Would Seoul be a good Korea move?

I am not actually considering Seoul as a ‘career’ move but during my short visit, I found the sophisticated but highly energetic city did make me think about what it would be like to live there.

Seoul was not an ‘original plan’ destination for this trip but half way through, I was losing a bit of motivation and felt the need to be more spontaneous. It was actually Japan I thought of first. Japan has long been somewhere I was excited about going but after some thought and research there was just too much I wanted to do there for the time and money I had left. Still feeling determined to go somewhere different, I checked out some flights and found that Seoul would be a realistic option, even if just for a few days. So off I went! 


It turns out, Seoul is no ‘poor mans’ Tokyo, (who even said that?) I can’t say I can draw upon a comparison yet but what I do know now is that a lot of South Koreans, unlike people from other Asian countries I’ve met, do not admire Japanese culture or aspire to be more like them. Some actually resent the comparison. The truth is there are similarities but South Koreans are actually very patriotic and have their own unique culture, style and traditions. 
As only in Seoul for a few days, I tried to visit as many places as I could. I combined some of the popular hotspots with my obsession for hunting down bargain vintage clothes (especially now Korean or Japanese stuff was up for grabs!) and I couldn’t resist some k-beauty madness. 

Hongdae
Hongdae is where one of the main universities is and the part of town where the Korean youth partying goes down. Although I didn’t fancy clubbing, (and apparently I’m too old in Seoul with rumours of maximum age limits of 30 in some clubs!) I stayed around this area, close to Hapjeong station. It’s a tiny bit quieter, more restaurants than clubs but music still plays throughout the night. Earplug life. And the party really does go on all night for some young Korean’s – I tried to get a coffee at 9am one morning and found nothing open but plenty of people just finishing up from the night before!

Itaewon

The expat zone. It’s a lot more multicultural here with little India and middle eastern areas plus all the Americans. I didn’t care much for the Main Street here but I loved Usadan Road. A narrow but long street full of boutique shops, vintage, restaurants and intimate rooftop terraces. The best spot I found was the rooftop of Mmm Records which is a record shop/ coffee shop/ bar for an alternative view of the city and its encompassing mountains. 


Meuongdong

Whaaa this place is mental. Pretty much door to door Korean beauty stores blaring out music to ‘intice’ you in. The shop assistants hand you a basket before you have even committed to walking through the door and tell you about all the offers and discounts they have on. It’s quite impossible to go home empty handed. Well, I certainly wasn’t strong enough to resist trying out the supposed power of snail secretion gel on my face or avoid picking up a few dozen face packs that can not only brighten but tighten, smooth and perfect your skin. I have to admit I was tempted by the foot peels but also scared my entire foot might dissolve. 


Extreme beauty treatments are very popular in Seoul. In fact Seoul is the plastic surgery capital of the world. It’s not unusual to see young girls walk along the street with facial bandages on straight from one of the many clinics. It’s quite common for young girls to have eyelid surgery to make they eyes look bigger or to get a quick nose job. I decided to stick to the snail slime.  

Cheonggyecheon Stream

Such a lovely walk on a sunny day! It’s a modern stream and recreational feature of the city, down below the busy streets. I felt like I was the only person in the city down here. The best way to describe it is that it’s a really long park. Underneath each bridge on one side there are huge steps that lead down to the stream to create a lovely spot to sit in the shade. It was boiling that day, probably why I was I on my own but the bridges provide a perfect spot to cool down and enjoy the beauty of the inner city sanctuary. 



Gwangjang Market

This indoor market just off the stream is best known for its food but they have a secret. The entire ground floor is full of Korean favourites such as cold noodles and dumplings but if you make your way upstairs to the 2nd floor there is a huge vintage clothes market! 


I mean I was in heaven. There are probably over 50 sellers here, each with their own personalised stall. Most of the sellers were uber cool Korean guys, looking the part but there were also some Korean granny’s selling the contents of their old closet. Men’s and women’s clothes, vintage trainers, coats, Skajan jackets, trousers, dresses from the west, Korea and Japan. 


