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Konichiwa Tokyo Once Again!

Never cross in my mind that I will be back to Tokyo once again after a year (My Blogpost: Tokyo After 5 Years) - and this time around, it's my third visit! Another of my family annual trip and as usual, they chosen Japan instead of other country. No wonder people said, "Once Went Japan, Almost Every Year Feels Like Going Back Japan!"

Imagine came to Japan for the 5th time, this is my first and initial experience of wearing Yukata, the traditional Japanese garment. And it's absolutely free of charge.

Basically, we just solely focus the city of Tokyo without going any outskirt towns within our 8 days and 7 nights trip there. Some of the popular attractions like Shibuya, Harajuku, Asakusa I went for the third time. I posted few of my photos in Instagram, so do follow me there!

Just a short and brief post here and I have the feelings that I will be back Tokyo again. 
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Hotel Review: Meritz Hotel, Miri

Early of last year, my Boyfie and I decided to do long road trip all the way from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei and Miri. The last time I on this road trip was back in 2012 with my family for my cousin's wedding (My Old Post: 7 Hours From Kota Kinabalu to Brunei). Both Boyfie and I have been through this long and winding road trip quite number of times, just that we're not the who drove all these while. So surprisingly when I told Boyfie about my plan to do road trip across states and international borders, he agreed instantly to be the one who handling the steering wheel - guess, he doesn't trust my driving skills. 

As this road trip takes almost 20 hours to go and back, the choice is either overnight in Brunei or Miri. However taking into consideration that a Brunei Dollar is almost equivalent to RM3, hence I opted to stay in Miri for a night. Thanks to my BFF who is living in Miri, she recommended me to stay in this hotel, Meritz Hotel

Meritz Hotel Miri 07
#1: Meritz Hotel of Miri

Meritz Hotel is the latest four-star business hotel smacked right in the center of Miri city center. The two main reasons why I chosen this hotel are because first, it adjacent to shopping mall, the Bintang Megamall - that's pretty cool! Secondly, complimentary parking space provided as we're driving our car. I rarely take into account for parking space but this time, I have to.

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Wat Rong Khun, The White Temple of Chiang Rai

Date Visited: 14th April 2014

My friend and I decided to go our own separate way when we went back to Chiang Mai from Pai. She is interested with Rainforest Canopy Zipline whereas for me, I ended up took 1 Day Chiang Rai Excursion Tour. Frankly speaking, I was never worry of taking the tour alone as I went through that experience when I was in Melbourne few years back. But what cause me to take the one day excursion to Chiang Rai alone? All mainly because of this temple - Wat Rong Khun. 

Thailand - Chiang Rai Wat Rong Khun 01
#1: Wat Rong Khun from far away - Always jam-packed and crowded with tourists

Well-known among the foreign visitors as the White Temple, Wat Rong Khun is the most recognisable temples and most visited attractions in Northern Thailand. When our van arrived this temple, from far away I could literally see this temple is indeed jam-packed and crowded especially with tourists from Mainland China. But that ain't going to stop me from joining the crowd of visiting this marvellous and stunning temple. 

Thailand - Chiang Rai Wat Rong Khun 00
#2: White temple reflected on a large pond
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Brief Travel Guide of Pai, Northern Thailand

It was another impromptu trip again. When my friend told me that she is heading over to Chiang Mai for Songkran Festival, I told her that I love to join her cause Chiang Mai has always been one of my travel wishlist. So right after I came back from South Korea less than two weeks, I flew off again to Northern Thailand. Instead of focusing the well-known cities such as Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, my friend and I decided to cover Pai, a small but artsy and hippie insipired town situated 3 to 4 hours from the north of Chiang Mai. So basically this post is about the basic and brief travel guide of Pai.

Thailand - Pai 03

How To Get In Pai: 
The one and only way to travel to Pai is fly into Chiang Mai first. For Malaysia case, so far AirAsia is the only carrier that fly directly from Kuala Lumpur with two flights daily; EDT at 6.55 am and 2.45 pm. The flight duration to Chiang Mai takes about 3 hours and 25 minutes and as for the time difference wise, Thailand is 1 hour behind Malaysia. 

