Sunday, May 31, 2015

31 May 15 (Sun) – Lemongrass Granita

Since it is a long weekend and the weather has been very brutal lately, I decided to make dessert. Was considering either rambutan ice cream or lemongrass sorbet and in the end, lemongrass sorbet wins. Found a recipe by Epicurious on minted lemongrass sorbet and try it out. As I do not have mint, I omitted that ingredient, plus this time round I remember to churn it every 45 minutes before freezing overnight.

---------------- Edited on 2 Jun 2015 ----------------

Tasted the sorbet yesterday but the texture did not look like sorbet. Instead, it looked more like granita. Pondered upon it and came up with a couple of theories, either it was due to the addition of honey or because the base syrup was not thick enough or it was the way I churn it. Perhaps next round I should try to use real fruit juice in the making of sorbet and churn it using a whisk instead of a fork. Anyway, it was still refreshing especially when taken during the brutal hot weather.

Brought two cups to office for CC and TYY to try. CC told me that it was very fragrant; she likes it a lot because the sweetness was just right. She suggested that perhaps next time I can add a zest of lemon to give it a zing. Sounds good. I ate it with some pomegranate seeds yesterday and it was really good because the sour pomegranate seeds complemented the sweetness of the granita. So I guess the idea is to have a bit of sourish taste within the sweetness.

TYY said overall it's a bit too sweet for her liking. She then gave two suggestions to balance the sweetness. 1. Add something sour (e.g. lime) or 2. Boil and heat the sugar a bit before dissolving it, so that the caramelisation comes out more, giving it an earthier sweetness. She also commented that the texture of the ice is actually very good, it melts immediately in the mouth and that it doesn't stay as a clump of ice

Well… At least an improvement from the last chrysanthemum sorbet or should I say granita. =)

Friday, May 8, 2015

8 May 15 – Day 8 (Myeongdong, Incheon International Airport)

We woke up slightly later since not much was planned for the day, given that we had a flight to catch in the late afternoon. Since the check-out time was 11am so suggested to SWT that we check-out on the way out in the morning so won’t have to rush back to do check-out. Went out after 9am, left the luggage in the room beside the reception counter and walked around Myeongdong area. Popped into a minimart and I bought more seaweed and a cheap bottle of green tea powder. Headed back about 11+am because SWT’s Iphone blackout suddenly and could not be switched on. Back at K-pop II, she opened her luggage to take out the cable to try charging the phone using the computer in front of the reception counter. Nothing happened. So used the computer to google for a solution and found one that worked. While she was meddling with her phone, I took out my luggage to keep my purchases. After she was done and kept her cable back, we sat around with our luggage at the side before finally moving off to take the airport limousine bus near Sejong Hotel. We managed to catch the 12:10pm bus and paid W9,000 instead of the usual W10,000 per person because we printed out the discount voucher from Asiana website.

Reached Incheon International Airport before 1pm and went to do self-check-in with the help of a ground staff. As SWT had to do the tax-refund on her foot peeling masks purchase, she could not check-in her carton box. Went to the counter next to row J to get the stamp from the custom officer and then headed back to Asiana counter to check-in her carton box. Then went through the immigration counter and went to find the place where SWT was supposed to get her tax-refund cash back. Finally she got her cash and while walking to look for my lunch, we saw the parade of the Royal Family and tourists were taking photos. We took photos and managed to get a photo taken with the Royal Family too before going up to the foodcourt where I had my lunch close to 3pm. After done eating, walked around the shops near the boarding gate but got nothing. Sat to wait for time to board at 3:50pm and the plane took off at 4:40pm.

Thought: This whole 9D8N trip to Busan and Seoul with SWT was not as good as I had expected it to be. I had planned a lot of food to try and was counting on her to help share the food; unfortunately, she fell sick from day 3. Maybe I am used to solo traveling, traveling with another companion on DIY trips seem kind of restricted because I cannot rearrange the itinerary as I deem fit or do things at my own pace. Go where I like, see what I like, eat what I like, when I like.

This is my first trip to Busan and my impression is that it is not as tourist-friendly as Seoul. Perhaps I had only visited a very limited area in Busan hence I had the impression that it is not as developed as Seoul. However, because Busan is near the sea, therefore it seems like there are a lot of tourists’ sights near the sea. The locals there speak mainly Korean but they were really very helpful, young and old. One thing for sure though, the seafood was seriously fresh and great! It was really regrettable that I did not get to spend more time in Busan. Will I go back again? Definitely yes! And I will make sure that I fly there direct and spend the entire trip in Busan.

Comparatively, like I said before, Seoul is not difficult to walk on own. However, I was not as prepared as I was back in 2012 and I did not polish up my already limited Korean vocabulary. So whenever the locals speak, the words sound familiar yet I could not recall the meaning of some words. As shops in Seoul cater more and more to the Chinese, most of the locals speak fairly good Mandarin. When they see Asian with relatively fair skin, they start talking in Mandarin. In order to differentiate ourselves, SWT insisted on using English, unless she really needs to buy something and needs the other party to understand her. Perhaps I was influenced by her, I felt uncomfortable using my very limited Korean vocabulary. Back in 2012, I remembered saying “Gamsahamnida” on a few occasions which made the sellers very happy.

Back then in 2012, Wi-Fi connections are plenty in a lot of areas and I was able to whatsapp little big sis every now and then. I could even connect to Olleh network without registering with them. But this time round, most of the Wi-Fi connections require registration. The bonus for this trip was that we happened to be in Seoul during the Korean Royal Palace Culture Festival week hence were able to participate in some of the activities. Will I go back to Seoul again? Maybe… but most likely to cover the suburbs and doing day trips to the outskirt.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

7 May 15 – Day 7 (Gyeongdong Market, Bongeunsa Temple, COEX Mall, Myeongdong)

Whatsapped little big sis and she suggested that SWT should try pack her stuff in a carton box so that she could check-in the box. We move out before 9am and reached the designated station. As we did not have any map of the area or of the Gyeongdong market, we just assumed that we are in the area of the market since we saw some stalls selling fresh vegetables and stuff. Walked straight down and saw shops selling various kinds of rice cakes. One particular shop stood out because it was selling kimchi jars, clear plastic containers and medicinal glass jars of various sizes. We then saw other shops selling oriental herbs, dried goods like nuts, various edible powders and stalls lining opposite the shops selling things such as anchovies, simple street food, fruits and vegetables.

Crossed over to another section that sells all sorts of ginsengs, another section sells all sorts of fresh vegetables; another section sells all the fresh seafood and another section sells all the fresh fruits. All the food stuff were very huge in size compared to those we usually see back home. A lot of interesting stuff to see but not to buy. I was pretty tempted to get some ginsengs but did not know how to communicate in Korean because most if not all the sellers were either uncle or aunty. Across the street we saw another big, sheltered (wet) market. Think we did not cover the whole Gyeongdong Market completely because we were quite lost as to where we had covered and not. Anyway, it was a good experience and we moved back to the subway station to take the subway to our next destination.

