Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Minor SGX Portfolio Adjustments

So, just wanted to announce some small changes that I've made to my portfolio.

I've finally cut off a sore spot in my portfolio, and that is Asian Pay TV Trust. It was one of my first few purchases and it was doing well in the beginning, probably right up until the point where I decided to just let it run auto-pilot. One thing to note is that I never believed that it was a growing company. My thesis for investing in it is just recurring income from a stubborn customer base. I don't even watch cable myself. However, it seems like I underestimated how quickly people will move away from the paid TV model.

By the way, if you watch cable TV from Starhub or Singtel, you are a real dinosaur.

I was actually going to load up a ton more of APTT when it was recently sunk to under $0.40, but I kind of let that opportunity slip past me (I blame my Korea trip!). If I had entered in then and average down my position, I would be exiting in profits because in less than a month, the share price has rocketed up almost 30%! The steep rise in the share price has got me a bit suspicious, so I decided to finally let go of my holdings at $0.49.

My final loss in APTT is 8% including all the dividends (or should I say, return of capital) that they have been giving.

I guess the lesson to be learnt here is that you can really underestimate how badly things can go for a bad business (I never considered APTT as a quality company).

Next up, I've added slightly to my position in HPH Trust. The dividend yield is eye popping, while I think the shipping industry is making a very slow turn around. I have got to say that the main thing for me is probably the ridiculous P/NAV discount and the yield that it spits out.

Finally, I took up positions in Singpost. Singpost has dropped to $1.39 from its peak of $2.15 just in early 2015. That's a 35% decline. Things has worsened a bit for the company, especially in its outlook and also its acquisitions, which is probably why the stock price has dropped.

Yahoo lists its EV/EBITDA as 12, but for some reason (probably shitty math), I got 17.5 when using 9m figures, haha. P/NAV is only a 80% instead of a whopping 180% in early 2015! I was pretty sure that the run up from early 2014 was entirely due to the "Alibaba effect".

ASSI wrote about Singpost recently, and Bruce from My Financial Freedom Journey has a nice valuation graph over time.

The baseline dividends that I'm looking at is 4c a year, down from the 6.5c in 2016, but at the price of $1.39, that's 2.8%, or almost 3% a year, looking at extreme scenarios. I think 6c is a more likely number, which is 4.3% yield, but all this number guessing is just as good as me pulling rabbits out of a hat.

Personally, Singpost is a company that I quite like, and I think I am going to be a rather happy investor in the future. I'm not expecting a massive surge in stock prices or anything, but I think it's going to be a steady long-term performer!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

My Keppel and Sembcorp in the Green

I've been so lazy (and also because the markets are sooooooooooooooooooooo boring) that I haven't done an update post to my SGX portfolio since April 2016, haha!

On the bright side, I do update the figures and it's all on my sticky page, I just haven't had the time to make a full post on it.

Guess what? I'll try to do one for end of Feb 2017, all right? No promises though. I might forget, haha!

Back in Apr 2017, Keppel and Sembcorp was 37% of my portfolio based on cost. Why cost? Because it's a static number and I'm lazy af. The good thing is that because I record based on cost, it's very easy for me to find out what is my average cost per share.

Anyway, since then and now, not much has changed. My portfolio's capital investment is ever so slightly higher, with some new investments made in Nov (all are doing quite well), and some trims like in PEC (56% returns), Food Empire (36% returns) and CNMC Goldmine (33% returns).


My highest purchase for Keppel was $8.48 and for Sembcorp it was $4.20. However, I doubled down on my investments in these stocks in January 2016, and that was my main accumulation point that helped me drop the average costs of my purchases to the $6.426 and $3.23 that we have now.

Looking at my investments as of now, Keppel is $6.89 (+7.2%) and Sembcorp is $3.34 (+3.4%).

This is likely due to crude recovering from it depths of under $30 USD per barrel to now at about $54. I've talked about oil a lot in the past, but my thesis was simple. At prices this low (back then!), not many producers can survive and while this low price might persist for the short term due to the glut in oil, it is not going to be the long term equilibrium price.

Which almost a solid 40% of my portfolio concentrated in just 2 stocks in 1 sector in 1 country, I'm running really high concentration risks. While now on hindsight it is easy to say that I should have dumped more into these stocks, since they seem to be poised to take off if a recovery unfolds, the truth is that at the time when I was buying all of these in late 2015 and early 2016, people were panicking like headless chickens and it took some real balls to plonk such a big position (at least, relative to my own portfolio) into these 2 stocks.

