Sunday, February 28, 2010
After listening to the new version of We Are the World in aid of the Haitian earthquake victims, we find that they have changed the song so much from it's original character that it doesn't sound as classic a song as before. We prefer another song called Smile Again from he I Love Asia Project by korean celebrities in aid of the Sichuan earthquake victims. It really stirs your heart. The song is produced by Korean singer-producer JYP in collaboration with Chinese superstar Jackie Chan; participating celebs include Jo Sung-mo, Park Yong-ha, Gan Mi-yeon, Chae Yeon, Kim Yuna, Han Ji-hye, Wonder Girls, Lee Jung-hyun, Kim Dong-wan, Kim Ah-joong, Shin Hye-sung, Kim Tae-hee, Han Hye-jin, Jeon Hye-bin, Jang Nara, Battle, Brown Eyed Girls and J-Lim etc. Enjoy.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Day 4 is where we will set aside time to look for those shopping buys which we had put aside the previous days so that we can check that the buys are good or that we have made a decision to buy to prevent impulsive shopping.
(Above) Fashion apparel at Dongdaemun
Also, it allows us to revisit those places that we may have missed or rushed through in the first few days here. So we will go back to Dongdaemun area in the 1st half of the day and then go to Insadong area near our serviced apartment which will make getting back easier, especially after a full day of walking and shopping.
(Above) Different levels of shopping experience, from malls to markets.
After breakfast at our serviced apartment, we will walk to Anguk Station and 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 the 2nd stop at Dongdaemun Station. At Dongdaemun station, we will exit from exit 3 of Line 4 of the station and use the overhead pass to get to the shopping malls like Doosan Tower and Migliore.
We will probably start with Doosan Tower which by itself is a feat to accomplish in shopping with 2000 stores in its nine stories. We heard that popular Korean pop stars often perform on the outdoor stage in front of the building so one can keep a lookout for them.
For lunch, we can either go to one of the many restaurants and eateries within Doosan Tower or proceed out of the mall to some recommended eateries in the area. We will shop till about 3 to 4pm in the afternoon before heading off to the 63 Building for some more shopping and getting a bird eye’s view of Seoul central.
Formerly called the Daehan Life Insurance (DLI) 63 Building(above), it is now know better by the local people as the 63 Building. While the building officially has 63 stories, only 60 are above ground. The other 3 are underground. Still, it remains the tallest building in Northeast Asia. Besides being a tourist and architectural attraction, the building contains many different attractions and amusement. The building resembles a small city, containing a beauty salon, post office, and ATM machines. Various stores sell everything from books to clothes to flowers to stationary.
To get to 63 Building, we will take a line 4 train from Dongdaemun station and transfer at the next stop which is Jongnosam(3)ga Station. At this station, we will transfer to Line 5 which will see us alighting 8 stops away at Yeouido Station. This station is located on an island on the southern side of the han River in Seoul. at side of the island has been paved over for parking, although a small patch has been saved for a small nature preserve.
Yeouido forms Seoul's (and therefore Korea's) financial and economic center, housing the Korea Stock Exchange and the headquarters of numerous securities dealers, banks, and other financial institutions. The National Assembly building sits on the western side, where Korea's polititians boycott meetings called by the opposing party and engage in occasional fist fights once they actually do get together. The eastern side of the island is dominated by the the 63 Building which we are visiting. We will emerge from exit 5 of the station and take a 10 minutes walk / or the free shuttle bus to 63 Building.
At 63 Building, we will pay about 5000W each to take the elevator to the 60th storey or 63rd Floor Observation deck ( depends on whether you see the 3 stories that are underground as the starting point). From the Observation Platform at 264m above the sea level, and 249m above the ground level there is a feeling as if one is floating above the clouds, we will be rewarded with a panoramic view of Seoul and the surrounding area. On a clear day or night, one can see up to 50 km. (However, we are told that clouds or pollution may limit our visibility to a lot less on most days.)
