Category: Travel

10 Things To Do In Korea

Its been 5 years since I last visited Korea and thanks to an opportunity, I was able to once again visit the motherland!

A lot has definitely changed. Hearing English speakers in the subway is now a common occurrence, plastic surgery advertisements are not as discreet, suggesting the practice a norm and everything has gotten so much more expensive! Nevertheless, its always exciting going to South Korea – the city that never sleeps. I find that I never have enough time to do and eat everything but before I continue rambling, here are some ideas on what you can do if you end up in Korea!

 

 

10 THINGS TO DO WHEN IN KOREA

1. Take the Subway.

The Korean subway is a culture of its own. You can find underground shopping stores, art exhibitions, and even street performers located at various subway stations. Each subway station is equipped with their own subway vendors offering food, souvenirs and random products for purchase. Not only is it an effective way to get around the city but it is easy to use and super clean!

 

2. Eat Korean barbecue!

Where else can you get authentic Korean food but the motherland! Samgyupsal with soju or beer is always a good idea. I checked out Hanam Pork House at Myeongdong and it was amazing!!

 

3. Eat ChiMaek = Korean Fried Chicken and Beer!

You’ve not experienced Korea until you’ve popped Korean Fried Chicken in your mouth and chugged it down with a glass of cold beer. The best time to eat this is when you order it for delivery at 11 pm because you can! Best thing ever.

MadFry Chicken in Gangnam!

 

4. Eat everything in Korea

From the street foods to the mom and pop restaurants to the fancy smancy dine ins…whether its dessert, a hearty meal or hangover meals, everything is so damn good! The country is a foodies paradise.

 

5. Get your hair did (done!)

Feel like a kpop star and get your hair done! Juno Hair is where I went for a cheap but awesome haircut. Some locals don’t even bother washing their hair at home because they can just walk into these hair shops and get their head shampoo/conditioned, massaged and styled for cheap!

 

6. Check out Itaewon nightlife

Itaewon is known as the foreigner district. It used to be pretty ghetto with nothing much to do in the neighbourhood but now its revamped as the new Go-To spot in the city. Both locals and foreigners frequent Itaewon for its diversity in authentic ethnic foods and vibrant nightlife. Itaewon back then is definitely not the Itaewon now. Crazy how time transforms.

 

7. Purchase lots of snacks for your trip back home.

From yogurt jellys, dried squid, and instant noodles.. hoarding these goodies to take back home is cheaper and fills you with so much joy.

 

8. Shop till you drop.

Whether its face masks, harry potter glasses or random souvenirs to take home, Myeongdong is a good place to start!

 

7. Go to a Jjimjilbang.

No list is complete without going to a Jimjilbang in Korea. Go get a scrub, open up your pores in the hot HOT sauna and experience what the locals do in these bath houses. I’ve never been but heard that Dragon Hill Spa in Yongsan is a good spot to check out.

Photo Credit: Dragon Hill Spa

 

8. Check out Themed Cafes just for the heck of it.

Hello Kitty cafes (um, hello kitty fanatics!), Racoon cafes (yes, there are live racoons), Dress cafes (if dressing up as a princess is your dream)…Im sure if you have a thing for something and you google it, you will probably find it in Seoul somewhere. There is even a SHEEP cafe. Thats right… baaaaaaaaa…. These cafe visits will probably make your trip even more memorable!

Photo Credit: lallieperalejo.com

 

9. Go to the local Korean Market.

NoryangJin Market, Namdaemun Market are a few popular markets that sell local seafood, side dishes, traditional clothes, etc.. The hustle and bustle in these markets are cool to see and experience!

Photo Credit: Tourmatekorea.kr

 

10. Visit Gyeongbukgong Palace

Whether you are a tourist or feel like doing tourist things, the palace is a cool place to check out. This has been on my To Do list but never have enough time! You can even rent a hanbok (Korean traditional dress) and go for a mini photoshoot within the palace walls. Hows that for a cool experience in Korea?  Note that they are closed on Tuesdays!

photo credit: Stephen Bay

There is so much more to do, to see, to eat but this list is what I ended up doing or wanted to do on my visit to Korea. Happy travels!

Ess.

