Goodbye South Korea and Japan… I’m back!

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Yes, it’s a sad day for me… I’m back home. I usually don’t get this sad when a trip ends – sure, I would love to have more vacations and stay abroad longer, but usually by the time it’s time to come back, I’m ok with it. Not this time though. I’m super sad to be back, I needed at least one more week in Japan…

I love Seoul (South Korea), but I’m in love with Japan. Tokyo became one of my top 3 cities to live in, and is pretty much tied with New York in second place (yeah yeah, London in very much still 1st).

Things I loved in South Korea/Seoul:

  • Clean city, so so clean.
  • I never felt more secure in my life. Seriously, it’s the kind of place when you can leave your cell phone, purse and laptop at a table on a cafe and go to the bathroom, and nobody will touch your things.
  • Beautiful city and so much green.
  • People are nice (not some vendors, but I could live with that)
  • The coffee culture – you could find a nice Cafe and bakery in literally every corner. And the cakes, sweets and drinks were so freaking good!!!
  • Free Wi-Fi EVERYWHERE

 


Things I loved in Japan:

  • It’s GORGEOUS!
  • People are so polite and nice – seriously, I came back with a pain in my neck from so much bowing, because if someone bows to you, what do you do, right? And I got bowed to… a lot!!!! – I repeat: THEY ARE SUPER SUPER POLITE AND NICE! I never felt like smiling so much to people as I did in Japan.
  • They don’t speak much english, but they will try their best to understand you, and they will succeed. This is especially warming to me, because I always felt that people in some European countries (say, Spain, France,…) don’t exactly feel the need to try hard and you sometimes give up because the effort is not worth it. That didn’t happen once in Japan… each time I was faced with a vendor or taxi driver who didn’t speak the language, we still managed to communicate quite well and get what we needed.
  • Clean city – I didn’t encounter one dirty bathroom – and that’s saying a lot.
  • The toilets, I mean, you never really have to encounter a cold seat…

  • The sense of security, really, as much as in South Korea.
  • The culture. I will admit that the little I knew of Japan came from a lot of Sailor Moon and Rurouni Kenshin, but still, seeing the temples and understanding a bit of what everything comes from… I loved it.
  • The simplicity. Something has to be said about those temples, castles, palaces. While in Europe during the same period was all about ostenticity, Japanese palaces are nothing more than mostly empty rooms with gorgeous (and meaningful) panels on their walls.
  • I could live in Tokyo. I mean it, I could and it will seriously be on my mind once I’m done with my PhD. I like feeling accepted in a city, and I felt that in Tokyo. I liked that the geek culture (otaku) has a place on the city. I liked that restaurants and cafes have individual tables. I liked that there’s a lot of people but no one is on your way. These are the things that make me love London and New York too…
  • The freaking food!!!! Have you been following my Instagram or my previous posts? If you have, you know how much I’m in love with everything to eat in Japan…

So, I’m quite sad to be home already… I wish that I was still in Tokyo, exploring that amazing city. I was super happy that my blog didn’t suffer a bit from my absence, and I was able to post everyday (sometimes twice a day!) – hurray for scheduled posts!!!! The only downside was not being able to keep up with your posts, but I’ll make my way to them, don’t worry 😉 .

In the meantime, I did publish a few posts about my trip, if you want to check them out…

I FINALLY ARRIVED @ SEOUL!

WANDERING ABOUT: SEOUL 2015!

WANDERING ABOUT: KYOTO 2015

WANDERING ABOUT: OSAKA 2015

WANDERING ABOUT: KYOTO TO TOKYO 2015

WANDERING ABOUT: TOKYO (DAY 1) 2015

WANDERING ABOUT: TOKYO (DAY 2) 2015

 

Wandering About: Tokyo (day 2) 2015

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Day 2 in Tokyo was also my last day in Tokyo, and now, that I finished packing and have everything ready to go into my 18 hours journey home – in which I will be, by the time you read this – I already miss it.

Tokyo was the biggest surprise I had on my trip. I loved Seoul, I loved Kyoto and Osaka, but Tokyo… oh wow, here I COULD LIVE!