There are floor to ceiling windows to lean your camera up against for photographs. Take some. Try walking out onto the glass floor if you are brave enough. There is also a wax museum, an art museum(Hello Kitty fans may want to visit the art exhibit with Hello Kitty theme there), an IMAX theatre for visitors but visiting all these will incur admission fees of up to 38000W per adult so it is a personal choice whether that money can be better spend on food or shopping. Admission starts at 10am and last admission is at 9.30pm for those who want to take the night view of Seoul.
After coming down, we will do some shopping at the many shop areas at the 63 Building, and if we can find time to also visit Yeouido Plaza, a huge paved area in the center of the island which could theoretically be used for a landing strip for airplanes, has been ripped up and turned into a park with grass and trees- definitely something Seoul has needed for a long time! The Han River side contains a bike path (continuing along the southern bank of the Han River), several riverside parks, and a large outdoor stage with weekly concerts during the summer. Many people go to the park area behind the National Assembly building where they operate radio controlled airplanes, helicopters, and cars. This is a good place to get some nice photo opportunities of the Han river and the Seoul skyline.
(Above) Samgak Kimbap. You can see the numbers 1,2,3 indicating how to open the packet.
Along the way, we will probably want to try a popular Korean snack that we often see on Korean drama series which is the samgak kimbap, (Korean sushi). There is a skill involved in removing the plastic wrapper and keeping the seaweed intact. However, we managed to get some tips on how to open the snack intact. On the wrapper, there are the three numbers. 1 2 3. Follow the numbers when removing the plastic wrap. Pull down the tab (1), until it wraps around and you're left with 2 and 3, the sides. Gently, tugging at the plastic only, remove one side, then the second side and then wrap the seaweed back into place.
For an early dinner, I will bring Gayle back to 63 Building to try out ‘sky-dining’ at the 63 Building’s '63 Buffet Pavilion' offers delicacies from all over the world. Its huge facility and top-quality food has named the restaurant as the best buffet-style restaurant in Korea, styled after a European garden. The cooking staff have won various international cooking competitions, and much of the food is prepared in an open-kitchen with a wide spread of Korean food, Chinese food, Japanese food, vegetables, salads, Galbi, roast beef, drinks etc to cater to all tastes. Dinner is at 57000W per person so it’s a nice splurge to have a romantic dinner with Gayle on top of Seoul and have a nice view during dinner. For more details on the 63 Buffet Pavilion, you can visit http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/FO/FO_EN_6_4_4.jsp?cid=553150.
After dinner, we will take the subway back to our serviced apartment at Anguk station. We will transfer from Line 5 to Line 3 at Jongnosam(3)ga Station which will allow us to reach Anguk Station. We will unload our shopping at our apartment. If we are still energetic, we will probably do some more night shopping down the street at Insadong Gil. If not, we will have an early night and do some laundry since we have a washing machine in our apartment.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Our Wedding Video filmed at Mt Faber Jewelbox - The Glassbar directed by Yang of Substance Films using the song - Everything by Michael Buble. Brings back great memories for us. Thanks to all our family and friends who were there to witness our
wedding and support us on our journey together as husband and wife on 1 September 2007.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
I brought Gayle for her celebratory birthday dinner at Triple Three located at Meritius Mandarin Hotel 5th Level this weekend. The buffet dinner there is geared towards Japanese cuisine with stations featuring fresh shell seafood, sashimi, tempura, teppanyaki, noodles, pasta, baked lobster , pastries and ice cream. Food was fresh and serving portion was ample.
(Above) Gayle posing at Triple Three with the place's comtemporary design decor in the background.
(Above)Seafood galore on my plate. We made our money's worth by globbling up as much seafood as we could muster.
(Above) Cheese baked Lobster
(Above) Me all ready to start on my 4th lobster : )
(Above) Sweet desserts - raspberry and green tea pana cotta.
(Above) Chawanmushi with caviar
(Above) Gayle posing with the string trio who are serenading her with a Michael Buble Song.
