A long weekend in Launceston….

Since Launceston is home to our daughter’s Grandma, it was the perfect location for an Anzac weekend family trip. As i’ve blogged before, Launceston is a great fix for any faint homesickness, since, as one of the first settlements, it’s architecture reminds me so much of England. It’s also one of the rare cities in Australia where the distances are nice enough to walk, as long as you can brave a few San Francisco-esq steep hills.

img_20160424_151622.jpgFresh off the 50 min Saturday morning flight from Melbourne, we headed straight to Harvest Community Farmer’s Market in the centre of town, where we stock up on Kombucha, organic sourdough and quite possible the best salted caramel brownies in the world. This was followed by Evendale Sunday market. Here I picked up classic 80’s toys in mint condition for under $5 and a Nepalese yak bell, whose sound will forever fondly remind me of my Everest Base Camp adventures.

Amazingly (for parents of a 13 month old) we managed to time our weekend (and our baby’s afternoon nap) to coincide with the Fresh Hop Beer Festival. The rest of the time was spent visiting the fantastic Launceston Aquatic Centre, with it’s awesome toddler pool and water slides. Finally, a must do for anyone visiting Launy with kids; the macaque monkey enclosure at City Park. Again, coincidentally, next to the lovely Victoria Cafe where we sampled Tasmanian white wines and lounged on comfy beanbags in the Autumn sunshine.

 

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72 hours in Seoul, Korea…

Here are the top 6 fun/crazy/beautiful things I saw with 3 days in Seoul:

1) A bad-ass tattooed couple in their 20’s paying to cuddle a kitten….

Cat cafe’s are increasingly popular in Asia.  Not just with 10 year old girls, but because young couples often live in tiny, pet-free apartments.  Plus the National obsession  Hello Kitty probably helps.  I visited Toms Cat  where for 8000 Won (the price of a tea/coffee)  you can stay as long as you want and hang out like a crazy cat lady.  It’s surprisingly therapeutic.

2) Socks, socks & more socks…..

Forget Gangnam.  Hogndae Street is the new fashionable area. Weirdly it reminds me of an alpine ski village with all it’s second/third story  alfresco  coffee chains, or maybe it’s just the cool March air.  It’s close to Hongkok University so has a ton of  graffiti, clubs & funky boutiques nearby. One question though Korea; What’s with all the sock shops?!

3) I’m gonna pop some tags, I got 20 Won in my pocket…

Outside of  Ewha Women’s University is the warren of vintage flee market stores also know as ‘that street you want to visit.’ Correct. There’s rows of  shoe shops that remind me of UK 90’s chain Garage (with a 60,000 won price range.) Plus your usual Asian-esq slogan tees and rails thrift shop jumpers. It’s also waay better than the oddly popular Namdaemun Market.

4) The Bukchon ‘Observatory’ (some guy’s 3rd floor balcony)…

Bukchon & Insa-dong areas are both worth a little meander for arts & crafts. The maze of alleyways around Buchon Hanok Village are full of galleries & teeny tiny tea cafes. An enterprising guy has done a sterling job pinning flyers to lampposts to advertise  his 3rd floor balcony as a ‘private observatory.’ For 3000 Won you can get some nice get some nice shots of the Seongbuk-dong mountains and Gyeonbokgung palace rooftop. Plus he throws in a free orange juice.

5) Businessmen in suits hopping over stepping stones…

Cheonggyecheong is a 6km stream running through the center of the city. It’s definitely worth a spot of people watching as the city workers take their lunch break, just to see guys in suits with briefcases skip over the stepping stones like little girls in a woodland :)

6) Cheery blossoms come early….

I thought these were a Tokyo thing, so what a nice surprise!

Getting there: $350 SGD Singapore to Seoul (via Taipei) with Scoot Air

Where I stayed: $25 SGD shared dorm at The Closest Hostel (1 min from Hongik Uni MRT)

Where I ate:  BistroRE just off Yanghwa-ro 18 gil, Hongik University. (Home of the freshest mozzarella in Asia!)

