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The Bowls of the Seas ~ Aquarium Seas that is

15 Jun
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Osaka Aquarium

Then and Now: Kyoto in 1988 and 2013

17 May

 

Then and Now:
Kiyomizu-dera temple in 1988 when my Mom went. And the same temple when I went in 2013. Cool!!

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Delicious Desserts!

14 Feb

Drinking Red Wine animated emoticonDelicious desserts at a small restaurant in Japan.  It was actually attached to a little shop beside our home station; and we ran in for some lunch before a movie.  The signs all pointed to it being a omelette shop (Japan has many restaurants that serve lunch and dinner omelette), and we thought it’d be another mom & pop place. Instead it was incredibly fancy and the dinner was arranged prettily and with elegance 🙂 Luxury in Excess!

Testing Out AirBnB . . . RESULTS!

5 Aug

I have recently been uploading/updating a rather long-winded post outlining my experiences with the website AirBnB.  While it took almost 4+ months, and lots of emailing back and forth, at last I can bring you my results!  

I ended up choosing a room hosted by a man named Jinwoo.  You can see the link that he had posted on AirBnB here.  My requirements were pretty simple:

A cheap room for 18 days in the middle of Seoul in a safe neighborhood that had free internet,a Lock on the door with a Key I could keep on hand.  Since I couldn’t pay upfront, I also needed to put down a deposit instead.

You can read from my other post most of the process I went through, but to sum it up:

  • I emailed him on AirBnB about the room with the information above and asking for price and room availability verification.
  • Since I had special issues regarding the deposit, He responded with a request that I speak with him via Kakao (the Korean version of Messenger).
  • He was incredibly kind to me and we sent back and forth about 4 messages setting up how I was to pay the deposit ($100) and getting all the details.
  • I finally got the address and he also attached directions on how to get there. So I set off!

And now, the RESULTS!

Ease of Locating the Place

Per the owner’s instruction, upon arrival at Incheon Airport, I grabbed the #6020 Limosuine bus for Seoul (it takes about an hour at ₩15,000 = approx. $15).  It took me to the Seoul Nat’l. University of Education (SNUE) stop (be careful–there is a Seoul Nat’l. University stop, but it isn’t the same one; look for the Education part of the title).  This was the intersection where the SNUE Subway Station was located. It’s too close to take a taxi and the owner recommends  taking the subway up to Seocho Station. However, I was carrying 2 heavy suitcases that didn’t make it feasible to go up and down the subway stairs so instead I hiked it. I was glad to discover that from Exit 9 of the SNUE subway station (you can see the numbers from the sidewalk above and each has a map posted at the top of the stairs), it was only about a 2-3 block straight walk to Seocho Station’s Exit #1.  From there I was told to take the first right then the first left and look for a kimchi shop. I’ve marked the location on the map below with a star so you can see it’s exact location. It only took about 2 minutes from the subway station. It took me a long time because I had to figure out how to get to Seocho Station from where the bus dropped me off and the walk was uphill; plus I wasn’t sure which Kimchi shop. But overall, it was really easy to find.

Map

GOOD LOCATION?

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The “Gangnam” title is a little bit of a misnomer since it’s actually about 3 subway stops away from Gangnam Station; however I didn’t find that to be a detraction.  The hotel was 2 minutes away from a subway station (amazing location for Seoul–the subway is your lifeline), which was on a busy intersection where tons of taxis pass by. If you couldn’t get to your location via subway, there was always a taxi.  There’s nothing there for tourists, but it’s right beside the Prosecutor’s office, the Supreme Court, and a bunch of other legal facilities so it’s definitely in a safe location.  This part of town is also close to a major college, so there are several coffee shops on the main road and some local restaurants across the street and next door.  The main road also had a Lotteria and a 24 hour convenience Mart less than a minute (literally maybe 2 buildings) from the subway. There was a bar across the street and the restaurant downstairs served alcohol so people could sometimes get pretty loud, but closing the window fixed that.  One nice thing was that you always used Seocho Station as your taxi’s address (they knew where it was just by me saying Seocho Yok (station)) and you only had a minute’s walk so you didn’t have to carry the address around and it was easy to locate 🙂 .  All in all, I liked the location.