We booked the morning flight and once we landed in Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX), immediately we took songthaew (photo as below) to Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station. Make sure to inform the driver that you are taking bus heading to Pai cause Chiang Mai has two official bus stations and both are located quite distance away from each other. The driver quoted us 100 baht each (approx. to RM10.50) to the arcade bus station and we agreed with that. 

Thailand - Chiang Mai Airport Tuk Tuk 01
#1: Songthaew, a covered pick-up truck serves a bus or even taxi 
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Foodie Friday: Joe Sun - Food & Coffee Co., Kota Kinabalu

Joe Sun - Food & Coffee Co 00

Well, it's normal to see waffles topped with sweet lil ice-creams or even with colourful variety type of fruits. But what if a big piece of fried chicken sandwiched in between the waffles, just like burger? It was indeed intrigued me that I went Joe Sun - Food & Coffee Co, the newest and latest lifestyle cafe in Kota Kinabalu town twice in just a week. Good food is hard to resist! 

Joe Sun - Food & Coffee Co 09
#1: Their signature interior design
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Summary of My 7D6N South Korea (2014) Travelogues & Travel Expenses

As usual, here is the compilation for all the posts relating to my trip to South Korea back in year 2014 where we covered Seoul and Busan within 7 days and 6 nights. Plus by end of this post, I also share on how much I spent throughout my trip.

Day 1: 20th March 2014
To South Korea with Korean Air and From Seoul to Busan

Korean Air Flight KK to Seoul copy

Travel Between Incheon International Airport (ICN) and Seoul Station
There are two types of trains operate between ICN and Seoul Station:
1) Express Train 
  • Non stop train and it takes 43 minutes
  • Runs every 30 minutes 
  • Fare 8,000 won (6,000 won for group of four people or more)
2) Commuter Train
  • Stops at 9 different stations and travel time takes 56 minutes between ICN and Seoul
  • Trains run every 23 minutes and times vary throughout the day
  • Fare and schedule are vary depending on the arriving station (click here)

Arex Express

Although the commuter train consumed lots of our time with plenty stops, but we chosen this cause it was cheaper at least by half of the express train fare.

In order to get to Busan from Seoul, we took KTX (Korean Train eXpress) by using Korail Pass which I pre-booked in advanced before the trip. Korail Pass is only available to foreign traveller, in other words only for the non-Korean with unlimited access on Standard Class seats within fixed period of time. There are 1, 3, 5 and 7 Days Passes and these passes must be used on consecutive days. As we're spending three days and two nights in Busan, we chosen the 3-Day Passes. If you are travelling in a group of 2 to 5, then you are entitled for the Saver Pass which is slightly cheaper than the standard fare. 

For more info, you can check out the type and fare here as the fare is vary from year to year. 

Korail Seoul to Busan

How To Purchase Korail Pass: 
1) Book online from Korail website - Besides your own details such as full name and passport number, other passengers details are also required. 
2) Print out the voucher and remember to bring along in order to exchange Korail Passes.
3) The voucher can only be redeemed at Seoul Station. All passports and credit card used for booking are required for validation. It's crucial or else, the booking is void. 

Stay: E-Fashion Hotel (Permanently closed down) 
2014 South Korea - Busan Motel Fashion 02

Talking about accommodations in Busan city, two areas I would highly recommend to stay:
  • Jung-gu, area closer to Busan Main Station like Toyoko Inn 1, Hotel Gwang Jang; or
  • Hauendae-gu, an affluent beach area and home to Korea's most famous beach.

Get Around Busan: 
In order to get around Busan, one can either opt for Busan Hanaro Card or Busan Metro Day Pass. Busan Hanaro Card is a travel card system which similar to Seoul T-Money Card that can be used on subway, light rail and buses. The card itself costs 6,000 won and you need to reload money into the card. We opted the latter one, Busan Metro Day Pass which cost 4,500 won per day.
Busan Metro Day Pass

Haeundae Beach & Market 
South Korea 2014 - Day 01 Busan 03 Haeundae Beach
How To Get To Haeundae Beach & Market: 
Align at Haeundae Station on Line 2. It takes more an hour from Busan Subway Station.