The service was quite good and attentive and the renovated Triple Three has a contemporary decor. You can specially ask to book the window seats in advance if you want to seat by the bay windows and look into Orchard Road.
Dinner for weekends is at $72++ and there are credit card discounts from 20% to 50% by banks such as UOB, Citibank, OCBC. However as this week was still the Chinese New Year week, there wasnt any discount available during this festive weekend. There was a string trio going around to serenade diners so this place makes for a good place to celebrate occasions as you can dedicate songs to be sung and played by the string trio.
Friday, February 19, 2010
We were looking through our photo archive and found 2 nice photos of our wedding car and thought we share. For couples who are keen on a unique wedding ride, indeed the open top love bug is THE WEDDING CAR to be in. Decor by Red Box Flowers and Gifts.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
(Above) Our dinner corner in our bedroom
As we tend to spend much time having dinner together in front of the telly in our bedroom, we decided to replace our IKEA side table with a proper cafe style table and proper chairs.
We went to Comfort Design Furnishing to customise the table and purchase 2 acompanying designer chairs. In customising the table, we wanted it to be of a certain size, not too big to take up space and yet adequate for two person usage plus of course, it had to be in red to be in sync with our home colours of red grey and black.
The leg struts(above) for the Table and chair share a similar design architecture for aesthetic flow. Also, the slim and open design does not make the furniture seem to take up much space, providing for a spacious look.
It was also a plus that we could customise the table's legs with that of our chairs(Above). We customised our chairs(below) by ordering PU back cushioning so that we could seat in both comfort and style. The table and 2 chairs cost us $530 inclusive of GST and delivery.
If you are looking for a customised table and good looking chairs, do head for Comfort Design. They do wholesale for restaurants, food courts and also cater to individual buyers like ourselves. You can visit their site for more information : http://www.comfortfurniture.com.sg/
(Above) The birthday gal
To surprise Gayle for her birthday, I ordered a bouquet of sunflowers - her favorite from Ching of Redbox Flowers and Gift, to be delivered to her workplace. Ching did beautiful floral arrangements for our ROM venue a few years back. Ching was very helpful in suggesting if I didnt mind sending it a day later as she said that the flowers would not be fresh before the 18th as there was no delivery of fresh flowers over the Chinese new year weekend holidays. One thing about Ching is that she is very particular about the quality of the product she is delivering and takes great pride in her floral sale and arrangement.She will refuse to do a sale with you if she feels that she is not going to be able to deliver her best or deliver to exceed or at least meet your expectations.
The Sunflowers(above and below) came dressed with Hyperican and Eucalyptus, and wrapped with Coco fiber, beautiful and elegant indeed, which brought a bright smile to my dearest wife.
If you are looking for classic and tastefully graceful floral decor with quality service, feel free to go to http://www.redbox.com.sg/products.php?cat_id=21 or call Ching up to discuss your requirements.
(Above) Birthday cake from Swensen.
I also bought Gayle an ice cream cake from Swensen to celebrate her birthday. We will also end her birthday week by me treating her to a buffet dinner at Triple Three at Meritius Mandarin this weekend. More on that in a future post.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Today is Gayle's Birthday so I am dedicating the following to her :
Dearest Dar dar , I think of you every day,whether it be bright or be it gloomy ;
life becomes a exciting and wonderous journey;
because you make me see the daily pleasures of living;
and make my heart go with a thump;
at every second at the excitment of living out these pleasures with you;
Daily peaks of joy light up every corner of each moment;
and there is never a dull moment with you even when silence reigns.
On this birthday and every one to come,
I believe that we will grow closer till forever.
I'll be your love always and relish every birthday together with you
to celebrate just as I do each and every day
my three words to you -
'I love You'
Sunday, February 14, 2010
(Above) The Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea.
