Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun

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Yilan, Taiwan – Yoshino Cherry: A Minsu which feels like Home

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿A homely and comfortable minsu I stayed at while in Yilan was at Yoshino Cherry Minsu 吉野櫻民宿. The spacious two-storey house is the home of Chen-jie 陳姐, who stays with her family at a smaller house just behind this main building. The minsu is named Yoshino Cherry as Chen Jie’s husband likes cherry blossoms, and the minsu is also home to some cherry trees.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿I like the feeling of being welcomed into a real home as opposed to checking into an unfeeling hotel room when I travel. The airy living room made me want to sink right into the inviting couch (which I did at night, chatting with my friends, Chen Jie and her husband before heading to bed).

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿There are only 4 rooms at the minsu, with one of them having 2 rooms (that’s why there are 5 keys here). Each room has a different theme, and opening each room door brings a gust of anticipation.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿The Eiffel Tower room is the only room located on the first floor. It would be good for elderly who cannot climb up the stairs or couples who want more privacy (which was taken by the only pair of lovebirds in our group).

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿I stayed at the Royal Earl Room. Something tells me it will be my kind of room from the crown painted on the room sign.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Woohoo! Grand-looking Victorian bed, red chandeliers and a silver couch – #like. It comes with a balcony too.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿I was lusting after the Rose Garden Room too – just look at the gorgeous rose headboard with matching rose cushions!

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿The Mediterranean Room comes with 2 bedrooms, so it would be suitable for a family or 2 couples.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿I felt like singing “Under the Sea”…kids would like this room.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Welcome to Greece…well even for just a wall mural. I like the four-poster bed and cosy ambience.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Yoshino Cherry is surrounded by farmland so it would be lovely to have a leisurely high tea at your room balcony and basking in the serenity of Yilan’s naturescape.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Are those hearts I see in the garden?

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿High tea is served every afternoon, and Chen Jie prepares everything herself. One unique thing about this minsu is that it offers one free DIY activity for its guests daily – it can be baking pastries with Chen Jie, or a pottery class with your little ones.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Guests are welcome to use the kitchen. I can almost film a cooking show in this huge space!

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿The big kid in me was pretty happy with the swing I discovered at the back of the garden.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿There is also a children’s play pool. I lost no time in getting pally with the resident Willy the whale. In addition, the minsu has some electric mini cars which are a big hit with kids so parents won’t need to worry much about kids getting bored. The minsu can also arrange for BBQ for you.

Places you can visit near the minsu include Luodong Night Market 羅東夜市 and Dongmen Night Market 東門夜市 which are about 15 minutes away by car, and Sophisca 菓風小舖 a popular DIY candy store is only 5 minutes drive. Kavalan Whisky Factory 金車威士忌酒廠 and several parks are also nearby (see their website under ‘Scenic Spots‘).

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿We checked out the field opposite the minsu after high tea. Look at those papayas! If only they were ripe…

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Most of the areas around were rice fields.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿There were small patches of vegetables grown as well, such as spring onion. They must be one of the plumpest spring onions I have seen.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Brinjals

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Time seems to slow down here where life is simple.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿The highlight of this minsu for me is definitely their breakfast. It is one of the most delicious and nutritious meals I have had. Chen Jie serves Chinese or Western-style breakfast, and both are just as good. Chen Jie epitomizes the spirit of minsu owners very well – we feel her warm hospitality and passion to make her guests feel at home from every little detail at the minsu.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Yoshino Cherry presents their guests with a souvenir before they leave. Chen Jie used to be a special needs teacher before starting the minsu, and these handmade soaps are made by her former students.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿The road ahead is long, and I know not what awaits. So just smile and enjoy the present moment :)

Yoshino Cherry Minsu 吉野櫻民宿
Tel: +886 3 922 7900; Mobile: +886 939 930 116 (Chen Jie 陳姐)
Website: www.sakurabnb.com.tw
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/YilanYoshinoCherryBedandBreakfast
Room rates start from TWD2,400 to TWD11,000 to book out the entire minsu (good for 12 pax)
Nearest Public Transport: Yilan Train Station宜蘭火車站or Yilan Bus Station宜蘭轉運站; followed by a short taxi ride (about TWD220 – abt USD6.80/SGD9.90)

Read more of my travels in Taiwan

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Korea, Seoul – Experiencing Korean homestay at Namhyundang Hanok 南岘堂

