Bangkok 2017: Day Two

Today was so much better!

We started our morning with breakfast in the hotel. There’s something about hotel breakfasts that excite me. The free flow bacon, eggs, and porridge. What’s even more exciting this time is that there’s fish sauce. That smelly, salty, deceivingly light-coloured sauce that tastes so good with rice or porridge.

Immanuel came back with a bowl of his own porridge and after confirming with me, had put spoons of vinegared chilli into his instead. He even told someone else that it was fish sauce… We quickly spammed some fish sauce and all was good again.

After lazing a little in our room, we set off for Platinum Mall.

We walked through MBK mall (which Pathumwan Princess is part of) and Siam Discovery mall (a super hipster looking mall which we thought was some kind of discovery center) to get to Siam Center and then Siam Paragon.

The stuff at Siam Discovery really tempted Immanuel and I. Loft was there. Need I say more?

Actually I do. Everything about the mall was our #housegoal. There was this section where DIY workshops are held. I totally imagined my home to look like that. I was already toying with the idea of overlaying the white tiles, raised, on top of the wood in the room we plan to knock down.

Our decision to check out the Siam Discovery led us to all the awesome links to the various malls.

Siam Paragon (gourmet hall)

We got 450ML cold pressed juices at 220B each. That’s about 9SGD. A similar one in Singapore would cost at least 15SGD! So we went back to get another bottle each at night 🙂

Though we could’ve walked all the way from Siam to Platinum Mall, I forgot how to so we ended up taking a BTS to Chitlom and walking back. But that led to us discovering Gaysorn and it was a comfortable walk with a clean toilet pitstop.

So much has changed in just a few years! Apart from the Siam/Chitlom walkway, there’s now one connecting from Chitlom to Platinum mall. Almost the entire stretch has an overhead walkway that’s so much more spaces than the overhead bridges.

Avoiding this mass of cars and not having to walk on the pavements below really made the entire experience so excellent.

Nothing to shout about, shopping at platinum. A few years ago I went crazy. A year after that I tamed down. And now I have no taste for the things there. It also helps that many of the clothes there don’t fit me. (not bitter). Totally going #konmari and buying only the things that spark joy, such as this:

My pull and bear sling pouch at work has been tearing and I think this would make an excellent replacement. Perfect for my card, stationary, and spare cash. What’s more, it perfectly summarises my mood, being there.

Apart from this and a pair of locally designed leather shoes that Immanuel got at 1500B, we went straight up to the foodcourt

The oyster omelette turned out too starchy. It was practically slime and oysters. Barely any egg. So I would give it a miss the next time and stick to the claypot sharks fin (it should be just cartilage) soup (195B) and mango salad (70B).

On our way back, Immanuel had his coconut pudding fix. Something that I still can’t appreciate. It took me many years to finally accept coconut juice…

We also managed to squeeze in a massage before heading to mookata. While doing my research before heading over to Bangkok, I read good reviews about Watergate Spa. It’s just in the building next to Amari and a tiny door in between random stalls shows its menu and signboard. Its just opposite Platinum, Zone 2 I think. You can’t miss it along the stretch as it faces the main road.

We each did a 1.5 massage. Immanuel’s was the foot massage + spa. Mine was supposedly an upsized head and shoulder massage to match his 1.5 hour duration. But it was more like a Thai massage with more focus on the parts that I stated. It was firm without being too painful, except for the leg stretches which I’m totally horrible at. Full works! The total was 1050B for 1.5 for both of us, I didn’t get the breakdown but I guess mine was 550 after the ‘upsize’. She also rubbed oil on my back though it didn’t seem part of my package.

Our masseuses were so motherly and strong even though they were smaller sized than us. Compared to the much raved-about Healthland, this place doesn’t pale in comparison – in terms of technique. Can’t fight the ambience though.

After our lovely massage, it was time for our long awaited mookata!

We took a BTS from Chitlom to Victory Monument. As most blog posts write, it’s just straight down from Century Movie Plaza, just further down from Eat Am Here.

Verdict: Shiok as it was so cheap, but food could have been tastier. All the meat weren’t labelled so I just followed what the teenage girl in front of me did. Good choice to copy her. But I wouldn’t go back again. Many more mookata options, especially at New Rot Fai market.

A train ride back to Siam, and our day ended with more shopping at Paragon. These pork strips were so savoury even though they were cold.

