Aug 30, 2011

Korea - Random 3

The Gangnam area is full of clinics for plastic surgery. It starts from inside the subway station where there are all the advertising with "before/ after" pictures of surgery services they propose. I think this one was the best with its name "Cinderella". But I thought Cinderella was just about getting the right shoe?

Aug 29, 2011

Seoul - Sinsa

Garosugil, on the south side of the Han river, is known for its trendy shops, cafés and restaurants. I was there before noon so it was not still very quiet. As I stroll along the road, I noticed how the interior design here, in Korea, is always well done. In this trendy area, for sure, the shops and restaurants have the budget. But even in less expensive area, shops, and particularly cafés, manage to create a special mood for their interior. You can see that the design concept has included every detail. From the colors, materials, packaging till the font used on the receipt. I think that this reflects a trait of the Koreans. Things are never half done, every detail has to be well done.

For lunch, I chose this Japanese soba shop called Obiya. Their specialty is green tea soba. You can order with the soba a side of tempura. They serve chilled green tea and they fried the soba as chips. You get some salt mixed with green tea to dip the tempura.

Aug 27, 2011

Korea - Random 2

A car ferris wheel!! Little scooter is not tall enough to get on it so it had to wait
on the side :)

Aug 23, 2011

Traditional folk dance

There was a group of youngsters presenting a traditional folk dance. People gather quickly from the sounds of their drums and some joined in the middle to dance with them. I just took pictures on the side under the shade of a tree. It's already so hot!


Thanks to the Korea Tourism Organization, I booked a free trip to Jeonju. Their program also offers buses to Busan and Gyeongju. You just have to book early online on theire website here. Although the online applications were overbooked, our bus was not even half filled. But Jeonju is less popular than Gyeongju or Busan.

I come to Jeonju every time I visit Korea. I come for the food and  enjoy walking around the tradition hanok village. The university area is also great for shopping if not better than in Seoul. It's less crowded and you can get things cheaper than in Seoul.

There's been quite some changes in the hanok village. They are renovating lots of houses, probably to turn them into shops, restaurants and guest houses. More modern coffee shops also bloomed. The feel is definitely different now compared to the first time I came here three years ago. The houses they rebuilt now has only the roof and the structure from the origins. They tear down everything inside and use new materials for the inside. It's not quite as same as a tradition house that has been maintained in good condition. I hope the city will try to save the authenticity of the place.

Now, the food. My yearly pilgrimage to this beef soup restaurant Omokdae. Food is still so good but side dishes are getting smaller each year. The owner of the guest house I'm staying at explained that these days, vegetables have become so much more expensive that restaurants are now reluctant to give refill for the kimchi and vegetables.

And I ended up the day with an iced berry tea in one of the new coffee shops on the main street in the village.

Aug 22, 2011

Korea - Random 1

 Guess where are these cute figures in front of?


Answer is the police station. They don't have these in front of every station. This one was near Gwanghwamun.

Aug 21, 2011

Food and drink

Seoul is packed with coffee shops. At some area, you might have in every two shops. It makes me wonder how they survive with all the competition... and how you're supposed to know which one is good or not. As I don't drink coffee, I need a coffee house just to sit and get the aircon. So how do I choose? My most important criteria is... free WiFi!
I chose Miru as it was calm with only two persons inside because it is on a quieter street behind the main Ewha's shopping area. I ordered an iced yuzu tea, so refreshing.

After the geekette's pause, I walked around Hongdae, shopped some and then stumble on a street concert. The only I hate when traveling alone is dinner. Especially in Korea where lots of meals (like barbecue) can't be ordered unless you're two. So it's also a challenge to find a place where I can eat by myself which is not some franchised fast food chain store or the basic sandwich. And apart from the places for bbq and other group meal restaurants, the small ones close early around ten. This Saitamaya ramen shop was the best I could find for the night.

