Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Gogung Bibimbap @ Myeongdong 明洞 명동, Seoul 서울 - Korea Trip Day 1


So this is it. Our dream came true. Our first backpacking trip in our favourite country, Korea 대한민국.

We were able to meet amazing people and experience amazing things during this trip which was still very surreal to me.  I secretly wish that the trip never have to end.

We took the Airasia X flight and landed at Incheon International Airport after six hours. The moment we touched down, the excitement that I had been containing since the planning of this trip burst like a water balloon.

The beautiful suburbs near the airport.

From the plane side window which was 1000 ft above, I caught a glimpse of the city across the river which looks like the merging of crowded identical square boxes.

The city was planned and built well, I thought.

Incheon International Airport:

We started looking for the Airport Railway sign. There are two types: the express train which only stops at Seoul Station and the all-stop train which stops at every station. We opted for the all-stop train because it was much more cheaper than the former.

At the airport railway station. Starting to sweat like mad because it was summer and I still had my thick sweater on. It's the only sweater that I had brought. Just in case the nights here get really cold. And also for our few domestic flights within Korea.

Everyone around us started speaking the foreign language that we are so familiar with. 한국어!

Get your free T-money card at Korea Tourism Organisation. It can be used at all subway and railway stations. The only downside is that it can't be used for Busan Metro.

Day 1: Myeongdong, Seoul 명동, 서울
How to get there from Incheon International Airport:
Take the Airport Railway to Seoul Station. From Seoul Station transfer to Line 4 and exit at Myeongdong Station. The entire journey from the airport to Myeongdong took us more than an hour. A lot of walking is needed.

Tips: Download 'Subway Korea' app by Broong, Inc. It is free and you can use it to find the nearest station for transfer which is very important because Seoul subway can be quite complex even for locals.

Myeongdong is an ideal place to stay in Seoul because it is conveniently located in the centre of the city and is near to many tourist attractions. Plus you can go sightseeing in the morning/afternoon and go shopping in Myeongdong itself at night.

Accommodation: Zaza Backpackers Hostel
How to get there:
Take exit 3 at Myeongdong Station. Turn left immediately at the exit. Walk towards Pacific Hotel. Take the left path at the Y-junction and walk straight for 60m. Turn right after DUBU restaurant with white exterior. Zaza Backpackers is on your right.

Room rate: Double room 360,000 won for 6 nights (7th night is free)

We registered at Zaza Backpackers and were led to another building called Myeongdong Global House. Myeongdong Global House is actually one of the many hostel buildings owned by Zaza Backpackers.

Towering above our hostel is the famous N Seoul Tower aka Namsan Tower. The cable car station is only a walking distance away.

There's a common area in the hostel where you can get free drinks and hot water. Microwave is also available for light cooking but do note that the common area is locked after 12am.

Laundry service is 5000 won per big bag of clothes.

So basically everything was satisfactory good except for the water heater which was faulty sometimes. Was quite annoyed when that happened. But we still enjoyed our stay at Zaza.

Heading straight to Myeongdong after putting our luggage in the room. 

Quickly took out the camera and snapped some photos with Korean buildings and streets as background. Every shot was picture perfect.

Myeongdong underground shopping centre.

To go to Myeongdong, just take the escalator down from Exit 3 and walk towards Exit 5 or Exit 6.

We knew immediately that Myeongdong is a place that caters for tourists, especially China tourists, when we first stepped into Myeongdong. 

There's always a shop assistant who can speak fluent Chinese standing at the shopfront of every cosmetic or fashion store. 

The number of tourists from China in Myeongdong is also overwhelming. Since Myeongdong is a crowded place, you can easily bump into a tourist from China every second, if not minute. And they are not hard to notice either since they usually talk rather loudly.

The abundance of Ching Chong almost made us feel like we were walking on the streets of Beijing or Shanghai. Almost. There were still quite a number of young Koreans in Myeongdong enhancing the presence of Kimchi nation.

I was later told by local Koreans that those shop assistants who speak fluent Chinese are usually immigrants from China but of Korean ethnic (鲜族). That explains why they are fluent in both Chinese and Korean.

Will blog about my shopping hauls and more food in Myeongdong in separate posts. There are so many nice food that you should try here. Thinking about Korean food makes me salivate.

Ddeokbokki which needs no introduction. It's the first thing we ate in Myeongdong, or Korea.

Most snacks in Myeongdong costs about 3000 won including this ddeokbokki.

