Friday, March 29, 2013

Seoul 11.12 - a quick glimpse of Gyeongbokgung

John and I scheduled a tour to visit Cheong Wa Dae (the Blue House,) and I was planning on visiting Gyeongbokgung along the way.

We arrived at the Gyeongbokgung station and it had a wonderful traditional decor, vibe, and atmosphere.

And there was a stone gate that read "never old door/gate." It is believed that people would be forever young if they walk through the gate!

We took exit 5 and when we came out this was what we saw:

This was right outside of the main area of Gyeongbokgung, and we needed to find its East Gate parking lot for our Cheong Wa Dae tour.

We got lost and couldn't find the parking lot until much later...

But along the way we were fortunate to see part of the guard ceremony:

Eventually I saw the Gyeongbokgung information booth and a lady directed us to the right spot for our tour. We made it but totally missed our scheduled time spot! Thankfully the officials were kind and placed us in with another group so we could start our tour. The tour was great, and I will tell you about it later on.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Seoul 11.12 - near the hotel

We stayed at the Western COOP Residence in Seoul, and because it's located near (even though not right inside) the Dongdaemun shopping district, there were night life going on in the area.

First off, there were plenty of street vendors near by, where you could get snacks and little fashion accessories and such, and there were also restaurants in small streets everywhere.

And there was a police station near by. Looks pretty cool!

Oh, and there were many, and I mean many, different convenience stores within a few blocks of the hotel. Most of them were GS25 stores. You could find simple household necessities, snacks, and all sorts of beverages at these stores, and you could also buy tickets to events and trains. Convenience indeed!

The baked goods section at a GS25.


Different milk and coffee drinks.

Korean food essentials: gochujiang (chili paste), sesame oil, soy bean paste, etc., and cute mini mayo!

Most of the canned sodas we saw were 250ml (1 cup) in volume.

Someone recommended these Melon Flavor Ice Bars from GS25 and we tried one. It was creamy and very honeydew-y!

Browsing at convenience stores was fun!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Seoul 11.12 - Nolboo budae jjigae

One of the best things in Seoul is that many restaurants open 24 hours a day, and there are fun and exciting choices for all!

Near by our hotel there was a Nolboo. It's a popular chain restaurant that serves budae jjigae. Budae jjigae literally translated to "military/army stew," and it originally came about when, after the war, food was not readily available, and people uses the surplus food items that the U.S. Army bases supplied, mixed with chili paste and kimchi to make this "fusion" dish!

At the second floor.

Look who greeted us at the door!

There were different meats, vegetables, mushrooms, and rice cakes, and the ajuma was pouring broth into the pan.

These little rice cakes were my favorite. They were so cute!

Like Myeongdong Kyoja, the chopsticks and long spoons were in the drawers.

Of course there were some kimchi.

View from above the pan.

We let everything cook for a while, and then everything turned red! There must be some gochujiang (hot chili paste) hidden underneath from the beginning! Oh it was spicy and delicious!

The Budae Jjigae pan looked gigantic in the photos, but the pan itself was pretty shallow so there wasn't a ton of food, but with the rice, kimchi, and other sides that come with the jjigae it was a very satisfying meal.

And I really enjoyed these "eating while cooking for yourself" style of restaurants in Seoul!

Friday, March 15, 2013

ZAGAT says...

John and I are honored. ZAGAT likes us! :)

Zagat names caffe d'bolla Utah's Must-Try Coffee Shop!

Utah: Caffe d’Bolla

At this Salt Lake City cafe, they source coffees from all over the world and micro-roast them in house. You can find all sorts of uncommon beans, including Kenya Nyeri AB Gatomboya, Nicaragua Finca Maria and Panama Volcancito. In case you want to learn more about these special blends, they also offer $20 "Coffee 101" classes each month. Not only do they do coffee right, but they also have a stellar tea program, traveling to Asia yearly to purchase some of their teas right from the growers.

249 E. 400 S #B, Salt Lake City, UT; 801-355-1398

(courtesy of

Monday, March 11, 2013

Seoul 11.12 - shopping in Myeongdong

After having yummy dumplings and noodles at Myeongdong Kyoja, I was all ready to start my shopping "spree"! I was planning on getting some skincare products and makeup from a few Korean skincare/makeup companies, plus other fun things I saw along the way.

John, on the other hand, was not excited about the idea of shopping all over Myeongdong, so we didn't end up spending a lot of time (according to me) shopping, really.

But I went prepared! I had a list of items I was interested in, and all I did was to politely ask the girls at the makeup shops to help me find them. This way I was able to get the things I needed without spending too much time. I was also planning on browsing a bit more around the different shops, though, but that didn't come about. Oh well. I still got a lot of goodies!

Oh, this is very helpful: when you buy things in shops with a "Tax Free" (or similar) you can get your tax money back at the airport! Make sure you ask at the register at the stores if they had such services. I will post a little "tutorial" about the tax return later. 

I also picked up some cute earrings and hair accessories. Oh my goodness there were so many choices!

There were also many street food vendors in different parts of Myeongdong!

Shopping in Myeongdong was definitely lots of fun!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Seoul 11.12 - Myeongdong Kyoja

We were a little hungry after arriving at Myeongdong, so we headed over to Myeongdong Kyoja (Myeongdong Dumplings) to have some early dinner/snack.

Myeongdong Kyoja has two locations within the Myeongdong shopping district. I'm not quite sure which one we ended up going in to, but it was the one I saw first!

We were seated at the second floor. The shop was busy! The server lady dropped off the menu and returned very quickly to take our orders and payment. Very efficient!

The condiments were on the table.

And the utensils were in the drawers under the table.

This was silly, but when the kimchi and soups came John and I wondered why the lady didn't bring us the utensils. We asked for chopsticks (using hand gestures) and the lady looked surprised (or shocked?) and pulled out the drawer right next to me.

So that was where the chopsticks and spoons were.

We got the steamed mandu (steamed dumplings) and bibimguksu (spicy cold noodles). They were delicious!

The steamed mandu.

The bibimguksu.

The steamed mandu was filled with juicy ground pork and vegetables, and the skin was thin and delicious, too!

And for the bibimguksu, the boy that brought the dish asked if we wanted to have it cut, and we said yes, so he cut the "pile" of noodles into four sections for easy-eating. The noodles were cooked well and their texture was QQ - soft yet "al dente". I really liked them!

The kimchi at Myeongdong Kyoja was also some of our favorite during this trip... very garlic-y! Yum.

mmm Myeongdong Kyoja!

Friday, March 01, 2013

Seoul 11.12 - walking to Myeongdong

We took the cable car and Oreumi elevator back down and was ready to go to Myeongdong!

The sun was setting, and the lights of the city came on. It was beautiful.

Myeongdong was within walking distance to where we got off the "mountain climbing" Oreumi elevator.

Along the way we saw a fire station:

And at the base of the "foothill" we saw Shinsegae Department Store and knew Myeongdong was nearby.

We started seeing more people walking on the streets and knew we were there. There were street performers, big lights from stores and coffee shop chains (where most of the time have big celebrity endorsement posters and billboards hanging up hight!)

So what were we going to do in Myeongdong? Eating and shopping, of course!