Downed with a gold gassy drink, perfect.

Japan honeymoon: Osaka

Friday: Ekiben (fail) & takoyaki

On the day we left Kyoto, we excitedly dashed to get ourselves an ekiben each. But we didn’t expect the train to be that crowded and didn’t know that our train would be the less-awesome train. The KWA pass was not valid for the Shinkansen to Kyoto – which made the ekiben experience, well, non-existent.

So we kept it till nighttime and had it in our Airbnb apartment instead, along with our takoyaki. They were pretty decent, and I’d probably just need one try.

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We dropped off our baggage early after arriving at Shinsaibashi, took a quick walk towards Dotonburi and found a long queue at the takoyaki store straight at the bridge. Instincts told me that this would be the best of all the many takoyaki stalls in the area.

I guess the Singaporean theory works anywhere. Not proven right yet but it was pretty good.

Airbnb @ Shinsaibashi

Our Airbnb at shinsaibashi was a real letdown. I guess it was not too bad a try but having stayed at Cocoon and Kanra, the dip in standard was just too great. Kanra really set the bar for us in comfort and design.

That said, our Airbnb was conveniently located near a ‘station exit’, but it was more like an underground mall exit. So the walk from the actual station was still quite a distance. The good thing though, was that it was a sheltered path and if it did rain or if the wind got too strong.

The room was alright, with plenty of amenities. But it had some hygiene challenges that made us pretty scared of using.

The toilet was generally clean but there were patches of mould at parts of the toilet walls so it made for an uncomfortable time. Well good thing was, it made it more appreciative of what we had during the stay and had to squeeze out a list of things we liked about it. Here’s the list:

  1. It was in near an underground station exit. Well, sorta.
  2. It made us miss home.
  3. It had an escalator nearby (to access the station).
  4. The fridge was big and clean.
  5. The toilet bowl system, though old, at least had a bidet.
  6. There was hot water
  7. Plenty of cleaning appliances lying all over the tiny apartment

We had 11 when we were there, but clearly, not good enough a reason for me to remember right now.

Another thing to note about staying at shinsaibashi was the noise. It didn’t help that I watched ‘The Purge’ before making the trip. The incessant scary laughter, bottles clinking, and crazy random sirens and that one particularly scary one at 3.30am that made me Google earthquake alerts at that same in earthly hour just made sleep such a pain.

It was equally cold in Kyoto but sleep was good because it was in a quiet neighbourhood. The weird noises here were nothing like what I expected when I saw the reviews that there would be noise till early morning.

Many many regrets with regards to this choice that was a last minute change as I jumped at the fact that it was at the station exit. Plenty of other prettier apartments but it could have been the same thing – pictures promising the apartment in its best state, and not that which we’d open the door to. That said, it seems only applicable to Osaka. Maybe I’d be proven wrong at the next trip. I sure hope so!

This was probably the only disappointed throughout our trip and it lasted a painful 8 days… But it was with my dear hubby so that made up for it.
Sunday: Church & Nara

We went to Lifehouse Church Sunday and had a heartwarming time, listening to Pastor preach about having our own unique stories. This was reinforced in our own time of listening to sermons.

We met a couple of warm people and got a recommendation to head to Nara. We were told it would take less than a day so we went there after church.

So our first stop there wasn’t the deers but Maguro Koya

This tiny shop. Crazy good ootoro bowl.

 

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Below the visible layer of ootoro and rice, was another splendid layer of ootoro and rice. After having the ootoro, this normal negitoro bowl paled in comparison. But our strategy throughout the trip was to get one serving of decadence, and one normal good one. It served us well as too much fat would have killed the joy.

 

Then, it was time to explore. It was pretty dark and cold so we just gave ourselves a short period to walk quickly and ‘cover’ Nara. We already had the tuna so objective was achieved 🙂

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We got some pretty night views, had ice cream, saw some deers (from the back, in the dark) and called it a day.

Tuesday: Universal Studios Japan

I LOVE HARRY POTTER. It’s possibly my favourite book and movie series. It really started my love for fantasy/sci-fi. I love seeing things I can’t see in real life.

I got the tickets online via klook and got the e-ticket so it was a breeze. However, it was raining on the day we went there. It was mighty cold and made the trip a bit of a bother. It was also on this day that I got to see how much my husband could take care of me.

