Wednesday, December 26, 2012

this Christmas

John and I just kept it simple this year on Christmas. Didn't really go anywhere, and didn't really have anyone  over. Just the two of us, with the dogs and the cat, at home, chillin'.

We had good food and beverages, of course.

And the dogs really liked their Christmas treats, too!

And yes my dogs make funny faces when they take their treats.

Hope everyone's having a wonderful holiday season!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Seoul 11.12 - got a pair of glasses

I've been wearing my contacts for years. I do have a pair of glasses from 15 years ago (!) that I wear at home. I can still see with these glasses, but I knew the it was totally not for my current eyesight any more.

I had heard that Korean-made glasses (especially frames) were of good quality and style, and it would be fast and easy to get a pair while in Korea.

So I did a quick research and decided I would get a new pair of glasses when I was in Namdaemun, Seoul.

John and I were going to visit the Namdaemun Market anyhow, and getting a cute new pair of glasses along the way would be great!

So we arrived at the Hoehyeon station and took exit 5, where it was pretty much at one beginning/end of the Namdaemun Market, and there were quite a few eyeglasses shops!

And which one did I choose?

There was this ajushi smiling and trying to get people to get into his store, and on top of that there was a manikin wearing a pair of sunglasses and bowing (!) in front of the shop! I had to go in!

I probably should have taken more photos of my whole eyeglasses-getting adventure, but I didn't. I did take a photograph of the lady who was kind and helping me along the way. I even haggled down the price of the pair I got. hehehe.

The lady had me pick out a frame that I liked first, and I looked and looked, and chose one that was made in Korea. It was flexible and pretty classic-looking and I loved it.

She then took me to have my eyes examined. We repeated the different processes quite a few times just to make sure I was satisfied with everything. (And during this whole time John was helping by holding my bag and coffee.) Then she had me choose the type of lenses I wanted.

The lady spoke fluent Japanese and her English was very good, too (even though she was shy about it.) It was an absolutely wonderful experience and I loved it! My new glasses was very light, and the thin Nikon lenses were wonderful! It only took about 20 minutes for the glasses to be ready, so during that time John and I just walked around near the shop. And when we returned it was all ready for me!

I love my new glasses. I took a couple silly photos of myself wearing them at 5Extract, a wonderful coffee shop, while John and the shop owner/barista chatted.

I love my glasses!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Seoul 11. 12 - Manoffin

There are many coffee and pastry chains in Korea, and while in Seoul we saw plenty of them all over the city. Another place these shops usually locate is inside a subway station.

One of the ones we tried was Manoffin. It's a chain that specialized in "designer" muffins, along with coffee beverages.

The one we visited was inside the Hoehyeon station, where we got off to go to Nandaemun Market.

Of course I was sucked in by the cute little muffins sitting in the display case!

They all looked so yummy, so John and I decided to each get a muffin!

While we were ordering the muffin the cashier girl asked what we would like to drink (or I thought that was what she was saying,) and we said just the muffins were fine. Another boy came by and started talking English, and explained to us that drinks came with the muffins (or so I understood,) so John and I each got a small hot Americano. I was thinking of an iced Americano, but the guy explained that was not included.

John and I got "Black Tea Prince" and a chocolate chip one. I wanted the black tea one, and John was actually pointing at another chocolate-type muffin, but the chocolate chip one seemed fine as well.

There were a small group of ajuma sitting at the tables by the shop, and there was one little spot left! So John me sit down while he stood as we were ready to dive in our cool little muffins.

An ajuma saw John, and moved a little bit to the side, patted on the bench and wanted John to sit down as well. That was really cute and nice.

So John and I sat down on our little spots on the bench, and started enjoying our Manoffins!

I really enjoyed the Black Tea Prince muffin. The batter had chopped black teas in it and it was aromatic and delicious. John liked his chocolate chip muffin as well. It was very chocolate-y!

And the Americano was not bad. A little too diluted for my taste, and John's comment on it was, "not offensive." There was probably only a single shot in the cup so it was light, but it was actually better than a lot of Americanos I've had here in the U.S..

All and all I enjoyed Manoffin!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Seoul 11.12 - subway

The Seoul subway system is convenient and easy to use, and during our trip we managed to go wherever on the subway and we loved it!

John and I bought a couple rechargeable cards called "T-Money" at a GS-25 (a convenience store) near our hotel. There were different types of cards, all were rechargeable and could be used in subways, buses, and even taxis and other participating store and vendors. And I believe using a T-Money card for subways also gives you a 10% discount on basic fair. Pretty cool huh.

