Thursday, January 28, 2010

Park Jin Young - South Korea's answer to Michael Jackson

Just thought we share a catchy video of Park Jin Young's 2002 hit - Eum Eum Eum. The music is catchy and the dance has smooth grooves. If you are alert enough, you can catch K-pop star Rain as one of the backup dancers, when he was just known as Jung Ji-hoon. Enjoy.

DAY 2 In SEOUL (Part 1)

(Above) Top view of Noryangjin Fish Market

The next day, we will getup at 7am to grab something light at the continental breakfast buffet spread downstairs before heading out for a 10 minutes walk to Anguk station. From Anguk station, we will take a train to the next stop at Jongnosam-ga Station which will allow us to make a transfer from Line 3 to Line 1. 6 stops away from Jongnosam-ga Station, we will alight at Noryangjin Station. Stepping out of the station, we will probably get a whiff of something fishy and follow this smell down the long overhead pedestrian bridge which will bring us to the rooftop carpark of Seoul’s famous fish market – the Noryangjin fishmarket.

This fish market is a wholesale auction market with 700 shops selling all manner of seafood, and they provide the bulk of seafood into Seoul and the surrounding regions. The auction is conducted between 1am to 6.30am and the very same seafood will find its way to restaurants all over in time for their day's business.

(Above)All kinds of fish roe or caviar on display and for sale

The retail market takes off where the auction ends and business is conducted until the late hours of evening. Here you can find a wide array of seafood from Russian king crabs to North Korean hairy and snow crabs, abalone, sea cucumber.

(Above) Octopus on sale
What we will probably want to try here would be the live small octopus(above) though I will have to convince Gayle to have a go at it since she’s not too keen on the wriggly tentacles. Small octopus (낙지) called sannakji , is a popular delicacy here and eaten cooked or raw. If eaten raw, it is eaten whole or sliced up, its tentacles still wriggling as it goes into your mouth. It would be interesting to feel the suction of the tentacles as you chew on them.

(Above)A dish of Gaebul with innards

We will also aim to try pinkish worm-like sea slugs(above) called gaebul (개불). There are also bright red ones are known as monggae (멍개) . Both of these are usually eaten raw. Since our Korean language is non-existent, we will probably pay a little bit more and go up to the seafood restaurants(heard that there are 8 of them)on the next level of the market. While these restaurants "specialise" in hwee (회) raw fish, steamed crabs and other seafood-based dishes and soups, they share a unique feature as they have no food on offer but rather they will prepare or cook whatever customers buy from the market and bring up to them. They will do the preparation for you, plus provide the side dishes and prepare hot soup. We will probably also order through them and chuckle at the waitresses yelling our orders down to the stall holders at the fish market.

After having our fill of seafood, we will head down back to Noryangjin station. There we will take the train on Line 1 to the 3rd stop at Seoul Station where we will transfer to line 4 and alight at the second stop from Seoul Station to arrive at Myeongdong which is one of Seoul’s main shopping district.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

DAY 1 - Arrive In Seoul and Check In(Part 2)

(Above)Insadong Street crowded with locals and tourists

By the time we checked in and rested a while, it should be around 3 to 4pm in the afternoon. We will probably take a walk around Insadong-gil(gil is the Korean word for street) which is the main street in the Insadong area. Insadong is a popular tourist destination in Seoul. Composed mainly of one long street, it is known for its many art galleries, restaurants, and shops that sell traditional Korean items and art. There is also plenty of cheap street food and occasional public performances of dancing.

Above) Information centre at Insadong
We will head to the Insadong Tourist Information Centre to ask them more about the place. There are two Tourist Information Centers(TIC) that are located at the two ends of the main street of Insadong that have experienced staff fluent in English, Mandarin and Japanese; There are maps and useful brochures and booklets which we will take the relevant ones. Public bathrooms are located next to TICs as well so in case one is need of a washroom. There are also 3 computer terminals at the Insadong Tourist Information Centre with free internet access if you are thinking of sending our emails. The TICs are opened from 10am to 10pm daily.

