Saturday, December 2, 2017

가자 Korea Diary 2: Preparation Tips For Korea

Before I dive into my Korea trip's itinerary, I thought it might be useful to compile a list of tips/lessons that I learnt while I was preparing or on my trip. For those who are heading to Korea whether with friends or alone, I hope this helps :)

Here's the list:

1. Getting data on your phone

I can't deal without Internet and definitely not when I'm all alone by myself. Many people say that it's really easy to find free public wifi in Korea but I don't want to risk that. For solo travelers, I highly recommend getting a local sim card because it comes with mobile data as well as phone credit. If you are travelling in groups, you can rent a portable wifi (aka wifi egg) as it is more cost-effective to be shared around. If you are staying in an Airbnb, check with your host upon booking because some of them do lend it to you for free during your stay and you just need to return it to them before checking out.

I chose Evergreen Sim because it was the best deal that I could find on the market as of October 2017. I wouldn't have gone to look for this online before my trip if it wasn't for my friend who was cursing herself so badly that she didn't buy her sim card before heading over to Melbourne. That's when I learnt that many good deals are available online only.

Remember to take a screenshot your purchase order or save the confirmation email on your phone in case you can't connect to the airport's free wifi because that's what happened to me.

I went with the 'Awesome Plan' because I was there for half a month and I knew I would abuse my mobile data. EG sim cards are available for collection at these places (click here).

I collected mine at Incheon International Airport Arex Desk @ 272 Gonghang-ro Jung-gu, Incheon 1F between Gate 8 & 9.

This is how the counter looks like. It doesn't say "EG Sim" with huge sign, but it's the counter that sells tickets for express train from Incheon Airport to Seoul city.

Head over there and show the staff member your proof of purchase and they will get it ready for you.

To make sure everything's working fine, just pass your phone to them and ask them to get them up and going for you. Most of the staff that work in the airport do speak basic English. 

If you can't find that place, it is located directly opposite to VIPS Express (it's a coffee shop) between Gate 8 and 9. 

Needless to say, remember to keep your original sim card well throughout your trip. You don't wanna get back to your own country and be 'welcomed' with such issue. 

2. Find out where exactly you are staying

If you are heading to your accommodation right away, it is best if you know the address. Write it down in both English and Korean. Whether it's a hotel or an Airbnb, check with them to find the easiest and fastest and cheapest way to head over there. Come on, let's be real, dragging a luggage around is definitely not fun after a long flight. 

For me, I was staying at Hapjeong (잡정) and the host recommended me to take the airport bus as that would save me having to transfer between a few subways. 

The ticket booth for the airport bus is just a few counters away (same row, towards the right) from where I picked up my sim card and it was only 10000 won per trip. 

3. Sleeping pills 

I used to be able to sleep like a baby on the plane but recently I have been having problem sleeping whenever and wherever I want. Signs of aging? FML! Because the flight from Melbourne to Korea took me around 18-19 hours (including transit), I wanted to make sure I get enough sleep so I wouldn't need to take a few days to recharge if I arrived as a zombie. I got some sleeping pills from the pharmacy and packed it with my passport. 

4. Bring a pen

Pack it with your sleeping pill and passport. They are the things you need on your flight anyway because you'll need to fill the declaration form or arrival form before you land.  

5. Have an extra piece of your bank card 

Trust me when I say this because as a banker, you have no idea how many people went insane and even had an emotional breakdown as their foreign bank card got taken in by the local ATM machines. 

Don't go around throwing tantrum when the local bank staff refuses to return it to you because it's their job to not return it to you! So to save yourself from any trouble (either losing it or getting it swallowed or whatever), head over to your own bank and request for an extra piece. It's usually free of charge. However, you may need to go 1 or 2 weeks before your trip just in case they need time to process it. 

6. Travel insurance 

Of course I know we don't want to jinx the trip but seriously the consequences are scary to imagine. I don't even want to start with any examples. 

I wouldn't arrange for travel insurance if I were to travel from Melbourne back to Malaysia because that's home for me but I did get my 'Adulting 101' right by getting a travel insurance. 

NAH~ truth is, I got a credit card (hey, don't judge, I handle my finances alright) and got complimentary travel insurance. I don't have to pay for annual fee thanks to staff benefit, I get to earn points for my purchases and also get free travel insurance :P On top of that, the credit card may be helpful if you wanted to make any large splurges that's not within your original plan. Like me, I put my new MCM wallet on my credit card. 

7. Priority passes / Lounge passes

Painful lesson learnt: Do Not Leave Things Till The Very Last Minute 

I should've gotten my premium lounge passes ready earlier because they come for free with my credit card. I wasn't aware that I would need a physical membership card to be able to access the lounge because I thought everything's electronically done these days. I didn't get my membership card in time before I flew off thus I didn't get the chance to check out premium airport lounges #FML

8. Book your accommodation earlier 

Needless to say, I was guilty of this too. Doing your research earlier will help you get another to-do out of your system, give your more choices and also potentially save you money. I didn't book my accommodation at Pusan earlier - seriously what was I thinking because I had my eyes on that place ages ago and I just didn't get around to pay for it, before I knew it, it was gone and I paid $80 extra for another place. 

9. The ultimate travel list 

You don't have to come up with a super rigid and compact travel schedule. My mom flies around like Karlie Kloss going on international fashion shows and she never does this. Sometimes she'll just make a list at the airport or something like that. If you don't feel secured enough to do random shit like that, don't do it. 

To some extent, this worked for me because when I tried to plan my trip very thoroughly it stressed me out big time. 

From my experience, all you need to do is find the areas that you'll like to do and check what are the attractions and what are the must-try foods at that particular area and you are ready to go. Give yourself the freedom to play things by ear because life's tough enough to go through mundane routines everyday and the last thing you need on a vacation is to chase after a schedule or to-do list. It's way better to enjoy the present than to rush around just to tick off a destination on your list, I promise it wouldn't take away your fun. 

For instance, I made a plan to go to Nami Island, Le Petit France, Garden of Morning Calm and Jade Garden all in one day because these places are in the same area. Some day tourist company do offer 1-day tours for these places. However, I ended up going to only Nami Island. A little disappointed that I didn't get to go to Le Petit France because you much I love The Little Prince but nevermind, I still had LOTS of fun at Nami Island.

