Travels

Unexpectedly Back

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You know those days when you are feeling nostalgic, of a place you fell in love with, of those younger days, full of innocence and vibrancy exploring a foreign place. I got that a couple of months back, dreamy about San Francisco. Back in 2008, I fell in love, of the cool crisp weather, the coastal side, its neatness compared to other US cities. And unexpectedly I am back. As I am writing this, I am on board a hop on hop off bus, under direct sunlight, on the roof top of this bus, in Sausalito. 🙂 


And while we are waiting for the trip back to the city, I decided to compose this, a simple ode to being grateful for moments like this. Oh you might ask why unexpected, it’s because I am here on an unplanned business trip to Las Vegas and they just told me about it a lil over a month ago. I’m actually glad I said yes. 


So yeah, just a couple of minutes of putting into writing the thankfulness I am having deep within. 

Watch out soon for this trip’s blog post. 🙂

Garosu-gil, Rodeo Drive and Gangnam

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One of the avenues, if it’s the right word to call it, that I fancy the most out of all the streets that I’ve walked on in the city of Seoul, it would have to be Garuso-gil. The idea of the street being tree lined is so fascinating for me and it did not disappoint when I went to be there in person.

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Hours of walking out and about, we decided to hit Gangnam, a place famous not just for the phenomenal song but also for … plastic surgery! And yes, there are gigantic buildings, some are plastic surgery clinics that are just normally sitting (in a Korean sense) along the strip.

DSCF0782 But in addition to that, this street is quite posh, where it’s actually the first time I see big shops of this designer brands, when I say it’s big, it’s really spacious and most have multiple storeys. And they are side by side each other.  DSCF0767

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DSCF0761 There are just so many luxury brands that make up the street of Gangnam.

Garosu-gil is just within few blocks and we didn’t have difficulty finding it. It was just a short strip comprised of nice shops and cafes and I find it less crowded and neatier than other districts. People seem to just be idly walking and the place is downright relaxing. To think it was actually raining the day we visited. DSCF0760

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We also found this burger nook across 8 seconds store and I must say, the burger’s really a must try. The patty’s juicy and tasty and the cheese that they put really made the burger even more palatable. The place is called Alley Burger. Very fitting.

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Another district that I fancy is the Rodeo street in Apgujeong. It is even smaller than Garosu-gil, likewise, it is also comprised of shops and cafes and restos. Koreans really have a lot of places to hangout in!

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If I am to go back to Seoul, these will for sure be my go to spots again to just walk non chalantly, find a cafe to sit in and people watch. Oh, how I wish every days could just be like that! =))

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Seoul Strolling: Itaewon, Insadong, Ehwa University

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I wanted to have one blog post for the entire trip in Korea, but I dont want to bore the hell out of you =)) So I’d just section them out. There’s heaps of streets and avenues that you can visit in Seoul, but of course there are those inevitable lists in most people’s suggested itineraries. Among these being Itaewon, Insadong and Ehwa University. I find that they somehow look the same, selling korean fashion clothing, cosmetics, cafes and Korean restaurants, not that it wasn’t pleasing at all, as I truly enjoyed all the walks and strolls that we did. 🙂

Insadong is crowd packed when we went. The street was just plain busy where everyone is walking, taking selfies, checking out the sidewalk stalls or like us, exploring and looking around for cool discoveries, cheap thrills or bargains. We stepped foot in Insadong, not directly at the street where most people flock in but we passed by narrow alleys with heaps of traditional Korean restos, it was like a maze!

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In Insadong, we also passed by Sszamsigil, a youthful shopping enclave which looks industrial and the colors that paint the place are the stuffs being sold and the artsy stickers on the walls.

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Youngsters flock and congregate on this place. You would see them chilling out on the steps, young couples being cute together, boy band like type of groups. =)) The place looks quite cool, selling mementos, tiny items, souvenirs, anything cute basically. But of course, I still find them pricey. Like $35.00 for a baseball cap, the quality of which you can find in Bugis street market of Singapore or Mongkok in Hongkong.

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Back outside, at the main street of Insandong…

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Coffeeholics that we are, we foraged Insadong to find where we can sit down and to have nice coffee at, as it was a seemingly nice and bright afternoon to just chill out. At one of the alleys, we find this establishment, I think about 3 floors of a cafe. Oh, we also wanted to finally try the Bingsu here, since we had the first taste of it in Singapore.

