Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Back to Korea 2018: Seoul food so good

I always recommend first timers to stay less than 5 days in Seoul, and try to go to a nearby county or go ski instead. There is really nothing much here if u don't shop a lot.

However, u can visit cafes after cafes, and eat lots of seafood and BBQ at a much cheaper price than Singapore!

These are the noteworthy food places I visited during my 3 days in Seoul.
LINE Friends Store and Cafe
Mr Holmes Bakehouse
Jogaepoksik 조개폭식
Coffee Namu 커피나무
Myeongdong Kyoja 명동교자 
Bonjuk 본죽
Kimchi soup (various shops around SNU)
Tongkeun Galbi 통큰갈비


I first saw this on Instagram and made it a point to visit this ice cream cafe. Coincidentally, I stayed near this area and this was within walking distance. The cafe was definitely far from touristy areas and quite inconvenient as u had to walk a distance to it. Price was also high (paid close to SGD 10 for my cone of ice cream), but hey, its instagrammable, and that's all that matters right?

68 Sinbanpo-ro 47-gil, Jamwon-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Sinsa Station exit 4

LINE Friends Store and Cafe

Because I must always visit a LINE store whenever I see one.
I saw one at Garosugil, and another one at Busan (last photo with Brown) later on. Well it's everywhere, even in Guangzhou, Bangkok and all. What we need now, is one in Singapore!

Mr Holmes Bakehouse Seoul

This is apparently a famous cafe. Weird that some of the famous cafes we tourists visit in Korea are actually non-Korean. This cafe stems from San Francisco and they are famous for their cruffins (croissant+muffin). But no doubt, I tried it and it is indeed very good! No harm trying it here and take a photo at the "I GOT BAKED IN SEOUL" neon light wall while u are at it. A lot of people apparently come here just to take photos at the wall. But hey, its instagrammable (yet again), and that's all that matters right?

34, Apgujeong-ro 10-gil Gangnam-gu Seoul
Nearest station: Sinsa Station exit 8

Jogaepoksik 조개폭식

Met an ex-colleague for dinner at this recommended place.
If u Google translate it, u get "Shellfish Binge". Which means, it is a buffet for SHELLFISH! Yep u heard that right. We couldn't really understand how the whole thing works with our limited grasp of the Korean language when we went. Menu was all in Korean by the way, and the servers don't seem to speak English too. 

At first we didn't even know that it is a buffet until we saw the word "리필" (refill) on the menu. When in doubt, just order the one with the "recommended" logo. In this case, we ordered the KRW 24,800 one because the KRW 26,800 one had ramyeon in the set. So whenever u want a refill, just let the server know which kind of shells u want. Remember to get the cheese bowl (they will probably get that for u though) to cook the shellfish in. When u are done eating, just throw all the shells into the pail provided. As u can see, we ate a pail of shells. Not very healthy I know, but it was soooo goooood.

They have various outlets over Korea. But the most convenient one would be the new outlet at Gangnam. KRW 24,800 per person is really a steal considering that u can have unlimited amount of shellfish. I highly recommend this place!

28-14 Teheran-ro 1-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Gangnam Station exit 11

Coffee Namu 커피나무

Had a very fulfilling dinner at Jogaepoksik (above) and we decided to look for some cafes selling desserts. Came across this nice looking place and went in. The cake we ordered was actually real good! Too bad I didn't have enough stomach space for more desserts, but I highly recommend this place if u are looking for cakes and coffee.

It is apparently a chain in Korea, so there are various outlets all around.

Myeongdong Kyoja 명동교자 

This is a really famous restaurant in Myeongdong. Well, I tried it and felt that it is comfort food for the winter. Other than that... it's not bad, but not a must-have considering that there are so many other good restaurants in Seoul.

29, Myeongdong 10-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Myeongdong Station exit 8

Bonjuk 본죽

I had porridge from this restaurant chain numerous times when I was doing my exchange in year 2011. Had them at the PNU Shopping street and Myeongdong, and it was the best thing ever. This time however, we didn't have much time and ended up at a small franchise shop in an ulu part of Seoul.

What I want to say it, avoid the small Bonjuk stalls, cos the one I had wasn't good.. Whatever happened, Bonjuk?

Kimchi Soup (various shops near SNU)

I didn't take note of the name of the restaurant I went to, but there are really many shops selling kimchi soup and BBQ along the stretch outside Naksungdae Station. Seoul National University students are just so lucky!

Just go past the petrol station after exit 4 and u will see the whole street of eateries with many banners stating how famous they are etc. Just randomly choose one that looks as local as possible, and the food would be good. Seriously, I have yet to find any kimchi soup in Singapore that is as good as those I had in Korea. uhhuh.

Nearest station: Naksungdae Station exit 4

Tongkeun Galbi 통큰갈비

This BBQ restaurant was recommended by my friend.

At KRW 11,000 per person, u get to enjoy unlimited meat for the BBQ!
I can attest that the meat is really juicy and succulent. Totally marinated with the right amount of sauce. Seriously, where else can u find such a good deal? Just be sure to go early and queue. It is super worth it. Highly recommended!

