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Colorful 大阪 Osaka, Japan

13 Feb Featured Image -- 6302

intrepidtraveller:

The photographs in this post are brilliant – they really convey how bright and unique the city of Osaka is. One of my favourite things when I was there were all the vending machines. You can literally but everything and anything from a vending machine in Japan!

Originally posted on Pursuit of Life:

“A journey is like a marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” John Steinbeck

osaka7-1

Osaka, the thriving primary city of the Kansai region and Japan’s third largest is a mecca for culinary delights and a great jumping off point for regional destinations such as Kyoto and Nara. Strikingly modern, the city is often overlooked for more traditional or picturesque locales in the region. That’s too bad, because Osaka has plenty to offer as well, from big city hustle and bustle to unlimited cuisine sampling.

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My Top 10 Korean Foods

11 Feb

intrepidtraveller:

A post written by a good friend of mine in South Korea. It details some of the best food you will ever see, smell or eat. Not just in Korea, but in the entire world! Goodness I miss Korean food so much!

Originally posted on prim preoccupations:

So, I know that every foreign teacher in Korea and their friend’s sister’s uncle has made one of these posts but in reflecting on my time in Korea it’s probably best for me to start with the easiest thing – and food is definitely it. XP

The whole experience of Korean dining was something completely new for me when I arrived. It’s all about communal eating. A few main dishes are placed in the center of the table (often the cooking of those is finished or even done completely right there at the table), and these are surrounded by an array of side dishes. Everyone then digs in, metal chopsticks in hand, helping themselves to what they’d like of the dishes. It is full of colour, ritual and spectacle.

KOREAN BBQ

Taste-wise, Korean food presented many obstacles for me at first – the main one being that super hot red pepper and…

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Top 5 Travel Startups To Check Out In 2015

17 Jan

I have seen a lot of new and interesting travel startups pop up on my various social media feeds over the past few months, many of which I am very excited about trying out. From travel apps that give you the opportunity to to do free accommodation exchanges in cities all over the world, to apps that help you meet locals that will take you on unique adventures with them, these are the Top 5 Travel Startups to check out this year.

5. Nightswapping

Nightswapping

Nightswapping is a new travel app that allows people to travel and sleep for free all over the world. A mix between Couchsurfing and home-swapping, for every night you host people in your own home, you are entitled to a free night in someone else’s house in destinations around the world. From beautiful Chateaus in the French countryside, to stunning town houses in London, Nightswapping enables you to stay for free in accommodation you would otherwise only dream about. WIth over 6,000 hosts in 54 countries, this is definitely one to watch in 2015.

4. Advlo

advlo

Advlo (which stands for ‘Adventure Local’) aims to promote adventurous travel in exciting destinations all over the world. Instead of booking a tour, or an activity online through a large travel agency, Advlo will connect you with adventurous locals that can take you kitesurfing in Ecuador or spearfishing in Hawaii. Users of the site can also create their own adventures and charge people to come along and join the trip. I really hope to join one of their adventures this year.

3. travayl

travayl-mobile-travel-app

travayl is a social travel platform that lets users organize their trip around what matters most to them, focusing on visual content discovery rather than text. You can search the images either by destination or activity, create your bucket lists and actually plan and book your trip all in once place. Users can monetize their travel photos and videos by uploading them on to the site and becoming a partner, making it a great way to make money while traveling.

2. AirHelp

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AirHelp is the answer to all your prayers! If you have been on a delayed or cancelled flight or been denied boarding within the last three years you could be entitled up to $800 from the airline, and AirHelp is here to help you get any compensation owed to you. On the AirHelp website, smartphone app or Facebook page, air passengers can check if they are eligible for compensation. They can then request that AirHelp handles their claim on what the company describes as a ‘No Win, No Fee’ basis. Seems like a win win situation to me!