Got to COEX Mall and recalled that the Bongeunsa Temple is towards the north side of the mall so walk the length of it to get to the temple. By the time we got there, it was already 11+am. SWT went to the information booth to check on the temple experience program while I took some photos near the entrance. It was then I realized that today was Thursday and temple experience program is available to foreigners on Thursday from 2pm to 4:30pm. According to the volunteer there, the temple experience program consists of temple tour, meditation session, lotus flower making session and tea ceremony session. In addition, participants would receive souvenirs. SWT asked what kind of meditation would be conducted and was told the basic ones because the program is targeted for those with no meditation experience. SWT was keen even though she has basic meditation experiences.

Since it was still some time before 2pm, she had time to consider and we walked around the temple on our own to take photos. Just like back in Haedong Yonggung Temple, we saw small piles of stones around. I recalled the tour guide back in my first Korea trip in 2010 saying that this is some form of wishing. So I did a small pile of three stones myself and took photo of it, just for fun. Then we saw a pavilion with a structure that has water flowing out, something similar to one we saw back in Haedong Yonggung Temple but instead of natural spring, the water for this one seems to come from a water hose. Walked around some more and found the canteen but lunch was over and hence no lunch for me. Covered most of the temple and asked the volunteer near the entrance where to get lunch nearby. We were told that there is a Korean restaurant just left side of the temple. SWT was still unable to eat proper meal so we had to hunt for food that she can eat before the temple experience program.

Popped into a couple of café nearby and finally settled in Coffine Gurunaru where she had plain bagel and I had shrimp & tuna panini sandwich. It was yummy with the crunchy shrimps and all. While eating, told her that I would join the temple experience program as well since I did not get to do that during my 2012 trip. I also suggested to her that perhaps she could try asking the receptionist at K-pop II if they have any carton boxes to spare for her to pack her purchases. Returned to the temple after lunch, close to 2pm and did the registration where we were given a tag each with number and I was number four. While waiting around, more foreigners came to register for the program and we ended up with a group of 12 females, consisting of two from Singapore, two from Macau, two from Korea, four from France, one from Poland and one from US. We started the temple tour with a volunteer at 2pm. She was very sincere in spreading the goodness of Buddhism and even made a few good points like how we should see people as they are and not as how they should be.

Guessed she noticed that some of us seemed bored and also she noticed that she was running out of time, therefore she had to cut short the tour and we had to sort of run to the mediation center where our next activity, lotus flower making session, was. Removed our shoes, left our belongings next to the clothe rack where some of us hung up our outerwear. I asked the volunteer if it was ok for me to remove my sweater because I was in a sleeveless tee. She said ok to me but not to the other lady from France who wore a spaghetti straps top. Entered a room and we sat on the floor along a long table with participants facing each other. A volunteer who was taking photos of the program the whole time sat opposite me. Another volunteer explained to us how to make the paper lotus flower before we tried it ourselves. While I was working on my paper lotus flower, the volunteer who sat opposite me started asking me questions such as where I was from, whether I am a Buddhist, whether I believe in Buddhism, etc. When we were about to finish our flowers, the volunteer who taught us the steps, told us that we could get a plastic box and a paper bag for the flowers with a donation of W1,000. At the back of my mind, I had already decided that I was not going to bring back the flower so did not get the box and the bag.

We were then led out of the room to another room for the meditation session and on the way there, we dropped our flowers next to our belongings beside the clothe rack. We sat down on a cushion each and the nun who was our instructor told us to try to cross our legs such that our feet lay on the thighs so that it was in the lotus flower position. Ok, that was tough. I only managed half the flower like the lady from US who had prior mediation experience. The nun told us to close our eyes, relax, and breathe in and out per her instructions. Unfortunately, I could not breathe per her pace due to my uncomfortable position. Finally the session was over and we were ushered to the next location elsewhere in the temple for the tea ceremony. As I was too comfortable in my sleeveless top that I forgot to take my sweater. Fortunately I remembered it while walking down from the center and so quickly rushed back to take. After that, SWT and I walked briskly to catch up with the rest of the group.

Reached the next location, sat down on a cushion and the same nun appeared. She was also the demonstrator for the tea ceremony. She explained the differences between black tea and green tea and that one can brew the green tea leaves for a few times before discarding. The lady from Poland was surprised with this fact because she always discards the tea leaves after one brew. From the tea ceremony, I learnt that the best temperature to make tea is around 60-70 degree Celsius. The nun made enough tea for the first row and the rows behind were handed tea and snacks by the other volunteers in the room. After the session was over, souvenirs such as a beaded bracelet, a pen, a luggage tag and a brochure on temple experience were given out to all the participants. Told SWT that I intend to leave the paper lotus flower in the temple and so we took photos of the flowers before bringing them to a statue near the entrance of the temple.

Left the temple around 4+pm and we walked back to COEX Mall. The ground floor and above seemed to be convention centers while the basements are for shops. Walked around the basements, popped into shops randomly without any proper sequence. Not sure if we covered most of the shops and we left the place during the rush hours of 6+pm. Reached Myeongdong station and tried to find a machine to refund our T-money. Learnt from a local that there was no refund for it. The last round I did not do the refund because I intended to pass it to Min for her Korea trip. Headed to Myeongdong area and we walked around since it was the last night of our stay. One of the items on my shopping list was foot spray and it was interesting how those beauty shops sell products for the hair, face, body, all except for the feet. In the end, I went to check out The Face Shop since they were selling foot peeling masks. Sure enough, they sell foot spray and it was on offer price hence no samples were given for my purchase. Anyway, next thing was to look for seaweed and I bought a pack of nine packets at W10,000 from a street vendor. Not the best deal around. While walking around, we saw a lot of carton boxes but they were either soiled or packed up by people.

Walked some more to see what to eat for dinner and we randomly popped into a shop that sells Japanese cuisine located at the edge of Myeongdong area. It was a small, cozy shop with two customers inside. We sat down, flipped through the menu and SWT decided on a bowl of udon while I opted for the pork cutlet rice. The food was great; the pork cutlet was crispy on the outside while juicy and tender on the inside. Finished all my food clean and took a photo of the shop before walking back to K-pop II. Went to level four to check on the carton box but the receptionist said they do not have. As we saw some flatten boxes outside the building, we went back down so that SWT could quickly grab one and head back up. Went back to level four to ask for masking tape and marker before heading back to our room. Showered, packed and whatsapped little big sis. She asked why I did not buy some ginsengs from the Gyeongdong Market and told her that communication was a problem, plus not sure if the aunties there are willing to sell in small quantity. While I was comfortably watching tv on my bed, SWT was busy doing her packing and in the end, she stuff all the foot peeling masks, the coin pouches and two packs of the kelp snacks into the carton box. Firmed up the timing to take the airport limousine bus with SWT before sleeping.