Day 2: 21st March 2014
Gamcheon Culture Village, Santorini of the East
South Korea 2014 - Day 02 Busan Gamcheon Culture Village 13
How To Get To Gamcheon Culture Village:
Get off from Toseong Station (Line 1) Exit 6. Turn right at the corner and walk straight until reach the bus stop in front of the Busan National University Hospital. From there, take Bus 2-2 or 2 and get off at Gamcheon Culture Village.
There is no admission fee charged for entering here but if you are interested to get the map, it cost you 2,000 won (approx. to RM8).

Taejongdae Recreation Area
South Korea 2014 - Day 02 Taejongdae 03
How To Get To Taejongdae Recreation Area: 
From Busan Subway Station Exit 7, take bus 88 or 101 and get off at Taejongdae Cliff.
In order to get back to Busan Subway Station, take bus 8, 30, 88 or 101.

Admission fee is free of charge but in the case you are too lazy to walk, I would personally recommend you to take the Danubi Train ride which cost 1,500 won for adult and 600 won. It stops at 5 main attractions:
Platform à Taejongsa Temple à Yeongdo Lighthouse à Observatory à Gumyeongsa Temple à Taewon Jagal Madang à Platform

BIFF Square
South Korea 2014 - Day 02 Busan BIFF Square 02
How To Get To BIFF Square:
Nampo Station - Exit 1 or 3 and walk straight for few minutes and BIFF Square on the right

Day 3: 22nd March 2014
From Busan, we took KTX Train bound to Seoul. We're so wrong when we decided to reserve the train time we preferred on the spot but unfortunately it was fully booked. At the end, we waited for almost two hours in Busan Main Station for the next train ride. Be sure to reserve earlier, at least a day in advance. The journey from Busan to Seoul takes about 2 and half hours. There are food and beverages selling inside the train and the best part, there's a free WiFi internet connection. 

2014 South Korea - Busan KTX Train

Stay: Namsan Guest House 3
Namsan Guest House 3 01
It might be small and cramped, but this guesthouse is perfect place to stay for its unbeatable location. Less than 5 minutes walk from Myeongdong Subway Station, and opposite of the road is where the busy Myeongdong Shopping Street situated. 

Day 4: 23rd March 2014
Changdeokgung Palace
South Korea 2014 - Seoul Changdeokgung Palace 03
How To Get To Changdeokgung Palace: 
Jongno 3 (sam)-ga Station - Exit 6; or
Anguk Station - Exit 3.
From the station, walk straight about 5 minutes to the palace entrance.

Admission Fee: 3,000 won for Changdeokgung Palace only and 5,000 for Secret Garden Tour. 

However, if you are interested to visit all the Grand Palaces except for Gyeonghuigung Palace , you are advisable to purchase the Integrated Ticket of Palaces which cost 10,000 won only.

Bukchon Hanok Village & Insadong
South Korea 2014 - Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village 05
How To Get To Bukchon Hanok Village:
Anguk Station - Exit 2. Walk straight for about 300m to arrive at Bukchon Hanok Village

South Korea 2014 - Seoul Insadong 03
How To Get To Insadong Street:
1. Anguk Station - Exit 6; or
2. Jonggak Station - Exit 3; or
3. Jongno 3 (sam)-ga Station - Exit 1

Day 5: 24th March 2014
The Day I Wandered Alone In Seoul
Ewha Womans University and surrounding area - another popular shopping districts in Seoul among the young ladies. 
South Korea 2014 - Seoul Ewha Womans University 01How To Get To Ewha Womans University:
Ewha Womans University Station - Exit 2 or 3. From the station, 5 minutes walk to the university.

