Seoul-Busan Backpacking 2011 – Food (Part II)

Hi everyone.

It’s a super busy day at work (school), but I feel the urge to blog about this today. So when the idea comes, I should quickly put it into writing, or else it will go missing. LOL. Plus, this weekend I will be busy with some Kpop related event (shall enlighten that to you soon), so I hope I can finish this post today.

As I said in my previous post about food, finding Halal food is not an easy task in Korea, unless you’re in Itaewon, but it’s not an impossible task to do too. If you know how, you can actually find food that Muslim can consume.

Be confident of what you’re eating, if you have a slight doubt about the ingredient and/or the utensils used in the process of making the food, then I suggest you not to consume it. Of course, avoid the obvious, such as meat (any kinds), ham, et cetera.

Korean Halal Logo

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Seoul – Busan Backpacking 2011 – Universities

Annyeonghaseyo!

What a boring title. LOL. I bet those who have been reading my posts will automatically turn off the moment you saw the post title. Haha. I promise I’ll write this as interesting as I can so that I won’t bore you. This won’t be a long post too, because I just wanna share with you the universities and college that I went to during our one-week trip.

You must be wondering what me and my friends did at the universities we went to. I assure you we didn’t enroll in some short course or anything, haha. Some we went for a specific reason (eherm.. k-entertainment related) and some for sight seeing and learning (about the Korean culture et cetera).

Sook Myung Women’s University, Seoul (숙명여자대학교)

The Second Foundation Campus

Sook Myung Dae is just a few stations away from Myeongdong and we were in this university to attend a concert. Yes, CONCERT! But the concert was not of any Kpop idols with dancing boys or girls on stage, it was an awesome acoustical or unplugged concert by “EZ Hyung and 10cm”.

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The Concert Poster

Who are they? Perhaps that’s exactly what came into your mind right now. But I shall leave you with that question till I write a post on that awesome concert later. I’m sure you can find some info on them if you are diligent enough to surf Google. 🙂

Sook Myung Women’s University, as the name suggested, is a university only for female students. It’s a private university situated in Yongsan-gu, Seoul and was found in 1906, as Korea’s first royal private educational institution for women.

There are two main campus for Sook Myung Women’s University and both are situated opposite each other. We went to The Second Foundation Campus where Theater S in the The Art Center was situated. Theater S was the venue for the concert.

Finding the university was not hard, we took a cab from the Sook Myung station and the fare was only 2,400 won (divided by 4, so 600 won each). But finding the concert venue was even harder as even the students didn’t know there was a concert there. LMAO. Plus we were all so tired (and grumpy) from climbing up and down TWO HILLS earlier, it makes things even worse.

But as soon as the concert started, and we heard EZ Hyung’s super soothing voice, all the tiredness disappeared. Hehe. I’ll write a fan account of that concert soon.

Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul (성균관 대학교)

The Entrance to Sungkyunkwan University

Yes, Sungkyunkwan from the famous KBS drama, “Sungkyunkwan Scandal” starring Yoo Ah In, Micky Yoochun, Park Min Young and Song Joong Ki. To say that I’m a big fan of the drama would be overrated, but I enjoyed watching it. So having the chance to visit the university where most of the scenes were filmed at kind of made me excited.

We reached the university quite early, on empty tummies. (-_-“) But there were just so much memories on the quartet I kept on touring around the area. I don’t really know what else to say about this university, so let the pictures do the talking shall we? Hehe.

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The Dormitory in Sungkyungkwan

Yours truly

best friend forevah, Shambie

Bahie's S-line - wooohooo!!

Kyungsung University, Busan (경성대학교)

Kyungsung Student Union Hall

Thanks to Abonim, we managed to have a FIRST CLASS tour around this university. His friend took us for lunch and then every place we visited, there’s one officer in charge of explaining to us. Wooohooo. Kyungsung University was not in our itinerary (I haven’t even heard about it before), but I can’t thank Abonim enough for bringing us there.