DAY 3, we will have our breakfast at our serviced apartment’s dining area and wait for our tourist guide from Holiday Planners, a local agency in Seoul that organized local tours such as the Demilitarized Zone Tour that we are taking today. You can visit their website for other tours - http://www.theseoul-hotels.com/tours . The tour’s duration is about 5 hours and cost per person is SGD$73 or 61000W. No meals are included and we will probably pack some light food just in case we feel hungry as we plan to eat after the tour. The good thing is they pick you at your hotel and drop you off at the Itaewon shopping district.
A trip to South Korea is not complete without taking a tour to the border between North and South Korea, which remains one of the last icon of the Cold War between democracy and communism. Technically, both South Korea and North Korea are still ‘at war’ as there was no peace treaty signed to conclude the war. The tour will cover visits to the Bridge of Freedom, Imjin-Gak Park, Unification Village, Dora Observatory, station and the third tunnel.
(Above) Bridge of Freedom
The first stop is at the Bridge of Freedom which is still the only bridge crossing over the Imjin River, and most importantly, the only bridge connecting between South and North Korea. According to popular accounts, about 13,000 war captives released from the North crossed this bridge to the South crying ‘Hurrah for freedom’, which gave the bridge its name, "the Bridge of Freedom".
(Above) Unification Village
The second stop is at Imjin-Gak park which is located about 50 kilometers northwest of Seoul. The place is visited by locals every Lunar New Year’s Day where a joint memorial service is conducted to comfort the 10 million South Koreans separated from their families in North Korea.
From the Imjin-Gak Observatory(above), we will be able to get a view of North Korea. and visit the displays of actual jet aircraft and tanks from the Korean War at the Exhibition Hall. Imjin-Gak is located near the western end of the front line. The Kyung-Ui Railroad which was built to connect South and North Korea when completed, passes through Imjin-Gak Park. Therefore, it remains a symbol of both despair of separation and hopes for reconciliation.
From here, we move onto the Dora Observatory which is a 304 sq feet, 500 capacity observation platform situated on top of Dorasan or Mount Dora. The observatory looks across the Demilitarized Zone. As it is the nearest point to North Korea from South Korea, from the observatory,we can view North Korea including the North Korean propaganda village situated in the DMZ, a remnant of the old prosperity of the North, and can see as far as the city of Kaesong.
Our next stop would be at Dorasan Train Station which is located in Paju, is the northernmost train station of South Korea that connects South Korea and North Korea.This is a station with no trains.Unlike most stations, which are full of excitement and liveliness, Dora mountain station stands as a quiet monument that is filled with bitter silence. Visitors instead of passengers, visit this station, to feel the bitterness of a country divided. A famous photo opportunity there is to pose in front of the sign at the boarding gate which proclaims ‘Next destination: Pyeongyang’. Many South Koreans and tourists visit the station in the hope that one day, the North and South will be unified and trains will pass through the Dorasan Station from Seoul to Pyeongyang.
The final stop is at the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel which is located about 44 km or, less than an hour's drive, from Seoul. The third tunnel was discovered in October 1978. Almost identical in structure to Tunnel 2, the 1.635 kilometer-long tunnel, 1.95 meters high and 2.1 meters wide, penetrates 435 meters south of the Military Demarcation Line at a point only 4 kilometers south of the Truce Village of Panmunjom. The tunnel is a engineering marvel as it runs through bedrock 73m below the ground level and was constructed right under the noses of the South Koreans before it was discovered. The tunnel can allow the swift movement of one North Korean army division per hour, plus their weapons, so as to allow for a surprise attack on Seoul. This tunnel is also only 2 km from a key outpost defending the Munsan corridor leading to Seoul. After the tour ends which is about 5 hours later, it will probably be mid afternoon and we will then be dropped off by the tour guide at the Itaewon shopping area.
Itaewon is often described as the most exotic place in Seoul representing fusion of different cultures with a distinctive atmosphere. Many locals have a saying that ‘ You may not know Seoul but you should know Itaewon’ which says something about it’s reputation as a shopping and eating enclave.