With different types of the T-Money cards there were different added bonus benefits, discounts, and such, and some also come with coupons for different shops. The type John and I got were pretty basic, and if I remembered correctly it was 3,000w each for the cards. The clerk at the GS-25 was very helpful and helped us load 10,000w each on our cards. We didn't have to recharge again until toward the end of the trip. It was a steal.

The subway ticket and recharge machines were always conveniently located near the entrances and exits:

And this was one of the lines we took a few times - Line 4, which goes to Myeong-Dong, Seoul Station, etc.:

Our first subway ride in Seoul... we were going to Nandaemun!

One thing I saw that was different was that some people were selling things on the trains... I didn't see anyone buy anything, but the vendors were on the train quite a bit.

We didn't get to ride the buses around Seoul this time, but our multiple subway rides were all fun!

Oh, and the Seoul Cyber Station website was extremely helpful when planning our trip around town.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Seoul 11.12 - Issac breakfast toast sandwiches

One of the places I wanted to try for quick and convenient breakfast prior to arriving Seoul was Issac. Issac is a breakfast-y toast sandwich and beverage chain, and quite a few people rave about it. So the first breakfast we had in Seoul, we went to Issac.

There's an Issac conveniently located near Western COOP Residence (where we stayed at) in Dongdaemum. It's in the small street that's next to the Lotteria, and across from the Dongdaemun History and Culture Park station (exit 12).

When we got there the ladies at Issac were making butter toasts and square eggs on the griddle. So cool. And yes, the shape of the fried eggs was square, so when you put the eggs in with your toasts, you get to have some eggs in every bite!

I think both John and I got the steak MVP, since that was one of the only things I could read on the menu (because it was in Japanese, and yes there was Japanese on the menu alongside Korean.) However, I was pretty sure that the lady who took and made our orders gave us something else, because there was ham in our sandwiches... but who cares, the toasts were OMG deeeeliiiicious!

Who'd think, something that looked so simple (butter toasts, meats, cheeses, square eggs, and shredded lettuce) could be so yummy!

And we came back the morning we were leaving Seoul as well, and the toast sandwiches were super delicious as well, and will totally deserve another little blog post all of their own.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Seoul 11.12 - One Chicken

The first meal John and I had was 닭한마리, which literally translates to "Chicken One," or "One Chicken."

I had read about this dish, and found one of the best spots to try it. I don't even know how to say the name of the shop, but I had a photo of the storefront that I saw, and a few directions written down, and I found the place!

This restaurant is in the Dongdaemun area, and the easiest way for me to find it was to find Doota first, which  should be fairly easy, since it's among the busiest and hottest spots in Dongdaemun.

John and I walked past Doota, and toward Cheonggyecheon (the river). Made a left turn as soon as Cheonggyecheon is in sight, and took a right turn (cross) at the first bridge. After crossing the bridge, we turned left on the first little street and walked past a couple One Chicken places, and then we saw THE signage (with the lady who started the shop on it) ! I knew we were at the right place. 

We were sent to the second floor of the restaurant when we walked in. I didn't even think I made an order, but I simply said "for two." 

Very soon our "One Chicken" came! It was a small chicken, with a potato stuck on its back. 

A server lady came by to help us with the chicken. The chicken was only half-way cooked, so it would be a little while before we could eat it, but at the mean time the server lady instructed us to cook the "rice logs" (like toppokki) and started eating those first.

And you might have been thinking, since neither John or myself speak Korean, how did we manage to understand the server lady? Simple enough. The lady came by our table, and started talking, and as soon as she realized we didn't speak Korean, she started using both Japanese and Mandarin to speak. Since I responded to both Japanese and Mandarin, she asked if Mandarin was ok, and I said yes. And from then on she was using Mandarin the rest of our "One Chicken" eating journey. 

There were some Japanese girls who sat next to us, and the same language method was used and everyone was happy! (One of the Japanese girls did speak fluent Korean though.)

After a little while the server lady came back and started cutting up the chicken for us. 

She then helped me to put together a dipping sauce mixture. She explained how the chili, vinegar, and soy sauce would go together, and if I liked what she made then I could make more just like it.


John making his dipping sauce.

The rice logs were super soft, chewy, and tasty, and the chicken, even though tiny, was absolutely delicious. We added all the chopped garlic on a side dish into the broth, per the server lady's suggestion, and it was oh so yummy. The kimchi was in a giant tub and it was self-served, so I got a big bowl, and added some of the kimchi into the soup after we had tasted its "original" flavors. The chicken itself was tender and flavorful. It was yuuuummmmy!

And of course I forgot to take more pictures because I was busy eating the yummy chicken.

So I say next time you're in Korea, either visit this wonderful "One Chicken" shop, or find a great "One Chicken" shop and try it out yourself. mmmmm.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Seoul 11.12 - Western COOP Residence

During our 5 nights of stay in Seoul, we chose Western COOP Residence in Dongdaemun.