Unfortunately, the day wasn’t as productive as I’d wished, but we did go to Akihabara and Harajuku, and I loved both places. I wanted to spend the whole day in Akihabara, exploring the shops, looking for anime and manga stuff that I wanted, but my mom was a bit tired and sick of shops that she thought were all the same – they weren’t, mom!

I love love love my Haruka & Michiru chibi figurines, I love them (they’re OTP), and I was so glad that I (finally) found them…

By the time you read this, I’ll be inside an airplane heading for Paris (probably), so I hope you enjoy my (few) geeky photos 😉 . I loved Tokyo, so much so that I’ll be starting to save money so I can come back here…

Wandering About: Tokyo (day 1) 2015

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Today was our first day walking around Tokyo, and we had a day-tour planned. It was pretty cool and even though I haven’t seen much of the city yet, I can now tell you that I’m in LOVE with Tokyo and I could totally see myself living here. Somehow, I had imagined super crowded and confusing streets, a lot of tall buildings and not enough space, and so far I have been mistaken.

So, here’s what I saw today (I’ll just dump a few pics 😉 …):

Meiji Shrine:

Meiji Shrine, located in Shibuya, Tokyo, is the Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.

Outer Garden of the Imperial Palace:

Sensō-ji Temple

Sensō-ji is an ancient Buddhist temple located in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan. It is Tokyo’s oldest temple, and one of its most significant. Formerly associated with the Tendai sect of Buddhism, it became independent after World War II.

Lunch with view to the Hamarikyu Gardens and Tokyo Bay

Cruise through Tokyo Bay

Odaiba

Other Stuff

I’ll be honest here, I have no idea what these are called, but mine was the green tea with white beans one and it was the best thing I’ve ever eaten. I swear, I could live in Japan just for their sweets…

 

Wandering About: Kyoto to Tokyo 2015

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Quick post today people… Hello!!! I’ve arrived at Tokyo. But before we got on the train, we went to Fushimi Inari Shrine in the morning. You all know the shrine, it’s the one featured in Memoirs of a Geisha, it’s the one with all the toriis.

There are a lot of toriis in this shrine, I read that it’s about 4km and 2 hours to go through them all… and up up they go! I managed about 1/3 – 1/2 of the way up, by then I was sweating profusely and I realized that jeans are not ideal to climb that. Be warned people, no jeans! I also knew that my mom was at the base waiting for me and I had been gone a long time, so I had to go back. It is beautiful though, and if I EVER return, I’ll be climbing all the way up.

Also, a lot of Hello Kitty’s all around the Shrine! And Rice Cakes with Red Bean filling? Delicious!!! Then it was time to catch the shinkansen to Tokyo. Tokyo seems so gorgeous so far, so different from Kyoto though. I’ll post pictures of it tomorrow.

Wandering About: Osaka 2015

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Today was time to head to Osaka! Osaka is crazy!!!! Beautiful and crazy! We went just for the day, mostly to just look around – time was of the essence here. We ended up just going to Osaka Castle and Dōtonbori, so I’ll just dump a few pics here 😉 .

I loved it!!! And I bought a couple of weirdly great things… and I saw a lot a lot of manga.

Tomorrow we’ll stay in Kyoto half the day and then we’ll make our way to Tokyo. I want to see a shrine in the morning and take a walk around the city 🙂 .

Wandering About: Kyoto 2015

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I’m in Japan!!! Wow, yesterday was crazy!!! we traveled from Seoul to Tokyo and then we got on the train to central Tokyo, so we could then catch a train to Kyoto. Everything would have gone smoothly it it wasn’t for the heavy luggage we were lagging with us. But it all worked out quite well, and we arrived at Kyoto around 10 p.m.. Needless to say that we were totally beat!

Today we had an early morning, and at 7 a.m. we were already waiting for the breakfast to open. Speaking of which, wow, amazing! Starting the day with Miso Soup and beef stew was something that I didn’t even consider until today.

We had a day tour booked, so it started with a trip to Nijō Castle. The tours are controlled to the minute… This castle is amazing, the interior panels are so gorgeous, unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures on the inside.

Then, Kinkaku-ji, officially named Rokuon-ji, which is a Zen Buddhist temple, and home to the Golden Pavilion. This is so gorgeous.

Before lunch, we went to the Kyoto Imperial Palace, but no photos allowed 😉 .