Perhaps me being a teacher made Abonim excited to show us to this university. Prior to this visit, we even went to a primary school near his apartment and had a guided tour by the vice principal too. Hehe. I enjoyed both visits, because education is my field, but I don’t know about my travel buddies. I sincerely hope they enjoyed the tour too.

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A cup of coffee after lunch in Kyungsung Dae

A visit to Kyungsung University, we were brought to its Cultural Museum. Abonim and his friend were amazed at how “literate” we were (okay maybe just Erenah – LOL) about the Korean culture. They even commented that even Korean youngsters don’t know what we do. Awwwwww.. what a compliment. Maybe I should just live in Korea?

We visited the Bird Museum too. There were thousands of bird species in the museum and man we were very amazed just by the fact that there’s a Bird Museum in a university!

A visit to the library was very fascinating too. The fact that Abonim and our guide prefer to climb up the stairs fascinated us too, when actually there’s an elevator in the library. LOL. Abonim, who’s (I think) fascinated about our religion too (after knowing we had some restrictions in Islam), offered me to look for the Quran. A librarian helped me find it, and we found a Korean Tafsir (Quran translated/interpreted into Korean) and I thought it’s very amazing.

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The Korean Tafseer Quran

We were so overwhelmed by the tour, we didn’t even ask Abonim what is his friend’s name. Abonim, we know we have thanked him that day, but if you’re reading this could you tell him we said thanks A LOT for the memorable tour? And also for the refreshing kiwi and orange juice at the cafe! LOL

Seoul Institute of The Arts (서울예술대학)

Seoul Institute of The Arts (Seoul Arts) was founded by Chi-Jin Yoo in 1962. To those who are not “CNBLUE-literate” (lol) must be wondering why did I visited this university. Hehe. Seoul Arts was the filming location for the upcoming MBC drama, “Heartstrings” starring CNBLUE’s Jung Yonghwa and Kang Minhyuk and also actress Park Shinhye.

I was hoping to be able to watch the filming, but yeah, luck was never on my side. The day I went to visit Seoul Arts, there was no filming at all so me, Shambie and Saturn onnie just walk around the campus. The next day, the casts filmed the whole day, from morning till night. Me and my bad timing, AGAIN. (-_-“)

Unlike all the universities I visited before, Seoul Arts is VERY DIFFERENT. In a good way, that is. The campus is not too big, and it gives a very cozy and calm feeling when you walk around it. Once in a while you’ll be shocked though. Juniors here will greet their Sunbaes (seniors) in a VERY LOUD voice, so if you’re around when they did that, don’t be alarmed. It’s just their way to show respect to the seniors. LOL

About two weeks after I came back from the trip, the producer of the drama invites the fans to watch the filming. My friends were in Seoul at that time and I arranged their meeting with Saturn onnie to visit the Ansan campus where Seoul Arts is located. I shall not elaborate more on this because this is too heartbreaking for me.

* * * * *

These visits to the educational centers made my trip even more meaningful. Some are not planned, but turned out to be the best tour I had. Though some of my plans didn’t fall through during this trip, I was grateful enough to be able to visit these four universities. 🙂

{ Food (part II).Concert Review.People }

-coming soon-

Seoul-Busan Backpacking 2011 – Coffee.Cafe.Caffe.

Hi all,

Today I’m just gonna update you with a short entry. But I think this short entry will make you know Koreans better. Hehe. Why? Because I think cafes are like a part of their lifestyle now. It had been ours too throughout our short stay in Korea, as we frequent Starbucks so much during our trip.

Walking around Seoul, you’ll see people holding their own cup of coffee almost all the time. And most of the time, they will be drinking Americano. Why Americano? I have yet to figure that out but every time I go into a cafe to buy my drink, there will always be locals asking for that drink, A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N-O. Hehehe.

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Seoul-Busan Backpacking 2011 – Food

Hi everyone..

