With A Good Guide, You Can See the Highlights of Seoul in Three Hours

The hotel room was quiet, except for the unobtrusive, low-volume Korean voices drifting from the flat-screen television. I peeked out the window and down towards the lit empty streets with resignation — it was 4:00 a.m. on Friday here in Korea after all.

Earlier in the evening on Thursday, I arrived in Incheon Airport, excited that I could take advantage of a 24-hour layover to explore Seoul. I’d made big plans and plotted out what I wanted to see. After unloading my bags at the hotel, I would ask the front desk for directions to the famous Dongdaemun, set out on an evening walk to the city’s vibrant shopping district and stay there till the wee hours of the night to leisurely browse all the goods. The next morning could be spent taking in the city’s popular sights before heading back to the airport. Continue reading

Five Essential Ways to Discover the Real San Francisco

An alley in the Mission District.

Cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and Lombard Street — iconic, San Francisco landmarks that are a given on the must-see lists of first-time visitors. A few days of exploring those gorgeous sights are bound to have you hankering for more that the city has to offer, especially to places that fewer tourists know about. Here are my suggestions on how to discover the real San Francisco.

 

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Virgin American is a Chic and Hip Budget Travel Option

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A painless check-in, even with a cat

Virgin is known as the hip and cool alternative airline, but I wasn’t expecting the interior of the plane to look like it did. A male attendant with spiky hair and hipster glasses stood near the main entrance of the plane; his all-black attire reminded me of a bartender. The plane itself, lit with a dim glow from neon purple and blue lights, had a swanky nightclub feel to it. Lounge music playing overhead amplified that atmosphere.

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What to Pack When Moving Long-Term to Another Country

After 11 years of living abroad in the United States, I’m packing up my life (and the cat) for my move back to Malaysia.

Eleven years worth of belongings. Deciding what to bring back, what to sell, give away or simply leave behind — it’s a bit of a nightmare.

I’ve mailed about 118 kilograms (260 pounds) of items back, spread out over about 10 medium-sized boxes. On my flight, I’ll be carrying a total of about 45 kilos (100 pounds) in carry-on and checked luggage. And the cat.

“It’s just STUFF! Just throw EVERYTHING away,” one of my older lady friends practically screamed. Continue reading

See What Washington D.C. Looks Like at Night

Every night when dark settles over the District, bright lights around the city’s famous landmarks power on, creating a magnificent glowing aura around it. Even if you had traipsed around the city snapping shots of yourself in front of memorials and monuments earlier in the day, it’s worth the trip to come back out at night and see them again in a, well — different light. A thinner volume of visitors and cool night air makes the walk all the more pleasant. Not to mention a creative, romantic date idea! Continue reading

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios

I’m a huge Potterhead, I am. I’ve read the entire series twice over and seen (all) the movies at least four times. While researching the trip, I became aware that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is actually part of Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure theme park, and couldn’t help feeling a bit worried that HP World might be too small or too watered down, but my fears are now equivocally nixed. HP World is every bit as magical as everyone says it is, and overall, Islands of Adventure is as exciting as the main Universal Studios park. Continue reading

The Ollivander’s Wand Shop Experience

The wizard’s apprentice ushers about 10-15 people from the queue formed outside the shop, into a room lit just enough to make out a staircase built against wall shelves holding stacks and stacks of boxes (presumably) containing wands. A dark figure, back towards the crowd, begins to move on the landing of the staircase once the small crowd gathered has situated themselves.

Soon, you’ll realise that it’s an actor in wizard costume, the presumed shop proprietor. The wizard welcomes you to his shop before going on to pick one audience member for the reenactment of the scene in the movie, where Harry Potter meets Ollivander the wand maker and is told that “the wand chooses the wizard.” Continue reading

Luray Caverns in Shenandoah Valley

Heard about Luray Caverns from a neighbour and decided to check it out when gal pal Liz flew in last weekend. It’s one of the many commercial show caves in Virginia that do guided walking tours through the caverns, brightly lit with dazzling yellow lights to feature spectacular speleothem formations that you’d never see anywhere out in the open air.

A mini adventure in semi-darkness, more than 100 feet below ground? Yes please!

Early morning last Sunday, Liz and I jumped into my trusty grey Civic and drove two hours westward from Washington D.C. to the town of Luray in the Shenandoah Valley. We arrived at a car park very full of Washington D.C. license plates, and a long line already formed at the entrance to the caves. Luray Caverns must be quite beautiful if it attracts half a million visitors every year. Continue reading

A Magical Time at Disneyland in Orlando

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Cinderella’s Castle in Main Street USA

Ahh, Magic Kingdom. That wonderful place where dreams comes true. It lies in a city called Orlando, somewhere in the upper central region of Florida, attracting about 17 million visitors annually. Even if you never visit theme parks, make an exception for the famous Magic Kingdom. Just once.

To get to the gates, hop into a car, a taxi or a shuttle service; then wait for a monorail that will carry you through the air to a dock by the man-made lake, where a ferry known as Joe Potter awaits to bring you to the other side.

Speedboats zooms past on the twinkling water as the ferry boat chugs along towards shore. Our anticipation grows as a white castle with blue-roofed turrets draws ever closer. Finally! the journey to Magic Kingdom draws to a close. Continue reading