While taking a calculated investment into Keppel and Sembcorp and just waiting for the situation to repair itself, I have been collecting dividends on these fellows.

I've got 4.8% of my Keppel investment back, and I've got 3.7% of my Sembcorp investment back.

If I sold off all my shares now, I'd be looking at total returns of 12% for Keppel and 7.1% for Sembcorp.

However, I'm a greedy and patient man. I'm looking for much higher returns in both of these blue chips. And because I've managed to get into them low and have such a low average cost, I have a very comfortable buffer to keep me holding on because "I'm positive".

My personal outlook for oil and the oil sector is still not favourable, so once things start looking good, then I'll get ready to start letting go of my positions. Until then, I'm just sit on them and happily collect respectable dividends.

Am I crazy? I'm only going to sell when things are good and the price is high? Well...

Buy low, sell high. Right?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

GMGH's Top 12 LEGIT Korea Travelling Tips

I don't know about you, but I searched the internet for travel tips for Korea and I got really stupid tips. As someone who just came back from a 14 day trip to Korea and can actually speak (some) Korean, I'd like to share with you my LEGIT tips about Korea!

1. You don't NEED to buy any special train ticket to get from Incheon Airport to Seoul


Just like Narita-Tokyo which has the Skyliner train, Incheon-Seoul has the AREX which is a 43 minute non-stop train for 8,000 won ($10 SGD). However, this requires a special ticket. You do get your own seat,overhead space for belongs and luggage storage areas in each train car though.

Guess how long is the normal all-stop line that doesn't need a special ticket? 53 minutes. It's only 10 minuets longer, the fare is half the price at 3,950 won ($5 SGD) and you don't need to bother with getting any special tickets. To compare it with the Narita-Tokya Skyliner, that service cuts travel time from 2 hours to 45 minutes. Very big difference, in my opinion.

A major advantage of NOT taking the AREX is that you also don't need to take the line all the way to Seoul Station, which is especially useful if you are staying West of the station or along the central green circle line (line 2) because the all-stop station stops at Hongik, which is a transfer station to line 2.

Of course, if you really really want to have a seat the whole trip, have freaking a lot of baggage, don't mind paying double the fare, need to go to Seoul Station straight and don't mind bothering yourself a bit to buy the special tickets, you could take the AREX. I find myself hard-pressed to think of a situation where I would be doing that.

2. You need a good metro app, download THIS ONE


Seoul is freaking huge and it has TONS of metro stations and lines. It has 9 MAIN lines, the airport line and 8 auxiliary lines. It has a freaking a lot of lines. 

Pretty much everywhere you want to go or can go, you would take the metro and just walk. And because the metro is so dense, you probably don't need to walk more than 10-15 mins from the station to get to wherever you want to go.

You do not really want to take a bus, but if you really have to, you'll probably be only taking it once or twice (the opposite direction), so I don't really think there's a need for a bus app. You'll be taking the metro several times a day. You need a good metro app.

I strongly recommend Subway Korea (android link). Why? It has English, Korean, Chinese and Japanese translations of the app and station names, and it also has the metro lines in not only Seoul, but also Busan, Daejeon, Daegu and Gwangju! And with the timings, fares, station exits and recommended routes. It's freaking dope. This is hands down the best metro app I've used of all the cities I've been to!

3. For transportation, only get the T-MONEY card!


In Korea, there are quite a few transport cards and passes available. Sensepass, Hankkumi, POP, Upass, Mybi, cashBee, 3S, Hanaro, Mpass, Seoul Citypass... I'm telling you straight, unless you have a very special reason to get some other card or pass, ONLY GET T-MONEY. From my understanding, T-money is the only card that can be used on all the metro lines and buses in all the cities in Korea. Many of the others are region-specific (lol, Pokemon vocabulary?). Just get a T-money card and you can pretty much go anywhere and take anything in any city.*

*at least, I think so!

4. Ditch Google, use NAVER (if you know Hangeul)

Naver has 72% market share, Google has... 2%

If you have been searching for stuff on Google maps in Korea, you would have known by now that their map support is very lacking. Why? I hear it is because Korea does not want Google to have such a good map of their country because of North Korea.

