Seoul Travel Guide – Where To Go, What To Eat? (2018)

Needs tips planning your trip to Seoul but haven’t figured where to stay, places to eat and visit, or even wondering where to get your wifi egg in Seoul?

I’ve got all your backs – just came back from an 11 day trip and looking to share this important information with you guys. My role when travelling there is usually the travel guide and translator – so if there are some of you out there who haven’t figured your itinerary yet, I will attach an itinerary I made up at the end of the blogpost so you guys can take that and edit it according to your research. I’ve put places that are nearby each other together so that it’s easier for you access when travelling Seoul. 

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How to get around the city?

  • Use Kakao Maps to get around as Google Maps doesn’t work for walking directions in South Korea anymore. It has an English interface so don’t worry about language. What it lacks is a live arrow to show you where you’re heading, but I found it possible to navigate with landmarks in the map. Kakao Metro is a great app for you to plan your subway routes too.
  • I would suggest for you to use their subway from the moment you land at their airport as their subway system is very organised, and much cheaper than taking the shuttle buses or cabs. A one-way subway ticket directly from the airport would cost you about RM 16 ringgit for a 60 minutes trip, whereas the bus would charge you RM 36 per head. Needless to say, cabs will charge you at about RM 200-300 per car but if you have huge luggages, you may only be able to fit 3 person in each car. My favorite deciding factor is time. I was once stuck in a traffic being on the road from the airport to the city for about 2.5 hours. I’ve always stuck to the reliable subway since.

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(photo credits : cmysteps)

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You can buy the card straight from the machines at the subway stations too

  • Get their transportation card. The normal card is called T-Money and is now being sold in all convenience stores for RM 10 (2500 Won). They sell special edition cards at double the price too, but just ask for a normal one. You can top up your card as and when you need at all of their subway stations through a machine that has English and Chinese translations available too.  There is also an option to choose to buy their Tourist Passes  (only available at very limited areas – you can check them out here). However, they charge at an average of about RM 35 for 20 rides per day. But let’s be honest here, who takes 20 rides per day? I would average out your places to visit at about 2 areas per day and that would just mean HOTEL > VENUE A > VENUE B > HOTEL. If you follow the average visiting routes and pattern, that only makes 3 average rides a day and each ride is charged at an average of RM 5 (1250 won) per way. If you do the math, you know what I mean. Just get the usual T-money and you’re probably gonna save more money than getting the tourist pass. Of course, it depends on your style of travel. 

 

 Which area should I stay in? Airbnb or Hotel?

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I always just give one option when answering this. Choose Hong Ik University aka Hongdae to stay at. I only have three strong reasons for this. Number one, the airport subway leads STRAIGHT to Hong Ik University. Number two, it is one of the busiest areas of Seoul where all the university students gather. Buskers gather every night at the main areas and you would see many high quality performances by hopeful youngsters. If you’re too tired to travel somewhere far but don’t wanna get back to your Airbnb/hotel too early in the day – you can just take a walk below and go back with food from their street side food stalls. Also a very good place to buy your last minute things. Thirdly, Hongik University’s subway line is the green line (Line No.2) and is one of the most convenient lines that leads you to most places at the fastest speed of time. Other places like Myeong dong or Gangnam does sound great to stay at – but I’m factoring overall convenience (traveling time, end of day leisures, areas of interest etc)

I would always choose Airbnb over hotel as it’s usually more fund efficient. There’s also a higher chance I would get a washing machine in the unit as opposed to a paying facility in the hotel. I like to wash my clothes there and then so I don’t need to bring many sets of clothes over – also another way to save space for more new things to bring home! 

I always try to find the ones that charge at about RM 100/per head per night – and there are quite a number of good options. The Airbnb i stayed in (photo above) was only RM 2200 for 4 of us for 10 days. Pretty good deal! 

How much money to bring?

This depends on your spending habits and what you’re looking to get out of the trip. I usually spend about RM 1500 over about 10 days and this includes transportation (RM 15 per day), food (RM 20-30 per meal), cosmetics and local made (good quality clothes). I’ve had a friend who managed to spend about RM 7000 in just 9 days, but like I said – it depends on each on of you individually. Most of the affordable clothes are going at RM 20-36 per piece (market rate) so you can use the above guideline to do your own math. 

What to eat?

 

  • Chicken & Beer – Feeling like some CHIMEK? That’s what the Koreans call it. It’s an inseparable duo for the Koreans, just like steak and wine. I personally like NOONA HOLDAK because their chicken is oven baked instead of fried. I do think that they fare pretty good when it comes to taste and price too. They have outlets in Hongdae and Myeong-dong. Could be worth a try.
  • Bulgogi – I always go back to this place that serves bulgogi, bean sprouts, rice cake, vegetables, noodles, sausages, spicy sauce all in one pot. KONGBUL is also in Hongdae. I can’t put a finger as to why it tastes good, but its the combination that makes it pretty  amazing for me. I went back to the same restaurant twice in my recent trip. (0:32 second in above video)
  • Shaved Ice – I’m going to recommend the obvious – SULBING. I’m not very adventurous when it comes to desserts but Sulbing serves pretty good bingsu (better than any of the ones in KL for now) as their milk shaven ice melts almost immediately in your mouth and the toppings are just extremely generous!
  • Cake – This is not a place I highly recommend for its taste, but is a pretty place to be in for your Instagram Photos when you’re in Seoul – and that’s Dore Dore in Garosugil. I do have to say the strawberry cake I had during spring was pretty good, but pricy (RM 36 per palm size piece). I only stumbled upon the place cause the twins in Superman Returns were eating their cake there in the show haha. 
  • Gamjatang – Idaejo Bbyeodagui (이대조뼈다귀). This place is gold for me. I wish you have at least about 6 of you so you can try both different dishes they serve. It’s braised porkbone and porkbone soup but each serving (S,M,L) serves a minimum of two. It’s an extremely appetising dish I just wish I can eat it every single day!
  • Jjajangmyun – If you’re staying in an Airbnb – get your host to order you your jjajangmyun, a tangsuyuk (sweet and sour pork) and some mandu (dumplings!). Feel the whole experience of locals ordering their delivery. After you’re done, put the plates back out your door (don’t worry nobody will steal them) and you’re done. Alternatively, find a restaurant called Hong Kong Ban Jeom. They have different chains too.
  • Korean porridge – Porridge is made really differently in Malaysia and Korea. It’s made with real good quality ingredients and rice. Look for this restaurant called Bonjuk. There’s one in Ehwa Womens University. I personally like their beef mushroom porridge the most. Their mini sides are also to die for. 
  • Braised Chicken –  There are two main chains that serve this dish they called the jjimdalg. I prefer Bongchu Jjimdalg over Andong Jjimdalg but they taste pretty similiar. It tastes quite familiar and many local friends have compared it to normal braised chicken dishes you get in mixed rice stalls, but the chicken here is extremely tender and is served with good quality korean glass noodles and chilli. (0:54 second in video)
  • Note : Alot of restaurants only serve a minimum of two pax. So even if you’re eating alone, you gotta order two pax. This applies mostly for restaurants that have a specific menu to their restaurant. If you’re in a restaurant that serves a wide range of menu like kimchi fried rice to mandu to noodles to omurice – you’re good to go for a one pax order! Most of the Koreans don’t eat alone as its a social implication that you’re a loner (though its improving these days). Their businesses and culture is deeply intergreted into their business plans haha. Either you eat for two, or you eat somewhere else.

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 Where to shop for clothes?

 

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  • This depends on your style of clothes and what you seek for when it comes to fashion. I personally like minimalistic designs, or just really simple everyday wear that doesn’t have alot of designs. If you’re like me, then you’re looking at two places – Ehwa Womens University and the Bus Terminal Express Underground Shopping area. I’m recommending these two because their prices are the cheapest, for many of the similiar things you find in the streets of Seoul. The standard price in other places would be at about RM 36 per piece, but in the two places above – you can find deals at RM 30 for that same item and other deals such as RM 36 for 1+1 (what they mean by buy one, free 1) or RM 10 for 3 basic pieces. You’ve got to comb through the racks and spend your time there. Among those two, I prefer Ehwa Womens University because their choices are slightly more trendy and new, whereas at the Express Bus Station – designs can get abit old as their demographics include the people above their 50s. 
  • I don’t recommend spending your time in DongDaeMun. It’s one of the most redundant places to go, and prices are extremely high for so-so quality items. They do have a separate building where alot of the local designers have stores, and you can go take a look but prices range at about RM 150 – RM 300 per piece. Like I said, it depends on your style of shopping. If you’re up for something more special, go for it. I usually only spend my time there if I have absolutely no where else to go. They do have a crazy long underground shopping area (that seems to focus on selling hats and scarves) called the DongDaeMun Underground Shopping Centre. 
  • Haggling – Alot of places don’t do haggling now, you’ll actually see that they either put the price on boards or would state stuff like “Price Tag” – which means, their items are individually tagged so don’t ask haha. The places that allow haggling are the ones where you have to ask the price (so you have to see properly got price tag or price boards anot). Be prepared to be shooed away by stores that are owned by elderlies. The elderlies in Korea act like they’re your grandparents – they have a society power of just scolding anybody they see and the younger Koreans just oblige and give in. Places that I know for sure you can haggle is at many of the stores in AmPm Building MyeongDong & Dongdaemun, as well as the shoe stores in Ehwa Womens University. 
  • Get used to the term ‘service’. In Korea, this term means freebies. This applies to restaurants, fashion outlets as well as cosmetic stores. If someone gives you something, and you’re like “I didn’t order this” – you can always ask “Service?”. Well, they pronounce it as “ser-bees-seu” over there haha. 

