Sandbox Reviews

Naked and Muddy at Daecheon Beach — A Review

Posted by on Sep 18, 2012 in Destinations, Featured, Korea, Sandbox Reviews | 11 comments

The mud fest crowds were long gone from Daecheon Beach on our recent weekend getaway. Luckily for us, we could still get naked and experience the famous Boryeong mud. The mud spa is happy to accommodate anyone who wants to pay the price to have their body slathered in mud, and their body  pummelled oops massaged into a glorious state of relaxation. The spa begins with a trip to the traditional spa where you can skinny dip in the hot and cold medicinal spa, including a hot tub of mud. We were also told to spend at least 15 minutes in the sauna before we made our way over to the Mud Center. Once we made it there we were shown to these contraptions.

Our Korean masseuse waiting to show us into the capsules.

They reminded me of a sunbed, but I found out they were much hotter as I sweated out more body toxins during the 30 minutes I was inside. I did like the detox, but would have much preferred it in the winter time. Our insufferably hot summer was not yet a memory, so this VERY hot capsule was making me a tad antsy.

Then it was onto the massage table where we were covered with famous Boryeong mud from head to toe. Once we were slathered up, it was time for the massage. A massage in Korea is a little rougher than those I’ve had in Thailand or Bali, so be warned. Pummelling finished, we were instructed to lay for 30 minutes to let the mud do its magic. From the massage table it was into the shower. With glowing clean, soft skin it was into the jazcuzzi for 15 minutes of soaking before getting dressed and heading back to the real world.

Of course, first we could shop for mud spa goodies in the spa gift shop. I bought a nice gift package featuring a variety of mud products for only $15.00(US).


The Boryeong Mud Skin Care Center is conveniently located on the road facing the beach; impossible to miss. The center is open from early morning to late evening. If you don’t want the mud massage and facial, you can opt for the traditional sauna and hot/cold water pools. There is even a mud pool. The price is an affordable $6(US). The mud massage and facial that we opted for was approximately $36(US) and the treatment lasted a couple of hours. I thought it was very good value for the price.

The spa does not have a website. It’s best to drop in, and they do have English speakers on staff who are eager to help you.

Of course, you can always visit Daecheon Beach during the annual mud fest, and get down and muddy with thousands of others.

Boryeong Mud Festival

Have you ever had a mud spa? What did you think?

Follow BTS on Facebook


Read More

Packing It Up in Style — A Suitcase Review

Posted by on Jun 23, 2012 in Sandbox Reviews, Uncategorized | 11 comments

At the top of my shopping list when I was in Halifax last summer was a new suitcase. I found a great one, big but not too big, and an animal print that would stand out on any airline conveyor belt. I still remember laughing when the woman explained the five year warranty on the frame and handle, and explaining to her that I didn’t live in Canada. Well, that must have been an omen. Unbeknownst to me, Air Canada did ruin the frame, and I didn’t discover the damage until I used the bag again a couple of months later. The handle no longer retracts. Sighhh…I’ve used it a couple of times since, and each time the handle gets a little more beat up.

Finally on Tuesday, I decided enough! and I headed off to the local department store. My budget was low, $125.00 max. I also wanted something light, and bright, and those wheels that kind of make your bag dance along the sidewalk.

After a lot of looking, and probably stressing out the sales people watching the crazy foreign lady take every bag off the shelf and give it a test spin down the isle, I chose a light bag at a good price. I had to compromise on the color, and I didn’t get the “dancing wheels”, but at a little over a hundred dollars, I can’t complain.

And here it is…

Not the bright color I had envisioned, but I can live with it. In this photo it could pass for black, but actually it’s brown.

The brand is Atlas (of course, made in China). The weight (or lack of it really impresses me), and it’s a perfect size 49x69x28cm. There’s an outside pocket, and both a side and top handle. There’s also a handy lock. It looks like it can handle a beating from the cargo hold and the conveyor belt.

