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Saturday, December 31, 2011

When in Korea, Eat Kimchi

Well, this post is basically dedicated to the food that we tried during the trip, not just Kimchi!

Whenever I travel overseas I also try and taste what their food are like.

So in this post, I'd like to share what you could expect to eat if you are not really familiar with their dishes, like myself.

The descriptions of the dishes are taken from Wikipedia, my ever best friend.

1. Kimchi - is a traditional fermented Korean dish made of vegetables with varied seasonings. There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi made with a main vegetable ingredient such as napa cabbage, radish, green onions or cucumber. It is the most common banchan, or side dish, in Korean cuisine.

I got to try Kimchi even before we went to Korea. It was okay dish for me. I can eat it once in a while. There was a time we were in Korea and we just got so used to having Kimchi so we were so excited to finally see Burger King!

2. Samgyeupsal - is a popular Korean dish. Commonly served as an evening meal, it consists of thick, fatty slices of pork belly meat (similar to uncured bacon). The meat, usually neither marinated nor seasoned, is cooked on a grill at the diners' table. Usually diners grill the meat themselves and eat directly from a grill.

On our first night in Busan, we head to this nice Korean restaurant and ordered Samyeopsal. We loved it. There's a variety of unlimited side-dishes, including Kimchi. The dish we had only cost 10,000 KRW, that's already for the four of us.

3. Dakgalbi - is a popular South Korean dish generally made by stir-frying marinated diced chicken in a gochujang (chili pepper paste) based sauce, and sliced cabbage, sweet potato, scallions, onions and tteok (rice cake) together on a hot plate. It is a local specialty food for the city of Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, where dak galbi originates. Because of its origin, the dish is also called Chuncheon dak galbi.

On our first night in Seoul, we get to try this nice dish. Yum, I got to eat some rice. Yay!

4. Bulgogi - is a Korean dish that usually consists of marinated barbecued beef, although chicken or pork may also be used.

5. Bibimbap - is a signature Korean dish. The word literally means "mixed meal." Bibimbap is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with namul (sautéed and seasoned vegetables) and gochujang (chili pepper paste). A raw or fried egg and sliced meat (usually beef) are common additions. The ingredients are stirred together thoroughly just before eating. It can be served either cold or hot.

I loved bibimbap when I first got to try it during my trip in Sydney. It's full of everything - vegetables, rice, spicy sauce and meat. It's my perfect dish!

6. Kimbap - is a popular Korean dish made from steamed white rice (bap) and various other ingredients, rolled in gim (sheets of dried laver seaweed) and served in bite-size slices. Gimbap is often eaten during picnics or outdoor events, or as a light lunch, served with danmuji or kimchi.

This photo is a spam filled kimbap, which I ate during our trip to DMZ. It's nice for a quick snack if you are on the go.

7. Soju - is a distilled beverage native to Korea. Its taste is comparable to vodka, though often slightly sweeter due to sugars added in the manufacturing process. It is usually consumed neat.

The one on the right is the Soju. On the left is the Korean beer, I think.

Most brands of soju are made in South Korea. Though it is traditionally made from rice, most modern producers of soju use supplements or even replace rice with other starches, such as potatoes, wheat, barley, sweet potatoes, or tapioca.

8. Galbi - generally refers to a variety of gui or grilled dishes in Korean cuisine that is made with marinated beef (or pork) short ribs in a ganjang-based sauce (Korean soy sauce).[1] In the Korean language, galbi literally means "rib" and can often indicate uncooked ribs. In addition, the dish's full name is galbi gui, although "gui" (grilling) is commonly omitted to refer to it.

Okay, now this made me hungry and miss Korea all the more!

I'm sure there's more other delicious stuff to try in Korea aside from the one I've listed. But truly, I did enjoy their food and of course, the Kimchi!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Gyeongbokgung Palace

The first stop in our Seoul-searching day is the Gyeongbokgung Palace.

We took the train and stopped at Gyeongbokgung station.


Gyeongbokgung, also known as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace, is a royal palace located in northern SeoulSouth Korea. First constructed in 1394 and reconstructed in 1867, it was the main and largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty. The name of the palace, Gyeongbokgung, translates in English as "Palace of Shining Happiness."
Nearly destroyed by the Japanese government in the early 20th century, the walled palace complex is slowly being restored to its original form prior to destruction. As of 2009, roughly 40 percent of the original number of palace buildings still stand or are reconstructed. - from Wikipedia 
We had a great time taking photos at the G-Palace. Plus we were in time to catch the changing of guards which happens every hour. There were a lot of tourist as well so yeah, it was a challenge to get a photo without them at the background. We didn't try to go inside the palace since it's already about to close in an hour. We just then sufficed ourselves with the views outside op with the Korean guards and police!