Must See Places In Kenya: Maasai Mara

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One word – SAFARI. An african safari is generally a desired bucket list for many and after experiencing it again, I can see why it is so popular. I am happy to say that I helped my husband check this one off his bucket list.  Although I’ve gone on several safaris with my parents in Kenya when i was but a wee little child, I don’t actually remember much nor did I fully appreciate the beauty of it back then. Now returning to Kenya, I wanted to take it all in – Lions, cheetahs, elephants… bring it! (Im happy to say we saw these animals and more!)

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hippos and alligators!

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Headed to Maasai Mara, we booked a one night two day stay at Camp Naibosho (we could have booked for a longer stay but it would have been more expensive and i could not stay away from my baby for more than one night. Despite the fact that she was in good hands with my parents, something about being a mother makes it difficult to part with your offspring). Anyway, Camp Naibosho not only impressed my husband but we were both blown away with the entire experience – from the camps hospitality to the intimate safari, it was amazing.

Below is an overview of our mini adventure.

Initially we had booked our safari through Encounter Mara after hearing great things about the camp. However, due to reconstruction we were moved to a different camp – Camp Naibosho – which has also been rated very high on trip advisor and thus we had no problem with the relocation. We opted for the road transportation from Nairobi to Mara instead of flying to Mara. Although the drive was about 5 hours long compared to a mere 1 hour flight to Mara, it was significantly cheaper so we took that route. Lets just say if I had to do it again, I would pay the extra and fly there. The last two hours on the road was so dusty and bumpy, i thought my head was going to roll off my body from bopping around so much.

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the bumpy long, long road

 

Once we arrived, we were greeted with a cold glass of lemonade and ushered to our tent. So this was not just a tent. It was a luxury tent. Equipped with a flushable toilet, shower head, running tap water and a king sized bed, one might easily forget that they are in the wild … until night falls.

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Screeching, scratching, roaring, trampling and thrashing noises were all that we heard inside our tent all night long. Forget sleeping. The noise was so terrifying, I just wanted the sun to come up. Wildlife was very real and very close. The only thing dividing us was the thin cloth of nylon that magically shielded us from the wild. After dozing off a couple times, something magical happened. Silence happened. Morning had arrived and the sun was getting ready to rise. Can I get a Good Morning??! I peeked out of our tent to see if any animals were lingering about and wow. (Think Lion King, when the monkey blesses Simba up on the cliff, where the sun is rising and the animals below are bowing. Ok so not like that. There were no animals in sight. Maybe a few gazelles here and there but the way the sunrise hit the savanna was so.. MAJESTIC! Its too bad i didn’t take a picture of it. The picture probably wouldn’t do justice anyway).

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morning tea

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Anyway going to wrap it up. (sorry, i have to run and take my daughter to swimming class so gotta cut this short) Because we were pressed for time, we decided to pack our breakfast, jumped in our jeep and off we went to finish our safari with our awesome private maasai guide. This guy made sure we were able to see the animals up close and personal. We even got lucky and was able to witness lions eating their breakfast – fresh buffalo meat (that they probably hunted down at night). And of course loitering near the lions for a chance to nibble at left over meat were vultures, jackals, and hyenas… It was pretty cool to witness this in the flesh!

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breakfast in the wild

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Forget zoos, If you decide that safari is what you want to do, i highly recommend checking out the following camps. You will not be disappointed. “Life is short, live everyday like its your last.”

Encounter Mara – www.encountermara.com

Camp Naibosho – www.naibosho,asiliaafrica.com

To read about Must Visit Places In Kenya: Lake Naivasha click HERE. Eventually, I’ll blog about Must Visit Places In Kenya: Mombasa when I can. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

Carpe Diem!

Ess.

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3 Travel Tips With A Baby

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My baby enjoying the beach

 

I took my baby to Africa. Thats right. We survived a 36 hour journey from Vancouver to Nairobi with two 9 hour flights and an overnight layover in London with our 10 month old daughter! Call me crazy, but it had to be done. Visiting my parents in Kenya, showing my husband and daughter the home and school i grew up in, seeing the beautiful wildlife in Maasai Mara and getting some sunlight at the white sandy beaches in Mombasa was ALL worth it!

However, traveling with a baby is not so easy. Therefore, i’d like to share 3 tips that i hope will help should you decide to travel internationally with your baby. The following advice is just based on my personal experience.

 

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Flying to Mombasa beach!

