Kiwis in Bare Feet

Monday, October 22, 2018

Living in Busan

Living in Busan has been one of the best decisions we have ever made for our family. This city feels like home and we love everything about it! You are never too far from both the mountains and beaches. We strongly believe that we have only scratched the surface of this city in just over a year. We will add to this blog post as we find more gems.

Fast Five Favourites:

  • Gamcheon Cultural Village - Our favorite place to take visitors. The colorful houses, winding alleys, cafes, shops, artwork, and beautiful views make for a nice day out.
  • Temples - We’ve been to Haedong Yongunggsa many times as it’s near Haeundae where we live. It’s unique as it’s located on the ocean which means you can enjoy the temple along with the ocean views. Beomeosa is great for autumn colors, and Swamgangsa is the best place to see all of the lanterns leading up to Buddha’s birthday. 
  • Hikes and walks - We like to venture up to Hwangeongsan mountain often. From the carpark, it’s about a 10 minute walk which makes it very accessible. The 360-degree views over Busan and to the ocean are amazing. On a Sunday morning, it is not very busy. It has the most stunning night time views too! Jangsan peak and Igidae coastal walk are two other famous hikes in Busan that we would recommend. 
  • Nature - This has a lot to do with the time of year. The cherry blossoms in Spring (late March/early April) are incredible and so are the autumn colors (late October/early November). A highlight of our year has been the pink muhly grass.
  • Beaches - Haeundae is the main beach. This means it can get busy, particularly in summer. But it is also where most of the action and events are. Grab something to eat at one of the beachfront cafes and enjoy the ocean views. Songjoeng is not far from Haeundae, where you can also enjoy a beachside walk and coffee. We like this beach as it is less crowded. For a quieter city beach and vibe, head to Gwangalli. 

Tips:


  • Make sure to follow the stream up to Jangsan peak. This is the most scenic way up with the lowest incline. There are other tracks that are a little steeper and off the beaten path if you like that. This hike is about 3 hours return on average. 
  • The temperatures are nice in June and the sun is usually out (late June to late July is typically when the most rain hits). July-August is typically when the humidity and heat is the highest and it can be unpleasant at times. From December to March, winter has set in and it can get quite chilly. 
  • Depending on what you would like to do, about 5 nights would be a good amount of time to spend in Busan. It’s a big city and you could easily stay a week or two. 
  • Some of our favorite places to eat: Bake House (at the top of Dalmaji Hill), Smokehouse and Lable (located in Pale De Cz on Haeundae beach), Dal Thai (not far from the Bake House), Hurgsiru traditional duck restaurant in Gijang (about 25 minutes from Haeundae). Make sure to book a day before to order duck. This is a unique experience where you eat in traditional yellowstone caves. Gimbap and Korean BBQ are our favorite local foods. We get Gimbap at the shop above Jundong station, and there are many BBQ places around (Anga near Jundong station is where we often go as it’s close by). OPS is our favorite chain bakery if you need something quick to eat on the go.
  • Dalmaji road all the way to Songjeong beach, Hwangeongsan mountain, Samik apartments in Gwangalli, and Oncheonchon stream are our favorite places to see cherry blossoms. You can find pink muhly grass near the airport at Daejeon Ecological park. View our cherry blossom blog post here.
  • Start at the end of the Igidae coast where Oryukdo Islands are for more of a downward hike, and make sure to follow the coast all the way along. It’s about 3-4 hours. 
  • Markets - Jalgachi market is the largest seafood market in Korea. There’s all sorts of fresh seafood and be prepared for a cultural shock! Haeundae markets are small, but located by the beach and have a nice local feel. Nampo-dong is where you can find the main markets in Busan (and a lot of modern brands and shops). During the festive season in December, the streets are lit with beautiful lights everywhere.
  • Shopping - We often head to Shinsegae (where most of Busan shops). The shopping is great and so is the food court. Lotte outlet mall (near Haedong Yongungssa temple) is also a great place to shop. 
  • Feel like a workout? You can find many outdoor gyms at parks and public spaces. They are free to use and a fun experience.
  • Feeling brave? Head to one of the Jimjilbang for a unique experience at the spa. There are many baths and many naked bodies. It is a cultural awakening for sure. 
  • Buses and trains are an easy and affordable way to get around. It’s the cleanest subway we’ve used in the world. Taxies are also very reasonable. If you need an English speaking taxi driver, send us a DM!
  • The UN memorial is one of the only and the biggest UN cemetery in the world. It’s the most important site in the city where you can appreciate the history of the Korean War. 
  • Favorite websites for local happenings: Dynamic BusanHaps KoreaExpats in Busan FB page.

