Saturday, 30 June 2012

Dreaming Of Dolor And Her Kakanin!

'Kakanin' is a collective term to describe yummy Philippine delicacies which either serve as a snack or a dessert. Or in my case, it's dinner in itself!

The Philippine kakanin is colorful, sweet and mostly made from rice, usually glutinous. That's why for me, it's a meal! A meal and a dessert!

And one of my favorites is the sapin-sapin, which literally means 'layer-layer'. It is made of colored layers of sweet, ground glutinous rice, cooked with coconut milk, sugar and coloring to make these sticky delicacy more the eyes and palate!

The day after our Christmas party with friends in Manila last December, I was able to swing by the Landmark foodcourt in Makati City, and got me a box of Dolor's Kakanin's sapin-sapin, which I brought (and definitely enjoyed!) with me to my hometown, Victorias City!

And this summer, when I fly to Manila for a break, getting one or two boxes of this special delicacy to bring back to my other hometown, Seoul, is definitely in my itinerary! But in the meantime, as I write this blog, tasting that kakanin remains, well, a dream...

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Munching Mandu In Mapo!

It was my friend Ruth who told me about this popular mandu restaurant near the Hapjeong Station. She raved about it!

She and her family discovered this mandu place years ago. So, she has been eager to bring her friends there, too!

And one lunch time, I was able to find time to travel all the way to Hapjeong Station in Seoul's Mapu district to find out for myself.

So, I met up with Ruth at the station's Exit 2, and just walked for a few meters to find this popular eatery.

I have been always a fan of mandu, the Korean dumpling. With all my years in Seoul visiting mandu restaurants all over the city, I am lucky to have discovered some of the best tasting versions of this recipe! 

And this time, it's another chance to enjoy mandu from the Mapo-gu side of Seoul.

And looking at the menu, there was a lot to choose from. They also had other non-mandu dishes, actually. But I stuck my sights to a mandu plate. And their prices were reasonable, too!

As our tummies were reminding us that it was time to stuff ourselves, we ordered!

I had mandu with in a broth with tteok and rice!  And Ruth ordered meat mandu.  We both loved it! Burp!

Though it was far from home, travelling to Mapu-gu for its mandu was definitely worth the trip. Although I told Ruth there was also a very popular mandu place in her Insadong neighborhood. 

So, thanks to Ruth for introducing me to this place (and to the lunch treat!). If I find myself in this corner of the city again, I now know where to head to...

...and get myself to munch Mapo's mandu!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

To Yeosu Expo 2012...And Back!

I have been to Yeosu years ago. To attend a halloween party.  

But this time, it wasn't just going to be a small party. It was a huge the beach!

Months ago, I booked a flight to Yeosu for the Expo, but when I scoured the Internet for a place to stay, I found out that the hotel rates were so pricey!  Squandering KRW 100,000 a night wasn't worth it!  So I thought of another alternative:  Take the KTX from Yongsan Station early in the morning, roam around the Expo for a day, then take the KTX back at night. And then I found out that the KTX schedule going back to Seoul was too early!

Luckily, after all those planning, I was able to get me a seat at my favorite travel club in Korea: a bus ride leaving Seoul Friday night, arrive at Hang-iram at 5AM on Saturday to catch the sunrise, get to the Expo at 9AM, catch the 'Big O' fountain show at 9PM, then leave for our hotel at the Jiri-san valley! And the next day, Sunday, climb the third highest peak of the Jiri mountain range! How cool is that!  We would be back in Seoul by Sunday night!

This itinerary was so much better! Better than flying or taking the KTX!  We were able to stay the whole day at the Expo roaming around the international pavilions, tasting different cuisines, watching the beluga at the very popular Aquarium Pavilion, and admiring the advanced robotics at, well, the Robot pavilion!

...the performances from different countries...

....visiting the Philippine pavilion and getting myself some araro cookies and polvoron, and enjoying the Gruppo Tribale performance....

...and watching as the finale, the spectacular 'Big O' fountain show...

and the fireworks!

And after spending the whole Saturday near the beach, it was time to climb the mountain!  Jiri-san!

I have been back from Yeosu for days now, and with those hundreds and hundreds of photographs I took, I don't know which one to feature in my blog!

But perhaps, when I am done, I would be able to write about my memorable weekend and feature those photographs, and relive my trip to Yeosu....and back! 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

N Seoul Tower: The Tower Closest To Everyone's Heart

Well, closest to everyone's heart and....and somebody's apartment, that is. Ha-ha-ha!

