Saturday, June 10, 2017

Korea - Itinerary 9 Days 8 Nights, Day 3: Seoul - Anguk, Jongno-gu


Day 3: 
  • Seoul: Changdeokgung (UNESCO World Heritage) and Buchon Hanok Village
  • Breakfast at Paris Baguette @ Myeong Dong,  Late lunch at random food place near Insadong, Tea at random hanok place at Buchon Hanok Village, Dinner at Tosokchon Samyetang at Jongno-gu
To do:

99, Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Opening hours: 
Palace: 9:00-18:00, Secret garden : 10:00 - 17:30 
Closed on Mondays
Fee: KRW 3,000 (Palace), KRW 8,000 (Palace and Guided tour of secret garden)

The weather forecast for today is rainy and when we got to Changdeokgung its still sunny. We missed the timeslot for english tour so we have to wait till 12:30 pm for the chinese tour to begin. 

I paid KRW 8,000 which includes a guided tour of the secret garden. By itself, the palace is a little boring. But with the secret garden tour, it adds a little new dimension as there are ponds and pavilions and even a tiny-weeny waterfall. 

Its about 45 mins to burn so we just idlely walk around the grounds. Majority of the ground is sand and not stone. So be prepared to be eating sand whenever a strong wind blows. 

Right just about the tour is about to start, it started drizzling and ended pouring. And it rain and rain throughout the tour. 

You can see me in a rain coat and holding on to an umbrella. And all the tourists will hide under a shelter instead of wondering the grounds. 
 This is a very unique pavilion as its not in the usual octagonal shape instead it is shaped like a leaf. 
Towards the end of the tour we are brought to a traditional hanok house to see their living quarters and how people lived. 

*Note: Purchasing a Royal Palace Pass does not guarantee entrance to the Secret Garden (entry requires a reservation made by internet/exchange a voucher at ticket office)
Tour of the secret garden is only guided, we are not free to roam around the garden and will be asked to leave after the tour.  

Buchon Hanok Village
37 Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

At Buchon there are mainly 8 sceneries that are promoted. 
Bukchon 1st Scenery : Changdeokgung Complete View
Bukchon 2st Scenery : Wonseo-dong Crafts Workshop Way
Bukchon 3st Scenery : Gahoe-dong 11 Area
Bukchon 4st Scenery : Gahoe-dong 31 Hill
Bukchon 5st Scenery : Gahoe-dong Alleyway(downward view)
Bukchon 6st Scenery : Gahoe-dong Alleyway(upward view)
Bukchon 7st Scenery : Gahoe-dong 31 View
Bukchon 8st Scenery : Samcheong-dong Stone Step Path

It helps to get at a map from the tourist information centre. Base on my research it will take 2-3 hours to complete the entire course if you wan to see all. In the end, i just decide to go with the flow and just walk see a few scenes and go off for the day. 

Along the trail there are alot of tourist information officers who are around to offer their kind assistance. So you can always ask them if in doubt. 

I highly recommend one of the sights in Buchon Hanok Village and it is the only house that is open to public as its a government gazetted residence.  Its called the Baek In-Je House Mueseum. It free but it needs a little time to locate. So far none of the blogs i read mentioned this place, i might have also missed this if the tourist centre personnel didn't share this with me. Opening hours to this place is 9:00 to 18:00. They do conduct guided tours at this place.

Here's a peek to the hanok house. 
This place is huge and it offers a glimpse of how a hanok looks like. Though in a much grander version. The person who used to own this place must be super rich. 

I don't usually see people mentioning this place when visiting the Hanok village but i really like the tranquil environment and they are actually furnishings in the  house instead of a blank empty space. 

There is also a room showing a videography about the house architecture, structure and unique points of the house. 

To eat:

Paris Baguette in Myeong Deong - 4.0 stars, budget
Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea

We head to Isaac Toast again, upon seeing the queue, we walked further down and head to Paris Baguette instead. So no address again. >_<|||

All the packaging here is instant. But the cups are so cute. There is a variety of bread to choose from, cake as well. Bread is nice but just so. 

Random shop in Insadong - 2.5 stars, budget

Insadong, Seoul, South Korea
Again, this food place in unplanned. We entered the place as it looks clean and modern and serves korean food. 

This time we tried tonkatsu korean style. The curry is sweet and not like japanese curry either. This dish on the menu is called King pork cutlet.

I like to try korean Gimbap and this is an item checked off the list. I think i prefer japanese sushi anytime. This is the tuna mayo gimbap i ordered.

Random Bukchon cafe - 2.8 stars, budget

Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

We randomly walked past this cafe while walking around the buchon hanok village. It is a hanok itself. And it may have been a guest house as well.  That's me sitting around in korean style. 
I had a sikhye (sweet rice drink), a traditional korean beverage made with fermented rice. Its a sweet rice drink with ice. I guess you can try this for experience. Hubby had latte. 

