Nara | Japan

Just a short train ride from Osaka is a small city which was once Japan’s capital, Nara, home to an abundance of protected wild deer who roam freely around the city.

I went to Nara on a spur of the moment day trip and absolutely loved it.

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We took a direct train from Tsuruhashi Station to Nara Station, where we were greeted with this sign ~ Bambi we’re coming!

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 Bambi is that you?! ~ First time seeing a deer walking on the street and not running away was awesome, it looks so calm.

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Please may I sit here?
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A little closer… slowly earning trust ~

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Found more friends as we were walking towards Todaiji Temple and Nara Park ~

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How cute, they came to say hi!!!

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Nope! No hi… just stole my map ~

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“No! Spit it out! Other people have biscuits! Please eat the Biscuits!”… They didn’t listen ~

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I guess I’ll just walk away in shame ~

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Attempting to make a new friend ~

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Little fawn ~

 

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Sweet little Bambi ~

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Heading to Todaiji Temple ~

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Beautiful Temple Gate ~

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Free view of Todaiji Temple from the Gate ~

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Little one found us again ~

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Successful Friendship ~ Me and my Patronus ~

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Bambi’s father or Harry’s father?

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He suddenly moved so I was too scared to ask ~

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Walking down further into Nara Park, we see a warning sign ~ Let’s add ‘Warning: Steal and eat paper, keep your maps and money hidden’


I enjoyed every bit of Nara and would definitely love to go again. In my opinion it is a must visit city of the Kansai region.

Allergy Notice:

I must add though, if you suffer from allergies to pet dander, like I do, then you might want to skip Nara or take allergy medication in advance and after your trip. I made the mistake of not taking anti-histamines and suffered later that night and the next day.

I also advise wearing a mask to cover your nose and mouth. You can get a mask at any drugstore or local mart such as Lawsons, 7Eleven, Family Mart. Most people in Japan who have allergies or a cold wear masks to protect themselves and others, so it’s completely normal.


 

 

 

 

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Nara | Japan

Arriving in Japan | Working Holiday Visa | Japan

You’ve got your Working Holiday Visa, have your flight booked, packed your bags and are all set to go. And now you may be wondering if there is anything you need to do when you get to Japan and what will happen at the airport. Well I’m here to tell you my experience.


Note: I flew into Kansai International Airport, which is the airport for Osaka – Japan.


What to Expect at Kansai International Airport

After landing, I walked on over to the immigration area and followed the signs for Foreign Passport.

I then stood in line waiting to get to the fingerprint/ face scanning machine. The staff were very helpful and friendly and explained exactly what to do to anyone who needed help.

Once I scanned my fingerprint and a picture of my face was taken, I was guided towards the next area where the immigration officers were checking passports and letting people through.


The queues seemed a little long in this area however when I told a member of staff that I was there for a working holiday she quickly and efficiently started to guide people to other lines as if to organise us according to visa type and help streamline the process, and within seconds the queues ended up a lot shorter than they initially were.

Fairly quickly, my turn had come and I found myself in front of one of the immigration officers, so I handed in my passport and arrival card which I was given to completed on the airplane.


The immigration officer was extremely thorough and checked the details on my passport carefully, especially the visa page, as well as the details on their system. It looked like she carefully checked that everything matches and is as it should be a few times, before proceeding with stamping my passport with a Landing Permission Stamp and printing out my Residence Card.

Once my Residence Card was printed, she checked carefully that all the details on the card match my Passport, Working Holiday Visa, as well as the dates on the Landing Permission Stamp which she had just put in my passport.

She then told me to check that all the details are correct myself and informed me that my Landing Permission and Residence Card is Valid for 1 Year starting from now (the date I arrived) and showed me the dates in my passport as well as on the Residence Card.


She then gave me a small piece of paper which had some information written in Japanese about what designated activities I am permitted to engage in, I wrote my full name and nationality on this document, she stamped it and then stapled it on the Working Holiday Visa page of my passport.