1. Feastly

feastly

Feastly allows travelers to eat delicious home cooked meals with locals. Often when backpacking it can get very exhausting going out to restaurant after restaurant, night after night, eating virtually the same meals again and again. Feastly enables you not only to eat a home cooked meal in someone else homes, but also potentially helps you to make new friends as you might be eating dinner with a collection of other hungry strangers! Right now this is only available in a few select cities, but I’m hoping that they will expand further in 2015!

Top 10 Unusual Travel Destinations for 2015

15 Jan

After reading this great post by Elite Daily outlining ‘50 Unpredictable And Non-Clichéd Places To Travel To In Your 20s’, I thought I would write my own list of unusual travel destinations which I think you should check out. Not all of you though, don’t want these secret places getting too touristy now, do we?

Sometimes there are amazing, and quiet, hideaways waiting for you just around the corner from top tourist destinations. You don’t have to travel to Easter Island or West Africa just to get off the beaten track. Here are my Top 10 unusual travel destinations. Would love to hear what yours are!

10. Ssese Islands, Uganda.

While Uganda is far from the top of any Lonely Planet ‘Top Travel Destination’ list, it is slowly but surely growing as an interesting spot for people backpacking through East Africa or on some group truck trip down through the African continent.

The Ssese islands are a sort of unspoiled paradise smack bang in the middle of Lake Victoria, which in case you didn’t know, is the biggest tropical lake in the world! Think remote beaches, pineapple plantations, freshly caught fish for lunch and an unlimited supply of green, spiky-leafed plants that rhyme with bead. ;-) Just be careful of the Piranhas when swimming…

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9. Sapa, Northern Vietnam

Vietnam is now a popular spot for many adventurous travellers and is one of the most frequented destinations on the infamous ‘banana pancake trail’ around South East Asia. Sapa, which is a farming community in the far North of the country on the border with China, is a lot less busy than the rest of the country. The local H’mong people still live life the same way they probably did 50 or even 100 years ago. You can do a home-stay with these amazing people, after hiking for hours through the most stunning terraced rice fields and indulge in some of the most delicious traditional Vietnamese food which you will ever have the pleasure to eat.

sapa rice terraces

8. Inhambane, Mozambique

Think long white sandy beaches, hammocks, palm trees, fresh coconut cocktails and staying in rooms made of bamboo that line the beach. No jet-skis, no salespeople, no fancy restaurants at rip-off prices…this is true backpacker paradise. You can spend your days lying in a hammock reading a good book, or head out on a traditional boat for some snorkelling in some of the most undisturbed coral reefs in the world. The only trouble you’ll have when it come to Inhambane is actually getting there!

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7. Bale Mountains, Ethiopia

Soooo not a lot of people know that you can actually go to Ethiopia on your vacation. Lot’s of people haven’t a clue how GREEN this country is, so full of trees and wildlife and mountains. People just think of poverty, sand and the desert. This does not describe Ethiopia. In fact tourist agencies in the country promote it as the land of ’13 months of sunshine ‘ (thanks to its’ bizarre calendar it has 13 months  in the calendar year and is 7.5 years behind the rest of the world!!)

The Bale mountains are unbelievably beautiful and you can organize a 1 week trek on horse back fairly easily on arrival. Meet medicine men, local children, learn about the medicinal properties of every plant and tree you pass, and pick what animal you would like killed and cooked for your dinner. A pretty amazing experience!

bale mountains

6. Slieve League, Ireland

Just because I travel a lot outside of Ireland doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the beauty this country has to offer. However, I do encourage tourists to get off the beaten track and to avoid tourist traps like Temple Bar, Kilkenny and even the Cliffs of Moher. Why not go somewhere where few tourists go, but will blow you away. For me one of these destinations is Slieve League in Donegal, famed for being Europe’s highest sea cliffs.

Following a walk along the unprotected cliff, you can drive to some of the nearby fishing villages for a nice pint (better than the Guinness storehouse!) and some delicious pub grub. I did a road trip around Donegal a few years ago and it was one of the best weekend trips I have ever done.

