Day 2 staying in dormitory and Day 12 in Korea

Yesterday, 26 Jun 2016, I had sent my parents back home at Incheon International Airport. I had come to Korea feeling brave and even thought of coming to Korea all by myself for my own free-and-easy tour. But I was wrong. I was actually afraid of being alone. My dad insisted on seeing that I have safely boarded the airport bus to Suwon before he and mum went into the departure gate. We took our last selfies while queuing up for the bus and after I had fearfully boarded the bus all by myself, my dad went to wave goodbye to me while mouthing the words, ‘If there’s anything, remember to call home.’ Then, he went to bring my mum to wave to me too. We smiled to each other and finally, the bus moved and they too, left for the departure hall.

On the bus, I was feeling rather emotional. I had flashbacks of how I could be better to my parents and how the itinerary I had planned was not perfect like I had hoped to. All these thoughts made me teary and I shed a few drops of tears after resisting them.

The journey was not extremely long but also not a short one. It was about one and a half hour but it most certainly felt longer as it was my first time taking a long distance bus and first time being in a foreign land all alone. It was my eleventh day in Korea but it felt so strange to be here when my parents were not here. Their absence was greatly felt. I felt ashamed of how I had even wanted to come alone from day 1, how much more miserable I would have felt.

The bus journey had three stops in total and I was supposed to alight at the last stop, Hotel Castle. I had done enough research to know that but I was rather panicky with all that emotions and hence, kept fidgeting around. The people on board, mostly Koreans were asleep, perhaps it wasn’t their first experience on this bus. I had felt sleepy but did not sleep at all.

The lady beside me was a kind woman. She had noticed my uneasiness and reassured my of my stop. Apparently, she had also alighted at the same stop as me. She was unlike me, very calm and prepared to sleep with eye mask and was seated comfortably.

I had alighted at the right stop but the trouble truly begin then. I was on my way to Ajou University from Hotel Castle. I did not sign up for the pick-up service, having been overconfident with the 11 day itinerary planning I did by myself. The trouble started with me wanting to save that few won of taxi money. I had researched online that it takes about 20 min to walk from the bus stop to Ajou main entrance. I was confident that I could do it. However, with a laptop, a carry-on shoulder bag, a huge drag-on luggage and a carry-on backpack, it was most certainly not an easy task. I had to walk to the entrance then walk all the way in to the New Dormitory where I am staying. Korea, with no exception of Suwon, was filled with slopes, hills and stairs. It was a bad idea to drag all the way up and it took me more than an hour to do so.

– Sorry but I will complete this post soon. More to come about my Korea trip.


Preparing for Summer Exchange (NTU student perspective) – applying part 3

Part 1:

Part 2:

Continuing from the part 2 post published on 5 May 2016, I shall write my last part just before I fly to Korea. As mentioned earlier on there is this survey to confirm attendance by 20 May 2016. In the survey, details of flight information will be required and they will ask whether you need a pick-up service from Ajou on either the 26 or 27 June at Incheon Airport. However, to my knowledge, the pick-up service they mentioned referred to pointing you to the direction of the bus you would need to take to Ajou University as in they will not be having a coach to drive you to Ajou. Hence, I did not opt for the pick-up service.

The survey also puts the activities in Korean Cultural Workshop as either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for participation. However, when I had emailed NTU, the home coordinator said that we had to participate in all the activities unless we had a valid reason (in other words, no). Hence, I almost panicked at thoughts of not being able to transfer any credits back but Ajou had assured me that I could still join later on through the Facebook group page created on 11 May 2016.

Initially, there were no announcements on the page but soon as the exchange date got nearer, introduction about the different courses from the Professors themselves (if they had Facebook page) were posted.

As the student intern announced to us about the Facebook page, he also announced something shocking which was that dormitory will be opened on the 27 June instead of the 26 June that we were expecting. He recommended us to book a flight that arrives in Korea on June 27th (which made me unhappy as to how late they informed us). He even mentioned that there may be extra charges if we were to check-in on the 26 June. Fortunately, things turned out fine after all, after they had discussed with the dormitory coordinator, they had decided to allow us to check-in early on 26 June at no charge (only for the students who did their survey and marked that you are going to arrive on 26th. But I believe it also applies for students reaching earlier and had indicated so.)

Just a few days earlier from 20 May 2016, you would need to register for housing application from 16 June to 20 June. For exchange students, we do not need to pay anything before the programme starts but non-exchange students would have to transfer their payment fee before summer studies start and send a letter informing Ajou of the payment.

I had received my dormitory results on the 30 May 2016 and was happy to be partnered with a fellow NTU schoolmate whom happened to be on the same Korean Class as me on the semester that had just ended. However, do the email also warned us that changes to room assignments may be changed and on the website, the dormitory pairing was supposed to be with a Korean student from Ajou. In addition, to my surprised, not everyone was partnered with someone from the same school. One of my exchange mates from NTU was partnered with someone from another school.