Is this my fourth write up? Fifth? Hehe. Let’s just stop counting. Don’t know how long this would take me to finish but I hope I could do it fast coz suddenly I feel like there is still so much more to share with everyone about Korea. 🙂 For this entry, I will talk about FOOD. A rather sensitive issue for Muslim travelling in South Korea, where only a small percentage of the citizens are Muslims.

This would probably be the most popular question I would get when I mentioned about travelling to Korea; “Is it easy to find HALAL food there?” My answer would always be the same. It’s hard, but it’s possible. Meaning you CAN FIND halal food in South Korea, but of course there are not as many choices as those in Malaysia.

Don’t expect to find a restaurant with Halal logo because it’s almost impossible in central Seoul. You will need to go to Itaewon where most restaurants operated by Muslims are situated. There are a variety of choices here and most of the menus are suitable with our taste palette (Indian food, Pakistani, Middle Eastern) et cetera.

However, if you’re like me, who wants to taste the local food when you’re in Korea, here are some suggestions. After all what’s the use of coming to Korea if you can’t eat its food,right? Food has always been one of my reasons to visit Korea. So here are the list of food that I have eaten during my stay in Seoul, Gyeongju and Busan.

Ttokbokki (떡볶이) – Spicy Rice Cake

Ttokbokki - Spicy Rice Cake

You would always see this dish if you’re a Korean drama addict. Ttokbokki is a very popular street food usually sold in stalls on the streets in a big and deep rectangular pans. You won’t miss the ahjummas (or even ahjusshis) making this spicy and hot dish. Ttok means rice cake. It’s a type of Korean rice cake made from glutinous rice flour or plain rice flour, steamed and made into big rod-like shapes.

You should be careful however when buying the ttokbokki. Look into the pan carefully. Usually the ttok are cooked with fish cakes, which means it’s perfectly fine for us Muslims to eat. But there are some who mixed the ttokbokki with Korean sausage (순대 – soondae) which is a Korean dish made generally by boiling or steaming cow or pig’s intestines that are stuffed with various ingredients. So do check the ingredients before you buy the ttokbokki.

Kimbap (김밥) – Rolled Rice in Seaweed

1,500 won per roll. Veges+fried egg kimbap

Kimbap is probably our equals to rice during our stay in Korea. Or maybe just for me and Shambie. We would eat kimbap everyday bought from the nearest 김밥천국 (Kimbab Heaven) near our guest house. If you’re staying in Myeongdong area, take Exit 4 and you won’t miss this outlet. Also if you’re staying at Namsan Guest House like I did, it’s just a few minutes walk from it.

I think this place is used to having Muslim customers so when I asked for kimbap-minus-the-ham, the ahjumma quickly understands my request. “Ham pae-go?” she asked. Which means leave out the ham? I said yes. You could just tell the ahjumma “ahjumonim, ham shiro-yo” which means I don’t want the ham. Alternatively, ask for tuna kimbap (참치 김밥 – cham chi kimbap) from the ahjumma. The price here is very reasonable and you have a lot to choose from the menu.

Jang-eo-gui (장어구이) – Grilled Eel

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super duper delicious eels made our mouths water

This was our scrumptious lunch in Gangnam. Freshwater eel is a delicacy in South Korea and is super duper expensive. A kilo of this costs a fortune so we were really shocked us when we found out about it. Thanks to Appa (Oggy’s foster father) we got to taste this super-duper-finger-licking-good dish.

The eels were still moving and wriggling when they were put on the fire, so it was actually a new sight to us. LOL. The ahjumma at the restaurant skillfully grilled the eels for us. When they are ready, we eat it in vegetable wraps, with salad and also sesame leaves. The taste?? M-I-N-D B-L-O-W-I-N-G!!!Oh my goodness, writing about this made me salivating all of a sudden. Haha.

A fun fact about the eels. I asked Appa why Koreans (especially the men) love to eat the eel’s tail. He laughed at my question and told us it’s because the tail is believed to be good for their “stamina” if you know what I mean. *wink* LOL. *blushed*

Chu-eo-tang (추어탕) – Mud Fish/Loach Stew

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Tastes like Laksa gravy. lol

After finishing an eel each (at first we thought one eel for each person is not enough – but we were so wrong!) Eating eel on its own might not make you full, but try eating it with wraps, it will surely make your tummy burst. But Appa said it doesn’t end there.