After this, she gave me another document which was a notice for those who receive a Residence Permit Card and had instructions to follow, she told me to read through the document carefully and follow the instructions within 14 days.

The instructions were regarding Registration of your Address in Japan at a public government office for your residential area – (A fairly simple process where you fill in a form at your local government office with your name, address in Japan, and residence permit number. You then hand in the form and your residence permit card, they check your details and print your address on the back of your residence permit card and return it to you.)


I then took my passport and residence card and went on to the baggage reclaim area to collect my checked in luggage.

After collecting my luggage, I walked towards the exit, handed in my declaration of goods card which I was given to complete on the airplane, left the airport and was officially in Japan about to start my working holiday journey.


 

Arriving in Japan | Working Holiday Visa | Japan

Going to The Japanese Embassy | Working Holiday Visa | Japan

As mentioned in my previous post The Application | Working Holiday Visa | Japan, once you have all the requirements for the Working Holiday Visa Application, you must go to the Japanese Embassy in person to hand in your Application Documents.

The Japanese Embassy for United Kingdom is in London (However, applicants form North England and Scotland must apply in person to the Consulate-General of Japan in Edinburgh.)

Embassy of Japan, London

Address: 101-104 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7JT, UK
(Closest Station: Green Park Station)

Opening Hours: Monday – Friday 09:30 am – 16:30 pm (Closed on weekends)


What to Expect

The Japanese Embassy is a short 5 minute walk from Green Park Station and is hard to miss as you will clearly see the Japanese flag waving proudly in the air (just make sure to look up to see this or you might just walk straight past the building)

Upon arrival at the Japanese Embassy, you will be greeted by friendly security, tell security guard that you are there for a visa application and then put your bag, coat, belt, phone etc through the security scanner and walk through. Once you pass security (which is a quick few seconds) take your belongings and walk up the small steps to the reception straight ahead who will guide you to the direction for visa applications which I recall to be through the glass doors on the right.

Once you go through the doors, you must the go to the Ticket Kiosk and click on Visa; this will generate and print the next ticket number which you must take and then wait for your number to be called/ displayed on the screen above the connecting room.

You can wait in the room with the Ticket Kiosk in or wait in the connecting room. Once your ticket number is called/ displayed, go to the counter number indicated next to your number on the screen. The counters are located in another connected area, once you go into the connecting room.

At the counter, greet the embassy staff and hand in all the required documents as listed in my previous post The Application | Working Holiday Visa | Japan. The staff are very thorough and will read through everything to check that you meet the requirements and are suitable for the Working Holiday Scheme.

They will then give you an A4 receipt which you must sign and keep safe as you will need this when you go back to the Embassy to collect your passport/visa.

They will also let you know when to come back to collect your passport/visa (usually 7 days later) and that you must bring the application fee (currently £19) with you along with the signed A4 receipt.


Collecting your Passport/ Working Holiday Visa

When your passport is ready to collect, go back to the Japanese Embassy, go through security, print a ticket number from the kiosk and wait for your number to be called.

When your number is called, go to the counter and hand in the signed A4 receipt along with the application fee (make sure this is the exact amount as they do not usually give change).

They will then retrieve your passport and hand it back to you with the Working Holiday Visa pasted inside, and inform you that the visa is valid for 1 Year and you must enter Japan to start you Working Holiday within the dates stated on the visa, and that once you arrive in Japan, your 1 Year will begin from your arrival date.


And there you have it, you now have your Working Holiday Visa and are good to go!

I will be writing about what to expect when you arrive at the airport in Japan in my next post so stay tuned 🙂

Going to The Japanese Embassy | Working Holiday Visa | Japan

The Application | Working Holiday Visa | Japan

The first step towards getting a Japanese Working Holiday Visa is completing the Application. The application process is fairly simple and does not take long to complete; as long as you have all the required documents and meet the prerequisites you are pretty much good to go.

I would say it took me  less than a week to gather all my documents and a good few days to research and write my main application.