10. Research on skincare and makeup 

You will be effing overwhelmed if you arrive in Korea for skincare/makeup shopping without knowing anything. There are so many brands and products to choose from. Yes, being spoilt with choices is good but you don't want to bring home a tonne of products that don't suit you. Watch some Korean beauty gurus on Youtube or Google for their honest reviews. Also figure out what skin type are you, what brands are more trustworthy and what are the products that are within the budget that you set for yourself. 

I recommend Meejmuse and Hanbyul. I do follow quite a number of Korean Youtubers but these 2 are my favourite.

Of course it is completely alright to do some impulsive purchase here and there because of their insanely cute packaging but definitely make sure what you buy suits you. 

11.  Recycle bag / Plastic bag 

Bring along one small recycle bag with you because in Korea, some of the shops do charge a small fee for a plastic bag. Plus, it's environmental friendly, do your part, bud! 

12. Money

You have a few options and yes here's your banker Fion speaking again: 

-cash (probably tonnes of cash)
-debit / credit card (remember to get an extra piece from your own bank) 
- global currency card 
-or a mixture of the options above
I find myself being very "extra" in saying this but I thought it's helpful for people who may not know?! hmm...

I know most people travel with cash but truthfully you can be OK travelling without any cash. You can use your own bank card at ATMS in another country. Yes, you might be charged foreign currency conversion fees by your own bank and also a small little fee by the local ATMS but at least this is  better than going around with tonnes of cash or getting yourself into trouble when you've ran out of cash.

Global currency card works like a prepaid card. You load up the card with your own local currency and you can use it overseas as if you are using their local bank card. In other words, you load up the card and use it at whatever country that you are heading without being charged any foreign currency conversion fees or ATM fees. Do check with the bank that you are planning to get your global currency card from in order to confirm what currencies and/or countries are included and also the T&Cs. 

Another reminder: don't put all eggs in one basket. Very self-explanatory, if you travel with a bunch of cash, don't bring it all with you everyday. You are NOT going to use all of them in one day anyways. Lock it away in your suitcase if you have a safe accommodation place or your hotel's safety box. 

13. Travel adapter 

Korea's electric socket looks like this, which is similar to that of Europe's I believe.  

Also check with your Airbnb hosts or hotels to see if they do provide you a travel adapter for free. 

It should look something like this. 

14. Fully charged powerbank and phone cable 

Have these on you all the time. I repeat. All the time.

15. Additional SD card or camera battery 

If you are like me who is not satisfied with just using your smart phone to take photos, definitely get additional SD card and camera battery. Korea's so beautiful that every corner and every angle is worth a shot, or rather several shots! You definitely don't want to be caught in a situation where you don't have enough storage/battery for more shots. 

16. Phone apps 

I use an iPhone so all of these are from iTunes app store but I believe Android should have them too. 

Here are a few apps that I found very helpful for me and I highly recommend you pre-download and play around with them before your trip:

Map and route planners for subways in Seoul and Pusan. You don't need to know Korean to use this because you can just type the station name that you are heading towards in English and it will show up. Subway stations have English and Chinese names too. 

From there, you will know which line to take (follow the colour) and which station to get off or to transfer to another line. 

Pretty self-explanatory I love it. 

I recommend having a translation app/dictionary with you in case you have problem in communicating with the locals. This app doesn't give you translations in a full sentence but having at least keyword in Korean and body language or hand signs do bring you a really long way! 

I do speak Korean and am able to understand them quite well so I didn't use this a lot. The only time I opened this app was to find out what's the Korean word for "acne" because I was shopping for pimple cream lolx 

I also came across some apps that allow you to speak your language into it and they'd translate it automatically to the other foreign language. I haven't tried any of those out so I can't really comment on their usefulness. 

I don't like the mobile version of Airbnb. Hence, I recommend having the app on your phone. It is also easier to communicate with your Airbnb host at all times.

KakaoTalk is basically Korea's Whatsapp. However, unlike Whatsapp, it is incredibly cute in terms of the stickers, themes and notification tones. 

Majority of the Koreans use this and some Airbnb hosts use this to communicate with their guests. 

PS: This is also a fast and hassle-free way to get the contact details of the cute guy/girl that you wanna hit on in Korea :p Just tell him or her "카톡해요 Katalk hey-yo?" which sort of means "Add one another on KakaoTalk?" 

Food for thought maybe? 

Another reason why I recommend KakaoTalk is because there is no Uber in Korea but they have Kakao T instead. Kakao T stands for Kakao Taxi and it is owned by the company that developed KakaoTalk. It works like Uber but instead of only accepting payments on card, Kakao Taxi brings the cab to you and you can choose to pay either in cash or card.

To be honest the ultimate app to make the best of your Korea trip is Naver Map. The only downside is that it is all written in Korean. For people who don't understand Korean, I don't think you'll be able to use it. 

This app works like Google map with GPS to track your location. You can type in where you are / use the "locate me" function and your destination, then it will suggest the fastest way for you to get there. It will show you the length of the your journey, the estimated fare and also which form of public transport to take / switch to. Buses in Korea are rather confusing if you do not have this app. I even helped a few Korean old ladies who weren't tech savvy to figure out the ways to their destinations.

I will try my very best to write up a blog post on how to use Naver Map app for people who don't understand Korean. It's too good not to be shared with ya all!!! 

Another alternative is to use Google maps to get around in Korea. Of course the Google Maps is no match for the Naver Map app but it's still better than nothing right? 

17. Bring your passport/foreign bank cards along to some places 

In Korea, as long as you purchase over 30000won in a shop, you are able to get tax refund at the airport. Some shops/areas will prepare your tax refund receipt immediately at the checkouts so you could go straight to the tax refund counter at the airport after going through the immigration. Sometimes, they'll have promotions for foreigners too. 

Highly recommend you to bring along these 2 things to Myeondong, Gyeongbukgong, Sinchon and Apgujeong-rodeo in Seoul and Nampo-dong in Pusan. 

For example, while I was at Pusan's Nampo-dong, Innisfree was having a 30% sale storewide for all foreigners who could pay with their foreign credit cards. 

18. Tips on what clothes to pack

I'm not a travel or fashion blogger by any means so I am not going to tell you how I mix and match my outfits and things like that. 