 

 

 

Mutianyu, The Great wall of China

There are two main places to see The Wall from Beijing at least at this time of year. Badaling is most popular but Mutianyu has a cable car and toboggan run. Er Hello?! Easiest decision ever.

Now, it takes a lot to really stun Andi and I, having both been on the road since April we are lucky enough to be over exposed to UNESCO sites and wonders of the world on a weekly basis, ungrateful show offs that we are. So we joked that we might be underwhelmed. Not so. Not so.

I know it’s just a wall and all, but it’s a really good one.  I won’t bother describing; bricks/winding/long? It was bitterly cold but sunny which makes for lovely pics, which is all you can ask really. It is also a bit of a mission to get to, especially when we shunned the organised tour and decided to attempt the local bus. We ended up in the car of a very pleasant Chinese man, who lured us off the bus in Huairou (a city nearby) and took the remaining 30km in his banged up ford for £6 each. He even waited for us and delivered us back again. One of more successful  ‘let’s just roll with it, see what happens’ experiments.

Xi’an, China

Pronounced ‘she-an’ and famous for the Terocotta Warriors (some statues off of the olden days). They are just  an hour’s bus ride down the road and everyone bangs on about them. Wikitravel/Lonely Planet et all wax lyrical about the wonder of them; (i’ll summerize:) some crazily vain/paranoid dude built them to protect him in the afterlife, then drank mercury to speed up the death process. They are an absolute wonder, more so as they were only discover in the 1970’s as some farmers dug a well. They are all also all carved individually and have their own features, and are one of the most famous excavations in the world. And yes, after more than 2 mins and a few pic of each,  they are mind numbingly dull! Honestly, it was on par with the Colombian police museum and some caves I once visited in Sardina for the award for most overpriced snooze (well, £11.00.)

Xian is also famous for it’s city wall. Andi (he’s back) and I hire bicycles for $20 yuan (£2) for 90 mins, one of Andi’s bright ideas. I should mention that abosultely everything in China is of colossal scale. Cities are huge and what looks like a centimetre on the nice little map is in fact a kilometre or so peddling in the brisk freezing winter air. I tried to talk him into a tandom so I could sit at the back and fake peddling but he deemed it ridiculous. Spoilsport. What’s more is, we make it half an hour around, almost to the North Gate and the Train Station (we are there to book the sleeper train a day in advance) and classic fail; the wall is blocked for renovation?! We turn back having only conquered a fraction of it, but both a bit secretly relieved. There was a point were we thought it might extend all the way to The Daddy of All walls. Spot my seamless transition hey…into Beijing.

Japan

A group of us were having the conversation about what makes you LOVE a place, what makes you like a place, how it’s often impossible to pinpoint what gives you that feeling about somewhere etc. I’ve wanted to come to Japan as long as I can remember. I love the art, style, fashion. Although the cherry blossoms in the spring would obviously have been amazing, Autumn is a pretty perfect time of year to see it too. All that said, it kind of falls into the same category as Vietnam for me. Places I was prepared to love, but in fact only like a lot.

Liked:

1) The aforementioned style: immaculate clothes, beautiful stationary/postcards, zen like gardens. Japan is eye candy.

2) The quirky/zany. From manga porn, to the Disney/Hello Kitty culture, to the futuristic/little bit left field.

3) Calm, helpful and unbelievable friendly people. The language is not the barrier everyone thinks. It’s like a giant game of Cranium at times, but a sketch or mime goes a unbelievably long way.

Disliked:

1) Prices. Ouch on the wallet!

2) Getting around. The subways/trains etc make sense in the end, but defy all of your natural instincts a little.

3) 3pm check ins and 10am check outs. Where is my 24 hours man? Plus the emphasis on the importance of the invite. Japan is big on reservations, not so big on rocking up unexpected.

Where I stayed; Kawasw Tokyo Capsule, Backpacker Gion Hostel, Kyoto.

Previous Older Entries

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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