A Travellerspoint blog

Home sweet home

Ford Falcon Station Wagon

sunny 20 °C

After three amazing days in Fiji, we’re down under with one mission in mind - buy a cheap vehicle and get out of Sydney!

We stayed at the Pink House Backpackers in Potts Point, beside Kings Cross. It was voted as one of the best party hostels in town, the room we stayed in was not the cleanest, and it was not at all the fun we had imagined. We paid for two nights, and during our third day, while debating whether to stay for one more night or not, I (Erica) saw a roach on my bed, and that was the end of it.

We moved over to The Great Aussie Backpackers. It was a friendly and clean hostel. Our short stay in Sydney was crammed and spent going from hostel to hostel looking at bulletin boards, scouting cars on the street, researching on the net, and checking out car after car.

In the end, we bought our car - 1999 Ford Falcon Station Wagon, and we named her Lucky.

We customized her, so she’s our home- bedroom, kitchen, office, and everything we need.

Posted by etthuang 14:49 Archived in Australia Tagged home ford_falcon traveling_abroad Comments (0)

Fiji Time

Heavenly Bliss

sunny 30 °C

Time breezes by without a moments notice. Our one year in Korea and our two and a half weeks at home gone by. We're now on the road again.

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Three days in Fiji finished faster than the airplane meal we inhaled after starving all morning. We were completely out of Fijian currency on our last night and we missed the free breakfast the next morning rushing to the airport.

It’s been a great three days, though expensive, but well worth every Fijian cent.

It’s been three and a half years since I (James) was here last, seemingly exactly as it was before. My friend, Tai, still singing songs and drinking kava at the hostel I stayed at last time.

We just chilled out the first day, walked the beach, stowed our gear in the dorm and talked travel with some of the other backpackers. That night, I (Erica) tried Kava for the first time. Kava is a drink made from grind up Kava plants. It has an anaesthetic effect. Kava’s appeal is definitely not in its taste, but for me, it was in the ritual that follows Kava looks like swampy water, has a chalky texture, and tastes like watered down bitterness. However, the ritual is real fun. We all sit in a circle. Kava is made is a large wooden bowl, and is handed to you in small carefully carved coconut bowls. Before receiving, you clap once and say “Bula.” and then you one shot the drink, and you clap three times. You’re drinking while everyone around you hums. After the first drink, my tongue went numb. A few drinks later, my toes and fingers went numb. I was already feeling sick from being jetlagged, after drinking too much Kava, I puked. Though I knew I should be getting some rest, I could not resist going back to the rituals of Kava. The night went by happily and lazily with songs and kava.

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The next day, we headed out early. We shelled out a couple hundred for a boat tour that included a half day on the island “South Sea Island” with all you can drink Fiji Bitter, and an amazing BBQ lunch - steak, sausage, fish, and chicken!

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We both jumped in the water with our snorkel gears to check out some exotic fish- clown fish, zebra looking fish, vibrant neon-blue fish, and blue star fish, which we picked off the ocean floor. We swam around some coral, not too colourful, but alive and moving via the shards of sunlight streaking through the clear water.

The island itself was only a 4 minute walk around. The few people who worked the small resort told us it had been a sand island and they had planted palm and coconut trees as well as some other plants to start the island years ago. Now, hammocks stretched between swaying palms, the time they invested is well paying off.

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I managed to drink half a dozen beers in between the snorkelling and the food before we departed aboard the catamaran for the island viewing tour the rest of the afternoon. We relaxed on the top deck, soaked in the warm sun, shoot the shit with footy players from Auckland, a pilot from LA named Robin, and a Greek engineer living in China. As the boat pulled into an island stop to trade its ware -travelers and baggage- the pilot and I decided we’d had enough beer in us to dare a jump off from the top of the 3 story boat. I pulled a perfect swan dive into the cool deep, and then surfaced in the aqua-marine water. Upon the deck, the captain yelled angrily, though James and Robin were well out of the earshot. On returning to the deck, we (James and Robin) were warned by the captain he didn’t have liability, and if we jumped again we’d be left behind. Oh, whoops, sorry… though it was fun :D

We hung out with Robin and the Greek engineer for the rest of the day after the boat tour. After more beers and driving around in a rental the Engineer had, and wiped out from the long day, we separated and promised to meet together the next night for the Kava time at our hostel, Horizon Backpackers.