This guy selling Ddeokbokki also speaks fluent Chinese. Few days later I bought ddeokbokki from another stall owned by a Korean Ajumma (located next to Natural Republic near Myeongdong entrance) and the sauce is much more spicier and thicker than this stall.

Bacon wrapped sausages. 3000 won. Hubby's favourite but to me they are just sausages.

Jajangmyeon. Also needs no introduction. Famous food in Korea as you often see it in Korean dramas.

Jajangmyeon for 3000 won as well.

Had dinner at this famous bibimbap restaurant called Gogung. Couldn't find it initially but accidentally bumped into it shortly after we gave up. Haha.

We found this restaurant with pure luck but one thing for sure do not follow the directions given by some tourism website or blogs. The directions were out of date as I was pretty sure the restaurant has been relocated before.

However, the restaurant is not difficult to notice if you explore further up from Myeongdong station. It's next to a tall building in the centre of Myeongdong.

Makgeolli also known as Korean rice wine.

Side dishes with salad. The Kimchi here is so good.

We ordered this 2 person set but regretted it afterwards because we couldn't finish everything.

Huge seafood pancake as starter but it was too huge for the two of us to finish it.

Highly nutritious Bibimbap. There are many high quality ingredients inside this steel bowl that I couldn't even name.

Mix everything together and you have your delicious bibimbap ready. You can add more gochujang if you prefer more spiciness.

Overall the food was quite delicious but slightly on the pricey side. If you are tight on budget, you can definitely find similar Bibimbap with simpler ingredients and cheaper price in other restaurants.

That's all for today's post.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Amante Nail Spa Charity Fair

We are finally back from our 11 days Korea trip! Miss Korea so much now that I'm having a mild post-travel depression. Haha. Korea trip posts will be up soon but before that there's a message to be delivered to anyone who is reading this.

Let's do some charity together!

If you are interested, here's a chance for you to lend a helping hand to the needy people.

Amante Nail Spa (a popular beauty and wellness spa centre) will be hosting a one-day Amante Charity Fair on 7th September 2014 from 10am to 6pm.

It's a combination of beauty and charity which polishes your outer beauty and enhances your inner beauty at the same time! Continue to read to see how you can do that.

In conjunction with this fair, customers can purchase the Amante Charity Coupon booklet for RM35. Inside the booklet has 7 X RM5 cash vouchers where you can purchase treatments, activities, food and games at Amante Charity Fair and BONUS thank you RM88 Hot Stone Massage treatment!

Everyone loves massage right? 

Proceeds from the Amante Charity Fair will be donated to GOOD SAMARITAN HOME – Home for Children in Malaysia for their education. We believe by helping to raise funds for this home would make learning possible for students of all ages, from pre-school to graduate school, providing basic education to those who need it most.

We would like to invite you to come join us on the 7th September, 2014 at Amante Kota Damansara to show your support for these amazing young children and to Good Samaritan Home.

So why not get yourself a relaxing spa treatment and help the underprivileged children at the same time? It's a win-win situation or should I say killing two birds with one stone? =D


Steps to participate in the charity fair:

1. Purchase the Amante Charity Voucher booklet from the nearest Amante outlet. Visit www.amante.my for a list of locations near you.

2. Don’t have time? You can transfer/bank in to Amante Beauty Care Sdn Bhd (MAYBANK ACC NO. 512491131743). Send transfer note/bank-in slip to amantecharity@gmail.com with name, e-mail address & mobile number. You can collect your Amante Charity Coupon Booklet on 7th September, 2014 at Amante Charity Fair.

That's all!

Let's have fun doing charity!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How to Select the Best Sunscreen [Product Review]

If there is a survey about the most popular skincare product in Malaysia, I wouldn't be surprised if sunscreen came out topping the list.

Malaysia weather is generally hot and sunny all year round. A day without exposing to sunlight is rare, unless you are the typical couch potato. Sunlight is the main source of UV (ultraviolet) ray which provides essential Vitamin D but is also a natural enemy of young and flawless skin. It accelerates aging, causes freckles and dehydrates the skin.  

Here is when sunscreen, or commonly known as sunblock here, comes in handy. Sunscreen helps shield our skin from the harmful UV ray. During my previous Bangkok trip, I made sure to apply sunblock everyday before going out and even brought along my sunblock to reapply it in the noon before the sunblock thins out. 

I know the variety of sunscreen in the market can be quite confusing so I have listed five (5) criteria for selecting the best sunscreen.

1) Spray or Lotion type?
There are articles that reveal the risks of using spray-on sunscreen. Although it is convenient to use and less greasy, it is impossible to avoid inhaling the chemical spray because the particles are too small to be seen. It is also easy to miss a spot when spraying sunscreen on your skin so you might not get maximum coverage.

