Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Travelogue: Korea 2014 - Day 4 @ KTX Busan to Seoul & Myeongdong | Seoul, South Korea

I was beginning to become quite fond of Busan for it is a developed city and it was easy to get around yet it is still rather laid back with a strong cultural character lingering and there's so many things to see and do. The local folks were all too kind and they made me wish I had much more time in Busan! But too bad we only planned three days during the first leg of this trip and I had to leave it all behind and wish for another visit in the near future!

[Korea September/ October 2014]
29th Sep 2014 - Day 4 @ KTX Busan to Seoul & Myeongdong!

29 Sep 2014: KTX Busan to Seoul
Good morning Busan at the platform of Busan Station!

Thankfully everything about the KORAIL is just simply awesome! The people behind the ticketing counters at Busan Station can communicate fluently in English and the station doesn't have any confusing directory and signs that we managed to catch the next trip out to Seoul under 30 minutes upon arriving at the station! 

Guess all that rushing around still took a toll on our sleepy heads somehow that we didn't remember any morning selfie until we got on the train!

29 Sep 2014: KTX Busan to Seoul
And so here it is! Let's go to Seoul #butfirstletmetakeaselfie!

Hahahaha... Honestly, we were all up till quite late the night before as we try to pack up our belongings while having some supper and meokgolli and we were actually not that energetic as it seems! 

29 Sep 2014: KTX Busan to Seoul
Bye bye Busan! Till then!

The ticket for the KTX ride from Busan to Seoul cost us ₩53,300 each and we took the chance of the approximately 2.5 hours ride to catch up with some sleep and brace up to take on Seoul in a bit!

Good bye Busan, and hello Seoul!

Home at Seoul
It was probably about 12:00pm when we arrive in Seoul and figured our way to the apartment we had booked (of course from AirBnB as well...). And although it was still way before the time for check-in, it was really nice of the owner to meet us and show us around the apartment a little and let us leave our luggages behind with him as he cleans and prepares the apartment for us!

Quick look at our home in Seoul for the rest of the trip!

29 Sep 2014: Home in Chungjeongno | Seoul, South Korea
The apartment and living space at a glance!

29 Sep 2014: Home in Chungjeongno | Seoul, South Korea
Pantry area - Our favorite corner of the apartment! Hehe!

29 Sep 2014: Home in Chungjeongno | Seoul, South Korea
And last but not least, a glimpse of the bedroom...

If you ask, we will tell you that we first chose this apartment simply because of its location! 
It is located within the Cityhall area of Seoul and so centralized. And not to mention, the building this apartment is in is just above Chungjeongno Station on Line 2 (Green) of the metro train system in Seoul, meaning we have got most of the shopping havens like Hongdae Shopping District, Edae Shopping district, Dongdaemun and even Myeongdong right under our noses! 

On the apartment itself, there's no better term than WONDERFUL to describe it! It was spacious, simple yet well-equipped, well-maintained and squeaky clean! Of course, what made our stay really nice is that the host, Andrew, will drop us a text or two occasionally to ensure that we are all well! And best thing of all, he drops by the apartment periodically to clean up the place a little for us, to provide us with a fresh batch of towels and top up our supply of bottled water just like in hotels! 

You deserve two thumbs up, Andrew!

Direct link to Andrew's apartment listing on AirBnb: https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/3493550?s=2QWO

Myeongdong Shopping District 명동
So just like how we arrived at Busan on our first day in Korea, we decided to grant ourselves with lots of food and shopping after arriving in Seoul for the rest of the day at Myeongdong!

Myeongdong is a popular shopping district in Seoul and the shopping district is formed by two main areas, one beginning from Myeongdong Metro Station on Line 4 and the other from Lotte Department Store at Euljiro 1-ga Station on Line 2. There you can find (almost) all the brands you can possibly think of, designer brands and a number of major department stores too. It is simply a shopaholic's mecca!