Erica went to bed, I stayed up and drank with some local guys and girls not far from our place. Drinking all day and into the night, it got a bit messy, though fun. My down fall: being dumb assed and piercing a shard of broken glass deep into my finger on a failed attempt to open a pop top with another empty. I spurted blood and had to go wake up Erica to help get out my med kit. I patched myself up with some gauze and tape and went back out for another round.

Hungover and bleary, I got up with Erica for the free breakfast and we hoped onto the bus for our next excursion. Bussing around the island from Nadi to somewhere near Suva, we had a river boating trip through the interior of the island! (All for around $320 FJD) After a long over two hours and scenic bus ride (though Erica found it tedious with carsickness), we arrived at our starting point for our excursion. We climbed on board a 10 seater boat, two people wide on bench seats, and some extra room at the end for the captain.

Only 8 inches out of the water in our wooden plank vessel, we pushed up stream zig zaging through wide corners full of current and around rocks shining off the sun just 2 inches beneath the cool water. The water pouring across their rock surfaces like smooth flowing glass. All this while, the jungle grew up and around the river.

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There was plenty of life: cows, birds, some fish, and people from villages, mainly children hanging out or playing by the water.

We stopped at a (tourist) village to see (a well-rehearsed version of) what rural Fijian life is like… followed by the chance to buy stuff.

After a delicious feed, we were back carving the water, cutting through majestic green valleys- sun gleaming off lush tropical plants in the humid afternoon sun.

We passed the waterfall from the movie “anaconda” before finally arriving at our destination.

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Off the boat and walking along a thin, hand-concreted path beside a small stream, we come to the base of a crashing 30m waterfall with a deep pool. It was hidden back from the main river- not even a hint of this treasure was apparent- a truly magical and secret spot… aside from the hundred tourists a day.

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After a great swim and jumping off the rock walls surrounding the water, we got a picture under the falls while water blasted us in a pounding, misty, oxygen-rich kind of way.

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Back on the river, we switched our wooden boat for a bamboo raft. Bamboo poles were lashed together to make 15 foot long, 6 foot wide raft. Our captain switched engine for push pole! It was fun to float down the river, though the current was slow where we were. Eventually, we opted to jump in the water and float down stream in our life jackets- the water clean, clear, and free of dangers.

After switching back to the engined boat, we set off back towards our origin. Late afternoon on the river showed children playing and older students pushing up stream on much smaller one person rafts. We also saw two boys standing centimetres out of the water, on the backs of their horses, grinning at us widely, and waving their arms shouting Bula!

The bus home was long and tortuous because of our exhaustion, though the ocean views, tin homes, small (real) villages, farms, rivers, and vegetation covered mountains kept us awake with intrigue.

For our last night, we ate, did laundry, and met back with Robin.

We sat down with Tai for the night, sharing Kava with new Kavaholics and his amigos Levi and Wrung. We beer’d and kava’d the night away, singing songs and talking, sitting under the grass roof of our outdoor patio. Time slipped by and we couldn’t stay out due to our early flight and lack of cash. The night was over, smiling though sad, it was time to say good bye once again.

Armed with email addresses and promises to keep in touch, we parted ways into the world, travellers again. Now ½ way to Sydney, new thoughts, ideas, and plans begin to formulate.

Posted by etthuang 19:26 Archived in Fiji Comments (0)

Jeju-"Hawaii of Korea" past year highlights by Erica

A collection of fond memorable experiences from the last year

Jeju, the 'Hawaii of Korea,' is the southern-most island of South Korea and has been our home for the last year.

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There's so much beauty and so many good times have been had here- some captured on film, some just in memory. Here's some highlights from the year:

To start, our engagement <3

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Just when I have decided to swear off men and have some travel time to myself, Mr. Prince Charming came my way. Our courting period was short, but sweet. We just knew we were meant to be- our energy, our connection was instant and beautiful. We did not complete each other, but we complimented each other perfectly.

