Thursday, June 28, 2012

Misc: Music and Bacon

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Jeju Island, Korea: Tips from HT couple!

HT couple stepped into their 2nd -  7 wonders of nature...Jeju Island!  (the first was underground river in Puerto Princesa, Palawan). 

The whole island is volcanic.  It's always nice to see how nature works and the beauty it makes, thus, here we are!

How to get to Jeju?  There are several flights from Gimpo Airport ( a 20-30 min ride from Seoul center) or from Busan.  We flew from Gimpo via Eastarjet.  JejuAir is also a good option if timing permits.  There are several flights in a day for both airlines.  Thanks to the korean tourists who explores their own country's precious island.  (it's also honeymooners' haven)

Love seeing those dormant volcanoes around!  The highest mountain in Korea is Mt. Hallasan which is here in Jeju.  Hiking of course, is the most well-known activity.

Language is a barrier.  Either you rent-a-car as most of the streets signs are also in English or get an English-speaking taxi driver.  The nice thing about getting a cab is that you can relax and enjoy the scenery while getting some history from your driver (aka tour guide). ~ 150000 krw per day (a van good for 8-9 pax)

The best way to tour the island is by exploring East and West on separate days.

We started of with East...

This was a suggestion from our driver.  We said yes when we heard that this place is a virgin forest.  Indeed, it is.  However, this is being built with man-made sceneries therefore, you can't really depict a forestAnd the only way to go around is via this open train.   The place is pretty new and still under construction.

San-Kamburi volcanic crater - it was a nice walk up and the place is not too crowded. 

 Seongeup Folk Village - Hanok village is a series of traditional houses.  It showcased the life of the people in Jeju earlier.  (from top clockwise)

Black pigs are pretty common in Jeju and since HT couple loves kurobuta (from Japan), we definitely wanted to try this type on our plate.

 The house was made of straw with pretty simple appliances inside.  The jar is used by Jeju women to get water by carrying it with a basket.

  Dolharubang are considered their gods especially for those women giving birth (to wish for male/female) or for those who wanted to get pregnant (by rubbing their nose).  These are just folklore and has no basis as the statues look like (reproductive organ of males). 

Omija tea (5 taste), are fermented in this jar with honey for a year.  You can get it in this village or in any of the supermarkets.  Mix it with cold water and drink it as iced tea.  It's also a medicinal drink for people prone to cough and cold.  They also have horse bone pills (which i have tasted and i almost threw up) and other horse products

 Jeju is a rainy island so people before constructed this jar with straw to benefit from it.

What completes an exciting trip? :) Food!!! - click the picture to drool!
Pajeon - pancake made of spring onions and for our variety - we got mixed seafood
Haemul Jeongol - seafood casserole consists of crabs, shrimps, abalone, squid, fish, vermicelli and veggies.  With all the ingredients, it just made the soup perfect in taste.
Abalone - is part of the seafood casserole and is also a must-have when in Jeju.  The most famous dish is the abalone congee/porridge.
Okdom - sea bream is a local specialty of Jeju.  The fish is salted and dried.  It is usually served grilled.  The white flesh is flavorful and not too salty.
Banchan - the small side dishes that comes in every korean meal.

 Seongsan Ilchubong Peak (Sunrise Peak) - HT hubbie hiked this mountain while HT wife together with HT family stayed below while enjoying the structure of the volcanic mountain and the serenity of the water. 

The female sea divers...

They catch abalones, which they eat raw.  We were lucky to see a female diver who caught an octopus (middle picture).

There are several shows wherein it tells the history of haenyeo as well as the actual diving and catching of seafood (their diving is just with mask - traditional way therefore no tanks)

Manjanggul Lava Tube (left) - This was the most unusual site we've been to.  Also known as Manjanggul cave, it's a 2-storey cave just made out of lava.  We walked about 2 km back and forth and it's just amazing how such structure was nature works by itself.  Better wear hiking or rubber shoes as it is rocky inside.

Now on the west side:

We took this boat tour(right), to see more lava formation around the island.  There's a commentator in this boat tour but too bad, it was only in Korean.  The view was amazing though.

One of the nicest place to see in Jeju is cheonjiyeon fall (at Seogwipo).  The path going to the fall is just as beautiful.  There are activities/games that you can do on your way out. 

Eatint time again, black pig are typical domestic animals in Jeju therefore, it's not unusual to see this type of meat on the table.

