Korea 2014: Stop! Shop! Eat!

What’s a trip to another country without shopping and eating? I will conclude my series of posts by giving some suggestions on where to shop and what to try and eat when you’re in South Korea.

SHOPPING
I stopped by a number of shopping streets, malls and entered a ton of cosmetics shops (They’re everywhere!). I saw everything from designer labels, international brands, local labels to mass produced trendy fashions. Shopping in Korea is inevitable; and the range that’s available is just overwhelming. Fear not, though, you’re bound to find something you love at a price point that’s reasonable. Contrary to popular belief, Korea is actually very affordable… more affordable than Japan and even Singapore (in my opinion). I loved shopping and here were some of my favorite stops:

one of the streets in EDAE
one of the streets in EDAE

EDAE (Ewha Women’s University)
Accessible from: Exit #2 or #3, Ewha Woman’s Univ. Station, Subway Line 2 OR Exit #2 or #3, Sinchon Station, Subway Line 2

EDAE is one of the popular stops for young Korean women to shop for affordable and trendy fashions. With enough stamina and energy, you will be able to find a lot of nice items from clothing to accessories to shoes. Cute bags go for just ₩10,000 (Php400). Pretty shoes and boots go from ₩10,000-₩25,000 (Php400-Php1000). There are also some independent local shops that may be more expensive; but are good quality items just the same. Be sure to make the most of the inner streets and shops. Also, be patient in finding the same item for a better price. A number of the stores sell the same thing; and something that caught your eye earlier on could probably be cheaper just down the street (Believe me, I know the feeling.).

Myeong-dong
Accessible from: Exit #6, Myeongdong Station, Subway Line 4

Myeong-dong
Myeong-dong

Myeong-dong is the prime shopping destination when you’re in Seoul. In and around the area, you will find an almost endless array of shops and restaurants. A good mixture of tourists and locals literally crowd in Myeong-dong to do most of their shopping. Street food also line the narrow streets; so you could satiate that hunger in between retail stops. This is also the place where you could get the best foreign exchange rates. There are a lot of money changers and be patient enough to walk around and canvas for the best rates; so you could get the most for your dollars. Most important of all, Myeong-dong is home to Cosme Road, an area where all Korean make-up brands have their biggest stores. If you love make-up and skin-care products, be prepared to spend a LOT of time here.

Gangnam Underground Shopping Center
Accessible from: Express Bus Terminal Station (line 3 or 7), follow the Gangnam Terminal Underground Shopping Center sign

Gangnam has a certain luxury attached to its name. It is mostly known for its expensive shops, rich clientele and high standards of living. In contrast, the Gangnam Underground Shopping Center turned out to be my favorite shopping destination out of all those I’ve visited. I loved it here. It felt like a higher end 168 (yes, the one in Divisoria) in its layout; and I think they have the cheapest items and the widest array of products (including home items).

Gangnam Underground Shopping Center
Gangnam Underground Shopping Center (photo from khompy.com)

How cheap? Clothes such as shirts, blouses and coats range from ₩5,000-₩15,000 (Php200-Php600). Socks and hair accessories are between ₩1,000-₩3,000 (Php40-Php120). Bags and shoes are mostly at ₩10,000 (Php400). I was also lucky enough to purchase an authentic leather shoulder bag on sale at ₩39,000 (Php1,500) from ₩150,000 (Php6,100). Gangnam Underground Shopping Center is one of the places that showed me how affordable South Korea could be. Since the prices are already low, you shouldn’t haggle anymore. Also, most of the items are free size and fitting is not allowed. Be ready to make guesstimates on what clothes may suit you.

Lotte Mart
Accessible from: Seoul Station (line 1, 4), Exit 1.

Lotte Mart
Lotte Mart (photo from Korea Tourism Organization)

Lotte Mart is a huge supermarket where you could get the best deals for food items and other products that you plan to bring home as pasalubong. From tea, to baked goods, to sweet treats… You will find them all here. Be prepared to share with your companions especially in the packaged/bundled products; so you could get the best price per item.