(Above) Shopping street in Itaewon
Itaewon’s shopping area covers a 1.4 km length, stretching from the U.S. 8th Army Base eastwards to Hannam-dong and contains over 1,000 different stores. Over 2,400 shops are crowded onto Itaewon Street, of which over 600 offer fashion apparel, over 150 sell leather goods, over 100 are shoe stores, and more than 50 are suit retailers. Itaewon has been named one of the most popular places to shop for bags, fur coats, leather goods, shoes and suits. Leather goods, including handbags and fashion apparel, are very popular with tourists and locals. The area has a vibrant night life scene with many bars and nightclubs.
(Above) Itaewon street vendor
Many street vendors selling shirts, jackets, and caps from local brands to counterfeit brands also stay up late to cater to nocturnal shoppers. Clothing shops offer everything from hip hop styled T-shirts and pants to casual wear to formal suits. There are also shops specializing in bags for sale from suitcases like Samsonite to leather bags. Shoes are also on offer from world class brands like Addidas and Nike to unique no brand shoes.Itaewon remains a popular shopping destination for foreigners due to two main reasons: the superb quality of goods, and the availability of larger sizes that are not easily found elsewhere in Korea. Around here, you will see signs displaying ‘Big Size’ or ‘Big & Tall’ through the shop windows.
Another reason why foreigners find Itaewon’s shopping to be convenient is that most of the shop owners speak fluent English. There are also shops connected to hotels, one of which is the Hamilton Shopping Center run by Hamilton Hotel. The Hamilton Shopping Center is a four-story building selling souvenirs and traditional goods. Another notable shop is ‘Nokgu’. Although Itaewon shops are known to sell imitations, Nokgu only sells original imported brands. Here, popular brands such as Prada, Ferregamo and Gucci can be purchased at 10% to 20% cheaper than at the boutiques of these brands.
Itaewon prides itself on the unique variety of restaurants it has to offer. Not only will you be able to sample exotic food from all over the world, you can also indulge in delicious traditional Korean cuisine. ‘Cheongsa Chorong’ is one of the most popular traditional Korean restaurants in the area, specializing in Hanjeongsik (traditional Korean meal served in a set) and royal cuisines. The restaurant is mainly visited by Japanese customers. It also presents a 30 minute traditional dance performance every night at 7pm. There are restaurants which we may want to take a look and try. One is ‘DaiDai’, a Japanese restaurant. DaiDai is very popular with Japanese patrons and local residents as the two storeys restaurant provides fresh sushi and it’s famed haemultang (spicy and hot seafood casserole). It is located at 683-132, Hannam-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea and is opened from 10am to 10pm. Meals here start from 13000W to 60000W. There is also ‘Mogul’, a Pakistani restaurant. Mogul is famous for its lamb chops, which are beautifully seasoned with 12 different kinds of spices. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? You can visit the following website to have an overview of all the restaurants in the Itaewon area :
To get to Itaewon from other locations in the city, you can take the Seoul City Tour Shuttle Bus which operates from 9am to 9pm along major routes through most tourist destinations or you can take the subway using Line 6 ( alighting at Itaewon , Hangangjin Stations)
After half a day of shopping and eating at Itaewon, we will take the subway from Itaewon Station on Line 6 and alight at the third stop – Yaksu and transfer to Line 3 which will take us to our destination at Anguk Station which is the fifth stop and from there we will take a walk back to our serviced apartment.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
(Above) Shopping street in Myeongdong
Located in the heart of Seoul, Myeongdong comprises mostly of shops that deal with mid-level price as compared to Namdaemun and Dongdaemun Market which sell products at low prices. Spreading across an area of over 300,000 square meters, the Myeong-dong area is considered as one of the trendiest shopping areas in Korea. The numerous shops that are lined at both sides of this area sell readymade garments, shoes, handbags, accessories as well as cosmetics. Tourists can get all the major international brand of cosmetics like Poison, Versace and others. The clothes sold here are reputed to be of international quality. The main street in Myeongdong is lined with quality brand name shops, while mid-class brand name shops and no-name brand shops are located in the side alleys. As is standard in shopping districts, the large shopping malls like Avatar or Migliore and department stores are present as well. All kinds of shops and restaurants are densely located on the main street with lanes such that if you have an helicopter view of the whole area, it will resemble a chess board, so we have been informed that it’s advisable to explore Myeongdong shopping district using Myeongdong station as your starting point and dividing Myeongdong into a few sections – A, B , C and D and explore each section separately.