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5. Tbilisi, Georgia

Georgia (the country, not the state) is not very well known. In fact apart from the people I travelled there with, I have only met 2 or 3 people who have ever ventured there. Tbilisi, the country’s capital, is the most magical city. Arriving by night, all the old building around the city are beautifully lit up and it really gives the impression of a fairytale.

There are lots of great things to see and do in and around the city, but the real highlight is the people, the food and the oh -so-tasty Georgian wine! Everyone in Georgia makes their own wine and there is no shortage of it. The bread, the cheese and the wine will make you never want to leave. If you are lucky…you might even get to hear some locals singing a traditional Georgian folk song – now that is something you will never forget.

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4. Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

For me, the Cameron Highlands sort of remind me of Vietnam, except instead of terraced rice fields, they are growing endless rows of tea leaves. Tours around this area are fascinating, learning about the history of the tea plantations were started, where all the tea goes, and learning about the medicinal properties of all the plants in the area.

There are some super relaxed hotels and nature hostels in the area, where you can easily waste away a few days listening to other travelers tales and reading some great books.

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3. Zanzibar, Tanzania

For anyone who has traveled around East Africa, this won’t seem like much of an unusual destination, but for people who have never set foot on the African continent, they may not have heard of this absolute gem. Located off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar is both the ultimate honeymoon destination and the perfect backpacker getaway.

Start your visit in the historic stone town, where you can easily get lost down the winding, narrow streets filled with the smell of spices, and incense and delicious street food. After a day or two, make your way to the long, empty palm-tree lined beaches where you can learn to scuba dive, swim with turtles or dance the night away at one of East Africa’s best beach parties Zanzibar really is an incredible destination for your bucket list.

Stone-Town

2. Watamu, Kenya

Another gem in East Africa is this beautiful bay about half way up the Kenya coast, a few hours North of Mombassa. Famous for its crystal clear waters, excellent snorkelling and scuba diving sites and some pretty incredible forts and ancient ruins near by.

In recent years, it has become a popular package holiday destinations for many germans, but those areas and hotels can be avoided easily enough. My favourite thing about Watamu was hanging with some local beach boys who introduced me to ‘cow on a stick’ which is essentially pieces of beef barbecued on a grill on the side os a street then..you guessed it…put on a stick and sold for about 50 cent. So delicious!

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1. Jeju Island, South Korea

For Koreans, Jeju Island is the top vacation spot. For anyone who has never been to Korea, it’s probably a place you have never heard of! Compared to the rest of Korea, it is a tropical paradise. Compared to normal tropical destinations, it probably isn’t as breath taking but for what it lacks it palm trees, it makes up for in cliff walks, blue lagoons, waterfalls and weird and wonderful attractions.

The 5 days I spent on Jeju island was by far the highlight of my 2 years in South Korea. Days spents walking on the beautiful beaches, exploring parks full of life size penis statues and people re-enacting sex positions (!!), renting scooters and ATV’s, jumping into natural blue lagoons, swimming in waterfalls, walking in 2km long lava tunnels and seeing a UNESCO world heritage site – all on one tiny island!

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2014 – Looking Back At The Highs And Lows

2 Jan

I think it’s always good to take some time to think about the year that has passed. There will be good memories, and there will of course be bad memories, but as they say time is one of the biggest gifts in life and we need to appreciate and be thankful for every last moment we are given. Sometime the days, the weeks, the months fly by so fast we don’t have time to reflect on what we have done, what we are doing or what we hope to do in the future.

As one of my New Year’s resolutions is to blog more, it makes senses that I should write this post on January 1st. I must not put off ’til tomorrow what can very easily be done today. There’s another resolution for you!

So, before I sit down and make out a list of the things I would like to accomplish this year (and we all know that’s going to be quite the list!!) let me take a look back to see what weird and wonderful things I managed to achieve in 2014.

Personal achievements

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I started the year on a real health buzz, committed to going to the gym 5 days a week, started running 10km races in Korea with friends and even accomplished a big goal of mine which was to run my first half marathon!