29 Sep 2014: Lunch at Lotte Department Store Main Branch (Myeongdong)| Seoul, South Korea
Lunch at Lotte Department Store 롯데백화점 - Bibimbap 비빔밥 and Jjambbong 짬뽕

We arrived at Myeongdong via the Euljiro 1-ga station and decided to look around for some lunch first. And you can say that this is pretty much the most random lunch we had simply because it started to rain a little when we got to Myeongdong and we had to take refuge at Lotte Department Store for a while! We got these bibimbap and jjambbong off the Food Hall on the basement level, it was decent but pretty costly actually. Nothing note-worthy about it that I can recall. Haha!

29 Sep 2014: Myeongdong Underground Shopping | Seoul, South Korea

Myeongdong Underground Shopping

The rain didn't stop when we were done with lunch and exploring Lotte Department Store a little. So we continue to take refuge and attempted to check out the underground shopping at Myeongdong too. My honest opinion? Don't bother about it unless you are planning to look for some really expensive vintage stuffs!

And by the time the rain finally ceased, the sun is already starting to set when we start to roam the streets of the remaining area of the popular Myeongdong Shopping District!

29 Sep 2014: Myeongdong Shopping District | Seoul, South Korea
A horribly poor quality shot but it's the only one of Myeondong I have got!

29 Sep 2014: Myeongdong Theater | Seoul, South Korea
Myeongdong Theater 명동예술극장

This building where the exclusive theatrical performance center is located in right now used to be the home to the National Theater of Korea. When the National Theater of Korea closed its doors in 1975, it went through major renovations for 3 years to upgrade the interiors while preserving the exterior facade, before the place is renamed and reopened as Myeongdong Theater in June 2009. Guess with all the shopping and happenings at Myeongdong, this historical building is probably left quite unnoticed to most tourists. 

By the way, Myeongdong offers an array of food choices as extensive as the shopping options. There are lots of food places at different scale from street stalls to local eateries to cafes or restaurants. And if you are looking out for street food in Myeongdong, they are all mostly lined along the street in front of Myeongdong Theater!

29 Sep 2014: Egg muffins 계란빵@ Myeongdong | Seoul, South Korea

29 Sep 2014: Egg muffins 계란빵@ Myeongdong | Seoul, South Korea
Egg muffins 계란빵

After 4 days in Korea, I finally found it! Egg muffins 계란빵, the one and only street food that I had been harping about, reminiscing and craving ever since my first trip to Korea some 10 years ago! Anyway, an egg muffin should cost you approximately ₩1,000 to ₩1,500. This stall in Myeongdong where we got our egg muffins at ₩2,000 is considered a little too pricey already!

29 Sep 2014: Egg muffins 계란빵@ Myeongdong | Seoul, South Korea29 Sep 2014: Egg muffins 계란빵@ Myeongdong | Seoul, South Korea

And because I refused to share my egg muffin with the girls, I wasn't allowed to take a photo together either! :(

29 Sep 2014: Andong Jjimdak 안동찜닭 @ Myeongdong | Seoul, South Korea

Andong Jjimdak 안동찜닭

Prior to the trip, the buddy and wife reminded me again and again to make sure I try jjimdak 찜닭 and such coincidence that the girlfriend knows and recommended Andong Jjimdak 안동찜닭, or recently rebranded as Bongchu Jjimdak 봉추찜닭, in Myeongdong!

Yes, we are eating again! Haha!

29 Sep 2014: Andong Jjimdak 안동찜닭 @ Myeongdong | Seoul, South Korea

Andong Jjimdak is a Korean braised chicken dish in ganjang 간장 based sauce that originates from the city of Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province just as how the name suggests. There are varying speculations on the origin of the dish and the ingredients that goes into the dish as well depending on the vendor.

This one we had at Myeongdong is served with chicken thigh chunks, a variety of vegetables like leek, onions, radish and potatoes on top of a generous serving of the broad version of dangmyeon 당면. Slightly spicy and very yummy!

