Saturday, November 30, 2013

Korea Trip. Seoul 2013 Oct Seoul - Changdeokgong Palace and The Secret Garden

Hey, what's a trip to Seoul without visiting at least one palace? And especially one with a secret garden?

I decided to choose Changdeokgong Palace for the Huwon (Secret Garden) Tour. According to VisitKorea, the most beautiful time to visit the garden would be when the fall foliage is at it's peak and the leaves had started to fall.

Changdeokgong Palace
Being a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997, the palace was well preserved and definitely not looking it's age with fresh paints. Changdeokgong Palace can be accessed by taking the Subway to Anguk Station, Exit 3 and go straight for 5 minutes. They are also within walking distance to Insadong.

Secret Garden (Huwon)
For most times of the year, the Secret Garden was only available to the visitors through a guided tour - and visitors are not allowed to stay in the garden without a tour guide. When I was there in late October, the Secret Garden was "open to public" for 2 weeks - in which it means that visitors who joined the guided tour can choose to stay in the Secret Garden without a guide for the whole day as long as they do not exit the garden. The tour guide explained that it's not usually the case and we are very lucky to be able to enjoy the garden for the whole day.

The Secret Garden English tour is a 1.5 hour walking tour that starts at 11.30am, 2.30pm and 4.30pm.

The reflection of the pavilion

I coudn't resist a selca pic.

With the whole day access to ticket holders, one can just seat around in one of the pavilion and enjoy the afternoon reading a book.

Another pond.

According to the tour guide, this lake looks similar to the map of Korea.

And if you want to walk like a king - follow these steps with your hands behind your back. Preferably with your feet facing outwards.

This is one of the pavilion where the king and his court prayed for rain in the past.

The tree that kept many secrets
Last but not least, the 750 year old Chinese Jupiter tree that witnesses the rise and fall of past Korean kings whom resided in the palace.

Have a great weekend folks!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Korea Trip, Seoul November 2013 - Tuk Tuk Salad Bar & Chicken in Hongik

And the moment I set my foot around Hongik, I told myself that I want to try Korean Fried Chicken for my next meal. So that started my hunt for fried chicken in Hongdae!

While on my way from the Visitor Information to Stylenanda, I came across Tuk Tuk Salad Bar and Chicken. They are located pretty near to the entrance of Hongik University, and opposite Giordano.  

Tuk Tuk Salad Bar and Chicken

To be honest, I was surprised when I was led to a table and the staff left without giving a menu or taking an order. So it turns out that it's a buffet style salad bar fried chicken restaurant. The lunch buffet starts from 11.30am-4pm if I recall correctly and what I really like is that the food are prepared in small batches and always neatly presented in the salad bar (one staff was constantly arranging and checking the food) - as such, the food are always fresh and hot (if they should be) and taste great. 

The Fried Food Section
There's fried tapioca fries, fried calamari, fried chicken and fried potato chips and a variety of sauces to go with them. 

Pizzas & Pasta Section
The pizzas seems to move really fast. I've tried their pasta though and I like that it's creamy and hot - possibly because they are still in a frying pan on a operated induction cooker.

The Drinks Section
There's a variety of juices such as orange juice, mango juice, raspberry juices and even yoghurt drink. My favorite is the pink lemonade as it's light and super refreshing!

The Salad Bar

Vietnamese Pho Section
I didn't try it though as I'm not too sure how to prepare it and way too full for more noodles.

Now to the food - I love their fried chicken especially with the spicy red fried chicken sauce. I had expected the chicken to be tough and dry looking at how dark the crust of the fried chicken are but it's a surprise that the meat is tender, juicy and flavorful. The salads are amazing and even the pumpkin salad looks ordinary but taste good ESPECIALLY the sesame sauce for the salad. And because I love my pasta, mushroom soup, and Tiramisu to be smooth and c r e a m y - I love that they are.  

Their weekday lunch buffet is also priced reasonably at 10,900 won per pax. For the quality I would say it's definitely worth it.

Tuk Tuk  serve also coffee from 3 countries - India, South Africa and South American with only sugar and no creamer. I tried the South America one and as usual as the usual Korean coffee, and they taste rather bland (as per the same everywhere in Seoul) for a coffee addict like me but their only dessert, the tiramisu is good though - cold, smooth and creamy. 

Directions: Walk 3 minute straight down from the tourist information counter to main gate Hongik University direction.

