Monday, May 27, 2013

Korea Trip, Seoul May 2013 - Edae (Ewha Women's University) & De Chocolate Coffee Cafe

Edae is our favourite shopping place for my trip that we actually went there twice in our 7 days trip. That's basically saying alot. We like the shopping variety, the overall quieter neighbourhood/ campus atmosphere and the many cafes.

Exit 2 from the subway brings you directly to to Ewha Women's University through the shopping areas.

Some of the flowers blooming along the sidewalk

One of the BBQ chicken stall along the roadside

And I bought a BBQ chicken stick from one of the vendors. I requested for slightly spicy version and the vendor did sprinkle lesser chilli powder but it's still.. S.P.I.C.Y.! But very nice!

Self pic

View of Edae from the entrance

We didn't went into the university since it's quite some walk in, and we look too much like shopaholics with our shopping bags rather than school students.

De Chocolate Coffee Cafe Edae

The only Korean drama which I watched this year (and quite like it) was 'That Winter, The Wind Blow'. When I was watching the show, I did made a mental note that I need to try to find and visit the cafe shown in the show during my trip but completely forgotten about that in my planning.

By a nice coincidence, we decided that we need to rest our hands, legs and shopping bags and were looking for Starbucks before we saw De Chocolate outlet at the strategic location just outside the entrance Edae. It's also accessible by walking 10 mins from Exit 3 of the subway station.

Views along Exit 3 

De Chocolate Coffee

The cafe is located in level 2 and 3 of the building.

We settle for the cozy window seats in level 2. There are more seats and a section for smokers in level 3 too.

The view from the 2nd floor windows.

View from the cafe

We ordered the hot caramel mocha and waffles the first time round and love it.

Personally, I love the fact that the cafe provides a cup holder for every drink regardless whether it's a hot/cold beverage. Even for cold beverages, I do not like my hands cold or wet from the condensation around the cup.

I'm impressed by the Barista's attention to details. For the ice blended beverages, the barista remove the plastic packaging partially from the straw to insert to the cup and yet ensuring that the other end of the straw is still covered with the plastic packaging - for the drinker to remove the last part of the packaging themselves before they drink.

On my last day last minute trip to Watson's in Myeong Dong, I spotted the De Chocolate's instant hot choco and bought a pack back to Singapore. They have a latte version too.

Enjoying my cup of hot coco right now <3

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Korea Trip, Seoul May 2013 - Shopping & Eateries in Myeong Dong

We initially planned to spend a full day in Myeong Dong during our second day in Seoul. When we are there, on top of spending the whole of our second day in Seoul, we also shopped in Myeong Dong daily and  almost every evening for dinner, so I shall try to consolidate my views in the same post :)

Daytime view on the entrance of Myeong Dong

The Night time view

The view of Seoul Tower at night from Myeong Dong

Myeong Dong is a shopping street for mainly Korean skincare and beauty products. I will say this because it's impossible to miss the shops (there are at least 3 branches of Etude house there, for example) with sales assistants standing outside the shops to give out some skincare samples if you walk into the shops.

Some of Korea skincare and cosmetics brands are
  • Laneige
  • Aritaum (apparently also carries Laneige, IOPE, etc)
  • Too Cool for School
  • Innisfree
  • Banila Co
  • Missha
  • Etude House
  • The Face Shop
  • Nature republic
  • Skinfood
  • Tony Moly
  • Holika Holika

Other than that, there are brands like Uniqlo, Mango, Forever 21, and other Korean chain clothing stores (Beanpole, SPAO) and Migliore - which sells mainly clothes and accessories. This link has a great shopping map of Myeong Dong.

View from Exit 6 of Myeong Dong Station

If you are tired from the shopping, there's no lack of cafes too - we spotted Starbucks, a couple of Coffee Bean outlets and other local cafe like Beansbins.

Now to the foodie parts

Visit Korea website has a really good list of must try restaurants in Myeong Dong with directions and operating hours. Information in italics are listed from the website.

Yeongyang Centre
Opened in 1960, Yeongyang Center is the oldest restaurant in Myeongdong, and has maintained the same simple menu for more than 40 years: tongdak (roasted chicken) and samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup). Because Yeongyang Center’s tongdak is roasted on an electric rotisserie, the skin is crispy and not at all greasy. In fact you can watch the chickens roasting at the restaurant’s entrance. Samgyetang is the most popular fare, not only during the sultry months of July and August, but also during the frosty winter. Whichever type of chicken you choose, the meat is always tender because the restaurant uses only Korean-bred chickens only about one month old.