Which is weird, since Naver maps is super awesome. I actually like Naver maps more than Google maps. They have aerial views, which are pretty cool! But I digress. Because Naver maps are more detailed, complete and updated, it's a heck of a lot easier finding locations, addresses and routes.

Naver is Korea's Google and things work slightly a bit different on it. Strangely, there are no aggregated websites for people to review food (like Yelp in the US, or even like HGW or Burpple in Singapore). Instead, they have BLOGS. Seriously, it's weird, but that's just how things are in Korea. If you want to find really good places to eat, you are going to have to search through blogs on Naver. The good thing is that any restaurant that is good and worth visiting 100% has a Naver blog post on it. If you're going to somewhere that doesn't even have one, you're asking for trouble.

5. Outside of touristy areas, you are going to need to know *some* Korean

very important phrase when talking to Korean girls


I swear, there are some places in Korea where you can get by entirely speaking in Mandarin. There are even specific areas (Myeongdong) and shopping malls (Lotte FITIN) which have tons of Mandarin speaking staff, which of course caters to all Chinese people, mainlanders or otherwise. Even signage there is in Chinese rather than English! Of course, all the touristy hotspots are going to have multi-lingual support (what is this, an app? lol), but they are mostly tourist traps.

However, if you are travelling out of Seoul or hunting down secret special spots away from the regular tourist spots (Common Ground y'all basic bitches, half of the people there are from Singapore taking pictures with the blue containers? hokay, can), chances are that "English is not supported". Unless you have studied or bothered to learn some Korean before your trip, you might have problems. While a phrasebook is better than nothing, a translator is going to really help you out here. You can just type or speak what is on your mind, let it translate, and you can tap the speech icon to make your phone read out the Korean that you most probably can't read. Although you are probably not going to understand their reply, at least the conversation is now 50% comprehendable instead of 0%, haha! 

Again, Naver kicks Google's butt in this category. They have a phone app called Papago which is MANY MANY times better than Google Translate. As a Korean learner, you have got to trust me when I say that Korean is downright the hardest language I have learnt when it comes to translations (I have studied 5 languages). There are so many omissions and subtle nuances, literal phrases that have a different intended meaning... it's a mess! Papago does a much better job than Google Translate, but like I said, Korean is a really tough language to translate. The bright side is that English-> Korean translations work out a lot better than Korean-> English ones. So if you are using a translator to communicate your intentions, it should work out.

6. Learn Hangeul, the Korean alphabet. I swear, it takes only 2 hours


Ice Cream. Hamburger. Hot Dog. Pizza. Pasta. Baguette. Orange. Peach. Banana. Pineapple. Coffee. Americano. Latte. Mocha. Chocolate. Coke. Supermarket. Mart. Apartment. Card. News. Shopping. Bus. Taxi. 

Do you know what all these words have in common? In Korean, they are pronounced the same, or very similar! In fact, there are many words that are written in Korean that sound the same in English and has the same meaning as the English word. However, if you can't read Hangeul, you'd have no clue about all these signs and words everywhere that are actually really easy to understand!

A bonus fun fact is that this is English-Korean hack also works for Chinese-Korean! If you are a Mandarin speaker, you are going to realize that tons of Korean words are actually from Chinese. However, the pronunciation varies a bit larger for Chinese-Korean words.

化妆室 is a makeup room, which is literally a makeup room for Korean girls lol (and toilet for men)
图书馆 is the library and sounds 90% the same in Korean

In fact, many of the historical places in Korea has direct word to word translations in Chinese. The famous seaside temple in Busan is 해동 용궁사 (hae dong yong gung sa), which is 海东龙宫寺 (hai dong long gong si) which is of course also directly translated to the East Ocean Dragon Palace Temple. 

Hangeul is made up of only 40 different sound blocks. It is a created writing system, meaning that there are some very logical and functional features to the alphabet, and they even LOOK like what they sound. Take the word "Banana" for example. 바나나. Can you guess what the "a" sound is?  ㅏ is the "a" sound! ㅂ is the "b" sound and ㄴ is the "n" sound! See, I just taught you 3/40 of the Korean alphabets is like 20 seconds.

Hangeul has been routinely nominated by many linguistics as the easiest written language in the world. The King who created it has been popularly quoted to have said "A wise man can acquaint himself before the morning is over; a stupid man can learn it over 10 days". 