Thoughts: Gyeongdong Market was a good experience and I would recommend people to go before it gets crowded with tourists. And I think it would be best to go in the early part of the trip so one can stock up some fresh fruits for the rest of the stay. Also it is a good place to stock up or find ingredients that one cannot find back home. Much was said about Bongeunsa Temple but personally I did not find anything interesting about it. Perhaps it was because I am not into Buddhism or because it was not as grand as the Haedong Yonggung Temple in Busan. The 2.5 hour of temple experience was not enough to really experience temple life. Perhaps a temple stay would be better. COEX Mall was something similar to our Suntec Conventional Center but lesser shops. Guessed it would have been interesting to visit the aquarium and the Kimchi Museum.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

6 May 15 – Day 6 (Myeongdong Cathedral, Changgyeonggung, Jongmyo Shrine, Cheonggyecheon Stream & area)

We left K-pop II slightly after 9am to go to the Myeongdong Cathedral. As it was early weekday morning so the cathedral was pretty quiet. The cathedral was unlike those I have seen in Europe, the structure was not as elaborated or grand but rather simple and clean. Walked pass the side of the building and saw a door with the sign “Confession”, guessed it was the confession room. An aunty walked pass us and told us something in Korean which neither SWT nor I understood.

There were some statues outside the cathedral so we went around taking photos before entering the cathedral through the side door. There were a few people inside and it was really quiet except for the music from the organ. I took some photos using my mobile phone because my NEX gave off a clicking sound when used. It was only when another small group of tourists came in that took photos using their cameras that gave off clicking sound and an aunty vacuuming the floor right in front of the hall that I was able to use my NEX. The stained glass windows were not as magnificent as those in Europe but nice enough. Sat down on one of the benches for a while to take in the sight and sound before going out. Saw the crypt and checked out a small underground mall nearyby.

Finally left around 10:30am and crossed over to the G25 convenient store to get a new T-money card. Asked for the normal one without the Citypass+ and was told all the cards came with it. So no choice but to pay W3,000 for the card and went to the Myeongdong subway station to top up with a value of W5,000. We took the subway to our next destination, the Changgyeonggung Palace. Unlike the Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace was not as well maintained, which was a shame. As such, it was not as popular and hence not as crowded as the other two palaces. We took our time to walk around, looking at the different structures and items and then we came to a western-looking enclosed botanical garden built in the 1909. It was there that we spent a longer time looking at the various potted plants and admiring the designs.

After we emerged from the botanical garden, continued our walk around the palace and by the time we were back to the entrance, it was around 1:15pm. Saw some people wearing olden royal clothing walking near the entrance and approached one of them to ask what was going on. The man told us that there’s going to be a reenactment of a royal walk from the front gate to the main hall at 1:30pm so we thought perhaps we could find a good photo spot to take photos of it. Then the man approached us and said we can register at the booth near the front gate using our admission tickets. So went out and saw many young school kids crowding around two long tables accompanied with a couple of teachers trying to write their names on wooden plaques with writing brushes. Went to the booth, showed the staff our admission tickets and received a wooden plaque each. Apparently, we needed these in order to join the activity. Since we did not know how to write our names in Hangeul, we wrote in Chinese. SWT was able to write nicely using a brush but mine was pretty ugly.

According to a brochure we took, the activity was “King Youngjo and Changgyeonggung Palace”, a reenactment of the king’s daily walk in the palace. Some helpers dressed in olden clothing gathered the crowd in front of Myeongjeongmun Gate where a female staff in hanbok narrated the reenactment in Korean and the play started off with the sound of a gong which startled a couple of young kids and one of them cried. Royal guards lined up in front of the gate and a eunuch then came out to proclaim the arrival of the king. We were then told to go through the gate to gather in front of the Myeongjeong Hall, and while doing so, one young kid showed the fierce-looking royal guard her wooden plaque. It was so funny. We had to climb high stone steps to get to some halls and the young kids were having difficulties. Some helpful tourists carried the kids up the steps. Narration was done in Korean, SWT and I did not understand what exactly was taking place, except to follow the directions of the helpers to the next location. While at one of the many great halls, there was a cry of a baby and we guessed that it was the birth of a prince. Half way through the walk, we noticed that the young kids were gone. Maybe it was too much of a hassle to bring them up and down the stone steps and getting to the next location. Soon we find ourselves back to the Myeongjeongmun Gate where the King seemed to be making some announcements and then the play came to an end. The actors and actresses stood in their positions for a few minutes for people to take photos before returning back into the palace close to 2:30pm.

Went to the information booth to ask what other attractions there were nearby and was told we could visit the Jongmyo Shrine and the lady gave us directions. I was surprised that she did not say otherwise because my research indicated that visitors can only tour the shrine through guided tours which were all booked out when I went to register on the website. As it was fast approaching 3pm, I needed to look for lunch. Popped into a random eating house and ordered a mul naengmyeon. This was my first time eating mul naengmyeon and it was great. Continued our search for the shrine using the map and we seemed to be walking round in circles. I was tired and my lower back seemed to be acting up again so told SWT to ask the locals for help. We passed by the famous Kwang Jang Market and the security guard at the market could not help us and asked a young stall owner for help. The young man gave us directions and still we had problem. Finally went into a building that seemed to sell branded goods and seek help from the security guard. He said something in Korean which we think he was asking if we were looking for the Jongmyo Shrine and we answered yes. He stood up and started walking towards some counters and we thought maybe he was trying to get the younger staff to help us. It turned out that he was leading us to the sign that indicates the location of the shrine. We were so grateful to him for going out of his way to show us the location of the shrine.

Followed the walkway, passed through a park and found the entrance to the shrine. Paid for the ticket and waited for the English guided tour at 4pm. The shrine was dedicated to the perpetuation of memorial services for the deceased kings and queens of the Korean Joseon Dynasty. Therefore, unlike the palaces, it was much quieter and simpler in design. While waiting, we saw some visitors roaming around the shrine by themselves, and we recalled perhaps it was due to the Korean Royal Palace Culture Festival. There were signs placed in the middle of the stone pathway telling visitors not to walk on it because it was meant for the spirits. How very interesting. Soon it was 4pm and the guided tour began. We were shown a pond which was similar to those in the palaces but with differences such as the tree planted on the round island and that there are no flowers or fishes in the ponds. Continued to an area of three buildings and were told that the first one was where the king would arrive to change into another set of clothing, the slightly lower one was for the crown prince and the third one was for them to bathe and cleanse their minds.

Next we were shown the main hall with 19 chambers housing the tablets of 19 kings and 30 queens. We were not able to see the interior of the chambers but were told that they are simple in design with a table in front of the tablets for putting food during ceremony. We were also told that only males were allowed to participate in the ceremony. We saw metal rings on the stone ground in front of the hall and the guide told us that they were meant for the tents back in the days. There were elevated stone platforms and they were meant for food inspections before arranging them on the altars at the shrine. We then ended the tour at another hall with lesser number of chambers and were free to roam around on our own. Tried to remember what was said during the tour and I think the guide said that after death, west side is deemed more superior than the east side.

Left around 5pm and recalled we passed by the Cheonggyecheon Stream earlier on, so traced back our steps to get back to the stream since it was supposed to be the last place to visit for the day. The plan was to walk along the stream towards the Dongdaemun Market direction so that we would be nearer to Myeongdong and in my head I thought maybe we would be able to visit the Dongdaemun Design Plaza at night to see the lighted LED flowers. Walked down the bridge to the stream level and started walking. Peeped at a sign which indicated the distance and thought it was great that it would only be a less than 2km walk. Took photos along the way and I walked really slowly because it was not like we were in a rush or something. We passed by the Jeongjobanchado, the painting of Royal Parade of King Jeongjo, and I realized that we were actually walking towards the Cheonggye Plaza direction, the one that I did back in 2012. Unlike back then, we managed to find the subway station nearby and took the subway back to Myeongdong. During the transfer from one line to another, I saw a Missha shop in the transit station and went to buy a pack of two tubs of aloe vera gel. Those in Myeongdong sell in pack of six tubs. Since it was early, suggested to SWT that we checked out the schedule of the airport limousine bus at the bus stop over at Sejong Hotel before heading back. Initially thought I would get the corndog on stick as dinner but in the end I bought a cup of purple sweet potato crisps as dinner because I still have a big box of strawberries to finish.

