sprung

8 Apr

A small taste of the photographs I took last weekend at the Gyeong-Ju Cherry Blossom Festival. No words can fully describe how beautiful spring is in South Korea…even if it only lasts a few weeks!

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St Patrick’s Day Festival Seoul in Photos

18 Mar

Sadly I was too busy on the day to take lots of photos like I usually do, but I thought I would share the few I did take anyway. For a full review of the day, check out THIS POST.

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Mastering the Travel Selfie in Japan

7 Mar

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Fushimi Inari Shrine – A Sea of Orange

6 Mar

One of the highlights from my trip to Japan last October.

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Ankgor Wat Sunrise ~ Cambodia

14 Jan

Watching the sunrise over the ancient temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia is something that sits firmly at the top of many seasoned travelers bucket lists.

I am lucky enough to be able to say that the first sunrise I saw in 2014, that big glowing ball of fire, slowly rising into the sky, was at Angkor Wat and it was one of the most incredible moments.

Sure I had to fight off a few 100 other people to get that ‘perfect picture’ and within moments of arriving at the temple grounds was pestered by coffee shop owners who go by the name of Harry Potter and Rambo(!!) to come to their cafe for breakfast “whenever Im ready” but nothing could take away the beauty and serenity of that perfect sunrise.

I will write later, in detail, about the best sights, smells and sticky situations we got ourselves into while traveling around Cambodia, but for now I leave you with these photos of a very special morning in Siem Reap.

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Geisha’s, Temples and Sake Tasting – Kyoto, Japan

1 Dec

kyoto

sake japan

kyoto shrine

golden temple kyoto

geisha kyoto

japan food

kyoto temple

gion district

geisha

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Not beautiful enough to live in Korea

18 Nov

Over the weekend, I went to a Soccer game in Seoul World Cup Stadium with a big group of friends. We had all had a very late night/early morning the night before so were a little worse for wear come Sunday afternoon. Lack of makeup and unwashed hair aside, we spent the day cheering on Seoul FC and feeling pretty proud of ourselves for opting to be productive rather than hibernating in out match box-sized apartments.

After the match we headed into the shopping centre to grab a coffee, relax and try to warm up having being outside in the almost freezing cold Korean winter for the last 2-3 hours. As we walked in a well dressed, perfectly manicured Korean lady approached me and my friend and asked if we would like to get our photo taken for free. It all looked professional with proper lighting, cameras and a “set” where we could sit and pose so without delay my friend and I signed up.

The photo shoot was organized my Korean Cosmetic brand “Skin Food” which specializes in all sorts of lotions, moisturizer and cosmetics for your face, body and hair to make you look both younger and “whiter”, two aspects of beauty which every Korean aspires to be. We answered a few questions which had been roughly translated from Korean to English with regards to our skin tone, how old we were, how old our skin looked, what we would like to change about our skin and other questions which I usually avoid/hate to answer. 

After about 5 minutes we sat down and were asked to pose naturally, which we attempted to do. While they loved my dear friend Mandy (a 38-year-old with the skin of a 31-year-old, or so they said with much delight and awe), they kept telling me “smile bigger”, “smile with your eyes” “You’re too awkward” and “Still too awkward”. The 3 hours of sleep I had had the night before, many hours of dancing, cocktails, hours of shopping, match day pints and general tiredness was suddenly catching up with me and I simple did not have the energy to pose like a Korean. We gave our phone numbers and the woman said we would be sent 2 photos; the first one would be of us “au natural” and the second one would be photo-shopped by the “talented” photographers and would make us look younger and whiter, the look we should aspire to be.

Instead of writing any more, I’m simply going to post the ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots as I am still slightly frightened and slightly horrified at how they think I should look as opposed to how I look right now. I may look tired, I may look hung over, I may look “too dark”, but I still like the way I look “au natural” way, way more than their idea of “photoshopped perfection”.

The "before" picture

The “before” picture

The "after" shot.

The “after” shot.