Here, in the myriad fine craft stores that line both sides of the street, we can find anything from simple hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), to beautiful Goryeo era vases. The roads leading to Insadong are filled with restaurants where we will be able to get Japanese udon noodles, Chinese dumplings, and European cakes up until the entrance of Insa-dong. Once inside the main Insadong area. We'll find distinctly Korean foods in temporary stalls on the streets such as tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), eomuk (skewered fish sausage), hotteok, and various tempuras. These street foods are tasty and cheap, so it's definitely worth a try for us.

(Above) Jilsuru rice cake cafe at Insadong

We will also find rare korean foods, such as rice cakes, yeot (traditional candy), and rice cookies. There are also many kinds of traditional drinks, such as cinnamon tea, Chinese quince tea, jujube tea, shikhye (fermented rice punch), and sujeonggwa (cinnamon flavored dried persimmon punch), so we will try a cup to compliment the food.
The winding side streets are also home to a variety of traditional restaurants. Most restaurants in Insadong are on alleys near Sudo Pharmacy. (Please refer to the map of Insadong). Traditional restaurants in Insadong serve Korean dishes cooked without synthetic seasonings in remodeled traditional Korean houses. Sanchon serves good temple food along with a traditional performance. The restaurant Jirisan is famous for delicious dishes that taste of Korean home cooking. Sadongmyeonok is renowned for manduguk, dumpling soup; Insadong Hangari Sujebi is recognized for sujebi, clear soup with wheat flakes; and Gaetmaeul Milbatjip is celebrated for kalguksu, noodle soup. Yetchatjip, Gwicheon, and Jeontong Dawon located inside of Gyeongin Art Gallery are popular traditional teahouses. A fun experience in Insadong is to try hotteok, Chinese stuffed pancake, or gultarae from a street vendor.

Just as a nugget of information, over forty percent of the nation’s antique stores are in Insadong. It sells more valuable antiques compared to other art streets in Korea. The prices range from 10,000 won to some hundred million won. If it is a Sunday, the Insadong area is off-limits to traffic and becomes a huge pedestrian mall that is converted into a flea market. Many artists also converge there to do street paintings. Those who are interested in traditional tea or coffee shops will have a field day there too. We plan to explore the popular traditional alleys of Insa-dong, to look for the traditional rice cake café - Jilsiru and order some tasty Korean rice cakes and have a drink. Most rice cakes cost 1,500 won and the persimmon shake is 7,000 won. Next to Jilsiru is ‘Sanchon Saramdeul,’ a traditional Korean cookie shop operated by Sanchon, an Insa-dong restaurant well known for its vegetarian “Buddhist temple” food. Here, you can buy traditional Korean cookies not easily found elsewhere, at relatively inexpensive prices. While some cookie bags cost 10,000 won, most are between 4,000 and 5,000 won. The most popular is the yugwa, which costs 4,000 won a bag.

Recently, a new attraction has been drawing visitors to Insadong. Sunday has been named as a car-free day street with cars and various events are held instead. A flea market is held this day where antiques, accessories, artworks and books are sold and bought. Traditional antiques from different parts of Korea as well as international antiques brought by foreign tourists are displayed enabling visitors to view many traditional items at a glance. It is highly recommended to visit Insadong this day since you can also view street paintings. Particularly noteworthy is Tongmungwan which is reputed to be the oldest bookstore in Seoul, and Kyung-in Art Gallery, the oldest tea house. There are daily calligraphy demonstrations and cultural performances. We may also pop by one of Insadong's more recent attractions, the Asia Eros Museum, which was opened in 2004, and is purportedly South Korea's first museum devoted to sex.