Got back to K-pop II slightly after 7pm, the earliest to end the day by far. Washed up, packed a little, did some recordings and stretching before sitting comfortably on my bed to watch tv while eating the crisps followed by strawberries as dinner. Little big sis whatsapped me a newspaper article on Gyeongdong Market, which is frequent by the locals to do their shopping. It says that the market sells stuff such as live seafood, fresh fruits and oriental herbs. After SWT settled down, showed her the article on my mobile phone and asked if she is interested to go visit. The market is a bit out of the way for tomorrow’s plan so suggested that we may have to forgo visiting the Kimchi Museum and the COEX Aquarium. She was not very keen after hearing that and said we should just stick to the plan. I was alright with her decision and then firmed up the programs for the next day. Few minutes later, she changed her mind and said perhaps we could make a short visit to the market and I started checking the ways to get there. After jotting down how to get to the market and from the market to the COEX Mall, we rest for the night. 

Thoughts: Changgyeonggung Palace would have been pretty grand if it was well maintained and I like the enclosed botanical garden in particular. The visit to Jongmyo Shrine was a bonus in this trip and was well worth it, especially since it was considered to be a UNESCO World Heritage site. Cheonggyecheon Stream by evening was a pretty sight, it was just unfortunate that I did not get to cover the other direction of the stream or get to visit the Dongdaemun Design Plaza at night.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

5 May 15 – Day 5 (Namdaemun Market, Changdeokgung, Huwon, Bukchon Hanok Village, Dongdaemun Market)

After the stretching last night, I was able to sleep better and my lower back felt better. Left K-pop II close to 9am to travel to the Namdaemun Market. Walked around randomly and passed by Kalguksu Alley which I had initially planned to eat breakfast there. Saw some nice mother-of-pearl lacquer boxes so asked for the price which sounded reasonable, especially since they were labelled as “Made in Korea”.  Bought one and carried it around in my backpack since SWT’s backpack was full from all her own belongings. Continued to walk around and SWT saw some nice cardholders that came with a coin compartment. SWT needed nine pieces so I added one more to make it ten. Chose the colors and then stood in the shop to remove the boxes and check them by testing the zippers. After we were happy with all the cardholders, SWT chucked them into my backpack before continuing the walk.

I recalled reading an article about a flower market in a Building E inside Namdaemun Market. We saw a tourist information booth and popped in to get a map. Searched for Building E, which was just a short distance away, and went up to the level that sells flowers. We could smell the fresh flowers even before we reached the floor. There were so many different types of fresh flowers and of so many colors. We were attracted to the various interesting looking succulents and stopped to take photos of them. Was so tempted to get but I knew I would not be able to bring them back. Took our time to walk around the whole floor and admired the florists’ flower-arrangement skills. As the coming Sunday is Mother’s Day, a lot of stalls were selling small table pieces that feature carnations. Besides fresh and artificial flowers, there were also stalls selling gardening accessories such as unglazed terracotta pots of various sizes. Then we came across another stall selling celadon ware and pottery stuff, and I saw a pair of mini celadon wedding ducks.

SWT mentioned that a male colleague is getting married sometime in September and suggested that perhaps we could get the ducks for him. Paid for the ducks, put them inside the mother-of-pearl lacquer box and then back into my backpack. Browsed the stall a bit and saw some miniature kimchi pots as well as candle holders. Got out of the building and then tried to search for the stationary street. I was kind of disappointed when we found it because most of the stalls were just selling paper dollies and gift bags, unless I was looking at the wrong street. Left Namdaemun Market close to 11am to get to the subway station and along the way bought a ribbon doughnut to eat as lunch later at the Changdeokgung Palace. While on the subway, we saw two ladies dressed in hanbok and they looked so pretty.

Reached Changdeokgung Palace and quickly went to get our reserved tickets for the Palace and the Secret Garden. In front of the entrance, we saw some people dressed in olden royal clothing carrying prop rifles. We asked the booth that had the banner stating Korean Royal Palace Culture Festival and realized that this inaugural festival is happening this week starting 1 May and ending on 10 May. Those people with props in front were preparing for a performance that would take place at 2pm which unfortunately clashed with our Secret Garden English guided tour at 1:30pm. Since it was still early so we walked around the nearby areas in the Palace and we saw more women in hanbok. I recalled reading somewhere that people who wear hanbok to visit palaces get discount on their tickets. Sat down near the Secret Garden entrance to wait and I noticed that the entrance to Changgyeonggung Palace was just beside it. Ate the ribbon doughnut while waiting and it tasted great! I should have bought one more.

Soon it was approaching 1:30pm and people who were waiting for the guided tour were told to gather around for admission. We were admitted pretty quickly and I saw some of the people going off on their own. Hrm… I thought tour around the Secret Garden has to be guided; perhaps exceptions were given this week due to the festival. Anyway, our guide came and started the tour which lasted for about 90 minutes. We were first shown a nice pond and the guide explained about the how the pond is shaped in a square shape with a round island in the center with pine tree growing on it. The meaning of this is to signify heaven, man and earth (or something like that). We were given some time to take photos before going to the next sight. 

We were then shown a stone gate which signifies longevity. It was said that whoever goes through the gate will have long life. Participants of the guided tour went through the gate to get to the next location which has a small stream and a few pavilions nearby. There were some stone steps in front of one particular pavilion and the guide asked a male volunteer to demonstrate the use of those steps. Apparently the steps were used by the prince to learn how to walk like one, with hands at the back and head held high. We were again given some time to take photos before heading to the next sight and the guide cautioned us that we would need to go up and down some pretty steep slopes. Ok, that freaked me out a little because I have phobia of going down slopes due to a very bad fall back few years back.

The next location is supposedly to have a small waterfall feature but water source from the higher ground seemed to have thinned out over the years and hence water only trickles through the structure. Nearby was a pavilion surrounded by muddy ground and with roof top covered with hay. According to the guide, the king was big on farming and so had this pavilion built this way to honor farmers as well as to experience farming himself (if I remembered correctly). The journey to the final sight was again up and down slopes hence you can imagine my stress level while walking. Ended the tour around 2:45pm and were told that we could roam around the garden on our own so we traced back the steps to admire the sights again at our own pace. Saw a tree with withered cherry blossom-like flowers and took a photo. Walked around the garden for a while more before exiting back to the palace and walked around the other parts of the palace such as revisiting the only building in the palace with blue-tiled roof. It brought back memories of my first DIY trip to Seoul back in 2012, my first visit to the palace and what I had learnt during the guided tour of the palace back then.