The ahjumma brought us a bowl or Chu-eo-tang EACH. We were all like, HUHHHH??? More food?? Thank god Appa was being considerate and ordered only 3 bowls of rice so we shared them (he would’ve ordered 6 bowls of them if it’s according to the locals’ appetite.) Hhhnnnnggg.

The chu-eo-tang is surprisingly good, and tasted very much like the laksa gravy we have in Malaysia. The “tang” – meaning stew – was made from grounded mud fish or loach and made into stew/soup and added with some herbs. But it was not as sour as the Laksa Penang. The taste is just nice for me.

Soon Dubu Chigae (순두부찌개) – Soft Tofu Stew

Soon Dubu Chigae - Soft Tofu Stew

This was our lunch in Gyeongju. It’s soft tofu soup/stew, mixed with eggs, dried shrimps and some vegetables/herbs. The taste is a bit bland, perhaps because Abonim (our foster father in Busan) purposely asked for a non-spicy dish for us. To be honest, I think Korean’s level of hotness (in terms of food) is rather acceptable to us Malaysians. If they said it’s spicy, perhaps for us in Malaysia it’s just a mild taste of pepper/chili. But IDK, this is just my opinion.

The dish was served with a few banchan (side dishes) and a bowl of rice. O-M-G. Try having rice with a bowl of tofu+egg soup. Too much for me I think, sadly I could’t finish all (which made me guilty for wasting the food). Huhu.

This is something that I can make at home. Just a simple dish of boiling tofu,egg,dried shrimp and some vegetables. Very healthy, and fulfilling.

SWEET TREATS

Bbopki (뽑기) – Sweet Candy

Sweet Treats - Bbobki @ Myeongdong

Bbopki is a candy made from mixing sugar and baking soda on a ladle over a fire. Once the mix is melted, it’s poured on a flat surface and made into a flat disk with various shapes stamped on it. Sometimes it’s also molded onto a stick to make it like a lollipop.

It tastes sweet, but with a tinge of bitterness in it, which I kinda like. And you might be wondering why the vendors stamped the shapes on the candy. There’s definitely a reason. 🙂 Take some time to sit at the vendor stall and try to take out the shape without cracking the figures. If you managed to do it, I’m told you will get one piece of bbopki free. LOL. Though I got one anyway because the ahjumma was surprised I told her I like the candy. Hehe.

This sweet candy costs 1,000 won a piece and you can see vendors selling them in Myeongdong.

Gyeongju Bbang (경주빵) – Gyeongju Bread

A must have if you ever go to Gyeongju!

Thankfully, we managed to squeeze Gyeongju into our 7-day-itinerary in South Korea. Gyeongju is a beautiful city with lots of monuments for you to visit. It’s very tranquil here and picturesque. If you have the chance, take the free bus tour here. You won’t regret it (take the tour bus, as going around on your own might be hard – we had Abonim to tour us around).

You will see lots of outlets selling Gyeongju Bbang (bread). So after touring the city, while waiting for our friends, I asked Abonim what’s so special about Gyeongju bread? He said according to him it tastes like any other bread, so he didn’t really get it why Gyeongju bread is so special. LOL. But he bought us a box anyway, and I think the warm bread tastes so nice.

It’s the usual bread with red bean paste filling, but I guess WHERE you eat it matters. Having Gyeongju bread in Gyeongju, perhaps made it tastes a bit more delicious? Hehe.

Hodo Gwaja (호두과자) – Walnut Cake

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Yummy Walnut Cake at the rest stop on the way to Gyeongju

On our way to Gyeongju, Abonim stopped at a rest area to get ourselves a bottle of water each. He also bought us a packet of these heavenly walnut cake. The cake was still hot from oven and we even got free pieces from the seller onnie. Ahhhh, sometimes it’s nice to be a foreigner! LOL

The cake was in the shape of a walnut (what else?) and its filling was made from red bean paste, but there’s a piece of walnut in each of the cake. We could not stop eating the cake. Haha. If you ever found this in your trip to Seoul, do try it!!