Baby/Toddler on Board:

  • Busan caters to children extremely well! The kid's cafes here are on another level! You can relax and enjoy food and drinks while your little babes play. Our regulars are Kid's President (across from Emart), Chouchoubonbon (near Marine City), Tayo Kids Cafe, Lilliput, Jumping On, and the kid's playroom in the Science Museum (located in Gijang). There are also many outdoor playgrounds around the city. Most of the larger apartment blocks will have a playground and we use these often with no problem.
  • Lilah calls all of the temples tree houses so she loves to play there. 
  • The beaches are very child-friendly and easy to swim in with small waves. They close the beach to swimmers in September (officially) which seems very early considering how warm it still is. People still swim but you may be told to get out of the water, something to be prepared for.
  • We have been able to find everything that we need for Lilah in Busan. Costco and Emart are our regular one-stop shops. 

Five things the photos do not show:

  • Busan has been recently voted the best destination in Asia by Lonely Planet.
  • English is not a common language in Busan. It can be frustrating at times but our advice would be to embrace it and enjoy the ride. We live in Haeundae where there are quite a lot of foreigners but we will often go to dinner and need to communicate with nods and smiles.
  • We have had many friends and family members come to stay with us in Busan. It is very special to show them around our new home.
  • We are fortunate to work for a wonderful school who helped us a lot with settling into Korean life. Lilah is learning Korean faster than us!
  • We escape Winter for three weeks each Christmas to go home to New Zealand. After living in Saudi Arabia, for three years we really felt the cold last Winter! We definitely prefer Spring, Summer, and Autumn.
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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Nusa Penida-Day Trip

Nusa Penida rates as one of the best day trips we have taken. This was largely due to the tour company we used who made everything so easy for us. We were in awe of the natural beauty on the island!

Fast Five Favourites:

  • Angel's Billabong-natural infinity pool with crystal clear water.
  • Manta Bay-huge manta rays swimming below.
  • Kelingking T-rex-Insta famous costal cliff that truely does resemble a t-rex!
  • Broken Beach-another mother nature spectacle. An incredible little cover archway that has been formed over many years.
  • Crystal Bay-a lovely beach to relax or snorkel at the end of the day. 

Tips:

  • While visiting Nusa Penida we saw some of the most risky photos we have ever seen people trying to get. Please be careful! Literal edge of the cliff stuff. 
  • Make sure you keep updated on the weather condition and ocean swells. At times during our stay the speed boats were not running. It seems to be much safer now than in the past. 
  • There were a few spots where the locals were collecting a small entrance fee.
  • We saw so many injured people from driving mopeds! If you are not confident driving a moped, some areas the terrain may just be too rough for you. And it looks like a long way on a scooter.
  • We loved our day trip but if we had more time we would definitely stay a few nights. There is so much to see and do. This tree house Air Bnb looks epic! It's right next to Nusa Lembongan and many people do combine the two. 
  • We met a few people who were going to swim with the giant manta rays the next morning. How amazing would that be?!
  • Be prepared to swim in Angels Billabong. It is an incredible site, but when we were there the sea was a bit rough for swimming. 
  • There's enough time to hike down to Kelingking beach if you fancy the adventure. It does look beautiful down there but it looked a little challenging with Lilah (maybe it would have been okay if we had taken our backpack). 
  • There's a less crowded beach a short walk over from Crystal Bay. We didn't make it there though and were happy relaxing not far from our car at the end of the day. 
  • Nusa Penida Explorer (www.nusapenidaexplorer.com) were fantastic right from organising the trip to the service on the day. We did not have to think about a thing from the moment we left our villa. Well worth the 2 million IDR. They were easy to deal with using WhatsApp. 
  • Once on Nusa Penida we met our guide and were off straight away in our private 4WD that was very spacious and comfortable. The road is mostly okay with the roughest part heading to Angels Billabong. It took about 1 1/2 hours to get to Angels Billabong from the harbour and Broken Beach is a short walk from there. It was then about 45 minutes to Kelingking Beach (we stopped for lunch on the way - which was pretty good). We then made our way to Crystal Bay which was about 40 minutes, before our trip back to the harbour at the end of the day (about 25 minutes). Overall it was a scenic drive and we felt well balanced with the amount of time we had at each place. 

