Friday, 30 July 2010

Angelina Jolie in Seoul (at the SALT presscon in Seoul)

I always consider myself lucky. But I didn't know I was very lucky! Thanks to some wonderful friends, I was able to attend the press conference held for SALT with no less than today's biggest female star in Hollywood! A-n-g-e-l-i-n-a in Jolie!

How lucky can a fan be?

Like most of her fans, I love watching Angelina's action movies...from her characters Lara Croft (Tomb Raider, Cradle of Life), to Jane Smith (Mr. and Mrs. Smith), to Fox (Wanted), and now, Evelyn Salt! And when I read somewhere a month ago the she was coming to Seoul to promote her new movie, SALT, I knew I had to get a glimpse of her somewhere, somehow.

Lucky me! I got a pass into her presscon!

And she was just stunning and GOR-JEE-YUS! She wore a leather-y, strapless black gown which looked heavy from afar; her hair just let down on her back and shoulders. Under the lights she glowed! And with the camera flashes bathing her when she came in, she looked like an apparition!

I just couldn't believe my eyes...Angelina Jolie was standing in front of me!

Well, as it was a press conference, everyone wanted to ask her a question. People raising their hands to be recognized by the Korean emcee, who then, had to interpret questions if they were in Korean. There were some good questions, some bad questions, and some silly ones.

She spoke of the movie, her kids, her penchant for doing drama and action films, and her respect for mothers who were juggling career and family. Other than that, I couldn't really remember what the other questions were because....nobody was actually paying attention to the questions! I wasn't.

My attention and camera were on her and her voice. I tried to slowly take in the fact that I was in the same room as Angelina Jolie. Hahaha! Her responses to the questions were direct and very diplomatic. Her phrasing was perfect and her choice of words spot-on! She is truly a gifted actress and the perfect ambassador for UNHRC.

Too bad, the presscon was just for an hour, and the experience had to end. But while it lasted, I tried to enjoy and tried to take lots of photos!

Though the presscon was over, I had another chance to see her that day -- at the SALT premiere!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Enjoying Pinoy Food in Korea!

Some people crave for certain types of food. And some people would do anything to satisfy their craving. Unfortunately (or fortunately!), I am not some people. Ha-ha-ha!

On days when I crave for a certain Filipino food which I know I wouldn't be able to easily get in Seoul, I simply shrug it off and grab the closest thing: Papa John's pepperoni pizza or Due Cose's seafood spaghetti in tomato sauce! Ha-ha-ha! (Closest? Closest to my tummy, that is).

But throughout these years of living in Seoul, I have been lucky to have met some wonderful Filipinas who brought over to Korea (and into my tummy) their mastery of the Philippine cuisine! These Filipinas who have fed the hungry (and me) with their Pinoy dishes are a blessing to the Filipinos living in Korea inasmuch as the Philippine Expeditionary Forces were a blessing to South Korea during the war.

Tasting Pinoy dishes in Korea such as 'Kare-kare', Paella Valenciana', 'Crispy Pata', 'Pancit Malabon', or 'Lumpiang Prito' cooked by Jeannie, Christina, Aimee, Alfie, Liza, Bella, Yasmin and Cora (who else did I miss?), I figured home is closer than I thought!

So, I thank these ladies for the countless dishes I wiped clean, and the enjoyment they brought to my tummy (and the weighing scale? Ha-ha-ha!).

But in case you don't find your way to these ladies' kitchens, an alternate route is through Exit 1 of the Hyehwa Station, just walk straight until you reach the Pinoy market (which is only open on Sundays).

Let's enjoy the 'lutong-bahay' (home-cooked meal) Pinoy dishes in Korea!

(The top photo is of 'pitsi-pitsi', puto, puto kutsinta, suman and ensaimadas, while the seventh photo is 'ginata-an' -- a few of Pinoy desserts and snacks).

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Fly me over Fuji...

During summer time in Korea, every one goes on vacation. Some prefer to relax at home, most travel around the peninsula, and a few fly abroad.

That's why I wasn't at all surprised if every other guy I bumped into at my workplace's elevator lately asked me, "When are you going on vacation?" Not wanting to lie, I always said, "Yesterday." Ha-ha-ha!

Yes, even before this summer started, I was able to sneak out of Seoul and enjoyed a few days off at the next door neighbor, Japan!

Upon the invitation of wonderful friends, Glen and Arlene, who moved to Tokyo, I decided to go on a vacation before everyone else did.