As I am from London, The details below apply to British Citizens, however for people from other countries who wish to apply I recommend checking the requirements on the Japanese Embassy Website for your country.


Prerequisites

□ British Citizen residing in the United Kingdom with valid UK Passport

□ Intend primarily to holiday in Japan for a period of up to 12 months from the date of entry

□ Aged 18 – 30 years  (both inclusive) at the time of application

□ Not accompanied by children

□ Not accompanied by a spouse, unless spouse also holds a valid working holiday visa or other valid visa for Japan

□ Possess a return travel ticket to Japan or sufficient funds to purchase such a ticket

□ Possess reasonable funds for maintenance of the initial stay period in Japan

□ Intend to leave Japan by the end of the Visa period

□ Not previously been issued a Working Holiday Visa for Japan

□ Have good health


Required Documents

□ Valid UK Passport (British Citizens)

□ Completed Visa Application Form
http://www.uk.emb-japan.go.jp/en/visa/pdf/Application_Form.pdf

□ Passport Sized Photo 35mm x 45mm (taken within the last 6 months)

□ CV

□ Outline of Intended Activities

□ Reason for Applying for a Working Holiday Visa

□ Either £2,500 in cleared funds (last 3 months bank statements must be shown) Or £1,500 and a return or onward journey ticket or a receipt for such a ticket


Notes:


 

Once you have all of the above required documents, you must take everything in person to the Japanese Embassy.

I will write about what to expect when going to the Japanese Embassy, including the visa application fee in my next post.

 

The Application | Working Holiday Visa | Japan

Working Holiday Visa | Japan

I’m currently living in Japan, on a Working Holiday Visa and I would like to share my experience with you while I am here.

A Working Holiday Visa allows a limited number of individuals aged 18-30 years the opportunity to travel throughout Japan for a maximum of 1 year and work part time to gain experience and assist their financial needs while travelling.

I love travelling to different countries, and have always adored Japan and it’s culture hence my decision to move to Japan for a year via the Working Holiday Scheme.

In my next few posts I will be explaining  the Application Process, as well what to expect once you receive the Working Holiday Visa and arrive in Japan.

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Working Holiday Visa | Japan

Gyeongbokgung | Seoul | South Korea

Visiting Gyeongbokgung is a must when in Seoul. Not only is the the history of the palace and the royals who were once resident there extremely intriguing but the beauty of the palace grounds and architecture is completely breath taking beyond words.

Take a look at a few photographs I took while visiting this magnificent palace:

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I learnt a lot during the guided tour and found the history completely fascinating; If you would like to know more about the palace grounds and the history then I highly recommend joining the guided tour.

For more information on the opening hours, guided tour times, and palace entrance fee please visit the palace website on the link below:

www.royalpalace.go.kr

 

 

Gyeongbokgung | Seoul | South Korea

Eating In Seoul | South Korea

South Korean Food is absolutely delicious. There are many Korean restaurants in London where I have tried slightly different variations of popular dishes which have all been equally as satisfying.  However, nothing can quite beat the authentic taste of any country’s cuisine than in the actual country itself so a trip to South Korea for me was a must.

I was fortunate enough to go on a short 4 day trip to Seoul in February 2016 and boy was I in heaven.

Here are a few things I ate while in Seoul:

Street Food

One of the first things that attracted my attention were the street food stalls lined across the streets of Myeongdong. You can find street food pretty much everywhere in Seoul but as Myeongdong was the closest area to my hotel, most of the food I had was there.

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Friendly ahjumma selling tteokbokki, eomuk & mandu – in Myeongdong

You can either choose what foods you want for takeaway or sit at the stall and eat. I went to this particular stall 3 times – the first time we sat at a table at the back of the stall near an electric heater which the lady serving us kept checking to see if we were warm enough on such a cold day.

 

The second time I went, the stall was pretty busy with people already sitting at the table, people sitting on stools around the stall who we joined, and people standing and eating – the third time, we decided to get takeaway to eat later on in the hotel.