31 May 2016, this is the due date for emailing our indemnity agreement form to Ajou. Also, do note that you need to do the indemnity agreement form for NTU too and fill in some pre-departure details at least one week before leaving for Korea.

At the same period of time, from 30 May 2016 to 6 June 2016, you will need to do your course selection. The course details would be updated on Ajou’s page and more courses could be added. I didn’t know of this and seek approval to take the courses that I wanted too early but it’s fine to seek approval for as many courses as you wish (no need to take all of them). Another surprising fact was that the course selection process required us to rank the courses we want in the time slot. Hence, if you do not get your first choice in the first time slot then you will get your second choice in the second time slot. Unfortunately, maybe I should have known, but I was not interested in all of the courses in the same time slot. Still, just for in case, I had seek approval for all the courses in the time slot that I had wanted. Do note that we can only transfer up to 8 AU back to NTU so no point taking too many (too many subjects and can’t transfer plus less time to explore the country). But of course, if you really like that subject, you can go ahead and apply for it.

Seeking approval for courses really depends on which school you come from. For example, for the Korean Cultural Workshop that was 1 credit in Ajou could be credited to 3 AU for me in NTU. But not guaranteed that you can also can 3 AU for the same course. My NTU exchange mate attempt at getting this course approved was rejected by her humanities school.

Another good news came about as there was an extra survey seeking attendance for a newly added place, Korean Hanok Village in Yongin. In addition, our shirt size were needed as they were going to make a group shirt. In case, you were wondering as I had been whether the village we are going on the 13 July was the same as this, it is not. The traditional village we are planning to go on July 13th is in Seoul and more focused on experiencing Korean traditional clothes, making traditional papers. However, the Korean Folk Village is in Yong-In City and shows you how the life was in back in the days in Korea.

Ta-da, finally completed my part three and also the last part of the series. All the best for applying (if you are)!


Singapore: Pompompurin Cafe

Day of Visit: 9 Jun 2016, Thursday

Time: around 11.30am

It was my best friend’s 22nd Birthday Celebration and we had decided on Pompompurin Cafe! ^^

Pompompurin, the golden retriever, is so adorable and I couldn’t help but snap more photos of it. The cafe is located at Somerset MRT station, the central of Singapore. Alight from the station at Exit B and walk to Orchard Central, Level 4.

Address: 181 Orchard Road, #04-08, Orchard Central, Singapore 238896

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If there is the mug icon beside the dish, then it means there will be a mug souvenir to bring home! We can collect a brand new mug when we pay for our meals after eating.

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The souvenir section. Expensive as expected hence I got a dish with a mug. The mug is rather small and the opening is too narrow to dip food inside. I had saw that the mug was used to collect coins (tips?) at the counter and read from blogs that it was also used to store tubes of coffee packets.

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Not a very big cafe but cozy enough and decorations are pleasing to the eye. We went early to avoid queuing but the ‘best’ seats were already taken up. We didn’t had to queue though.

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Food was delicious and I am not if it was because I was feeling extra happy at that time that everything tastes so good. Pompompurin cup contained some mild spicy sauce for the bread. We had guessed that the one with chili was cake but nope, it was omelette. A yummy omelette to me. 🙂

My friend had tried the Spaghetti Napolitana, $26.99 (before extra charges) while I tried the Mushroom and Bacon Carbonara, also $26.99 (before extra charges).

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Then, when we almost finishing our meal, I had spotted the pompompurin stuff toy and we took photos with it.

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The nicer seating areas are those with enclosed and more private spaces but really, every seating area was really comfortable and pleasant to be at, especially with so many smiling, cute characters around.

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Finally, our receipt.

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A queue had most certainly formed when we had left.

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Yes, indeed like what my friend had said. Even the plastic bag was a delightful souvenir to bring home.

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Yup, it was a delicious meal that I had ate with good friends in a special place called pompompurin cafe. I had enjoyed the food and photo-taking but even so, I doubt I can come here again as the price is really high, more than $30 per person without drinks. Besides, it will not be fun if we had come here too often.

Singapore: Chinese Garden

Day: 13 June 2016, Monday

Time: around 6pm

Weather: Nice and cooling. Great for walks.

Chinese Garden MRT Station is located on one of the last stops of the East-West Line (Green in Colour). It is a beautiful park and great for relaxing on a day like this. I went there in the evening but the park was not overly crowded. Some were relaxing on a picnic mat, many were jogging and others were taking leisure strolls around while chit-chatting with love ones.

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The station has three shops.

First, the SM MART that sells lots of Indian snacks. When I was there, there were many Indians patronizing the shop and it seems like the owner was manning the cashier. He had a Chinese middle-aged woman as his helper and she was diligently restocking the products in the store. One thing I didn’t like that most prices were not clearly labelled. I didn’t buy anything from this store.

