Sunday, November 30, 2014

Travel | Seoul 28 Oct - 2 Nov 2014 | Day 1 - Gwanghwamun Square | Namdaemun Market

After breakfast at Tosokchon, walked around the area and headed back to Gwanghwamun. Gwanghwamun 광화문 is the main and largest gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace, but Gyeongbokgung Palace remained closed on that day (every Tuesday).

getting our bearings right
passing by Gwanghwamun gate

Nearing Gwanghwamun Plaza, we saw white tentages and some banners. Perhaps some festival was on-going? Realized that we had stumbled upon the 2nd Korean Food Day Festival, and it was their opening day. So lucky!

2nd Korean Food Day Festival
tail-end of performance

Exhibitors were showcasing their produce, and there were some display on food and culture related items as well. Most of the exhibitors spoke only in Korean.

related to weddings

intricately carved

There was a bibimbap making as well, participated by over a hundred chefs probably.

chefs awaiting to participate in bibimbap making

Some tents offers sampling of their produce. The one offering Korean beef wasn't ready, so did not have a chance to taste any.

pounding rice cake, traditional way
duck meat is not that commonly found in Seoul, don't you think so?
beautiful view
vibrant colours of early autumn

Nearby, are the landmarks of Gwanghwamun Plaza.

statue of King Sejong, with Gwanghwamun in the background
closer view of King Sejong statue
Admiral Yi Sun-Sin statue
a shot of its vicinity

Nearby King Sejong's statue, there is an entrance to the underground where it is like a mini-museum for information related to King Sejong's and Admiral Yi Sun-Sin's history. Without King Sejong, there would probably be no hangul, or it might've been introduced much later?

walls in the lift

Went back to hotel to check-in, before heading out to Namdaemun. One word of caution. Namdaemun stuffs are more expensive as compared to Dongdaemun.

plenty of food

Dried goods such as gingko, sliced sweet dates, seaweed packs can all be found here. Seaweed packs are around 5000. Though the one that I got from an ahjushi seller was 10,000. Hmm. Bought a hoodie from Namdaemun Market for 20,000 (~SGD25). It is probably double of its price elsewhere in Dongdaemun.

Past 630pm, the makeshift stalls begun to line-up in the middle of the streets. Made a mistake of sitting down at the first one that we saw. A small plate of stir-fried eel, cost 12,000. If you need to eat at these places, at least ensure that the seafood are kept in chillers. The vendor that we had, didn't.

spicy stir-fried eel
Walked around and saw fresh ginseng. Didn't get any but bought one big pear from an elderly man. Written price was 1500 but he tried to charge us 2000 for it instead. Tsk, tsk. Other places, the same type of pear sells for just 1000 per fruit. Shopping on Day 1, has its risks.

fresh ginseng
My friend had all sorts of snacks while going around Namdaemun. I was adamant on trying Jokbal and Namdaemun Market does have a stretch of street where 3-4 vendors were selling those.

One offered take-away for just 4500₩  but upon enquiry, realised that it was just skins for that price. Tourist must do what tourist must do, so opted to dine-in. Requested for the smallest medium-sized jokbal possible.

jokbal from this shop
The shop looked as though it had been around since the 80s.

dining table
pork trotters, greens, spring onions, beansprouts soup, dipping sauce, beanpaste sauce, green chili and garlic cloves, radish
jokbal @ 25000₩(~SGD32)

So much food for just the 2 of us. Haha! The pork skin was actually pretty chewy. Nice but nothing to shout about.

Lady boss (whose face is printed on the banner), was friendly and taught us how make the wrap. She even fed my friend. Haha!

wrap it all up

Too much food, and of course, we couldn't finish. The shop packed the meat and sauce for us to take-away, back to the hotel.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Travel | Seoul 28 Oct - 2 Nov 2014 | Tosokchon 토속촌 (土俗村)

Located at somewhere near Gyeongbokgung. Direction says Gyeongbokgung Station, Exit 2. Go straight for about 170m and turn left onto Jahamun-ro 5-gil Road. Am not sure as we came from the palace instead and had to cut through an art gallery that looked like a carpark, saw some uniformed men patrolling and asked for directions.

it is across this big road
shop front

Friend was really hungry and weather was about 15 degrees celcius. The wet floor probably meant that they have just started their service not too long ago.

Ushered in by the staff, and plenty of Mandarin speaking ones to assist. Each diner would need to order a main.

On each table, there are two pots containing kimchi and radish cubes. Feel free to scoop some onto the small bowl.

radish and kimchi, free to take
As there were just two of us, we took one samgyetang and a plate of seafood pancake.

samgyetang 삼계탕
ginseng chicken soup @15000 (~SGD18+)

The soup was very flavourful. There was  a big piece of ginseng inside the chicken. The ginseng shot has really strong ginseng taste.

seafood pancake @15000₩ (~SGD18+)
lots of tender squid

The pancake was very filling, and a tad too much for us to finish.

A meal for two here cost about SGD38.