29 Sep 2014: Andong Jjimdak 안동찜닭 @ Myeongdong | Seoul, South Korea
Savoring the piping hot jjimdak after a rain that lasted all afternoon is simply awesome!

Myeongdong Cathedral

29 Sep 2014: Myeongdong Cathedral 명동성당 | Seoul, South Korea

It was a fine evening after all that rain so we managed to walk around in Myeongdong aside from just shopping. And at the corner of this crazy shopping district, lies the very first Roman Catholic parish Church, or in other words, the birthplace for the Roman Catholic Church community in Korea. Also, the first Gothic building ever built in Korea houses a small sanctuary on the basement level where the remains of the martyrs are enshrined.

And since Myeongdong Cathedral is located in downtown Seoul, in close proximity with tourist spots like Namsangol Hanok Village, N Seoul Tower, Namdaemun Market and obviously, Myeongdong itself, it is a popular destination for many lcoals and tourists alike!

29 Sep 2014: Myeongdong Cathedral 명동성당 | Seoul, South Korea

First time visiting a church at night! 
Feels really different and a little eerie probably because of the low lighting!

29 Sep 2014: Myeongdong Cathedral 명동성당 | Seoul, South Korea29 Sep 2014: Myeongdong Cathedral 명동성당 | Seoul, South Korea

Selfie! The cathedral, the girls and me to round off the night!

Map of Myeongdong Shopping District of the places I mentioned in this post!
Click for an enlarged view!

And with that, it sums up our first day in Seoul! Really lots of food involved yeah?
Then I will like to urge you to stay tune for the next post when I am going to cover the story on our long day starting from Gwangjang Market followed by exploring Bukchon Hanok Village together with Samcheong-dong and Insa-dong also!

More posts from Korea September/ October 2014 travelogue series:

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Year 2014

So year 2014 is coming to an end and I thought I shall not wait till the very last leg in December to do a proper recap and summarize my year.

In 2014, I believe that I looked like I am everywhere. As in literally everywhere like when I was traveling (clocked five trips out of this country this year!) as well as juggling between my full time career, blogging and also my commitments at Pet 'Tails'. Of course, I was a regular attendee at important dates and events for the family and friends. So much so that everyone asked how do I have time to do so many things always and I do have a secret that I am on a year long project that organizes my life, literally.

There was a major spring cleaning that includes priorities and the people in my life. And ever since, I had been living on a schedule that will buzz me for things like when it is time I should meet a friend or two or when it is time to workout. Of course, fixed routines and schedules ain't my kind of thing after all and there were days when I defy the "original plans".

I must say I am pretty proud of myself for taking the leap and commence the project. Aside from being able to be there for everyone as much as I can, I felt so much more energized and younger when I decided to take on diets occasionally and made sure I got enough sleep every night to be kinder to the body alongside with this project! I actually turn out to have a higher tolerance for everything, as in less grumpy and better anger management.

Anyway, I also come to realise about little bits about life from here and there. One most recent realization I had is how wonderfully I was brought up, how the family has a set of pretty awesome philosophies that taught me to be who I am today. There is one thing in particular that goes by the term - Manners. Good manners like at the table observing how important eating is and putting the mobile phones at bay unless until necessary or especially to be polite and listen intently with eye contact when someone is talking. Also coupled with principles like how we should be thankful for what we have i.e. Food. If you asked for food or if you were offered, you should finish it unless it's goddamned bad (Read: horrible tasting or rotten). And that's probably going to explain why I am at my size today but for as long as I remember, food wastage is a sin in my family.

All in all, it is these simple philosophies and values that might occur in any other families but my family had strongly reinforced it again and again. And these philosophies and values are something that I felt helped me developed a life skill that I turned out less socially awkward and I can carry myself confidently in front of others while not becoming an unsavory person people will loathe.

Looking forward now, I guess I am not going to make any resolutions for year 2015. Not going to make a goal and get disappointed with not achieving it in the end. I will let everything be impromptu and allow it to come to me (I believe in good karma!) and then follow through with the same motion of 2014 since I am pretty much enjoying how it is.