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Next to this mini-mart was the familiar Cheers convenience store, selling the usual stuff and prices with expiry dates were clearly labelled this time. I was a little surprised at how much trust there was in the neighborhood with slippers set up outside the store. I bought a bread as a snack for $1. Not very satisfying. I better bring my own snacks next time.

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Nearby, also within the Chinese Garden MRT Station, there is a take-away chicken rice/ bee hoon/ nasi lemak etc store. Prices are cheap at $2.20 per serving. I don’t know how is the taste of the food from this store.

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Next, coming out straight from the station, is the Jurong Heritage Trail.

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Opening hours as follows.

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The following statues are Chinese men/women from ancient Chinese History. I like that there is an introductory story about their lives at the side of their statue. Kind of reminds me of a museum introducing Chinese History. There are some statues that I did not take a picture of but I am glad that I could recognize a few of these people.

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I had also past by ‘The Live Turtle & Tortoise Museum’ which I didn’t visit due to a lack of time (which I may regret later on as I have a feeling that it is a temporary museum and it is going to be interesting).

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Path that leads to the Museum.

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There are other parts of the museum like the 12 zodiac animals park (not sure of the actual name) etc. Overall, it was a beautiful and huge park that was worth more than a visit. However, there were so many ants on the ground (including red ants) and the pond was so polluted with green algae and park-goers were still throwing bread into the pond in attempts to feed the fishes in it. Oh well, I guess it is alright since I am just visiting the park and not living there(?). There were still plenty of parts of the park which were left unexplored today. Maybe next time?


Steps to planning your own free-and-easy trip itinerary

1) Firstly, before even planning to go there, I suggest checking how safe the country is.

2) Check if the country fits your budget. Currency conversion rate, read up on blogs that have budget spending itineraries then estimate how much you will need.

3) Then, check on the weather, culture and possible time lags. See if you can adjust to the country and have a mental check on what to take note and bring.

4) This part will take one of the most time and could be the most challenging/fun. Make a table (I suggest to use Microsoft Word here). List out the places you want to go from Day 1 – Day _ , what you want to eat for lunch, dinner etc. I suggest making meal plans near the place of interest you want to go to save on transport and time. Google in the country’s language (if you know) for food ideas.

When searching for the place you want, also take note of the following:

  • what it is about
  • location
  • how much (entrance fee/ activities)
  • any near place of interest you might be interested (can plan for same day)
  • famous food nearby – menu, cost, what is the famous food

5) After deciding roughly where you want to go, you would have decided on a location (or a few) parts of the country you would like to focus on. Hence, go ahead and search for the place you want to stay.

If you are looking at Airbnb and are signing up for the first time, here is my link to help you save SGD 25:

6) Now add the transportation mode you will be taking and the cost involved. Plus how to go about buying the ticket etc. Some places of interest also require tickets to be bought in advance so more research is needed on this part.

7) Point 7 is the part where you rearrange all the information you have researched earlier on. Make a table in Excel. If you are using google doc, I suggest the ‘Schedule’ layout.


Change the date details to your travelling duration. Under each column, fill in the research details from part 4-6. Yup, this is the time where you think about how long you want to stay at each place. Perhaps 2 hours for a place of interest and 1 hour for a meal. Some places have guided tours which you may want to join. Check the duration and add it in. Remember to take note of the travelling time in your schedule.

8) Adjust all details accordingly till it becomes your best plan. Make sure to add an extra column after each day to input the exact direction details (especially for people visiting the country for the first time) – although you may want to rely on google map when you are lost, searching on the spot is going to take some time, dampens spirit and risk being late for your next thing-to-do on your itinerary.

Use google map or any other helpful tools to know exactly how to walk to some places (For Korea, I definitely suggest viewing through the daum car or naver car – which shows you how the place looks like in real life.)

9) In addition, plan some wet-weather activities or some additional activities in case you have too much time left.

10) Finally, calculate all the costs using formulas in Excel and reserve some extra money for shopping, miscalculation and unforeseen circumstances.

Hooray, you have a completed itinerary! 🙂

Cheap(er) food to eat in Korea

Disclaimer: I have not eaten any of them but all these places do exist.

Tip: Use Naver or Daum map to find where is the nearest branch from where you are staying (copy and paste the Korean name of the shop).

I have listed some places where you can get fulfilling, cheap and delicious meals that people can enjoy alone. Each link provided below shows you the menu in each food place. If more information is needed, I don’t mind helping to find them (please leave a comment below if such request is needed).

1. Bon Gousse (Rice Burger) 봉구스 밥버거

2. Pomato 포마토

3. Kim Seon Seang 김선생

4. Han’s Deli 한스델리

5. Hansot 한솥

6. 59 Pizza 오구 쌀피자

7. Kimbap Heaven 김밥천국

8. Nipong Naepong 니뽕내뽕

9. Steff Hotdog 스테프 핫도그

10. Lotteria 롯데리아

Other places you may consider include convenience stores, bakeries (e.g. Paris Baguette), supermarkets (they sell proper cooked food there too), local markets, street food etc.