My only tip is to bring a good pair of walking shoes (I don't do the have-a-pair-of-heels-in-my-bag-for-photo-only kind of thing because it's really insane in my p.o.v) and also comfortable yet presentable clothing pieces. 

I brought 2 pairs of black jeggings from Uniqlo (they are exactly identical) because those are basically the only pants that I wear anyways in my life apart from my workout and corporate outfits. You will see these pants all over my upcoming Korea trip blog posts!  

Packing plain colours for your tops will make your outfit look simple and nice. Plus, you don't have to worry about the need to look super extravagant because the trend in Korea is always just "simple, casual and presentable". 

I like keeping things light-weighted during my travel so instead of bringing my coat for autumn in Korea, I brought my Tommy Hilfiger windbreaker. It's presentable (duh it's TH and TH is love!) and most importantly light-weighted. I had days when I wore it out early in the morning then I had to carry it for the whole day in my hands until it got too chilly again at night. Just imagine if I were to have a long thick coat, I'd kill myself for that. 

Another alternative is pack no shit and buy everything in Korea. I only had these things in my luggage together with my tech stuffs, bras and underwears, little to none skincare and makeup (it's Korea for god's sake), a book and iPad that was loaded up with a few Korean dramas. 

My friend saw it and she asked, "Are you serious that you are done with packing? You don't have anything!" 

"Why should I have everything? I'm going to the land of everything-Fion-wants."

This also saved me the money of having to pay for check-in luggage too because I was travelling with AirAsia. You'll have to purchase luggage weight if you exceed the 7kgs for hand-carry and have your bag checked in. 

19. A spare duffle bag 

Keep a foldable big duffle bag in your luggage because you'll definitely need an extra bag for your shopping in Korea. Or you can just buy it in Korea and it doesn't cost you much. I got a super big one which I swore I could fit myself into it with just 10000won. 

I guess that concludes the list. Nothing too fancy but all the practical tips because it's Korea and you don't have to worry for not having whatever you need. Just grab your essentials and you are good to go! 

Till the next blog post ^^ 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

가자 Korea Diary 1: Post Kimchiland Thoughts & Reasons Why I Love Korea

I am trying my very best not to begin this entry with a swear word.


Okay, I know I shouldn't. It's just that I can't stomach the fact that my Korea trip has ended. It has been more than a week since I stepped out of the holy land of kimchi. Yes, the kimchi's way better on the other side. Including the rice cakes and everything. Every single thing that you can name, Korea has it in a better version FTW.


Growing up, I'd usually travel with my mom, excluding the primary school trip that I went with my friends and teachers. It wasn't until last year when I started earning my own money, I went on a 2 days 1 night roadtrip with my ex-housemate to Ballarat. Speaking of which I haven't even completed the blog posts, damn! Only part 1 is up here.

While I dreamt (quite literally) about going to Korea for 7 years, I knew all the while that my virgin trip there shouldn’t be with my mom - it's gonna be either with friends or on my own because my mom doesn't appreciate Korea at all. She's more of the type that waves the Japan flag! I don't want to hear someone raving about sashimi as I eat my kimchi *sorry mom*

Just so you know there's a difference between "sushi" and "kimbap". Google or ask Siri if you don't know. It's important.

Initially, I asked my best friends if they'd want to go together but they were indecisive and I really needed a getaway plus the air tickets were super cheap so I told them, "I'll book my tickets regardless, buy yours if you want to tag along, you know where to find me."

Before I flew off, my emotions were insanely racked. There were a bunch of problems that I didn't know how to solve or even digest. I was going back and forth of being alright and not alright to the extent that my friend was telling me to go to the doctor to see if I was okay mentally and physically.
To make things worse, I was stressing myself out big time despite being really excited. I was afraid that Korea might turn out to be a major disappointment and it’d prove that I had been living in my own fantasy bubble for 7 years or I’d do something to fuck things up on my own. After all, it’s my first ever trip to Korea AND my first ever solo trip in my 23 years of existence on planet Earth. It's a BIG deal! See how I emphaSIZEd that?! x)

Thankfully I had this trip which served the greatest purpose of what we call a "getaway" - getting away from my problems like an ostrich sticking its head into the sand and be unapologetically ignorant.

Now that I am back, I can seriously scream out loud that I am loving Korea much more than ever. 

The post-Korea trip syndrome is hitting me hard in the butt. 
It’s official that my life equation is now:
eat and not gain weight + earn and save money + plan the next Korea trip

You know how those travel bloggers or travel instagrammers always say that once you embark on your first trip, you’ll want to keep on going for another and another and another – as if you've just awoken the sleeping travel bug in you. 

I didn’t quite understand that...until now. In hindsight, I felt alive during the trip, much more alive than I had ever been!!!!!!

I suppose because the past 10 months of this year were too insane for me. On the outside, it seemed as if I overcame them and they didn’t cause me much harm…but because things came one after another. I didn’t really have time to let them sink in, digest, figure out how to recover myself. I was in constant battle mode and forcing myself to heal asap so I wouldn’t waste more time on it as I couldn’t afford to do so. 

I didn’t know how significant this whole “evil cycle” had affected me because downplaying whatever I was going through to others, and even to myself had slowly become a second nature of mine. I saw time as something that’s constantly ticking and I have to live my life ticking off as many to-do boxes as fast as I could. It wasn’t till one night before the trip, I realised that I could not even remember when exactly was the last time I could have some absolute ME time doing whatever I wanted to at my own pace. Hence, I decided to ditch the idea of planning my outfits and just went for the super simple and comfortable clothes (not a fashion blogger anyway so who cares) because all I needed was an unwind session. A long one.

During this trip, I discovered so much about Korea and that's why my love for Korea just skyrocketed.

Here's the modest list of mine that doesn't include my beloved Jung Yong Hwa oppa for once because it's a given fact that everyone who knows me MUST know!

1. Korean food

I ate so much. I’m not joking because even my bestie who often says “you eat like a bird” went “I either see you eating or taking selfies with your food”. She’s the rational third person that you can trust.

I eat a lot of Korean food even when I’m in Melbourne anyways so I thought the food would be pretty much the same because most Korean restaurants in Melbourne are run by Koreans but I was wrong. They have so much more to offer. So many other things that I had never heard or seen before. Most importantly they were reasonably priced, especially the cheap street food that’s basically MAH LIFE!