Furthermore, in the course of year 2014, I received compliments and met people who were really fond of my writings! They always say it is very informative yet I had very creatively weave it in a story that's very engaging! YAY! (p.s. I am pretty much that joker I sound like in my writings if you hadn't realized!) So although I seem like I am slowly down, I will not give up and keep going selectively on blogging assignments as well as my random musings as usual! Not going to quit my full time career, not going to quit the family and friends that I had tried to keep/ rekindle a good relationship with in 2014 too!

Of course, there are so much more that happened and so much more that I will like to share about but I should just keep the story short. So thank you everyone for everything! I must say that without you, whatever good or crap you did to me, I will never grow, learn and mature in 2014!

So, goodbye 2014 and hello 2015! 

Yours truly, 
Shi Ting

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Travelogue: Korea 2014 - Day 3 @ Shinsegae Centum City, Haedong Yonggungsa & Jong-ga Daebak Jib | Busan, South Korea

After a long day exploring Busan together the day before, we did something different for our last day in Busan... As in literally different! The girls and I actually split ways for one afternoon - They had their self-pampering session at Spa Land located in Shinsegae Centum City while I did some soul searching adventure to the eastern edge of Busan at Haedong Yonggungsa!

[Korea September/ October 2014]
28th Sep 2014 - Day 3 @ Shinsegae Centum City, Haedong Yonggungsa & Jong-ga Daebak Jib

28 Sep 2014: Good morning Busan! | South Korea

Good morning Busan!

28 Sep 2014: OOTD | Busan, South Korea

It was our last morning in Busan before we had to catch the KTX to Seoul the next day so we decided to take some OOTD shots at the railway tracks just behind our apartment before we head off in search of breakfast. The local grandpas and grandmas passing by were watching and wondering what we girls are doing! Hehe... 

Breakfast @ Food Park, Shinsegae Centum City
We headed over to Shinsegae Centum City 신세계 센텀시티 (Registered in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest shopping complex in the world) to source for breakfast and needless to say, we were quite overwhelmed with the choices we had when we were trying to decide where to have breakfast. So, the safest place was to check out Food Park on Level 4 just beside the Ice Skating Rink where we are sure we can have a variety of choices at reasonable prices!

28 Sep 2014: Breakfast @ Shinsegae Centum City | Busan, South Korea
Korean Gyoza and Kalguksu Stall 헌국교자 칼국수 전문점

We found ourselves a table for just in front of this gyoza and kalguksu stall and we simply ended up with settling for breakfast from there!

28 Sep 2014: Breakfast @ Shinsegae Centum City | Busan, South Korea

Although the ahjumma 아줌마 manning the stall can barely manage any English nor can she understand the broken Korean we were trying to speak, she was very nice to help us till we end up with a good variety for breakfast! From top right and going clockwise, that's Mul Naengmyeon 물냉면 (Cold Buckwheat noodles), Bibimmyeon 비빔면 (Mixed Noodles in Spicy Bean paste) and Kalguksu 칼국수 (Korean Knife-cut Handmade noodles).

It was approximately ₩6,000 each and portions were relatively huge with complimentary side dishes as well. Actually we realised that most diners at the Food Park were getting their food off this stall and I have to say that this one of the best meals I ever had off a food court! No joke!

Haedong Yonggungsa 해동용궁사
And for my little solo adventure, I decided to take a trip out of town to Haedong Yonggungsa on the eastern edge of Busan. Although it has become quite a tourist attraction, I don't have any particular reason aside from the fact that I was thinking of going somewhere close to the sea!

To get to Haedong Yonggungsa:

  • Take a Metro Train to Haeundae Station (Line 2).
  • Use Exit 7 and take Bus 181 from bus stop immediately outside of Exit 7 along Haeun-daero 해운대로. Duration of bus ride is approximately 40 minutes.
  • Alight along Gijanghaean-ro 기장해안로 and walk into adjacent street, Yonggung-gil 용궁길 for approximately 10 minutes.
  • Arrive at Haedong Yonggungsa.

