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Australia

I’m a big — no, HUGE — fan of pies and pasties. So, being as that my travel buddy and I were in Sydney a couple of months ago, I just HAD to try the famous Harry’s Cafe de Wheels.

After navigating through Google maps, I decided on the Ultimo St. location since I figured it was closest to our hostel at the corner of George and Pitt streets.

We then went off on foot on a rainy Sydney morning, and after walking for what.felt.like.forever (hungerrr is what it was), we came to THIS corner pie shop.

That’s my dorky brother, Shugo, and travel buddy, KC.

Hannah’s?!?!?!

Where the fuck was Harry’s???? I didn’t walk 20 minutes on a rainy day for no Harry’s!

NOOOOO!!!

False alarm.

Apparently, Harry’s goes by the name of Hannah’s too. WUTDAHELL.

Nobody told me I was dealing with a hermaphrodite pie shop!!

Anyhow, I was too starved by then to care about Harry or Hannah and just ordered the most LOADED Pastie & Peas on the menu. *wild boar mode*

Why, hello there. Welcome to my stomach.

It wasn’t as great as I expected (I tend to be unreasonable when I get too excited), but it was quite good  and filling considering my ravenous appetite.

Not content with just something savory, I had to chase it down with something sweet (but of course).

And then came the largest single Custard Tart I’ve ever eaten. Gourmands represent!

The citron notes added just the right amount of tartness (pun unintended) to offset the sweet custard. THIS is how custard pies should be made. Heaven on the lips, pounds on the hips.

My stomach was screaming for a break, but I wasn’t nearly done just yet.

We were heading back to our hostel on George St., passing by Capitol Square, when lo and behold, something caught my one working eye!

HARRYYYYY’S!!!! I could’ve screamed like a shameless fanatic right then and there, but chose not to for fear of puking all the peas I just scarfed down.

I had a cold, but nothing could get between me and my love for (eating) pies.

AAAAAHHH….

….CHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

By this time, I was well aware of how painful of a let-down the famous pies actually were, but I just had to order ‘Harry’s Tiger’ (lean meat pie + mashed potatoes + mushy peas + gravy) and force my gut to surrender to the gluttony — if only for the novelty of it all. So sue me. I’m pie-crazy.

Like the Pasties & Peas I had earlier, the ‘Tiger’ was good, but not exceptional.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s every bit as delicious as it looks, but I’ve tasted better. Blame it on Sovereign Hill’s Hope Bakery, where some of the BEST meat pies in Australia are baked fresh every day. I would go to Ballarat just for those pies. Heaaaaaven.

As I bid goodby to Harry’s, I promised I’d find my way back to Haymarket and have one more ‘farewell pie’ before leaving Sydney.

Sadly, I never did.

Maybe another time.

xoxo

Seoul, South Korea 10/'11

Unlike most people, I don’t own a TV set — not anymore. I haven’t watched TV in over 4 years, so I became oblivious to the Korean novela wave of ’06-’09. Everyone at dental school was talking about characters that I, apparently, have never even heard of. “Boys Over Flowers” became so predominant at conversations that I just stopped eavesdropping altogether because I couldn’t understand an iota of what they were talking about. That was in 2008.

[photo via cikangkuh.blogspot.com]

Fast forward to 3 years later, my then-Koreanovela-crazy-classmates spotted a promo fare on Cebu Pacific Air for Cebu to Incheon (Seoul). The price? A grand total of PHP3,300 r/t incl. taxes. Since I’m known for being a travel-crazy nut, they naturally invited me. And since the price was too good to pass up, I decided to join in — not knowing what to expect.

Normally, I plan my excursions around places I reaaally want to go to. But when you’re strapped for cash, you can only go so far. As much as it breaks my heart that I can’t travel the entire world just yet, I have learned to prioritize. In this case however, I haven’t even given Seoul (or South Korea for that matter) any prior thought. So much for priorities. We bought the CEB-ICN tickets in February of 2011, for travel in late October 2011.

During that 7-month interval, my travel buddy KC and I combed through Bangkok, Hong Kong, Macau, Beijing, Melbourne and Sydney (in that order). By the end of the combined 2-month excursions, we were exhausted. Jaded, with emptied wallets and maxed out credit cards. We were BROKE and we vowed to go on a year-long travel sabbatical, disregarding the Incheon tickets as well and foregoing the PHP3,300 fare we paid for (much to our resentment). But life has a way of spicing things up when you least expect it.

