Jeonju: Jeonju Hyanggyo

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Together with Anna, an exchange student from Prague whom I met the day before, we visited Jeonju Hyanggyo, a Confucian school that was established during the Joseon Dynasty. Located in the Jeonju Hanok Village, this school has been designated as a national treasure by the Korean government.

I love trees. And I fell in love with all the gorgeous old trees in Jeonju Hyanggol the minute I stepped into the compound. They are magnificent! Huge, like a grand dame with a glorious mane of golden hair.

These trees may have been growing in the same spot for a few hundred of years.

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Anna and I bumped into a Korean filming crew that afternoon. The crew were filming a documentary about travelling around Korea during autumn, and they wanted us to “act as tourists admiring the huge trees and taking photos of the surroundings” for their very short film. We obliged, of course.

Afterall, it didn’t require us to do any acting. We were tourists admiring the huge trees. And taking photos of the surroundings.

Oh, before I forget. Any Sungkyungkwan Scandal fan should be able to recognize this place, because Jeonju Hyanggyo was the filming site for the drama.

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My favourite tree. Wouldn’t it be fun to climb up the trunk and sit in the nook between the branches?

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Korea is a country that is blessed with so much natural beauty.

Seoul: Dosan Park

Dosan Park is a lovely spot of nature in the midst of sprawling buildings and high-end shops in that part of Gangnam.

It is not a very big park, and takes probably less than 30 minutes to walk around it.

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Seoul has got some architecturally-interesting public toilets in its parks. I wouldn’t expect anyone to pay much attention to the design of their public privies but clearly, the Koreans think differently.

During the trip, I came across quite a number of funky public toilets and I am gonna put them up one by one. Whenever I came across one, I will get all excited, and start skipping around the building taking photos of it from various angles.

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I couldn’t be bothered with doing outdoor/indoor wedding photo shoots when I got married. Running around for an entire day in full make-up and a heavy gown wasn’t really something I wanted to experience.

BUT.

Had I lived in a place with gorgeous foliage and cool weather, I might have thought differently about doing a wedding photo shoot.

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Dosan Park is a great place to hang out before or after a meal at Gorilla In The Park.

Peekture: When It Drizzles

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Every morning, I take a 10 minute walk from where I park my car to my office, along Robinson Road. Most of the time, I walk along quickly, deep in thought, and not paying much attention to my surroundings, which are more often than not, noisy, dusty and rather dull.

Robinson Road feels different when it drizzles. Seen through a light drizzle, the buildings and road take on a faintly surreal and dreamy look.  Reflections on the roads.  Sounds of tyres splashing in the rain.

I couldn’t resist snapping a quick picture one drizzling morning.

Peekture: View From The Gym

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I am back to being a gym rat. More accurately, I am trying to be a gym rat.

When you stand at a corner of the gym and watch dozens of people run on the treadmill machines synchronically, they make me think of hamsters running on wheels.

But I have to say that the view of Marina Bay Sands from the treadmill machines is pretty good.

Seoul: Gorilla In The Kitchen

I read about Bae Yong Joon’s celebrity restaurant in Seoul, and decided to check it out. Gorilla In the Kitchen is located in Dosan Park, a memorial park for independence activist known as An Chang-ho, which is in the Gangnam area.

Who knows…? I might run into some Korean celebrities. 🙁

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I spent one afternoon by myself, chilling out in the restaurant over a cup of coffee and my iPad. It is located in pretty surroundings, in a modern cement-and-glass structure. I liked the classy interior decor, and service was quite good. It was my husband’s type of place, so I brought to the restaurant for brunch during the weekend when he was in Seoul.

Sure enough, he liked it.

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How was the food? It was alright.  I would like to visit the restaurant again on my next trip to Seoul, if time permits.

After brunch, we took a walk around the beautiful Dosan Park, located next to the restaurant.

Peekture: Penang Assam Laksa

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From Gurney Drive at the Changi Airport Terminal 3.

Assam Laksa is my favourite Penang food, followed closely by Char Kway Teow.

I must find an opportunity to visit Penang again. If for nothing else, just to eat the delicious assam laksa sold at the famous Air Itam stall in Penang. Their gravy has such full-bodied and robust flavours, and contains generous amounts of fish flakes and prawn paste. The last time I ate there, I drank three bowls of gravy.

Jeonju: Splendid Autumn Colours In Jeonju Hanok Village (Part I)

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After leaving Jeju, the husband and I travelled back to Seoul where we parted ways. He took a flight back home and I travelled south to Jeonju in Jeollabuk-do by the KTX train.

Many people have asked me how easy is it for someone who cannot speak the language to travel around in South Korea, and my answer is: “Not difficult at all.” I did most of my inter-city travelling by coach.

From personal experience, I find travelling by coach within the country to be a lot more convenient, and cheaper, as compared to the train. I make my way to the local bus terminal, buy a coach ticket at the ticket counter, locate the coach departure gate (which is written on the ticket), check the signboard that the bus is indeed heading towards my destination, throw my lugguage into the bus, board the bus, sleep for the rest of the journey, alight at the bus terminal of my destination, get into a taxi, show the taxi-driver the name and address of my hotel/motel written in Korean characters and that’s it. With the coach, it is a relatively hassle-free point-to-point travel. I don’t have to worry about getting lost in transit, or lugging my suitcases all over a train station trying to find the right platform to board the train.