From Exit 5 of Myeongdong Station (Subway Line No. 4), walk about 50 meters along Myeongdong-daero to the first intersection (near Pascucci coffee shop). Turn left and walk about 50 meters. The restaurant is next to Kaist optician's.

Yeongyang Center's Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup)

Our first brunch was at Yeongyang Centre for samgyetang and tongdak (roast chicken), both dishes are really good! The samgyetang just warm us up in the cold weather and the tongdak is crispy and nice.

Yeongyang Center's Tongdak (Korean Roast Chicken) 

As we went there during lunch hour and ordered the Tongdak Chicken set, which basically consist of cripsy roasted spring chicken with some soup, bread and side dishes. I like the Tongdak - it's skin is crispy and not oily and there are many people are also ordered takeaway for the Tongdak.

Bakje Samgyetang 
Baekje Samgyetang has been serving up delicious pots of samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) for the past 40 years. The restaurant has been introduced in various books and magazines and has even been featured on television programs. Due to the widespread media coverage the restaurant draws many tourists; in fact, about 80% of the restaurant's customers are from Japan!

From Myeongdong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exit 6.
Go straight 250m along Myeongdong 8-gil.
Turn left at the fourth corner down a narrow alleyway.
Go straight for 60m and you will see it on the right.


We ordered their specialty which is the black chicken ginseng soup, which seems to be the most popular item on their menu. The soup here taste stronger of ginseng and a small glass of soju was also served, presuming to be added to the soup to enrich it.

The shop also sells ginseng sweets and roasted rice flavor sweets. The owner is very friendly with us and when I commented that the roasted rice flavor sweets tasted nice and insistently give me a very big handful of sweets.

Myeong Dong Gyoja
Opened in 1969, this restaurant serves one of the tastiest bowls of guksu (chopped-noodle soup) in Korea. Both the tender noodles and rich broth are prepared right in the restaurant. The chopped noodles are made of dough that “rests” for three hours before being cooked, and chicken bones are boiled for at least six hours in water to make the rich broth. A bowl of kalguksu is served with four pork-and-scallion mandu (dumplings) and topped with minced chicken. This restaurant’s kimchi, served as a side dish, is so delicious that customers come to the restaurant just for a taste of it. Popular with foreigners as well as Koreans, Myeongdong Gyoja is known for its excellent service: personnel never forget to refill the kimchi and soup bowls on each table. There are two Myeongdong Gyoja restaurants (Main Branch and Branch No. 1) in Myeongdong, and whichever you choose, you won’t be disappointed.

Directions: [Main Branch] From Exit 8 of Myeongdong Station (Subway Line No. 4), proceed between La Bellavita (coffee shop) and Crown Bakery about 150 meters (you'll pass two intersections). [Branch No. 1] From the Main Branch, walk straight further about 90 meters. It is across from Missha (cosmetics shop).

There are 2 branches of Myeong Dong Gyoja - both near to Exit 8. It's very popular during meal times and queues are normal but it moves fast. Better still, avoid the crowd by going early or later. Note in my picture below, the queue starts from level 2 down to the staircase to the entrance of the shop.

There are 2 hot dishes - the gyoja and the ramen style soup noddles, and 2 cold noodles dishes.

We ordered their gyoja and ramen and both dishes are very good. From what we heard, their kimchi and rice are free flow. I love their kimchi - which is very spicy and I can generally take spicy food well. In fact, we like the dishes enough to went back for a second time during our last dinner in Seoul.

We also checked out this Korean eatery in Myeong Dong that offers noodles and barbeque galbi. It's not bad!

Korean BBQ 
We also check out this Korean BBQ near our hotel based on the recommendation of the hotel staff. It's located just behind Sejong Hotel.

We were seated on level 2, where we seat on heated wooden floors to enjoy the meal. The tables are bigger as well and they have the air suction vent that works in minimizing food smell around the restaurant.

We ordered a serving of sirloin steak, 2 servings of the beef slices and a dolsop bibimbap. The waitress help us to roast some of the food and change the tray as required.

We also ate at Saboten (which is also available in Singapore) since it's the closest restaurant to the hair salon that our pedicurist at Olive nails recommends.

However, I do not remember if we have to pound our own condiments (varied colors of sesame seeds) before we put in the tonkatsu sauce to dip.? The tonkatsu is nice though.

