Sunday, June 27, 2010

Seoul Day 1 - Checking in / dropping by Dongdaemun

(Above) Seoul Somerset Palace Serviced Apartment

With our legs quite in need of a rest and with the check-in time of 3pm approaching, we headed back to Somerset Seoul Palace Serviced apartment where we would be staying for 7 days.Being in a foreign country, it does put you in some peace of mind when you book a serviced apartment that is owned by Singapore linked companies like Capital Land and Temasek Holdings and run according to Singapore quality standards and reliablity.
The good thing of the front counter staff at Somerset Seoul Palace is that all of them can speak good American accented English so you can ask them lots of questions which is good for free and easy vacations.

(Above and Below) Our Studio Apartment at Seoul Palace Serviced Apartment

Checking into the room, we were impressed with the full facilties of the apartment especially the LG 8KG washer cum dryer machine(Below), ironing board with Phillips iron which enabled us to have cleaned, dried, well ironed clothes to wear for our trip in Seoul.

The kitchen(above) featured a microwave, toaster, built in fridge with freezer(Below), humidifier, all of which made the apartment like a second home. they also provide full array of utensils, cutlery, pots and pans and even cloth to dry the dishes.

(Above) Washroom in our apartment

After an hour plus of unpacking and resting, we headed out to buy T-money cards(similar to our EZ-Link) from the nearby convenience stall(there are two 24hrs ones within walking distance of our apartment). You go to the counter staff and tell that you want to purchase T Money. It comes with a retail price of 2500W which is a deposit value and then you can top up to any amount you wish.

(Above) Me showing my T-Money card on the bus

The advantage is that the T-Money offers a 100W discount for each trip on the subway or bus. it can also be used to pay for taxi fare. Not being used to using T-Money, I actually lost one and had to buy another. So after that incident, I returned my T Money card to Gayle for safe keeping after each tap of the card at the turnstile.Another lesson learnt is not to top up too much value at one go so in case you lose it, you don't lose so much so i always top up between 3000W($4.50) to 5000W($6.50) A standard one way trip on the subway regardless of distance is 900W($1.12) using the T-Money. We then took the subway to Dongdaemun to spend the evening looking around and check out the items sold there plus of course look for dinner.

We found that the quality of the clothing and shoes there were not quite up to our expectations in terms of design and quality for the prices asked - hmm, mayb we were getting "atas" but we really didn't see the point of buying something inferior to what we can get in Singapore at the same price.

We then headed for the other shopping malls in the area like Team 204(above) etc.Along the way, we strolled and look around the street markets.

We had dinner at one of the eateries there and ordered rice noodles and dumplings(above and below) which were very similar to what we have at home.

The photos(above) show how delicious dinner was with us emptying the bowls.

We ended the night at Doota Mall where we were fortunate to have an opportunity to watch an open air live concert by a popular instrumental pop group - Vanilla Lucy(above) whose hit song - French Love is on the airwave. We then headed back to our apartment for a good night's rest.For more detailed program on this day, please refer to our earlier posts this year.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Back from Seoul(Day 1) - Insadong vicinity

We just returned from an interesting trip to Seoul, South Korea and had a good time eating, shopping and visiting places, including getting caught up in South Korea's World Cup fever.Here are some highlights of our trip during the 11 days we were there.

(Above) Riding in the Limousine Bus which cost 18000W for 2 on the way to Insadong where our serviced apartment is located.

(Above) After putting down our luggage as it was not time for check n yet, we headed down thrugh Insadong in search of lunch and found many eateries in the side alleys. Hoever those in the Insadong vicinity are of higher priced establisments. If you want more localized small time but equally good eateries, head out from insadong area.

(Above and below)Saw many eateries and lunctime crowds heading into this side alley called Hwasin-gil and we just followed them in and found some good local eateries. The road sign is just some distance in front of the Jonggok Subway Station entrance.

(Above) Eugin posing in front of the eatery we decided on - known for their blood intestine sausages and blood intestine soup. You can know how famous the eatery is by checking the lunchtime crowd in the eatery and the no of claim to fame as evident by television station posters showing celebrities and show hosts who have visited and ate at the eatery.