Tosokchon Samgyetang 토속촌삼계탕- 4.0 stars, mid-range

No.5 Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul

I told hubby that this is the place i will go no matter what and what better time to eat then now when we are in the vicinity. Hub's mind is full of grilled beef and only grilled beef. Took a bit of arm bending to get him here. Guess, its dinner and there is no queue! But somehow we are ushered to the traditional style korean room instead of the one with tables and chairs. I had a hard time and need to keep changing postures (all the yoga i've done has gone to waste). 
The traditional style table. We are given a tin with plastic bag for us to throw the bones and the usual side dishes for korean restaurants. 
We ordered the Tosokchon Sansam Baeyanggeun Ogolgye Samgyetang. This is black chicken ginseng soup with wild ginseng adventitious roots. This cost KRW 6,000 more than the normal black chicken due to the wild ginseng roots. And in truth, there is not much taste to it. But the entire soup is very flavourful and has so many ingredients - 3 yr ginseng, red dates, pumpkin seeds,  chestnut, sunflower seeds, ginko etc.

Another dish we ordered is the Haemul Pajeon - the pancake if flavourful with seafood food and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. 

I was kinda of worried our order will be rejected as we ordered only one soup and there is 2 of us. Luckily the person never mentioned anything and proceed to take our order.

There is a standard sequence to eating the ginseng soup. And we try to follow this and make it as authentic as possible. I thoroughly enjoyed this meal and was super happy how the day ended with such a yummy meal.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Korea - Itinerary 9 Days 8 Nights, Day 2: Seoul - Anguk, Jongno-gu


Day 2: 

  • Seoul: Princess Hanbok, Gyeongbokgung Palace and Yeouido Spring flower festival
  • Breakfast at Isaac Toast Myeong Dong, Late lunch at random food place near Jongno-gu, Dinner at Old School Seoul Bulgogi at Mapo

To do:

Princess hanbok
52-6 Anguk-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

There are several hanbok rentals that i found online but i finally decided to go to this place as the owners can converse in mandarin and all the photos shown their website show pretty hanboks. 

Upon reaching, we are told there are 2 tier of clothes - basic and premium. As price difference is only KRW 5,000 i decided to take the premium costing KRW 20,000 per pax. Everything is provided including the locker to keep your things while you walk around in your hanbok. The purse is also given to us to put our stuff. 

My hair is also tied by the lady there. 

The company is quite strict with late comers. We are late and have to pay extra KRW6,000. Yup 4 hours are not enough for me to take pictures. I took a lot and hubby say this is my personal photoshoot. 

Gyeongbokgung Palace
161 Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Opening hours: 9:00- 18:00, closed every tuesday
Fees: KRW3,000 *free if wearing hanbok

This is a UNESCO heritage site. I planned to reach this place by 9.30 to watch all the performances.  
Sumungun (Gatekeeper) Military Training at 9:30 am
Sumunjang (Royal guard) Changing Ceremony at 10:00 am
Gwanghwamun Gate Guard-on-duty performance at 11:00 am

We didn't get to Gyeongbokgung till after 11:00 and we are joining the free tour offered at 12.30 pm. So in the end we missed all performances.

The palace was huge.  Plus the free tour is more than 1.5 hours where the guide highlight specific places of the palace that we will otherwise miss. 

I also saw my first cherry blossoms here. And everyone is so ga-ga over them. 

The palace is big and will need at least half a day to walk through all the point of interest indicated on the map. 

*Tip entrance to the palace is free if you are wearing traditional hanbok and this true of all the palaces to visit. 

Yeouido Spring Flower Festival
Yeoeuido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu Seoul, South Korea

One of the reason i went to Seoul during this time is because of the cherry blossoms. And lucky us, when we reach the flowers are still blossoming. But the Yeouido Spring Flower Festival is a week earlier. So we missed this but its okay as long as we see the pretty blossoms. 

The nearest place to get here is stop by at National Assembly Station, Exit 1. This is my first time seeing cherry blossoms and i think they are really pretty. And the petals will rain down when the wind blows littering the entire pathway with floating petals.

It feels so romantic to walk down the street with your loved one and though i was super duper tired from the long day seeing this makes me really happy.

To eat:

Isaac Toast in Myeong Deong - 4.0 stars, budget
105 Toegye-ro, Chungmuro 1(il)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea

We arrive quite early 9 am and there is already a queue. It must really be good. 
We ordered (4) Hot Chicken MVP(6) bacon best . Do note they won't cut the toast for you. 

Our toast in preparation. Really anticipating this. They will put the butter on hot plate and let the bread toast. 
I love the toast. It skewed more towards sweetness but the fresh vegetable they put in with the toast and egg made the toast really refreshing and delicious. The bread is crisp and yet soft. All the ingredients is a perfect match. 
The hot chicken MVP is also delicious. Hubby resolved to try all the toast from that day onwards. Unfortunately, the queue everyday just get longer and we never got to try others.

The only con for this is that we have to drink coffee and toast all at the roadside for this outlet.