Are cosmetics really cheaper? 

  • To be honest, it depends where you’re from. If you’re from Malaysia, make sure you do some research because online markets like Hermo actually sells their products at prices that are EXTREMELY similiar to the ones being sold in Korea. When I find that prices are only at a slight difference of about RM 5-RM 10, I save that space for some other products that is more worth that luggage space. Always check before you buy – I like to spend the first 2-3 days just writing down prices and comparing before splurging all my money at once.
  • I personally find many of the Innisfree products not worth getting in South Korea. The price is very similar to retail prices here in Malaysia. I’m saying this when putting brands like ETUDE HOUSE or APIEU as comparisons. These products can have a 50% difference when it comes to retail price locally and in Seoul.
  • One of my recent favorite places to get products would be NATURE COLLECTION. It holds three brands – The Face Shop, TOMARU and Beyond. I don’t know the latter two, but they have really good seasonal deals in there. I got a Face Shop  Mango Serum for RM 30 because they were having an end-of-season sales. They told me the promotion was only ongoing for about 5 days, but when I went back a day after the promotion – prices resumed back to RM 50! They don’t just sell the three brands I mentioned, but actually do carry quite a few more other dermatologically certified products – but I don’t remember the names.
  • Many people are attracted to this one store called BAVIPHAT in Ehwa Womens University. When I first saw it years ago, I was so shocked with the prices they were offering. They would be selling products from the different make up brands at about 30-40% lower than the original retail prices. It was too good to be true so I did some research. Apparently, the store only takes foreign customers and NOTHING in the store is in Korean. There have been many, many reports saying that their stuff isn’t authentic, and also testimonials of people bringing home faulty products. I was really tempted to just get basic stuff like lip tints from ETUDE HOUSE (that were only selling at RM 5) but after the research, I decided I didn’t want to risk the money on stuff that may potentially harm my skin. I also asked the neighbouring cosmetics stores what they thought about the store – the friendlier ones of course recommended against it. Of course, you can still walk in and decide for yourself. 

Additional tips?

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  • Get your Wifi Eggs. You can always rent local wifi hubs but I personally prefer the ones in South Korea as the speed is great. I use the one it KT and rent it through one of my favorite travel experience sites, KLOOK. They charge at about RM 11 per day, for unlimited use but if you rent it there and then over the counter, it will be about RM 30 per day. If you want to get even cheaper, here’s a referral link for you – RM 12.50 OFF. Actually the discount applies for any other travel experience there lah, not just the wifi 🙂 
  • Head to Myeongdong without stopping at Myeongdong station! If you’re really staying in Hongik University like I recommended, you’ll be on the green line. Don’t have to transfer to diff lines to get to Myeongdong – just stop at Euljiro 1-ga aka Euljiro Ibgu, get out of Exit 6 – walk straight for 3 minutes and you’re there! Can save traveling time too. 
  • Before you get on the train to a nearby area, do some research – most of the time, if the station is just 1 or 2 stops away, you should be able to walk there instead of taking the subway. I have personally walked from Hongik University, to Sinchon, and then to Ehwa University. It doesn’t feel far at all as there’s always so many things to see along the route. 
  • It sucks to say this but it’s a silent known fact that alot of the cosmetic storekeepers in Seoul pretty much have something against the Chinese. They sort of have a love-hate relationship with the Chinese. The moment you walk in and don’t look Korean, they’re just going to throw Chinese greetings at you with a face that shouts ‘Get out’. Most of the time, if you would like a more pleasurable experience shopping in the store – I personally like to shop in Korean or English. The attitude changes 180 degrees, trust me on this. It doesn’t apply for 100% of them, but 80% I dare say. Also, I just realised since going back recently – that SO many of them have switched their staff from Koreans to Korean-speaking Chinese nationalities. 
  • Forget about grabbing the collars of the person who just hit you hard on the shoulder for an apology. Koreans are really used to brushing past each others shoulders and they’ve gotten to the level where they’re so used to it and have grown extremely immune to the feeling – it’s not even a thing anymore. You would get 1-2 younger generations apologising but ya, just forget it haha. 

List of Places To Tick Off Your Seoul Checklist

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  • Hongik University
  • Sinchon
  • Ehwa University Station
  • Commonground (Shopping Venue)
  • Garosugil
  • Bukcheon Village
  • Gangnam 
  • Seoul Station – Lotte Mart
  • Dongdaemun – DDP Plaza
  • YeouiNaru Station – Han River Park 
  • Insadong
  • Gyeongbokgung Palace
  • Itaewon (Foreigners Street + Halal Area)
  • Namsan Tower
  • Myeong Dong
  • Nami Island
  • Cheonggyecheon Stream
  • Everland / Lotte World 
  • Inhwa Mural Village
  • Gwangjang Market
  • Noryangjin Fish Market

And that is about it for now – I will update the list as and when I find more things to share. Here is a 10-day itinerary I drew up in 2015, but it covers most of the main places in Seoul if you’re a first timer. CLICK TO VIEW.

Let me know if you liked the post – or if you have any questions that I may be able to answer. It may be quicker to reach me through my IG DM’s so follow me at @thenatstory and we’ll chat from there! 

Anyong! 

Goodbye, Popo.

Somewhere in March this year, my family and I booked a flight to Bangkok. We used to travel to Bangkok quite often a few years back, but somehow we just stopped going as it was difficult juggling between my working holidays and brother Nick’s schooling schedule. When we can finally accommodate to everyone and their timing, it felt like such a waste to travel somewhere we went so frequent so we started going to other places like Seoul, Vietnam etc. It’s been quite a while now since we last step foot in Bangkok. The last time I bought a ticket to Bangkok, it was 3 years ago when I wanted to reunite with my mates from Beijing. Everybody was going back to their angmoh countries so we decided to travel to somewhere tropical – Bangkok. After weeks of preparation and hype, I didn’t get to go cause they had a really bad national riot. Didn’t get to go in the end.

This time we booked a flight to Bangkok and started looking for accommodation really early. It was really weird because we had so many obstacles just trying to get a place to stay. I gave it a little rant on my Dayre here. In a gist, we were rejected by TWO different Airbnb’s and ONE Hotel.

1st AirBNB : AirBNB’s Customer Service wrote to us a few weeks upon confirmation to let us know that our host can’t take us in anymore due to the building’s regulations.

2nd AirBnB : I was feeling slightly uneasy about how our new host was really quiet. We still had about a month or two to arrive in Bangkok but I thought it was a good idea to drop her a message to ask about the directions to her place. She wrote back and asked that we cancel cause she can’t rent the place to us anymore, also due to the same reason.

3rd Booking : I didn’t want to trust AirBnb for my Bangkok booking anymore so I went back to hotels. Just 30 minutes after I confirmed my hotel booking, the hotel actually wrote back to us through Booking.com to request that we cancel the room. We still had the option to keep the room if we wanted to, but we didn’t. Mainly because it felt really flaky, and we found another better room anyway. So we took the offer to cancel at no charge.

My mom and I just sat down together after finally confirming the hotel booking, making sure to check every 30 minute to see if we would be cancelled out again. We were sort of weirded out with the fact that these places all rejected us, and we started to speculate if it was a message in the form of obstacles, preventing us to actually travel during those dates. We both agreed that if there was going to be another cancellation, we would take it as a message and delay our traveling dates. You can call us superstitious, but it was too much to be a coincidence. Of course, nothing came. Good news.

Or not.

Early this week, we got a call from my Popo’s maid that something was not right with my Popo. She was staring blindly at one spot and didn’t want to respond to anyone. I got a call during work but tried to remain positive about things. She was admitted into the ICU after being rejected by one of the local hospitals that insisted they hadn’t anymore space to fit extra patients.