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I wanted to get the chocolate bingsu which we saw on the poster outside but they said it wasn’t available that time so we resorted to the red bean one.

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It was quite alright, not the type that I was expecting. The service crew wasn’t very pleasant too, they were not smiling and they do not seem accomodating. There’s quite a number of cafes to choose from in Insadong…

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Itaewon looks similar, reason why I put them together in this post, is that they are like sisters, they do look the same. =))

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Before going to Ehwa University, we went to Cheonggyecheon Stream. Though I believe this looks nicer in autumn or winter, we thought it might be nice to take pictures there.

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It doesn’t have that much of an appeal at this time around compared to other seasons but I was amazed by how people actually visit this place and sit down, some even lay out picnic mats and kids are playing in the stream.

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Continuing our walk to Ehwa…

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The vicinity of Ehwa University is actually such a shopper’s delight, there are also heaps of clothing and cosmetic stores and street food stalls aplenty. The strip is nice and laid back. I was impressed by how big the space is, right around the university itself.

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From among these three places in this post, Ehwa is the one that I fancy the most..

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Seriously, I have never seen a place as Seoul that has so many stores closely situated from each other, long strip having just clothing and cosmetic shops!

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I think a tourist can just come in Seoul without packing on anything since there’s a lot of stores to shop items at!

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Bukchon – Seoul Korea

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One of the sought after tourist spots in Seoul is the Bukchon Hanok Village which is a residential area that still has old, traditional korean houses preserved through time. Of course, you would notice that some has undergone facelifts or maintenance, but the essence, how these homes look like, still lives. From the train station, we thought it might take us only 10 minutes but it actually took us about 20-25 minutes of walking and some roads are even elevated. However, we saw shuttle buses passing by so probably you can get there aboard it but we said it might be worthwhile to walk.

We passed by cafes and quaint shops, the neighbourhood actually look homey, I am not sure if we were just lucky that time, but it wasn’t really that crowded.

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There are several tourist trails or rather, observation spots scattered in Bukchon-ro. But I guess we managed to find the one where most tourists flock in. I find the houses beautiful, though you can only see the facades and the rooftops as they are still people’s residences. So we only had to make do with the visible portions of these houses to think they are enclosed with walls.

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Lunch time, we decided to find a place that serves Korean food and that which we can rest ourselves first. We saw this traditional and cosy Korean restaurant and had our lunch there, the place is called Jokagbo.

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We wanted the one where you have to sit on the floor, but the lady did not allow us and we were not sure why. Anyway, we ordered a meal set for two which if I remembered correctly costed us around KRW 47,000, roughly about USD 43.00 (I find this is usually the normal price range for local, korean food, a bit exy considering you are in Korea).

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We love pork, so anything with it is such a treat for us. =)) However, the pork here was not as good as the one that we ate during our first night, which was in Myeongdong. I’ll dedicate a post specific to that soon. The set was also comprised of saba fish and of course, the inevitable platters of vegetables that always go with a korean meal. It was average though.

Going back to the station, we find bits and pieces of interesting things such as cafes and food.

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Generally a good trip in this tourist spot, though I recommend that if one is not into walking, you can opt to take the shuttle bus that goes up and down Buckhon-ro. Also, we went on a weekday so probably why it was less crowded at that time.

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Man Ho Chinese Restaurant in Hong Kong SkyCity Marriot Hotel

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As we landed night time in Hongkong, we decided to spend the night in Hongkong SkyCity Marriot Hotel which is more or less 10 minutes by shuttle bus from the airport. The hotel stands secluded from other establishments, well most of the buildings there are laid out with generous spaces between each other. Having been so famished and since there was not much options within the vicinity, we opted for the Chinese Restaurant in the hotel, the place is called Man Ho Chinese Restaurant. It looks like a sophisticated, conventional looking Chinese resto facing the South China Sea. For a traveller, I find the price expensive as it costs about 55 SGD per person which is actually a three course meal and the cheapest option that you can get rather than getting ala carte.