And then we ate, and oh my… it was so freaking amazing! I don’t even know exactly what it was, but it was divine.

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Temples were in the afternoon route. Heian Jingu Shrine, a Shinto Shrine; Sanjūsangen-dō is a Buddhist temple,known as “Rengeō-in” or Hall of the Lotus King; and Kiyomizu-dera, officially Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera, an independent Buddhist temple.

This was my first day, tomorrow we’ll be heading to Osaka for the day 🙂 and I can’t wait.

Wandering About: Seoul 2015!

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HELLLOOOO!!!! From Seoul! Yes, I’m still in Seoul, though not for much longer – I’m leaving tomorrow to Kyoto, Japan. But I though that while I’m here, and I had a couple of hours (or I made sure I had them), that I would share with you some pictures and some thoughts about my trip.

On my first day out on town with friends, we wandered to the TrickEye Museum in Seoul, then to the Ice Museum – it was freaking cold – and to the Hello Kitty Cafe!

The TrickEye Museum… so damn fun!

I love the city. I wasn’t really expecting anything, but Seoul surprised me. The city is gorgeous, clean, super organized and the people are super super nice and so polite! The only small problem we had was that most people do not understand a word of English, so getting a cab or getting lunch was always a huge endeavor.

Let’s talk about the food people… I have such mixed feelings about it! My first experience was a bit weird, I had a business dinner with my mom and her group, and I ended up sitting in front of 3 of the hosts, and the dinner had like 30 different dishes, and they kept putting food on my plate that I couldn’t NOT EAT! So I ate it all, and while some stuff was good, other was OK, and eating Jellyfish was not ever in my life plan. But I did. And a lot of other stuff that I can’t even tell you what it was. In the end, I came to a huge conclusion: Korean food is super spicy and Soju is very ok.

But after that, I managed very well with all the Korean food, though Kimchi is still very hot for my taste. Other than the main dishes, I’m a bit in love with everything green tea related, especially green tea ice latte. And the cakes and desserts… Oh My God!!! Rice cakes with fruit? Ohhhh, heaven!

Insadong @Seoul

Gangnam @Seoul

On to some cultural stuff…

Gyeongbokgung Palace @Seoul

Cheonggyecheon Stream @Seoul

N Seoul Tower (Namsan Tower) @Seoul

And finally, some random photos of me and Seoul by night.

Oh my… so many photos! I hope you enjoy 😉 , next post will be from Japan!

I finally arrived @ Seoul!

And it only took me approximately 28 hours between the time I left my house to the moment I stepped outside Seoul Airport. What’s 28 hours, right? 😀

My journey on itself wasn’t that large, but given that my first flight would leave at 6.45 a.m., I had no way to get to the airport except to arrive before midnight and stay there throughout the night. The only other option involved paying about 60€ for a cab at 3.30 a.m., and that’s just a no!

So I got there at 11.45p.m (wednesday night), I finished Cinder, I wrote Cinder‘s review (will pop up later today), I squeezed some work and analysed some DNA sequences. Then my batteries started to die and Barcelona airport doesn’t have nearly enough power sockets as it should have, so it took me about 20 minutes of combing through the airport until I found the right place… then I finally got a start on my Queen of Shadows review. 4a.m. meant that Check in opened, so there was that, security and so on, and then McDonalds!

I go to McDonalds very rarely, in fact, the McDonald’s at Barcelona airport is the one I visit more often, because I usually have it before boarding my plane. Now, before you scoff about me eating McDonald’s at 5a.m., please note that I hasn’t slept at all, so it was more of a second diner than breakfast.

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T-1h #southkoreabound

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Time came to board, I started my second book, Rikki, and read about 25% before take off, and then my head was throbbing so hard that I had to close my eyes for the almost 2 hours of the flight.

And then, Paris! I had forgotten how amazing Charles de Gaulle airport really is! I found a starbucks – it was high priority! Had my favorite drink + my favorite muffin, charged my phone, because it was about to die for the 4th time of the day, changed money, took some pics, and the hours flew by.