72-10, Changcheon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Sinchon Station exit 1

And so, that's all for my Back to Korea 2018 series. Till then.

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Korea VLOG
Dynamic Busan
Siloam Sauna
Elysian Ski Resort

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Back to Korea 2018: Elysian Ski Resort

Elysian Ski Resort is one of the nearest ski resorts near Seoul. Many locals actually plan day ski trips to this place since it is easily accessible via subway or shuttle buses.

Another tip to save money, DO NOT book directly from the website. Instead, book via travel agents as they are often cheaper, can book all lifts and gondolas for u, and they have instructors to give u a refresher course. We definitely saved a lot from using an agent during this ski trip. Many packages include coach to and fro Seoul, but because we wanted to stay overnight, we decided to get a package with no transport. Our ski package includes

Rental of ski gear and equipments
Ski for 8h
Lift and gondolas

As advertised on their website, this is Korea's only resort that can be reached by subway. So we took the following route which has quite a few line changes:
Seoul (line 4) > Ichon (Gyeongui-Jungang line) > Sangbong (Gyeongchun Line) > Baegyangri (Elysian Gangchon)

T-money can be used on the subway. There is also another route where u take the ITX. But that is troublesome as u have to purchase another ticket, so we thought of just using the subway route.

At the Baegyangri Station, there would be a free shuttle bus that takes u to the condominium entrance within a few minutes.

 The food at their restaurant was really expensive - close to SGD 20 for this tray of food u see here. Also because the instructor didn't give us the food coupon in time, so we bought it at the original price. If u had the coupon, it would be slightly cheaper. Therefore, I would suggest going over to GS25 to buy some cup noodles, instant rice etc. or some Korean fish cake soup. GS25 is super far from the ski area though...

Or u can walk to Lotteria at the other side of the hill like what we did for the second day and have a meal for less than $10. The cheese sticks from Lotteria were nice!

I had this cup noodle for dinner on the first night.

Because ski is more important than eating, we really spent the first day just skiing, with hardly any rest (other than lunch and minimal toilet breaks). When evening came, the machines would come out to even out the snow and everyone has to get out of the ski area to wait for the staff to do their work. At about 6.30pm, the ski area would reopen again and we can start skiing again. 

I really love night skiing, because most of the crowd would have gone by now. It is also less glaring. We were one of the first group of people to get on the lift and ski down the slopes. It was a great feeling when u have the whole slope to yourself, so I highly recommend night skiing!

It also starting snowing heavily then and we were elated! Not for long though, as I realised that heavy snowing causes the snowflakes to poke into my eyes. (we didn't rent any ski goggles cos we were quite seasoned in skiing and didn't feel the need to) The feeling was akin to trying to skate in Singapore when it is raining. The snow was heavy but it didn't dampen our spirits and we continued all the way until almost 9pm.

Because we know how to save money, we went into the free resting rooms for the night. It was really basic with just a water dispenser, beds, blankets and NO pillows. We thought there would be many people using this, but nope, there were only the 2 of us the entire night.

At the time of writing this, I went to their website again to find out more about the room, but alas, I think it has been converted into seminar rooms and are not free anymore. Probably cos of the very small percentage of people using it, therefore it might be more lucrative to convert them into seminar rooms. Oops, which means u have to book a room at the resort if u want to stay overnight now!

Elysian staff warming up for the day.

The next morning, we continued to get a package with the agency but this time, it was snowboarding.
Being new to snowboarding, both of us had a really hard time that day. U have to sit down as a starting position, and because it was really tiring to push yourself up, I spent a lot of time sitting down and didn't realise that the butt would get all wet until I changed out at the end of the day and saw the huge patch of water at the bottoms.

Also, one must learn how to break fall and fall correctly when snowboarding. Because it is really detrimental to your joints if u don't fall correctly. Most of the time, some people just fall on their knees and palms, WHICH IS VERY DANGEROUS. I normally fall on my butt, and avoid touching the ground with my knees or back. And if u think snow is soft and alright to fall, think again. It is like falling onto ice. Not fun at all ok. 

Also, it might be useful to rent ski goggles during snowboarding. I realised whenever I fall, it is really a dramatic fall where I skid and snow flies all over the place and into my eyes. hahaha. But because I know how to fall correctly, I still came back in one piece.

However, I would recommend everyone to try snowboarding at least once. Just so u know whether ski or snowboard is more suitable for u. And for me, it is definitely skiing.

Having been to Yongpyong Ski Resort and now Elysian, I would actually prefer Yongpyong due to it being a larger resort, with amazing scenery (u get to sit on the cable car overlooking all the mountains). The snow in Yongpyong is also softer than Elysian and thus much easier to ski or snowboard. However, getting to Gangwon-do is a hassle, with transport and accommodation to settle. So if u want to save time and money, Elysian would be a convenient choice. One thing's for sure, do warm up before u start doing any skiing or snowboarding!

Maybe I would make it a point to go for annual ski trips next time!

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