Section A will be the shops and malls along Myeongdong Street. Notable shops and malls along the street ate Migliore and U-too Zone shopping malls , Levi’s store, Bean Pole store, and a wide variety of shoe store like Geumgang Shoes store, Elkanto and Esquire Shoe Stores. After that, we can move onto section B which covers the shops located in the left side alley that are of a mid-priced range brand. Examples are Ssamzie, Club Monaco, Guess. There are also independent brand stores such as Trend 20 and others in Myeongdong Uiryu shopping mall. Section C is another side alley on the right side of Myeongdong street which comprises of a mix of established and independent brands such as Giordano and Jangbangbee. There are also restaurants and coffee houses along this stretch. After we have explored the two alleys, we will move up along Myeongdong Street until we come into Central Street. The Avatar shopping mall is located here with rows of banks, fast food restaurants and the National Souvenir Centre. After we have brisk through Central Street, we will walk down Chinese street which is like a little Chinatown where the China Embassy, Chinese traditional medicinal shops, Chinese book shops and restaurants are located and return to Myeongdong Station.
If we need any information about the area around Myeongdong, we can head for the Myeongdong Tourist Information Centres located at the intersection of the Central Street and Myeongdong Street, next to Woori Bank and another next to Avatar Shopping Mall. The staff there are fluent in English and other main foreign languages(Mandarin,Japanese) and brochures,maps and coupons are available there. It would be good for us to drop by there to see if there are any discount and good deal coupons before we commit to any buys. The Tourist Information Centres along the Central Street and Myeongdong Street are opened from 10am to 6pm from November to February and 10am to 7pm from March to October whole year round.
Along the way, we will stop at one the many cafes, whichever that catches our eyes and stomachs for a drink and snacks. For dinner, we will also take a look at the varied restaurants there. We are thinking of trying gopjang jeongol which is a spicy Korean stew comprising of boiled beef/cattle intestines, vegetables and Korean spices and will be looking for any there. Alternatively, we can also try Korean cold noodles called naengmyong. There is one naengmyong eatery recommended by Frommer’s located near Myeongdong Station exit 5. The eatery’s name is Myeongdong Hamheung Myeonok which is a casual eating house that has been around for 35 years. The noodles here are made with sweet potato and the broth is made from boiled oxtails. The excellent hwae (raw fish) naengmyeon is reported to be eye-wateringly spicy. The eatery opens from 9.30am to 10pm and prices for a basic meal starts from W6500.
Another recommended place is Myeongdong Gyoja which is supposedly the most famous knife cut noodle place in Seoul. Their spicy, gingerly kimchi can burn your lips off-and yet, you'll go back for more. Recommended dishes are their Gyoja (Dumplings), Calguksu (Knife Cut Noodles) and their Kongguksu which is a chilled soy milk noodle soup. Located near Myeongdong Station exit 5. From the exit, turn left at the first intersection (where Woori Bank is lcoated) and make a right turn next at Who.A.U. Clothing Store.
Those who are interested in a good Chinese meal of dumplings, noodles can go to a branch of the Din Tai Fung restaurant which is located at the end of Myeongdong, a block away from the Lotte department store. We will also see if we can grab a dozen donuts for supper from the famous donut store – Kispy Kreme which is located in Myeongdong 1 block away, east of Lotte Cinema.
With our hands full of shopping, snacks and stomach filled, we will take the train from Line 4 Myeongdong Station and transfer one stop away at Chungmuro Station. From there, we will hop onto Line 3 and alight at the 3rd stop which is Anguk Station and make our way back to our serviced apartment for a good night’s rest.