Suddenly was I was first in line to board to Seoul, then we were taking off, I was finishing Rikki, got some sleep because my head was giving me all kinds of warning signs that I needed to shut down, listened to some KPOP, because I figured that I should acclimate myself with it, saw a Korean comedy (that I laughed much more than the firm warranted – that was my brain shutting down). Had breakfast, saw a couple of episodes of Friends, started my third book and then TOUCHDOWN!

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Incheon airport, Seoul, South Korea

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Getting out took a while, passport control and all, but I had wifi right away, so everything was cool. I had my car waiting for me, and damn it, that this was confortable like hell. Read some more – the airport is hells away from Seoul city centre – and the finally arrived at the hotel! Halleluia right? Well, no! I got in at 9 a.m., the hotel is fully booked and my room won’t be available until at least 1p.m… Happy me! So, here I am, in a coffee shop next to the hotel, with WIFI (thank the heavens), writing blogs posts and reading some more, while my head is protesting so hard from lack of sleep that I have the clear impression that I’m floating instead of sitting down.

I’ve been wearing the same clothes for more than 30 hours, I slept a grand total of 7 hours in the last 48 hours, and I would kill for a bath and a bed… but I still have a couple more hours of wait ahead of me…

Tomorrow I’ll starting posting pics of the city 😀

Wandering About: Barcelona 2009 – 2012

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Welcome again, to another week of Wandering About. I’ve been showing some amazing places that I’ve been at, but I thought that it was time to share some photos from the place I’m currently in: Barcelona! Though, technically, I live outside of the city right now.

I first set foot in Barcelona in January 2009, when I came to perform the lab analysis of my master’s samples. I was lucky enough to come with a friend, who was also doing a stay at a lab in this same university – it was a huge coincidence, and we only found out on the day before that we would actually be on the same flight to the city.

2009 was also the time I saw the most of the city, because I had company probably, but also, when you actually live somewhere, you don’t get in such a hurry to visit some stuff… Look at Park Guell – before you had to pay to get in – still one of my favorite spots in the city.

See that guy in red in the penultimate photo? That guy was hot and cute and was smiling like hell, and I was trying to actually get a photo of him. I have several, all of them from really far away. Me and my friend had a fun day! Also, here is the most known market in Barcelona, La Boqueria:

When I finished my master’s work, I went back home, and then I returned to Barcelona in December 2011 to complete my enrolment in the Doctoral program here at the university.

In September 2012 (3 years ago), I moved here again. I was here for just a week or so, when my cousin came to visit me, and I was able to actually see a bit of the city again…

And that’s it! Barcelona is a gorgeous city, it truly is. I have to collect my most recent photos and do a post just about the old part of the city, The Ramblas, and the Gothic and the sea front… it’s lovely. But usually when I go there, I’m not in tourist mode, I’m in “I want to do something” mode, so I end up not taking photos of nothing… I will though, before I leave for good.

 

Wandering About: Cargèse 2011

Welcome again, to another week of Wandering About. Today is a fast and quick post, celebrating the end of summer here in Europe and, with that, the beach days – though I have to tell you, I haven’t set foot at the beach yet this year! So, moving on, in October of 2011 I went to Cargèse, Corsica, for a week of Summer School of bioinformatics.

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I’ll admit that before I had to make plans to go there, I had little idea of where Corsica was, how to get there or what language they speak. But the Summer Course was very compelling, and I made plans to go with a friend. The price included room as well, so that was one less thing to worry about. Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, located west of Italy, and belongs to France.

That was the view from our room. Me and my friend were lucky enough to stay at the same place of the course. So it was just wake up, get dressed, breakfast and classes, and then I could pop up into the room whenever I felt like it, which was good, because some of the classes were boring as hell! This, however, was in the middle of nothing! While they provided for lunch, diner was an entirely different thing and we had to walk to the village to eat, which was at least 2 Km each way, most of that made in a trail within the wood without lights… it was super fun and scary!

We ended up meeting a lot of cool people there and it was definitely the most fun I had at an academic related thing. I wish I had some pics of the village itself, but I just went there at night and we mostly took photos of each other during our diners.

By the way, the water was magnificent! Even though the weather was already getting a bit cold, the water was warm and nice. We would all step into the beach everyday after lunch and before afternoon classes. And then me and a couple of other girls decided to skip an afternoon of boring stuff and just stay there at the beach – best decision ever!