Sichon Area

South Korea 2014 - Sinchon 01

South Korea 2014 - Seoul 04

N Seoul Tower
South Korea 2014 - Namsan Seoul Tower 01
How To Get To N Seoul Tower:
By Public Bus - click here. I took the bus from Myeongdong Station - Exit 3 and board on Namsan Sunhwan Shuttle Bus No. 5 for only 1,200 won (approx. to RM4) for a single trip. 
By Cable Car - Walk about 10-15 minutes following the street of the right side of the Pacific Hotel, after coming out from Exit 3 of Myeongdong Station. A return ticket cost 8,500 won (approx. to RM26) for adult and 5,500 won (approx. to RM17) for children. 

Admission Fee for Observatory: 10,000 won (approx. to RM31) for adult and 8,000 won (approx. to RM25) for children

Day 6: 25th March 2014
Free Traditional Korean Costume Experience
South Korea 2014 - Seoul 07
How To Get Experience on Free Traditional Korean Costume: 
Myeong-dong Station - Exit 6. Walk straight until you see M Plaza on right side. Seoul Global Culture & Tourism Center is located on the 5th floor of M Plaza. 
Korean Culture Experience: 10:30 am to 6:00 pm daily 

COEX Aquarium
South Korea 2014 - Seoul Coex Aquarium 01-1
How To Get To Coex Aquarium: 
Samsung Station - Exit 5 or 6 connected to the Coex Mall. The aquarium is located at the end of the Ocean Walk section. It is next to Megabox Cinema on the Basement 1 arcade.
Admission Fee: 22,000 won for adult and 19,000 won
Opening Hours: 10:00 am to 8:00 pm

Day 7: 26th March 2014
Cat Playground Cafe

How To Get To Cat Playground Cafe in Myeongdong:
Myeongdong Station - Exit 6. Walk straight until spot New Balance shop and turn right. The cafe is located on the 3rd floor.
Opening Hours: 12 pm to 11 pm (Close on Sunday)
Admission Fee: 8,000 won for adult and 7,000 won for children including one drink

Leaving South Korea & My Shopping Loots
2014 South Korea - Korean Air 01
There are three options to go to Incheon International Airport from Myeongdong:
1) By bus 
Take Bus 6015 which departs in front of Sejong Hotel (Myeongdong Station - Exit 8). The first bus departs at 4.50 am while the last bus departs at 8.35 pm. One single ride costs 15,000 won and T-money card is accepted inside the bus. 
2) By AREX train 
From Myeongdong Station, it requires change line at Seoul Station before taking AREX train.
3) By taxi/van
We hired a van from Namsan Guesthouse 3 and it cost 65,000 won for four of us. 

As usual to end each of my travelogue, the following are the details of travel expenses breakdown throughout my 7 days 6 nights to South Korea: 
Korean won
Air Fare
KK-Seoul-KK via Korean Air

E-Fashion Hotel Busan – 2 nights
Namsan Guest House Seoul – 4 nights

Korail Pass – 3 Day Passes (Pre-booked online)
Busan Metro Day Pass (2 days)
Taxi around Busan
Reload for T-Money card
Van to Incheon International Airport

Admission Fees
Danubi Train - Taejongdae Recreation Area
Changdeokgung Palace
COEX Aquarium 

Food & Beverages
Around Busan
Around Seoul

Shopping loots, postcards & stamps
















Exchange Rate - 1,000 won = RM3.11

1. It was impromptu trip. It would be slightly cheaper if my family decided to book earlier as Cathay Pacific airfare cost less than RM1,800 with a short transit at Taiwan.
2. For more details about the two accommodations, check out here.
3. Photo as below - I spent lesser comparing to my first trip to South Korea.

2014 South Korea Shopping Haul 01

Frankly speaking, if I don't take the airfare into the account, the total damages for my trip to South Korea would be only RM2,245 including accommodations, transportation, admission fees, meals and shopping loots. How I wish AirAsia X could start to operate in Kota Kinabalu so flying to South Korea would be much more economical and convenient? Plus, the flight duration from Kota Kinabalu to Seoul Incheon International Airport takes 5 and half hours only, compare from Kuala Lumpur which takes more than 7 hours.