Room Itself

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At last we come to the room itself.  The room was incredibly small (barely walking room, maybe the size of my bathroom back home) and included:

  • A Twin Bed with a blanket, sheet, and pillow. The bed was fine, but I wish I’d gotten a replacement sheet/blanket. The pillow was pretty flat too, so I might have been better off bringing my own.
  • A desk. The desk was awesome; it was the length of the room and left me plenty of room to stash my laptop, camera, and other school-related supplies.  It also came with an ethernet cord in addition to the wifi (although wifi was kind of sketchy some nights).  It had plenty of outlets which was really nice.
  • A Closet. The closet had a couple of hangers and was pretty small, but I made do.  Mostly I just stashed my suitcases in there to keep them out of the way.
  • A mini-Fridge. I loved the mini-fridge. There was a refrigerator in the kitchen, but I liked to keep drinks and snacks here.  Saved me from moving in the heat unless I had too and I kept my drinks cold.
  • 2 windows. Some rooms apparently didn’t have as many windows, but they all had one that opened indoors. I kept the inside one open during the day to get the air-conditioning, but that didn’t always seem to be on at night. Since it was usually coolish and raining at night, I’d open up the outside window then. It really depended on the weather. It could sometimes get cooking in that room, but over time I learned when to stay away in the afternoon’s heat.

It didn’t have bells and whistles, but it was what I had been looking for. A cheap room to myself that came with internet and a lock.  The heat could be a nuisance, and sometimes I got claustrophobic, but overall it was definitely worth the cheap price.

Amenities

So the hotel came with some amenities that I admittedly didn’t take that much advantage of.

  • Since Koreans don’t like to wear shoes indoors, outside the hallway at the top of the stairs there is a row of shoe lockers where you store your shoes.
  • It did have a washer, but drying clothes could sometimes be a problem. However, that seems to be true no matter where you go.  I felt that my clothes always stunk, so I tended to wash them elsewhere when possible.  Plus, the washer was frequently full.
  • There was a kitchen that was pretty nice. It was shared by everyone so the refrigerator was often full, so I used the fridge in my room. It came with rice and kimchi pre-made, but I never really used that. It also had filtered water though and that was a blessing.  It came with a microwave, which is probably what I used the most.
  • The bathroom was probably my least favorite part. On my floor, the bathroom had 2 toilet stalls, each next to a shower stall that it shared a sink with. In one stall on the side was the washer.  It tended to be pretty dirty and was frequently out of toilet paper, but the downstairs toilets were better. My main problem was showering, but that was because I was a girl. Most of the people here were men, and I never felt comfortable showering when I thought a guy could come in and be next door at any time.  Plus it was often full.  Guys would have found it fine I think, and the other girls didn’t seem to mind.  Since I don’t really like the sink-showers anyway, I usually just went to the Dragon Hill Spa in the afternoons. It let me shower and swim for a while, so I enjoyed it.

Conclusion= For $15/per night, it was definitely worth it!

Benefits:

  • The owner was willing to work with me on the deposit instead of upfront issue. He even waited a day while I went and got money exchanged so I could pay him in cash. Great service.
  • The owner was always quick to respond. He usually responded within a couple hours if not sooner. I really appreciated that since I was emailing him from the US mid day making it mid-night in Korea 🙂
  • The room had a lock and key and internet, all of which I needed.
  • The location was amazing in regards to getting around town.
  • The convenience store and Lotteria being so close made dinner and drinks really easy.

Cons:

  • It was hot, sometimes unbearably so. And the air conditioning didn’t always make it through all the rooms .
  • It was small; I didn’t mind too much but it made getting to clothes and things a little difficult.
  • The bathroom situation. The bathroom is really kind of a guys room; it tended to be dirty, stinky, out of supplies and full of guys. Made it awkward for me as a girl, but I made up for that with the spa.  But that cost more, so it was worth taking into consideration.

Want to Try AirBnB Yourself?  Here’s a 25$ coupon!