1. Its better to pay more for comfort and convenience than cheap out and suffer the consequences. When booking our flight to Nairobi, we could have opted for the cheaper airfare at $1000 per person with a less reputable airline. However, this consisted of three layovers at three different cities with several hours in between each stop. This didn’t give us any time to rest or freshen up before catching the next 9 hour flight. It’s already hard enough flying 9 hours at a time twice! After careful consideration, we chose to fly with British Airways (a well known brand) for $1700 per person. In exchange this gave us one layover in london and an overnight stay at a great hotel (which is also an additional cost) to rest and freshen up for our next 9 hour flight to Nairobi the next day. Suffice to say, it was worth every penny.

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In London!
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Checking out London with my family

 

2. Plan ahead. Book ahead. Know what to expect! Going to an unfamiliar territory without proper preparation can be disastrous. Although I grew up in Nairobi, I had left 14 years ago and it was probably not the same Nairobi that I once knew. Hotels, transportation and accommodation were all booked prior to landing in Nairobi. I wanted to be prepared. It was me and my husbands first visit to Africa with a baby. To be honest, I was more terrified than excited for the unknown. I mean… it is Africa. Regardless of the fact that it used to be my home, it is a third world country and for that reason alone i had to be prepared for my baby. The following are essential items that I brought with me on this trip and highly recommend should you ever travel to a third world country.

  • Squeezable baby food. Buy enough to last you for your entire trip, factoring your flight duration and layover time
  • Sippy cup or water bottle – baby will need to stay hydrated. I used this thing religiously.
  • Breastmilk – Whether you breastfeed or pump, giving your baby breastmilk helps fight any germs and sickness she may encounter there. Unfortunately i had to pump since my little one refused to breastfeed and oh my lawd, it was a nightmare trying to access clean water to wash and sterilize her 6 bottles and on top of that lugging around my breast pump everywhere i went. So not sexy.
  • Pack and Play – This is a must!! I had the biggest argument with my husband about packing this big thing and shipping it to Kenya. He thought it was ridiculous and an inconvenience but once we got there he was so thankful that I had my way in lugging this giant thing around because you NEED it. At 10 months, this little monkey crawls everywhere! Not only did it help contain her, she was comforted to know that it was her little space -sleeping SO well in it every night. In addition, I was able to put a mosquito net over her playpen everywhere we went (Beware of Malaria! if you are in Africa…)
  • Baby Blanket – Babies are attached to their blanky. This is not an option but a requirement.
  • Hydrasense Nose Sucker – I forget what the real name is. Anyway this thing is GOLD! During the trip my poor darling caught a mild cold and this nose sucker helped enormously when she was all stuffed up. I do caution not to use it too often though only if she cant eat and breath properly, suck those boogers out!
  • Lots of onesies (short and long) – Depending on what country you go to, pack a lot of onesies! For Kenya, the weather was so hot i wish I packed more short sleeve onesies. Dont pack pretty outfits for your kid just for pictures. It is NOT practical. Dont be me. My daughter was so hot, she got very annoyed when I tried to fit her into cute little outfits. She was all about her comfortable cotton onesies which I started running out of and had to hand wash.
  • Diapers – Lots and lots of diapers. Yes it takes up space but it was worth it. On our returning flight, the space that took up diapers was replaced with souvenirs!
  • Baby sunscreen – You need this stuff. Lather your baby in this because the last thing you want is a sunburn and I didn’t want to chance not finding a good solid sunscreen in that country. Bring a hat too.

There’s a lot more to add to this list but that would take me all day to add so I’ve just listed the essentials above that I found extremely handy.

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She’s ready to travel
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At Safari Park Hotel, where you try different types of meat.
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Giraffe Park

 

3. Leave your stroller at home and bring the ERGO baby carrier! If you don’t have an ERGO baby carrier, make sure the one you have is a good sturdy one because you will be carrying your baby EVERYWHERE and you don’t want to end up with a back injury. Lesson learnt – Many countries are not stroller friendly. From London to New York to Nairobi, pushing your stroller around the city is quite inconvenient and challenging. These cities have stairs everywhere, barely any ramps and half working elevators that are scattered in random corners of the buildings. In addition, swarms of people are not very empathetic to your gigantic stroller that hogs the space of three people. Bringing your stroller will be more of an Inconvenience than a convenience. You’ve been warned.

