Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Koreanovela Chapter 1

Korea ~ so called the Land of the Morning Calm is gaining lots of popularity as a tourist destination.  When I was young, I knew very few things related to Korea.  We did study the history of North and South Korea during high school.  However, contemporary Korea used to be quite "in-distintive."  Until Koreanovelas, K-Pop and the Face Shop took the world by storm!  Now, we know,  the Koreans, as distinct from Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese and Hongkees.

I had the pleasure of visiting Seoul, when our company treated us for an incentive trip last February 2011.  It was our reward for a remarkable 2010 performance. 

My husband was already working in Singapore, at that time.  But he managed to steal a few days leave and join us.   
Fresh from the 6hr. Flight on Aseana Airlines
It was my 1st Winter trip abroad and I was giddy with excitement.  Months before, I was already purchasing my outfits online :)) It's hard to find stylish winter clothes in Manila.  Thank you to my old grade school friend, Phil. Airlines Flight Crew Robin,   whom I made courier of my gorgeous above-the-knee boots from Report.  My husband Ted, who with my niece Shelby scouted Dublin, California for my specific order..... a Red Trench... nothing less than Red!  :)))

Don't you wish there's winter in the Philippines?  So we can wear these :))
First on our itinerary was Everland, a  theme-park in Yongin, a city in Gyeonggi-do province. It is Korea's largest theme park. owned by the Samsung Group.  Yes, Samsung, of the TV & cellphone fame.  Samsung is a huge diversified company in Korea.   Everland is 10th in the world, in terms of theme park visitors.

my posse Mean, Jolie, Mau and Melanie with my inaanak Skye
It's a welcome respite from the usual Disneyland & Universal Studios franchise.  They have cute local mascots, and the thrill-rides are not for the faint-hearted.  They have the oldest wooden roller coaster in the world.  Yes, wooden!  (check it out behind us in the pic).

We also love the Snowbuster.  It's like a toboggan sled, but they use inflated rafts.

I'm one of those sliding down the slopes :)  I enjoyed this so much! Kasabayan ko kids :)
My gorgeous officemates Arlene, Blaise, and Carmela
Along with the usual rides and theme park attractions,  Everland also includes a zoo and a water park known as Caribbean Bay.

Frozen River on the Carribean Bay waterpark
Frozen Waterfall
 We rode a shuttle to go around a small Safari, of mostly bears and tigers.

 The zoo also boasts of having rare White Tigers.  They are really cute.  They look cuddly not fierce. 

 Weirdest thing ~ they were able to successfully mix a Lion & a Tiger  and  call it a Liger.  :P  LOL.

my lovely friends Lyn, Grace, Divine and Neri

Our lunch was at a non-pretentious traditional bar-b-que restaurant.  Korean Bar-b-que using marinated thin-strips of beef is called Bulgogi.  It's tons of glorious, yummy, fresh beef, that you have to grill by yourself in your table.  You have to put the cooked meat in between Lettuce leaves with other condiments including Kimchi.  

Thanks goodness my hub was with me.  He grills really well.  All I needed to do was stuff myself.   One of the best lunch I ever had ... in my entire life!   Nowadays, when we go to Korean restaurants in Manila or Singapore, just to re-live those tastes ... Wala talaga.  Nothing can surpass the authentic thing! 

Our next stop is the landmark of Central Seoul ~  It's the N. Seoul Tower.  It's high up Namsan Peak, approximately 262-meters and we rode a huge cable car going up. 

Can also walk -up; there's a trail.. If you can brave the snow

Atop the mountain, there are smoke signal stations called Mongmyeoksan Bongsudae which was used as an emergency communication system during the early times.

But the main attraction is the soaring N Tower measuring 777 feet.  It's a communication and observation tower.

photo by Isageum
The tower features a gift shop and restaurants on the ground floor.  We went up to the tower. There are four observation decks (the 4th observation deck, which is the revolving restaurant, rotates at a rate of one revolution every 48 minutes).  Most of the city of Seoul can be seen from the top.... even the toilets have views of the city!


We walked the trails in going-down the mountain to enjoy the crisp cold, weather.   There was a Cold Rock Creamery & we couldn't resist!  

with my friends carole and carme enjoying our ice cream in winter

We didn't really walk all the way down :) We were fetched by our tour bus half-way :))  We went to Tony Roma's for dinner.  But I was still full from lunch's bar-b-que buffet.  The chicken dinner was insignificant but generous nonetheless.  I would have enjoyed it in another time.

Before we turned-in for the night, we went to Dongdaemun for some shopping.  I can't believe how famous Face Shop here in Korea.  It's like McDonald's.  There are so many, almost in every street corner.

Korean men, not just women are vain!  They really maintain such amazing grooming!  I'm not just talking about cosmetics, but the basics... great skin care rules!

 Warning.  Not enough of shopping pictures in my Korea trip.  I don't multi-task :)

Whew!  What a packed day it was!
Tomorrow,  I will  Ski for the 1st time,  and make yummy spicy Kimchi.

Until then!