Instagram South Korea Manhole Signature Pose
Can't wait to be back to South Korea again!
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South Korea (2014): Accommodation in Busan & Seoul

Choosing accommodations in South Korea are practically quite subjective, most of the times depends on the locations and needs of one own preferences. Some might travel in tight budget, whereas some might don't mind splurge themselves in finding better accommodation. For me, I'm in between, depends on which cities and countries I visited. I often received email from blog readers asking where to stay in Busan and Seoul. So, this post I share where I stayed before and which area I personally like. 

Accommodation in Busan: E-Fashion Hotel

2014 South Korea - Busan Motel Fashion 01

2014 South Korea - Busan Motel Fashion 02
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Leaving South Korea & My Shopping Loots

Date Visited: 26th March 2016 

Right after we done with spending time and hanging out with furry felines at Cat Playground Cafe, we went back to Namsan Guest House to pack our bags and immediately proceed with check-out process. Instead of taking public bus or express train, we rent a van for 65,000 won (approx. to RM202) straightly to Incheon International Airport. Of course the first two means of transportation are much more cheaper, but it's more feasible by taking van especially when we carried quite number of luggage bags (the consequences of shopping too much). 

Fun Facts of Incheon International Airport (ICN):
Do you know ICN has a golf course, spa, private sleeping rooms, ice skating rink, a casino, indoor gardens and a Museum of Korean Culture? It also has been rated the best airport worldwide every year since 2005. Apart from that, it is rated as the world's cleanest airport and the world's best international transit airport. Talking about duty-free shopping, I notice that the cosmetic and beauty products here are relatively cheaper than the rest airport I ever visited. Twice I flew into this airport, twice I bought fragrances and they were indeed cheaper.

2014 South Korea - Korean Air 01
#1: Korean Air - Our official airlines for trip to South Korea 

2014 South Korea - Korean Air
#2: In-flight meal - Korean spicy chicken 

As we're flying in Economy class, the maximum weight per bag is 23 kg only (unlike Malaysia Airlines where the maximum weight is 30 kg). However, most of the time I didn't exceed the maximum weight given except for my trip to United Kingdom and Europe 8 years ago. Are you ready with what I bought throughout 8 days and 7 nights from South Korea? Get ready! 

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Cat Playground Cafe Myeongdong, Seoul

Date Visited: 26th March 2014 

As it was our last day in Seoul, we decided not to travel further and just loitering around Myeongdong Street, which not far away from Namsan Guest House. Oh well, it's another last minute shopping activity again especially for my mom. In the midst of wandering around, we spotted a cute orange colour mascot, to be precise it's a cat looking mascot with a signboard hanging around his/her neck. Approached the cat mascot closely and we saw it's written Cats Cafe and the rest were in Hangul. 

All these while I knew about this interesting themed cafe existed but never in my life visited this before. Hence, we're thinking why don't give a try since we still have plenty of time before our departure time. 

#1: Cats Cafe in Myeongdong 
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Foodie Friday: My Favourite Korean Local Delights

Kimchi - Nay!
Bibimbap - Nay!
Tteokbokki (Spicy Korean rice cakes) - Nay!

Although I dislike the above food which are indeed authentic Korean dishes but thank goodness for their diverse cuisine, Korea has wide array of food to explore ranging from traditional dishes, Korean BBQ to finger licking good street food. So what were my favourite local delights when I was in Korea two years back? 

1) Korean Spicy Chicken 
South Korea 2014 - Day 01 Busan 08 Haeundae Market
#1: Street food in Haeundae Market - Korean spicy chicken, my favourite

I'm so addicted to Korean spicy chicken lately. Probably I love the spicy and sweet sauce coated with chicken. One bite and you want more! 
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COEX Aquarium, Seoul

Date Visited: 25th April 2014

Right after we done with the free traditional Korean costume experience, we proceeded to Coex Mall, the largest underground shopping center in Asia containing convention centers, exhibition halls and various malls in Gangnam area. But our main purpose is not for shopping but merely for Coex Aquarium which is housed within Coex Mall. It's time for under the sea again! 