Related posts:

Big is Beautiful – Except in South Korea

Cosmetic Surgery in Korea – Starting Young

Korea- What Grinds My Gears

Japan in Black and White

8 Oct

I just got back from 4 days in beautiful Japan and have loads to write about…when I find the time. First of all, however, I just thought I would share a few of my photos with you. All photos were all taken on my smartphone.

japan geisa kyoto

temple pagoda kyoto

japanese writing

geisha kyoto black and white

black and white japan

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Jeju-Do – The Hawaii of South Korea

23 Sep

I was excited about my 5 day vacation for Korean Thanksgiving (Chuseok), but more so about the fact that I wouldn’t have to work for 5 days than the destination in which I was set to spend my time in. Jeju – Do, an island off the South coast of  Korea, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world with over 10 million people flying to the small island in 2012 alone. The whole island was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the new 7 wonders of the natural world. Pretty impressive, I know.

Admittedly I knew none of this before my departure and thus why I was slightly worried about my decision to go on a ‘staycation’ in Korea rather than going abroad to Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong or one of Korea’s other neighboring countries. However, having just returned from 5 days on Jeju island, I say without a doubt in my mind that in was the most incredible short vacation of my life. And that’s saying something considering South Korea is the 43rd country in which I have had the pleasure to visit, and I could not even BEGIN to count how many mini vacations to amazing places I have been to over the last 10 years.

Beach + Vacation = Happiness

Beach + Vacation = Happiness

It was almost like we were no longer in Korea! Jeju - the Hawaii of Korea.

It was almost like we were no longer in Korea! Jeju – the Hawaii of Korea.

The PERFECT beach view.

The trip was organized my WinK (when in Korea) a Korean travel group that organizes trips through it’s Facebook group. I have traveled with them before and have always had a blast so was excited to sign up for another one of their adventures. We left Seoul at 11am Tuesday night (this was to avoid the INSANE Chuseok traffic, in which 39 million people would be on the roads in Korea over a 3 days period to visit their ancestral homes). I spent the first 2 hours or so playing drinking games with newly made friends before realizing that drinking copious amounts of beer on a bus with no toilet is NEVER a good idea. After a few hours attempting to get some sleep, we finally arrived at the ferry terminal and were soon on our way to the magical island of Jeju.

Our accommodation was next to HamDeok beach, which was one the most picturesque and tropical looking beaches I have seen thus far in South Korea. Whether the palm trees were imported from abroad or not, it didn’t detract from the natural beauty of the area. Our motel was ondol style, typical in many places in Korea, and included a room void of furniture bar 4 pillows, 4 blankets, a mini fridge and a TV. The fridge got used, the TV most certainly did not.

The first day was spent lazing around by the beach, attempting to catch flying fish while swimming in the (almost) warm and crystal clear water and making new friends through absurd drinking games and impromptu sing songs. We also got treated to a delicious Black Pig BBQ in a nearby Korean restaurant which was beyond tasty and was accompanied by one to many shots of Soju!

The second day involved an early start and a wicked hangover but as I was on a bus of absolute troopers we all pushed through the impending tiredness and spent the morning hiking up Seongsan Ilchulbong aka Sunrise Peak, which is one of Jeju’s 3 UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites, and admiring the pretty spectacular view from the top. (That being said, I still think the view of the Mountain itself in the distance beats the view from the top thanks to it’s almost perfectly round shape and the fact that it is very nearly cut off from the rest of Jeju bar a tiny sliver of land.

Climbing Sunrise Peak on jeju

Climbing Sunrise Peak on jeju

At the top of Sun Rise Peak

At the top of Sun Rise Peak

At the summit.

At the summit.

After a quick bus ride followed by an even quicker ferry ride, the next stop on our tour was the pretty little island of Udo. I had so much fun whizzing around this magical island on a Quad bike and exploring all the natural beauty spots it had to offer that I have decided it will get a whole post of its own, to be written in the next day or two, (Watch this space!) Between the tropical beaches on one side and the black sand beach and purple caves on the other, amazing burgers, laughter, new friendships and delicious jeju orange ice-cream, the 4 hours spent on UDO island were 4 hours that will stay with me forever.

