24 Jun 2014

A Prelude to "HipsterrrificxKorea"

I guess this concludes the end of my Korean adventures for the first half of 2014 after returning from Seoul on early Sunday morning. Honestly, I was not expecting much from this tour package that my mum pulled me on with her as it just seemed like nature spots, nature spots and more nature spots.

From the experience of being on Singapore-based tour groups ever since I started travelling with my empress dowager in 2004, I have been taught that the phrase "trekking in the forest" or "hike up a mountain" should not be taken too seriously as there are always board-walks for us to walk on like, at least proper paths. There is NO bragging rights when you join SG-based tour groups, even when the tour package stated "Enjoy a leisure trek up xx mountain" because they will drop you off at some place and make you walk for 10 minutes, then pick you back up again. And the more hardcore versions of the so-called "trekking" or "hike" would not last more than 30 minutes. 

Whoa, I was so, so, wrong about the hikes and treks in Korea.

Day 1:

Trekking up fortresses at Gongsanseong Fortress. The slopes up were remaining at 45 degrees for quite a distance and the time we took was about 30 minutes. (I would count this as a warm up)

Day 2:

Walking up and down to Tapsa Temple at Mt Maisan. Local tour packages would normally rent a van/minibus for you to get up there.

Day 3:

Trekked 2.9km up past reeds, marshes, forest paths (cemented and non-cemented) up to Mt Yongsan to view the entire wetlands, meandering rivers and the South Sea in the distance. That took around 2 hours up and down.

Day 5:

Trekked the entire hour around the east coast of Korea, viewing the East Sea, which would lead you out to the Pacific Ocean. There was almost no proper cemented paths and most of the paths on the roads are made up of sedimentary rocks (like in the photo above) and dirt paths. By then, my bad knees were already slowly giving up on me.

Day 7: 
Hiked down Mt Seorak. Almost died a couple of times as I was close to slipping down steep slopes and slippery rocks. I was so grumpy throughout the whole hike, I felt like murdering whoever made me go on this(ALONG I HATE YOU) as the whole course was so precariously dangerous. Goodness. I literally charged towards my tour guide after I finished the tour guide while shouting "WAE????? WAE???? YA JJINJJA?!!!!!!" 

Think I would make a very good fierce, hair-pulling young lady in Korean Dramas. MBC please cast me into your next installation of whatever shows alongside either Lee Dong Wook or Kim Woo Bin pleaaaaase.

But all in all, I felt that this trip really gave me a feel of how it is like to be a true blue Korean with the hardcore trekking and hiking that I'm pretty sure an average Singaporean would not be able to tank through all these WHILE ON HOLIDAY. Bring a random SG dueller to do all these and they will question you with a "Are you sending me here to relax or to attempt to kill myself?" The food was also not the usual standard Korean fare you would get to sample while on SG tour groups as what they eat, are really the traditional Korean Hanjeongsik with varying number of dishes. Most of the meals also enabled us to try ssam-meat wrapped with vegetables, garlic and gochujang (hot pepper paste). Would I like to try some ssam on a date? Nah I doubt so, it is rated as one of the WORST foods to eat while on a date, the first date especially.

I thoroughly enjoyed this trip with courtesy of Hana Tours, the top tour operator in Korea, and the Customized Easy Holidays Department of Chan Brothers Travel in Singapore. This trip is definitely not sponsored by any tour agency since hipsterrrific.blogspot.com is not even famous in anyway but my expenses were all fully paid for by my empress dowager. So, thank you so much mum! :) We also owed all our good and memorable experiences to our guide, Along (who may also be moonlighting as a loanshark in Singapore lol jk), from Daegu, Korea, who made all the trip arrangements seem seamless despite two really difficult members from Canada who was really against eating Korean food for the entire meals. Along really "sucked it up" (learning from US speak) and handled them really professionally without any complaints.

I ALSO SAW LEE DONG WOOK IN REAL LIFE! Will definitely write about that soon hahaha, or maybe I've wrote enough of that.

I'll soon be resuming blogging about my grad trip to Seoul, Gyeonggi-do, Gangwon-do and Busan (MANY MORE POSTS SIGH) and also this family holiday to many parts of Korea!

Stay hipsterrrific,

12 Jun 2014

Korean Student for (half) a day

Where Kim Soo Hyun shot his CF

The good thing about meeting up with friends overseas: You can crash their hall room. Okay just kidding, we did crash but didn't stay for long as we were really imposing on JJ's roommate. Before we visited JJ's school, we heard a lot from her, stuff like "My school is really pretty!" "Many celebrities come here to shoot stuff!" "Kim Soo Hyun shot a CF here before!" Like ok, Kim Soo Hyun, I'm pretty damn sure her school must be quite picturesque.

So we reached there.... and the entire campus looked very futuristic. There wasn't any beautiful grass patches, or forests for typical CFs (well I pictured KSH lying on a grassland shooting a CF) It was a pity we did not really tour her school thoroughly or get to crash any lectures as JJ had a class at 1p.m. I was quite surprised the school was almost empty, unlike schools in Singapore where there are just throngs and throngs of students hanging around campus. In Korea, you can't even see a single soul in the morning.