We will then head to Anguk subway station(Line 3) which is within our vicinity. We may buy a T-Money pre-paid transportation card there. This card can be purchased at all subway stations and certain kiosks. The card itself costs 2,500 KRW and can be used to pay for subway (T-Money users enjoy a discount on all subway rides, i.e. while a normal ride starts at 1,000 KRW, with T-Money it only costs 900 KRW), bus and taxi and it can be used at certain convenience stores, museums, parking lots, vending machines. Note that there is no way to ask for a refund for unused credits so don’t top up too much. From Anguk station, we will take a train to the next stop at Jongnosam(3)ga Station which will allow us to make a transfer from Line 3 to Line 1. Taking the Line 1 train from Jongnosam(3)ga Station, we will alight at the 2nd stop at Dongdaemun Station to visit the famous Dongdaemun night market via the subway exit 8.

(Above)Layout of Dongdaemun Market

Dongdaemun Market, Seoul is located in Dongdaemun-gu of Seou and is considered to be the shopping kingdom of Seoul. The market of Dongdaemun is home to 50,000 wholesalers, 30,000 stores and 20 shopping malls. Dongdaemun Market, Seoul is the destination where retailers from different parts of the nation flock to and do some great business. Most shops and stores have their own a manufacturing factory or subcontract, which enables them to sell the items at price 30 to 70 percent cheaper than those of the department stores in major cities. Large shopping malls including Doosan Tower, Migliore, and Freya Town located within the area also offer goods at half price. Thus, while the products are of a acceptable to good quality, they are still priced very low. Clothing items for men and women, shoes and trendy fashion accessories are available at prices that are 20-30% lower than any other market in Seoul.

The Dongdaemun Market area is divided by the main street into two major sections. Section One is on the side where Doosan Tower is located, and Section Two is the side of Dongdaemun Stadium. Tall and huge shopping mall buildings in Section One basically sell wholesale and retail goods, but deal mostly with general customers and tourists at retail prices. Since a lot of foreign tourists visit the area, there are many money exchanges and information desks in the area staffed with English speaking guides. The shopping malls open from 10 a.m. to 5 a.m. of the next day, targeting at the younger customers. Major shopping malls in the area are Doosan Tower, Migliore, Freya Town, and Hello apM.

The shopping malls in the area usually operate between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. or opens 5 p.m. the next day for the convenience of wholesalers rather than retail customers. Wholesale market opens from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. and the retail market opens from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., which makes this market works 24 hours. Since most shops deal with the wholesalers, there may not be a dressing room to try out the clothes. In many shops in the area refunds and exchanges are not guaranteed. This means that customers have to make sure that they check the quality and size thoughtfully before purchasing.

In addition to the marketplace, we will try to locate some shopping recommendations such as Jeil Pyeonghwa and Heungin Stardom which are targeted at customers in their 30s and 40s who favor goods with simple and elegant design. Younger customers – teenagers and other youths in their 20s normally opt for Designer's Club, Migliore, Nuzzon, and Gwanghee Fashion Mall. We will also check out "Team 204" at Dongdaemun Market to find out latest fashion trends, because it is the place where most up-to-date fashion items from abroad is first introduced in the nation. There is only one-week time span between the design trends of "Team 204" shops and the latest from those of Milan, Paris, or New York. We understand that traders and shop owners in this area fly to Milan, Tokyo, Paris, or New York to get the taste of latest design and to collect samples. Designer Club, Team 204, Heyang Elicium, Migliore, Doosan Tower are frequented by young ladies seeking fashionable dresses. Such stores as Uno Core, Art Plaza, and Freya Town aim for women over 25 years old. Men's clothing can found at such shops as Heyang Elicium, Uno Core, Designer Club, Freya Town, Doosan Tower, and Migliore whereas children's clothes are available at Heungin Market, Doosan Tower, Freya Town, and Migliore. Migliore, which opened its doors in 1998, has the slogan "from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet," and you can find everything in one place. Under the slogan "shopping is a war," Doota is a rival to Migliore, and boasts diverse and unique fashion items. All in all, it should be a shopping adventure worth trying out. Oh yes, one useful word to use during shopping is "pi sai yo" which means expensive. We read that you've got to say it with gusto! like "Pi Sai YOOOOO"

Along the way, we will also be looking out for the night market food area to have our dinner the Korean way by looking for a good streetside food stall. These streetside food stall aren’t small side food kiosks but are rather miniature restaurants that offer relatively extensive menus and we just want to get the Korean experience of seating inside a tent to enjoy our food like any Korean – in Korea, do as the Koreans do.