Eating in Korea has been very healthy (don't look at the fat streaks of the pork belly :D).  For this meal, we have to  take a leaf and place on all types of spices such as garlic, onion, soybean chili paste and other veggies part of banchan.  Take a piece of meat, dip it in the salt, pepper, soy mix, and place it on top.  Wrap it up and put the whole thing into your mouth. It is a sin to bite it :)   

O'Sulloc green tea farm -  It was lovely walking around the field but what I love the most is the green tea ice cream!  We also got a few grams of dried green tea leaves and we were taught on how to make it (I thought we can just leave it in hot water).  Use 80 - 90 degrees celsius water, dip the green tea bag for about a minute and voila, green tea at its best. 

As part of our tour, we drove into Mysterious Road, wherein drivers put their gear in neutral but the car still moves.  Check it out yourselves and discover the mystery :).

HT couple's favorite pasttime when in another country...Grocery shopping!   We love Lotte supermarket!  This is what I miss in Asia (big supermarkets, huge varieties).

 (The dog is not for sale, it's just so cute that they have lockers for pets).

Our last meal in Jeju...Bibimbap!   And yes, HT wife finished the full bowl! (burp)

 There are more things to do in Jeju if you have enough time.  We covered these places for 2 days and wouldn't mind to be back...maybe to do some diving in Seogwipo or do some serious hiking.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Seoul, Korea: Photo Diary

We arrived in Incheon around 11 pm local time.  Taking the airport express (from Incheon to the city area) takes about an hour. We got a T-pass (rechargable card) for convenience.

 Good thing our accommodation was just a few steps away from the train station. No fuss hostel, the bed is a bit stiff, but it's good enough for a good night sleep after a long trip.  The people were very accommodating and helpful.

For super late dinner that night, we were not picky and decided to hit Mc Donalds which is just a few blocks away.  Everyone got bulgogi burger but didn't taste the difference from the usual.  Too bad i was not able to try Lotteria, their local fastfood chain.

As soon as we got up, we're in search for breakfast.  HT hubbie was so excited and decided to go for an adventure as early as 10 am.  We went in to a local eatery owned by an old couple which were very accommodating and was able to understand a bit of mandarin.  Thanks to mom, who speaks mandarin, saved our lives! (LOL).  I wanted kimchi ramen but as soon as the lady owner heard me said that, she got ecstatic and brought me this big bowl of kimchi jigae (kimchi/veggie stew).  Thanks to the wide spread of banchan - a spread of side dishes which creates balance in every taste of the dish - my tastebuds kept intact.  It was a nice meal to start the day.

We walked around passing this rebuilt stream.  Locals even hang out here for a dip.

The colorful art (lower left) is showcased in a train station.

Insadong is the place to buy souvenirs!  Masks, metal chopsticks (HT couple were cheapos on not buying a set..sigh), artsy fans, ice cream man, coffee shops/ name it, they have it.

HT hubbie (lower middle) doing the Korean pose while having coffee break.

Check out that white-hairy thing in the middle (above)- it's kkul tarea - made of honey and malt.  The vendors were so friendly that it's difficult to miss them.  And how they made it stringy and's magic! 
Add volume to hear how funny they were.
Gyeongbokgung Palace - there are 5 royal palaces in Seoul itself.  We decided to see only 1 of them due to our limited time.  It was huge!!! It was nice to walk around and watching the changing of royal guard ceremony was a once in a lifetime experience.  It was cool!  (make sure to check the schedule of the changing of royal guards ceremony)

Tosokchon -  was our lunch/dinner place choice.  It was smart printing out the korean name of this place, so we got directed quickly by the local. This place is famous for its chicken ginseng soup aka samgyetang.  The soup was thick and nice.  The chicken was tender and i wasn't expecting to much from it but man, it was delicious!  The chicken was stuffed with some sort of sticky rice.  HT hubbie pulled out the ginseng out of the chicken (tsk tsk playing with food).  We ordered roasted chicken as well but being Filipinos, we didn't like how healthy it looked like (not oily at all :D).  As usual, we got huge bowls of kimchi and veggies.

how to get there: Gyeongbokgung station - use Exit 3, go straight and you'll see popeye's and GS25 convenience store, the first block on your left is where tosokchon is.  Recommended by HT couple! :)

"Jun Pyo proposed his love to Jan Di" in Namsam Seoul Tower.  If you don't know them, i don't know them either haha.  I quoted this from my sister who's addicted to korean tv series.  It was a hit tv series called 'Boys over Flowers'.  Don't ask me about the title. 

And it didn't only happen in tv series, but locals really go up to this (it's a hike up even if you take the bus) peak, profess their love, write love poems and use padlocks to seal their love.  *cheesy*  I even saw a guy giving a bracelet to a lady who was in tears.  Aww...

My sister went to the Teddy bear museum also located in this area, while HT couple with groovy dad and cool mom got their glasses of beer. 