A month before the departure date for Incheon, the number of people still willing to go to Seoul (out of 9), whittled down to just 3: Rosana, Carlo and Isabel. Sang, in particular, did a lot of convincing to make us change our minds. To cut the story short, I am an invertebrate with a weak backbone. I relented. Two weeks before departure, there were 6 of us willing to give it a go. However, it took another week to get us off our asses for VISA processing. That left us with just ONE week to file AND get our VISAs. Stupid move.

In the end, only 3 people were given VISAs, which unfortunately, did not include the Korean novela fans who planned the trip to begin with. On this note, I shall soon write about the process of applying for a South Korean VISA. Hopefully, no one will have to make the same mistakes we did.

October 25 came and we were off to Incheon via Cebu. Cramped in a relatively small plane (A320) for over 4 hours can feel suffocating. We forgot to book premium seats in advance, so we were left to chance. Luckily, the check-in counter agent at Mactan International Airport gave us 3rd row seats, which was a god-send. I cannot stress this enough: Book a premium seat when traveling international on Cebu Pacific! The additional PHP100-200 fee is so worth it. As usual, complimentary meals were not served on board. Instant noodles, chips, drinks and other snacks were available for sale. All things taken into account, it was a smooth (and cheap!) ride.

We landed at Incheon International Airport at 9:30 p.m. so were right on schedule. But one praning immigration officer (who I think, was a newbie) threw a curveball my way. Let it be known that I have an ugly, oversaturated passport photo that looks fake. Not my fault. Apparently, a whole batch of early 2010 passport photos look as horrid. Anyway, I’m not sure what that damn woman thought wrong of my passport, but she took me to the immigration room for further assessment. One senior officer did the rounds of background checking and that-thing-they-do-with-a-microscope-like-apparatus. After 15 minutes and 8 yawns later (I was sleepy), they finally released me.

We stepped out of the airport to a welcoming gush of cool autumn breeze. Ahhh… I love the smell of winter coming. Bought tickets for the Airport Limousine Bus (KRW10,000 one-way) at a freestanding stall outside the terminal. Then we waited for Bus No. 6015 to take us to Bangrang Hostel, near Chungjeongno Station. The bus ride went smoothly and took about an hour. The driver, in particular was gracious and soft-spoken, like most South Koreans (as we were about to discover). We felt we were in safe hands.

(Because I’m a lousy blogger, I didn’t take pictures. This photo is from someone else’s blog.)

[photo via skippingclouds.blogspot.com]

We passed by the CBD and the first thing that came to mind was: Sydney! Some parts of Seoul looked exactly like Sydney, Australia — with its multi-level roads and mix of old and new buildings — save for the indecipherable signages in Hangul. Even if it was nearing midnight, some yuppies were still milling about the corporate buildings. Interesting. Oh, and they had really nice outfits. Haha.

(Having problems with my SD card, so I am unable to upload some of my own photos at the moment. I shall replace this as soon as I get my SD situation in order.)

[photo via cityviews.net]

At half-past 11p.m., we finally arrived at Bangrang Hostel. Kim, our host, patiently waited for us at the reception area despite an hour delay.

Sidenote: Koreans look so cute and amiable without even trying. See? (No, I’m not turning straight.)

Check-in went without a hitch, then Kim showed us around the front part of the hostel where all the amenities were, including: the common area, computers, kitchen, and TV room.

We then had to go around a hilly block to the adjacent building at the back, to where the guest rooms were located on three floors. This is exactly how our room looked like, although I have yet to upload my own photo of it. Bear with me.

Note: This was our room for the first two days only since we had to change rooms 3 times in 6 days. That’s what we got for not booking early enough. Hah.

[photo via lonelyplanet.com]

KC and I collapsed on the two lower bunk beds (our other roomies had not yet arrived), and called it a night. We were expecting another friend, Momsy, the same time next day. KC, in particular was more giddy than usual and went to bed early (which usually never happens).

The magic of Seoul has begun.

NEXT UP: Doing the rounds at Itaewon, Dongdaemun and Hongdae = HERE.

 

As much as I value my dad for opening my eyes to traveling the world (thanks, Pa!); it’s an altogether different, and more freeing experience to travel with people you have no inhibitions with. Friends are the family you choose, as they say. Herewith, Manly & Circular Quay snapshots of me and my best travel buddy, KC.

One of the most memorable trips, so far. One hell of an amazing ride.

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