Left the palace close to 4:30pm and asked the information booth what other attractions that we could visit nearby. The lady told us that we could visit the Bukchon Hanok Village and so we took her advice and went in search for it. Found another tourist information booth where we popped in to get a map of the Bukchon Hanok Village and tried to follow it to find the listed viewpoints. Guessed our map reading skills were pretty bad as we ended up walking wherever we felt like it. SWT saw a banner stating a place to try hanbok and suggested looking for it. We found the place and it stated that a fee is required. Later on, there was a sign that points to the direction to find the Observatory of the village and again she suggested that we look for it. I told her that that definitely requires a fee because I was tricked into looking for it back in 2012.

Followed a pathway downslope and took some photos along the way. Chanced upon this site of the Bokjeong Well, which was said due to its freshness and purity, water from this well was supplied only to the royal palaces during the Joseon Dynasty, and took photos of it. Came out of the village and tried to find our way back to the station. Walked along a street called the “Green Food Street” where there were some stalls selling food and knick-knacks. Passed this particular stall that sells miniature succulents and cactus and stopped to check it out. It was similar concept to those stalls that I saw back in Melbourne last year. Found the subway station and took the subway to Dongdaemun Market. Saw the usual big malls such as Good Morning City, Hello APM, Migliore and Doota. Walked towards Doota and saw a gate further up. SWT wanted to take photo of it so we walked towards the gate and along the way passed by part of the Cheonggyecheon Stream so took photos of it as well before crossing the road. The gate was Heunginjimun, the east gate of Seoul, originally built in 1398 but the current one was rebuilt in 1869.

Happy with the photos, we crossed back towards Doota and just popped in to the first floor for a look around because that building was supposedly to be selling branded / designer stuff. Noticed that there were signs introducing the designers for the respective brands outside the different sections assigned for different brands. Done with Doota, we walked over to Migliore and headed to the topmost floor which happened to be the foodcourt. Looked out of one of the windows and saw the Dongdaemun Design Plaza as well as the area where all the LED flowers were per an article I read before the trip. Unfortunately, the window was rather dirty and hence not good for taking a photo of the plaza. Walked around the foodcourt and settled on a stall that had more customers. SWT checked with the aunty on one of the dishes before finally ordering a bowl of hot noodle soup while I had the tteokbokki with ramyeon. The portions were huge and we had problem finishing. I managed to finish all of the ramyeon, fishcakes, cabbage and the egg but and only managed a few pieces of the rice cakes. SWT only managed to finish all of the clams, vegetables and a little bit of the noodle.

After we were done, we strolled down the levels to look at the clothing and stuff. Checked out the price of the mobile phone covers and turned out to be even more expensive than the ones I saw in Hongdae which were already more expensive than those in Myeongdong. How strange. I was having the impression that prices would be cheaper in Dongdaemun Market. Most of the stalls sell similar types of clothing which did not suit our style so we were just walking around for the sake of walking around. Then I recalled that SWT ran out of Pocari drink and told her we better hurry back to Lotte supermarket to get her drink since she still was not able to drink plain water. We rushed back to Myeongdong area and towards Lotte supermarket. Along the way keeping track of the shops such as Missha and the mobile phone cover shop that I passed by, with the intention of going back later to get the things that I want. By the time we reached Lotte Departmental Store, it was already closed and it was not even 9:30pm yet. So I told SWT to take note of any minimart along the way back so that she could at least get a small bottle of the Pocari.

Crossed back over to Myeongdong area via the underpass and I stopped by a street vendor to get a box of nice, big strawberries. Then round the corner was a minimart where SWT bought a small bottle of isotonic drink because small bottle of Pocari cost more than those in Lotte supermarket. Traced back the steps and found the mobile phone cover shop where I finally bought the Iphone 6+ cover that I was eyeing on. Wanted to get a similar one for my Samsung Galaxy S5 but only the plain ones were left so in the end, I didn’t get for myself. Happy with my purchase, we moved off from the shop and went to the Tous les Jours bakery shop near Myeongdong station exit 8 so that I could get a bun for next day’s breakfast. Bought mocha raisin bread for W2,600 instead of the stated W2,800, guessed it was due to the end-of-day discount. Headed back to K-pop II to rest for the day and realized that I had dropped the T-money. Fortunately, there was only a balance of W300 left in the card. Proceeded to firm up next day’s programs with SWT before hitting the bed.

Thoughts: Had a chance to finally walk the Namdaemun Market properly but think we did not really cover the entire area thoroughly because there were so many small alleys and sections. Got to tour the Secret Garden this time and it was worth it even though most of the spring flowers have withered. The lush green trees that lined the walkway provided ample shade making the walk through the garden comfortable even though it was a pretty hot day. Revisited the Bukchon Hanok Village and still there were so many tourists hence taking photos without people in them was a big challenge. One good thing that came out of it was that we chanced upon the Bokjeong Well, a small historic site. Sad to say, Dongdaemun Market has lost its appeal to me because the clothes and stuff available were just not my style. Most likely will not go back there again.

Monday, May 4, 2015

4 May 15 – Day 4 (Edae, Hongdae, Yeouido Park, Lotte Mart)

We then went out about 8+am to walk around the Myeongdong area before taking the subway to Ewha Womans University station to explore Edae area. Reached the area about 10:30am and SWT had to use the toilet before we started walking around. Asked if she was ok and she said the sugar coated cereal provided by K-pop II caused her to run again. Told her perhaps we should try to look for plain cereal at the Lotte Mart over at Seoul station at the end of the day since we would passby it. As per what we read from the TA posts, the shopping area of Edae was in front of the big Ewha Womans University compound and we just walked around the area without any maps. Popped into any shops we fancied and just browsed. Passed by The Face Shop and suggested to SWT that she should try to check out the price of the foot peeling masks that she was tasked to buy by her family.

The sales assistant said a package of five boxes cost W35,000 (if I remembered correctly) and we asked how many pieces there are in a box and she told us ten. Both SWT and I thought what a bargain and decided that SWT should get them back in Myeongdong area later the evening so she would not have to carry them around for the entire day. Then we popped into Olive Young and I saw the Berrisom My Lip Tint Pack Lip Tattoo on offer and contemplated if I should get one more of another colour but in the end, I didn’t. Saw a lot of shops in Myeongdong selling aloe vera gel, cucumber gel and bamboo gel yesterday due to the coming summer and a thought struck me that I could get those for Min, Lyn and myself. Especially Min since she will be going to Bangkok next month and Lyn because she is always training for her jumps under the hot sun. Passed by Missha and saw the price tag of W2,000 amongst the tubs of aloe vera gel so checked with the sales assistant and was told each tub cost W2,000. I didn’t want to carry the heavy tubs behind my back for the rest of the day so thought will get them back in Myeongdong. We had nothing much to buy nor were there anything that really interest us much in the area because we were not into shopping. The types of clothing available were not our style nor were we those who accessorise ourselves during workdays. So after walking around for about an hour, we took the subway over to Hongdae area.