Braised Bird’s Nest Soup in Truffle
As with any Chinese resto, each dish comes in one by one. And so the soup. Although I am in love with anything truffle, I find this soup very bland. I think if they did not somehow infuse it with truffle, I wouldn’t have finished this at all.

Roasted Pork Belly
This pork belly paid the debt that the disappointing soup had made. It was very delectable with that melt in your mouth goodness that I so wanted in a roasted pork. I think this one indeed suited my palate. Equally pleasing was the tofu that was served side by side with the pork.

Beef with Mangoes
Another one that did not fail is this succulent, very tasty beef dish. The sauce was very nice and the mango combination gave it a very refreshing experience. It was cooked very nicely.

Chilled Mango Cream Pudding
I find the dessert very pleasant as well. It concluded the entire dining experience well.  I thought it would actually be bland too, given that most Chinese resto is not usually on the sweet side of things, I find this just suitable for me. The sweetness and creamy taste were served in a right way.

Overall, although I find the price a bit on the expensive end, I find that the dishes are of quality and the dining service good. It was also nice that most crew here speaks good English when I thought at first that I would be having problems placing my order. 🙂

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Som Tam Nua

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Bangkok will always leave you in a food coma. Visiting this place wouldn’t ever be complete without immersing your palate on their local dishes. And so, every time I am in Bangkok, I am always on the look out for a new food place to indulge in. While in Siam Square, and every time I was there, there is this traditional looking restaurant, dimly lit, quite quaint, with a long queue of people either sitting or standing and waiting to get in. So on one lunch we decided to know what the fuzz is all about. We decided to go in earlier so as to spare ourselves from that long queue.

Thus, it was brunch so we were lucky enough to head straight and sat ourselves in – not to mention we still managed to select our table.

Casual Dining
Casual Dining

Som Tam, Papaya Salad in thai is a famous dish that you would normally find in any dining halls or street food places. It is a beautiful balance of sweet and spicy which I so love. The crunchiness of the shredded papaya as well as the sauce that has been so wonderfully concocted is something that you wouldn’t miss ordering when in Thailand. And so, we of course, had one.

Som Tam with Dried Shrimp and Peanut

I find that some food descriptions in the menu are quite interesting, something that I don’t normally see in a typical authentic Thai restaurant. For one we ordered a pork sausage with green chili dip which I find really succulent, tasty and actually addictive.

Chiang Mai Pork Sausage with Green Chili Dip and Crispy Pork Rind

You would be surprised that the green chili dip is not spicy at all that I actually mistaken it for a crushed eggplant. It was superbly nice to pair with the sausage. I love this dish and would absolutely order it again next time. Oh, the pork rind is something very familiar as we have the same back home called “Chicharon”. We were looking for a Pad Thai and I guess we only resorted to the closest we can get from the menu.

Stir Fry Thai Rice Pork Noodles

The noodles was also delectable. The stir fry taste plus the infusion of spices make it a very appealing dish. There was also flosses on top and a pork rind which makes it even more tastier. Pork, a meat that I so love especially if cooked and done nicely. One that we ordered was the Lemongrass Pork. I am a fan of anything lemongrass and so, seeing it on the menu, didn’t give an option to doubt.

Lemongrass Pork

Same thoughts as with the other dish, this one also didn’t fail us. I absolutely love the lemongrass infusion and the garlic and chilis. If there is also one thing the Thais are good at, it will be their side sauces.

Som Tam Side Sauces

Part of the restaurant is also a cafe which I think they might co-own? And so I also ordered my first cuppa for the day.

My late morning fix – a latte

The cafe also sell some cakes to pair with their coffee, maybe next time I shall give it a try. We were so full to even save a space for dessert. =))

If you would ask me for the price, it’s definitely pocket friendly. Should I come back again? Absolutely, without hesitations. 🙂 And I would recommend Som Tam Nua to anyone who may visit Siam.

Address: 989, Siam Center, 4th Floor, Rama 1 Road, Pathum Wan, Khet Pathum Wan, Bangkok, 10330, Thailand

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Edinburgh

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I have been browsing my Picasa web albums and realized that I have quite few photos and topics that I haven’t made a blog post for. Seeeeshh, it backlogged now and I want to post all of it. Well, other then social media and blogging where else do I use my photos for, lol.