Namhyundang_01One of the best ways to experience a foreign culture is to live and eat like a local. On my first trip to Korea, I chose to ditch the modern hotel room to stay in a traditional Korean ‘hanok’ in Seoul. Referred to as living museums, hanoks contain in their layout and structure the history of ancient Korean architecture and society, and the warm hospitality of a Korean family that I experienced at Namhyundang.Namhyundang_02Hanoks are gaining in popularity both as day-trip photo-ops or actual accommodation. Usually located near cultural attractions, traditional hanoks are great places to stay if you are planning to visit the palaces or museums. Namhyundang is located in the Anguk area near Exit 5 of Anguk train station. Namhyundang_03Tucked away in a quiet alley of the neighborhood of Gyeongun-dong just beside Kyodong Elementary School, Namhyundang is well-placed for an exploration of traditional Korean culture – it’s a mere 10 minutes’ walk from the neighbourhood of Insadong (the very heart of traditional Korean culture) and close to several palaces and shrines including the main Gyeongbuk-gung and Changdeok-gung, Unhyeongung (which Namhyundang was named after) and Cheondogyo Temple. Food is aplenty, and 경동시장 Kyungdong Market is also nearby.Namhyundang_04There are two Korean restaurants conveniently located along the same alley as Namhyundang, so no worries about satisfying hunger pangs.Namhyundang_05We met a dour-faced kitty on the way…oopsie, sorry to disturb your nap :p Namhyundang HanokNamhyundang’s owner Mr Lee Sang-Am welcomed us warmly. He took the effort to chat with us so as to get to know his guests better, and shared with us a bit more about the history of the hanok we will be staying in. We were relieved that he speaks good English and understands Chinese and German (he even taught me how to pronounce my name in Korean!).
Namhyundang_06aLook at all the lovely messages sent by his previous guests!Namhyundang_06A typical hanok is characterized by wooden pillars, mud walls, paper-pasted windows, a daecheongmaru (wooden floor) for temperature control during different seasons, and a courtyard/garden. Namhyundang is a typical hanok built over a hundred years ago, and recently renovated in 2011 into a traditional homestay. Guests can choose from the 5 rooms available (yes, only 5 so book early).Namhyundang HanokTraditionally, only nobles (yangban) were allowed to use clay tiles for their roofs, while the rest of the population had to make do with thatch.Namhyundang HanokWhat a cool-looking sewing machine!Namhyundang HanokThe homestay is suitable for all types of travellers from single travellers to small families. The courtyard can be used for a cosy family meal. (Photo from Namhyundang)  
Namhyundang Hanok
Here’s what a typical hanok room looks like. My first thoughts were – where’s the cupboard and TV? LOL. It was quite amazing how our Korean ancestors managed to live so simply, and it made me think what I have been taking for granted. Thankfully, modern ‘necessities’ such as electrical sockets, air-conditioning and wifi have been added for the convenience of today’s guests.Namhyundang HanokExcited to play Korean for the week :) We had the slightly larger family room for the first night, courtesy of Mr Lee who extended his kindness to upgrade us who arrived exhausted and pretty late in the night.
Namhyundang HanokWalkway to the bathroom…will I have to dig my own poophole and boil my own bath water?Namhyundang HanokThe bathroom was clean with all the modern amenities you can think of – heater, washing machine (free for guests to use), hot shower, and even a toilet seat warmer! Woohoo!Namhyundang HanokThe kitchen is also available for guests to use. The owner has also thoughtfully stuck the contacts of nearby takeaways for guests who want to order in. Keep the Korean fried chicken takeaway away from me, temptation!Namhyundang HanokCock-a-doodle-doo! Namhyundang HanokA simple breakfast of boiled eggs, bread and yoghurt, which is included in the room rate, is served daily in the main living hall. We were rushing out one morning and didn’t have time for breakfast, so Mr Lee packed some milk and bananas for us to eat on the go. It was a small gesture, but I was touched.

Mr Lee and his wife were amazingly kind hosts – they let us leave part of our luggage at the hanok when we went away to Jeju (not that the hanok was THAT huge to afford much space), and on the day that we left, Mr Lee made us tea and even drove us to our next destination nearby. Namhyundang felt safe and comfortable like family, and I would visit Namhyundang on my next trip to Seoul.
Namhyundang HanokI enjoyed my initial experience with a Korean homestay, and would highly encourage you to stay in a hanok on your next trip to Korea.

A key part of Korean culture, hanoks today are preserved in hanok villages (hanokmaeul), with famous ones being Jirye Art Village, Yangsajae, Jeonju Hanok Village, Rakkojae, and Bukchon Hanok Village. With affluent neighborhoods like Bukchon, it’s hard to believe that hanoks were once a sign of poverty, considered old-fashioned and uncomfortable. For the ultimate hanok indulgence, stay at RakKoJae in Seoul – a night’s stay at the hanok starts from 180,000 won to more than 400,000 won.

When choosing your homestay, in addition to room size and rate, you can also consider its proximity to nearby attractions, availability of Korean-style meals (and modern amenities just in case some can’t live without a television or air-conditioning) and if they offer cultural activities such as tea ceremonies, pottery making and traditional Korean folk games. A number of Korean homestay website listings are available, and do check out reviews on Tripadvisor to make sure you know what you are in for – it may not come with chairs, televisions or beds, but it sure comes with warm Korean hospitality and the opportunity to experience a piece of Korean history :)

Namhyundang 남현당
Address: 446-15, Samil-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Phone: +82 2 2659 8788 (Look for Mr Lee Sang-Am )
Email: salami44@naver.com
Website: www.namhyundang.co.kr
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Namhyundang
Languages spoken: Korean, English, German

Getting there:
BUS: Take the Airport Limousine bus (No. 6011) at Incheon International Airport to Anguk Subway Station (around 60 minutes; slightly more expensive but you do not need to change train lines and can snooze all the way).
Depending on which subway line you take, exit at:
Line 1 Jongno 3 (sam)-ga Station. Exit 5 OR Line 3 Anguk Stn. Exit 4. (transfer from Incheon Airport)
Line 5 Jongno 3 (sam)-ga Station. Exit 5 (transfer from Gimpo Airport)

At Anguk Station, walk towards Unhyeongung (small palace about 3 minutes’ walk away), and you will shortly reach the main entrance of Kyodong Elementary School. Turn left into the small alley and you will pass by a restaurant and bookstore on the right. Namhyundang is on the left side at the end of the alley. See here for detailed directions with photos.

Room Rates (Subject to change, check with owner for latest rates)
Single room : 70,000 Won (breakfast inc)
Double room : 90,000 – 100,000 Won (breakfast inc)
Triple Room : 110,000 -130,000 Won (breakfast inc)
Surcharge : per additional person 20,000 Won
Photos of Rooms
Booking Information
Nearby attractions