Baby on Board:

  • We weren't sure whether  to take on such a big day trip with Lilah and went back and forth with our decision making. We're so glad we did as it's stunning there. Being with a very good private tour company also meant that it was safe and we were able to be flexible. Lilah was amazing all day and had a good sleep in the car. It helped that we were in Canggu for the week and had quite a relaxing time there. This was the one day trip we took. 
  • It's quite a long trip at around 12 hours door to door. Breaking the trip up with the drive to Sanur harbour from Canggu (45 minutes) then the speed boat to Nusa Penida (30 minutes) was quite good with Lilah as she was able to have a play outside. 
  • You really need to trust your driver when in Nusa Penida. We have seen broken roads before but this really was something else! We had lots of snacks with us which we were grateful for as we were in the car for a large part of the day. Many roads are single lane so knowing the roads is important. 
  • We didn't have Lilah's carry pack and it was fine to carry her. Most places you could drive pretty close to. 
  • The safety at Kelingking is reliant on a bamboo railing. We were very careful carrying Lilah.

Five things the photos do not show:

  • Lilah vomited in the taxi on the way to get the ferry to Nusa Penida. She rarely gets car sick but she did this day. We even contemplated going home but thankfully she was fine. We felt terrible and gave the driver a big tip for all the vomit in his car!
  • Boats to Nusa Penida had been cancelled for a few days prior to our trip because of the weather. A foreign lady tried to tell us that if went to Nusa Penida we would be stuck there and unable to return to Canggu. We later realized that she was desperate to get back to her home on the island and wanted our seats as all of the tickets were sold out.
  • We saw a girl fly off her scooter and it was really scary! Thankfully she stood straight up and looked more embarrassed than anything. We were happy a car didn't come speeding around the corner at the same time.
  • Lilah was having the time of her life in the sand. It got stuck everywhere so we paid $2 to give her a shower with a bucket and freezing cold water. She did not enjoy that at all!
  • Our driver and tour guide were so cute with Lilah. She fell in love with the toy monkey sticking to the window of the 4WD so they let her have it.
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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Canggu, Bali

Canggu has burst in popularity over the past few years and is now quite a popular place to visit. It's not as built up as other areas yet and still has a relaxing holiday vibe.

Fast Five Favourites:

  • Cafes- A major attraction staying in the area. Crate is probably the most popular and was our favorite. We also enjoyed Cafe Organic, Avocado Factory, and the Vietnamese food from Banh Mi & Beans was delicious. Coffee Cartel, Sea Circus and Kynd Community were a few places nearby in Seminyak that we enjoyed.
  • Sunsets- Bali generally is popular for it’s sunsets. Most nights we enjoyed beautiful sunsets on the beach in Canggu, which was a short walk from our villa. 
  • Villa- There’s so many nice options for Villas and the price was very reasonable. We enjoyed our stay at Hidden River Cottage (on Airbnb). It was clean, spacious and had everything we needed - including a small plunge pool to cool off in. The service and staff are excellent and we were able to hire a scooter directly from the villa. 
  • Beach restaurants/bars- La Laguna has a beautiful outdoor area on the beach with a fairytale setting. It was great to relax on bean bags with Lilah and watch the sunset. The well known beach club, Finns, was a nice way to spend the day. It’s $50 per person for a sun chair which you can then use as a tab. It was a nice place to relax with Lilah. She enjoyed a pineapple juice at the pool bar, the beach, sleeping on the sun loungers, and good music. 
  • Kids cafes- La Casita was our favorite as it was close by and the playground was perfect for Lilah. It’s also located in a nice setting next to rice fields. The Jogolo was another one we visited. The menu was good but the playground was more suited to kids a little older. 

Tips:

  • Many of the cafes listed above are as popular in real life as they are on Instagram. We found it to be a little less busy if we went for an early lunch or dinner.
  • The party vibe was turning up in the afternoon as we were leaving Finns. It felt like good timing with Lilah.
  • Book ahead at La Laguna, there were many tables reserved.
  • The popular villas on Airbnb sell out quick. We would recommend booking early, especially during the dry season. In saying that, there are many options!
  • We spent 8 nights in Canggu. We didn't do much in terms of sightseeing, it was more a place to chill and relax for us at the end of our summer vacation.
  • We are glad we found a place with the pool as we didn't find the beach to be very swim friendly, especially with Lilah.
  • If you didn't already know, it is a great place for a surfing holiday. We saw many people learning to surf. With reasonably priced accommodation, extended stays were popular.