2) 'Broad spectrum' sunscreen
Some sunscreen products only protect against UV-B ray but there are few in the market that protect against both UV-A & UV-B ray to ensure maximum protection (e.g. Sun off a Beach). UV-B is the chief culprit behind sunburn, while UV-A, which penetrate the skin more deeply, is associated with wrinkling, leathering, sagging, and other light-induced effects of aging. So it is important to check whether the product is able to protect your skin from both types of sunrays.

3) SPF
'SPF' which stands for 'Sun Protection Factor' refers to protection against UV-B radiation which burns the skin. A few years ago, choosing a good sunscreen meant you just looked for a high SPF - which rates how well the sunscreen protects against ONE type of cancer-causing UV-B. The truth is you don't want a sunscreen with SPF higher than 50 because it might expose your skin to damaging UV-A rays, which also cause skin cancer. A moderate SPF of about 50 is hence more than enough.

4) Portable in pocket, no sticky sensation
You need to bring along your sunscreen if you are exposing your skin to the sunlight for long hours. Sunscreen normally runs out after one or two hours depending on the exposure so make sure to reapply it often. This is when a portable sunscreen makes a great choice because you can put it into your pocket or hook it onto your sling bag. It is also important to buy a sunscreen which doesn't give the greasy feeling but also moisturises your skin as well.

5) Water resistant 
If you are going to be in the water or exercising, get a sunscreen which is resistant to water and sweat.

While selecting the best sunscreen is important, it is even more crucial to use it correctly. Here is an important tip to make good use of the sunscreen that you bought - Lay it on THICK.

Slather a generous, thick layer on your face or body regardless of how ghostly and pale you look after applying. A good sunscreen should blend with the skin after application and not have you looking like a Peking-opera performer. Sunscreen is like toothpaste, if you don't use it enough, it's not going to work. Many sunburns which occur despite using the sunscreen are caused by infrequent and faulty application.

This is also mentioned in a Korean beauty programme called 'Get It Beauty'.

Tips: Use a tablespoon of sunscreen on your face and about 50 gram for the whole body.

So after carefully going through all the criteria, I have finally found one sunscreen product that successfully fits all the criteria listed above - Sun Off A Beach!

Sun Off A Beach does not only fit all the criteria above (lotion, broad spectrum, high SPF but not >50, portable and water resistant), it also contains Ceramides which are critical components of our skin barrier to not only keep pathogens out, but also to keep moisture in. This hydration is necessary to allow cellular turnover while keeping our skin healthy and vibrant. It also maintains the firmness of the skin. It sounds like a dream come true for skincare product lovers! 

Not to mention it is also suitable for both face and body unlike some products that are only suitable for either one.

There are two types that you can choose from - Anti-aging & Sensitive. I chose anti-aging because I was so afraid that the damage of sunlight would make me look older than my real age.

As you can see, the sunscreen is fast absorbing and quickly blends with the skin after application without causing your skin to look greasy and pale. Plus it doesn't have the sticky after-feel which deters people from using sunblock. Remember, a tablespoon for your face! Not teaspoon!

Sun Off A Beach can be hooked onto anywhere for convenient use. Surely gonna hook it onto my sling bag when I'm going for a beach trip at Haeundae Beach in Busan!

Lastly, I would rate a 5 star ✮ for the convenience and high performance of this product! Would sincerely recommend it to anyone who is planning to buy sunscreen *thumbs up*.

The price is RM22.80 for 50g! 100g is also available for regular user.

Grab it now before the offer ends! Click the link below to find more details about the product and also get 15% rebate off your purchase by using the coupon code when purchasing: CYKCSY

‘Like’ HISHOP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hishopmy
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and subscribe to HiShop for exclusive updates:  http://www.hishop.my/subscribe

That's all for today's review!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Amphawa Floating Market - Amazing Bangkok Trip #7

If you look closely at the map of Thailand, you can see stretches of rivers branching into the mainland like tiny veins underneath your skin.

In ancient times, these river networks are conveniently utilised by farmers to deliver goods from farms to markets before the invention of road and railway. People would then gather on the river banks to trade goods, creating a prosperous waterfront community which is also known as floating market.