We chose Western COOP because it's located on one of the main streets (Euljiro) in the sleepless Dongdaemun area, fairly close to the subway station (Dongdaemun History & Culture Park), the Airport Limousine Bus (6001) makes stops right in front of it, and the rooms look simple and clean, and the prices seem reasonable.

The hotel storefront looks like a night club entrance if you ask me. :p

Our room itself if not super big, but plenty usable space for us. Walking in the door there's the bathroom on the left, and a office/kitchenette area up front, and behind the half wall it's the bedroom area.

The "office" is on the left.

John and I left our luggage in the office area, with our daily itineraries and maps spreading out on the desks.

And the kitchenette is on the right.

We didn't cook anything during this stay. We did store the fun drinks and snacks that we bought on the counters and in the fridge. Oh, and the last night we were there we bought Korean-style fried chicken and ate it in the kitchen!

The bedroom area, which also had a TV on the other side of the wall.

When we were booking our flight+room on Expedia we could choose either one queen-sized beds, or 2 twins. After reading up on the measurements of beds we decided 2 twin beds sounded great, plus if we wanted to "join" the beds the width will be bigger than a queen. hehe.

Our stay was nice. Western COOP Residence met my expectations: simple, clean, conveniently located, and the staff at the front desk was friendly. I totally enjoyed my stay and will be more than happy to stay here again next time I'm in Seoul.

Oh, and not too far up the street there was Western COOP's sister hotel Euljiro COOP, which I read would be a good choice as well. It was a couple years older than Western COOP, but has all the "goodness" of Western COOP, plus it's even closer to the Subway entrance!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Seoul 11.12 - airport to downtown transportation

There are a few different ways you can go from Incheon International Airport (ICN) to Seoul. The most effective (and easy) ways are: 1) Take the Airport Railroad Express (AREX) or the regular subway system or 2) Take the Airport Limousine Bus, where they make stops in front of many different hotels (large or small) in different major areas. The Official Site of Korea Tourism has detailed information on how to get to downtown Seoul from ICN on its web site.

Since it's John and my first trip to Seoul, we chose to take the Airport Limousine Bus because we could be certain that the bus will take us to our hotel and we would be at ease and comfortable. Here's a list of the Airport Limousine Bus numbers and their correspondent stops.

During our 5 nights in Seoul we stayed at the Western COOP hotel, which is located in Dongdaemun, and Airport Limousine Bus 6001 makes a stop right in front of it! It's 14,000w per person each way, and who'd know, while I was doing research for our trip I came across a coupon for certain Airport Limousine Bus numbers, including 6001 that I was going to take! It's for 1,000w off!

Below is the coupon. From what I know you can print it out (one per person, per way) and use it at any of the bus numbers indicated on it. For both John and I, I printed out 4 (Two each way from and to the airport.) 

To take Airport Limousine Bus 6001 we wen to the ground transportation area designated for it (Floor 1, bay 6A or 12B, per the Airport Bus Guide.) and waited for the bus. I saw that some passengers bought their tickets in advance at the booth, but since I read you could just hand 13,000w +1 coupon per person to the driver and the driver would know what you needed, I just waited for Bus 6001 to show up and got on with John, each with 13,000w + 1 coupon in our hand, and voila! 

While we were waiting for the bus, there was a kind gentleman who came up to us and asked if we needed help (because we probably looked slightly lost, even though we were not.) He talked simple English and so did we. He made sure we knew where we were going, and that Bus 6001 would indeed take us where we wanted to be (Dongdaemun.) He even checked with the driver to confirm that it would stop in front of Western COOP. He was so kind. We instantly felt welcome! 
on the bus.

After we got on the bus we just relaxed and enjoyed the ride. While on the bus I saw downtown Seoul for the first time, and was getting more and more excited about the next few days we're spending in this fascinating city, until the speaker on the bus told us we were at our destination. 

View from the bus of one of the stops Bus 6001 made. (Seoul Staton.)

And I was already slowly falling in love with Seoul!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

we were in Seoul for Thanksgiving

In case you didn't know already, John and I went to Seoul, Korea for the week of Thanksgiving. It was a fun trip, and we had a great time. The country and its culture, food, and people were wonderful. I will be blogging about all the great little things that we encountered during our trip.

Airbus A380 from LAX to ICN. A massive aircraft!

I started prepping for the trip, off and on, since about six months ago, and of course I tried to squeeze in plenty for us to see but in reality we couldn't hit everything as planned. But I loved everything (and I mean everything!) we did and saw. 

And having Korean food and watched a fun and awesome musical (details will follow in future posts) for Thanksgiving was indeed a different, but great experience!