Baby on Board:

  • If Lilah was to choose her favorite spot in Canggu it would be La Casita! She asked to go back multiple times and never wanted to leave. The waitresses are super sweet and love to play with the children when it is not busy. We met up with another family here and it was the perfect spot to chat and enjoy food while the kids played.
  • There were not many footpaths which was a surprise for us. This made using the stroller a struggle. After one attempt we decided to get a scooter. To be honest we felt safer driving with her on the scooter than walking with her on the side of the road. We were able to buy a small helmet for Lilah at a local shop. We chose not to drive with her at night when it is busier and a little crazier. There’s a random little road through rice paddies (although it is the main road!) that connects Canggu and Seminyak. It can get completely jammed at night and with one narrow lane.
  • We found the supermarket to be relatively expensive. Thankfully, it was cheap to eat out. We do like to have snacks for Lilah at home though, we wish we had a bit more of them with us as we spent a small fortune on goldfish crackers.

Five things the photos do not show:

  • We met up with @thejetsettingfamily and @wanderintwo while staying in Canggu. It really is something else meeting with people you are following and are inspired by on Instagram. We are excited to meet more families in the future! 
  • Sonita had her flip flops taken within five minutes of leaving them on the sand at the beach. We have become so relaxed after living in Korea where we have left our phones on the bus and they are returned to us.
  • Lilah loves when we get a foot massage! She will chat away to us and play with the many extra therapists waiting for customers. At one particular spa near our home the workers really opened up to us about how tough it is for them. We always try to leave tips and love to see the smiles spread across their faces. Many of them were away from their own young children and were teary eyed watching Lilah giggle and play.
  • The waiters were very sweet and understanding at La Laguna. Lilah was playing for hours, getting sand all through their beautiful picnic blanket. We really should have left while the going was good as she became overtired and threw a massive tantrum just after the sunset. We left in a hurry and had to return as we left Peppa Pig behind :)
  • Our villa was near the water and set amongst a lot of greenery which was beautiful. We did see a few too many creepy crawlies, big spiders, a scorpion in the bathroom, and a biawak (a huge lizard related to the Komodo dragon) relaxing by the pool. This wasn't much though in comparison to our stay in Manuel Antonio where we counted seven snakes during our stay in the jungle.
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Friday, August 24, 2018

Ubud, Bali

Ubud is known as Bali's spiritual capital and it is easy to see why. When initially planning our trip, a few people warned us that Ubud was just too touristy. While it can certainly feel this way in the centre, there are many quieter and serene places to enjoy. We loved exploring Ubud and all it had to offer!

Fast Five Favourites:

  • Rice Terraces- We found a beautiful and quiet walking trail just off the main street in Ubud. Just follow a little walkway next to the Big museum. There were not many people around apart from the locals tending to their crops. Of course, Tegalalang is still totally worth a visit! 
  • Bali Swing-Originally we were thinking that this place would be our biggest tourist trap we had ever set foot in. We went at 8am and were the first ones to arrive. Mama could swing as many times as she wanted for much longer than if you visit later in the day (an hour plus wait for a quick photo). There are also lots of quiet places to hang out and relax while enjoying a beautiful view.
  • Campuhan Ridge Walk- this scenic walk through the mountain valley is stunning. It rained a little on our trail and it added to the beauty. There are a few cafes towards the end that are nice to relax in.
  • Monkey Forest-It was so fun to see Lilah carefully observing the monkeys. She has seen many monkeys now but they never get old and she always starts singing Five Little Monkeys. We were surprised how beautiful and green it was here, plus there's many temples to see. 
  • Waterfalls- Our favorite was Kanto Lampo. We arrived early in the morning and there were only a few others. The water was wonderful for swimming. You can give a donation to one of the guys who will take your camera into the water for some amazing captures. We also enjoyed visiting Tegenungan waterfall but found it to be very touristy. It wasn't as good to swim here with Lilah. 