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea
Arriving at Gijanghaean-ro... 

There's actually a very prominent sign that reads HAE DONG YONG GUNG TEMPLE just before the bus stop I had to alight at and it was pretty hard to miss!

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea
Walk along Yonggung-gil... 

The slow 10 minute walk from the main street might feel like you had taken a wrong turn but no worries there are a couple of signs along the way to reassure you that you are on the right track to the temple! :)

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea
Weaving through the crowded streets to get to Haedong Yonggungsa...

The last leg of the walk to get to the temple, I was greeted with stalls lining both sides of the street and lots of people! Feels really festive actually!

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea
And the Koreans do believe in the 12 Chinese zodiacs too!

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea
The plaza in front of the entrance to the temple!

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea

Traffic Safety Prayer Pagoda

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea
The majestic Haedong Yonggungsa from afar!

This southern most temple near the east sea was founded by the great monk, Naong, who was the consultant of King Gongnim. It all began with a dream Naong had when the nation was hit by a terrible draught that made crops burn, people suffer from famine and lose faith in god for not giving them rain. In his dream, he was told by the Great Goddess Buddha of Mercy, Gwanseumbosal, to build a temple near the edge of Bongrae mountain and pray there and all the hardship would go away.

After the dream, Naong visited and decided to the build the temple on the area where Haedong Yonggungsa is located now after he saw that there was a mountain in front and the sea at the back, which the Koreans believed that if you say your prayers at a location like that in the morning, they will get answered immediately in the evening!

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea

For the first time ever in my life, I had to queue to get into a temple...

The believe that your prayer will be answered almost immediately if you were pray at a location like Haedong Yonggungsa is still strong up till today and therefore, Haedong Yonggungsa is a popular temple among the locals and tourists alike! And the fact that I forgot that it is a Sunday and probably a good destination for a family outing on a weekend, I was in for an eye-opening experience like... Queuing to get into the temple!

After this entrance, it took me another good 15 minutes or so and lots of shoving and nudging for a walk that seem more like a 5 minute descend on a series of steps down to the temple! So crazy as if a mega sale is happening at the temple! No joke!

Anyway, here's some of my shots taken while I was walking around the temple!

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea
The main hall of Haedong Yonggungsa...

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea

The exteriors of the main hall is made up of impressively delicate wood carvings from floor to roof that seemed to be recently restored and painted with these vibrant colors!

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea
Inside the main hall... 

The temple was so saturated with tourists trying to get some selfie taken and what nots that I was actually quite surprised that it was really nice and serene within the main hall itself! Well, who in the right mind would go screaming in here right?

But all the ruckus from the tourists made me really glad to see that there were believers in the main hall who visited the temple with the agenda to sincerely make some prayers! That includes myself!

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea

The giant sized image of Gwanseumbosal and other buddhas can be found in the temple...

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea
Or in contrary in the context of sizes, there are also miniature monks placed around the temple! 
At the corner behind the bushes or in betweens the cracks of a rock, spot it if you can!

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea
View from the deck where the Gwanseumbosal image can be found!

And I thought the view of the temple perched on top the rocky edges of the mountain that meets the sea was pretty magnificent until I saw it from up above as well! Truly breathtaking so I stopped in my tracks totally and hung around the deck to enjoy the view and sea breeze for a bit!

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea

What happened after enjoying the view and sea breeze was a true disaster! Thanks to a bunch of unethical tourists, I know from the language and accent when they spoke, I acquired a scar on my left shin! URGH!!!

One of them shoved me so hard from behind while I was going down the stone steps that I actually fell and slipped down the rough stone surface of the remaining stretch of steps on my left shin. HOLY COW! It hurt big time and I had to buy myself a popsicle and suck on it till I get to the last bit of it to stop myself from bursting out in tears!