I didn’t see her during Day 1, but witnessed her health deteriorate every single day after. She had a very strong right arm and would swing it in our faces or pat our faces if we were close enough, up till Day 2.

By Day 3, she wasn’t moving much anymore but we could see that her eyes were still half open and she was already succumbing to reminiscence and deep thoughts. We were slowly preparing ourselves as the doctors and nurses had set our expectations from the beginning regarding her situation.

Day 4 today, her vital readings started to slide in within a few hours and we said our last goodbyes. Right before she was starting to slip away, I am glad I was able to just remind her that I am now a big girl, 26 and working.

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I wanted to remind her that we were all adults and she didn’t have to worry about us anymore. I told her a little white lie though, and told her I was working around Sungei Wang. It was the hottest mall of her time, it must have made her feel good that I was working somewhere as prominent as Sungei Wang. She always asked me the same question whenever she was in the mood of a conversation, so I figured that was what she wanted to know (again).

“How old are you now?”

“Where are you working?”

“How much are you earning?”

“Hei mei office gong ah?”

She also frequently complimented my lipstick colour and hair. We made it a point to visit her every Sunday when she was still around. We just visited her last Sunday too. Popo has been bedridden for years, but not because she had a disability. She just lost strength in her legs as she got used to being on the bed. Sometimes she would reach out with her right hand and feel my hair run through the fingers and say “Wah gei lenglui ah”. I would then pull her leg and asked if I can cut it, knowing she’ll insist that I let it grow. I would also show her my polished nails and she would look at them amusingly and comment at how beautiful the colour is. She would also stroke my face and laughed when I made funny faces like a little girl. I would silly faces that a 10 year old would do, and she loves it. Even a few weeks ago, she was just telling me that I am like a “sor lui”. We had one of our best conversations about a month of two ago – I can’t remember. She has not been very engaging in conversation lately, but that one day was very special. She could hold a conversation without forgetting about what was said the second before. She told me about that really good siu ngap in Petaling Street and it’d be great to have some of those. She went on about its price, and when I told her the market price for siu ngap or chicken rice now, she was appalled.

On Day 2 of her hospital admission, I showed her my nails – and even in that tired state, her eyes trailed wherever my fingers were to have a good look at my nails. I guess my Popo was quite a vain lady to pay such good attention to little beauty details! If she was my age, she would probably be a beauty vlogger/blogger :’)

I also let her know that it was okay to just take a rest and sleep for a bit before trying to take on the world again. I don’t know my Popo’s past much, but I do know that she must be one of the strongest woman to have survived all the horrendous war periods and all the obstacles that has been thrown at her, bringing up 8 children. I am counting my blessings as workplace was pretty flexible and understanding, I was able to bring my mom to accompany my Popo for all three days until the very moment she left peacefully for heaven.

To be honest, I have a really bad memory and I don’t remember most of the things that has happened – but thank God for technology and the times of me just slaving my camera away and took photos of almost everything. I now have a few frozen memories of my popo and I.

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After all of these, we can’t help but think that this was the reason to all the obstacles that were stopping us from making a booking in Bangkok. True enough, we have now cancelled the booking to our hotels and have decided to postpone the trip indefinitely. That didn’t matter of course.

What matters is, that Popo is now comfortable and peaceful – and can look upon us from above with the love of her life, from now on and always.

Back From Seoul!

Hello world!

 

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I jump started the blog in January in hopes of writing everyday but it seems like I’ve not kept in touch since the LASIK post at all. It would be wonderful to just be able to spend a couple of minutes updating about my day. It’s not really about me not having the time, but also because the blog is somewhere I hope I can be extremely honest with my thoughts. The downside to that is that it’s a public blog, and society doesn’t really work that way these days. I’m not exactly an open book with my thoughts as I’ve learn that social media is not exactly a game I want to actively play. Will try to keep logs as often as possible.

When I used to write here, most of my readers were probably just people I didn’t know and it was alot easier to share things that way. Just like how it was always easier to tell a friend over ICQ about your thoughts and problems without worrying what they may tell your other friends or what kind of opinion they may form about you. It’s also not really about being worried that people may get judgemental. It’s just the fact that you don’t want people around you to know you so well?

Is that weird?

ANYWAY, just got back from Seoul (for a company trip!) and weather was so perfect. Can’t believe this 3-strike Seoul trips in within a year. After 2008, I’ve only been back to Seoul ONCE. And have never went back for SIX years. I still miss the country and the life I had back there  once in awhile. To actually be able to go back April last year really brightened me up a bit because it does feel like my second home somehow. I can’t even find my way around Beijing as well as I can find my way around the routes of Seoul. After that I went back again cause I won the free flight to Seoul from Palsaik. This time, it was cause the company brought us over. I’m not complaining though – anybody can bring me back there anytime time and I’d enjoy it the same. I was just telling the team I’m not a fan of living in the country, but to have the blessing to be able to make visits in and out of the country every two quarters of the year (out of pure leisure) – will probably never get old for me.

ANYWAYS, before any other updates – here’s one of the funner videos I’ve done in the past few weeks apart from weekly vlogs (as often as I care to make them). Just a video of me speaking in Korean. I do enjoy doing this as it serves as a practicing platform for me, but it’s even better as I know people enjoy watching this girl just blab her way into their heads in a language they don’t understand. It’s funny how that’s a more preferable choice.

Alright then. Sinchon, I’ll see you again <3

So long for now!

Review : My LASIK Experience

Hello!

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I am at Day 4 post-LASIK treatment and will continually update this post as we go on. For now, I’d just like to write down my whole experience with going through the treatment so that some of you out there may find helpful when choosing your treatment of choice. Also note that I am writing from Malaysia on January 2016 so prices that I share may be different by the time you read this.

Here’s a vlog of the experience incase you’re not an “article” type of person. Will share it here when i can but Post Surgery updates will definitely only be in text in this blogpost

Background On My Eyes

So before I continue with explaining about the whole process, here’s just a little bit of background of my eyes. I was diagnosed to be officially short sighted at the age of 6. My parents realised something was wrong during play card sessions where I was supposed to read the cards aloud, and I was beginning to watch the television with my head slightly angled towards the sides of the TV. My parents brought me to the optician soon after, and I remember refusing to wear my glasses cause I thought my friends in school would make fun of me. Years later, it came to a point where there was no other way I could read the things on the whiteboard. My parents had to come into class every start of the year to tell my homeroom teacher that I had to sit in front of the class to avoid me straining my eyes. Every single year, it was a mandatory practice and I got so used to it. Glasses and contact lenses were a huge part of my life and my power stabled at -6.50 in both eyes. I am 26 (by the time of LASIK)

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Getting Around To Do LASIK

I began to consider undergoing the LASIK treatment when I was about 19. Since then, I’ve had numerous friends who did it and I remember always being envious. I would ask many, many questions about it in hopes that i would be able to convince myself to do it. I never got to doing it due to many reasons, but mainly because of the cost of the treatment. It’s a luxury that I don’t necessarily need, so there was no reason to convince or discuss about the treatment with my family. Now that its been a couple of years since I’ve been earning for myself – I came to a point where I just felt it was something I can afford and is willing to gift myself. I found OPTIMAX that actually allowed a 0% installment payment scheme. I looked into it and asked around to see who’s been there and if the treatments were safe (since there were different promotions and schemes constantly going on). I’ve had friends who has been there and they are all past Year 5 post-treatment and seems to be doing very well. I decided on going for my treatment at OPTIMAX after comparing prices and reviews. The place was also very near my workplace which made it very easy to move around for check ups.

Honestly before I went around considering the LASIK treatment, one of the things that I wanted to do this year was to undergo a thorough eye check up. I’ve never done one for the past 26 years and thought it would be healthy to just know what’s going on with me eyes after daily contact with lenses, solutions, make up residue and what not. There could be some sort of brewing infection waiting to be discovered. I guess growing up really makes you slightly more concerned about everything that comes to your body.

The Check Up 

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I stopped wearing my contact lenses for a week as the lenses change the shape of your eyes. The eye check up costed me RM 195 and it helped me determine my eye shape, dryness, power, corneal thickness and what not. After the checkup, the nurses will be able to determine if you’re eligible to undergo the surgery. I was immediately cleared for the surgery, and was asked to make a booking if I had a date in mind. I’ve seen reviews where the patients actually did the surgery on the same day of the check up, but not so sure cause I wasn’t given the option as my check up was at 2PM. The guys from OPTIMAX did tell me that if I were to choose to do the surgery on the same day, I would have to do my eye check up in the morning instead.