Good thing about Korean eateries is that they have many pictures of their famed dishes displayed outside the eatery so if you have a language problem, just bring the waiter / owner out and point to the picture or like me, i use my iphone to capture shots of the dishes and showed them to the waiter inside. Another option is to try speaking in Mandarin as that is probably the next most common foreign language familiar to the koreans.

(Above)Inside the eatery

(Above and Below) Our first local meal - just looks inviting

(Above)A local delicacy - Sausage roll filled with ox blood bits,glass noodle strands and encased in ox intestine skin.

(Above) We were simply addicted to their ox blood intestine soup. One thing good is how piping hot and fresh the soup always comes to us- you can see the froth of the heated soup welcoming you.

(Above) Certain soups like the ox blood intestine soup come with rice in them for a full meal.

After the satisfying meal, we explored the local shopping areas like the Jonggok underground shopping(below). In our opinion, we found the items not exactly cheap and there are wider variety, higher quality items and better prices and designs that can be found at Myeongdong(with bargaining)or in Singapore.

(Above) We spied a little octopus, our first one in Seoul at one of the eatery at Hwasing-gil.

(Above)where we were. The good thing about being free and easy is that we can just wander wherever we want beyond the touristy areas and that's how after lunch, we came to be exploring the area of Chong Gye 2(i)Ga, vicinity outside of Insadong.

(Above) This looks like a freshwater stream but.......

(Above) ..but it is not, instead it's innovative use of the city's canals to make them pedestrian friendly and a green nature belt within the city. Singapore could learn something from here. there is cyclist track too for cyclists to commute on their own lane, away from the hustle and bustle of traffic.

(Above) We enjoyed s solo rendition by a violinist busker along the way. The cool weather about 25C makes this possible to just stand there and be mesmerised by the music.

(Above)Along the way, we saw some humourous signs where translations from Korean to English has resulted in something that brought a smile to us.

(Above)Beautiful ice cream cakes from baskins robbins that we came upon. Don't they look sweet and pretty?

To be continued......

Monday, June 7, 2010

Arrival of our new car - VW Golf Sports 1.4TSI

After two weeks, we finally welcomed the arrival of our new car - a Tornado Red Volkswagen Golf Sports. Powered by a supercharger and turbocharger, the 1400cc engine produces 160bhp sending the car to 100km/h in 8 seconds.

We were quite surprised by the good pace and equipment level of the Golf which far surpasses our previous Mercedes CLC180K which may account for why the Golf was voted World Car of the year in 2009.It's also as safe a car as you can get with 5 star NCAP rating for crash survivability and equipped with 11 airbags with the first knee airbag in production. The car comes with factory fitted touch screen multimedia entertainment, featuring AUX for your Mp3 player and an outlet for SD card if you store your MP3 in it. Other equipment include paddle shifters for F1 wannabe racers, self dimming rearview mirror, tilt reverse mirror, automatic aircon with air filter and dual zone airconditioning, rear aircon vent, cooler in glove compartment, leather sports seats, multi-function leather steering, sports suspension,illuminated sunvisor mirrors, ISOFIX for 2 child seats,tyre pressure loss monitoring, vehicle information display,hill hold control, chromed fittings on dash panels and the list goes on.

After delivery of the car, it was off to Poh Heng Tyres in AMK to trade in the tyres for 18 inch ones with the Audi like LS replica Rims and then to CoolnLite to install the 99% anti-UV window film. We opted for cash discounts instead of the usual freebies and here we really have to thank our sales executive from Volkswagen Centre Singapore - Jessie Chia who work tirelessly to secure the car at a good price, and to get the car delivered to us speedily. It is really important to be able to feel at ease and reassured in the process of buying something expensive like a car and we do recommend her if there is any of our readers out in the market for a VW car. She can be contacted at 91461678 for those who are keen.

So far, we have clocked about 300km plus during this running-in period and the car is especially smooth and on the expressway, it easily zips at 100km/h at just slightly below 2000 on the rev counter,all thanks to the 7 speed DSG gear. With the petrol gauge at 3/4 tank full, i had already travelled 250km from full tank. The car at idle is so quiet sometimes I wonder is the engine on. The only drawback is road noise which is slightly louder than other continental car but this could be also due to my 18 inch wheels and the brakes take some getting used to as you have to just tap a little to bring the car to a halt so at the start, you may be a little jerky in your braking style. However, the car is really modern and comfortable and corners really well without losing speed or traction.