FullSizeRender (1)We ordered tteokbokki and eomuk w/ soup all three times as it was delicious and filling for such a cheap price.

Tteokbokki 떡볶이: Spicy Rice Cakes 

The rice cakes are in a spicy chilli sauce which has an ever so slight hint of sweetness to it – all stalls make the sauce for their tteokbokki at slightly different spice levels and I am told that this particular stall although quite spicy is not the spiciest.

1 portion of Tteokbokki costs 3000 KRW at this particular street stall in Myeongdong, however there are cheaper places around with equally good taste.

Eomuk 어묵 (or Odeng 오뎅): Fish Cakes 

The fish cakes are actually on skewers in a hot broth – you can either pick up as many skewers as you like, eat the fish cakes and return the skewers when you are done for the stall owner to count, or you can request how many you want and they will cut it up for you into a cup which is what they did for us.

1 portion of Eomuk costs 1000 KRW at this particular street stall in Myeongdong, however it can be found for around 500 KRW in other areas.

The soup that the fish cakes are in is actually free and you can pour yourself a cup

We did also order sea-snail in spicy sauce but I forgot to take a picture – the sea snail costs 10,000 KRW at this stall.

Gyeran ppang 계란빵: Egg Bread

Another little street food snack that I was excited about trying is Gyeran-ppang.

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Gyeran ppang Stall

This is essentially just a small sweet fluffy bread with an egg cooked on top of it. Don’t let the simplicity fool you, it might not look as exciting as other street foods however the taste is absolutely scrumptious!!!

The gyeran ppang at this stall costs 2000 KRW however there were much cheaper stalls which we found later on.

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My sister had been craving grilled octopus as she had tried it on her Jeju Island trip last year, so we ventured out to find the type she was looking for however what she wanted was not in Myeongdong so we decided to choose any stall with something similar that looked good.

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Unnie waiting for the grilled octopus

Muneo Dari Gui 문어다리구이: Grilled Octopus Legs

The octopus legs are cut up into bite sized chunks, grilled and served on a stick with fish flakes a sauce of your choice out of teriyaki, chilli and another less flavoursome sauce that I can’t remember – we opted for the chilli sauce.

The cost of the grilled octopus legs at this stall was 5000 KRW.

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Grilled Octopus with fish flakes and spicy sauce

Tteok & Cheese

We also tried grilled cheese and rice cake on a skewer (pictured below) which costs 3000 KRW in Myeongdong.

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Tteok & Cheese

Grilled Crab

The Crab (pictures below) was quite tasty too. We had this just as the stalls were closing for the day. It probably would have been much better if it was hot but as we got the last few that were there it was already cold. We opted for a garlic oil dressing over the crab and were told to eat the whole crab including the shell. The cost was 3000 KRW.

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Crab in Garlic Oil Sauce

Home Style Small Restaurant

Street food is not the only food in Seoul to try and there are many other dishes that can be eaten in restaurants as proper full meals which are insanely delicious.

We ate at a small restaurant near Gyeongbokgung (Palace) which served dishes that seemed to have quite an authentic home style cooking feel to it. The restaurant itself was quite cosy and comfortable and we could see the ahjumma (older lady) who was serving us was also the one cooking and working on her own so it really did feel like we were eating at someone’s house. The lady was very friendly and extremely happy when I tried to order a few things in Korean, she would even help and teach us how to say things like bowl and how to ask for the bill in Korean. I will definitely go to see her again and eat her delicious food in future.

We ordered Kimchi Bokkeumbap, Vegetable Pancake & Dolsot Bibimbap (I forgot to take a photo of the Bibimbap). We were also given pickled radish, fish cakes and kimchi as side dishes.

Kimchi Bokkeumbap 김치 볶음밥: Kimchi Fried Rice

This was the most delicious dish that we ordered and I loved every mouthful of it. It was slightly spicy and had tangy pieces of kimchi throughout which gave it a nice kick; the fried egg on top brought the whole dish together and balanced out the spice nicely.