I decided to do the surgery on a separate day as I had other things to settle before really going into rest mode. The check up left my eyes dilated as part of the process to really analyse my eyes. It stayed dilated and never really went back to normal until only about 2 days later, which was the day I made an appointment for the surgery. I was told the surgery only takes an hour or so, so I got my dad to take me there. I’ve heard crazy stories about how there was one time this couple went for the treatment. The wife went in for her surgery whilst the husband went outside for a cigarette. The wife apparently was done even before he was done with his cigarette. That was extremely fast. In my head, that could only take about 15 minutes max.

It definitely didn’t take 15 minutes for me.

Snippets from my vlog : Making sure the sun doesn't come in as my eyes were very dilated!

Snippets from my vlog : Making sure the sun doesn’t come in as my eyes were very dilated!

Treatment of Choice + Risks + REAL EXPECTATIONS

The clinic suggested three different types of treatment but really focused on two, as the other one was more suitable for people who were serving the army or didn’t want traces of their surgery left in their eyes. I was introduced to FEMTO-LASIK and RELEX SMILE. In easier terms, this is the breakdown of what both treatments are in my words. Please do some research somewhere else and some trusted site if you’re looking into this seriously. This is just my interpretation of what I understand the treatment to be.

FEMTO-LASIK (approx RM 8400 for both eyes): This treatment makes a flap from the cornea of your eyes in Machine A. That flap is a little U shape made in the centre of your eyes so it creates an opening to do the treatment on the affected area. That flap is then lifted up in Machine B, and the laser treatment happens – treating and zapping away all the causes of your eye problem. Your flap is then closed and sealed. You will wait for it to heal and be more adhesive.


RELEX SMILE (approx RM 12000 for both eyes): This treatment just creates a hole at the corner of your cornea. The surgeon then extracts a layer of something (that is apparently the factor to your eye problems) that’s under your cornea through the hole. What’s left to heal is the little hole and it’s less invasive the FEMTO LASIK.

I chose to go in with the FEMTO-LASIK treatment as it was a lot cheaper, and many friends have been through that and is safe anyway. RELEX SMILE was a newer technology, but I had to pay RM 4000 more if I wanted that. It was quite a quick decision for me as I wasn’t exactly at the luxury of wealth.

Going for this treatment, I had to know what I was up for and I wanted to manage my expectations with the healing too. I asked a lot of questions, but I went on to look up on the internet for more details on my treatment. I tried watching a couple of surgery videos but it later turned out slightly gory for me and I didn’t want to scare myself before the treatment. One MAJOR thing I had to know, or for anyone out there to know, is that if you were to do a surgery that has to do with creating flaps in your eyes – it will never fully, fully heal. The flap in your cornea will “heal” by being adhesive to the layers of your eyes again, but one of the better metaphorical examples to explain this would be imagining a long stick being broken in half and being sealed together with the best glue you can find. It won’t break however you swing it, but if given an impact strong enough – it will break apart where it once broke. Your flap WILL be able to be lifted (again) in 3,5,10 years ahead and possibly many more – if needed.

This is probably the BEST reason why you should take RELEX SMILE if you don’t want to be prone to a lifelong risk of having your cornea flap dislocated or wrinkled. The most comforting token I guess for me is that if anything hits your eye with such impact in future, SOMETHING will happen to your flapless eye anyway. So it really comes to perspective.

The Treatment (in approximate time record)

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Day of treatment : Decided to wear a button up shirt so I won’t need to struggle with pull up’s post-surgery.

Snippets from my vlog : Arriving at OPTIMAX TTDI

Snippets from my vlog : Arriving at OPTIMAX TTDI

10.15AM – I arrived at 10.15am for my 11.00AM surgery. I was asked to go in earlier as they needed about 45 minutes or so to prepare for my procedure.

10.25AM – I met my surgeon, Dr Yen, who asked me in the room so she can have a look at a scar in my eye. My first reaction to that was “What scar?!”. Apparently during the eye assessment two days before, they found a little scar at the lower bottom of my right cornea. She took a look at it, and said it was possible to not cut through it – she’ll try, but even if it did – it wouldn’t be much of a problem as it’ll heal. I was slightly worried, but I believe I was in good hands after all that research. I personally did a research on Dr. Yen as well and she had happy patients (coincidentally, one who also had a scar). I asked her if it was going to be alright, she assured me so – and I trusted her.

10.35AM – I was then taken into other rooms for a final check up to see if my power was fluctuating from two days ago. I was told everything was very consistent and that I would just have to wait till it’s my turn. Of course, I had to pay before my treatment.

10.50AM – I was called in the surgery room. I left my shoes outside the room and was told by 3-4 nurses in the room to change into my blue patient attire. They only had XL and XXL so I spent quite a while being puzzled as to what to wear. They told me to wear thicker clothes so I assumed I could wear my own clothes in the theatre but I guess not.

11:00AM – I was sat down for a briefing by probably who seems to be the head nurse. I was given a pack of eye care and was briefed on how to use them. There was an antibiotic called Tobradex, a pack of lubricant eye drops, painkillers (only if necessary) and an eye shield for your night sleeping purposes. I wore paper socks too.

11.10AM – Dr.Yen sat down with me after the nurse finished with her briefing to explain to me again what the surgery is like, and also what to do and not to do after it. She went through process of what’s going to happen later in the surgery, which light to look at, what sound to expect, and checked if I was feeling okay. She told me we were going to move to Machine A, and then walk to Machine B to complete the treatment as they were different machines to do different things. I asked quite a few questions, but nothing she hasn’t already been asked by other patients. Just wanted to make sure what I knew about the flap healing was true, and she was very nice to set my expectations.

11.20AM – I was taken to a section of the room to do a final check up, get the anesthetic drops to let it sit before the surgery, and for the nurse do clean the area around my eyes. They were all very gentle and i loved the feeling of having ‘sanitized’ areas around my eyes. My eyes began to feel slightly swollen (probably from the numbing). I felt like my eyes were slightly bulging out of my eye pockets.

11.30AM – I walked in the surgery room. It looked like a dentist chair to me, but probably Business Class kind of dentist chair. The nurses laid me flat on the chair/bed that had a headrest like those in the salons where they wash your hair. They also gave me a blanket incase I was cold. Dr.Yen checked with me one last time if I was feeling okay, if I was nervous. Honestly at that point of time, I was pretty much nonchalant about it. Not nervous, but excited rather. This was FINALLY happening. In the next hour, I would be healed!! I laid down and by this time – I’m guessing my eyes were almost completely numb.

11.35AM – I don’t really remember the procedure by exact sequence, but I do remember having Dr.Yen asking me to look towards her (upwards) and she then took what felt like masking tape to tape the edge of my upper eyelid to stretch it backwards, and then the edges of my lower lids and stretching it downwards to allow a working vicinity. All these were done with my left eye closed and covered, as we worked on the right eye first. I then saw her use a clamp to make sure my eyes remained opened. I thought it was going to feel alot more uncomfortable when it came to the clamp, it actually just felt like cold silverware sitting PERFECTLY in between your lids. Your don’t really feel it there. I remember having lots and lots of water (saline?) put into my eye probably to wash off any residue or oil. She did some other things, but I don’t really know what was going on but nothing hurt.

11.40AM – The machine came towards me. Dr.Yen made sure I could see the green light and asked that I remained focused, even if it went blur during the process. This machine was supposed to create the flaps in my eyes so I was VERY determined to remain as focused as possible so my eyes wouldn’t move. The machine came downwards towards me and it got so close to me I couldn’t see my surroundings anymore, but the green light. My vision was isolated from everyone in the room. I then heard the machine say “Suction On”. Dr.Yen reminded me to remain focused and that it would all be done in 26 seconds. The nurse began to do a countdown out loud. 25,24,23,22,21…

In my head I remember thinking – ‘Wait, what? It’s already happening? My flap is being cut right now?” whilst trying to stay as focused as possible to the green light in the machine. By the time I was done wondering, we were already done and the machine made its distance until it declared “Safe distance”. That felt like NOTHING at all. I didn’t feel ANY kind of sensation when it was creating the flap. That was SUPER EASY.

But I realized I was quite nervous as it only really DAWNED on me that I now have an eternal flap in my eye, and I found myself pinching the blanket so hard in between my thumb and pointer.

The proceeded with my left eye and everything was pretty much similar.

11.45AM – We were done with Machine A. Both my eyes already had a flap. The nurses guided me up from my chair/bed and held my hands and walked towards Machine B – where the REAL deal is. Machine B was the real treatment. I laid on the chair again, not so nervous now cause everything was pretty much painless.