Deli Manjoo (델리만쥬) – Corn Shaped Cake with Cream Filling

You can get this at Myeongdong Station

I would say me and Shambie literally ADDICTED to this during our stay in Seoul. A packet of Deli Manjoo costs 3,000 won, was just not enough for the two of us. We finished them in a blink of an eye.

You can find the Deli Manjoo stall at the Myeongdong Subway Underground Shopping arcade. You won’t miss it as it is situated just outside the exit from the subway. The ahjummas at this stall were all very nice and friendly.

You can buy 3,000 won packet (I think about 9 pieces) or the 7,000 won packet. Eat this while it’s still warm. Guaranteed to satisfy you. 🙂

{ Coffee Houses.Universities }

-coming soon-

Seoul Backpacking – Places (Part II)

Hello, everyone.

Phewwwww…this is my third write up for our Seoul-Busan backpacking trip. So far so good, at least I’m doing this on a daily basis and while my mind is still fresh from the memories in South Korea.

As I’m writing this, I can’t help but to feel a bit ‘homesick’. LOL. Yeah, Korea had been my “home” for one week and I miss it dearly. Whenever Koreans asked me why I choose to travel to Korea, I always say it’s because of their culture,language,food and lifestyle that kept me coming back. And no, in my case it’s not entirely because of Kpop anymore.

So, shall we continue with some more interesting places to visit in Seoul? But to be honest I don’t really go to enough places to actually be sharing with all of you reading this. As I wrote before, me and my friends went our separate ways on our third day in Seoul so from then on, me and Shambie really spent our time in Seoul rather leisurely. Hehe. Anyway, I’ll try my best to write more. 🙂

Bukchon Hanok Village, Jong-no

This was actually the first place we went in our itinerary. Inspired by Kim Jongmin in the “Exploring Jong-no” episode in KBS variety show 1 Night 2 Days (1박 2일), we head out early to take the subway to Anguk (Line 3, Exit 3). Getting to Bukchon is not hard, but finding all EIGHT spots here is totally a different story. Though I must say we were a bit organized than Kim Jongmin in terms of finding those photo spots. LOL.

Clockwise - Erenah, Bahie, Shambie, Fizzy

If you plan to come here, please look for the tourist information counter and get the map. Most of the time there won’t be anyone in the counter, so make yourself at home. Hehe. Pick one map and plan your quest to look for all the photo spots. Thankfully we have Bahie in our group who was superb in reading the map, something which I am really not good at.

We came across a group of school students doing the same thing as us and they were so loud. It was totally understandable because they were with friends and I know I would be even louder if I were them. To see them having fun doing the task, made me smile (and miss my school friends too).

There was a kind ahjumma who speak really good English greeted us and asked us where we were from. Korean people seems to be liking Malaysia for I don’t know what reason, but that made me happy. She offered us to take photos of a Hanok (Korean traditional house), which we happily accepted. At the same time, there was a group of production crews from SBS setting up the cameras and jimmy jib at the Hanok, perhaps doing a filming later in that place. Not wanting to interfere with their job, we finished snapping photos quickly.

Bie + Erenah goofing at Hanok

As we were looking for all those photo spots, we bumped into one Korean boy, who’s shy but very generous with his smile. After bumping into each other a few times, we asked him to join us instead and he gladly accepted out invitation. We exchaged short greetings and got to know that he’s a student of Hongik University, just 20 years of age. Ahhhh, I wish I was that young!

With our limited knowledge in languages, (Hangugo for us, English for him), we managed to communicate well I think along the quest to look for the spots. We even cracked jokes (though it still amazed me how we were able to do that) and shared music (he asked us who do we like, and I said CNBLUE, so he quickly played “Intuition” for me). Awwww, our sweet Seon Gyu.