I probably spent about 3 hours here trying everything on. The best thing is, the majority of the stuff is actual vintage, not just vintage look and it’s not expensive. I managed to limit myself to just one bag of clothes but I vowed to myself to go back one day, it was just so good. Cold noodles on the way out, not for me. Should have had dumplings. 



Bukchon Hanok Village and Gyeongbokgung Palace

Completely different vibe at Anguk metro station. After a little walk down the high street passing bakeries and cute cafes I arrived at Bukchon Hanok village. It’s a heritage site of traditional Korean architecture with a history of over 600 years. There are a fair few visitors here so plenty of shops and restaurants make it pretty busy but it was still really cool to see. Young people also visit here to dress up in traditional Korean clothing called Hanbok. You see loads of them walking around going selfie mad but the outfits are beautiful!

Right next to the village is Gyeongbokgung Palace. The second palace I visited in Seoul but the grounds of this one made it my favourite. There are actually 5 palaces to visit in Seoul. The history of this one dates back to 1395, it was burnt down during the Imjin War but restored again around 1852. 
A perfect photo location for those dressed up in Hanbok. 

The Verdict 
I managed to squeeze in a few other things like a visit to Namdaemun Marmet, Seoul’s biggest market and a sneak peak of Gangnam where VIP partying goes down but there are so many more things to do I didn’t get time for. There are actually mountain walks you can do directly outside the city which sound amazing. The food in Seoul was a lot spicier than I expected but so delicious and Korean BBQ… yes. I loved the people, they have a keen desire for fun without any inhibitions. Young couples are sweet, loving and wear matching outfits and older people I met had great sense of humour. 

Despite my love of Seoul, my number one city still remains, good old London. No matter where I go, I think it will always feel like home to me. I’m looking forward to being in London again soon and getting even more out of it. The horrific tragedies the city has suffered recently upset me a lot but I certainly will not be turning my back. I want to be there supporting with everyone else! People in London want to make good stuff happen and it’s inspiring. I love the culture, the diversity, the constant evolvement and I love being around like-minded people, who love the city just like I do. 

So thanks Seoul but London, I’m coming back! 

Peace and love ✌🏼️💄

Cheeky Stopovers (Bangkok & Singapore)

When travelling alone on a journey of self-discovery, as of course I am, you are rarely actually on your own which for me is kind of annoying.


Meeting new people while travelling is really good, when they are people you want to hang around with but otherwise those generic hostel conversations become so monotonous and sometimes you just can’t be f%#*ed. Just me? So recently, I took advantage of the offers I had to stay with friends who are living abroad for a few days. I strongly recommend doing it if you happen to know anyone, especially if travelling for a few months. It’s a great way to enjoy some home from home comforts. Plus, they love dropping the routine of their everyday lives to accommodate and entertain you (I would imagine.)

I didn’t think I would find Singapore that interesting, as I thought it would be all skyscrapers and condos. Without a doubt, the food is unbelievably good and there is so much choice, I would have been more than content with the food binge I enjoyed. However, after my short time there I definitely developed a little soft spot for the place. 

I only had one full day, with torrential rain for most of it, but headed to Arab Street in the afternoon as there is some older architecture there plus I heard it might be a spot for vintage clothes. I know shopping shouldn’t really be on my agenda with 15 kilos already on my back but I couldn’t resist just ‘checking’ to see what I might find. Arab Street itself, centre of the Arabic Quarter is actually door to door textiles and carpet shops. Towards the bottom of the street itself there are some cool cafes, one run by a very ‘banterous’ Australian guy, who incidentally gave me some questionable directions to find a secret restaurant in Bangkok that is so secret I couldn’t find it – jokes on me Pav?




Once I reached the end of the street I realised the real gold is actually at the two streets parallel to Arab Street. One being Haji Street, a lane jam packed with small boutique shops, cafes and just one vintage shop… it did however have some really nice stuff. Rails and rails of beautifully selected quality second hand dresses and skirts on the first floor that continues upstairs with accessories and jackets. Although I would have loved to have snapped up some stuff, it wasn’t any cheaper or any more unique than what I can find in the UK. I think they source it mostly from Europe anyway. If I lived in Singapore though, ‘Moodswings’ would be a spot to buy some really nice pieces. 