And inside…

Honestly, the inside kind of reminds me of a coffin! The material is light and kind of shiny. I like the zippered pouch in the main part of the case. Great for storing underwear! Then there is the net bag inside the cover, and a place for shoes. I’m going to be able to organize everything perfectly.

I’m happy with my purchase, and pleased that I am taking off to Prague on Monday with a suitcase that is not damaged, at a price that didn’t break the bank.

What about you? Do you look for luggage that is good value for your money, or do you go for the expensive stuff?


Check out more Sandbox Reviews

Follow BTS on Facebook.

Read More

W Bistro…A Bistro with a Korean Twist in Downtown Daejeon, Korea

Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Korea, Sandbox Reviews | 4 comments

I recently attended a tasting at a new Bistro in downtown Daejeon. Here’s an excerpt from the email we received introducing the tasting…

On April 15th at W-Bistro in Eunhaeng-dong (Daejeon’s old downtown) there will be a major tasting event. This event is to do with traditional KOREAN “jang” based dishes. “Jangs” are the Korean paste/ sauce bases that underly much of their cuisine, similar to the way French (and much western) cuisine is based around white, brown and clear sauces.

…. it will be Fine-Dining/ Haute Cuisine and as said, includes wine…but its not a drink-fest (alas!).

When we arrived we were warmly greeted by busy staff, adding the finishing touches to the restaurant and the tables. The bistro is a cozy affair with lots of natural light. We were sat at an elegantly set window table.

The title of the event was “Fermentation” , and when we took our seats we discovered why. The dishes served would feature DoenJang (Korean Fermented Soybean Paste), GanJang (Korean Soy Sauce), and GochuJang (Korean fermented red chili paste).

Our chef took the floor to welcome everyone (in Korean and English)…



Presented on a bone white china serving tray, were the appetizers…

First, Tangyeonchae… mung-bean jelly, celery, water parsley, bean spout and laver…










Then, the shrimp with pine nut cream…shrimp, pine nut, cucumber, pear…


And last but not least…Japchae…rice paper, mushroom, paprika, green pumpkin…

I enjoyed all three with my favorite being the shrimp. While being very rich, I enjoyed the nice range of flavors from the pine nut to the pear.

The second course began with Abalone with pomegranate…chili paste sauce, abalone, cumquat, daikon, and Chinese cabbage.


The vegetables and sauce complement the abalone nicely, and I loved the presentation. The comment was made that the abalone was a bit tough.

The abalone was followed by steamed tofu with Ssamjang sauce…tofu, mushroom, butterbur, beet and violet sweet potato…

The sweet potato, beet, and ssamjang combined to give this dish a nice blend of flavors, and this was one of my favorites. I thought that cranberry, lemon or basil could also be added to give it a little more oomph.

Next up was the sauteed short arm Octupus with red chili dipping sauce… short arm octopus. rice, tomato, crown daisy…



The onion and tomato combined for an explosion of flavor, and the octopus was perfectly cooked.






The second course ended with Grilled tilapia with soybean paste, velote tiapia, sesame leaf, radish, mushroom, celery, violet cabbage…; served with a sweet white wine (Korean brand)…

I loved the presentation, and this was my favorite of the second course tastings. The radish added a unique flavor. I would have preferred a wine that was not quite so sweet.

A dish of sherbet to freshen the palette… and we were ready to sample the main course…braised beef short rib with sweet soy sauce…beef short rib, asparagus, mushroom, carrot and turnip…

The vegetable were cooked to perfection. The meat was flavorful, but a bit stringy. I enjoyed the hint of sweetness in this dish.


And of course what would a tasting be without desert…Makgeolli tiramisu and sweet potato Sikhye…makgeolli, mascarpone cheese, sweet potato, rice…


One word…………………YUM!!!!

Accompanying each course was Makgeolli…traditional Korean rice wine. There are many different flavors and each brand is usually associated with the area where it is produced. If you’re interested in learning more about Makgeolli here is a link…Makgeolli


My first experience with nouveau Korean cuisine and definitely not the last.


Thank you W Bistro for wonderful evening…..