We were lucky to be at MyeongDong on Saturday night and it was so lively!  The bb creams shops are scattered everywhere.  While my sister shopped for all the creams she could find, her hungry-trotting sister hunts for food.  There are quite a number of street food that I wanted to try such as dried cuttlefish, sweet potato fries but my tummy gave up (all I can do was to look sniff).  So I only had the chance to try tteokbokki - rice cake with eggs braised in gochujang - a condiment made from glutinous rice, red chillis and soybean paste (wikipedia).   The texture is a bit weird at first bite, and dipping it in the sauce really gives its taste. 

HT couple will be back to Seoul for street food hunt..and nothing else!

The Royal tomb of Joseon dynasty - it was a pity that the tomb is difficult to see from afar.  And getting closer to it, you can only see the back view as there are barriers.  There were a few lines of history of the tombs.

The relatives or people who are connected to the said royalties still pays tribute to their ancestors by performing some rituals until this day.

Beef short ribs and pork short ribs  (galbi) were our last meal before we left Seoul.  Korea is known for their streaky meat so we made sure that we get our own share before we bid goodbye.  The beef ribs were good, the pork meat was ok.  In bbq places in Korea, we were always given a dip (see top right) consists of salt mixed with pepper and some soybean paste with chili sauce.  When the meat is ready to be eaten, you dip it in the sauce, place it in a leaf or lettuce, add some veggie from the banchan, wrap to secure it, and put everything in your mouth no matter how choking it can be.  You're not supposed to bite delicately! :)

We got this in restaurant Wangbijib. I had (again) the name of this place in korean with me, therefore it was easy to ask around.  Koreans are truly friendly.  They always tried helping us finding our way.  A local even walk with us, using his GPS to this restaurant.  Nice, isn't it?

Lastly, the request from my sister, is to stop by at Hello Kitty Cafe!  It took us half an hour to find it, whew!  The locals are not familiar with it as well.  I have to guess and look for someone who looks like she would know who Hello Kitty is.  I even brought out my artistic side by drawing a cat and HT hubbie meowing so they understand what we're looking for. 

Finally, we got there.  The place was pink!  Everything is decorated with hello kitty ribbons except it was not too clean.  It's like a fastfood chain that requests diners to clean before they go. The pastries and drinks were ok (i had green tea with frozen yogurt).  It was not cheap (the cake costs the same as a pork rib meal).  But to a fan like my sister, every cent and every second was worth it.
pat on HT wife's shoulder for planning this trip.

1.) the metro station of Seoul is pretty good.  Use it as much as you can when finding for places. 
2.) Jot down directions with landmarks : Get down at this station, then go to exit 3, then walk 500 m, if you see GS 25 convenience store, turn left.
3.) Those specific places like restaurants, etc, print out a picture or have their names in korean with you, then it's easier to get help from the locals.

Friday, June 15, 2012

STUFF yourself Part 2: The Pig rules!!!

As you noticed, HT couples' way of having vacation is to EAT, EAT, EAT, ok sometimes we go shopping (which we're both not experts of).

And with everything we've stuff ourselves during our holidays, there will always be the so-called "favorites".

Here's what HT couple loved the most:

Lechon in Cebu, Philippines are the best.  To those who doesn't know lechon - it's pig stuffed with herbs and roasted the old-fashioned way.  A person twists the stick to make sure that the pig is equally roasted on both sides and splashing the skin with oil/herbs/soy from time to time to keep it from drying out.  The best part of lechon is the skin.  The crispy-ness of the skin is the sign on how good the pig was cooked and which makes a lechon shop famous.

see what i mean with roasting lechon? :)

Cebu lechon are known for it's tasty meat.  Manilenos' are used to eating lechon with sauce (Mang Tomas to be exact).  That's a shame for cebuanos' who dedicated their lives making the best lechon.  They'll give you a weird reaction if you ask for one (so better watch out!).

And true to its theory, Zubuchon (about 500 pesos per kilo). has made a name and still continues not to fail people like HT couple who loves lechon!  Anthony Bourdain visited Cebu and had his own share of the crispy skin of zubuchon (while it's being roasted! - I wish we were friends).

Zubuchon's also available at the departure area of Cebu domestic airport.  You can get it frozen and there's an instruction on how to cook it the proper way.  Ok, we were not able to make the skin as crispy as it can be, but it's still better than not having lechon when in Cebu! 

tip: If you're diving in Malapascua or Moalboal, there are no lechons in any of the restaurants around the island.  Make sure as soon as you exit the airport, grab a few kilos at the exit (it's not hard to miss - i think the name is Ayer) before you hop for a 3-4 hours trip!  I got this tip from Singaporean divers who frequent Cebu. 

Next, is our all-time favorite:

shout out loud: RAMEN!!! (about 20 sgd per order)

Since our flight is via Singapore, we had a chance for stopover to grab this favorite. 