Walked along a pedestrian-friendly walkway to browse some shops and we saw a tourist information booth, so popped inside to get a map. The helpful staff pointed to us the direction of the more popular shopping street and we headed that way. Along the way popped into a shop selling mobile phone covers to check the price of the one that I was eyeing on and turned out to be more expensive than that in Myeongdong. Hongdae seemed to be rather similar to Edae with shops selling similar things, however, there seemed to be a lot more food stalls around selling interesting snacks with long queues made up of mostly students. While walking around, I think I saw Abung, which sells ice cream bungeoppang and Hong Cup, which sells dakgangjeong. Also passed by stalls selling fried whole squid and I was really tempted to get one but in the end did not because I was afraid that I could not finish.

Soon it was close to lunchtime and SWT reminded me to look for lunch, even though she was still unable to eat. We went into this Korean dessert café called Sulbing, found a table and sat down. Since I was the only one eating, so took my wallet and went to see the menu over at the counter. Ordered the popular items of Injeolmi Toasts and Injeolmi Snowflake Sherbet, was given the “electronic caller” thingy and returned to the table to wait. It was 11+am so there were not many people in the shop yet. Noticed that people actually wrote on the back of their receipts and the shop strung them up to place over the windows as part of the shop decorations. Very creative idea. Soon the “electronic caller” thingy vibrated and I went to collect the items. My first thought when I saw the items was that I should have just ordered one item instead. Then again, I really wanted to try both and if I missed this chance, not sure when I will be able to eat again.

Besides the toast and sherbet, there was another small cup of liquid on the tray. Guessed it was condense milk of sort to pour over the sherbet. The toasts were thick toasts covered with generous amount of peanut powder, topped with some almond flakes and cut nicely into bite-size pieces. The sherbet looked like a mountain because it was completed covered in peanut powder and topped with almond flakes. Started with the toasts and the middle part was kind of sticky. After the first bite then I realized that there were melted rice cakes in between the toasts. Then went on to pour the condense milk over the sherbet and started on it. It was really soft and sweet with chewy mini tteok as part of the topping. Took a closer look at the sherbet and wondered how it was done because it definitely did not look like shaved ice as it was really white and soft.

People started to stroll into the shop and a pair of young ladies, sat at the table close to mine, ordered one sherbet to share. Another pair of young girls, sat at another table close to mine, also ordered one sherbet to share. Guessed they must be thinking “How is this woman going to finish all those food by herself?” True enough, I only managed half the toasts and the outer layer of the sherbet because I was really full from eating all those tteok. Returned the tray to the collection point and asked SWT if she needs to use the toilet before we leave. She went while I waited at the table.

We left Hongdae area around 1+pm and took the subway to the National Assembly station to look for this Yunjung-ro path that was behind the National Assembly Building which was said to be one of the popular destinations for cherry blossoms. Came out of the station and was greeted by a strange sight. A tree on the left had green leaves while the other tree on the right had red leaves. Took a photo of them and then crossed the road in search of the National Assembly Building. We did not see any signs that say National Assembly Building so we had to resort to asking the two policemen on patrol. Unfortunately, they could not answer us either. Walked along the road, admired some nice flowers along the way and we bumped into those two policemen again. This time round, we asked if we could go into the park-like compound which was guarded by another two policemen and they said yes.

We saw book stations inside the park where people can just take a book to read and return to the station later. Interesting concept and we were thinking how we this idea might flop back home. Walked further in and we came across a nice fountain beside a clock structure. We could tell that spring is almost over because most of the spring flowers have withered. How sad. Continued to walk and came across two stone structures and we were guessing that they indicate the area to be the National Assembly compound. Followed some steps up a slope and saw some trees with ground covered in pink. Tried to take a closer look at the remaining flowers that were higher up on one of the trees and wondered if they were cherry blossoms. Both SWT and I had never seen a real cherry blossom flower before and one of the aims of this trip was to see one. Despite not knowing what we saw, we still went on to take photos of them as well as the other remaining pretty flowers around the area.

While walking under one of those trees, a flower fell and hit me on the arm before hitting the ground and got most of its petals falling off in all directions. Looked up again and saw a small bunch of flowers on the lower branch so was able to take a better photo of them. Picked up a whole flower from the ground and it felt so delicate in my hand. Walked down the slope and continued around the compound to take more photos. Finally we were back to where we started and we walked back to the National Assembly station to use another exit to get to the Yeouido Park. We happened to enter the park where a food kiosk was and there were many people resting there, eating food and bicycles parked around them. We looked at the park map and were a bit shocked to see how big the park was. The park was divided into different sections such as the Traditional Korean Forest, the Grassy Field, Cultural Event Plaza and the Ecological Forest. As we were pretty tired from all the walking done earlier, so decided to just cover the Traditional Korean Forest, which was a smaller area of the park. I was really tempted to rent a bicycle to cycle around the park but I was not very good in it yet, plus I was carrying a heavy bag and my lower back was not at its best so had to forgo the idea.

The pavement of the park was divided into two by small bushes, one side for park-users to walk, the other for park-users to cycle, skate or scoot. We stayed in the park for about 50 minutes or so before heading off to the station to go to Lotte Mart. Hunted around the mart for plain cereal but they only came in big boxes, in the end, SWT went for the brown rice granola and said she could add those to her yogurt as breakfast. Before we made payment, it hit me to check the prices of the snacks that I was eyeing on back at Lotte supermarket and turned out they were much cheaper over in the mart. So I told SWT that I would settle my purchases in the mart since we were already there. After I had taken what I wanted, I went on to take a stick of dak bulgogi to settle as my dinner since I was not very hungry. Made payment and then saw the section with different counters for the different brands of facial products and told SWT perhaps she could try to check the price of the foot peeling masks and see if there are better offers.

The package that The Face Shop counter had was not in boxes but in bundle of five pieces and cost the same as what we asked in the morning. Clarified with the sales assistant and realized that those we saw in the morning were actually one pair per box so equivalent to five pairs or ten pieces per package. Anyway, this Face Shop counter was having a promotion such that for every bundle of five pairs of foot peeling masks, they would throw in a few pieces of face masks. Asked if this promotion was applicable to other branches and the sales assistant said no. So SWT went ahead to buy the foot peeling masks from this counter while I went to browse the other brands. I happened to walk over to this brand called the Love, Health & Beauty and again saw the Berrisom My Lip Tint Pack Lip Tattoo on offer. The sales assistant then introduced me to another brand that was having a one-for-one offer, which was a better deal. So I bought that brand of lip tint as gift for two of my friends. Left Lotte Mart and headed straight back to K-pop II to rest for the day. Showered, packed a little, did my recording, did some stretching to relieve my lower back and then firmed up the programs for the next day with SWT. 

Thoughts: Heard a lot about Edae and Hongdae, how these places are very popular with the local students and how there are a lot of local street food / snacks and how vibrant the nightlife is in Hongdae. The two places were indeed very popular with the local students and there were indeed many local street food / snacks. Unfortunately, the two places did not interest me very much other than the street food / snacks which unfortunately, I did not get to try a lot other than the Injeolmi Toasts and Injeolmi Snowflake Sherbet. Was happy to see the last of the cherry blossom (at least I think it was) even though most of the (spring) flowers had withered. Not able to cycle around Yeouido Park and along Hangang River was something that I regretted. I do hope I get a chance again in the future. This was my first time visiting Lotte Mart and it was huge. Hope to be able to visit the mart again as well as the premium outlet next time.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

3 May 15 – Day 3 (Busan, Seoul)

Think it started raining in the middle of the night and the rain persisted in the morning. The plan for the day was to do the Taejongdae Loop Tour which consists of mainly outdoor sites. Given that it was raining, I planned to forgo doing that loop tour and instead either do indoor / underground shopping or take the morning train to Seoul. After the alarm went off, I told SWT about the proposed plans and she was for the latter since we would have a 50/50 chance of getting seats on the train.