Testing Out Airbnb. . . A step-by-step analysis updated live

4 Aug

UPDATED!!!

CHECK OUT THE RESULTS ON THE FOLLOWING POST HERE: Testing Out AirBnB. . . the Results!

 

Seoul, Korea. . . Here I come!

Yes, I am returning to this country of my heart in June, where I get the opportunity to stay for almost 3 weeks.  I will be studying in Kyoto and Tianjin, but I get a little time in between.  After scouring the airline prices, it is definitely cheaper to fly to Korea and hang out there in cheap housing rather than fly back and forth to the US.  Plus, I’m dying to go back!

However, since I am a very cheap student (did I mention I was cheap, as in uber, uber cheap?) I am looking for someplace to stay in Korea for the duration.  Last semester I stayed in Chungmuro, but that hotel is way too expensive to stay in without school loans helping to cover the cost.  On the other hand, I liked being in that area of Seoul, so I think I’ll try finding something in the nearby vicinity of that dip in the Han River.   Continue reading

Sayonara Japan!

12 Jun

Two days ago, I officially made my sad goodbyes to the wonderful people I met in Kyoto.  I had the opportunity to meet some amazing folks, both in the program (like my absolutely fabulous roommate) and on the streets of the city itself (like our totally sweet and awesome hair cutter/stylist at the Noel Salon on Shijo-dori near the corner of Shijo and Senbon–you should definitely check her out).  I got some amazing pictures and great adventures were had by all 🙂  Everything from washing our hair in Shampoo and then Body Wash because it looked like Conditioner (stupid look alike bottles) to finding a restaurant that offered Beef Tongue and Grilled Horse meat (true story–it also served beef gristle; you know the stuff you cannot eat off your steak?!?).   We got lost so many times, but every time met someone or ran into some awesome landmark that made up for it.  We found new favorite restaurants (Anri in Porta at Kyoto Station is DELICIOUS!), favorite hang-outs (loved wandering around the riverside at Arashiyama), and new best friends.  

To Japan: I Salute You For A Wonderful Time!

Chishaku-In and Sanjusangendo

7 Jun Chishaku-In

Chishaku-In and Sanjusangendo:

Kyoto’s Most Famous Garden and Temple

It’s funny, but when they told me I would be visiting Kyoto’s most famous gardens; somehow my brain was picturing a type of botanical garden such as you would see in the U.S.  You know, open rows upon rows of flowers, all arranged carefully around small stone water fountains.  Suffice to say, I had it more or less completely wrong (kind of like when they said I was going to a monkey zoo and instead took me hiking to the top of a mountain to see them in their natural habitat mid-forest).

The Chishaku-In garden is actually rather small and compact, but what there is of it is stunning.  Carefully interwoven around some lovely temple buildings and tucked up against one of the many mountains in the area, the gardens consist of small Continue reading

Waffle Fish: Essentially Japanese

29 May

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Haha, had a little fun today!  My roommate and I went wandering and we finally got the chance to try these fish-shaped waffle treats.  We’ve been dying to try them for a while, but they usually are filled with this bean paste that doesn’t sound too appetizing.  However, today the little shop across from the hotel offered the ones filled with chocolate so we took a chance and grabbed one on the spot.  It cost 100 yen (approx. $1), and was pretty good.  I thought it was a little bland (literally a pancake filled with cheap chocolate), but I think it has a lot of potential.  I want to try making one with sweeter pancake batter and perhaps a more flavorful chocolate.  Still, I had fish-shaped waffles! How awesome is that?!?

Walking the Streets of Kyoto

26 May

Went for a walk outside yesterday (Sunday here) and I ended up travelling quite a ways up and down the streets. Walked down Sanjo street (where I live) to Karasuma Street and then back up Shijo Street. Saw a couple places I want to check out tomorrow! But I also saw some really cool random things that I thought I’d share. So here is a glimpse of the streets of Kyoto!

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10 Things I Will Miss About Japan (and 1 Thing I Won’t)

25 May

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6. Vending Machines

Vending Machine

Cigarette Vending Machine

Holy cow, there is just no way to describe all of the things you can get in vending machines here in Japan. Continue reading

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