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Relaxing with my baby girl
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Checking out Safari Park Hotel

 

There you have it. After experiencing a journey to the other side of the world with a 10 month old baby, I conclude by saying that traveling with my baby wasn’t such a nightmare. It wasn’t easy but with patience, careful preparation, and a solid partner aka hubby and baby daddy, it was doable and definitely worth it. Dont let fear hold you back from experiencing life.

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Beautiful beach in Mombasa
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Lake Naivasha with pelicans and hippos
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Safari at Maasai Mara.

Happy traveling folks!

Ess.

Must See Places In Kenya – Lake Naivasha

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Hello beautiful people! Its been a while since my last blog but Im back in town after a month of travel and with jet lag and the whole city of Vancouver asleep at 3 in the morning, I’ve decided to blog about my adventures in Africa. Finally, I was able to visit my home again after leaving Nairobi 14 years ago. I was lucky enough to be able to take my daughter and husband to show them the beautiful country that i grew up in. Kenya was where i spent my childhood to teenage years and going back to visit after all these years brought back mixed emotions. Showing my husband the school I attended, the house I used to live in, the streets I played on, the local snacks I ate was another experience on its own. A lot has changed, yet some things still remain the same. He still cant get over the fact that I used to play in the slums of Mathare with local kids when I was a small child (He checked it out first hand with my dad on our second day of arrival).

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Even I have a hard time believing, I grew up here as a child… My school uniform was green.
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Slums of Mathare, still the same…

This is where i picked up Swahili and learned it fluently. After all these years I am amazed at myself for still remembering the language and used it to bargain like a crazy old lady at the ever so popular Maasai markets (A local african market that sells a variety of kenyan souvenirs). If you are ever in Nairobi, check out Village Market on Fridays. This is where you will find many street vendors selling their goodies at outrageous prices that you should not fall for. My advice is whatever price they quote you, divide that by 2 and then bargain your way down from that price.

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bargained a dress here!
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maasai market

Anyway, I can go on about my adventures in Kenya as there is so much to share but I’ve decided to break it down into different parts to fully highlight several places I’ved visited, starting with Lake Naivasha.

Must Visit Places In Kenya: Lake Naivasha

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Hippos literally an arms reach away… although not recommended to go that close.

Want to see some animals but a safari is not within your budget? No problem. Lake Naivasha, a freshwater lake is home to many animals, hippos included. Here, you will be able to take a morning stroll with giraffes and zebras grazing nearby or hop on a boat to intimately see schools of hippos, pelicans and other species of birds.

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prettiest monkey i’ve seen!
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wildlife roaming around our backyard hotel

Just a two hour drive from Nairobi, we stayed at the Sopa resort in Naivasha. For families with children and babies, I highly recommend staying here for a pleasant and comfortable experience. As i was traveling with a baby, comfort and convenience was my number one priority.

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boating with my love

Although it was a bit pricey to stay at Sopa, it was worth every penny! We stayed only for one night but really you pretty much see everything within your two day, one night stay here. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is included and I must say the food was actually quite decent. The suites are individual luxury huts that assemble next to each other and is so close to the animals, sometimes a giraffe will peer through your second floor patio. How cool is that? (No giraffe on our window unfortunately). I wanted a selfie with one of the giraffes but apparently i was too short so i had to settle for the giraffe to appear in the background. After dropping off our luggage to our suites, we had lunch and got ready to jump on a boat to see hippos. Im talking about seeing 50 hippos within the one hour boat ride. None of that, oh I see one or two hippos sticking their head above water nonsense. You are definitely not at a zoo. The hour boat ride was perfect with a baby. Not too long and not too short for my daughter to get restless. In addition, I loved the fact that the boat was shaded! Overall, we were quite impressed with Lake Naivasha from our comfortable hotel to the intimate wildlife viewing. Pictures need no explaining, check it out!

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Giraffes hanging out nearby
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view from our balcony
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Giant pool at Sopa resort. Unfortunately, they close at 6 pm.. with good reason since mosquitos come out to play in the evening.
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our suites!
Even their mosquito nets were well done!
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hotel lobby
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lunchtime!
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one school of hippos out of the many that we saw
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These pelicans were gigantic!
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blue heron
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Another school of hippos – different family
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water buffalo with her baby

Lake Naivasha is a must see when you visit Kenya. Check back at www.thatkimchilife.com next week for my next post: Must See Places in Kenya – Maasai Mara!

Cheers,

Ess.