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I took the KTX train from Seoul to Jeonju and the experience was a nerve-wrecking one. I had to change trains mid-way through the journey, outside Seoul, and worried about getting off at the wrong transit station. At the transit station, I had to lug my heavy suitcases up and down flights of stairs to find the platform for the connecting train. I very nearly missed the connecting train because I was at the wrong platform. That was the first and last time I took the train. And I stuck with coaches for the rest of my trip.

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I arrived in Jeonju Hanok Village at the right time. Autumn was at its peak and I was treated to a pletora of beautiful colours eerywhere: yellow, reds, mustard-gold, burnt orange, bright green. Huge and very old gingko trees look so majestic covered in their gorgeous yellow leaves.

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Fallen leaves in varying shades lined the eaves of old Joseon buildings, and covered the pavements. It was a magnificent feast for the eyes. Witnessing the changing colours of leaves is the reason why I love visiting Korea and Japan during autumn. I never get enough of looking at the autumn hues. It is beautiful a world that God had created for us.

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^ Gingko fruits. Unlike the ones we saw in Seoul, these did not stink. They were probably male fruits!

Peekture: A Box Of Macarons

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A box of home-made macarons in five different flavours: blackcurrant, chocolate, lemon, passionfruit and salted caramel.

I am not a fan of macarons because I find the ones sold in the shops outside are too sweet.

But these ones baked by my friend are absolutely scrumptious. Not too sweet, soft yet slightly crunchy with a wonderful nutty flavour.

Passionfruit gets my vote as being the yummiest.

Jeju: PODO Hotel Pinx

When we were in Jeju, we stayed at the PODO Hotel Pinx, which is located in the western part of the island.

In Korean, ‘podo‘ means ‘grape’. An aerial view of the hotel show the design of the roof to be in the shape of a bunch of grapes – it’s a pretty interesting architectural concept. The interior of the hotel is constructed mostly with wood and stone – classy yet understated. The hotel’s expansive grounds are covered with volcanic ash stones and large fields of reeds swaying furiously in the strong Jeju winds.

We enjoyed our stay at PODO so much and want to go back again…!

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Chicken Agrodolce

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I tried a new recipe today. It is a chicken agrodolce recipe from last month’s Gourmet magazine.

This is a Sicilian dish, which uses ingredients such as sultanas, pine nuts, vinegar and sugar, and has flavours that are a combination of sour and sweet, as one can tell from its name. In Italian, “Agro” is sour and “dolce” is sweet.

I seared the chicken in a pan to retain its juices; sauted chopped garlic, onions and red chilli, diced carrots and celery with some saffron, almonds, sultanas, thyme and parsley; and made the sauce by reducing white wine vinegar, chicken stock and verjuice together. I placed the chicken in a roasting pan, added the sauce and sauted vegetables to it and left everything in the oven for 35 minutes.

The flavours of this dish are intensely tart AND sweet. Compared to this, I definitely prefer the hearty tomato-based Italian dishes.

Postcard From Korea: Suncheon Bay Hike To The Yongsan Observatory

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I don’t remember taking this photograph in Suncheon Bay. So I was quite happy when I came across it in my photo archives tonight. I like the composition and the mood of the photo.

The bridge is the start of a 30-minute hike from Suncheon Bay to the Yongsan Observatory. The hike takes one up some fairly inclined slopes, and I started panting shortly after I started. 🙂

But the views of the bay seen at the top of the observatory are amazing. Makes all the panting and sweating up the slopes worthwhile.

Gwangju: Best Spicy Pig’s Offal Soup

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This was one damn good bowl of pig’s offal soup that I ate in Gwangju city.  Thinking about it now makes me drool.

It was by accident that I had the opportunity to eat this scrumptious soup at an eatery located a block away from Prado Hotel, where I stayed in Gwangju.

Looking for an early dinner, I wandered into this quiet eatery without having any idea of what I wanted to eat.  Pasted on the walls of the eatery were strips of paper with names of a pletora of food written in Korean characters. I could not understand the characters and had no idea what was sold in that eatery.   The ahjummas shook their heads when I asked whether they sold the usual soondubu jigae, doenjang jigae, kimchi jigae, etc.  What kind of Korean eatery was this place which did not sell the popular Korean staples?

Out of desperation, I pointed to the bowl of soup that the guy at the next table was eating, gesturing to her to give me whatever he was having.  When the ahjumma brought over a steaming hot bowl of soup with a very generous serving of pig’s stomach and intestines, I knew I hit jackpot!

After I tasted the soup, I shouted across to the guy at the next table saying ‘Kamsahamnida…!!’ From the look on his face, he must have thought I was mad.

The soup was sooooo delicious, and worth a 4-hour bus-ride from Seoul just to eat this soup.

Blueberry Cheesecake

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I took the day off today, and baked a blueberry cheesecake. It has been ages since I baked anything that is more complicated than blueberry muffins. Okay, aside from pineapple tarts…

To me, blueberry cheesecakes are a visually appealing dessert. The deep purplish hues of the blueberries are a lovely contrast to the paleness of the cheesecake, and the look of it makes me want to take a huge bite of the cake. And when I do, I remember immediately why I don’t enjoy cheesecakes – they are too heavy and rich for my palate.

But I had fun making the cheesecake. And in many things, it is the journey that counts.

Goodbye 29 February 2012. See you in 4 years time!

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