Dr.Yen did the same thing again, opened up my eyes with the masking tape-like thing as well as the clamp. She told me she would open up my flap for it to be operated on. To be honest, I was feeling this SO MUCH more. I could feel everything that was happening in my eyes, but I’m assuming it’s also because of the anesthetics wearing off. It wasn’t painful, but very irritating to my eyes. She warned that she was now going to open up the flap, I could see the tool coming towards me and my vision slowly blurring (as the cornea flap is now open). She tugged it gently left and right, and said it was normal if it was going to be blur. The whole process was honestly quite uncomfortable for me, though really really not painful. I did the same blanket pinching thing as I didn’t exactly expect to feel that way. My body started to tremble because I was honestly quite nervous now that I can feel things. I tried to control it as I didn’t want my body motion to affect the surgery.

11.55AM – The machine came towards me the same way it did for Machine B. This time, Dr.Yen told me there was going to be a green and red light. My vision was really blur and there was quite a strong glare so I couldn’t really tell which was the spot I was supposed to look at as they both seemed green. At certain points I was able to identify the green from the red, but most of the time I only saw one red with a huge glare that probably covered the green (or the other way round). Bear in mind that my flap was open so having such blurry vision was probably super normal. I told her I could only see the red most of the time, and she assured me that it was okay. Red was fine to focus at too. It probably may not have mattered, but I don’t know.

I didn’t feel anything here too, except it probably felt slightly breezy in the eye. Same thing, my vision was isolated entirely from the surroundings. There was the same countdown again, and this time I was more prepared and didn’t really wonder about if things were already happening. The green light disappeared halfway through the treatment and I was quite worried that something was going wrong. I stared at the same spot where the green light was, just incase. The countdown ended, and the machine moved away.

Dr.Yen pulled me back to her and my guess is that she proceeded into putting my flap back into place. I remember seeing her use this brush-like thing to flatten the flap into place. That didn’t feel tickly or anything at all. I could just see it there. During this procedure, my right eye has begun tearing quite a bit as it was a really irritable feeling. I remember not being able to see much, as it was blurry until the flap came back on – but it was still pretty much blurry as I didn’t have much time to focus before they covered my right eye to work on the left.

The whole procedure on the right eye was the most sensation I’ve felt throughout the whole process. It was ALMOST near slightly painful but not at all either. I can’t really seem to find a way to explain the feeling. Maybe just imagine a light feather that keeps trying to push into your eyes. It’s not painful, but its not exactly a “painless” feeling.

12:05PM – I asked for a short break as my eyes were squeezing alot due to the discomfort on my right eye. Dr.Yen asked me to open both my eyes but I wasn’t sure if my right eye was open as it has been tearing and probably protecting itself from the feeling. When they were beginning to operate on my left eye, I’m assuming even more of the anesthetics wore off and I could feel EVEN MORE. I told Dr.Yen about it and the nurse proceeded to give a little bit more of the drops. We waited just probably for about half a minute for my eye to stop twitching and the numbness kicked in. My eyes were ready to be worked on again.

This time it was alot easier and sensationless as the anesthetic was fresh and strong in my left eye. The doctor moved by flap and I felt nothing and just saw my vision start blurring off – just like my right eye. The procedure repeated, but this time it was a lot better.

12.15PM – I was done. Dr.Yen told me everything went well and the nurses guided me up. I was quite worried something went wrong in between. I had a sudden moment where I felt like my right eye was absolutely dark in vision – it was probably cause it was closed but I couldn’t tell. I could see my way out, but the nurses held my hand and made sure I didn’t miss a step. I met the doctor outside the surgery room, back at where they cleansed my eye area and she had me open my eyes to look at them with the microscopic machine thingies. I couldn’t stretch them open as it was tearing alot and it felt like there were eyelashes in my eye. She told me to kindly bear with it as she needs to see if the flaps were put back nicely in place. I took a deep breath and tried to open it up. This time my left eye was still alright – but my right eye was feeling a bit more of the surgery. Dr.Yen gave me another dose of the anesthetic drops on my right eye but she warned me that it would wear off soon – and that my left eye would feel the same at some point of time. If it’s tough for me, the best way would to just grab some rest back at home and it should be fine after a while. We scheduled for the next check up the next day and I left with my sunglasses on.

Snippets from my vlog : My eyes began to tear profusely!

Snippets from my vlog : My eyes began to tear profusely!

12.20PM – During my 30 minute ride back to my dad’s shop, my eyes were tearing profusely I could barely get them open. The glare was alright, but there was quite a sting in both my eyes. The best example for this is probably the feeling you get when you chop onions. It was also quite uncomfortable, and borderline painful. It wasn’t pain as in it hurts – but you get occasional jabs of stinging sensation in your eyes. My mom bought me lunch after that but I couldn’t eat it because I could barely open my eyes. Walking and everything was fine, but I had to force a little bit of my eyes open to walk and get around the steps.

1.30PM – I got back home, the feeling was still the same. I was beginning to worry as it’s been a while now. Nobody really warned me that there would be so much excessive tearing and sting. I still had my sunnies on in the house, and cause it was so dark – i couldn’t see what I was eating. I knew it was curry, but I couldn’t figure out between chicken and fish.

Snippets from my vlog : My lunch that I couldn't see then.

Snippets from my vlog : My lunch that I couldn’t see then.

As I was tearing too much, I asked Siri to call up Francisca (who did her operation in OPTIMAX too) and asked if she remembered tearing this much. I was told that there would be discomfort but nobody warned me about tearing like this. She told me she didn’t remember – so i took a leap of faith and just believed that this was the absolute norm. I just quickly ate, took a shower and went to bed (with my eye shields).

3.30PM – I woke up halfway through the nap, and still felt that my eyes were tearing albeit much better now, I could open it probably 30% more than before. Dozed back to sleep very quickly. Occasionally find myself hitting on the eye shield by accident, probably I was trying to rub it in my sleep.

Snippets from my vlog : How my eye shields look. Don't judge my taping sklls please!

Snippets from my vlog : How my eye shields look. Don’t judge my taping sklls please!

5.30PM – Woke up finally and felt MUCH MUCH MUCH better. I remember scrambling the sides of my bed to look for my glasses out of habit – but i remembered quickly that I can now see without them. I could now open my eyes with no problem. I walked around my house for the first time and only began to enjoy my clear vision around the house. So there you go, it took me about 6 hours or so for my eyes to go back to a comfortable zone but I’ve heard stories of where my friends only took about 2-3 hours before it felt normal again.

And that is about how the whole ordeal went. If I had to put a Pain Meter to it, it would probably be 1/10. But the Discomfort Meter would probably be 6/10. But all these really only lasted the 6 hours, and after I went back for the check up the next day – the people at OPTIMAX told me it was completely normal 🙂 I wish they had told me but I guess they did, just not that it would be SO excessive. I had nothing to worry about.

Post-Treatment

Snippets from my vlog : Day 2 after the treatment!

Snippets from my vlog : Day 2 after the treatment!

Day 2 – Went back for a check up today and my vision is now 20/20! The nurses told me that me eyes were extremely dry so I should do the artificial tear drips every 30 minutes instead of every 2 hours. Dr.Yen wasn’t on duty that day so Dr.Stephen took a look at my eyes to see if they were healing nicely. They were and he let me ask any other questions I had in mind about healing. He also took the time to remind me not to wash my hair, and cleared me to drive even on the day itself.

Day 3 – Today I’m already feeling absolutely normal. Went out from the city for a short getaway in Malacca. Was in my sunnies the whole time to protect it from direct contact with the air conditioner, wind, sand and glare. It takes your eyes about 1-3 days to heal so they are still in a fragile state.

Day 4 : Post Op. No make up for a week. But I'm probably going to make it a month!

Snippets from the vlog : Day 4 // Post Op. No make up for a week. But I’m probably going to make it a month!

Day 4 – Resumed Sunday activities as normal and went out to the mall. Was trying to look for a hair salon to help wash my hair. Couldn’t book Number76 at the last minute, and every where else charged at least RM60 for a simple hair wash. We went home, and my mom helped me do it. My eyes are usually really dry in the morning as I sleep with my eyes slightly opened. It’s quite a hassle to take the eye shields off and put in the eye drops, but I guess it has to be done!

Will keep updating as we go! For those who’d like to do their treatment at OPTIMAX, I believe you can just find them easily and ask for the current rates. I am in no way affiliated to them so I wouldn’t know their updates quotes except for my own.

Week 1 – Did my post surgery check up today. Everything is normal. My vision is now 0 on the left eye, and 20 on the right eye. The nurse commented that my eyes are very dry so they got me to buy this gel called Genteal Gel. It’s a gel formula you put in your eye 3 times a day, and indeed – it has improved tremendously. I sleep with my eyes open and that definitely does not help with keeping my eyes lubricated. This gel was the BEST solution to it ever.