After that we will continue shopping as far as our legs can carry us. It’s simply not possible to conquer Dongdaemun with it’s 30 000 speciality shops and 26 shopping malls. We will probably shop till 11 before heading back to catch the last train to Anguk station and walk back to our service apartment.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

DAY 1 - Arrive in Seoul and check in ( Part 1 )

(Above) Seoul from the air as we approach to land at Incheon.

We plan to take a night flight from Singapore so that we can save on a day since we can sleep on the plane. Arriving at Seoul Incheon International Airport at about past 7am in the morning and after clearing customs, we will proceed to the Tourist Information Center.

(Above and below) Incheon International Airport Seoul and floors

It is located on the 2nd floor of arrival terminal beside Gate A and F , or #1-2 . The TIC is opened from 7am to 10pm. It is staffed by staff fluent in English and offers information on finding good accommodations, tourist attractions and other information tourists may want while they are travelling in Korea. The staff at the Information Desk also provide print-outs of data on specific places that visitors may wish to go to at their request. We will also visit the International Taxi booth at the airport to discuss with the information officers there and book a taxi for a day for our planned Korean drama location tour. The International Taxi information counter is located on the 1st floor of the passenger terminal at Incheon International Airport.

(Above) Interior of the Somerset Palace Serviced Apartment
By the time we have arrived, we would hopefully have a secured an online reservation for a serviced studio apartment at the Somerset Palace Serviced Residences at No. 85 Susong-Dong Seoul 110-885 South Korea. This location is in downtown Seoul, beside Gyeongbok Palace, in the heart of the city’s business and financial district. Nearby are the many restaurants, shopping and entertainment venues located along Insa-Dong and throughout the Jongno-Gu area. We plan to book for 5 nights stay there. Managed by Ascott International, a reputed company that runs a number of modern serviced apartments throughout the world, including 5 in Singapore, we felt that we would be at least assured of reliable and honest service because you can’t be too careful with online bookings and transactions. Somerset Seoul Palace is managed by the Ascott Group, which is owned by of Capitaland which has Temasek Holdings as one of it’s investors which technically means this place is so Singaporean which should translate to some form of Singaporean reliability So, in effect, we are somewhat supporting a Singaporean enterprise while overseas. As part of the Ascott Anniversary celebrations worldwide, they are offering up to 25% off the published rates.

(Above) Exterior of the Somerset Palace Serviced apartment.

Importantly, the apartment design and amenities in the Somerset Palace suits our needs and budget. They offer a promotion for Citibank card holders with a studio apartment daily rate at approximately 156750W inclusive of 10%VAT taxes will be roughly in the region of SGD$185 a night, a good rate for a 5 star like apartment with home amenities like broadband internet access, cooker hob and hood, kettle, crockery, utensils, cutlery, microwave oven, refrigerator, toaster, hairdryer, television with cable and satellite channels, air-conditioning and heater facilities, telephone with IDD, washing machine and dryer. Alternatively, you can check with Misa Travel : where the booking rate could be as low as SGD$150 depending on the season.

We can either check with the Incheon Airport Tourist Information Centre on an alternative way to get to Somerset Palace or we can take the suggested route offered by Somerset which tells us to proceed from the arrival floor(1st floor) of passenger terminal to bus booth 5B for bus number 6011. Each ticket costs 9000KW ( SGD$10.40) and the bus journey lasts approximately 1hr. Waiting interval for each service is approximately 20 minutes. We will alight at Anguk Station and take a 4 minute walk to our destination – Somerset Palace Seoul. This bus service starts at 5.35am and ends at 10.25pm daily. Travellers with heavy baggage, child or the elderly are not recommended for this bus service. For us, it will be fine since will be travelling with backpacks which is easier to store or stow on our laps.