For the first time in about a decade, I succeeded in giving up alcohol for lent…a total period of 46 days. I even managed to survive St Patrick’s Day sober. Miracles do happen!

It may sound like a weird thing to call an “achievement” but some of the friends I made in 2014, the same friends I had to sadly say goodbye to in July, were some of the closest, most meaningful friendships I have ever been lucky enough to have. As my friend Shruti put it, “We’ll be friends for generations!” Great friends don’t come along that often, so when you find them you need to keep them close and really treasure them. You know who you are! :-)

At the beginning of the year I succeeded in losing 10kg over a 3 month period and for the first time in years I felt perfectly confident in my own body. Bikinis on the beach were no longer an issue…at least for a while as sadly while it’s hard to lose weight it’s even more difficult to maintain said ideal weight.

This lovely little blog, which I sort of neglected last year, got nominated for an Irish Blog Award for the first time ever. I did not win any prizes (sad face) but sure that’s something to aim for this year.

Writing for The Irish Times has been a really exciting part of 2014 for me. My first article was published while in South Korea, and detailed what it was like to spend Paddy’s Day abroad. Then, once I returned to Ireland I have been working as a a freelance business and technology journalist for the last few months which has been a huge confidence boost when it comes to my writing.

Failures? My pathetic attempt to give up facebook for lent lasted a grand total of 3 days. We rely so much on our online social networks for keeping in touch and organizing events I fear the only way to escape them is to become a hermit for a month. Tempting.

Travel memories

mermaids boracay

Starting the new year in Cambodia with some of my closest friends from Korea. Watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat temple at the beginning of 2014 was a pretty special memory, especially as it was with such an amazing group of friends.

Fun in the Philippines – heading back to Boracay for my birthday with my running buddy Lauren was brilliant. Despite bad weather for the entire time we were there, we still managed to have lots of fun dressing up like mermaids and posing on the beach for loads of confused bystanders!

Weekends away in South Korea – camping on a deserted island, hiring a Korean tall ship for a weekend with 40 mad but amazing expats, ski trips which included amazing outdoor scented hot tubs in the snow and chilled out weekends on the beach with the besties. Every weekend in Korea was essentially a travel memory not to be forgotten.

In May, I got to go to a city I had always dreamed of going to..Hong Kong. And boy was it worth it. I still think I would move there in a heart beat if I could find the right job. Even better, I got to go there with friends from Ireland and relive childhood dreams by spending a day in DisneyLand!

The summer involved 2 months backpacking around Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. I still have not blogged about any of those adventures but hope to get around to it within the next 2 weeks. While most of my memories of this trip are positive, thanks mainly to Rebecca, Shruti, Morne, Johann and all the awesome people I met while on the road, it was certainly a period of mixed emotion at times.

My last trip of the year was a long weekend in Paris visiting old friends, checking out the Christmas markets, taking part in SantaCon and just enjoying all that belle Paris has to offer. A perfect destination to end a great year.

Failures? I wanted to travel home overland on the trans siberian. Sadly, for a combination of reasons including visa issues, lack of a travel buddy, finances and my desire to spend a ridiculous amount of time lunging on the beach in Thailand, this did not happen. I also wanted to go to many more*new* countries and instead found myself returning to countries I had already visited. Not bothered about that too much though…some countries are so beautiful you need to visit many, many times to truely appreciate all that they have to offer.

The “Job” front

travayl mobile travel app

I finished up my contract in South Korea and decided it was finally time to but that chapter of my life behind me. I wanted to move back to Ireland and try to “settle”, which in my world means trying to stay in one country and one job for longer than a year. Time to reconnect with old friends, rebuild friendships and start building a career.

The first few weeks home were tough. In fact, in a way, I’m still finding it tough. It;s always hard to know for sure if you have made the right decision to move home after living the expat life for so long. Committing to stay in Ireland can be very daunting and I feel like I have been on an emotional roller-coaster the last few months.

