Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Summer In Seoul! Everyone Is In The Pool!

 No wonder the mall is always full these days. Before classes resume in a few weeks, kids and their moms are flocking to playgrounds and malls, and these days, to swimming pools around Seoul to play, cool off and enjoy their vacation!

Today, on swimming pools I saw at I-Park Mall in the Yongsan District, kids and their moms are busy soaking in the cool waters while the temperatures are sizzling at above 30'C. They'd rather be inside the pool, than be at the neighborhood park or at home.

With lifeguards looking after them (their babysitters for the day, I guess), all these kids want to do is to have fun in the pool and on the slides with the rest of their friends.

Now, I wonder if the pool is open to grown-ups at night? Ha-ha-ha!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Saira @ The Korean Cultural Center In The Philippines!

I think we were meant to visit this place! The Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines (KCC), that is!

Before I flew out of the Philippines after my week-long summer vacation, I spent two nights in Manila to buy my favorites goodies to bring to Seoul, and to meet up with some friends. And one Friday night, friends who used to live in Seoul arranged for a get-together dinner.

                      (Saira posing at the KCC lobby)

Saira and her family used to live in Seoul, in the Nam-san area.  And that late afternoon, as she, her mom and I were navigating the traffic on our way to our get-together dinner with other Seoul friends at the Bonifacio Global City, I spotted a sign that looked familiar: 한국문화원 Korean Cultural Center!  I suggested we had to visit the place. The KCC is on a building at the 32nd Street of Bonifacio Global City. It's near St. Luke's Hospital.

Saira was born in Seoul eight years ago, when she and her family was still living in South Korea. She still has fun memories of her early years in Korea through her family photos when her mom and dad would carry her around for a stroll in the Nam-san area, in Itaewon and other places in Seoul. I once saw Saira, her mom and a babysitter enjoying a late afternoon in Itaewon; Saira was in a stroller.


On her first (and certainly not the last!) KCC visit, Saira re-connected with the Korean culture through the Center's exhibits, displays, and photographs. Although Saira now lives in the Philippines, she can still learn more about her country of birth through the KCC.  Saira also loves fashion and Korean souvenirs, by the way.  

While we were there, the 2014 Philippine-Korean Contemporary Art Exchange Exhibition was being held, and so was an awarding ceremony at the Korean Wave Hall.  
                               (Sungha Jung's poster at KCC. 
       He will be having a concert in Taguig and Cebu.)
And our visit to KCC couldn't have been more timely. This month, the Center is celebrating its 3rd year anniversary, and on this occasion, we all wish the Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines more success in its endeavor to bridge South Korea and its Filipino fans through its activities and events that promote the Korean culture, art, cuisine, music and other activities.  I heard these events and classes are very popular, especially when K-pop artists visit the Philippines.  

So, for Filipinos in Manila who love K-pop music and Korean dramas, or Filipinos who want to learn about Korean cuisine and hangul, or even K-pop dancing, the Korean Cultural Center has classes for you. And who knows? Someday, Saira would join these classes, too!

Friday, 25 July 2014

A Unique Korean 'Lunch In A Box' At Tong-In Market 통인시장도시락카페

                        (Tong-in Market's entrance)

This is for Seoulites, and for local or international tourists who want to experience an interesting way of having lunch in Seoul.
                         (The bus stop a few meters out of  the 
                  Exit 3 of Gyeongbuk Palace station)

Have you heard about the Dosirak Cafe at the Tong-in Market 통인시장도시락카페?  Tong-in Market is in Tongin-dong in the Jongno District in Seoul, where getting your lunch is unique. I actually haven't been here before and trying out new things to do in Seoul is always in my priority list.
                         (The main alley of the market)
So, when my friend Junho wanted to go somewhere for lunch, I suggested this place. He hasn't been here, too, and also wanted to find out why it's popular among tourists.

And one hot summer day, Junho, Hyunsung and I met up at the bus stop near Exit 3 of the Gyeongbuk Palace Station (Line 3). Tong-In Market is actually one bus stop away from Exit 3, but we decided to walk for a couple of hundred meters down; the market was just close by after all.

Tong-in Market is just like any other local market, where everyone can buy fruits, vegetables, cooking ingredients, and a lot more. But it's this market's Dosirak Cafe lunch box that makes this market popular and unique. Here's how (and why!):

1. At the Dosirak Cafe (2nd floor), you buy these tokens called yeopjeon. A yeopjeon is an ancient Korean coin with a hole in the middle. (But the yeopjeons being used here are new and recently manufactured.)  Each token is KRW500 and they are usually bundled together in ten's. So, one bundle is KRW5,000.
                                              (Junho's yeopjeon)
     (The ajussi's box full of yeopjeon that you need to buy)

2. After buying your yeopjeon from the ajussi or ajumma at the 2nd floor (they called the 2nd floor the 'Delivery Center'), you are also given an empty, black plastic lunch box.

3. Now, this is the fun part: With your tokens, you roam around the Tong-in Market (at the ground floor) and buy your food from any vendor with the Dosirak Cafe signage. 

                   (Hyunsung and Junho buying food items 
                                  using their yeopjeon)

4. The food items range from mandu (dumplings), bulgogki (beef), kimbap, korean sausages and other side dishes. I could not possibly enumerate everything that's available for lunch here. It's the whole market, remember? Ha-ha-ha!