And do you believe in love at first sight?  HT couple does!!!

It was our first time in Ramen Santouka - The Central (@Clarke Quay, Singapore) and we just fell in love with it.

The ramen was really good and I enjoyed chewing every strand of it.  The soup was delicious that I slurped as loud as I can. 

But what made it special?

the pork cheeks!!!

And these slices just melted in our mouth.  It was very tasty that HT hubbie and I became greedy and got 3 portions in total.  The fats on the meat were not too big, just enough to make the meat more porky.  (HT wife only eats selective fats...and this is one of them).

In their menu, they boasted on how minimal pork cheeks you can get per pig (200-300 grams), thus, it makes this meat special. 

Too bad, we have to catch our flight so we have to bid goodbye to the pork cheeks and 'till we meet again!

STAY TUNE on our next the land of bb creams, k-pop, kimchi and asian drama series...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

STUFF YOURSELF, more fun in the Philippines!

Nomad - a person who moves from place to place according to season, environment etc.  For Filipinos, it's the so-called NPA (no permanent address).

The past years, I have lived in countries which i've called my home. 

And I find it weird but exciting that I went back to my so-called ex-home as a tourist.

And what does tourists like HT couple do?

Stuff ourselves!!!

Cafe Mary Grace (Greenbelt 3, Trinoma, Manila, Philippines)  - if you ask me what to choose from if you just had a full dinner and has a small space of a piece or 2 of sweets in your tummy?  My answer would be, forget about your limitation and eat all of them no matter how big your tummy would be.

The Cheese Roll - are soft and melt in the mouth.  My best friend had 2 of these in one sitting (considering the full dinner and all the other goodies).

Lemon Squares - I'm not fond of citrus desserts but somehow this one complemented  my palate.  The balance of citrus(ness) and sweetness works for me.

Food for the gods - a few words: just lovely!

Mango Bene and the Black Velvet Cake - are rich in taste and no trace of dryness.

WORTH: the cakes were a little over 100 pesos per slice and the rest were 20-30 pesos per piece.

Tao Yuan Seafood Restaurant (Lucky Chinatown Binondo Manila, Philippines) - yes, this is located in the new upscale mall in the heart of Binondo (chinatown in Manila).  This restaurant serves good chinese food...Hongkong and Singaporean dishes are their specialties. 

I was disappointed with how cereal prawns were made especially they are known for their singaporean chefs.  The rest were just delicious!  Amen!

WORTH: It's not cheap but with the quality of the food it was worth it!  The servings are big and for sharing (lauriat style).

 Buffet 101 International Cuisine ( Seaside Blvd.  - across SM Mall of Asia - Manila, Philippines) - Before decent buffet in the Philippines only applies to few hotels in town but the last years, international buffet restaurants are sprouting everywhere in the city.  It's such a big hit to the Filipinos as with the affordable prices and with wide range and good quality dishes, it's worth every cent. 

From seafood, to US steak, lamb, dimsum, sashimi, paella, filipino, chinese and japanese dishes together with the variety of desserts and unlimited beer, sodas and what i've gorged into...fresh watermelon and mango shakes - arggh, I can stay here all day!

Mangoes in the Philippines are just exquisite and one of a kind.  I made sure that I take the said fruit in any form as much as I can.  All tourists in the Philippines does :).

WORTH: 1000 pesos (dinner on weekdays), 1150 pesos (dinner on weekends)...lunch is 900+ pesos

Don't underestimate the crowd as even during weekdays, it can be busy. Reservations are accepted 3 days in advance. 

P.S. the bayside area is so lively and colorful now.  Kudos to Manila!

Marciano's (Greenbelt 3, Makati Philippines) - we're all the yuppies hang out.  It brought back a lot of memories when I was working and enjoying lunch outs with my colleagues which are now my long-time friends.  (Miss you AC- batchmates!)

I don't know how long this restaurant has been in Greenbelt 3, but my bessy wanted to try out this one for a long time.  So here we are!  It serves international cuisine with American twist!  Some of the dishes were named after Gossip Girl's characters (tv series) such as Nate's seafood paella.

To be honest, i wasn't expecting much about the food.  To my surprise, every dish has its own unique and yummy taste.  The braised pork belly was so tender and tasty which was my favorite that night.  And the grilled salmon on caper sauce was juicy and the caper sauce was light enough not to overpower the fish.  The seafood paella topping was abundant and good enough for sharing.  The baby back ribs were lip-smacking good.

Overall, thumbs up to this place!

WORTH: the dishes vary between 300 pesos to 1000 pesos but is definitely good for sharing.

I am so proud of Manila.  The food scene has really gone into a blast!!! Wuhoo!