 Crispy kolokke

Grilled cha siu rice served with their miso soup
They also have rice and not just noodles. I'm gluten free happy :)

Green Seoul - Hangang park Seonyudo

Next stop was Seonyudo. The Chinese characters 仙遊島 means the island where the fairies travel.
It's a little spot of land in the middle of the Han river. It's like L'île Saint Louis in Paris but instead of the Berthelot ice creams and the luxury apartments, here, they left it all green.

The center of the park has different sections created for walks
and children playing area

There's just a small snack and coffee shop so this was lunch.

Green Seoul part 1 - Hangang park Yeouido

Seoul has a lot of parks and greens. Hangang park is a serie of parks along the Han river dedicated to leisure and sports for the citizen. I've come to the ones of Yeouido and Seonyodo.

It rained a bit in the morning but it has refreshed the air for just about an hour. The sky was all fuzzy so the pictures didn't come out great :( The area of Yeouido has a marina for tour boats and leisure. There are bike rentals in every park. I did not take the bike because it's not possible to leave it after at a different station. I originally planned to ride the bike from Yeouido to Seonyudo.

Families, couples or just alone, everyone comes to enjoy the open space. Some bike, some play, some sit, some sleep and some come with the 6 persons tent! I don't know if they invested in the tent only to come at the park for the day?

And I took this picture because the grass has been mowed like a mess. I guess the guy doesn't really like his job?

Aug 20, 2011

National Museum of Korea

The National Museum of Korea has a free permanent collection that consists of mainly items related to the history of Korea. On the main floor, the visit begins from the prehistoric fossils and moves along the timeline of Korean history illustrating each different era. On the second floor, one half of the floor concentrates on paintings and caligraphy. The other half is dedicated to collections donated from some famous people (I guess... as I don't know them). On the third floor, there are halls with some artifacts from other major Asian cultures and more specific halls of sculptures and crafts.
Even though the museum is free and so there were lots of people with children, it was not unbearable. But I did walk a lot. All the people usually stays on the main floor and the place where it were the most crowded was the cafeteria. Indeed, we're in Asia. Food comes before anything in our culture :)

 Main entrance and the central alley

 Ancient tiles. The oldest one (left bottom) is from 300 BC.

There is an entire section dedicated to the art related to Buddha. Lots of sulptures, bronze arts and paintings.

 Sculpted Buddhas

Sometimes when you see these huge stones brought in museums, it feels not right for them to have move these treasures. But then, selfishly, I also think "wow, that's cool to get to see
them in air conditioned comfort". Because chances are to get to see these kinds of things, one would have to climb high in the mountain.

Pensive Bodhisattvas. Left side is the national treasure n°78.

Painted hanging scroll of 995cm high.

And to finish, some ceramics.

 Water droppers : dragon, frog shaped, peach shaped and unicorn lion shaped.
 Jars: very simple almost modern to the pomegranate shaped
Vases: painted rope design (also a national treasure), painted flowers,
flattened sculptured.

You can get all the info about the museum on their website here.


Changgyeonggung (yeah, there's a whole bunch of g's in this name :) ) is smaller therefore less know palace. It is right next door to the beautiful Changdeokgung. I always enjoy being places where it's not a tourist packed attraction. There was not a single foreigner. I saw just 1 group of Korean tourists and the other people there were some seniors enjoying the park. And the prove that it is hardly visited, I was able to shoot some "wildlife" there. There were birds causally walking around and fishing their food and dragonflies and butterflies cris-crossed around me.

A palace like the other ones in the city, less renovated
but it adds to the authentic charm

 It has this western style glass greenhouse at the back of the garden

 And the wildlife :)

Korean sweet pancake - Hoddeok

After all the hard walk in the museum, this man has chosen the perfect spot to park his pancake truck. Actually, I noticed the queue before I could see what was the attraction. So I checked out what were written on the trucks then there was a queue of 10 persons. Yes again, for food, we, Asians, are ready to stand in queue under the sun. :) It was funny how everyone in the queue was standing but slightly bend on the left side to peek at the pancake making process. You see how fast the man is making the dough, put it in his special grill plates, flip sides, take out the cooked ones, serve them and do the cashier all at the same time. And the more you watch him, the more impatient you get to taste that pancake and you get so jealous of the people who just got theirs hot from the plates!