2. The people
Alright I have to come clean that not everyone on the streets are as good-looking or half as good-looking as the Korean celebrities. Sad to say that throughout my whole trip, I only came across one cute guy busking in Hongdae. End of story.

However, I did meet a lot of really kind-hearted, friendly and helpful people. Because I was travelling alone, I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to take nice photos, especially when I wore their traditional hanbok. However, I got approached by some old men who were out doing leisure photography in a group and they offered to be my photographer, told me how to pose and also explained the history of the palace to me. 

My Korean friends told me that it's because I do speak a little Korean and can understand basic Korean, the locals might feel a smaller gap between us and that’s why I was so spoilt while I was there. I got a free bracelet while buying a denim coat, extra freebies when I was buying skincare, and got tonnes of free food at a hawker stall. Even when I was eating my meals alone in restaurants, the restaurant owners would walk up to me and started chatting with me asking me things like where I was from, how did I learn Korean and etc. Some even asked me if I was a Korean who had lived overseas for too long and has now returned with broken Korean :P Now I know why people say knowing an extra language always benefits you!
3. The weather

I was blessed with awesome weather when I was there for half a month. It was chilly in Seoul and I loved it. One morning when I woke up, it was raining and I was thinking “shit, how am I suppose to go out” but after I finished dressing up, the sky cleared and the rain stopped.  

Busan was much warmer than Seoul and I didn’t have to wear any outer wear. Although I prefer Seoul’s weather, I was so thankful that at least it wasn’t pouring when I was there and it wasn’t as hot as Malaysia or Australia’s current situation. A thankful heart goes a long way! 

4. Shopping 
Like many girls, I love fashion but of course I am no where near a fashionista. I love Korean fashion because they are really simple yet cute, especially sweaters. Funny thing about is that I love dressing up when the  weather’s cold but when it’s hot I'm all in my “DGAF” mode. Hence, having autumn in Korea meant that I could shop for sweaters and also long coats. Let's not forget the makeup and skincare too although I didn't splurge too much in that category. RIP luggage weight quota (mind you I didn't go overweight) and wallet but who cares! 

5. Coffee 

Although I live in Melbourne which is a place known for its coffee, I am obsess the coffees that I had in Korea. They are not exactly cheap comparing to Melbourne’s, especially when you visit themed cafes or some fancier cafes, they are pretty pricey. However, you do get ‘exotic’ coffees pretty easily in Korea. I had flower Americano (in Australia, I believe it’s called the long black) that came with flowers in its ice cubes, sweet potato latte in purple colour, custard latte, latte with bubble tea pearls and my all time favourite latte from FNC WOW with Jung Yong Hwa as the latte art. Most importantly their coffee shops are all too cute to handle. 

6. Desserts  

As much as I appreciate the western culture, I still am born with Asian tastebuds. I prefer the desserts in Korea much much much more than Australia’s. They are cheap, less sweet and less disgustingly creamy. I ate so much desserts when I was there. Sometimes I would even replace a main meal with just desserts, guilty as charged. Hence now I'm back to clean eating, day 4~

7. Cute little things 

I am actually an avid fan of stationery and knick-knacks. If you give me enough storage space at home and money to spend, I’d probably build a cabinet for merely all these cutesy stuffs. Because I’m trying to overcome my habit of collecting knick-knacks, I only bought a few things. My favourite’s a Little Prince notebook that I got for around 6 dollars and a map of Korea for 15 dollars. Don’t step into Artbox, Kakao Friends or Line stores if you don’t have any self-control over things like that *just saying*

8. Universities

I graduated from Melbourne University, the number 1 university in Australia. However, visiting Korean universities really put Melbourne University to shame. Their universities are so majestic and beautiful that I actually teared up as I arrived at Ehwa. Unlike a normal tourist, I went university hop quite a fair bit. I visited 4 universities when I was in Seoul. Even took the subway for 1.5 hour (one way) to visit a university in Ansan. What a weird thing for a tourist to do huh! 

9. Korea's way better than what I had in mind. This statement says it all. Period.  

Don't give me the shit "you are just being blinded because you started loving K-Pop and you thought everything's better there and when you go your bubble will be burst".

I went and I am loving it more.

Hypothesis proven true. Nuff said. The marshmallow clouds, pink bubbles and unicorns of Korea are still in my head! 

10.  I love the person who I became when I was there

I'm not sure whether it's just me or whatever...When I was younger, dating means having fun and being pampered like a princess. However, as I grew older, I realised that one of the most important things in being in a relationship is that you love the person YOU yourself are turning into by being with your partner. That's the true essence of being in a relationship.

That explains my perfect relationship with Korea!

Every morning I woke up to a bottle of banana milk. It's a 1300 won thing but I was so incredibly thankful towards it. And this is just one of the small little things in my entire list. Before I flew off, I drank 2 bottles of it and the very last bottle, I held it in my hands and muttered, "Thank you for playing such a big part in my trip, I promise we will meet again."

Not forgetting my favourite 1000 won O-deng as well!

I learnt to muster my courage to speak as much Korean as possible despite my poor grammar and vocabulary when I was there. I often thought to myself that one day, that one faraway day, I'll be able to speak Korean in Korea. Now I did it. No where near perfect but I did it and managed to delude people to think that I'm Korean! That's a small little milestone for me, especially throughout all these years I have not really studied it with any books. Or that's the help of the law of attraction which made Korean come to me so naturally.

On top of that, I also gained more shamelessness in talking to strangers. I did things that were out of Fion's norm. I volunteered to translate for those non-Korean customers who struggled with language barrier when communicating to the Korean staffs in restaurants and shops, offered my help to help people take photos without them asking (usually they'd happily return the favour) and being more opened in listening to other people's stories as well as trying things that I would not normally dare to try, such as eating pig blood and sitting on a 'swing' across a river!

I learnt to truly unwind and take time to enjoy the small little things in life. To me, taking breaks in Melbourne often include me lazing in bed watching Youtube while scrolling through Instagram and Facebook mindlessly. It will seem like a pretty laid-back moment but often these things make our brains more restless than ever. When I was in Korea, I found solace in just sitting somewhere looking at people or getting lost in my own thoughts. By that I mean just letting my thoughts fly randomly in my brain. I didn't particularly dwell on anything or determine to find solutions to my problems but just allow my mind run. It was as if time had stopped and I would get a lot more calmer. I could sit on a flight of stairs in their university doing nothing but thinking how amazing it is to be alive and to be in Korea experiencing the beauty of this country.