Back tracking to 2014, Edinburgh was also a pit stop during the UK trip. We were so famished when we landed via train and it was nearing late night. We spotted a kebab place near the Ibis hotel that we stayed in.

I WOULD NOT recommend going to this place. The staff were unwelcoming as if they never wanted to serve us food. We kept on telling them our orders and they would irritably wanted us to repeat what we said and they did not even try to carefully hear what we were saying and they would cut you off with what they wanted to say. It was stressful ordering with them.

We stayed at Ibis Edinburgh South Bridge which is just off Royal Mile. It forms the streets which is a through route to the Old Town of the city of Edinburgh. I could say that the location is pretty good and accessible.

The most famous local delicacy which I find exotic is Haggis. This is comprised of sheep’s innards which could be sautéed in onions, stock, spices and I don’t what else there is. lol. Anyway, since this is something similar to a dish back home called Sisig or Bopis, I do find it pretty nice, tasty that is. lol. Haggis is the one on the lower left below. But unlike home, they even serve this as a breakfast dish, which was quite surprising for me. Innards for breakfast anyone? I do also find that most bars and shops incorporate haggis in their dishes.

Breakfast with Haggis!

If there is one thing that I could succinctly describe Edinburgh’s architecture it would be Medieval. Having laid my eyes on it the first time, I felt like I was transported in some sort of a Medieval movie setting, add to that the overcast weather that hovered over during the entire trip. But, I am fascinated with victorian and historical architectures, and in the case of Scotland, it is specifically called the Baronial style.

One stop that I enjoyed is the Edinburgh Castle Hill. The views on the way was already astounding for me – cobblestone roads and streets, shop houses and fancy looking restaurants as well as medieval role playing characters on the streets!

Here are some of the photos that I took inside the Castle….

I also enjoyed walking around the shops and I find that their main product is the Lambswool and Cashmere scarves mostly in checkered prints.

Going back down…

I am fascinated by how locals live their lives here as I find that compared to other cities, there is really little things to do. Well, as a tourist, I was excited and all but if I come to think about the lives here, I tend to wonder. I think though, they may live simplier here compared to other people in a more urbanized city. But, they’ve got a number of pubs eh! =)) Talk about drinking and chattering with people rather than relying more on technology.

We tried this pub called The Royal Mile Tavern which is a traditional pub house that exudes a distinct charm. Their food was equally nice as well.

Talking about our gastronomic adventure in Edinburgh, one place that I absolutely enjoyed was the Viva Mexico Restaurant, a mex cantina with a festive, cheery and at the same time relaxing ambience that offers sublime mexican food. I love all of the food. Well, I am a big fan of this cuisine so it was really a satisfying one for me. Pardon my indistinct, hazy and disoriented shots, I was hurrying up to capture them so I can soon devour my food. lol.

One stop that some of our friends wanted to go was The Elephant Cafe where they said the idea of Harry Potter was conceived. A tiny, unassuming cafe it is but imagine that JK Rowling had her coffee there where her wide imagination started, resulting to a world wide successful book that is Harry Potter.

More food stops coming up…. =D

I chanced upon a patisserie which seems to sell fancy cakes and as it appealed to me, I did not hesitate to go inside and give it a try. Patisserie Valerie sells handmade cakes which has been in existence since 1920s.

Since we were lunching at a pizza parlor beside this place, I decided to just take one item and try as we got a bounty of orders to finish. I got the Mille-Feuille made with puff pastry, Saint honore cream and icing. I like that it was not too sweet and that it was very light. I am not really a fan of dense cakes, those heavy ones with layers of creams and icings.

Speaking of the pizza parlor, we went to Pizza Express which I find pretty popular there as there seems to be a number of branches in Edinburgh. I am an avid fan of non thick crust pizza, thin or even the skinny thin ones, cracker-like I would say. So I find that this one suited my palate and I quite enjoyed our orders.

Edinburgh for me is just right for a 1 to 2 days trip. I find that one can enjoy all the tourist places within 48 hours so it is advisable to make it a pitstop to your ultimate one. It is good to visit it once – although I enjoyed it, I think I will only visit it for one time. Oh, I forgot to mention that I find books here very cheap. 🙂

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