I asked her if she was ok because she went to the toilet a few times during the night and was told that she was having diarrhea. She explained that either she had overeaten the day before or the hotteok was too oily for her. We checked-out of the motel about 8:15am. It was still drizzling heavily, so we put on our windbreakers and walked briskly over to Busan train station while pushing our luggage. Got to the station and quickly queued up to get train tickets. Luck was with us and we managed to get tickets for the 9:20am train to Seoul. Then SWT said she needs to get a bottle of Pocari from the vending machine. Bought that and we found a place to sit while I ate my steam cake as breakfast. She tried to eat a little bit of her steam cake but ended up going to the toilet after that. After she came back, I went to check-out that long queue fishcake shop. Perhaps it was early Monday morning; there was no queue though there were already some people making purchases. Could not resist trying the fishcakes, especially since this was my last chance, so popped into the shop and bought two fishcakes: a small, flat one that came with a piece of lotus root on each side and another bigger, flatter one with some vegetable bits inside. While queuing up to pay, I saw other people buying in bulk, at least one tray full. Wow!

Soon it was time to board the train; we loaded our luggage and took our seats. SWT slept all the way to Seoul while I just dozed off on and off. Ate the fishcake with the lotus roots and it was tasty with the crunchy lotus roots in every bite. We reached Seoul station and tried to find the subway station to take the subway to Myeongdong station. Seoul station was big and we had problem navigating so in the end, SWT approached two policemen for directions. Managed to find the subway station, boarded the train and alighted in Myeongdong station. Followed the directions given by K-Pop Residence Myeongdong II (K-pop II) in their email to me and we managed to find the place. There was a short flight of steps up to the lift landing and given that SWT was weak from the runs, I told her to carry my luggage up instead since mine was much lighter than hers.

Went up to the fourth floor where the reception counter is and we left our luggage there since it was still early for the 2pm check-in time. Went out to walk around Myeongdong area and I popped into a shop called “All Mask Diary” (I think) and found the Berrisom My Lip Tint Pack Lip Tattoo which I read about in the newspaper couple of weeks ago. Bought it and felt happy because it was an item in my shopping list. We walked around some more while I ate the last of my fishcake. Sales staffs from the various beauty shops were constantly trying to get us into the shops using with free masks and samples. We then moved on to explore Lotte Young Plaza via the underpass before going to Lotte Avenuel, which was a shopping mall selling international brands. Finally we ended up at the Lotte Departmental Store and we went right up to the topmost floor to walk around. The top three floors were duty-free section and they were so packed with foreigners. Left the duty-free section quickly and went down to the supermarket. Asked SWT what food she can eat and she said can try yogurt but after that got to stay indoor for two hours in case she needs the toilet. Initially she planned to stock up on yogurt but I cautioned her that we may not have a mini fridge in the room. So she bought one cup of yogurt while I bought a bottle of my favourite banana milk, a piece of fried spicy squid fishcake and two pieces of rice cakes. Yes, I am a fan of rice cakes. 

Got back to K-pop II, did the check-in, the receptionist showed us the area where light breakfast is available from 7am to 10am and told us that the check-out time is 11am. She also gave us a slip of paper each stating the passwords for the automated lock for level four and five. We were given a room on the fifth floor and just outside our room is the area for laundry. There is also a microwave oven and a mini fridge. The room seems to be smaller than the one we had back in Busan. The bed is a super-twin size bed with a pull out bed at the bottom. We lined up our luggage along the walkable area so that we can open them up to access our things. After we were done eating our so-called late lunch, we had to close our luggage, pushed them aside so that SWT could pull out her bed. She chose to take the lower bunk in case she needs to go to the toilet often at night. So while she slept, I watched tv and whatsapping little big sis. Little big sis told me that the plastic cover for her Iphone 6+ cracked and she asked me to keep a lookout for mobile phone cover for her. Initially she wanted to get something similar to her previous one, a leather flip-cover kind. Then she changed her mind and said those were kind of boring and told me to just get the back cover but with slots for at least one card.

I woke SWT up at 6:45pm so that we could return to Lotte supermarket to stock up some drinks and food. While walking over to Lotte supermarket, we passed by a building where the second floor was called “Teteru Museum”. It was a café with a small teddy bear museum and the entrance fee was W6,000 that comes with a free drink. We didn't in and instead went up to the third level where the giftshop was. Came back down and popped into another shop that sells mobile phone covers and found some for Iphone 6+. Surprisingly, there are really some back cases that offer slots for cards. Felt happy that I managed to find what little big sis wanted but I didn't get it immediately because I thought maybe I can find them at cheaper prices over at Hongdae area or in Dongdaemun Market.

SWT bought a pack of four cups of yogurt and a big bottle of Pocari while I bought a big bottle of orange juice after having failed to find my favourite banana milk in tetra pack. SWT didn’t need dinner but I do so walked back to Myeongdong area with our purchases to hunt for my dinner. Walked along so many streets, passed by so many food stalls yet nothing really interest me, partly because those food required me to eat on the spot. In the end, I told SWT to return to K-pop II first since we were at the doorstep, while I continued to walk around. After more walking, I bought a pack of tteokbokki and returned to the room to eat. The food was tasty and spicy but unfortunately, it was plain without any fishcakes or vegetables. Rested a bit before taking shower, firmed up the plan for the next day with SWT before hitting the bed close to 11pm.

Thoughts: The stay in Busan was too short. Even though it is not tourist-friendly, I believe I can still get around with a map or two in hand. Perhaps next time I should fly direct to Busan and just spend the days there at leisure. Lotte supermarket was crowded as usual but somehow felt different this time compared to my last visit, yet I could not pin-point what exactly. The sales staffs outside those beauty shops in Myeongdong were getting aggressive; I was grabbed by the arm a few times to try to get me into their shops. Myeongdong is not the one I used to know.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

2 May 15 – Day 2 (Haeundae Loop Tour, Haedong Yonggung Temple)

Got up, washed up and packed before eating half of the onion cheese bread bought yesterday as breakfast. SWT and I agreed to queue for the bus tour at 9am so after eating, we lazed around before heading out at 8:45am. When we got to the bus stop, there were already two long queues, one for the Haeundae Loop Tour and the other for the Taejongdae Loop Tour. The tour buses with open top were already there, just waiting for boarding. The weather was really sunny and hot. The queue started to move but unfortunately, we didn’t get to board the first bus which moved off at 9:45am. The second bus was a single deck and moved off after 10am. The bus crossed the Busan Harbour Bridge before reaching the first stop, UN Memorial Park. We didn’t alight and was aiming for the next stop, Busan Museum. After the first stop, the bus did a turn and stop at another bus stop which reflected as UN Memorial Park.