There are not just one, but many floating markets in the southern part of Thailand where most of the rivers are found. Amphawa floating market is located at the Amphawa district of Samut Songkhram province, along the banks of Maeklong river. Unlike Damnoen Saduak which is a morning market, Amphawa is an evening market which opens on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 3pm to 8pm. Amphawa is also less crowded compared to the more touristy Damnoen Saduak. We were told by Apple that Amphawa is also a favourite weekend getaway among local city folks as it is not too far from the city.

To visit the Amphawa floating market, we signed up a one day trip package with Visit Beyond and here is the itinerary of our one day trip:
With the guidance of our personal tour guide, Apple, we walked from Maeklong railway market to the centre of the town, which is only a short distance away. The blue vehicle in the middle of the road is known as 'Songtel', which literally means 'two rows' depicting the two rows of seats at the back of the vehicle.

We quickly got in one of the 'Songtel's which was waiting for more passengers to fill the seats. We reached Amphawa after a 20 minutes ride.

Miang kham which is a traditional snack in Thailand. Tiny cubes of shallot, chilli, ginger, garlic, lime, roasted peanut and salted shrimp topped with palm syrup are pre-wrapped in tea leaves and skewered onto a stick. Sadly this Miang Kham that I bought at the road heading to Amphawa floating market is a tad too sweet for my liking.

'O Liang' which is thai local iced coffee. 'O Liang' is our favourite thirst-quenching beverage in Thailand and we had it almost everyday. This particular 'O Liang' at Amphawa floating market is our favourite as the coffee is very fragrant and not too sweet.

The beautiful picturesque floating market in Amphawa. Too bad the photo came out blurry. Amphawa floating market consists of old wooden row houses along the riverbanks of Maeklong river (Amphawa canal) covering a distance of about 800m. We walked along the wooden row houses, crossed the bridge at the end and continued to stroll on the opposite river bank. That basically sums up our trip at Amphawa.

You can find many shops selling cheap souvenirs, handmade products, T-shirts and accessories. A minimum of 2 hours was spent sightseeing and souvenir scouting at this happening market.

Must try ice cream shop at Amphawa floating market. We decided to try the Asam boi and butterfly pea flower ice cream because it's nearly impossible to find them in Malaysia.

This shop offers a variety of ice cream flavours. There are just too many to choose from!

Srimala Ice Cream Shop. You will be able to find it easily as it is located along the river bank.

Happy to indulge in the coolness of the ice cream.

Christy and Apple were discussing about something excitedly while I just posed for the camera. 

At Amphawa, every scene is a perfect holiday snap. Even with a touristy pointing-at-something pose. 

Must buy item at Amphawa floating market: coconut oil skin care and hair products! I only bought a bottle of hair serum and a lip balm because I thought I could get it at somewhere else but I was wrong! Regret it afterwards because the coconut oil hair serum is superb and it's only 200 baht for one bottle! You should really get few bottles before heading back to Bangkok.

Posing again.

With Jac Jac.


There are a few guesthouses at the floating market itself but the room rate is definitely higher compared to Bangkok guesthouses. Apple suggested us to stay at guesthouse located just outside the floating market as it would be cheaper. A couple of nights spent at Amphawa would be just nice for a couple anticipating a romantic trip. Next time then!

Another picture of the floating market taken by Jac Jac's camera.

Not sure what is this called but I've seen many street food vendors selling this. Apple told us it is some kind of Thai dessert in mini claypot.

You can hop into a boat if you fancy a boat riding tour to cruise through the floating market. We decided to skip the boat tour because it would be too time-consuming and we had to rush back before the curfew.

Taking group picture at the bridge connecting the river banks.

Boats selling food near the bridge.

Spotted many local people and tourists who managed to find themselves empty spots on the river banks and ordered freshly grilled seafood. Wish we had time to sit down and enjoy yummy seafood as well. Next time then!

That's all for today! 

If you are staying for a night at Amphawa, do not miss the firefly watching tour at night! 

Other ways to get to Amphawa if you are not joining tour packages:
  • By car: From Bangkok take Rama II Road (Highway No. 35) When you reach Samut Songkhram Province, take Highway No. 325 (Samut Songkhram-Bangphae). Go on for about 6 km, between kilostone 36 and 37 turn left to Amphawa District. Keep going, go over a bridge, then turn left to Wat Amphawan and find a parking space there. 
  • By bus: Take a bus from Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal. When you get to Samut Songkhram, take a local bus (Mae Klong-Bang Nok Khwaek) at the bus terminal. 
  • By van: Vans to Amphawa are available at Victory Monument and the Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal.
Will be taking a short break from Bangkok posts. My Seoul-Jeju-Busan trip with Hubby is just one week away! Stay tune for more Bangkok and Korea trip posts!