We took the The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – The Ride 4K3D and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ in 4K3D and they were awesome. Okay, I see now the common factor in the two rides.4K3D. I love the technology that went into it, 3D effects and all.

The HP ride nailed it for us and so it was time to go home after we went back to the Harry Potter area for the second time.
Umeda Hagakure

Rainy weather made for a perfect day for udon. After googling, we found this udon place. Everything interesting we read in the reviews on TripAdvisor manifested:

  • He made us take photos of the udon. The Korean guy next to us didn’t intend to take a photo of his udon and he made him do it.
  • Taught us step by step as to how to eat it (we didn’t dare to do otherwise)
  • I received a pat on my head for slurping it right, while slurping it right- 2 noodle, not 1 or 3 but 2.

Tempura udon (cold)
Tempura udon (hot soup)

You can see the uncle taking the noodles out into the small bowl for Immanuel. He was really that involved in our meal. Also, he called us by country. Meaning, he called us, Singapore. And the Korean man next to us, Korea.

Shuhari (守破離)

Our entire trip was largely planned around famous soba places. What a way to start planning an trip but it’s the only way I know how.

So imagine my disappointment when I found that Ayamedo was no longer Ayamedo and I didn’t know why! So I never got to try that elusive little soba shop which apparently didn’t allow it’s guests to take photos of the food or the eatery.

Google really saved us throughout our trip and we instantly found a nearby place that sold handmade soba. It was SOBASOGOOD.

We  had a tempura with cold soba each and I saw something vaguely looking like an upside on the Japanese menu. Thank God that one of the ladies there spoke super fluent English and we managed to confirm an upsize and even ordered an extra portion.

One upsized portion of soba.

We had in total, 2 upsized portions of soba, and one normal one.

We shared a table with two men that day. The more senior gentlemen had plain soba with sauce – upsized too. I felt affirmed when I saw is arrive. He did something that amazed me though. Before dipping the noodles into the sauce, he tried a little bit of it. Then asked his friend to pass him the salt on the side. He dished out a little and put it on the side of his saucer. Then gently dipped the soba into the salt and tried it. He gave a pleased look after which just told me that the noodles passed. Looked totally like a soba connoiseur.

After he left, Immanuel and I also tried it. It was yummy in that everything dipped in salt is yummy for me, but soba without sauce isn’t soba in my opinion. So I slurped on.

Crunchy, light, crisp tempura
Cute little duck dish poster.

Tough fight between this and Owariya. Owariya’s noodles were smoother and lighter. Shuhari’s noodles (apart from the awesome upsize), we’re chewier and grainier and strangely felt more authentic and ‘handmade’.

Both have their merits and I’d recommend both. One for Kyoto and the other for Osaka. Major, major highlights of the trip for me.

Yakiniku M

Marinated Karubi
This was already fantastic.
Beef seared sashimi sushi

Hot stone bowl garlic rice
A platter of splendour

Yuzu ice cream and Sake pudding

Well, we did eat a few more things than what’s highlighted here but they were negligible. So loving our Japan trip and it has officially taken over Seoul as my favourite destination. No jelatness of Japanese food this time. Loving the start of this journey with Immanuel, and looking forward to the many more trips to come!

Korea 2015


Update: it is September 2016 now and I am still using this phone cover from Hongdae. 

This would be my fourth time in Korea, and possibly the most fulfilling (or, filling?)! I used to feel really guilty about buying all sorts of things I didn’t need but were interesting and cheap. This time we managed to curb our impulsive spending and I only got some shades of eye liners and nail polish despite being faced by a Faceshop, Etude House and Innisfree every corner I turned.
Also, this trip was particularly special because my papa came along. It was the second time I ever travelled with him in my 27 years.

Of course, that entailed a whole different dimension of planning where I really had to find all the budget and good food. My family is generally not into chionging to all the places of interest. Well, my mom is because she likes to venture but it was probably her fifteenth time in seoul. I like it chill with a good mix of landscape, walking and LOADS of good food. Sister generally likes to wake up a little later because sleep is rare for her. And well, papa just doesn’t like to spend money. So admission fees or gst is usually faced with a frown.

On our first night upon arriving at Ninetree Myeongdong, we found a Korean BBQ place nearby. The rice was good and the beef was fairly tender. But the bill came up to a typically Korean BBQ restaurant price and that was the end of our peace at night. We were banned from eating that for the rest of our trip.