And we also tried McDonald once. Haha..  I was expecting Kimchi burgers or at least kimchi sauces to go with the nuggets or fries but there are none. So we ordered nuggets and Bulgogi burger.

So, if you are past the regular dinner time and would like some fastfood, there's McDonald (who operates close to 24 hours - closing at 3am and reopening at 4am) and also Lotteria (the Korean equivalent of McDonald, which is more popular with locals and located near Savoy Hotel) which operates 24 hours.

And we tried this German traditional Schneeballen snack in one of the shops in Myeongdong station.

The different flavors

And we smashed it up into pieces with a hammer after our purchase before we eat it. We tried the sugared one and it taste like deep fried biscuits with sugar.

Next up, I will blog about Edae!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Korea Trip, Seoul May 2013 - Day 1 Airport to Hotel Skypark Myeong Dong 3

I'm back from Seoul after a full week of shopping and relaxation at shopping paradise with a nice cooling weather (8-20 degrees mainly) =)

It's our first time here for holiday (and a free and easy one) and after much research, we stayed in Hotel Skypark MyeongDong 3, which is in a fantastic location just outside Myeong Dong Subway Exit 9.

We took bus 6015 from Incheon Airport and reach our hotel at approximately 1.5 hr later at it's last stop Sejong Hotel Stop, which is 2 min walk to Hotel Skypark Myeong Dong 3 (you can spot it from the road signboards on your left when you get off the bus). Our flight reaches Seoul at 10+pm and we reach the hotel at approximately 11.45 pm after a speedy check in and a welcome gift of 2 Innisfree sheet masks to hydrate our skin.

True to their high Tripadvisor's ratings and reviews, the hotel is new, and the rooms are new, well maintained, clean and comfortable and services were prompt and friendly as well. The rooms are small but still ample space for our luggage and packing. Our requests for additional pillows were met promptly. There's bath tub and bidet (it seem like a common feature in many washrooms in Korea) and Etude House toiletries were given. Do note that toothbrushes and toothpaste are not provided though but other amenities like mini fridge, mineral water, hair dryer, laundry services, bath tub, TV etc). There are free wifi on every room and also the lobby, which is fantastic considering that some other hotels we inquired do not offer free wifi despite their bigger rooms (Millenium Hilton, Grand Hyatt).

The other side of the hotel lobby featuring Etude House dressing table for free testing and usage and a entrance to Paris Baguette and 7-11.

The 7-11 convenience store is great for snacks grab since we reached Korea close to their local time midnight.

p/s: The banana milk turn out to be my favorite drink for the trip. Through trial and error and some Korean guestimation - the green cap is the original banana milk flavor  the blue cap is the "light' version of the banana milk, the orange cap is the toffee nut flavor banana milk and the pink cap is simply strawberry milk.

Paris Baguette offers a good selection of bread, cakes and desserts as well. I like their royal pudding and one of the chilled "dessert of the day", which also come in more fanciful packaging.

The hotel also offers free (return) shutter bus services to the following locations (which is a plus ++)
  • Namsam Cable Car station
  • Shilla Duty Free
  • Dongdaemum 
  • Seoul Station 

The hotel is also a quick walking distance to the restaurants and shopping streets of Myeongdong, with many money changers, so just bring along more of the SGD just in case you need.

The rest of our actual itinerary goes like this and to be frank, we spend almost all our brunches and night time walking around Myeong Dong - it's just great for shopaholics. However, do note that most shops generally start to close from around 10-11pm, so if you are into late night shopping - simply hop over to Dongdaemum :)

Day 1: Reach Seoul.
Day 2: Myeong Dong
Day 3: Edae (Ewha Women's University Area), Dongdaemum
Day 4: Hongdae (Hongik University Area)
Day 5: Coex Mall, Seoul Tower
Day 6: A revisit of Ehwa Women University Area
Day 7: Home Sweet Home

Personally, for my trip, my favourite place is Edae. There's a nice university vibes, and it was always slightly misty. =)

My trip was fun n relaxing and we could be there for much longer period of time and still not feel bored.

If we have more time, and managed to peel ourselves from shopping, I would like to really check out Hangang River, went into Edae university to explore, go to Gangnam, Garugosil, Insadong, Nami Island or if I'm up to exploring - to go Busan, Jeju island & Teddy bear museum, check out herb island and jade island for beautiful kdrama scenes and go to ski resort (probably I need a extendable tour package for that ambitious scenery viewing and shopping plans or simply superior Korean language skills, planning and navigational skills. haha!).