I self-taught myself how to read some Korean over the internet perhaps 6 years ago, and for my first trip to Korea, even without ever going to any classes or practicing, after just 2 days of looking at all the station names on the metro, I could remember the alphabet and recognize a lot of words and sounds!

Although this is actually my TOP TIP, I know that 90% of people are not going to bother with this, especially if it's just a short trip, less than a week, and if they have no plans to re-visit again. However, I think knowing Hangeul really enhances the Korea experience by multitudes and pushes you from clueless tourist to a cultural explorer!

7. If you see a waste basket beside the toilet bowl, even in the men's room, throw your used toilet paper in there


This one was really a big shocker for me. I know that this happens in China and even Taiwan, where the plumbing system is not good enough to flush down toilet paper and gets clogged by even toilet paper ever so often. 

For me, it's hard to wrap my brain around the fact that there are MANY MANY places in Korea that do not have sufficient flush power to handle toilet paper, so they have to separate toilet paper and poop. It's also kind of disgusting, but oh well.

Anyway, yeah, throw your used toilet paper into that waste basket. The last thing you'd want is for your crap to backflow out of the toilet. It's not so bad if you are in an apartment (still quite bad though), but the worst would be in those small restaurants. It would be freaking embarrassing to the max. You would have brought many great shame and dishonour to your family. Shame. Shame!

8. Know where your toilets are


On a related note, you should always know where your toilets are. Unlike Singapore where it is easy to pop into any shopping centre and use the restroom, shopping centres aren't on every street in Korea.

Surprisingly, all metro stations will have a toilet and every metro station toilet that I have used has had very acceptable toilet standards!

Of course, shopping centres will have them. Not all restaurants and F&B have their own toilets, and it is not unusual to have to walk some distance to a shared toilet by all the surrounding businesses. 

Remember, the 3 magical words of hwa jang shil, 화장실, 化妆室 will be your best friend. It's okay, you don't even need to make a full sentence. Just say that those words and raise the tone at the end, give your shoulders a shrug and have a confused face! Then follow their hand actions to the nearest toilet! 

9. Calling people the right way


Unless you are going for the HEY IM A TOURIST style, it would be best to call people in the right way, instead of "HEY HEY DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?". Even if you can only start the sentence in Korean and say the rest in English, they are going to be a lot happier, nicer and patient to help / talk to you!

Personally, I use the flattering rule of minus one. It's not a real rule. I just made it up on the spot. But basically, whatever you think the person is, just minus one to their "title".

An old grandmother (halmoni) -> call her ahjumma
A middle aged lady (ahjumma) -> call her yi-mo (aunt)

An old grandfather (hallaboji) -> call him ahjuhssi
A middle aged man (ahjuhssi) -> call him saam-chon (uncle)

If you are under 20, you can also go another level lower by calling people in their 20s as older brother (oppa for girls, hyung for guys) or older sister (unni for girls, noona for guys)!

For people same age or younger, just a simple "Excuse me" to get their attention is usually good. It rhymes a bit like Tokyo, but it's chor-ki-yo 저기요 .

10. Enable M1 Data Passport if you are on M1, it is freaking awesome 


I have a local monthly data plan of 7GB. With just $10 freaking measly bucks, I can use all that data in Korea without having to deal with any SIM card nonsense. Screw those wifi eggs. You need them to be charged to use them as well! Unless you are travelling in a group (which I think the wifi eggs might also have data and speed caps), getting this kind of ultra cheap data roaming is the way to go. Let's see the plan by other carriers. 

Singtel Ready Roam - 1GB for 30 days, $20, 11 APAC countries
Starhub DataTravel - 2GB for 30 days, $15, 9 APAC countries
Starhub DataTravel - 3GB for 30 days, $20, 9 APAC countries

Compared to M1 Data Passport, $10 for 7GB (because of my regular monthly plan), I think we can safely say that Singtel is absolute shit while Starhub is only half shit and M1 is golden.

Data Passport is the BEST thing about M1, and it is the only reason that is keeping me from switching telecomm carrier.

*THIS IS NOT PAID ADVERTISING THOUGH I WOULD APPRECIATE IF M1 CONTACTED ME AND GAVE ME SOME MONEY KTHX.*

11. Convert money quickly - Rule of 1000 and 20% 


Having to deal with other currencies is always a pain. You could pop out your smartphone and pull up your currency app or calculator, but I find that the quickest way to give you a fairly accurate estimate is using the rule of 1000 and 20%.