(The Namsan electric bus)
               (Bus stops and parking 
                   area at the peak.)

I have been up the N Seoul Tower before, but it was years ago. My first ride up theTower was courtesy of Bella and her husband, Jung-gu, who treated me to my first 360-degree view of Seoul on my first weekend in South Korea.

And this time, it's still a free ride up! Courtesy of the Seoul Convention Bureau page in Facebook!

         (Nam-san is right smack in the middle of Seoul!)

I live in Hannam-dong, in the Yongsan area, which is just a stroll from the foot of Nam-san. I remember I once walked from my apartment all the way up to Nam-san one cool autumn day. 
                                   (A couple having 
                           their caricature portrait taken)

But this time, walking was not in the plan. But riding the electric Namsan Bus was!

I deliberately left home late in the afternoon as I expected there would be a huge crowd at Nam-san during the day. And I also made sure I get on the Namsan Bus 3 at its Itaewon bus stop (next to McDonalds) knowing that there would be many passengers waiting at the succeeding stops going up the mountain.   

        (Lovers lock these padlocks and throw away the keys. 
                    What happens if they break up?) 
(They must have padlocked their love 
before posing for a photo.) 
                        (Can somebody translate this?)

And after the meandering path up the mountain, everyone got off at the bus terminal at the mountain, where I heard several languages being spoken. As the NSeoul Tower is one of the most popular spots in the city, tourists from different countries converge daily at this area.
                       (The tower's iconic silhouette.) 

I didn't immediately go up the Tower. I took my sweet time walking around and taking photographs of the interesting things going on.

And when I realized it was getting late, I presented my free pass and zoomed up! I would have said, "Beam me up, Scotty!", but I was sure Scotty wasn't around. Ha-ha-ha!

On reaching the top, I immediately walked around the observation deck and experience seeing the sun set upon Seoul, a must-do for everyone I suggest. How often can you see a sun set from a great vantage point?

                         (The highest post office in Seoul.) 

                                (What's "Dear You"?)

As I enjoyed the view from above, I was able to name the areas I could see from all directions, having lived in Seoul for years now.
                              (The cable car station) 
                (The National Theater of Korea side. 
             The brick-colored building is Shilla Hotel.) 

Of course, the first time I was here, I couldn't name any. Ha-ha-ha!
                       (Nam-san Park with its fountain) 
                    (My neighborhood, Hannam-dong, 
                         before crossing the river!)

After seeing the sun set, I stayed longer. I wanted to see the city lights come up, and see those bridges and major highways light up with those car lights.

                           (The view of Myeong-dong 
                                   from the tower.)
                                        (Yongsan area) 

And then I realized it was time to go down. My tummy was grumbling. So, I took the lift going down and walk around the area surrounding the tower for a few more minutes. 

                       (See-through toilet windows! 
                  Sightseeing while...peeing! Ha-ha-ha!)

There were still hundreds of tourists, also enjoying the nocturnal sights Nam-san and the Seoul Tower offered. 

        (The bridge near my home. I could almost see my apartment! And my laundry! Ha-ha-ha!)

It was fun going up the Seoul Tower again, after all these years. Thanks for the free ticket!

                              (The sun sets on Seoul.)

And as I took the bus going down the mountain, and watching all the lush greenery along the way, I felt lucky that there's this friendly mountain in my neighborhood. Friendly in such a way as it's not intimidating and steep like the ones in the city's outskirts. Friendly in such a way that it can also be an inspiration for poets, painters, photographs, and of course, writers. (Nam-san was actually an inspiration when I wrote this essay that won me a prize at the Seoul International Essay Writing Competition way back).

(I had to take a photo of this window showing how far I was from Manila that afternoon. That's 2,606 kilometers or less than four hours by plane. Not that far.)

Oh well, months ago, I was a Pinoy who went up a hill and came down a mountain. Today, I was a Pinoy who went up a mountain and came down a tower!

That's N Seoul Tower, where tourists can get a 360-degree glimpse of Seoul without needing to drive around, and where  everyone can enjoy cool breezes without leaving the city.

And of course, where couples pledge their undying love and lock their hearts... with a shackle.

Here are more of the photographs I took...

(Tourists posing with life-size cut-outs of Korean celebrities) 
                                (Myeong-dong at night) 
 (The Hannam Bridge all lighted up by traffic) 

                                 (The Korean-styled 
                            resting place by the tower) 

                              (Up close and ...lighted!)