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This time round, we had much more street snacks than before – not sure if it really changed that much from just a year before, or that we didn’t walk at the right parts of Myeongdong?

Ahh, I remember now. I was sick last year in Seoul. Extremely unpleasant.

So here were the snacks we tried for the first time in Seoul, on our 4th trip here. Cuttlefish, torched scallop, bbq cheese + tokbokki skewers, freshly fried fries

Apart from these, we also had the food that we tried in 2014. The Ginseng Chicken Soup, that Grandma’s Dokbokki at the Tong-in market, Seollongtang, Beans Bin, and that Gimbap place near Mcdonalds.

Tosokchon Ginseng Chicken Soup (토속촌 삼계탕) Map

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I wasn’t feeling the chicken soup that day – especially after papa refused to let me order the black chicken soup which was significantly more expensive… What a brat. Well I have since repented. The roasted chicken wasn’t good.

On days, we tricked papa into resting in the hotel while we snuck off to have ice cream.

Strawberry and Chocolate Haagen Daz ice cream on a freshly made, thick waffle. Map

 

We spent many days eating here because of the sheer variety and generous portions. It seemed like a place for students. Extremely uncomfortable to squeeze in and out in all the winter wear, but the sister and I fell in love with the Jajangmyun. It wasn’t the first time we tried Jajangmyun but it got us. We had it for supper on some nights. One each. I never gave it another chance after I tried one a few years back. It had chunky potatoes, something that I don’t like in my gravy or soup as it seemed to me an easy way to keep the consumer full. Strange thinking – but that’s really what my mind tries to rationalise as my mouth senses the potato cubes. *It could have been MEAT! But no, you took the cheapo way out!*

Jajangggggggggggg. Nang Man Gimbap. Map

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Amongst many other simple and affordable dishes, there’s ramyun, kimchi jigae, jajangmyun, tonkatsu gimbap and pork bulgogi rice. Our favourites.

 

The old kimchi jigae place opposite beans bin (not entrance to entrance but the window counter seats of Beans Bin faces this place which is on the second floor of the other building) was replaced by this. I have no idea what it is called, but it comes in permutations of chicken / squid / octopus. It was our favourite throughout the trip because it was really near our hotel and the young lady at the shop took care of us well – how else would we know how to prepare this dish?

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Apart from revisiting the usuals, we managed to make a trip to Noryangjin! It was great because papa is big on seafood and none of us were ill this time round. Almost went back a second time. Almost.

Got some delish selfish and other water creatures from this pretty auntie and went down to the shop to get it cooked.

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The only thing we didn’t really enjoy so much was the sashimi. After choosing all the shellfish and heading to the eatery to have everything cooked in the various ways, we saw another table having soup. Anything that’s in a pot over a flame looks good to me. So papa and I went up and found a fish from this guy. Not sure if the norm was 100,000 won for a fish, but that’s what we paid.

The snow crab was 120,000. Steeper but far more worth it as you can see from the chunks of meat.

The ahjummas who opened this eatery were from China and seemed to miss home a whole lot. It’s really easy for Singaporeans to find our way around because we probably know enough of mandarin and korean to converse. I admire these ladies who leave their homes to make a living somewhere else. It’s really something I haven’t got the courage nor circumstance to do.

We also discovered where Jangshou really came from! Myeongdong! Maybe the Singapore Jangshou got its name inspiration from there. The concept was pretty different though.

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wp-1474729221580.jpgThis jangshou sold portions of galbi, bulgogi, galbitang and yukgaejang. Only these 4 dishes. The meats were served on hot plates and were extremely affordable and decent in quality. And because we were on a budget, this was the perfect option for us to get our beef fix since we were banned from expensive BBQs.

One good find, plenty more to go. I wanted our trip to be something different this time and was desperately sourcing for more authentic local food.

Unfortunately, we were not too impressed by the dishes at the market. Not too sure if it was because it was that stall, or that the dish was like that. The uncles eating there seemed to be enjoying themselve though. I’ve always wanted to try these but they turned out pretty disappointing.

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The mungbean pancakes were good though.

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Mungbean pancake at Gwangjang Traditional Market (광장시장) Map

 

And while on the topic of authentic – I thought this was pretty authentic: cow intestines BBQ.