Roadside stall - 2.5 stars, budget
Gye-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul 

Not sure where is this place. We are looking for a shop called Sanneri but the numbers don't run the normal way and we can't locate the place no matter what. Gyedong is a hilly area and we climb all the way to the top and eventually sat down at the nearest food stall on the way downhill.
 Fish cake with sauce, the soup is delicious. The fish cake is nice. 
Tteokbokki and korean sausage. The korean sausage is made of pig's blood and dong fen. It taste abit gamey and i didn't like it. As for the tteokbokki, koreans really have a love relationship with this. Somehow they love this and some will even take it as a whole meal. But to me its simply starch mixed with spicy sauce. The tempura is ok but not impressive. 

Old School Seoul Bulgogi 옛맛서울불고기 in Mapo - 3.0 stars, mid-range
Sangsu-dong 115, Mapo-gu Seoul, South Korea

Address is what i picked from the internet before i went. Apparently, its incorrect on google map and well, we asked alot of people. Most can't speak english/chinese and point us in a direction. And we got incredibly lost. At long last, we met a nice lady we walked us a little distance and we managed to find the place. 

Korea is not the world's most friendly place. Hmmmm.....

My hubby request for someone who can speak chinese (i think its a totally bad idea). The attitude of the person ordering sucks. If we ain't so hungry and tired from all the walking (nearly an hour just to locate this place), i would have walked right out. We were told there is only one type of meat where there is so obviously 2 options on the menu. So we give up and just ordered what the lady say we should. Grrrrl. 

We are served all the sides (by the way is refillable) on the sides, we didn't know so ate our bbq with rice instead. 

The sliced beef soup on the left taste wonderful. Finally, the main dish is served. 

So we waited for the beef to be grilled by the charcoal. Apparently, they will create a hole instead of just putting all the meat and covering the entire plate. 

The sliced beef is well flavoured with greens. I guess that its the unique selling point. Its good but not as good as what we tried in Singapore Superstar. The food that leaves an impression is actually the big mushroom that is very fresh and sweet. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Korea - Itinerary 9 Days 8 Nights, Day 1: Seoul - Myeong Deong


Day 1: 

  • Seoul, myeong dong shopping for cosmetics
  • Dinner at Bonjuk at Myeong Dong and Myeong Dong street food
  • Seoul: Ibis Ambassador Seoul Myeong Dong
To do:

Arrived to Seoul safely. What with all the North Korea threats on their trial nuclear tests and china banning tourists from travelling to South Korea due to political reasons. 
Upon alighting from the plan, we need to queue for a shuttle. The shuttle is to ferry all arriving passengers to the customs clearance and the main airport where all the shopping and food is. We only manage to board the 3rd shuttle train due to the long queue.

Did not do much today except for booking the KTX tickets at the tourist information centre. Its quite a distance from where the arrival hall. We also got our t money, its useful as we do not need to get tickets and just top up adequate money and we are good to go.

There is also a queue for the sim card. 

To eat:

Bonjuk 본죽 2.8 stars, budget

65-2 Chungmuro 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Even with an address, korea is not the easiest place to navigate. So it all boils down to luck or my dear hubby. Though he confidently proclaims he knows the way to this place. ah ha! Yes, he did eventually lead us to the right place.

I ordered the basic abalone porridge at KRW 11,000. But if you like hong kong style porridge, this is not the kind of porridge for you. As this is thick porridge and you can still feel the rice grains. I love the abalone porridge primarily due to the abalone is chopped to fine but very chewy. Though the porridge is still a bit plain. 

Hubby ordered the crab porridge at KRW 9,000 as it was recommended online and he wanted to try something different from mine. Apparently he didn't like it. He find that it lacks flavour and bland. I didn't try his as he is down with flu. 
There is a huge variety of other porridge to choose from. Unfortunately, someone is no longer keen to try. 

I came with huge expectations, but this place fails to impress me. To placate someone, i agreed to supper along myeong deong food street right after dinner.

Myeong Deong street food 3.5 stars, budget

No address except its along the streets of cosmetics, Myeong Deong Seoul, South Korea

Some of the food is not bad. I love the lobster as well as the fried potato wrapped with hot dog. Both of these are delicious. But the lobster is quite expensive. 

Not very impressed with the egg bun. As its basically just hard boiled egg toasted with bread. 

To Stay:

Ibis ambassador seoul myeongdong, IBIS앰배서더 명동 호텔 

78 Namdaemun-ro, Myeongdong 1(il)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea

The location of the hotel is undisputedly a premium location. Within short walking distance is Euljiro 1 (il) ga (Line 2 green line) or if you're shopping along myeong dong the myeong dong station. Airport express bus #6015 directly stopped in front of the hotel which makes commute between airport and hotel a breeze. 

I was able to shop for beauty products to my hearts content till late as the shops are all within walking distance. 

Service is great from all the concierge/reception. Checking in is a breeze. We left our luggage at the luggage room and we always able to promptly deposit and collect our luggage with ease. 

Being used to soft fluffy beds, the bed is a little too firm for my liking and the pillows too soft. Although we did ask for extra pillows but it doesn't really seem to help much. The furnishing and carpeting is a dated and is due for an overhaul. 
I like the space of the room though. Sufficient to place all 3 luggages i brought. It was pretty stuffy in the room for first few days and upon enquiry was suggested to open the windows if required. Luckily on return trip the air con works fine as i set it to a lower temperature.