Second, Jeju's beautiful nature

The island is filled with natural beauty- from the lush green Hallasan Volcanic mountain to the aquamarine seas to unique volcanic lava formations. These breathtaking scenes are often on the Olle trails-hidden, off-the-road trails. There are about 13 trails that runs from the south east to the south west of the island- covering 216km of the island. Each trail takes about 6 hours to complete. Our goal was to do all the trails before we leave Jeju, so far, we've done Olle trail 1, 2, 3, and a bit of 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.

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Sunrise Peak (Seongsan Ilchubong/ 성산 일출봉)

Sunrise Peak (Seongsan Ilchubong/ 성산 일출봉)

Seongsan Ilchubong Peak, on the most eastern point of the island, is known for its unique crater and gorgeous view of the sunrise.

Japanese Suicide Boat caves

Japanese Suicide Boat caves

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Hidden away on the side of Sunrise Peak are old Japanese Suicide Boat caves, built during World War II. There are multiple cave entrances, and they are all connected on the inside.

Here are pictures of some oerums (volcanic mini-mountains), and beautiful sea shores of Jeju.

Inland on the Olle trail 1

Inland on the Olle trail 1

Olle 1 inland-drying squid

Olle 1 inland-drying squid

Gwangchigi Beach (광치기해변)

Gwangchigi Beach (광치기해변)

love can be found anywhere

love can be found anywhere

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Olle 2 inland

Olle 2 inland

Olle 2 Oerum

Olle 2 Oerum

Onpyeong Port (온평포구)

Onpyeong Port (온평포구)

Seogwi-po waterfall Cheonjiyeon Waterfall (천지연 폭포)

Seogwi-po waterfall Cheonjiyeon Waterfall (천지연 폭포)

Seafood by the sea

Seafood by the sea

There are amazing Korean female divers on Jeju, called Haenyeos. They dive into the ocean without any special diving gear to gather clams, seaweed, sea cucumbers, and all sort of seafood goodness. Many of these delicious treats can be found selling around the seasides, and even on some of the Olle trails.

One of the best memories was eating raw baby octopus.

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James and I went to a seafood "restaurant" by Jungmun beach. They took a baby octopus out of their water tank-chop, chop, chop- and 10 seconds later, it was on the table- squirming, moving, and suctioning- served with hot sauce. James all bright faced was devouring the food, while I sat there and worked up my courage. I finally picked one up, it suctioned to my chopstick, I panicked and threw it into the hot sauce, and watch the little tentacle sauce itself. After a few big gulps of beer, I picked up my self-sauced tentacle and put it in my mouth. It suctioned to the roof of my mouth immediately. I didn't know what to do, so I spat it out. It was quite an experience- all for 15000 won :)

Beaches & Camping on the beach

I love the beach. I love being close to the ocean, hearing the waves crash, feeling the cool water. Unfortunately, growing up in Toronto, I didn't have a chance to experience the ocean. I have taken full advantage of the ocean in Jeju.

Chuseok Camping Weekend (October 2009)

Chuseok, the second largest holiday in Korea after Lunar New Years, is the harvest holiday; it's equivalent to Thanksgiving back at home. Since I have never been camping before, James and I thought this would be a great way to break me in and to explore the island. We planned a fun-packed weekend to go see Sunrise Peak and to climb Halla-san, which is the tallest mountain in South Korea at 1 950m above sea level.

The day we set out, my spirit was high and it was pouring rain.

The day we set out, my spirit was high and it was pouring rain.

After close to two hours of bus riding (from Seogwi-po), we were wondering in the rain, in the dark, wet and hungry and trying to find a place to eat and camp out, when we saw some foreigners in a Chicken and Beer place. We ended up meeting some awesome people, and had a few beers and some chicken.

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A few beers turned into a night of havoc and fun.

I ended up setting up my first tent ever inside our new friend's motel, while it was still raining wolves and lions outside.

I ended up setting up my first tent ever inside our new friend's motel, while it was still raining wolves and lions outside.