JJ also brought us to this beautiful corner in her school in front of some chapel where she has her Christian education classes. Omg the lecturers there are so cool, they even had a picnic in front of the chapel for lessons one day. So tempted to change my dream destination for exchange to Korea but NO NO I MUST KEEP TO MY UK DREAM.

We bade goodbye to her shortly after lunch before Ying and I headed to Bupyeong for some underground shopping mall damages. Goodbyes are pretty hard to say but I really really hope I can see this crazy korean princess super soon!

I'll be returning to Korea TO MO RROWWWWWW with my omma and I'll continue blogging from there. This time we are covering the entire Korea Peninsula in 7 days (kinda) with a local tour package. Pretty excited to meet people from other countries and I hope that my group will be biiiiiiig and filled with cool Brits mehehehe. Okay I better sleep now, gotta wake up at 4a.m. for my flight and its 1:25AM now.


6 Jun 2014

Seoul Weekend | Marche:at Hyehwa (마르쉐@혜화동)

Gluten/Sugar-free Brown Rice base Cakes

The other cake stall

Fried Flowers

Organic beef burger whose queue was super long


This trip to Seoul has been especially rewarding as I got to discover many places where locals (note: Not tourists) spend their time at on weekends or free days. I found Marche:at Hyehwa through trazy.com where there is a list of weekend markets that Koreans frequent. Ok maybe for some well-known ones like the Hongdae flea market you will find some (not a lot) of tourists there. Since this is our second/third time to Korea, we decided to make sure that most of the places in our itineraries is not covered by tour groups from Singapore!

On Day 5, we had a free day where nothing was planned on the itinerary so we could go where we wanted and then at the end of the day, we would gather back into the apartment to watch Running Man and order Korean food delivery. There was no photos taken (wait seriously?) but we had Chimaek (chicken + beer) when we returned from Hongdae as none of us had dinner. Our dear friend Jinju helped us order BBQ chicken (endorsed by IU so we assumed that it was good) and damn, the chicken wings and drumsticks were fried and marinated to perfection. We ordered two different types, the fried one and the marinated sweet and spicy one. Both are equally good! If I'm not wrong, it costed around 21,000 won shared amongst 3 people. So it was pretty worth it!

Anyway, back to Marche:at Hyehwa! Marche is basically a farmers market, something like Pasarbella at The Grand Stand here in Singapore, held every month on either the first or second Sunday. Before going there, I advise you to head to their Facebook page to check it out first. Everything is in Korean but I'm pretty sure you can read numbers right?

Many local indie farmers/vegans/organic food wannabes/REAL LEGIT HIPSTERS will religiously come and sell their produce every month and the great spread includes: gluten-free/sugar-free brown rice chocolate cake/almond cake, beetroot pasta, fried flowers (yes i am serious), organic beef burger, egg bread, macarons, sweet potato cake, e.t.c. It is almost impossible to find a stall selling water there unless you would like to try some quirky concoctions (which comes in a glass bottle), if not, there is a cafe located at the entrance of the park where you can get some tea. I had their Lavender tea which costed me around 3,500 won!

Even though some food might seem really appetizing, sometimes sugar-free cakes are completely tasteless like the sugar and gluten-free brown rice almond cake that I had. I would recommend the Brown Rice Chocolate cake from this stall called PPUR or PPURI but other than that their food is tasteless.... :/ Too bad Ying and I were so full from stuffing our faces with tasteless cake that we did not have any more stomach space left. (Min went with JJ to become a princess at Changdukgung) I would recommend you to try the other cake stall that also has a very long queue.

Please do note that the locals who visit Marche:at are EXTREMELY environmentally conscious and it seems like there was a hidden agreement that EVERYONE brought their own lunchboxes to store food, except for me. Thank God most of them had nice carriers to store my cakes and whatnots so that I do not have to whip out a pathetic piece of tissue to hold my cake and look even more pathetic in front of the Koreans.

I had the BEST egg bread (no idea what is it called but I'll just call it egg bread for now) at Marche. It is basically bread with capsicum, tomatoes, onions, spring onions, and I forgot what, dipped into egg batter before they fry it shortly on a pan. IT WAS SO GOOD I CAN'T EVEN FIND A RIGHT WORD TO DESCRIBE ITS GOODNESS.

Marche:at is a super good place to have breakfast at on a Sunday with your good friends (please remember to bring people who can REALLY eat as the food sold are really super filling). My budget for this market was around 30,000 won but oh come on, aren't you willing to spend more for good (and healthy) food? :)

Till next time!

Stay hipsterrrific,

To get to Marche:at

Hyehwa Station Exit 2
Walk straight ahead to Marronnier Park and you are there!
(9a.m. to 4p.m. but the food will normally be almost gone by lunch time)