Definitely recommended for the hungry tourist looking for a nice food place to slowy enjoy your meal and rest your tired legs. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Korea Trip, Seoul Nov 2013 - Hongdae STYLENANDA and 3 Concept Eyes 3CE

One of my main objectives for my Korea trip this time round is to check out 3 Concept Eyes aka 3CE - a cosmetic line launched by Stylenanda. The cosmetic brand that starts the trend of bold lips in Korea with many beauty gurus from Taiwan raving on their products online. The model and muse for 3CE is the uber pretty Park Sora, their model for the cosmetic line with her waterful perfect skin, bold eyeliner and bright bold lips. In fact, I went there twice during my trip to stock up more on some of the products which I tried and liked.

Directions on getting to Stylenanda
From Hongik Subway Station Exit 9, Walk straight (you will see Burger King on your left as you pass by the 1st street) Turn left on the 2nd street. You will pass by this Korean BBQ eatery on your right.

Turn Right when you into this street when you see S nails and 7-11.

Walk straight down for 4 to 5 streets and you will see Stylenanda on the street on your left.

The 3CE section is located at Level 1 of the Stylenanda building on the other side further from the road.

Their counters remind me slightly of Mac

This is the map that I got from the friendly and helpful lady customer service officer in the Visitor Information counter in Hongik. The orange highlight shows the route.

Hope it helps~ Have a great day folks!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Korea Trip, Seoul October 2013 - Myeongdong & GoTo Mall Gangnam Underground Shopping Mall

After a good night sleep, I woke up the next day super refreshed and any trace of fatigue from the long haul flights gone.

Me and my caffeine addiction. Caffebene's hazelnut latte that comes in a capsule packaging with a strongly lovely hazelnut fragrant. It's prefect after I add in some milk.

Without doubt, I decided to go to Myeongdong. Staying in Seoul Station feels so different from staying in Myeongdong always have a special charm to the place that I couldn't point my shopaholic finger to. Perhaps the closest comparison I can make will be that it's akin to staying in Orchard Road or City Hall in Singapore.

Based on memory, I find my way to the one Michelin Myeongdong Gyoja (It's just a walk down the foodstreet between Myeongdong Exit 8 and 9). It's funny that both the locals and the Japanese mistaken me for being Japanese and after knowing that I'm Singaporean, the Japanese family offer to share their Gyoja with me and the Korean lady I was seating with asked for the chewing gum from the staff for me when she realized that the staff forgot to give me one. From the pointing and smiling, I figured out that she wanted me to have the complete experience of having the meal here.

So after a fulling ramen meal, I'm off to go - and get my running shoes. Haha.. my trusty pazzion ballad flats is good for Singapore but sneakers is the way to go. P/S: Egg also had to unwillingly trade her boots for the trusty but lovely burgundy shade converse sneakers on her first night at Seoul in Dongdaemum.

Gangnam Underground Shopping Mall

And so I set off to Gangnam Underground Shopping Mall located at Express Bus Terminal Subway Station.
The entrance is at Exit 8 in between Exit 8-1 or 8-2.

The area consists of many rows of shops- mainly women and kids apparels, bags, accessories and even kitchenware. Having imposed a winter wear shopping ban for myself, I proceed to shop for my 3 year old nephew and 11 month old niece for the spring trip. Needless say, there's so much cute winterwear for baby girls compared to boys so my niece got more stuff.

So next I decided to check out Gureum at Anguk Station. It's not really exactly as straightforward 3 min walk from the station and this is the guide on how to get there.

It's is chilly cold since it's beside the river and so it's not long before I head back to Myeongdong. From what I understand from my apartment owner on my first day, this place is not really that popular with the locals.

And also nothing more energizing after the Myeongdong air and the pipping hot serving of Myeongdong Baekje Samgyetang. It tasted exceptionally yummy especially after the chilling river stroll. Instructions on how to go there is in my previous post.

And so I went to shop around the area and enjoy the lovely Xmas decoration at Lotte Young and Lotte Departmental store. (yes, it seems that Lotte is well ready fo Xmas by end of October).

And not to forget Krispy Creme which my colleauges had swore that they are the best tasting donut in the world. In Seoul, they have a small stall in Myeongdong Lotte department store basement 1 in which their donuts are sold in half boxes of 6 or 12 (available in original glazed or assorted which is a mix of flavors) and not much like the choose your flavor and pay concept like in Singapore but hey, it cost half the price there compared to Singapore. And they taste really good - soft fluffy texture donut in a crispy and sweet glazed coating.

The decoration around Lotte Department Store. They kinda reminds me of Twilight.

I'm so looking forward to Xmas now!