We partied in our new friends motel room until the police turned up in the middle of the night and told us that we were being too loud.. or rather, tried to. Due to their lack of English speaking skills, only one of the younger officers managed to stammer out "volume, volume" and used his hands to demonstrate 'too big'- we just wondered what they must have thought when they opened the door to see a tent in the middle of the floor, and found people hiding under the bed, on the balcony, and in the tent!

The next day, we were down in numbers. Those of us who remained packed up and took our hungover asses out to climb the peak. Afterward, we took a boat out to Udo island for 5000W. Named "cow island," because of its shape, Udo is the largest islet surrounding Jeju. We rented bicycles for another 5000W each and explored the island.

We rented a bicycle for 5 000 won and explored the island.

We rented a bicycle for 5 000 won and explored the island.

ATVs, scooters, and golf carts, are all available for rent as well. The island is about 16 KM in circumference. It took us about 2 hours to bike around, explore the cliffs, and laze around a bit.

Hwasun Camping Weekend (October 2009)

Off to the side of Hwasun beach, on Olle trail 9, below an ATV park, there's a beautiful quaint little beach hidden away. Out of all the times we've been there, all we've ever seen are a few Olle trekkers and a friendly dog.

Camping on the beach watching the stars at night.

Camping on the beach watching the stars at night.

Connected to Hwasun Beach, just to the west, is the Yongmeori Coast.

-A beautiful, majestic peninsula of lava formations.

-A beautiful, majestic peninsula of lava formations.

Buddha's Birthday Camp Out! (May 2010)

Buddha's Birthday is another big holiday here in Korea. We decided to explore the west side of the island, and camp out at Hyeopjae Beach (협재해수욕장). The beach is filled with white sand and crushed seashells, the blue clear water reflects the palm trees and evergreens that surrounds it.

After sun tanning and swimming.

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We (the girls), visited Hallim Park for 7 000 won each.

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The park has different gardens and a folk village.

The boys relocated to Geumreung Beach (just south of Hyeopjae, though it's still considered to be part of it), as there are less people there.

They started gathering firewood, attempting to fish for dinner, and just being boys.

They started gathering firewood, attempting to fish for dinner, and just being boys.

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It was a fun night of bonfire, drinking, games, and s'mores :)

The next day, we visited Yakchunsa, located near Jungmun.

The biggest Buddhist temple in all of Asia

The biggest Buddhist temple in all of Asia

Memories of Jeju

Jeongwol Daeboreum Fire Festival

Around mid-February, an oerum is set on fire to bring a good harvest in the upcoming year. It's a whole day event with hands-on crafts, dance performances, food tents, spectacular fireworks (the best I have ever seen in my life!), and the burning of the oerum.

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Markets (5-day Markets, Seogwipo Aracade Market)

Instead of grocery stores, markets are quite popular here in Jeju. The markets are filled with fresh fish, herbs, vegetables, knickknacks, and street food.

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James eating silk worm larva

James eating silk worm larva

Going Mainland

James and I haven't visited mainland Korea much yet. So far we have visited Seoul, Busan, and Gyeongju. I personally like Busan the most. It was a perfect mix of metropolis and natural beauty. Seoul was just too busy-busy for me. Gyeongju was the Capital of the Silla Kingdom for a thousand years, and it's filled with historical treasures and attractions.

At Busan, dancing the night away.

At Busan, dancing the night away.

Gwangli Beach, a beautiful beach located in the city

Gwangli Beach, a beautiful beach located in the city

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fall time in Gyeongju

fall time in Gyeongju

Prior to leaving Korea, we're doing a cross-country west-coast trip from Mokpo to Seoul.

These highlights are only the tip of amazing experiences and memories.

Some last heavenly food for thought ;)

McD's delivers! There are only two heavenly McDonald's on this island, and both of them don't deliver to where I live, which is probably a good thing for me :P

McD's delivers! There are only two heavenly McDonald's on this island, and both of them don't deliver to where I live, which is probably a good thing for me :P

Posted by etthuang 17:54 Archived in South Korea Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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