You just divide the amount by 1000 and add 20% to it to get the value in SGD.

Let's use the tickets to Lotte World (the amusement park) which costs 52,000 won as an example.

52,000 won
Divide by 1000 to get 52
Add 20% and get about 62

Using spot FX rate, you get $64.71, but you get what I mean. Not perfect, but really, good enough.

12. Bring your passport if you are going shopping


Korea has their own version of GST. Most proper shops, especially those in the tourist areas will allow you to claim immediate tax refund, but only if the total amount is more than 30,000 won (~ $37 SGD). If you bring your passport, they will give you the refund immediately and you can save the time and hassle of claiming the tax refund at the airport and then packing it into your luggage there!

Summary

I had a freaking great time in Korea. In fact, it has been one of my best holidays to-date, up there with Japan and New Zealand

Korea can be a bit daunting because of it's very distinct culture and different language. However, it is a very modernised country, crime is low and people are friendly enough. Arm yourself with my tips and you won't be the most noob, I promise!

Anyway, I hope that my tips are useful to you if you are planning to go to Korea soon. Let me know which tip you are going to use, and if you guys have another good tips about Korea to share! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Travelling is Cheap if you are


What would you do if you won the $12 million TOTO jackpot?

"Oh, I would have a big party, buy 2 nice condos, live in 1 and rent out the other, then I will go and travel the world!"

That's nice. But why can't you travel now?

"Travelling is EXPENSIVE. I can't afford to travel!"

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Have you heard that kind of conversation before? Personally, I don't buy that sort of excuse, and the reason for that is simply because I have already done cheap travelling, so I believe that is is entirely possible to do so, if you are willing.

Going for expensive and lavish vacations and spending money is not a problem. It's easy. Here's $5k, go blow it in a week. Actually, I'm sure I could do it in a day. Going for a vacation on a budget, but still being comfortable and enjoying your trip is a skill. A skill that many people are lacking - and I believe it is just plainly due to the lack of practice, not the inability to learn such a "hard" skill.

Just take a look at the trips I've taken in the past few years and tell me if that is expensive to you.

Trip     Days       Trip Total Cost      Daily Average   
Hong Kong
5
$801
$160.20
Bali*
6
$1045
$174.17
Beijing / Seoul*
6
$1679
$279.83
New Zealand
11
$3348
$304.36
Tokyo
7
$1392
$198.85
Korea
14
$1560
$111.43
*I bought expensive tickets for this trip because my friends only confirmed at the last minute... which is why you should always book your stuff in advance!


Okay guys, in case it looks a bit confusing, the trip total cost is the cost of the ENTIRE trip, this means airfare, accommodations, local transportation, food and drinks and entertainment.

For atas airline travellers, maybe my entire cost is the same price as your airline ticket, haha!

The reason why I've put up the daily average cost is also to show people that the daily cost of going overseas doesn't have to be expensive, especially if you are being pragmatic.


Be pragmatic about flights

The area where I see people burn away the most amount of money is on airline tickets. Because they avoid certain carriers or exclusively only fly on certain ones, they are stuck having only pricier options when it comes to travelling.

Personally, I just sit on the plane, sleep, then walk out of the plane.

Then again, I know crazy people who can't take flights more than X number of hours, cannot make stopovers, have particular seat preferences, and are picking the airlines based on the FOOD (oh gawd, seriously?).

I like to frame it in a different way. You can take option 1 and have everything you want and pay $1400, or you can take option 2, have a 3 hour stopover and save $900.

That's freaking $300 an hour, but whatever. I mean, this is a personal finance blog about how to save money. Spending money takes no effort. Saving money requires skill and practice.


Be pragmatic about accommodations

Of course, if you're the type that needs MINIMUM 4 stars for your precious body to sleep, you are looking at daily accoms expenses of at least $100 per night (if you are travelling as a couple). Travelling solo with luxurious needs is obviously more expensive because of no economics of scale.

Personally, I don't believe in splurging $300 per night, only to be out of the hotel all day. It's just a place to store my belongings, take a shower and sleep for the night. What are you doing in your hotel all day? Having a photoshoot in your room or what? There should be a balance of location, convenience, creature comforts, price and value. Of course living in the city centre is going to be a bit more expensive, but transportation and nearby amenities will probably be more than worth those extra dollars if you can count the time saved from shorter commutes and the convenience of amenities. So, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying to pick the cheapest option. I'm saying that you just be aware just exactly what you're paying for when you book an accommodation.