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea
And I tried to distract myself from the trauma by watching these folks and trying to steal and soak up their happy vibes as they gathered to eat and drink at the temple! It worked somehow and there was a moment when I silently wished that I will be able to do this with my family and friends when we all grow old! 

28 Sep 2014: Haedong Yonggungsa | Busan, South Korea

The trusty Timberland boots and Autumn bloom!

And that marks the end of my solo adventure! I never thought that I could actually make it there from the vague information that I gathered prior to the trip and of course, I never ever thought that I will end up with such a misadventure and obtain a scar for life! Lifetime guaranteed souvenir? Haha... Nonetheless, I will still say that it is all fun and I want to do more solo adventures like this again!  

28 Sep 2014: Mozarella Croquette @ Shinsegae Centum City | Busan, South Korea

Mozzarella Croquette 

Since I arrived back at Shinsegae Centum City earlier, I walked around the Food Hall while waiting for the girls to be done with their spa session. I spotted one of the counters selling these deep fried croquettes and there was a snaking queue so I did the most Singaporean thing to just join in queue and myself and the girls one each to find out if it was all worth it! Thank goodness it was yummy! Lol!

Jong-ga Daebak Jib 종가 대박집
Come evening time after everything, we planned to do some shopping at KNU/ PNU district for the rest of the day but it seemed like we couldn't find the right street with the supposedly-said affordable shopping so we gave up and went food hunting since our last meal of the day was since breakfast!

And we found a food street, as in a street where there were endless choices of cafes, restaurants, pubs and local eateries, and decided on the least commercialized looking one serving Korean BBQ that looked more like a butcher shop on the outside! LOL!

28 Sep 2014: Dinner @ Jong-ga Daebak Jib | Busan, South Korea

A very simple menu!

Jong-ga Daebak Jib 종가 대박집 serves a variety of meat choices and cuts for BBQ along side with a small list of noodles or soup dishes. And look how authentic they are that their menu is just so short and sweet and there isn't any English translations available anywhere to be ready to be tourist-friendly! But thankfully, the owners can manage a little English or Mandarin and we manage to get by with the ordering process!

28 Sep 2014: Dinner @ Jong-ga Daebak Jib | Busan, South Korea
Let the meaty feast begin!

28 Sep 2014: Dinner @ Jong-ga Daebak Jib | Busan, South Korea

Using pickled radish as an alternative to the usual leafy vegetables to eat your BBQ meat in a wrap!

The fact that we are definitely tourists, the owner of the place actually brought over some thinly sliced pickled radish and tried to introduce to us how we can make a wrap with them also even though he don't know much English! How sweet of him! And honestly, now I like my BBQ meat with the pickled radish better! 

28 Sep 2014: Dinner @ Jong-ga Daebaek Jib | Busan, South Korea

Cheers to the satisfying dinner with some so-maek 소맥! 

By the way, did you notice the price of each item marked on the menu? The prices were astoundingly cheap as compared to those we had seen everywhere else. Probably it was meant to appeal to the students in the two universities nearby and we managed to satisfy our tummies with all that meat and a little alcohol at approximately ₩24,000 for the three of us! Too affordable!

Map of Jong-ga Daebak Jib 종가대박집. Click for an enlarged view!

28 Sep 2014: Post-dinner and good night Busan! | Busan, South Korea
Post dinner selfie on the train home with... Who's that weirdo with rosy cheeks? 
Haha! Love these girls to bits!

And that sums up our last day in Busan! Thank goodness for the perfect weather on all 3 days we had in Busan and the kind locals who helped us along the way! Thank you from deep down inside my heart for the good time we had, Busan! And as much as we know we will miss Busan, we can't wait to move on to the rest of our trip in Seoul since we know that there's always a chance to revisit! So stay tuned for the Seoul adventures!!!

More posts from Korea September/ October 2014 travelogue series:

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