W Bistro is located in Eunhaeng Dong, downtown Daejeon; steps from the Brickhouse bar. As I am finishing this post I realize that I don’t have their address or opening hours. I will find out and amend this post in the next day or two.

(Please note…no compensation was received for this review and all opinions expressed are mine.)


Follow BTS on Facebook

Read More

Hanging Out at the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art — A Review

Posted by on Mar 3, 2012 in Korea, Sandbox Reviews | 8 comments

I went into Seoul this past Friday to do a few things, and Thursday night I decided I needed a museum fix. I am a self-professed museum junky, and with Spain behind me, it had been at least two weeks since I had stepped foot in a museum of any kind. There is usually at least one major exhibit going on in Seoul this time of year, but all my Goggle searching brought up nothing. I had never been to the Leeum, a private museum funded by Samsung, so after some discussion with my friend we decided on an afternoon visit.

For some strange reason I forgot to get a photo of the building from the outside (and I liked it), but I did get this photo to the sculpture. Here we have a set of spiders sculpted by French artist Louise Bourgeois.

From the English brochure…

“Taking the form of a giant spider, the bronze sculpture Maman, which received worldwide attention upon its debut, represents secret fears the artist experienced as a child, and conjures up a powerful psychological fantasy.”


Louise Bourgeios's Maman, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art

What do you think?


The lobby is very modern, and high tech; no surprise since the museum is owned by electronics giant Samsung…

Lobby of the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul

There are even computers available to search for detailed information about individual items in the collection.


Museum number 1 houses a fabulous collection of Korean traditional art. Many of the celedon pieces (glazed pottery) dates back to the 12th century and many of the pieces are considered national treasures. The celedon collection was my favorite. The Buddhist art is also not to be missed.

Photos are not permitted in the galleries. However, you can view photos of the collection a the museum’s website…

Leeum Samsung Museum of Art

Museum number 2 houses both Korean and international art works. I didn’t find this collection to suit my taste in art. However, there were a few interesting pieces, and definitely worth the time to visit. I swear I saw Donald Duck in drag in one of the paintings!


You can even purchase copies of some of those treasures in the lobby gift shop. You could easily “blow” your budget here; be warned!

Gift Shop at the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul


Although not on the same level as Spain’s Prado or Reina Sophia museums, a visit to the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art is worthy of an afternoon, and very affordable for budget travelers. Tickets to the permanent collection are 10,000KW (approx. $10.00 US).
We didn’t take the audio guide, but I noted that the rental price was around $2.00.

The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays 10:30am – 6:00pm.

The closest subway is station is Hangangin, Line 6. Come out at Exit 1, and walk a few minutes. You can’t miss the sign for the museum.

Leeum Samsung Museum of Art

Read More

Wanderfood Wednesday — Jerusalem Falafel Restaurant — A Review — Chiang Mai, Thailand

Posted by on Jan 11, 2012 in Sandbox Reviews, Uncategorized, Wanderfood Wednesday | 6 comments

Wednesday is here, and it’s time for another week of Wanderfood Wednesday kindly hosted by Wanderlust and Lipstick.

This is also the first post in a new feature here at BTS; Sandbox Reviews. I’ll be regularly featuring reviews for budget restaurants, hotels, and things to do. Guest posters will also be welcome to submit reviews.

Located in the heart of old Chiang Mai, Jerusalem Falafel Restaurant is not new to the dining scene in Chiang Mai, but last night was my first time to have the pleasure of dining here.

Jerusalem Falafel Restaurant, Chiang Mai

Featuring an extensive Middle Easter Menu, choosing an appetizer and a main course was no easy feat. I finally decided on an appetizer of stuffed dolma leaves. I was not disappointed. What a burst of flavor! I would say these were the best stuffed dolma leaves I have ever eaten! The onions added an extra special touch to the dish.

Stuffed Dolma Leaves

I love falafel and for my main course I chose the Falafel Hummus Plate. A side salad, french fries, and pita bread completed the main course. The hummus was delicious, and the falafel was cooked just right, moist without being wet. The salad was fresh and crunchy and the french fries were perfect.