It was awesome to see right in the middle of bustling city, a temple such as this. I'm quite mesmerized that it is well maintained and tourist friendly and accessible - very near the train station.

We walked across to find more wonderful sights to see and yes to celebrate our freedom to be camera happy!

Seoul Searching

South Korea is such a big surprise for me. I thought I would only be interested because I just wanted to try skiing. But I was totally wrong. I liked it more than the skiing - which I actually didn't get to try.

Anyway, there's so much to see in Busan, let alone Seoul. So I made a promise to go back to make sure I cover all of the places we missed. Promise!

On our first day in Seoul, we basically just decided to head to the city and visit the temple and perhaps wherever our feet could take us. Although I had sketched a plan, we didn't follow it since we got up quite late and well, we just want to take our time. Haha. But yeah, we could have covered more if we stick to it.

We went around Kim's Club, which is a nice grocery full of nice find. We should have shopped here before we went back to Busan.

Before we head to the tour, we decided to grab breakfast at a nearby food court before heading out to the city.

I just have to get my quick coffee fix!

Free Shuttle from Busan to Seoul

A few weeks after I have booked our ticket, we started to research about our plans for the trip and got the information about their free shuttle. This is a great help for us since we don't want to spend too much on transpo.

So we checked the website and it was very easy to reserve a seat. There's a catch though. You may reserve but the seat will not be confirmed until two weeks before your trip and passengers are actually chosen by drawing lots. A few months passed and lucky enough we got the confirmation.

For more information on the free shuttle and other treats from South Korea's Visit Korea Year, go to the following site: Free Shuttle - VISIT Korea Year

After our quick tour around Busan on our first day, we head to Seomyon to grab a quick lunch at the mall's food court.


After that fulfilling lunch we walked to Lotte World Hotel's lobby to wait for the shuttle bus. We waited a few minutes and the bus arrived. It was time to leave Busan for a while.

I'd say the getting the shuttle bus was very convenient. It was our quick chance at getting some rest after a day of wandering in Busan.

We had one stop over to get some food and toilet-break. After around five hours we then arrived in a rather colder Seoul.

From central Seoul, we need to get to the train and head to our host's place.

We got to meet another CS'er named, Paul, near Cheolsan station. He brought us to a nice Korean place to have dinner.

It was a great night. We had fun with the Soju game. We also tried some shooting game and the 3D ride.

After dinner we head to his place to take some rest. We definitely can't wait for the next day to explore Seoul.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Haedong Younggungsa Temple

Since we are very pressed for time, we just chose to head to this temple found in a cliff as recommended by our tour guide friends.

It's the Haedong Younggungsa Temple. It's definitely a must to go to this beautiful temple. The view is really amazing.

It's a mysterious-looking temple established on rocks and stones near the sea. According to the guide it's famous for the glorious sunrise lighting up over the East Sea.

From early in the morning, the temple is crowed with people wanting to see the beautiful sunrise.
We got there by taking a train and taxi. It was almost lunch we arrived. There were also a number of tourists and students taking their field trip, I suppose.

At the entrance there are some food stands and souvenir shops. I was tempted to buy some but I thought I'll just buy them at the shopping center when we come back to Busan.

We went walking down the stairs going to the temple. There was even this area where I dropped a coin to wish!

It was nice walking around the area. There were cute little buddhas on display. I wanted to get one!

There was a also a room full of buddhas where I think people enclose their wishes. I was also tempted to adopt one buddha for my wish. Anyway, maybe I'll do it next time.

We get the chance to drink water from this area. It's probably a miracle water? So I took it.

Gwangalli Beach and Gwangan Bridge

On our officially first day of stay in Busan, we met Kath's wonderful friends/students who have offered to take us around. It was really a cool bunch and we definitely enjoyed their company.

Our first stop was to get something to eat as we haven't eaten anything yet for breakfast. We walked to the Gwangalli Beach. The view is really amazing. Plus, the weather is fairly better than last night and sun is up but still with that chilly feeling.

I forgot the name of the place, but I remember it's just right on the great spot to check out the Gwangan Bridge. We then ordered our food.