2016 // Leap of Faith

Happy New Year everybody!

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It’s a fresh new year – yes. Plenty of space for new year resolutions and whatnot. I won’t say I’m really the type to jot down a list of resolution to achieve for the year. I guess I’m just a believer of letting fate take its course. Though I got to be honest, this year does feel a little different. Getting through the new year, I realised that many many things have taken its own course. I have taken first steps to doing many different things on a personal level. To create, improve, and repair many thing in different aspects of life. They wouldn’t be my new year resolution – but the new year really did give me a sort of motivation to just plunge forward with the things that has already been in my head for a while.

Just sharing with you guys some of the latest things that I’ve been going through :-

  1. I just went through a LASIK treatment. At this point of time, I’m healing from a pair or eyes that were previously at the power of -6.50. I’ve always been wearing glasses since the age of 6, and being able to do this for myself 20 years later still feels a little surreal. But I’m glad I went through it. Sharing the whole experience through both a vlog and a blog post so I can help the people who needs to understand what it felt for me. I’ve been reading through reviews online but nobody has really shared a similar experience to mine! Coming up in probably a week 🙂
  2. I’m building an online store. That’s all I’m saying. I’ve been wanting to do this for the past 3 years – but never really got to it due to many reasons. Now that I’m more mobile it’s easier to get in touch with different resources and to actually get things done.
  3. I have finally found the urge to stay fit! I am possibly one of the laziest person I know when it comes to physical activities. I think I’m considerably weak in terms of core strength although I must say I may have tight punches (only discovered when fooling around and accidentally bruising friends). But in 2015, I realized my body has been changing and things are just not the same anymore. So what they say is true – at the age of 25, your skin and body WILL be noticeably different. So to keep up with my efforts, I am currently signed up with KFIT!! It’s damn good!! You pay RM 99 to just walk into majority of the fitness locations at no extra charge. Actually, if you’re kiamsiap don’t want to pay – can just sign up for free and you’ll get a free class per month anyway. That’s what I did until I was motivated pfft.

Meanwhile, just going to come back and do short updates!!

Welcome back to thenatstory gais!

New Year, New Blog!

Okay!

Im revamping the blog so give me a while – meanwhile catch me over at Youtube in my vlogs 🙂

Going to reboot this page very soon. Happy New Year anyway guys! x

 

Natalie,

January 2016

Positive Energy First & Always

Hello everyone!

Just incase you are all wondering what’s been up, here’s a little photo from work, but nothing related to what I’ll be writing about. I always end up apologizing for not updating the blog but I know so many of you are not here anymore. I guess blogging has honestly died down for me, but I cant bring myself to shut it down for all the things that I have written here. So here I am, paying a little visit – and this time just to share a little story with those who are here.

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So, on to what I’m to share with you all.

For those who have read the blog since my high school days, probably you already know throughout the years that I have come to learn Korean as a third/fourth/fifth language. After completing my course in Seoul in 2008, I came back to KL and started getting different jobs for translation and interpretation. Over the years through each job I take, I never forget to reflect after the task is done and be grateful for this gift that was given to me. It wasn’t something that I was forced to do, but rather came across so conveniently. The blessings I have received of the years in the name of the Korean language, the doors it has opened for me, the people I have come to meet because of it.

I loved and enjoyed each and every one until one recent one. One that kicked me into a deeper reflection mode, and led me into this whirlwind of thoughts that never stopped thinking about my own self worth. I talked to a few people close to me, but never really chose to talk about it in public. It wasn’t SUCH a big deal, really – in fact, it was very subtle – but came across as something very astoundingly shocking as compared to the other similiar jobs I have done.

This job in particular connected me with about 5-6 fresh faces. Usually in every job we will meet an average of that number, but only one will be constantly connecting with you to make sure everything is okay. Especially for events that lasts from 3-6 hours. This one was no different.

But the people were.

This was the first time I felt so mistreated by people in general, and never thought that I would one day come across people that would make me reflect on my entire self worth. I pondered on this for many, many days. Days that could have potentially evolve into weeks. But after almost an entire week, I decided that this was really not something or somewhere I want to remember myself to be. I decided to leave it behind, although it wasn’t something to easily ignore. In a nutshell, the people were very busy with their jobs and couldn’t care less for the welfare of the freelancers, and didn’t even have the courtesy to notify us about updated plans just because we weren’t needed. I don’t really want to go into details as that would let in on what or who was involved.

However, bottom line of the story – you can feel defeated and let people bring you down to somewhere you feel like you don’t deserve to be. Just remember that it is okay to feel so, but don’t let all the negativity carve something in you that will stay forever. I know that we shouldn’t let all the confidence that we’ve always had in ourself be smashed apart in a few hours just because of a few individuals that don’t matter in your life.

For those who are feeling a little down at this point of life – I’m with you!! :)))

Cheer up, and let the positive chirpy people in your life!  On a side note, uploaded a vlog today, hope you enjoy it!

Seoul Trip : Dongdaemun Design Plaza + LED Rose Exhibition

Hello hello!

I’m writing this post RIGHT after uploading the previous ones. Hopefully I will be able to start off early, and top up later on. As I’m typing away, my edited photos are already uploading on flickr to be shared here with this post. Today’s blogpost should be quite visual as there’s nothing much to share – but I just want to say that that we shifted Day 4’s itinerary to Dongdaemun for the whole day as we were quite stretched out from Ihwa. We needed a day where we would just chill so we just chose one place. I chose this place because weather was alright and we needed a clear day to enjoy the rose exhibition at night.

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My dad always pumped up to start the day off. Check out his Nikes haha.

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At the lift area where our AirBNB studio apartment is. Love the lighting here, skin looks awesome.   To start of the day, we already planned beforehand to come together to get takeaways. If you’re in Seoul, you just NEED to experience a takeaway in order to feel like a local. And when it comes to takeaways, it has to be jjajangmyun (black bean noodles). Our place was a little too small for 10 people, so we headed over to the Mings at THEIR airbnb house.

Omg their place was SO pretty. It was a fully decorated house with 3 rooms and it nicely fit all of them. When you walk in the house there’s also a nice woody smell to it that makes the whole place smells so cosy. Their host just lives right below them – so its SO helpful!

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We went to their place in the morning. And this was what welcomed us. The two boys outside just recording Kendama shots. This was pretty much how things went throughout the whole trip. This area was the alley that their house was at. You see the wooden house on the right where Ming Han is sitting. Thats the house. SO PREETS. I wish I took a photo.  We then asked their host if he could order the jjajangmyun for us. I also ordered a tangsuyook (sweet and sour pork) and the host asked for some free dumplings as service. Man, when the food came – there was SO MUCH food. He gave us at least three plates of dumplings for free and we couldn’t finish everything on the table. 

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When the delivery man came, all of us took out our camera and kept taking photos haha. Nobody went to pay or help him take the stuff out. It was pretty funny. Jacoons in Korea. I asked if it was okay to take photos (although we were already at our 20th photo probably), he just smiled and say “Sure sure, take all you want!”

 

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All the food for 10 pax. 6 jjajangmyun, one LARGE tangsuyook, and some free dumplings.

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How it looks like all laid on the table. Man.

It was a rainy day, so we waited till the rain went off. Parents were talking and I remember it was the day Pacquiao and Mayweather’s fight was on. We all watched it while waiting for the rain to stop, but it kept on drizzling. My family brought an umbrella, so we headed back to our studio (which was only about 10 minutes walk away) first before meeting up about 30 minutes later at the subway station. 

So yes – for those who wants to learn how to reload a T-Money Card with these machines that don’t operate in English yet, here’s your guidance! For foreigners, it’s quite important to get a T-Money so its more convenient and it’s a lot cheaper travelling around as you get transport transfer discounts. So it you get off the subway and hop onto another bus in probably the next 15 minutes – your ride is either free or probably a top up of 200 won depending on your distance. 

This machine sells the traveller T-Money Card but i highly recommend AGAINST it. I remember the card being sold for a higher price as they come with coupon vouchers for all the tourist spots. If you already have your itinerary planned and don’t plan to get to the palaces and whatnot, a normal empty T-Money card can be bought at convenience stores at about 2000 Won. Just ask for T-Money, and give them about 10,000 won to reload. Probably will cost you about 12,000 Won in total and you can travel for maybe about 10 trips (subway & bus!) before you got to reload again. You should keep the card, because I feel like nobody ever goes to Seoul only once 😛 Save your money.

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Step 1 : Press on the orange tab. There’s still English here so you should be good.