Continued the ride and then the bus system announced that the stop was Gwangalli Beach. SWT and I were shocked that we had missed the Busan Museum stop. Oh well… too late to cry over spilled milk so we made sure that we alight at the correct stop for the Nurimaru APEC House. Fortunately for us, there were a number of people alighting at that stop and heading to the same place. So we alighted and followed the group of people. Along the way to the Nurimaru APEC House, we saw some pretty flowers and stopped to take photos. Finally we got to the Nurimaru APEC House and walked around to see the exhibits. Recalled reading an article talking about this place recently and the author talked about looking for the seat that our PM Lee sat back during the meeting in 2005. So I also went to look for that seat and somehow felt very proud when I found it. Explore the area outside the Nurimaru APEC House and took a selfie with SWT using the mono-stick that she brought along.

Went up to a pavilion to rest and eat the balance of our bread from breakfast as lunch. I finished my food and went back down to look at the other areas while waiting for SWT to join me. Saw a signboard indicating the different places that one can see from the viewpoint and I saw Haeundae Beach towards the left. The beach seemed to be accessible via a boardwalk from the Nurimaru APEC House area. When SWT joined me later, told her about it and we decided to walk towards the beach instead taking the city bus which would only arrive about an hour later around 1+pm. The walk along the coastal boardwalk was enjoyable because of the nice view. And somewhere between the boardwalk, we passed by a statue of a mermaid so we stopped briefly to take photos. Finally we reached the beach and we took off our shoes to walk on the fine sand. We even went further down to the shoreline to wet our feet. The water was cold but it was fun. I haven’t been to a beach for a very, very long time and it was great! We walked half the length of the beach and then went off to find the bus stop to take the city bus to the defunct Haeundae (Train) Station.

Again we had problem locating the bus stop and had to go around asking people. After hitting a few walls, finally an uncle gave us some directions in Korean and we tried to follow. Turned out that the bus stop was actually towards the other end of the beach, had we continued the whole length of the beach, we would have been able to find it. Anyway, got to the bus stop and there were already many people waiting. So joined the queue and waited for close to an hour before finally boarded the bus. By the time we got to the defunct Haeundae (Train) Station, it was already 2:35pm. We took snapshots of the station and realized that there was a subway station of the same name there. Proceeded to wait for public bus 181 at the bus stop in front of the station to go to the famous Haedong Yonggung Temple as per what we read from one of the TA posts. When the bus came, SWT checked with the bus driver and was told that we should be taking the bus from the opposite direction instead. Quickly crossed the road and there was a bus arriving. By the time, we ran towards the bus, it was already fully packed and some people were not able to get in. So we all waited at the bus stop for the next bus.

Soon another bus came along, we quickly boarded the bus and it was fully packed very quickly. We had no seats and the bus was stuffy. The bus journey took about 45 minutes, longer than the stated 30 minutes, due to slightly heavy traffic. Many people alighted with us at the same stop and we followed the crowd towards the temple. There were stalls selling food and stuff in the area before the temple. By the time we reached the temple, it was already 3:40pm. Walked around to take photos and saw some steps leading to an underground opening and there were people queuing to go down, so we joined the queue and found out that it was a place where water from a natural spring flows through. Plastic ladles were provided for people to scoop the water to drink. Took a few quick snaps of the interior before drinking some water myself, doing what the locals do.

Emerged from the ground, round the corner, there was another place where people queued up to pour water over a small Buddha statue. Continued our walk around the temple and then we got to the area near the sea where we took another selfie. Walked back out and got back to the area where the food and stuff were and we approached a stall that sells hotteok and gukhwappang (chrysanthemum-shaped mini red bean cake). I told SWT to choose one snack to share but she wanted to try both. So we bought one hotteok and a bag of 10 gukhwappang to share. While waiting for the food, took photos of other food at the stall, there were the local specialty of boiled silkworm larvae and boiled water snails.

We ate while browsing the other stalls and I had the hotteok first while SWT ate her five gukhwappang. After that, we swapped to eat the balance. Then I saw a food stall selling hotteok on one side and odeng on the other. I wanted to try the odeng so asked the aunty the price and was told W2,000 per stick. There were two types of fishcakes in the cart, the flat-folded one and the round-long one. I took the former and SWT took the latter where we ate half each and then swapped. Sauces with cut chilies were provided and there were small brushes provided in the containers for patrons to brush the sauce over their odeng before eating. The odeng gungmul (the fishcakes broth) was free flow and it was really tasty with all the flavours from the odeng and the generous amount of leek used. After we were done, it was close to 6pm, SWT made payment and we went off to take bus 181 back to the defunct Haeundae (Train) Station.

Again, there was already a very long queue for the one and only bus service at the bus stop. We waited for a very long time before the bus came along but it did not stop because it was fully packed. A female passenger popped her head out of a window and shouted something in Korean to the people at the bus stop. We asked the Korean guy queuing in front of us what was said and was told that the lady said many people were waiting for the bus at the bus stop before this. So SWT and I walked to the said bus stop. As we were reaching that bus stop, we saw another one further up. SWT suggested that we go to the one further up. Turned out the bus stop further up was also for bus service 181 so we waited there with the two Korean guys that were in front of us previously. The bus came around 7pm and we were able to board before it became fully packed. Because we were packed like sardines, plus we were both short, we had to constantly peep through whatever gaps there were to see if we can spot the defunct Haeundae (Train) Station. Then SWT took an opportunity to ask the driver when to alight for the defunct Haeundae (Train) Station but the driver did not answer her. Two Korean teenagers boarded the bus and SWT asked them instead. Fortunately, one of them could speak simple English and told us that our stop was about two stops away.

Alighted at the correct bus stop and hurried to the subway station to take the subway back to Busan station. While we were waiting on the platform, we saw an uncle pushed a bicycle with a little dog inside the bike basket onto the platform. It was then we saw a small sign depicting a picture of a bicycle on the wall. I was so impressed that I took a photo of the uncle with his bicycle. Back home, we can only bring folded foldable bikes confine to a certain measurements onto the train at stipulated time on weekdays. It was close to 9pm when we finally got back to Busan station and still there was a very, very long queue outside that fishcake shop. We went to the café next to Paris Baguette to get food as breakfast for the next day. Could not resist the rice cakes available and bought one, on top of the sweet potato steam cake that I had already taken. Got back to the motel, showered before settling down to eat my rice cake while recording the amount spent during the day, as well as firmed up the plan for the next day. According to the weather forecast, it would rain the next day. Oh dear…

Thoughts: Did not think that the queue for the Haeundae Loop Tour would be that long and most of the people were actually local tourists. The Haeundae Loop Tour has quite a few sights worth seeing and had we not gone to the Haedong Yonggung Temple, we would probably be quite comfortable covering the whole loop for the entire day. Now that we know the travelling time to get to the Haedong Yonggung Temple, I think it would have been best if it was done as either half-day or full-day trip. Perhaps it was due to the long weekend, there seemed to be a lot of local tourists than foreigners in Busan. The temple was super crowded. I would have enjoyed even more if it was not so crowded and if I had more time there to explore at my own pace. One thing turned out well today, I got to eat street food! And the best thing was that I finally got the chance to eat odeng beside a food stall like the locals!