Bahie - Seon Gyu - Erenah - Shambie

Having him around made us slightly forget the aching feet and calves and it’s cute how he had to always turn to his mobile dictionary to convey something to us. LOL. I’m so gonna miss him.

If you ask me, yes Bukchon Hanok Village is recommended. Especially if you love the traditional architectures and love taking photos. Though I don’t really think you need to find ALL 8 spots because some actually looked the same. But for satisfaction, yes you should find all. Mind you please wear super comfortable shoes here, because the place is very “hilly”. And bring water!

Oh, and don’t worry if you ever got lost here. There are tour guides stationed by Korean Tourism Organization to help you with the photo spots. They are wearing red shirt, with KTO logo, you won’t miss them. In fact, they are everywhere, I mean at tourist spots like Myeongdong, Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, Insadong et cetera.

You can also find some galleries in this area. Make time to go into some of them, just to see their crafts and everything. It’s refreshing.

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Still not open when we arrived

Just before the last photo spot.

Insadong

Seon Gyu, being a sweet guys that he is, offered to show us to Insadong. So we walked together with him until we reached the place. It’s lunch time when we arrived in Insadong and as I had been here once last year, I tried to look for the place to have our lunch.

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Insadong..

Insadong, is very different from Seoul. Here you will find lots of cute cafes, and shops selling hand made dresses, shoes et cetera. Mind you these hand made goods cost a fortune as they are all well, HAND MADE. Also, local brands are more expensive than those brands we are familiar with. So don’t be surprised if you see dresses made in Korea are more expensive than ZARA or others.

Insadong is also a place where you can see many Korean crafts are being made. When we were there, we managed to see Korean women making colorful cloths from natural dyes (flowers). I’ve seen the documentary about this once but nothing beats seeing with your own eyes.

LOL I forgot to rotate!

After much circling around the area, and through the small alleys, we finally found the same place where I had my lunch last year. The restaurant served a yummy baked mackerel and it costs us 20,000 won (5,000 won each, we took 2 mackerels) for the superbly-fulfilling lunch. As you know Korean dish is always served with lots of side dishes (banchan), and they are all refill-able. So if you ever finished your kimchi, or any other banchan, ask for a refill. 🙂

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We had our lunch at this restaurant in Insadong

Yummy lunch, minus Seon Gyu. T__T

Too bad when we ere having lunch, Seon Gyu sat outside waiting for us. We only knew at that time that he was a Judo athlete and that he only eats chicken breast. *face palm* Imagine how guilty we felt at that time because we intended to buy him lunch after all the help he gave us but we could not. And he was again, so sweet, waiting patiently for us to finish lunch.

After walking around the place a bit, we said goodbye to Seon Gyu because he had a class to attend at 2.30 pm. We promised to meet him again next day in Hongdae and he said he would show us around.

The Ever Sweet Seon Gyu

{ Hongdae-Namsan Tower-Apgujeong }
-coming soon in part III-

I’m all smiles because of KOREA

yours truly in orange hanbok!

안녕하세요~~

4 days trip to Korea is DEFINITELY NOT ENOUGH! And going with travel agency is also not a very good idea actually since I was rushed to all the locations we have to visit as stated in the itinerary. But for the first visit, going with travel agency is alright. At least I can get the picture on what to expect in my “next” trip to Korea. LOL. Our tour guide, Hae Min onnie was very helpful,knowledgable and friendly. So it was not that bad.

The weather was quite nice on the day of our arrival. But as nice or as good as it looked, I was freezing! The breeze was definitely different from Malaysia but alas, me and my friends enjoyed ourselves. The tiring part was the traveling we had to do in order to go to one place and then another. It actually took A LOT of our precious times! :[

I will update my sort-of travelog once I get back to work. And that’s going to be on Tuesday, I guess. Hehe. I’ll try to write a day-by-day entries so you guys can really know what I experienced during my stay in Korea.  Please click here to see my pictures. They are in my Facebook album, so I’m not really sure if you can access them or not. Till then, 안녕히가세요!!