I had a rice porridge with bean sprouts. It's an interesting dish as it has nice soup (I love soups!) although it's not too salty for me. The lady gave us this fish paste to put onto it if we want to put some flavor. I liked the fish paste because I kinda like salty foods.

After the nice breakfast we went walking along the beach and took many beautiful photos until it's time we headed to our next stop. You'll notice nobody's swimming in the beach. Yeah, it's too cold!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Busan: Our First Surprise

We left for Busan on the afternoon of 23rd November. Donned our semi-winter clothes, we boarded the Cebu Pacific plane and traveled for almost 2 and a half hours.

We arrived in the chilly Gimhae International Airport at around 9pm. We went through the usual immigration and took a cab to our hosts' place. Oh but before that, we need to get some cash so there were a few ATMs available near the exit.

TIP: If travelling overseas and plans to withdraw money thru ATM, make sure that you're ATMs are suited to be used internationally. I believe you can tell by the logo of Cirrus or MasterCard or Visa on your ATM. But to be 100% sure, drop by your nearest bank to confirm it'll work before you head off.

I actually did most of the planning which is REALLY, a bit of a challenge. I had to spend sleepless nights balancing my busy work and researching all the stuff about this trip. I did enjoy it though but it's still not easy.

We actually planned to take a bus rather than a taxi to get to our hosts' place. But we decided to take the offer of a taxi driver to take us to the place to avoid getting lost on our first night in Korea.

We were then welcomed by our very nice and warm hosts, Kath and Sandy. We know it was late at night and the two ladies should be off to bed, but they were up for a quick chat and gave us helpful directions in getting around. We also met some CS friends who dropped by to say hi.

Kath was very nice to offer us to take us to a Korean restaurant just some walking distance from their place since we are a bit hungry. We haven't had dinner since we we left Manila. We had a really nice serving of Samgyeopsal ( I hope that's correct!) for the five of us. That meal was really cheap and we were really happy and stuffed!

After the meal we head to take a walk near the bridge. Across the bridge is one of the largest malls in the world which is Shinsegae Centum City. Amazingly, we didn't have the chance to enter this mall during our stay in Busan. That is why we really have to go back.

It was getting really cold that night so the four of us decided to go back and take a rest. The next day's going to be more fun. We are going around Busan with Kath's friends.

The Surprise that is South Korea

The first and foremost reason I wanted to go to South Korea is to catch the winter season! I suppose it is the closest country I could get to to fulfill this wish. It's been a long time dream to finally see, feel and experience winter and snow. When I learned that South Korea is also one of Cebu Pacific's destination, I promised myself I'd find a way to book a promo fare when I get that chance.

And the chance came last February of 2011. Cebu Pacific offered 70% off on limited international destinations. What's cool is that, I'm not travelling alone and I got a bunch of travel hippies with me from CS Manila. It was another long wait, I tell you. But as I always say, the wait is definitely worth it!

Ok, so we booked and I realised we've booked it a few days early for their winter season. Anyhow, it didn't break my excitement. South Korea is still South Korea and I'm heading there with or without snow!

The big trip happened on the 23rd of November. We arrived in Busan and then to headed to Seoul too.

Well, it took a while to put up and prepare everything.

Firstly, we need the visa. It is good that South Korea do not charge fee for Filipinos applying for tourist visa. You only need to pass the required documents, wait for a few days and then claim it at the embassy. Easy! I'll get a separate post about the visa application for you curious kiddos! But the best bet of course is to head to their website for latest information.

As I mentioned, I travelled with my CS friends. And yes we all decided, we went CouchSurfing in Busan and Seoul. This is my second time CouchSurfing overseas. It's definitely a great experience.

In summary, we almost spent 2 days in Busan and 3 days in Seoul. BUT, it wasn't really enough! I have made another promise to myself I will go back! :)

Follow through the next posts for the details of my trip in Busan and Seoul.

Hey, It's Christmas Time

I'm very happy today because it's weekend and tonight is Christmas Eve!

I woke up this morning not thinking about work but actually planning of updating my blog, finally. It's been a month since we've flown to South Korea and now is the time I got to put all the thoughts up in my blog. It has been quite busy at work so I have very little choice, that is to delay the South Korea posts even if I'm really itching already to write about it!

But hey, before anything else, here's a short clip I'd like to share to all you lovely readers of my blog!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thanks so much for reading, commenting and viewing my humble blog, the fruit of my travel addiction. I got you all something special...