The pancake dough has completely risen during the cooking and it became this thin crispy and chewy (it's made of rice flour) crust with a filling of, I guess, cinnamon and brow sugar. We had some in Myeongdong last year and they were nothing close to this. The guy didn't lie on the signs on his truck saying "traditional hoddeok"!
It's always this kind of surprise encounters that I love the most in a trip. That's why I like to wander around places off the tourist route. That's when you get to see and taste the real thing! :) But it's also sad because even if I wanted, I could probably never eat this man's perfect pancake ever again.

Aug 18, 2011

Seoul's Times Squares

I have been offered this opportunity to visit Korea again. I have been invited to participate in a special event that will gather teachers and students of the Korean language from all over the world. As the events will be held in and around Seoul, I won't be able to move around the country as much I'd like to. There'll only be a day trip to Jeonju. I could never miss that beef soup!
So I will try to do stuffs I haven't done yet in Seoul like museums and other parts of the city that are more off the tourist's route. I have included in my plans a mountain hike and some biking along Hangang river but with the heat... I guess you have to come check back to see whether I would have mustered the courage... or not.

Today was a slow day as I arrived early in the morning. With the 10 hours flight, first thing on my list was a little hour at the jjimjilbang (korean bath/sauna). This time, I tried the Sealala in Yeongdeungpo next to the mega mall Times Squares. The facilites were okay but the big problem was it was filled with Chinese tourists who can not control their children running while shouting.... Okay, Sealala: done and to never do again.

I would have liked to check out the largest screen in the CGV cinema but the chimps just q
started this week so abandonned. Change plans to find some energy refill.
 Tonkatsu ramen

Then that left me nothing else but shopping in this mega mall. The mall has also a Shinsegae department store attached to one side and a small garden on the 6th floor rooftop. I feel like they wanted to create a high class mall but the crowd I saw while I was there (a weekday) were not the clients they expected. There is also an underground market in the subway station where it was much more crowded. I guess the prices are much more adapted to the people who lives in the neighborhood.

Aug 16, 2011

Côte d'azur

This is my first time going all the way to the south of France. Why haven't I gone there yet? Well, first, the 10 hours drive (or more, depending on traffic) are enough to scare me off. And I've never been  a beach person either. But then you never say no to a all girls trip.

Below is a little recap :)

Blue is everywhere, sky and sea.

Everyone needs these under the cloudless blue sky.
Upper right: boy selling ice creams literally in the sea.

Besides the beaches, there are lots of old and cute villages
to visit up the hills.

St Tropez with its crowd and the huge yachts.

Some vintage authentic styles.

And last but not least, the tarte tropézienne!

This is called "tarte" which means pie but it has nothing of a pie. Some say it is a kind of brioche cut in half and filled with pastry cream. We bought this one from THE bakery that claims to be the original creator of the recipe. To me, the bread is something between a brioche and a focaccia. The cream is a sturdy pastry cream. It is more digestible than it looks. They also sell them in mini sizes, also a derived product to imitate macarons...
If you want to know more about the original tarte tropézienne, it's here.

Aug 12, 2011

Mini choux - Popelini

Here we are, back to Paris. Popelini is a pastry shop located in the Marais, newly opened this spring.

The concept of the shop is to turn the basic cream puff into different flavors, dress them up cutely so they can be competition to macarons. Their looks only make you want to buy them.

I tasted 6 of them and my favorite is the simple dark chocolate. Don't look down on their tiny size, they are fully filled up inside their thin pastry crust. I found some of the icing too sweet so it's a pity it took over the flavor of the cream. I would say that eating two of these equals eating a regular éclair.
The idea, presentation and packaging are very interesting but they are quite pricey, equivalent to macarons. I would buy them again as a gift but surely not for myself.

 If you want to know more about all the flavors and the story of Popelini, check out their website here.