I spent my first 3 months home working for a travel start-up called Travayl, which helps bloggers like me to monetize their travel photos. I learned so much about the tech and star-up community here in Dublin and decided it’s an area I want to become more involved in. It’s a really exciting sector and one which motivates me to no end.

I had to make a really tough job decision in December which involved me turning down a dream job with the United Nations in favour of a job here in Ireland.It troubled me a lot and a lot of lists were made weighing up the pros and cons. In the end, I truly believe I made the right decision and am very excited to get started in my new role later this month. *watch this space*

I’m excited to see what sort of obstacles, hoops and adventures the next 364 days will throw at me.

BRING IT ON.

My Blogging Stats for 2014

1 Jan

85,000 views despite not posting a new post for the last 5 months. Not bad, not bad at all.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 85,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Hand Luggage Only – Packing like a Pro!

27 Jul 2014-07-27 18.42.09

Tomorrow I set off on my longest solo backpacking trip thus far in my life – a 3 months trip that will take me from South Korea, to South East Asia to Australia and then back home to Ireland via London at the end of October. I have been looking forward to and planning this trip for months, but in typical Janet fashion…I always end of packing my bag last-minute. It’s currently 7pm here in Korea, and I’m heading out for one last Korean BBQ dinner with some close friends in an hour. That means I have minimal time to get my bags packed and get started with the epic task of cleaning and clearing out my apartment before getting on my one way flight to Bangkok tomorrow morning.

I’m not too worried to be honest. All my friends here know that I’m a pretty quick and light packer – just give me 10 minutes to throw some stuff in my sturdy little backpack and I’m ready to go! Usually for weekend trips, I only bring one small rucksack and for longer trips overseas I bring my 10-year-old 60-70 liter backpack which has been to over 30 countries with me! This time, however, I have set myself a challenge. I am attempting to pack everything I could possibly need for my 3 month trip into my tiny weekend rucksack and I’m going to document this challenge right here, in this blog post!

Okay so the first thing I did was to empty my wardrobe. I realized, despite shipping home 15kg of clothes and shoes, I still had WAY too many bits and pieces left behind. I had to be very firm with myself and anything that there is even a SLIGHT chance of me not wearing was not allowed to come along on the adventure. ESSENTIALS ONLY JANET!! I really wanted to bring my curling iron but NO that got put in the ‘stuff to be sent home’ box. ALong with my old laptop, 4 very pretty dresses, 2 extra ‘just in case’ pairs of shoes, a huge make-up bag, a GIANT beach towel (nobody’s got room for that!) and many other things that simply do not need to come with me. After all, I really don’t need very much when backpacking through South East Asia, especially considering the temperature is rarely going to drop below 30’c for the entire trip!

Anyway, here is everything that was left on my bed, post wardrobe cull! As you can see from the picture, there’s still quite a lot left.

packing like a pro

 

Here is a list of exactly what I plan to pack – the next challenge is fitting it all into 1 small bag!!

  • 12 t-shirts.
  • 4 summer dresses
  • 2 jumpers
  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • 3 bikinis
  • 12 pairs of underwear
  • 4 bras
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • A headband
  • A wash bag with shampoo, conditioner, face wash, cleanser, toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Face Wipes
  • Face Moisturizer
  • 1 small Body Shop perfume oil – sweet scent lasts all day
  • A few basic make-up items such as Mac and Bare Minerals Powder, 1 mascara and 1 lipstick.
  • 1 hair brush
  • 1 deodorant
  • 1 pair of flips flops
  • 1 pair of Vans shoes for walking/sightseeing whatever else
  • 1 documents folder with all my flight info/visa applications/hostel bookings etc
  • 1 book (Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer – one of my favorites!)
  • 1 small box of photos given to me by my best buddy here in Korea…to make me smile!
  • Passport, wallet and other essentials!

STEP 1: Lay everything very flat in the back section (usually designed to carry a laptop!)

2014-07-27 18.36.40Step 2: All of my make-up and any smaller items can be squashed into the small front pocket!