The other side of Arab Street is completely different. At Muscat Street, it’s mostly lovely looking middle-eastern restaurants, more traditional ‘shophouses’ and a view of the very grand and golden Masjid Sultan mosque. A really diverse little area! Unfortunately my photography skills are pretty limited in the rain so you will have to go and see for yourself. 


From just one taster day in Singapore, it’s definitely a lot cooler than I thought and my friend will certainly be lucky enough to enjoy more visits from me in the future. If anyone has been, please do fill me in on the spots! 
From Singapore I headed to Bangkok. On arrival, until I met my friend, I couldn’t bear Bangkok. Coming off the flight and into the city from lovely clean Singapore, it was hot, dirty, confusing and so busy! I think everyone knows Bangkok is a mad place but I’m a little late to the party. To start with, I learnt that getting to grips with the transport options before anything else, really helps you to enjoy Bangkok. 

Firstly, metered Taxis are cheap but good luck getting one if you can’t speak Thai or are heading towards a congested traffic zone (I think that’s everywhere in Bangkok!?) I was straight refused a few times! I think it’s best to seek an alternative option first. You can try Uber or Grab but I didn’t have much luck with those either. The BTS metro line is excellent provided you are near to a station but it’s probably the most reliable option. Jumping on the back of a motorbike taxi isn’t something I was totally comfortable with but often it’s the most practical option. Although insisting I was terrified, I did secretly enjoy whizzing around traffic along the busy streets holding on for dear life with one hand and the other holding my hat onto my head. I probably looked cool actually. 

Another great way to get travel is on the river and canal boats. It’s cool to get an alternative view of the city and is how many locals get around. The canal boat in particular is super cheap, you can just hop on and pay for your ticket to the person who literally hangs off the side of the boat. 



I took the boat and then a short rickshaw ride to get to Bangkok’s most important complex of buildings, The Grand Palace.

The Grand Palace was built in 1782 and has been home to the King of Thailand for 150 years. Since the late King Bhumibol Adulyade’s death last October, the country is still in its one year of mourning which will no doubt account for far more visits to the palace than normal. When I went, the place was heaving and security very strict. Dress code is of course really important and you can’t just wrap around a scarf or beach sarong as you’ll be sent across the street to buy proper clothing. I even saw one girl sent away for wearing leggings. That’ll teach her. 
Once finally inside though, you do enjoy a very beautiful and unique palace. 









Aside from some good chill time at said Bangkok friends pool (Singapore did have one too), I visited some malls, ate yet more amazing food (got my £1 pad Thai), visited the Ratchada Train Market and the Chatuchak Weekend Market of which I recommend both highly and I even had a proper-warehouse-rave-night-out. There is so much to do in Bangkok, it reminded me a bit of London, a similar population but with far more grit and far less hipsters. 
Thanks to my lovely friends who put me up. During the emotional rollercoaster that is travelling, you gave me just what I needed.

See you in a few weeks?
💋🎒

Malaysia Unplanned

I had originally planned to stop off at Kuala Lumpur for a couple of days, as many travellers do, to easily and cheaply transit to my next destination. However once there, it seemed a shame not to spend a bit of time getting to know Malaysia!

Kuala Lumpur is a typical bustling capital city but fairly relaxed compared to India. I have to admit I was looking forward to a slight change in culture. For one thing, I felt I could wear a little bit less clothing but I might need a spray tan on my bright white legs before they can come out! Truthfully though, as a female foreigner, you are less likely to get any hassle if dressed on the conservative side. 

The city is full of crazy huge malls, tall buildings like the Petronas Towers, roof top bars and snazzy hotels but China Town is really the spot. Here you find old architecture, markets & street sellers, good food and even a few hipster cafes. I definitely think there is much more to be discovered and I hope to make another stop off here sometime in the future. 






After a couple of days, I decided to get out of the city and visit Penang. Penang is just 4 hours from KL and there are plenty of coaches available which makes for a really pleasant and scenic journey. Having a car at this point would have been great to be able to stop off. 