I learnt to be relatively patient and optimistic in Korea. If I missed a train or something, I wouldn't be cursing in my heart like I normally would. If something that I like was out of stock, I'd just think to myself, "It's okay, maybe it's just not meant to be, you'll probably find something better". Or even I didn't have the chance to go to as many places as I initially planned, I was fine with it because it meant that I got to spend more time immersing myself and soaking in the experience more thoroughly.


These things may not seem significant to anyone else but to me, being a very on-the-go person, I rarely enter this type of chill mode, let alone take breaks in life to be this thankful towards everything. If only I could and everyone could take our normal lives with this attitude, I believe everything good will be happening in all of our lives.

I can go on and on with this list forever. Maybe sometime down the road I'll return and expand this list but for now, these are the 10 reasons why I love Korea. Like I said in my 10th point, it's really your take on life that changes your life.

I'll be back Korea. I promise.

ps: I don't usually do travel blog posts because I suck at picking out photos but I got so many requests from my friends asking me to share my travel itinerary so I will be doing it. That explains why this blog post doesn't have many photos because I don't want to spoil the upcoming posts! Hopefully I'll get the whole Korea trip series up before the end of 2017!! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

1 More Sleep Till D-Day

I can’t believe the BIG day is just 1 sleep away. Well, 2 sleeps technically. 1 last sleep in my own room and the next sleep in the plane!

Disappointing much, the BIG day has nothing to do with 21st birthday, engagement, wedding or whatsoever...but to me it's BIG because it's the day my dream come true after 7 years! 7 years of obsession, dedication, loyalty, unconditional love~ I'll be breathing the same air, stepping on the same ground, feeling the same sunshine, enjoying the same scenery as my hubby Yong Hwa oppa ♥

I love going to different places but plane rides really kill me. Every single time I go onto the plane, I feel that I need to do 100000 squats to undo the spongebob butt from those long hours...

After 7 years of dreaming about Korea, I am actually going! This is too surreal, to the extent that I don’t even know how exactly I am feeling…

 Excited? Nervous? Overwhelmed? Stressed?

A few days ago I was losing sleep big time. It felt as if I had a gazillion things flying around in my head in the middle of the night. I went to bed at 10.45pm, closed my eyes but I couldn’t sleep.

I tried to sleep but I could feel that it’s not “legit”. The next thing I knew, I opened up my eyes widely at 1.50am and jumped out of bed. No idea why I did that but my heart was beating really fast as if I just had 3 shots of vodka.

I thought to myself, “maybe because the room’s too messy and so my mood is being affected”. At 2am, I was tidying my room and hanging up my fresh laundry. When I was done I turned off the light and tried to go to bed, still couldn’t. FML big time.

By that time it was already 2.40am, so I went online trying to finish booking all of my accommodations for my Korea trip. Still…my heart was beating so fast that I felt that anytime it’d just jump out of my chest. I then tried to go onto Youtube to find some meditation music and things like that to calm myself down but it didn’t work. Frustrated much, I went to tidy the kitchen cabinet, at 3.40am!! Awesome shit!!

By the time I finished doing everything that I could possibly think of, I went to bed at 4.50am.

The next morning, I Whatsapp-ed Chernie and told her about this. She told me to go to the doctor as she said it MIGHT be a panic attack that I had from last night. I was like “WTF are you serious? Does that mean that I have a depression?" Alright, pardon me for not having scientific knowledge at all, but hey at least I do know what is a paramecium and that a cow has 4 stomachs!

Thankfully, my colleague Daniel who's studying Bio-Med assured me several times that those symptoms were common pre-travel issues, typically for me as a first-time solo traveller. Thank GOD!! Why did I not have such issues when I moved 90% of my possessions over the huge ocean and spent my 18th birthday on the plane alone with a laptop and the electric guitar that was too heavy to carry all around the airport... . .

So far, I have listed out the places that I want to visit while I am in Seoul but nothing at all for Busan. Told my mom about my anxiety and she shot me this message and it totally changed my perspective. Instead of dwelling upon ticking off all the boxes, she told me, "If you want to go to cafes in Korea, just go. You don't have to do all the touristy things and go to all places at once. Not that you wouldn't go back again!" Right, it's freaking Korea for crying out loud. If I could, I would be going back there every single year.

Nope, let me rephrase this in the typical Law of Attraction way: I will be going to back to Korea every single year. I am able to do that because I want to and I will make it happen!


To be drop dead honest, I really don't know what to expect from this trip. As much as I love shopping, I feel for this trip I just want to keep the crazy shopping to a minimal. On the contrary, I just want to take my time strolling around natural parks in Korea and go to cozy little cafes to write my journal/read, eat street food and take lots of photos! Also, I'll buy a Korean version of "The Little Prince" back!!!


It's been around 2 months or 2.5 months since I booked the trip. I wouldn't have the courage to do so without someone's encouragement in the first place. (Let's just call that person L) L prolly doesn't know this but I do take L's advice and words seriously because I admire and trust L entirely. If you are ever reading this L, I know I don't say it enough because I don't know how to...but thank YOU for always encouraging me to chase after my dreams and telling me that you are proud of me. Thank YOU for never trying to pave a typical path for me but watch as I grow and provide me sound advice whenever I turn to you for anything. Thank YOU for challenging me to get out of my comfort zone and to think outside of the box. You make me a better version of myself ☆ 

No matter how the journey will turn out to be, this will be MY trip. I saved up, planned and paid for everything on my own. This is a challenge and also a big adventure for myself. I don't know whether it would be as amazing as I have been picturing for 7 god damn years but I do believe that if you appreciate the little things in life, no matter where you are and what you are doing, there is always something in life to be grateful for :) Plus, the kimchi should be better on the other side with law of attraction on MY side! (hey, that rhymes!)

This time tomorrow I shall be sitting mindlessly at the airport on my own with my earphones. I bought sleeping pills for the flight, downloaded the old dramas that I am going to reminisce in the plane and also brought along a new book titled "The Lean Startup" - these ought to keep me occupied for the whole trip.