If you want to sleep in, use the hotel facilities and order room service, what can I say? Perhaps maybe there isn't a need to go overseas then, a staycay should be enough for you, and it would cost a fraction of an overseas trip.



Be pragmatic about timing

The biggest lesson I learnt about timing was when I was in Europe and I stayed in a hostel for - get this - $6 SGD a night. No Shit. It was lull season so there weren't much tourists visiting. Everything was cheap and everywhere had no queues. Apparently, in the summer, prices are 5 times more expensive. And I wasn't at some summer beach resort city. I was visiting a land-locked country which had attractions which were indifferent to the seasons.

Deciding to go to places because of a specific time can be a huge money saver. It could be an airline promotion. A drop in their currency. Just a general low tourist period. Anything that isn't running near full capacity will more than happy to drop prices to get people through the door. This isn't always the case, but it's rather common.

Personally, I love travelling during winter because I hate the heat in Singapore. Unsurprisingly, travelling in winter for most other people is uncomfortable and not fun, so I usually manage to snag good discounts purely because of the time that I choose to travel.

If you want to travel during long weekends and long holidays because that's the best and easiest time for you to rally travel companions together, guess what genius? It's the same for everybody else too! It's no surprise that these are the most expensive times to travel.

Do everything in advance

Book your tickets in advance.
Book your accomms in advance.
Book your activities in advance.

Not only do MANY MANY places reward you and give you a discount for booking in advance, some places REQUIRE you to book 3-7 days in advance for some activities. Booking in advance also ensures that you can go for your activities, rather than to be disappointed that it is unavailable because you were too late in confirming.

Also, booking in advance also helps you become more aware and observant about your whole trip in general. After making your booking, you might notice a competitor offering a deal which is even cheaper or better than what you booked. You can just cancel that booking and hop onto the better deal. However, if you don't start looking early, you can't spot what you are not even aware about!


Summary

Honestly, travelling comfortably and cheaply is not mutually exclusive.

Of course, if money isn't a problem for you and you shit gold coins, then fantastic, spend big time on your holidays and go for the royal treatment.

I don't know about you guys, but I actually enjoy fumbling around by myself, figuring out how to ride the metro, navigating by foot to different locations and eating local street food. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not ready to be taxi-ed around everywhere, walking on red carpets into high end stores and fine dining restaurants. That's not my idea of a vacation, but perhaps it is yours.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that as long as you have realistic expectations on your travel style and activities, and are pragmatic in your planning, travelling does not have to be an activity that only the rich can enjoy.

Let me know about your cheap trips or travel tips to save money!

Friday, February 17, 2017

GMGH's Holiday To Korea!

(I'm going to try to follow the format I did for my last NZ trip and Japan trip!)

Like I mentioned in January, I went for a nice vacation over the long Chinese New Year holiday this year. I'm now back in Singapore and I'm missing the lovely cool winter weather. The mystery destination this time was probably not hard to guess at all... Korea!

서면 Seomyeon, where all the hip people get drunk in Busan 부산

Airfare

Just like Japan, the first thing that pushed me to select Korea was the crazy, unbelievably good priced tickets that I managed to snag.

Actually, I had already planned to go to Korea for quite some time and I knew that tickets to Korea typically cost about $700-900. I was just browsing through the dates and options about 3 months in advance in October to travel in January (yes, that's how long ago I've been preparing and anticipating to go to Korea) and then I saw this CRAZY deal!

I managed to get a return flight on Thai Airways, with a stopover at BKK both ways, and an additional technical stop at HK on the way back, with 30kg check-in baggage allowance and onboard meals included for an absolutely ridiculous bargain basement price of... $354.90. Yup, that's right. Dirt cheap? I think so, especially considering how far away Korea is!


I found my ticket using Kayak and Skyscanner, as usual, and I booked direct with Thai Airways because they had the best price.