Just before reaching Penang you cross a quite magnificent 24km bridge. The Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah bridge is the longest in Southeast Asia. It’s seriously long but I was surprised to find out that it doesn’t even rank in the top 10 longest bridges which is dominated by some crazy 100km bridges in China. 

Once in Penang, I took a local bus to the Unesco World Heritage site of George Town. 



In 1786, the island of Penang was possessed by Captain Francis Light under the East India Trading Company and soon after, he established George Town. You can see the European style fused with Chinese in the architecture. It’s lovely to stroll around and spot all the colourful and unique designs of each buildings exterior. Chinese lanterns hang everywhere and colourful shop adverts are painted across split bamboo roller blinds. 




I loved visiting the Chinese Buddhist temples here. You feel totally free to take your time and absorb the atmosphere. No one is watching you, in fact no one really takes any notice of you. One early morning I visited the Kuan Yin Teng (Goddess of Mercy) Temple and it was packed with people coming and going, lighting josticks and praying. Amongst the jostick sellers, there was one guy selling caged birds to be released! Seems like a pretty crafty way to make money out of nature loving Buddhists but people were paying. I met a women outside who was keen to tell me about the temple and that she didn’t agree with the caged birds. She scared me a bit but it was sweet of her to let me ask some questions. She told me it was so busy that day because they were celebrating Buddhist New Year which falls on the three days that follow the first full moon in April. She explained that the roof of the temple was replaced just three years ago but the original temple has stood for over 200 years. It’s believed to have a special force of protection surviving two Japanese bomb landings either side of it in the 2nd world war, saving everyone inside. 

Since becoming a World Heritage site, the town has commissioned a street art trail. It’s good art work but a bit gimmicky so you’ll have to queue up behind the selfie sticks if you want to take any photos of it. Making it quite an arty town means there are plenty of small galleries and one-off street pieces to see too. 

The food has got to be one of the main attractions here. There are two huge food courts in George Town with a load of different food vendors or ‘hawkers.’ It’s super cheap and the food is all amazing. If you are there at night, a bonus treat is the entertainment. You will notice a stage in the middle of the space and around 9pm I witnessed the vocal and visual delights of three local singers; one guy, two girls, in matching black and white outfits. The guy led the show and although I couldn’t understand him, I think he was warming up the audience with some banter before they started singing. Once they got going, they each led an incredible pop style ballad with some strong synchronised side stepping before I had to drag myself away.
My third and final stop before heading to Bangkok via Singapore was Malacca. Similar to George Town, another world heritage site and very similar style in architecture, Malacca or Melaka is Malaysia’s most prized historical town. Melaka however, is centred around a river, so you can take a stroll down the footpath and stop off at any of the many riverside bars and cafes as well the town itself.




Remains still stand of St. Paul’s Church and the A’Famosa fort built by the Portuguese around 1500. These are some of the oldest European remains in South-East Asia. 

My personal favourite thing to do here was taking a walk down Jonker Street Night market which is only open on weekends and sampling as many tasty treats as I could stuff in along the way. The entire 500 metre and surrounding area is jam packed with street food and other stalls selling anything from souvenir type items to home products and gadgets. 





I also loved the flea market, which again is only open on weekends. It’s situated behind the Discovery Cafe. I found all sorts of fascinating stuff here like vintage Japanese comics, a United Nation rubber collection, Malaysian books, 50’s watches and jewellery, vintage posters, 80’s postcards, furniture, juke boxes, toys and some clothing. A lot of the clothing is from Singapore who source a lot of vintage clothing from Europe so you aren’t likely to find anything you can’t get at home in this department although a much better souvenir than a keyring or a fridge magnet if you find something really cool. 


As a keen random crap enthusiast, I couldn’t resist a little souvenir for myself so bought a rusty old medicine tin and some customer loyalty bank gifts from 60’s Singapore. Really glad I have to carry those round with me now. 

There is loads to do in Malaysia and I didn’t even get started on the beaches in the East which are meant to be some of the most amazing for scuba diving in the world. Will definitely be back for more. 

💄🎒