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veg pancake, kimchi bokkeumbap & banchan
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Fish Shaped Fish Cakes

Korean BBQ

Korean BBQ is one of my all time favourite things to eat. It is delicious, fun and great to have with friends. When having Korean BBQ at a restaurant, you order the cuts of meat or type of seafood you want, they bring it raw to the table and you either grill it yourself or have it grilled for you while you watch or enjoy other dishes in the meantime.

BBQ meat itself is always great however my favourite part is the banchan 반찬 (side dishes) that come with it.

We went to a popular restaurant in Myeongdong called Wangbijib 왕비집.

Wangbijib 왕비집 is quite popular with tourists as the food is great and some of the staff can also speak Mandarin and English fluently so it is easier to communicate if you do not know Korean.

Yangnyeom Wang Galbi 양념왕갈비 : Grilled Marinated Beef Ribs

This is grilled big-sized beef ribs marinated in soy sauce – 1 portion (250g)  costs 33,000 KRW. (The banchan is included in the price)

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Banchan includes: 2 types of salads, lettuce to wrap the meat, sliced potato, sweet pickled onion slices, beansprouts, kimchi & pickled cucumber. 2 Bowls of rice and dipping sauces were also included.
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Carrot, Spring Onion and Raddish Salad with raw egg/ shredded cabbage with salad dressing/ lettuce to wrap the meat

 

Jjukkumi Bokkeum 쭈꾸미볶음: Spicy Grilled Baby Octopus

Many restaurants in Myeongdong are on top of other shops, and if you look up while walking down the streets you will see many enticing photos of delicious looking dishes. While shopping, we felt a bit hungry and were feeling for seafood. We saw a picture of this interesting looking grilled octopus and climbed up the narrow stairs to the restaurant serving this dish.

The baby octopus is grilled in a spicy chilli sauce on a cast iron plate in front of you on the table. The octopus is ready to eat once the sauce starts to boil up and change to a much darker reddish brown colour and the octopus also changes in colour and consistency.

We were given a big bowl of rice with seaweed flakes and a tray of perilla leaves with fish roe  on each and were told to mix the spicy grilled octopus with the rice, wrap it in the perilla leaf with the fish roe also inside and eat it all in one bite.

I would say that the spice level of this dish = EXTREME

I am someone who can usually handle spicy food, however this was on another level.

I still enjoyed it and would definitely go to have it again but not any time soon as the memory of the mouth numbing/ stomach burning spiciness is currently still in my mind, and I will probably remember the taste and sensation for quite some time.

Let’s just say multiple glasses of water were not enough to calm down the fire raging in my mouth.

The side dishes were helpful, especially the pickled raddish as it is quite sweet so helped to calm down the spice, only problem was that the raddish to spicy octopus ratio was not balanced and we ended up with no raddish and still a lot of octopus.

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As you can see in the picture below, we also had a pot of mussels boiling in a plain broth, and boy were we glad as we soon realised the only way we could possibly finish the little bit of this dish that was left after we passed our spice tolerances was to wash off the spicy sauce in the plain broth. After doing this, we managed to finish everything – the octopus was still quite spicy but more tolerable.

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Tea House

Seoul has many beautiful little tea houses that can be enjoyed any time of the year. As we went to Seoul in winter we thought what better way to relax after a long days worth of sightseeing in the cold than having a nice hot cup of tea.

Yetchatjib 옛찻집: Old Tea House

We decided to go to have tea at Yetchatjib in Insadong. Yetchatjib is known to have small birds flying in an out. Unfortunately, when we were there all the windows were closed and there were no birds – probably because it was quite a cold day. Although we were not able to experience the birds flying around , we did still enjoy the cosy atmosphere of the tea house. We had a choice to either set at a low table on the floor or sit at a higher table with chairs. We decided to sit at the higher table as it was close to a window that had a lovely display of miniature figurines in a village setting, which we wanted to take pictures of.

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Yetchatjib window display

The teas that are served at Yetchatjib are traditional teas that each have their own health benefits which are explained in their menu.