On arrival, we will check in if it is within the stipulated check in time period which should usually be from 2pm onwards. If we arrive earlier, we will leave our luggage at the reception and set out to have early lunch. We have two options : One is that if we are not too tired, we can explore some eateries around around Susong Dong as we do not want to venture too far if we have to check in at a later time. If not, we have a German Korean restaurant on site within the serviced apartment complex. There is also a Starbucks coffee joint, a ice cream parlour. We may also buy some snacks from the 24hr convenience stall there too.

After getting the keys to our serviced apartment and checking that all the appliances work so that the damage compensation if any is not on us, we will probably take a short break and take a look at the map. At the Somerset Palace serviced apartment that we will be staying, we are informed that there is a Starbucks for caffine addicts, ice cream place for a sweet tooth, and 24 hr. convenience store with atm located in the hotel. Breakfast is also served daily until 10 am. The buffet is the same everyday. It has both Korean breakfast and also American. The American options include pancakes, eggs, french toast, toast with butter or jelly, muffins, watermellon, pineapple, bacon, sausage, cereal and juices.

( To be continued )

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Planning for our next overseas holiday in Seoul.

(Above) The two faces of South Korea - Classic and modernity

It's been a while since our last trip to Japan and hopefully, we can find time during this coming June to splurge on a trip to South Korea. Initially, we were thinking about going to Europe but since we are more keen on Asian food and of course shopping, we decided to opt for South Korea first. We have to admit our current addiction to Korean cable TV and dramas has played an influential role in our travel plans.

Hope that our bosses will release us for this June so we are keeping our fingers crossed. Right now, we are researching on our itinerary for our 9 day stay in Seoul.Would love to stay longer but work beckons so may not have that long a leave approved.

We will focus our travel on Seoul since given the limited 9days, we felt we should just focus on our interests instead of diluting our experience and trying to cover everything but achieving nothing and tire ourselves out. So we are skipping the usual places of Busan and Jeju Island.

A good site to read up about travelling in South Korea is the Korea Sparkling website :

We will be sharing our plans fo Seoul so those who are also planning to go to Seoul free and easy can look out for them.

Dealing with leakage from the apartment above

(Above) The discolouration of the ceiling and spalling of our black paint.

Recently, we noticed that there was some peeling and discolouration of our black ceiling of our master toilet. We called up the town council but it seems that they were not too concerned with it sending down a handyman who claim that there was nothing serious. So for a second opinion, we called HDB and they sent down staff to inspect our ceiling. The solution was that they went to the aprtment upstairs to inform them that their waterproofing for their master toilet flooring was not up to mark and to re proof their flooring.We were not at fault so we don't have to pay. So will be waiting for next 2 weeks as advised by HDB before scraping and painting that portion. Seems that the apartment above didnt have very gd contractors as they were also renovated the same time as us which was two years back. This is the second time their bathroom is giving water seepage problems to us. The last time was a year ago in our common bathroom ceiling which was repainted after they repaired their flooring. Which brings us to the point that for those who have just renovated their flat and have a year's workmanship warranty ahead, do check with your neighbors down below your flat to see if there are any leaks so that repairs can be done under warranty and for free. For those who have problems with their HDB flat,you can go to -
and contact them for an assessment appointment. They are quite prompt and will turn up and diagnose within 2 to 5 working days.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year's Day Lunch at Sakae teppanyaki

On our first day of the new year, we went for a nice and value for money lunch at Sakae Teppanyaki at Bugis Junction. They are having a promotion of $49++ ( nett price - $58 after GST and taxes) for a teppanyaki set lunch for two comprising of salmon sashimi salad, fried bean sprouts, lamb or chicken, scallops and boston lobsters. Each person had the lobster served in two different cooking styles - one pan fried with garlic and seasoning teppanyaki style and the other boiled in a miso broth. Dessert was a nice refreshing mango ice cream. Do try it if you are able to.