Accommodation

Usually when I travel alone, I do not stay in hotels. For me, I don't like paying a premium for a room and extra facilities which I'm barely going to be in or to enjoy at all. Therefore, I usually prefer to stay in cheaper options, like hostels. Hostels in Korea are plentiful, so I decided to stay in hostels (only if they had private rooms) and motels. Although staying in a private room is definitely way more expensive than staying in multiple beds shared dorm rooms, I value the security of my belongings and I like to have everything out in a very organized mess, so I went with private rooms.

I managed to stay in 4 different accommodations (5 if you count my overnight stay in the spa), 2 motels and 2 private hostel rooms. The weighted average rating for my accommodations was 9.16 based on Agoda and 9.21 based on Booking.com. All of them had fantastic locations, less than 3 minutes walk from the metro station. I only had 1 issue, which was that one of the motels didn't have hot water for a particular night, so I only could take a shower the next morning. But meh, small issue.

So for my 14 nights, I spent a grand total of - get this - $519.19, or an average of $37 per night for private rooms.

Transportation

This wasn't my first time to Korea, but I think I wasn't too aware and just blur the last time I went. I didn't realize just how big the Seoul metro was, and also about the metro lines in the other cities! Of course, I took the metro and walked most of the time, though I did take buses, but not too often.

I got myself a T-money card (don't get the other cards, I'll explain in another post!) and throughout my entire 14 day trip, I spent 53,700 KRW ($65 SGD) on all metro travelling, which works out to about $5 a day. This is cheap! I remember that Tokyo was twice as expensive!

T-money is for inter city transportation. Since I flew into Busan and flew out from Seoul, I had to make my way across the country myself, and the natural choice is of course to take the KTX. I booked my tickets in advance online, so it was all very smooth and easy peasy. With 1 pit-stop, my journey across the country was just 60,100 KRW ($75 SGD)!

I spent A LOT of time walking when I was in Korea. I walked a total of 143km over the course of 14 days, which works out to about 10km a day. Cabs aren't that expensive, but I still felt like everything was rather nearby, I wasn't rushing to places, so I just had nice walks in the cool winter weather!

Sightseeing / Activities

When I told people that I would be in Korea for 14 days, they all told me that it was way too long and I was going to get bored. All these people were wrong because I was doing different things in Korea every single day and I still have things that I didn't manage to see or do, don't even talk about eat!

I skipped quite a bit of the usual touristy stuff. The palace in the middle? Nope. The DMZ? Nope. Hanok Village? Nope. Namsan Tower? Nope. (Well, maybe next time I'll go with a special someone and do the lock thing, hur hur)

I do like city views and managed to get some good views from Naksan Park 낙산공원, which is free, but nice! I was actually feeling a bit under the weather, if not I would've wanted to walk the whole park!

The thing about Korea that is quite different from my other trips is that I have quite a number of friends living in Korea. Instead of doing all the usual touristy stuff, I opted instead to hang out with my friends and do things that are a bit less touristy and that they would also enjoy too, instead of feeling like they are chaperoning me around! In the end, I ended up eating... A LOT and also ended up at karaokes every other day! Haha!

Picture time!

감천문화마을 Gamcheon Cultural Village in Busan

해동 용궁사 East Sea Dragon Temple

오룍도 Oryukdo Skywalk

광안리 Gwanganli Beach

해운대 Haeundae Beach

달맞이 Dalmaji Road


문탠로드에서 해월사 Haewoljeong Pavilion on Moontan Road

 해운대 전통시장 Haeundae Traditional Market

 롯대월드 Lotte World Amusement Park... it was WAY more crowded than it looks here

 DDP LED 장미 Dongdaemun Design Plaza LED Roses

Ridiculous thing at Gangnam 강남

 노량진 시장 Noryangjin Fish Market

 광장시장 Gwangjang Market

 홍대 밤 Hongdae in the evening

낙산 공원 야경 Naksan Park night view

Food and Drinks

Of course, what kind of shit Singaporean would I be if I didn't go over to other countries and raided their food supplies?

Ready for my take on Korean food? Way better and way cheaper than in Singapore! This is very very different from Japanese food in Japan. In Japan, what I personally felt was that whatever I could get in Japan, I could get something of very similar quality in Singapore, with pretty much the same price or - dare I say it - even cheaper than in Japan.

However, this is surprisingly very wildly different in Korean. Korean food across the board was cheaper than any Korean food that you can get in Singapore and the quality and taste was significantly better. Korea does lack a variety of food when it comes to the budget category (under $5, or 4000 KRW), but all my restaurant meals were very affordable, kept firmly between the $10 and $20 range. This means a proper table setting, with side dishes, real utensils, wait service and access to restrooms. I kept wondering what the monthly rental and workers wages were whenever I ate at restaurants.