So, on late spring, I went to the Asiana Airlines office to get a plane ticket and asked the accommodating reservations lady to get me a seat which would allow me to see Mount Fuji on my flights to and from Tokyo. Not knowing which side of the plane she was going to seat me, she did what I would do myself - call a pilot!

How resourceful! I was impressed! And while I was still seated there in front of her while she was typing in my personal information into her computer, I had a feeling that I was about to enjoy this Asiana Airlines experience.

And I did! Asiana did not disappoint.

Seated at the right side of the plane, I was able to see Mount Fuji, up close and altitudinal! Ha-ha-ha!

And seated at the right section of the plane, I noticed one familiar face. So I asked a stewardess whether that gentlemen sitting in front of the business class section was a Korean actor, and she said he was. His name? Park Shin-Yang of the 'Lovers in Paris' drama. (I was told his name was 'Carlo' in the dubbed version shown in the Philippines). But unfortunately, I wasn't a fan of dramas; so I left him alone. He was seated on the wrong side of the plane anyway. He didn't see Mount Fuji. Ha-ha-ha!

Enjoying the view of Mount Fuji from my window reminded me of the numerous postcard-perfect photos of the mountain. But none of them could replace the experience of actually seeing it. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to ask the stewardess to tell the pilot to circle the mountain one more time because I couldn't get enough of its perfect symmetrical cone with the snow blanketing its slopes making me wish I were skiing down on it like the Vancouver Winter Olympians. I hesitated though. They might just kick out of the plane this crazy passenger seated at 3A. Ha-ha-ha!

So, 'arigato gozaimasu' to Asiana Airlines for the perfect seat, perfect view and perfect inflight service! And the food was good, too!

I was wondering whether you have flights over Mount Everest? Ha-ha-ha!

(Those are Park Shin-Yang's Japanese fans waiting for him at the Haneda Airport).

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Andre, the Giant!

And he is a giant, both figuratively and literally speaking. He's known as Korea's foremost fashion designer. It's obvious; he's name is everywhere...and on everything! Now, he is .... in Itaewon!

Guys, meet Mr. Andre Kim!

I was passing through the main Itaewon road on my way home to Hannam-dong a few weeks ago and saw the sign 'Andre Kim Jewelry' on one of the buildings on the opposite end of the main street, the side closer to the Hangganjin Station. Well, I told myself, this was not the first time he's been to my neighborhood.

The first time I saw him in person was when I picked up my favorite pasta from my favorite Italian restaurant in Hannam-dong. I was at the cashier's counter signing the charge slip when suddenly, I fragrantly sensed somebody standing next to me. Yes, fragrantly! When I turned around, it was him -- THE Andre Kim: big, tall and enveloped in his signature all-white costume and very strong fragrance!

I thought that perhaps since he has his own perfume, he sprayed the whole bottle that day! (Just kidding, Andre! But did you?) I clearly remember his perfume was so strong it successfully drowned out the you-can't-get-enough-of aroma of the freshly baked Margherita pizza wafting through the whole restaurant. I thought I was at the Lotte Duty Free Shop's perfumery section for a moment. Hahaha!

Recalling that episode, I decided to pull out some of the photographs I took during one of his fashion shows. I clearly remember that his clothes were truly beautiful, and from the way they look, I was sure they were very expensive and .... heavy!

Well, Mr. Andre Kim, welcome to Itaewon. And I hope you sell a lot of jewerly, not that there isn't enough glitter lying around Seoul. Last December, a middle-aged Korean woman I shared an elevator with had so much glitzy jewelry from head to shoes that, I told myself, had she worn some Christmas lights, I would have definitely mistaken her for a Christmas tree! (Hahaha!) And please cut down on the perfume-spraying; the neighborhood would still want to enjoy the aroma of those brick-oven pizzas!

And today, I saw on the news that he's in the hospital. Let's wish him well.

And yes, that's Kim Bum modelling (the photo of two guys in white; he's the one on the right) before he hit it big with that drama about boys and plants, er, flowers.


Sunday, 18 July 2010

Who wants a puffy omelette for brunch?

And I thought that it was just another pancake-slash-omelette place. What I didn't know was that it was voted as the number one place in Seoul to have brunch by a local English magazine. Shame on me! I should pay more attention to my neighborhood.

Yes, that place is in my neighborhood in Hannam-dong, in Yongsan-gu, Seoul.

Almost every morning, on the corner near the bus stop where I hop on a green bus which takes me to work, I notice this small place with a cozy atmosphere when its staff of young ladies layout the chairs and tables. Last autumn and winter, I noticed they placed blankets for customers! Talking about homely charm!