South Korea 2014 - Seoul Coex Aquarium 01
#1: Coex Aquarium is housed within Coex Mall

Being recognised as one of the largest aquarium in South Korea, Coex Aquarium showcases more than 40,000 sea creatures from over 650 different species on display. Just like any other aquariums, Coex Aquarium features distinctive unique of theme areas in order for the visitors to view species of fish indigenous to the theme location. 
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Free Traditional Korean Costume Experience in Seoul

Date Visited: 25th March 2014

Have you ever thought of experience the traditional local costume whenever travel foreign countries? What's more when you can experience it for free, without any additional charge? Yes, you can do so when you're in South Korea.  

My family and I got the opportunity to experience Hanbok, the traditional outfit for the Korean when we're in Seoul and it's absolutely free of charge. Thanks to Kampungboycitygal, one of my favourite blog when relating to travel for sharing this, or else we will going back Malaysia with regret and disappointment. 

South Korea - Seoul M Plaza
#1: M Plaza of Myeongdong Street 

Where to experience this? It is located at Seoul Global Culture & Tourism Center on the 5th floor of M Plaza in the hustle and bustle of Myeongdong Street. It is easily to spot M Plaza once you saw Zara and Forever 21 in between. Although the center starts at 10.30 am, but it is advisable to go early for registration purpose. First come, first served basis and advanced registration is not available. 

South Korea - Free Hanbok Experience 01
#2: Registration counter. First come, first served basis. Advanced registration is not available

For each time slot which takes about half an hour, only two groups (maximum 6 per group) are allowed to enter for free hanbok experience and phototaking. Luckily us as we got the second time slot, which was at 11 am or else, we might need to wait for another few hours before our turn. Like they said, the early bird gets the worm. 

South Korea - Free Hanbok Experience 02
#3: Not just for free hanbok experience, there are also traditional art classes available here

South Korea - Free Hanbok Experience 03
#4: Various of hanbok to choose from 

Now, let the photos do the talk:

South Korea 2014 - Seoul 07
#5: Love the combination of these hanbok colours adding with simple accessories

South Korea 2014 - Seoul Free Hanbok Experience
#6: Yours truly and baby sister

Although it was kinda rush for the phototaking, but I glad and delightful to see both my mom and sister enjoyed this fun moment experience to the fullest. Do we wanna try for second time again? Of course yes! Afterall, it's free. 

How To Get Here
Myeong-dong Station - Exit 6. Walk straight until you see M Plaza on right side. Seoul Global Culture & Tourism Center is located on the 5th floor of M Plaza. 

Korean Culture Experience: 10:30 am to 6:00 pm daily 
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The Day I Wandered Alone in Seoul

Date Visited: 24 March 2014

It all started when my sister and her boyfriend intended to visit Everland Resort, so I brought them to Gangnam Station where the bus station to Everland is situated. Since I went before, I decided not to go and wandering other places with my mom along. However when the bus approaching, out of sudden my mom jumped into the bus together with my sister and her boyfriend and bid me goodbye. I was indeed in state of shock but then, that indicate Seoul is a safe place for a lady to travel alone and my mom believe I could wander independently. 

Since I was alone, hence I took this opportunity to visit the places I've never been before.

Ewha Womans University
Ewha Womans University was Korea's first educational institute for women and the largest in the world. Surprisingly, Ewha Womans University area is also well-known to be one of the popular shopping districts in Seoul. Once I got out from the nearest station and on my way leading to the university, I found myself surrounded by various clothing stores, accessory shops, cafes and hair salons. Most of the items there are pretty cheap and affordable.  

South Korea 2014 - Seoul Ewha Womans University 03
#1: Shopping district of Ewha Womans University 

Talking about the university, it seems like anyone whether local or foreigner are allowed to enter into the university without any restrictions. Although it's a private women university, but I spotted some handsome guys within the university. *wink wink* I even went and visited the campus and oh boy, how I wish I could be back to university again. University life is one of the best moment of my life, to be honest.

South Korea 2014 - Seoul Ewha Womans University 01
#2: Ewha Womans University - I wish to be back to university again! 
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