Korean food suits my tastebuds well because I can eat spicy food and I enjoy the occasional drink with my meals, which Koreans do fantastically well for dinners! While most people think of Korean food as "Saba Fish Set", "Chicken / Pork / Beef Bulgogi Set", "Kimchi Stew with Ramen Noodles" along with side dishes of ikan bilis and like a bite of kimchi, and the better ones can say budaejjigae 부대찌개 Army Stew, the reality is that there are lots of Korean food and I had the immense pleasure of tasting lots of them!

Never failing me, one of my best meals in Korea was Shake Shack in Gangnam. Yeah, that's right. American burgers in Korea was one of my best meals! The experience was way better than in Japan because the queue was much, much, much shorter, the seating area was quite big and the food was orgasmic as usual. Perhaps the 2 most interesting things that I ate were 번대기 silkworm pupa and 곰장어 hagfish. Tasty... is debatable, but it was for the experience!

Anyway, I'll let my pictures do the talking for the rest of my food.

오겹살 Five-layered Fat Pork, like the zhng version of samgyeopsal

떡볶이하고 순대 Rice Cakes and Blood Sausages... this ahjumma said I'm very handsome, heh

족발 Pig Trotters - Original and Spicy

번데기 Silkworm pupae, mmm nom nomz

 섞어국밥 Pig Innards Rice Soup

 새우만두하고 찜만두 Prawn and Steam Dumplings

 해물파전하고 막어리 Seafood Pancake with Makeoli

 부산 코라사 어묵 Famous Busan Fishcakes

 전복 해물 된장찌개 Abalone Seafood Spicy Beanpaste Soup

왕갈비탕 King Beef Ribs Soup

 곰장어 Bear Eel, or Hagfish (quite gross looking, fyi)

 동래파전 Dongnae Pancakes and Makeoli

 샤브샤브 Shabu Shabu

치즈 가리비 Cheesy Seashells (Shellfish)

 게장 Fermented Salty Crabs

부대찌개 Army Stew is pretty common food, but this one was freaking delicious

 칼국수 Thick Cut Noodles, apparently North Korean style

 섹섹 Shake Shack. Jizzed my pants while eating this

 명동교자칼국수 Apparently really famous Thick Cut Noodles in Myeong Dong

 닭갈비 Chicken Ribs at... Yoogane lol. It's more than 50% cheaper than in SG

 전 전 전 전 Lots of different types of panckes, re-fried and served piping hot!

I'm having some technical difficulities uploading some picutres, so that is all that you can get! I'm sure it should be enough to make you feel hungry though, especially if you crave nice, warm and comforting soups!

My Bill

Airfare: $354.90
Accommodation: $519.19
Transport (Inter City): 60,100 ($75 SGD)
Transport (Intra City): 53,700 ($65 SGD)
Food: 477,600 ($578 SGD)
Attractions, Entertainment, Drinks, Misc: 86,700 ($105 SGD)

Total: $1,697.09

I don't know if it's a fair way to do this, but I signed up for the SCB Singpost Card just so that I could eat the $138 cash credit by using it to pay for the airfare and other stuff. I think I wouldn't be too wrong to attribute the $138 to offset my spending, since I only got the card to buy the tickets and get the cash credit, haha!

My actual spending for the trip was $1,560! (rounded up from $1,559.09)

So there you have it, a 2 week trip to a winter country where I stayed in good, well-located, private room accommodations and I ate like a freaking boss, all on a very friendly budget!

This was really one of my better trips. I think I was decently well-prepared and I managed to fill up my entire 14 day schedule with loads of food, activities and friends! I'm proud to say that I only repeated 1 meal my entire trip! That means I really ate a ton of different food!

Korea was a fantastic holiday for me. I'm quite sure that I am going to head back again within the next 2 years, to catch up with friends, to eat more delicious food and to explore other areas that I haven't been to (like the Palace? HAHA I'm such a bad tourist)! But then again, even just a chill trip away to escape the Singapore heat and to bum around with friends and good food is always a good idea!

I have maybe 1 or a few more follow up posts about my Korea trip coming up next, so stay tuned for that! Comment or let me know if you have any questions!