2014-07-27 18.39.50Step 3: Neatly pack everything else into the bag – it’s a tight squeeze but hopefully it will all fit!!

 

2014-07-27 18.40.04Step 4: Put all my most important and valuable items into my handbag (passport, wallet, book etc!)

 

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And…I’m all set for my 3 month backpacking adventure!2014-07-27 18.42.49

 

The Importance of Travel Insurance

13 Jun The-importance-of-travel-insurance

Have you ever gone on a trip overeas and forgotten to buy travel insurance? Or, as in many cases, have you ever gone on a trip overseas and failed to buy travel insurance on purpose just so you could save a few pennies?

Have you any idea the risk you are taking, the possible burden you are putting on your family and how a small accident could ruin your entire trip, your future plans and any financial stability you might have had?! Not having travel insurance could literally ruin your life.

The-importance-of-travel-insurance

Personally, thanks to my Dad drilling in the impotance of travel and health insurance from a very young age, I have never left my home country without insurance. Sure, sometimes I’ve left it to the day I’m traveling which has lead to near-on panic attacks , and once I even ran around Seoul Incheon airport in a panic looking for the Travel Insurance booth to insure I would be covered on a short weekend trip to Japan. I was fairly confident that looking around temples and stalking geishas was hardly going to land me in trouble but as cliched as it sounds…better safe than sorry!

If you add up the amount of money I have spent on travel insurance over the last decade, the figure might scare you. It certainly scares me and sometimes it can be hard not to look at it as ‘money down the drain’. That said whenever I feel unsure, I stop myself from thinking in this way and recall all the horror stories recounted to me by family members, close friends and fellow backpackers. Tales that would make your blood curl. Stories about near death experiences in Colombia, mororbike accidents in Vietnam, food poisoning in remote Nepal and leg injuries encountered in the Canadian Rockies. Storied of months spent in hospitals in Kathmandu and Bogota, being airlifted off mountains or even being transported by flatbed in an air ambulance from one country to another.
air ambulance

As awful as all of these experiences must have been, the people who had travel insurance had a lucky escape with some travel insurance companies having to foot a bill of almost a quarter of a million dollars. Other people were not so lucky. Lack of insurance can mean poor treatment in ill-equipped hospitals in developing countries or can mean footing a bill personally fo 20,000 dollars for that time you needed to be airlifted off a mountain in Switzerland just because you slipped on ice and broke your leg while hiking or having to foot a month long hospital bill in Cambodia after you contracted Malaria or a severe case of Typhoid on a 3 week backpacking trip of South East Asia.

Failing to buy travel insurance, means failing to prepare for the worst. While I understand nodoby wants to prepare for the worst, and nobody really wants to consider that they may end up in a hospital, or they may miss their connecting flight or that the airline might lose all their cherished possesions en route to their first vacation in 5 years… but these are all things you NEED to consider. Failing to do so, and should Murphy’s Law come into action as it usually does, your holiday, your bank balance and even your entire life as you know it can be ruined in seconds.

So, what are the benefits of forking out a few extra dollars for travel insurance before heading off on your next trip? Well there are many, which include but are not limited to, coverage for the following;

-Trip Cancellation
-Trip Interruption
-Lost Luggage
-Repeating University exams
-Emergency Medical Assistance
-Medical Evacuation
-Lost or Stolen personal items
-Missed Flights
-Personal Accident or Injury
-A Family Bereavement

When purchasing insurance make sure you read the small print so you know what is included and what isn’t. Many companies will charge a higher premium if you plan to do certain adventure sports such as snowboarding, rafting, mountain climbing etc. Make sure you pick the right package for your particular trip.

One last tip I would give is that if you think you will be making many small trips within the year, you are better off paying a larger lump sum and getting a 1 year package from a company in your home country than paying regular, small installments to some online travel insurance broker. It works out cheaper in the long run and is a lot less hassle.

If you have any questions or any advice on best companies to use, please leave a comment.

Happy Travels! :-)

 

Spring has Sprung

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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

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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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