Friday, February 11, 2011

My Koreanovela Chapter 2

Our official residence during our trip to South Korea was Ramada Seoul in the busy district of Samsung-dong, Kangnam-ku, Seoul.  It's a 4star hotel, not entirely new, the rooms are standard and the breakfast buffet is average.

First agenda on our second day ~~ Ice Skiing!  How remiss of me, not to have taken a picture of the resort's facade. Now, I cannot recall the name.  It's definitely outside the city (about an hour). 

We stopped by a shop renting-out ski outfits.  They rent-out the overalls, jackets and googles. But they sell the thick hand-gloves.  The girls went crazy selecting the bright color combinations.  We were disappointed when the nice ones are just too big for us, Pinays.  So, we had no choice but to just get the small ones which were not so trendy.

My friend Paolo, and my hub Ted bringing all my discarded clothes :)

We ended looking these.  A hodge podge of colors :)

The slopes are steep and not for the faint-hearted.  One had to be trained to even venture out there on ice.  It's my first time to be on an ski slope.  The sun was reflecting brightly in the ice, hurting the eyes.  It's the reason for such thick shades / googles.


They scheduled Ski Lessons for us.  To be honest, I did not enjoy it a bit.  First, I had so much difficulty in my bulky, thick but loose  clothing.  I felt like I'm carrying a sack of rice.  Second, trying to get my feet inside those hard ski shoes are hell. I changed sizes 5 times, I cannot distinguish which is the right fit.  Should it be tight or loose?  By the time, I had to stand on my feet, I was so miserable and scared.  I felt like one of those foot-bound women in ancient China.

I was so scared that I might topple down and break my legs or ankles.  I cannot maneuver.  Everyone left already for the lessons on the slopes, so I told my husband to just leave me and enjoy.

I was the only one in the huge locker room.  I figured, why should I risk my legs and ankles for these stupid shoes?  I took them off and was relieved!  I can teether  on 3-5 inches delicate heels but not this humongous piece of ugly shoes.  :))  Skiing is not for me, and never will be!

Ugly, bulky ski clothes.  I felt like a walking aparador (cabinet).  Pa-cute na lang and then, get me out of these clothes

When my friends arrived,  announcing with great news that they're already master skiers.  I told them to please just take a photo of me with those damn poles and skis and let's get out of here.  (sourgrape!) On the other hand, my husband had a great time, and was probably planning a winter vacation in the Alps.  :P  (Alone!!)

My smile was back when we went for lunch at this glorious seafood buffet, where they served wine for everyone!  I wish I could just live in that restaurant.  :) Sooo yummy and delectable spread. Fresh lobsters, Alaskan king crabs, escargot, sashimi.... we were all so sleepy afterwards.

Like any group tour, we had to stop in some commercial places, wherein the tour company probably have a commission in the sales.

We went to a Ginseng Shop.  Ginseng is an herb whose roots are shaped like a human form, and is said to have curative qualities.   It's usually in tonic, tea or capsule form.  Korea is famous for Panax Ginseng, the red and white variety.   Ginseng is like prized commodity in Korea, that the government even regulates its growing and selling price.

Photo by : Herba Health Inc

We were taken through the history of Ginseng, the curative properties, the many weird kinds of Ginseng.  Too bad they don't allow photography.  Ted bought some capsules, tea and powdered Ginseng.  They're not cheap, mind you.  I got a ribbing from my friends, to watch out, since Ginseng improves man's virility :))

I guess, any doubt in my husband's virility disappeared, when we went to the next shop, the Amethyst Gem Shop :)

Amythest is considered one of the 5 greatest gemstones in the world, the 4 others are Diamonds, Rubies, Emeralds and Sapphire.  They say that Amethyst produced in Korea is one of the highest quality. 

When we left the shop,   I had huge grin on my face, as I carry a tiny bag, courtesy of course by my very "virile" husband.

Korea is synonymous with Kimchi, traditional fermented dish, usually eaten like "pickles" "atsara" or "sidedish"  We went to this Kimchi academy, where they taught us how to make Kimchi.   It's made with cabagge and/or radishes, hot chili peppers, lots of garlic, ginger, and many others.

There is a proper rolling of cabbage to mix with all the other ingredients.

I wished I listened more but I figured it seems easier to just buy a jar at the grocery store! I was more excited on the next activity, that is, trying on the traditional Korean costumes, the Hanbuk! 
Me and my friends don the Hanbuk.  Melanie, Meann, Jolie and little Skye
I love the Hanbuk, it's very distinctively Korean.  Vibrant colors, simple lines.  We look tall in them, and the little hats are cute!

In the first photo, we were both smiling, but the guide said, Korean couples are usually tip-lipped. So there... trying to be authentic. I think hub can pass for a Korean :)

These days,  real men wouldn't wear those kids of shades & loose pants, & hats!

We ended the day, with some more shopping at Dongdaemun :) No pictures there. I was too busy looking for nice Korean fashion :)

'till my Koreanovela Chapter 3!

Jewel in the Palace, one of the contemporary  soap operas has made Koreanovela a classic genre.  There are tours catering to the location spots of famous Koreanovelas. :)
Lee Young Ae aka Dae Jang Geum of Jewel in the Palace.  I really like her!