Related links: Arrival

Travel | Seoul 28 Oct - 2 Nov 2014 | Day 1 Arrival

Went on a trip to Seoul last month, and would like to share excerpts from the experience. Was rather impromptu as the arrangements were made just a month prior to the trip. The conversation with my friend went like this:

Friend: Have you been to Seoul yet?
Me: Haven't.
Friend: Want to join me for a trip in October?
Me: Ok!

Both of us wanted direct flights, so we got ourselves Asiana tickets. Departing from SG at 11pm, and arrived at Seoul the next morning, 635am.

Onboard Asiana to Seoul, passengers had an option to choose western or Korean meal. Korean meal meant I got a beef bibimbap. The minced beef is actually served separated in a tiny round container inside the bigger one. So if you don't take beef, just don't mix it in.

Between western and Korean option, I'd say choose the latter. It was the better choice. Unless you're adverse to vegetable, kimchi and gochujang.

beef bibimbap
bibimbap after mixing
Having that much rice around midnight, was a first for me after so many years. The gochujang in the toothpaste-like tube, was actually quite spicy so you might not want to squeeze too much of it...

During the flight, most of Asiana stewardess speaks very little English. Before the plane lands, one gets the opportunity to donate loose change (or any amount) via UNICEF-Asiana "Change for Good" initiative, with Lee Byung-Hyun as one of the spokesperson.

From Incheon Airport, we purchased the Airport Railroad Express (AREX) train tickets to Seoul. It takes only 43 minutes from Incheon Airport to Seoul. Tickets are priced at 6900(~SGD9) per adult for single trip. After payment, one gets 2 things. A paper receipt and the ticket which looks like an ezlink-kind of card. The time of departure, train compartment number and seat number are printed on the paper receipt. Tickets may be checked inside the train, so keep it close.

At Seoul Station, we got ourselves a T-Money card. However, I think the ahjumma at the convenience store gave us a very touristy one which cost 500 more. There are coupons inside which one could use, but looking back at it, I forgot to use it for N Seoul Tower. There goes the 10% discount. Am not a good consumer.

Topped up the card with 10,000₩ as we need it to take the subway to Dongdaemun History and Cultural Park stop. Too early to check-in to the hotel, but we could leave our bags at the hotel luggage storage first.

T-Money Citypass @ 3000

outside of Seoul Station @8:32am

If we had known better, I'd suggest to take a cab from Seoul Station to wherever your hotel is. In Seoul, the static/slow path on the escalator is the left-side, while the right-side is where office workers will rush up and down. There were many stairs to tackle as well. Not only one had to heave the luggages when going down the steps, it also involved some going up. I think my right arm might have been pulled an inch longer on the first morning in Seoul...

Wowed by the variety of cafes around Seoul Station, however we resisted temptations as there was an agenda for breakfast. First mission, was to find Tosokchon (토속촌) for samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup).

After hotel stop-over, we  went back to the subway and took the train to Gyeongbokgung Station. As Tosokchon doesn't open till 10am and since it was still early, we wanted to explore the Gyeongbokgung Palace first. Alas, Gyeongbokgung Palace is actually closed on every Tuesdays. No prize for guessing which day we arrived.

near Gyeongbokgung Palace, empty as it was closed

probably at the wrong side of the Palace

Next, we spent quite a bit of time to locate Tosokchon, and had to ask for directions every now and then.

nice scenary while searching for the restaurant

Related links: Tosokchon

Monday, November 24, 2014

Shi Li Fang Hotpot - Revisited @ Orchard Central

Made reservations for early dinner on a Sunday evening. By 8pm, the place was rather packed.

Not sure why we were recommended the big pot when there's just two of us. Made more economical sense to get individual pots.

3-Soup Pot (三格大锅) @$11.80++
Chose the mushroom, chicken tonic and fish soup. Surprisingly, the chicken and fish soup was rather bland that night while mushroom was more flavourful.

As with first visit, crispy fish skin is the must-order. Place it inside the soup and wait till it softens. Order this item with tofu/vege for just $3.50++.

fish skin (炸鱼皮), napa cabbage (大白菜) @$3.50 (for 2 items)

Have tried squirrel fish before but guessed this was my first, in trying squirrel fish head. A tad too skinny though. Mostly bones.

squirrel fish head (松鱼头) @$5.60++

How can one not have meat? Ordered the rib-eye to try. The sliced meat was leaner than depicted in its menu.

rib-eye (牛眼肉) @$13.20++

If you ask me, the vote still goes to fresh superior beef. Look at those fats! However, portion seemed slightly lesser and the price has been revised upward of $2++.

fresh superior beef (雪花肥牛) @$18.80++

Also ordered some seafood this time round. Recommended is the fresh prawns and scallops. Prawns half-serving is 3 pieces, while scallops one serving is also 3 pieces. Recommendation for 2 pax is to order full serving of prawns and 2 servings of scallops.

fresh firm prawns (1/2 serving) @$4.70++
scallops (2 servings) @$10.60++

If one orders just one type of premiumly priced meats, the expected spend per pax is about $30 to $35 per pax.

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