Falafel Hummus Plate

The restaurant has a warm, homey feel, and you can eat inside or out.

My entire meal with a glass of wine was well under $10.00US.

If you are in Chiang Mai, and have a hankering for Middle Eastern Cuisine, don’t miss the Jerusalem Falafel Restaurant. Your taste buds and your pocketbook will thank you!

Check out the first photo in this post for opening hours, etc.

You can also find them on Facebook, where they have posted a location map…Jerusalem Falafel Restaurant 



Read More

4 Hotels Under $25: Cheap, Yet So Amazing You Won’t Want to Leave!

Posted by on Dec 11, 2010 in Guest Posts, Sandbox Reviews, Uncategorized | 22 comments

This is a guest post from Michael at Darn Good Digs, where you can find amazing budget accommodation at equally amazing prices. Thank you Michael, for being a guest poster here at Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Sometimes the less you pay, the more you get when traveling.  Places like Mayoka Village on Lake Malawi or Le Rendez-Vous in Southern Ecuador prove the point.  These are the kinds of dirt cheap hotels where you might intend to spend a night, but end up changing your plans to stay for weeks – simply because the rooms are so inviting, the food so delicious, and the vibe just right.  At Darn Good Digs, we are excited to share four of our favorite under $25 hotels from our extensive online guide to the world’s best independent hotels for budget-minded travelers:

Mustapha’s Place is a quirky and funky hotel set in leafy gardens, just two minutes away from a stunning tropical beach on Zanzibar island with powdery white sand and turquoise ocean. The nine guest cottages, with telling names like the Treetop Room and Swiss Banda, are made from local materials such as makuti thatch and coral rock and are decorated with African fabrics and murals by local artists. The chef specializes in Zanzibari dishes and Swahili seafood such as plantains in coconut milk and octopus stew, as well as vegetarian meals using fresh produce and island spices. The bar serves up local beers and cocktails, and a simple breakfast of fresh fruit, toast, and eggs, along with coffee or tea, is included.
Prices start at US$15.



Le Rendez-Vous, situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains, is a guest house on a quiet street just a few blocks from the main square of Vilcabamba, a small town in southern Ecuador. Several rooms surround a tropical garden with views of the red rocks and mountains in the distance, and all rooms have small patios with a table, chairs, and hammock, perfect for reading and writing. The fourteen rooms are simply designed, but well outfitted with new mattresses, European-style sheets, great showers with plenty of hot water, and thick towels. The hotel’s garden, planted with banana and avocado trees, sugarcane, ferns, and tropical flowers, is lovingly cared for by the owners. Breakfast includes freshly baked bread with homemade jams, eggs, fruit salad, and good, strong coffee.

Prices start at US$9.


Mayoka Village sits right on the shores of Lake Malawi and the views are amazing. Room options include traditional mud huts and the more newly built stone cottages with private bathrooms and stone bath tubs. All accommodations at Mayoka Village are built using traditional Malawian materials, such as bamboo, stone, mud, and thatch, and are spread out on a rocky hillside by the lake. The outdoor bar and restaurant serve great food using fresh, local ingredients and offer plenty of choices for vegetarians. Gary and Katherine, Mayoka’s friendly owners, host huge weekly barbecues and Malawian buffets that often merge into all-out dance parties, with local musicians providing the entertainment.

Prices start at US$6.


The Soppong River Inn is located in Soppong, a small Thai village in the mountainous Mae Hong Son province near the Burmese border. The rooms and cottages are different styles, but all are made using traditional materials such as teak and bamboo, and all take their cues from traditional and modern Thai architecture. All rooms have cotton sheets and towels, en-suite bathrooms, and hot water. Some of the rooms have balconies overlooking the river, gardens, and rainforest. The Inn’s restaurant serves a choice of Thai or Western-style meals, and has both indoor seating and an outside deck perched above the river.

Prices start at US$23.


If you’re intrigued by these digs, then you’ll definitely want to check out Darn Good Digs to read about hundreds more extraordinary independent hotels for budget-minded travelers.


Read More