                     (Buying some Korean sausages)

5. Each store displays the prices for each food item (usually 1 or 2 tokens as the price). When buying, the vendor puts the food you order into your lunch box and in exchange, you surrender your token to her.
                      (Tourists also trying out the Dosirak Cafe
                              and buying their lunch)
6. If you want to buy rice in a bowl, they sell it at the 2nd floor where you bought your tokens. Each bowl and a cup of hot soup cost 2 tokens. So, you might want to save 2 tokens for your rice and soup. But if you ran out, I think you can pay for the rice and soup in cash. 
            (The Dosirak Cafe signage next to the big container 
                       of cold sik-hye, a sweet rice beverage 
                        that's popular during the hot summer)
             (I bought a cup of cold sik-hye for 2 tokens)

A suggestion: before you go up the 2nd floor to buy your tokens, do roam around the market first (it's just an alley), and check out the food that interests you. This way, after buying your tokens and getting your empty lunch box, you now know which store you want to head to, instead of walking the entire alley with your lunch box while tummy is already grumbling.
                            (Finally, my lunch box!)
 7. After filling up your lunch box, you go back to the 'Delivery Center', where you can sit down to properly enjoy your lunch and chat about your unique Dosirak Cafe experience.
       (The area on the 2nd floor where you enjoy your lunch.
 There's also the 3rd floor if you can't find space on the 2nd.)

While we were filling up our lunch box at the alley, we noticed that there were a lot international tourists also roaming around picking up their lunch.  The whole alley seemed like a huge buffet table with a lot of choices. The only difference is that food is a lot cheaper!  You can, of course, buy more if you have more tokens, but the three of us just shared food that wasn't in another's lunch box. 
                               (A 'before' picture)
            (And this how it looked like 'after'. Ha-ha-ha!)

For KRW 5,000 (the worth of our individual bundle of tokens), this Dosirak Cafe experience was worth visiting. Even Junho and Hyungsung found our visit to this corner of Seoul fun! By the way, Dosirak Cafe is open from 11AM to 5PM, but you have to buy your yeopjeon by 4PM to give you time to 'shop' and enjoy your food. They're closed on Sundays. 

Just a bus ride from the Tong-in Market is the Buam-dong area which is also popular with its own local restaurants and cafes, not to mention its unique location, where on this neighborhood's mountainside, picturesque views of Pug-ak-san can be enjoyed. Perhaps, on my next visit to his corner of the city, that would be my next target.

As we were full from our lunch, the three of us decided to walk it off and stroll towards the Insa-dong area while chatting about the experience. And since we needed some coffee, Hyungsung suggested we head to his cousin's coffee shop next the Jogyesa Temple and the Somerset Palace Seoul. coffee. 

I'll share our interesting 'presidential' stroll on another blog...Burp!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Boryeong Mud Festival's Mud Extreme Challenge!

The Boryeong Mud Festival is underway right now, and right in the thick (mud) of it, revelers and mud-lovers must have bathed themselves with the therapeutic Boryeong mud from feet!

(Trying to throw another group out of the 'ring'.)
                       (The poor guy is outnumbered.)

But do you know that on the other side of Boryeong there's a mud extreme challenge? Right on the mud flats where I think they get the mud, the organizers have set up events like the mud race and this mud extreme challenge.

                          (I didn't even think of joining. 
                     These guys are big and merciless.)
              (One guy is pinned down, while his teammate 
                            is being thrown overboard)
                    (And his teammate disappears!)

The mud race is like sprinting without the fear of stumbling down. After all, if you slip, trip or fall, it would all be in the name of mud fun! But if you don't and end up winning the race, you'd get a medal or a trophy.

One other event at the mud flats is the mud extreme challenge where participants are advised to change into fatigue or camouflage pants and black long-sleeved t-shirts. Not that these clothes would still look recognizable after a morning of playing in the mud, but it's to make everyone look like they're in the marines whose main objective is to train and have fun muddy military style!

                     (It's the women's turn to wrestle)
                            (Let the wrestling begin!)
One game, a wrestling-type, slippery contact sport is played inside a 'ring', where two groups of men (or women) try to wrestling another group and throw them out of the 'ring'. Whichever group has remaining members inside the 'ring' wins. Of course, a female group competes with another female group, while male groups separately compete, too. There's no match where a male group wrestles against a female group. Otherwise, it would be a different game. But I think everyone would want to watch it. Ha-ha-ha!

                        (Shoulder-on-shoulder wrestling)

While some revelers try to play soccer on the slippery mud flats, another group would pit two female participants against each other by carrying them on someone's shoulders as they wrestle against each other. I guess who ever falls flat on the mud first loses.

These events on the mud flats are quite different from those enjoyed at the park. These are a little rough and kids may not be allowed to join.  There's a reason why they call it 'extreme'.  
                                 (The Boryeong Mud World Cup)

So, if you're at the Boryeong Mud Festival this week, I hope you're able to enjoy this event, too. After all, it's only once a year when you can join the military-style fun, or wrestle with someone else without getting arrested. Or perhaps, play with mud without your mom scolding you. Ha-ha-ha!

Have muddy fun, everyone!
                                  (Muddy reflections!)

                  (Actually, I took the photo upright, but 
                      I posted them upside down.)
PS. The organizers bring in water through water trucks where the participants can shower off the mud after. 

                                   (Loving the mud!)
                                   (Mudly in love?)