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For those who wants to save the hassle of getting a T-Money at a convenience store, just press the purple tab and your card should come in a box.

DSC05485 Step 2 : To reload or check your T-Money balance, simply put your card into the machine and it’ll automatically scan and identify your card’s information. Direction of card shouldn’t matter.

DSC05486 Step 3: Just click on your preferred reload amount adn you’re good to go! Good to have at least more than 5000 won in the card, just to be safe! 

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 It’s so simple even my brother can do it himself. And he reads no Korean.

Since it was a rainy day, we decided to just get to Dongdaemun Design Plaza where we could be indoors for a little while more incase it was going to drizzle. To get here, just take the subway to Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (Seoul Subway Line 2, 4 ,5) and get out at Exit 1. You should be able to see the building upon exit. Just look around for abit.

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Looks so grand and huge. I don’t know what about it that’s so…attractive, but I was just staring at it when we first got there. How did they BUILD this thing? What is it supposed to be. So apparently it’s a few building combined together, so just imagine that this huge oval UFO lookaliek thing is like a shell that houses these different entities. Although separate, they mostly focus on arts – just different types of art.

When we got out the station, we were already in the building. We got out at this park-like area. I don’t know if the place was set up like that just for an exhibition, but it was a play area for families and there was quite a crowd. Not as many foreigners as I’d expect to see. I realize that about Koreans though. They visit their touristy spots alot compared to foreigners. (Let’s put Myeongdong aside for now)

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This was all before we got out to admire the structure of the place by its external form. We decided to just walk from top to bottom and look at the building before it gets dark. We wanted to see it at day and night so we went straight for that. Was afraid that it’ll be gloomy again and it wouldn’t look as nice.  We walked out of this little hole and was like WOAHHHH WHAT IS THIS. It’s like you’re in outer space, but not really. Your brain is just not used to building in such form. It’s so polished looking, but you can’t find a reason to explain why was it built that way. Let’s just enjoy and stop trying to judge art.

But hey, that fella who imagined this in his head before building it – you deserve more cheese and bacon in your life. Good job there buddy. We took lots of photos before walking to the highest floor and getting our way down. Well, we also took a lot of photos inside. And outside. And almost every part of the building. I guess it’s only fair to post a some of those that we took, to justify the photo spam. 

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DSC05514  DSC05517 After looking at it from afar, we walked up and ended up at this grassy area. Don’t know what’s supposed to be in this area but they have a lot of space to hold events and exhibitions. Pretty smart design I must say. Strolled through that just looking at everything from a higher view.   

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We then got inside the building. I think this was probably the 4th floor or something. The cool thing about the building is that you can choose to take the stairs down, level by level. You can also just walk along the pathway that spirals down every floor. It’s this wide white area that smells like new paint. I also suddenly recognised the place from a drama my Mom was watching. It was pretty cool, felt like Deja Vu – just not mine.

I think the first area we walked into was sort of a Kids Area where everything is just colourful. There was also a(nother) public piano for the kids to just slam their little fingers on to make beautiful music. Actually there was this kid that was playing REAL scores from like Mozart or something, and his mom was just looking on to him with the “NO MISTAKES SON, NO MISTAKES” stare. So much pressure pfft.

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DSC05545Everything was so white and clean. Feels like I cannot make any noise here also. 

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This is the spiralling pathway that takes us to the lowest floor, level by level. 

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 One of the stools cushioned by leather scraps rolled together.

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DSC05560 Look at this rest stops where they put the golden bunnies. So the kids have the colorful ones and when you’re adult enough, golden bunnies please. 

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The gentleman all resting their feet

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Doesn’t this look like the perfect place to hold a red carpet or something. It has an X factor. After visiting the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, we headed opposite to where all the shopping outlets were for dinner. We walked over to Doota which was at the far right and went straight up to the food court because nobody knew what was there to eat. And you know, at the food court everybody gets to choose whatever they want. I got myself a jjolmyeon – which is a spicy cold noodle. It was really spicy, but i LOVED it. The noodles were chewy and the sauce had a lot of flavor too. I think I got this for about 8000 won or something.

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 After dinner, we headed back to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza because my friend told me that there was a LED Rose Exhibition going on when we were there. You should probably check out if it’s still happening during your travelling period so you don’t miss out. We didn’t see this side of DDP so I had to ask the information counter where it was. Roses in Korean are called jangmi. So you can probably just say “LED Jangmi oddisoyo?” Wah the whole stretch of roses were just SOOOOO pretty! I took lots of similiar photos but I’m just going to post them all because I can’t decide on which one to post because they all look pretty to me. Lots of LED roses coming your way. WHITE LED ROSES!

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It’s pretty hard to get a good shot if you’re not good with the camera. I tried pulling up the ISO but there was too much noise in the photo and it didn’t look pretty at all. Everyone was trying to get a photo with the roses but they all turned out to just be shadows amongst the roses lol.

My dad took some and the first one turned out quite eerie haha!

DSC05586SEE! We then decided to just put our phone flashlights to good use and give him some lighting support lol!! So two of us were shining the flash on his face so we can see his bright little smile and still see the roses in their glory behind.   DSC05592 What do you think? DSC05583

Well, I clearly went to a better lit spot cause nobody was there to shine the flashlight for me

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DSC05623  DSC05615 I also took some panaromic shots from the night that I wanted to just put in the post! There was about 20,000 roses all around the area, separated into two lanes. We only walked one lane since it was pretty much the same. It was a simple exhibition, but really beautiful to just slowly stroll through. 

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After taking what probably felt like 2000 photos, we decided to just look out for the Cheonggyecheon River. I read that it was supposed to be nearby so I asked everybody if they could do a little bit more of walking. Everybody was up for it so I quickly asked for directions. I’m the type that wouldn’t mind asking for directions every minute along the way just to make sure. To my surprise, probably only 2/5 people I asked knew where it was. The worst part was, I asked his shop owner where the river was and he said he didn’t know.

The river turned out to just be less than 100m away from his shop. Can we all please give a moment of silence for this man.

Anyway, I wanted to come to the river because it’s really pretty at night and if you walk along the river the whole way to the end (this was the other end) you would see different structures of the river and probably some lantern exhibition or something if you’re lucky! Go look it up.

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After all that walking, we all went back to Hongdae. My family decided to just take a walk at the busy area at Exit 9. After some shopping, we went to the pojangmacha (road side stalls) to just grab a few things to takeaway and eat back up in the studio.

Man, I’d kill for this cart to be at my doorstep every night just ready for me to grab a stick or two. I love the fish cakes, the soup that comes with it, the fried egg that comes with the sauce, the rice cake. Everything in here was just yums to the max – especially in cold weather. I CANT WAIT TO GO BACK TO EAT THIS!

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We ate some at the stall, and took some back home. We also went to buy one of the spiciest Korean noodle as I really wanted Nick to try it. He’s always up for spicy challenges so this one was one of those that I really wanted to put him through. You should see his face when he took his first few bites. After that it was just down the drain. Next thing you know, he was infront of the fan trying to cool himself down.

You guys should try it!

It’s called Buldalg-Bokkeum-Myeon. SO NOMMY though. I tried it, can’t take it, but I love it.

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Our takeaway

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Nick’s noodle before he gobbled EVERYTHING up. This guys no joke for spicy challenges.

And that pretty much wraps up Day 4! If you’d like to watch the day in video form, here’s my vlog for the day!

Seoul Trip : Ihwa Mural Village + Yonsei University

Hello everyone!

I know its been a while. But I forgot that this was a pending project to work on. So next up on the trip after Day 1 at Sinchon, Insadong and Bukchon Hanok Village – here goes Day 3, where we spend most of our time at the Ihwa Mural Village. We also took a trip to Yonsei University (where I used to study) just for reminiscing sake.

The village was honestly one of the hardest places to get to. Some of us were really panting on the way up. I would definitely recommend to get to this place on a day with good weather (check the weather forecast) and please bring some water for yourselves. Well, I’m kind of exaggerating to be honest – but I think my tip can potentially make your walk up a little more comfortable.

I’ve heard alot about the Mural Village because the place is known for its street art. I imagined the place to be this huge residential area where we just walk and chill with lots of cafes. It didn’t turn out quite like that. For me, it felt like a place where I buy tickets to, and its just random street art here and there (without random cafes everywhere) at a huge wide space. It’s almost like an art museum, but open space.

The Inhwa  Mural Village is located at Hyehwa – which I heard is an upcoming place like Sinchon. So I was looking forward to walk around the area after finishing the mural village.

So lets get to the day!

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Before heading to HyeHwa, we got ourselves some quick breakfast and Twosome Place in Hongdae where we stay. It’s really convenient there, because the cafes are just EVERYWHERE!