Tips:

  • Of course there are many temples to visit in and around Ubud. Saraswati is a gem right in the city. Tirta Empul was another temple that we visited and the holy water ceremony held here is very interesting to see. There are so many more, you could spend days just temple hopping. A couple was enough for us. 
  • Ubud is quite busy with tourists, certainly when we were there in June as it is the dry season. The advantages are the amount of cafes and markets/shops that have popped up. We found an Airbnb just out of the main centre amongst rice paddies which was very quiet and peaceful. Exploring popular places early (usually before 10am) or just finding things to do off the beaten track meant that we were able to get away from the crowds. 
  • We were in Ubud for 8 nights and it enabled us to have a nice mix of relaxing by the pool and getting out and about. There's so much to do in the area we could have easily spent another week. We decided not to venture out on some of the longer day trips with 2 hours plus each way, as we prefer shorter days out and about with Lilah in the heat. 
  • Airbnb has some amazing private villas with a private pool for only 65 USD per night. We have not seen this value in many other places. 
  • Eating! So many delicious places to eat. We could easily be vegan in Ubud! Everything is delicious, with so many raw treats. Our favorites were: La Pacha Mama, Alchemy, and the bagel shop on the main street was good for a quick dinner (Lilah loved the banana bread from here). Ibu Oka is a famous place to try the traditional Babi Guling. 
  • Do not get a taxi from the main Coco supermarket. They charge double the price as the drivers on the street. One taxi we took told us that there are 'local' drivers and have monopoly over certain locations and charge higher prices than the driver from out of town. 50000 Rupiah is generally the rate for trips around Ubud and there are drivers everywhere. A full day private driver ranged from 400000 to 600000 Rupiah. We would usually negotiate for a half day or 4-6 hour trip which was between 300000-450000 Rupiah. 
  • We were headed to the Gili Islands from Ubud and we did not want to carry all of our gear. We decided to have a driver take it to our next accommodation in Canggu for us. It was the best decision because there is no motorised transport on the Gilis. It was so much more relaxing not having to carry all of our luggage as their were a few transitions and a small local boat that we used once. 
  • Massage- we had one of the best massages we have ever had here in Ubud. It was at the private spa that was attached to The Sungu Resort. We also had the worst foot massage we have ever had at a random place on the main street of Ubud. We do not remember the name of the place or if it even had a name. We cut it short by 30 minutes because it was just strange! We did however enjoy a different foot massage for about 7USD, it can be a little hit and miss. 
  • Other areas that we wanted to visit but were a bit long of a drive to get to were Pura Lempuyang, Pura Ulun Danu, Handara Gate, Tukad Cepung waterfall, Wanagiri Hill and Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. So much to do in the area! Maybe next time we will stay up in the north for a few days to see some of these places. 
  • As there was so much to see in the area using an offline GPS map was great. It helped us by pinning restaurants that we found on Trip Advisor (we were careful about where we ate with the 'bali belly' in mind), and we also pinned places we wanted to visit. Doing this made it simple to plan a day out by visiting 2 or 3 places in the same area. 
  • Vive Salon and Spa had a beautiful facial that Sonita really enjoyed. She also had a hair cut by Rikke, she was great and we would totally recommend! 
  • Coco supermarket had everything we needed. 
  • We really enjoyed the shopping and smaller boutique shops.

Baby on Board:

  • It was quite tricky to navigate the streets with a stroller in Ubud. We found it much easier to carry Lilah in her carrier. Note: take an extra shirt for Daddy and his sweaty back after having Lilah on him for a few hours in the rice terraces!
  • There is an indoor playground on top of the Bintang supermarket. Lilah really enjoyed this and it was nice to take her here in the afternoon heat.
  • We were very careful with eating after hearing about the notorious 'bali belly.' We washed our hands often, sanitised and were selective where we ate. Thankfully we were fine. 

Five things the photos do not show:

  • Lilah was scared being so close to the waterfall. The water was actually perfect to swim in with her but the loud sound was just too foreign to her. She was happier to observe and enjoy from further away!
  • Lilah was most disappointed that only Mama got to go on the swing. She kept asking when we were going to find Lilah's swing.
  • Our driver drove straight into a parked motorcycle when he was dropping us off one day. We felt terrible for him and he was borrowing his brother's SUV.
  • We lost wifi for a night and half a day in our accommodation. You really do feel lost without it these days, especially because we couldn't message our driver and we wanted to get picked up early in the morning.
  • Every morning we would wake up to the 'bird man' as Lilah called him. There was a local farmer working near our Air Bnb who would shake a wire fence and make funny noises to scare away the birds. 
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