I haven't finished packing my bag because I'm still waiting for my clothes to dry up, so I'll take care of that tomorrow after work. I'll have 4 hours to pack up. Originally I wanted to blog about "What's My In Flight Essentials" and things like that which I love watching/reading about. Nosy me who loves to poke her nose into other people's bags! Oh well, I surrender since I am going to bring the things that only seem logical to myself and not to anyone else ><"

My priority list is definitely a mess when it comes to travelling. As long as I get things done, it doesn't matter how they were being taken care of :P Bet I inherited this pre-travel trait from my mom in the blood!

That's all for today, I'm going to be away from my laptop for 20 days...This is the longest time ever. Perhaps that's why I am anxious because my sense of security won't be with me for so long... Anyways, enough crap for tonight. The reason why I painstakingly wrote this blog post is to pour out my thoughts because I'm too lazy to put pen to paper and it'll be a shame if I didn't "document" the feelings and thoughts that I had on the night-before-I-fly. I'll come back and copy it by hand or print it out to stick into my travel journal in November.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Rabbit Hole Cafe @ ABC Chicken on Queen Street

I haven't had a single cup of coffee for a week thanks to this damn sore throat. So, the only thing I can do now in bed is to blog about my last cup of coffee I had from 8 days ago. 

I caught up with Vera and made plans to go to another cafe last Saturday morning before I headed off to work. Initially the plan was to go to a cafe on Little Collins street but unfortunately it wasn't open. The two of us then wandered on the streets for a bit trying to find a decent cafe and it started raining. 

That's when we saw this cafe across the street that looked pretty small and cozy. Anything's better than walking around aimlessly in the rain, right? 

Once I entered this cafe, I told Vera that this should be a Korean coffee shop. 

I wasn't paying attention that this is actually ABC Chicken, a Korean chicken and beer restaurant. In the morning, the ground level serves as a cafe as the restaurant only opens at night. 

Speaking of which...I am really craving for Korean fried chicken right now ㅠㅠㅠ

If I did not have my breakfast at home that morning, I would've ordered this. I'll bring Chernie here with me next time. 

I ordered a medium size caramel cappuccino and Vera got a cup of chai latte. 

I can never say no to those flavoured coffees that are rare. What can I say, the Koreans do it better. Honestly speaking, Rabbit Hole Cafe serves rather decent coffee. The only downside they don't have cakes and the traditional Korean snacks, unlike my favourite Duri Cafe on Lonsdale Street.

I love coffee shops that go the extra mile to bribe me with a small biscuit. That's the little happiness of life :P 

Just a side note, if you don't have cash on you, this cafe charges a surcharge of 20 cents on both debit and credit cards. 

A quick catchup with a girl friend who I hadn't seen in a really long time's one of the best ways to start my Saturday mornings. I should start doing this more often with my girls x 

OMG 33 days till I head off to Korea!! So stoked!! I'm definitely going for lots of cafe runs in Korea, can't wait to meet up with Soomin 언니 to visit the coffee prince Lee Kangbin's cafe too!! 신난당~

Rabbit Hole Cafe

Opening Hours: 7am - 3pm daily
Address: 361 Queen Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia

Today's post is a relatively short one because I am feeling dead, the throat is really killing me. Wonder would I be able to survive work tomorrow....

Before I go, here's a nice Korean song that's not from the mainstream K-Pop artistes that I stumbled upon on Youtube. I have it on replay as I edit the photos for this blog post. This guy has a really smoothing voice ♥


Friday, September 15, 2017

Pulling Myself Out of A Rut

V shot me a message a few nights ago, "I know you had a shit day but I love u and always here for u girl".

She melted my heart. Big time ♥♥
The next day, she dragged me to a corner and said “talk to me”.

I wasn't downplaying nor lying when I told her I was alright. I mean, everything seems to be going OK in my life:
  • I passed my internal interpretation exam with the highest score in my class although I didn't study beforehand.
  • I was really blessed to be given the opportunity to be the branch manager when my manager's away. It's tough and tiring having to juggle both roles at the same time but I survived. 
  • Professional year's wrapping up this Sunday. After this Sunday, I can finally have a day off to myself BUT before that I have to prepare for a presentation which I have not started yet. It's so near yet so far!!! Can't wait to hit the Dior's exhibition with my friend next Sunday, the thought of having a day off is so surreal!! 
  • 6 weeks till my Korea trip 신난당!!!
The list above doesn't seem bad at all right? Despite all these good things, I was dreadfully exhausted - mentally and physically. 

Since the end of the last week, I fell into a rut. I would go home after work, eat crap instead of dinner, do no shit apart from scrolling through all the social media apps on my phone in bed. Gym routines were thrown out of the window. To make things worse, I started sleeping really late (what the fuck was I doing in bed scrolling away for hours), waking up late, stopped meal prepping properly as well as neglected my Midori bullet journal. 

That feeling sucks but it's like a mud swamp - once you're in it, you're so deep in it.


Anyway, the good news is that today's the first day that I'm sort of pulling myself together as a functional human being. 

Well, let's just disregard the fact that my diet's still severely damaged by the cookies in the office. Thanks Blacky for putting them in a glass container so I have to go through a mental tennis battle whenever I walk pass it. 

After tomorrow, I'm no longer the delegate branch manager anymore because the real boss is back on Monday. I just have to finalise some paperwork tomorrow and everything's done and dusted on my end. 

From the customers' perspectives, I was probably the least convincing bank manager of all time. A few customers came looking for the branch manager to voice their concerns and about some ridiculous requests and whenever I told them, "Yeah, I'm the manager, how could I help you?"

Immediately, this would be their faces. Without fail. To add more accuracy, imagine those eyes looking 45 degrees downwards because I'm just a dwarf to them. They must be thinking, "WTF is this kid doing and acting like she owns the place". Too bad nobody was there to capture those moments if not I would have owned a good memorable collection of memes by now. 

Tonight's Friday night. Alanis cancelled our dinner plan so I'm sitting at home writing this blog post.

So many years into blogging, I know for a fact that as painstaking as it is to sit my sorry ass down, think, type and edit photo, whenever I hit the "publish" button, it always gives me a sense of satisfaction. If I don't do it, I'd be returning to the mud swamp of doing nothing again. Also, someone challenged me to update my blog before the weekend, so here I am trying overcome my 'writer's block'. I didn't know what to blog about so I ended up doing a self-reflection on how I spent my last couple of  zombie-like days.