We chose the following the teas:

Citron Tea – The Citron Tea was extremely delicious and the best out of the four teas that we tried. It is the perfect blend of sweet and zesty with bits of edible citrus fruit. 

Cinnamon Tea – The Cinnamon Tea had a strong cinnamon taste and aroma which was actually quite calming for me and I enjoyed it a lot. It is however a bit of an acquired taste.

Omija Tea – The Omija Tea packed a punch. It was very sour! I love sour things so I did like it but had to drink it in small sips.

Jujube Tea – This seemed like more of a dessert tea as it was sweet, smooth and slighter thicker in consistency than the other teas.

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Along with the teas we ate Roasted Rice Cake with Honey and Rice Cake Balls Coated in Crushed Peanuts 

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Convenience Store

The two convenience stores I would see on almost every street in Seoul were GS25 and 7Eleven. I liked going to GS25 as the variety of food and other products were quite nice and I was also able to use my T-Money Card to pay for things.

The convenience store was a bit of a life saver as you can buy small snacks to keep with you while on the go or at the hotel to have whenever you are feeling a bit hungry or you can buy delicious budget food such as instant noodles, sweet potato, kimbap, boiled eggs etc and eat it there.

Ddalgi Uyu 딸기우유: Strawberry Milk

One of the things I loved getting every time I went to the convenience store was actually Ddalgi Uyu 딸기우유 which translates to Strawberry Milk in English. This particular small pot of milk is actually quite popular and comes in other flavours such as banana and melon.  I’m not a fan of the melon and banana flavours however I know many people who absolutely love them, especially banana. My favourite is Strawberry – there was something quite nostalgic about this particular strawberry milk – the flavour and consistency reminded me of the strawberry milk we would get in glass milk bottles from the milkman in London during my childhood – absolutely delicious !!

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Cafes

Seoul is known to have an abundance of cafes – hip, cosy, themed, and also some owned by korean celebrities and their families. There were many I wanted to visit however in the short time that I was in Seoul I was unable to and am hoping I can visit many on my next visit.

Starbucks Coffee

I did however manage to go to a Starbucks which was next top my hotel, and yes I know, Starbucks is a pretty bog standard coffee chain known worldwide and we have many in London, however I quite liked the different types of Asian coffees, drinks and foods that they had. Other than the logo and layout, it is actually very different to London. The atmosphere is also very welcoming and relaxing.

Vanilla Cloud Cheesecake

I tried this delicious Vanilla Cloud Cheesecake as the word Cloud stood out to me and was quite intriguing – As expected the texture was light and fluffy and the taste was divine.

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A Twosome Place – Incheon Airport

I also managed to go to a cafe called A Twosome Place in Incheon Airport when I was on my way back to London. I had actually heard of A Twosome Place before, and wanted to go to the one located near Apgujeong 압구정 station as I heard it was the one in the Korean drama Masters Sun and was owned by my favourite Actor So Ji Sub 소지섭 and his company 51k (although I think he does not own it anymore). I have also heard that Twosome + in Myeongdong 명동 is owned by Super Junior’s Choi Siwon 최시원. Anyway the closest I could get to trying this cafe was A Twosome Place in Incheon Airport (which probably does not serve the same stuff and is not linked to my favourite celebs in any way).

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Airplane Food

My Flight back to London was with Turkish Airlines/ operated by Asiana. I do not usually enjoy airplane food and was pleasantly surprised at what was served on this flight.

Bibimbap 비빔밥
We were served Beef Bibimbap 비빔밥 – mixed rice with meat and assorted vegetables , Kimchi 김치 – spicy fermented cabbage,  Beef & Cucumber Salad, Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce. We were also given a tube of Gochujang 고추장 – korean chilli paste – to mix with the bibimbap for extra flavour. Although it is obviously not the best bibimbap I have ever had, it is actually the best economy class airplane meal I have ever had – I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

 

Eating In Seoul | South Korea