Our second last stop was at the pretty amazing Manjanggul Lava-tube (which is known to have the largest lava column in the world) and is another one of Jeju’s 3 UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites. It took about 20 minutes to walk through the lava tube which was extremely cold and a little eery but also a nice relief from the hot sun in which we had been prancing around in all day. It was a cool experience but for me a prefer sites above ground!

Our last stop was just for fun, and involved the group running around a giant Hedge Maze in which some people got very very lost! As the coveted prize for the winner was an ice cold beer, the race was fairly competitive! 

One of the beautiful beaches on Udo Island

One of the beautiful beaches on Udo Island

Jeju Orange Ice-Cream - so delicious!

Jeju Orange Ice-Cream – so delicious!

Whizzing around on a quad while taking videos on my GoPro

Whizzing around on a quad while taking videos on my GoPro

I don’t think I have ever been so glad to see my bed, or in this case ‘blanket on the ground’, than last Thursday evening. I was absolutely shattered and passed out pretty early after feeding on some fried chicken, the only restaurant we could find open as it was a Korean National holiday and everything seemed to be closed.

Friday we were up at the crack of dawn yet again and a little apprehensive about the day. Could anything really beat the awesomeness of the day before? Visiting 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and quad biking around a stunningly beautiful island in one day are pretty hard things to beat. 

Most of Fridays activities involved water which was totally fine by me considering I believe I may have been a mermaid in another life! Our first stop was at a Natural Ocean Swimming Pool by the Olle Coast Trail in the South West of Jeju. It was the perfect spot for a bit of cliff jumping an ideal way to wake everyone up from their slumber and to clear the groups hangover en-masse. The water was a beautiful turquoise color, the sun was shining and after half an hour jumping in and out of the water and chilling out and laughing with new friends, we reluctantly got dressed again and continued along the Olle coastal trail where we got to see some pretty off rock formations and beautiful sea views.

The most magical swimming spot in all of Korea

The most magical swimming spot in all of Korea

Amazing natural ocean pool where we went cliff jumping

Amazing natural ocean pool where we went cliff jumping

Beautiful coastal trail on the South Western Coast

Beautiful coastal trail on the South Western Coast

The rest of the day consisted of stunning waterfalls, beautiful rock pools (where we were told no swimming allowed but accidentally ‘didn’t see’ the warning sign and later got given out to by the whistle blowing ‘owner of nature’), one of the biggest and most popular beaches on Jeju where me and 2 friends went Banana boating (which was WAY more fun than I ever remember it being!) and a couple of beers here there and everywhere.

We also made a quick stop at the Jusang Jeolli rock column formations which looked scarily like the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland and the beautiful San Bang San temple which included steps from hell (they went on FOREVER!!) that led to a small opening in the mountain rock face where a monk sat chanting and visitors could queue up to drink a sip of some sacred water, which was tripping from the roof of the cave, and is said to have healing properties to cleanse your body and soul. I drank a whole bowl full so I’m hoping for a delayed reaction. :)

A mini version of The Giants Causeway - Volcanic Rock Column Formations

A mini version of The Giants Causeway – Volcanic Rock Column Formations

One of the waterfalls we passed on our short hike/walk.

One of the waterfalls we passed on our short hike/walk.

There's ALWAYS time for some secret swimming in secret rock pools

There’s ALWAYS time for some secret swimming in secret rock pools

The day was, in summary, magical. I don’t know if I could possible of had a better trip with cooler people. Then, to top it all off, we were dropped in Jeju city to grab some dinner and party the night away into the wee hours of Saturday morning. A nice sleep in followed by a bizarre few hours walking around a Korean Sex Park was the almost perfect way to end our incredible tour.

On leaving beautiful Jeju, everyone was in high spirits, sitting on the top deck of our “cruise ship” singing cheesy songs and again, sipping on cold beers ad enjoying the 360 degree view of the ocean. As if the week could have gotten any better, we were treated to THE most stunningly beautiful sunset I have ever seen in my life followed by the most incredible moon rise a few hours later. It will take a trip to heaven to beat the 5 days I just spent in Jeju.

The most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.

The most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.

To sign up for a Wink Tour, click HERE for the MeetUp group or HERE for the Facebook group. To learn more about the wonderful island of Jeju, click HERE.

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