And as I said, I thought it was another pancake place....until I tried it!

So, one morning, I invited Fay and her daughter, Lia, who was on vacation from Manila, to join me in trying the pancakes and omelettes of this place. This was after I browsed through that magazine which featured an article on the best brunch places in Seoul.

So, we got table, ordered a mix of pancakes and omelettes with coffee. And as expected, as the morning went, more people came in and the place was full even before I finished my first cup!

This place was indeed popular! And I think I remember seeing people lining up for a table during weekends!

Passing the morning with chit-chat complemented with puffy mozzarella omelettes, pancakes, sausages and coffee, we had a great brunch at this place. Something I recommend you to have with your friends as well.

I hope I have convinced you, especially with the photos. Hahaha!

The place? "Pancakes Original Story" in Hannam-dong, next to the main intersection. Be early if you're going there on a Saturday. Don't tell me I didn't warn you of the long wait. Unfortunately, I think they're closed on Sundays.

So, who wants a puffy omelette for brunch?

Saturday, 17 July 2010

"Here comes the rain again...

...falling on my head like a memory... falling on my head like a new emotion".

Well, they started to fall yesterday, Friday, then continued until the weekend. Sorry, Annie, they didn't fall as memories or new emotions, but as real, heavy rain. Excess water to be exact.

I already noticed late Friday, the monsoon rains started to cause heavy traffic in the Yongsan-gu area, with vehicles moving very slow and their headlights on as early as 5PM.

And as Friday started partially sunny, a few unprepared pedestrians got soaked in the downpour later that day. Lucky for me, I have an extra umbrella tucked under my office desk just in case the unexpected, such as this, happens. Lucky me, indeed.

And as the rain has practically ruined any badminton, any tennis or perhaps, any trip to Myeong-dong or Itaewon this weekend, I just sequestered myself in the neighborhood holding up an umbrella and a camera while I walked around singing....and the rain.

These are the photos from today.

So, as the Eurythmics' lyrics opened this blog, I let Gene Kelly close it.

"I'm singing in the rain....just singing in the rain....what a glorious feeling...I'm happy again...."

Friday, 16 July 2010

For whom the (Taco) Bell tolls...

My apologies to Ernest Hemingway and John Donne for borrowing their words just so I can have a catchy title for today's blog.

And as it's about Taco Bell! (And I should be given free tacos for this!)

I first saw that huge Taco Bell sign in Itaewon last March 2010, and like any one who treats Itaewon as his (or her) playground, a new restaurant (or a fastfood chain, for that matter) is always welcome!

So after it finally opened a couple of weeks back, my friend Lucy and I decided to grab some lunch at Taco Bell to try the new place. But, woooh! When we got there, the line stretched up to the sidewalk, with people willing to wait under the nasty noon time sun just get a taco or a burrito...or both!

Unwilling to get partially tanned during the a work day, we decided to grab lunch at Taco Amigo, the Mexican restaurant down that same road.

So, today, with the rain keeping people away from Itaewon and everywhere else, I thought that there wouldn't be a long line at Taco Bell. And I was right!

Getting off from work and the Itaewon subway station, I sprinted to Taco Bell with a very empty stomach and was immediately served just a minute after I got in!

And I got me a taco....a burrito...and a drink!

So, for whom does the Taco Bell toll?

It actually tolls ... for the hungry.


Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Moving out of your apartment in Seoul?

I was at my friend Marissa's apartment when her family was moving out of their gorgeous apartment in Itaewon-dong, in Seoul.

Piles of packed boxes and her hired movers from another friend, Richard's moving company, greeted me and another friend, Loren, when we decided to drop by on the apartment they would call home for one last day.

Since Seoul has tall apartment buildings, and moving furniture out of these apartments would be difficult getting them through the main door and down the elevators, the movers employ these tall, steel automatic ladders which carry boxes, furniture and appliances from a high-storey home down to the waiting truck at ground level.

And it was fun for me to watch these guys bring down Marissa's stuff, including her piano!

And these guys are good! They moved, packed and carried Marissa's stuff so efficiently and quickly! All her stuff were gone even before we were done with lunch!

So, the next time you see these hardworking Korean guys carry furniture and appliances out of somebody's apartment, or perhaps, bringing them into a new one, just think these guys have perhaps perfected the art of moving your stuff with delicate care, streamlined procedures and getting them into your new home...