We then headed straight for the area after breakfast. We took the train the Hyehwa through Line 4 and took Exit 2. For further directions, hopefully the below information helps :-

Directions: Take a left after Marronnier Park after exiting from the subway station (Exit 2). Walk straight and headsouthward toward the Naksan Park and you will begin to come across murals (3 to 5 minutes).
(Walk 300m then turn left at large intersection→Walk 100m then turn left at Ministop convenience store→walk 200m)

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This is the park where we’re supposed to walk to. It’s only about 150m – 200m from the subway exit so you can easily spot it. We spotted this old granny picking up trash and she had a lovely companion with her. So many grannies take around huge dogs (Siberians especially!). Quite a number of people still came by to say hello to the little cute thing. The granny just did her thing.

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At the park, you’ll see this whole area up ahead. Honestly, it IS pretty confusing at which aisle to take to end up here. All I can say is – just ask where is Ihwa Mural Village.

Or just show this text to the locals (이화벽화마을 어떻게가요?) or if you’d just like to say the place of the name, it’s Ee-hwa//Byok-Hwa//Ma-Ool. That stands for Ihwa//Mural//Village.

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Heading up!

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Will you look at the incline of the roads? It gets steeper.

Along the way, we still come by random cafes and neighbourhood stores. I like the vibe of this place because it feels very unpolished and the people around are really just living their own lives. It’s not like Hongdae where everything just seems so polished and everyone is so aware and conscious about themselves.

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We got ourselves come kimbab rolls because we just couldn’t anticipate how far we’d have to walk.  I bookmarked this website that showed the PERFECT instructions on how to get there – photo by photo – but I couldn’t find it anymore by the time we were there. My signal on the wifi egg was really bad, so I had to hog onto Ming Yue’s.

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The walk was definitely a lot slower than normal because of the incline.

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Just an example of some random stairs that we always have to walk up without prior notice. It’s like a Surprise Me, Stairs game all the time.

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One of the random alleyways. I can imagine a really hipster photo being taken at every corner in this place. Or actually just the whole of Seoul. CRAY.

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There were some samples along the way and it was octopus I remember. Mom and I ran over to grab some to eat on to fuel our body for this hike pfft. I WILL SURVIVE.

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We came to a point we just had to surrender to this. Lemonade booth just CALLED OUT to us.

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It was the best decision made that afternoon. The sun was scorching hot, it was one of the warmest days during our 10-day trip in Seoul.

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Getting to a part where we oversee the roof. This reminds me abit of the one we saw in Bukchon Hanok Village but this one is really just the rooftops of random houses that aren’t polished for tourists. I can easily see a Korean Drama being filmed in any of these rooftops, especially the ones painted in marble green. I sometimes feel like I recognise the rooftops from certain dramas too. But that’s definitely just my imagination – or not?

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Everybody enjoying the view for a good 5 minutes before we continued the walk up to the mural village.

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At this point I thought we were going to be lost, but cause I read that its also a good idea to get lost trying to find the place because there’s just so many hidden jewels to be discovered around it area. Or that may just be me trying to give confidence. Sometimes it is a little scary to be the only one who knows the way amongst 10 people.

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After that little beautiful stroll past trees and random statues, we were finally beginning to see random wall art. I knew we were coming close the the main area of the mural village. The art pieces there are certainly random, and they make things like electrical boxes or meters look simply adorable and interesting to look at!

Before getting there, the only thing I knew about the village was this looong flight of stairs that had a painting of fishes on it. The next thing I found out about it was that it was worth going to, so I went straight for the directions. I didn’t even look at photos (i did look at random vlogs online though!) because I really wanted to be surprised.

If you have the time, maybe you wanna run through the few photos I took of the place and see if you’d like to spend half a day here!

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Finally found this flight of stairs.

It is one of the main landmarks where drama shoots take place. I can see why, it looks really beautiful from far. Like a flat painting in the middle of nowhere. It was a pain trying to get a clean shot of myself and the stairs though. This was the clearest I got. Usually everyone is just bustling up and down and trust me, this shot was taken with at least 10 strangers just staring back at me waiting for their turn to sit down on one of those steps. I will call this the awkward photo spot.

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DSC05395 Look at that thing the put up at their door, the girl with the hijab. I saw that and was like O_O It’s like a flat stature but three dimensional as well. I went around it to figure out how it’s done then I looked left and saw the museum that was showcasing this genre of statures. It was the Naxan art space, and I’m not sure if the rotate artists/artworks – but the statures that was in this place was quite a new type of art for me. Everything was flat form the front, like nothing thicker than three fingers put together, but it looks so whole from the side.  DSC05401 They have this tall one at the entrance to tease you on what’s inside.

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Look at this! The face was definitely no wider than three fingers from the front. But It looks like a normal piece of art from the side.

We walked abit more to find another flight of stairs. I believe this one was on Rooftop Prince – though I only vaguely remember the scene. Many of them were just going up stairs to explore the neighbourhood but honestly the weather was not cooperating with us, and all of us had to go because getting separated was just going to be a hassle. We were already quite tired by the time we got to the village, so we weren’t too interested in getting up as well.

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Walk, walk, walk

DSC05403   Came to just take a photo of it! Have to take one myself also even if I’m not in it. Stepped on it abit also so I can say ya I was there pfft. /marking territories  DSC05404

This one was quite cheesy so I didn’t take a photo. Actually, I would have lah but seriously TOO many people looking on. I don’t think I want to take a photo under that pressure pfft. Also another awkward photo spot.

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These two siblings doing the squat for that white fury thing

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After about 1 hour of brisk strolling in the niehgborhood, we were pretty much at the end. I’m sure you would take a longer time if you went up the stairs. We all took a rest at the stalls where they sold drinks and snacks, as well as some group photos. I think we rested for about 15 minutes then we were already calling for food pfft.

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The part where it all ends

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Le familia. Sorry Nick, I just don’t understand why there isn’t a photo of you out of all 6 shots where you look normal.

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You see. They still had to test our leg control even when we’re getting out of the place. Slow and steady steps down back to the neighborhood.

I wanted to walk around Hyehwa in the beginning, but knew it was just going to be too much walking in a day – so I gave up.

We were contemplating on where to eat while walking down slowly but surely (lol), then we came pass this restaurant that was really empty. I took a quick look at the menu that said GAMJATANG (soup with potatoes, vermicilli noodles and meat in it) and just said YES! I love gamjatang. And because nobody was there, food was guaranteed to be quick. It was also so warm, we asked the ajummas to turn on the aircond for us. They didn’t seem to pleased, but I think it was alright to be a demanding tourist sometimes. Teehee.

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After that we headed back to Sinchon. The rest didn’t follow us so they went back to Hongdae. I got my familia and Ming  Yue to come with me to just walk around the place. To get to Sinchon, just get to Line 2!

DSC05435 Took a photo of this clown. He seemed so out of place. I think it’s cause it’s only usual to see clowns in an atmosphere of balloons, kids and colours. Seeing this one sit here, just feels a little sad.  We took a detour from Sinchon to Yonsei University. It was going through a massive construction phase – but we still managed to get into the campus (no ID required). Here’s one of my favorite places in Yonsei to take photos at.  DSC05436  

The place was really quiet so we really just walked around and absorbed whatever was there. Also note that by this time, our legs were already pulsating from all the walking pfft. #weaklings

DSC05440DSC05451DSC05453DSC05456  After that we heading back to where the shops were for dinner. We walked around to see what was there to eat, and I remembered that Mom and I really wanted to have jjimdalg (braised chicken in special black sauce).

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The zebra crossing infront of Yonsei.

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I saw one of the signboards around the corner the night before when we were browsing around so we spent a good 30 minutes looking for it. We finally found it, got excited, walked up, and was served to the table. So this is supposed to be a really yummy black sauce chicken where the chicken is braised till its soft and it goes SUPER well with rice.

Sigh, but when we were at the table I already knew it was a fake version instead of the one we always go to. Rash decisions. Sad.

Okay this pretty much wraps up Day 3 in Seoul. If you’d like to take a look at my day visually – here’s a vlog for you to watch!

Yippy Blue Yeay!

Aahh!

Trying to get myself to get this blog kicking and thinking on what are the things that I used to put on this blog. Then I remembered having so much fun with the camera before we had smartphones and everything was history. Getting back to the camera for photos feels pretty old, but I love it! Took some photos and just had no where to post it (not a fan of posting selfies on Facebook, not especially when there’s nothing going on) so the blog it is!

While I’m preparing the next post for Seoul, just going to have updates frequently (also to writing!) so I still have an outlet to rant about things that don’t matter. Photos for now!

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Till then! x