I was actually trying to find some other intestine place at gangnam and we actually spent pretty long searching for it. Almost have up but my limited Korean helped find this other intestine place. Not too impressive an effort since it seemed that the stretch was full of eateries selling intestines! It was just a matter of deciding on which to eat at.

It was a good choice as one of the ahjummas was from China and so we conversed in Mandarin. She recommended what the locals usually had and gave me some insight on which was actually the better intestine in the cow. The smaller one. Which has a similar consistency as the large pig’s intestine. She seemed to really miss home and was happily chatting away with us in spite of our not-so-good mandarin.

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Rice mixed in at the very end, fried in the glorious fats of the innards

The place was somewhere in Gangnam, near Kyochon. But I forgot to take a namecard / signboard. Did a quick search and found this even more appetising one. Not for the fainthearted. Might try it the next time we head back.

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Ordered a box of Kyochon chicken wings for supper. Unfortunately, it was disappointing. The trip back wasn’t that long. I even found four fingers to be more flavourful.

Another authentic dish was jokbal, which are pigs’ trotters. I saw this for the first time in a k-drama where the female protagonist craved it everyday when she was pregnant. It’s something that papa liked and he appreciated the ones that I found. We tried two different eateries’ and both had its unique taste. But this was the first that we tried.

Naengmyun!

I preferred the one above as it was less oily. I never liked eating pig’s trotters because of all the fats which usually got a bit too jelat (Singaporean term for something that it’s too ____  that it gets sickening). You gotta trust the signboard that says 뚱 뚱  when it comes to food. Fat fat!

The one below was a two storey eatery that seemed to offer more items on the menu. But if I could only choose one, I would choose this.

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Not a fan of mandoos, which explains why I preferred the one above instead.

 

Another new find. This little BBQ place which had cheap beef and pork. We spent a long time looking for this place as I just kept missing the corner for this hidden place.

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Again, you gotta love a food joint that starts with ‘fat fat’. Map

The restaurant is known for this spicy salad side that they serve. Totally pleasing to my tastebuds. The pork belly was the star here. We also tried pig’s skin – but I concluded that I don’t enjoy it in general. Not in kway chap, and not in Seoul.

wp-1474729015641.jpgWe saw the other tables having this little gold pot on their grill. We tried to order and can’t remember if it was complimentary. It ended the meal on a nice soothing note.

We brought the papa to Ewha University just to incorporate some walking in the itinerary. But really, when in Seoul, it’s just all about food for us. Nonetheless, we captured some pretty photos for the parents there.

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Also visited Gyeongbokgung for the first time. Well, we can’t keep eating and eating right. We did plan our day around what we wanted to eat nearby though. The gingseng chicken and tokbokki were priority.

Also managed to navitage the trains and buses to go to Heyri Art Village. It was pretty inspirational to see artists follow their dreams, but nothing really left an impression there.

Jiejie’s sweet finds. Brownie and custard pastry from Tous les jours. We stocked up every other day. Even I really liked it and craved it after our meals.

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Seoul’s always my go-to place if I want a familiar getaway. Funny how relaxing it is to escape from one bustling city to another. Well, there are just too many days where life here is just too hectic, and I have to force myself to leave in order to leave work out of my mind. Singapore’s my home, but Seoul’s probably my second home. No connections nor friends there, and neither the language to communicate effectively. But still a comfortable place to be in. Connected enough, advanced enough, and foreign enough.

Spoons & More

My collection of spoons from the past years. Love my friends who know how much I love spoons. Featuring gifts from Immanuel, Cherlynn, Peiling and my Jiejie.

Don’t you just love people who understand your heart. My hobby of collecting spoons can’t be understood by just anyone. In fact, I don’t expect anyone to understand how I love pretty and quirky spoons and my personal criteria for them (not just any spoon ok.), not even those friends who bought me the spoons. But it’s so sweet that despite this weird hobby, they make it a point to buy it for me. That’s true friendship 😀

Look at that 4th spoon from the left. When I saw it in Insadong, I felt like I had an affinity with it. HAHA. It is crazy. But I felt like it looked like me. Weirdest part was, when I exclaimed it – Jiejie, said I was crazy but she agreed!

Ok crazy thoughts aside, how do I marry my myriad passions and put them all under hope and salt without blurring the lines too much and cause it to become a reflection of a person who’s a Jack of all trades and master of none?