Here are some tips that helped drag me out of the ruts of life:

1. Write down the tasks to be completed and give yourself a 'time budget'
I am the biggest procrastinator when I'm in a rut. Instead of sitting there panicking and feeling overwhelmed by the mountain of things that are on your plate, write it down and take a deep breath. Look at the tasks and allocate a certain amount of time for each task. I often use the length of song to tell myself that "it's not going to take that long" so it's much easier to convince myself to stop being lazy like Homer Simpsons.

2. Be realistic
Instead of writing a whole chunk of Sisyphean tasks to accomplish in one day, be realistic about how much you actually get done. It's absolutely alright to get them done in 'installments' because what matters the most is getting them done eventually. Of course, for the tasks with deadlines, you gotta be realistic in meeting the due dates too.

3. Do some mindfulness practice
Take some therapeutic time off for yourself by journaling, meditating or even snuggling in bed with soft music and scented candle burning. The Chinese believe that "taking a rest is to go for a longer path".

4. Workout
It's going to be hard especially when you are already in a rut. No sugarcoating attempts here.

Nevertheless, trust me, when the workout's over, you'd feel like you have conquered the world!

5. Eat healthy

The deeper I am in my rut, the more junk I eat. This is an evil cycle. Regardless of how shitty you are feeling, don't forget to put in good fuel into your body. A good breakfast is bound to kickstart your day in a more positive note ☼

Here's my other Instagram account where I post my occasional Insta-worthy healthy dishes @fionfeeds

6. Sleep early and wake up early

I love the idea of waking up early, getting things done in a world that seems to belong to me and only me, especially the feeling of having a long day than everyone AND not forgetting being able to have the chill time to enjoy my breakfast. This sounds perfect but it's not achievable when I sleep at 1.30am. I still struggle to sleep early so I am in this mission where I set an alarm at 10.30pm for every single night (Cinderella has a later night out than me, wtf). In this case, even when I procrastinate to get ready for bed, it wouldn't be past midnight.

7. Tidy, tidy, tidy
Declutter and clean up your space because your environment affects your mood. It also keeps your headspace clutter-free. Whenever I wash my bedspread, vacuum and sanitize my carpet and wipe everything down. I feel very refreshed and happy and energized! #auntylife

8. Find YOUR motivation
Be it fitness, finance, meal prep...Whatever you strive to do, it is so important to find motivation or people who you look up to/can share your journey with. This will help in bringing you one step closer to your goal. So dig away on Tumblr, Youtube, Pinterest and etc! You get the gist.

9. Get small treat for yourself throughout the day

For me, these days I'm incredibly obsess with coffee. Not too sure whether this is a good thing or bad thing but I'm trying to cut down my caffeine intake by alternating between strong cappuccino and chai latte.

Okay so my 10.30pm alarm is going off, I gotta brush my teeth and rewind from my laptop. Gotta drag myself up for a workout in the morning before I head out for a coffee session with my girl friend and then work!

Good night world xx 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

2017 So Far

It's been 6 months since I last blogged. Little did I know 6 months could fly just like that *snap*

Looking back, it definitely feels more than 6 months.

So much was going in my life in the past 6 months and it wasn't till 3 Saturdays ago I had my first ever no-schedule day all to myself.

Here's my biggest attempt to recap everything.

January 2017 caught me off-guard when the Aussie government suddenly increased the minimum points required for their skilled migration visa applications. Since then, everything was just a hot mess. 1 week before I headed back home to Malaysia to visit my family, I made two major decisions - enrolled in the Professional Year programme and the Naati paraprofessional interpreter exam.

To be honest, looking back, I have absolutely NO idea how did I manage to afford paying for all these let alone surviving through them. Those two cost me more than 10 grand - I paid every single cent on my own.

But, what else can I do? I really want to get the permanent residency in Australia. Thus, the only solution was to suck it up and hustle through.

Right after I got back from Malaysia, I enrolled in another external course that prepped me for the Naati parapofessional interpreter exam. That took place on every Saturday from 10-5pm. On the other hand, the Professional Year programme runs every Sunday from 9-5pm. I was, still am working full time from 8.30-5pm from Monday to Friday and occasionally a few Saturday shifts.

Believe me when I say this, anytime, anywhere, I'd choose work over exams and studies!

Right after Naati exam ended, it was the time to get my shit together and study for the level CFA exam in June which I enrolled last year when I got my first ever paycheck.

CFA was really hectic. By this time, I was at the brink of going insane. Not too literally but you get the gist of it... I love working in banking and finance in real life but when it comes to studying for a Finance exam, I'll sum it up in one word: SUICIDAL. I was never good at Finance exams. Although things made more sense this time around considering that I have been in banking for quite a while, I didn't have the fire of passion burning in me.

On top of that, I had to find a new place to move. Because most of my friends had renewed their leases at the start of the year and also because most friends moved back to their home countries after graduation, there's basically nobody whom I could see as a potential flatmate. The last resort was to go onto or whatever random websites and put myself out there to find a potential flatmate. For me, this was the most pathetic and desperate situation that I got myself into, EVER. I was disgusted to my bone marrow! It's the feeling of begging your ex ex ex ex boyfriend to patch back with you.

I started to recognise the fact that having a full time job is not good enough. Working hard is not hard enough. Everything's stagnant. Being so tied up by a crazy schedule indirectly made me complacent and lost focus in life because my goal switched to completing everything on the schedule and that's a happy day! I felt as if the whole world was going to collapse on me. As if I had a thousand invisible dementors around me sucking my soul out of me. I was lost but also dead, in the inside. "Stucked", "quarter-life crisis" or whatever you label it - that's the situation where I was in, though my personal description would be "FUCKED".

Thankfully, I was blessed enough to transfer to another workplace within the same company. The day when I was told that, I was so goddamn happy and I felt like a tiny beansprout that just had his "breakthrough" to the first exposure of sunlight after being in a bean for ages.

I did consider skipping the exam because the idea of hustling through and "try your luck, who knows what the outcome will be" scared the shit out of me, big time. Perhaps suffocating is the better word choice. Still...after a few cry-babe sessions and tonnes of whinging, I continued with my studies.

Right before the CFA exam, the paraprofesional interpreter results came back and I failed by 2 marks! Fuck my life big time. At that time, I didn't even know what should I feel. I didn't cry, to my very own astonishment, because I didn't even have the time to register the fact that I failed the exam that could potentially cost me to be thrown out of Australia in my head.

Very quickly, I submitted a request to have my Naati results reviewed BUT I also decided to place all my bet on the table by enrolling in the "internal" Naati at the same time as my backup plan because I couldn't afford to sit around and waste for things to happen. I have come too far to bear this risk by not going all out.

For those who don't know, the "internal" Naati is just like a diploma. Unlike the official Naati exam where you figure things out on your own and sit for the exam with all fingers and toes crossed that you could successfully pass it, "internal" Naati is basically like enrolling in a 1 unit of subject at college. You have to go to classes, submit assignments, fulfill in-class assessments and etc. This cost me 3.2K...

Adulting life is struggling to find a way to pay everything you have to pay, priotize your payments and trying to squeeze out some money for savings.

I guess the saying "the bitter has to come before the sweet" is legit because one of my friends suddenly texted me and asked "are you still looking for an apartment because I'm thinking of moving out". Fast forward through those apartment hunting shit and trying to sweet-talk the property agents to let me secure a place without having to go for an inspection, I finally sorted out the lease of our new place.

Then, for the next few weeks, my life consisted of 3 things ONLY - work and CFA and a list of miscellaneous to-dos.

Miraculously...I managed to walk out of the CFA exam hall alive.

Reaching for the remote control to fast forward things again, after CFA, I finally had the time to get my nails, eyebrows and facial done and had my first ever shopping in 2017. The rest of the time was spent decluttering and packing.

5th July I moved into the new apartment and spent around 1 or 2 weeks trying to put the place together. Then the Naati results came back with a PASS!! I was sick at that time but with the "PASS" in hand, I rolled out of the bed regardless and headed to the "internal" Naati to withdraw myself from their exams and also to submit my EOI (expression of interest) for my Aussie permanent residency visa.

Just when I thought that it's time for me to slowly reap what I sowed, I failed CFA. Found out about this at 4am and balled my eyes out. Eventually I went to work with black smokey eye makeup to work so I could cover up my goldfish eyes.

Technically speaking, I consider this the very first time I fail an exam in my 23 years of life. It hit me hard but at the same time, I didn't have the desire to do it again even though I believe if I were to do it again I would be able to pass it this time...Just that...I don't know, I can't picture myself doing it anymore, at least not in the near future. I want to stop having something hanging behind my head and waking up everyday living from one to-do list to another to-do list.

After I talked to a few friends about it, I decided to hide it from my mom first because I knew deep down that I wasn't ready to do it again and I was so petrified at the thought of her telling me to re-do it again. As much as it kills me hiding things from my mom (I'm the worst at lying to mommy since I was a kid), I also knew that I'm old enough to make decisions on my own and bear with the consequences of my choices. Nevertheless, at this point of my life, I really do not have the tiniest bit of desire to work on something just because I have to but not because I want to.

Although I feel apologetic towards my mom, I am not really sorry. On the contrary, I'm ultimately thankful to her when she told me to retake IF I'm ever ready to do it again myself. Also, thankful that she is starting to treat me like an adult.

As a pick-me-up, I plunged myself into building something that I have been wanting to do for quite some time. While I felt stuck in life earlier this year, I decided to start an online business.

I was, still am pretty clueless with whatever I am doing but I know after all these crap that I went through in the past 1.5 years, I want to do something for myself. Owning a business has always been a fascinating idea of mine. I want to create something that represents me and that belongs to me. Something that its value is way beyond success or failure - because it's something that I build from scratch myself and nobody can take it away from me.

Something like the fox that the Little Prince tamed and the rose that he took care of on planet B612.

I'm stoked to share that I'm building a clothing ecommerce store and it's launching really soon!!!!!

Sign up for the newsletter to be the first to know when the shop goes live!!!

Here's a little sneak peak - the first ever product that I've introduced to anyone!

Basically, this is a one-girl show. I'm the purchaser, the photo editor, the designer, the admin, the photographer ... EVERYTHING. I am putting my heart and soul into it but I am also blessed with many talented and smart people around me who have helped me in the process of putting together this big puzzle. The process would've been horrendous without you all!!!! You guys know who you are and ya all know that I love you from the very bottom of my heart 

Another thing to share is that...I also decided to chase the dream that I have been putting off for 7 years! 7 goddamn years!

Looking back I can't believe why on earth did I put off a dream for THIS long!!!

One of the most surreal shits that I have experienced in my life. I swear I was at the brink of bursting into tears. All these years of "BIG TALKS", finally...I am going to Korea!!!!! FOR HALF A MONTH!!!!! 

7 years of waiting for THE PERFECT moment to go to Korea, I decided to not wait any longer. If you know me through social media or in real life, I am a huge Korean fanatic since I fell for Jung Yong Hwa oppa in 2011 and thus I fell in love with Korea, the place where my man lives! I'm going to be stepping on the same piece of land with him AHHH ♥

Perfect moments never exist in real life, what we can do is to take the leap of faith and create moments as perfect as possible ourselves. Many things in life are now or never, so don't wait anymore. Let things free fall and have faith in yourself along the way. 

I know it's easier said than done but going through life is not an easy process, thus when we come across anything that we desire, make sure to believe in yourself and work hard for it. Despite the fact that results are not always guaranteed, you will be surprised by what life has to offer - it might not be right away but someday it will. I believe it that. 

For me, although it took 7 years, this is also the first time I'm travelling solo and one thing that I am proud of is that despite paying for my rent, insurances and all these exams and list of crazy stuffs that I listed above, I am still able to afford to save a decent amount to go on this trip!

Dear Mom, IF you are reading this and before you get mad, I'd layover for a night in Malaysia to chill with you for a day or two before heading back to Melbourne!! 

2017 had been crazily stressful for me for the past 7 months but now I accept the fact that the power to change things around and create a life that I want lies within my own hands and nobody else's.

Choosing to do something that you want and believing in it is just like growing a seed. You can't control the sunlight, the air or other factors but make sure that you are putting your best effort in doing whatever you can to nourish it and have faith that it will bloom beautifully one day.

Fingers crossed for the luck to be on my side!!! AND YOUR SIDES TOO!!!