FOOD
Koreans love to eat and drink. It was especially apparent in the area we were staying in (Hongdae) where a number of restaurants and clubs were within walking distance from our residence. It can sometimes get dizzying looking for what to eat next; but to sum up… They were all delicious and fresh. Here are some of the food items you must try and eat when in Korea:

Side Dishes/Appetizers
Wherever you plan to eat lunch or dinner, you will be served with different forms of appetizers. The most common of them all is kimchi. The tastes range from sour/spicy to sweet. My favorites were kimchi, jeotggal (salt-fermented seafood) and egg roll.

different side dishes/appetizers
different side dishes/appetizers

Street Food
Many forms of street food can be found all over Seoul. I wasn’t able to try all of them; but they are mostly fried items such as sausages… potatoes… sausages wrapped in potatoes, among other things. They usually range from ₩2,000-₩2,500.

street food stall in Dongdaemun
street food stall in Dongdaemun

Fried Chicken
I would have to say Koreans know their fried chicken. The skin is always crisp and flavorful. The chicken itself is tender and juicy. It’s especially great with beer when you’re in the mood to just chill and relax with your friends after a long day of walking and sightseeing. We ate different forms of this for about three times during our trip.

delicious, crispy, juicy fried chicken
delicious, crispy, juicy fried chicken

Bibimbap
This is one of my favorites, even before going to Korea. It’s basically rice topped with vegetables, meat and egg. You’re supposed to mix them all together with sauces and spices before enjoying.

bibimbap and appetizers
bibimbap and appetizers

Korean BBQ
This is another one of my favorites and it’s so simple! Marinated meat is grilled and cut up as it cooks. Stuff it in a lettuce leaf with the right sauces and enjoy… So yummy.

chicken bbq
chicken bbq and chilis

Ice Desserts/Ice Cream
All over Seoul, there are a lot of dessert shops and ice cream stalls; so you’re bound to try one at some point. Convenience stores also offer packaged ice cream, which we already love here in Manila. So remember to always leave room for dessert!

shaved ice dessert
shaved ice dessert
ice cream stall along Dongdaemun
ice cream stall along Dongdaemun. this one’s delicious!

Coffee
Coffee shops are also all over Seoul. There are Starbucks, of course; but there are smaller coffee chains that you may want to try. Their coffee is more on the sweeter side (much like the Philippines); but they’re worth trying nonetheless. Be sure to also try some waffles or pancakes while you’re there.

coffee and pancake for breakfast
coffee and pancake for breakfast (Coffee Prince)
coffee and waffles from Hello Kitty Cafe in Hongdae
coffee and waffles from Hello Kitty Cafe in Hongdae

That concludes a rundown of another epic trip. I will definitely go back to this wonderful country in the future. There is still a lot of sights to see, things to do and food to eat. It was an absolutely wonderful experience getting exposed to South Korea and its wonderful people and culture.

Previous Post – Modern Sights

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Korea 2014: An Overview

For the past few years, it has been my goal to go to at least one new destination every year. For 2014, that place is South Korea… where I spent a total of 11 days. Honestly, it still wasn’t enough too see everything I wanted to see; but I think me and my companions made the most of it.

Since there are a lot of places to cover, I will spread my Korea sojourn across a number of entries. However, I will only pick certain highlights from my trip which could also serve as my recommendations when you do decide to take a trip in the near future.

I will kick things off with an overview of my recent trip… From plane tickets and visa application to basic transportation and food.

PISO FARE Never Fails

Year round, Cebu Pacific holds a number of Piso Fare Promos that could save you thousands in plane fares alone. Other airlines like Air Asia and even Philippine Airlines also hold frequent seat sales. It always pays off keeping your eyes peeled for a promo.

Thanks to a Piso Fare Promo, the round-trip tickets to Incheon International Airport set me a back a mere Php8,000++. It was a really good price given the destination.

VISA APPLICATION

I applied for my tourist visa without coursing it through a travel agency; and I’m proud to have gone through the process myself. A month before your trip is an appropriate allowance to apply. Offhand, here is the list of requirements:

1. Application Form
2. 1 piece Passport size colored picture
3. Original Passport (should be valid for more than 6 months)
4. Photocopy of Passport Bio-page (page 2)
5. Original & Photocopy of valid visa/s and arrival stamps to OECD member countries for the past 5 years (If applicable, and Korean Visas will not be counted)
6. Original Certificate of Employment (with contact number/s & address of company and date of issue)
7. Original Personal Bank Certificate (NOT Bank Statement)
8. Photocopy of ITR (Income Tax Return) or Form 2316
•If personally invited by Korean : Invitation Letter & Copy of invitor’s Passport
•If invited by Company in Korea: Invitation Letter & Copy of Korean Company Business Permit
■ Processing Time: 3 working days (for those who have visas of OECD member countries); 5 working days (for those who do not have visas of OECD member
countries)
■ Visa Fee: 59 days (or less) stay in Korea — GRATIS; 60 to 90 days stay in Korea — PHP1,800.00
Source: Embassy Website

Submission of documents is between 9-11am during weekdays; and claiming of visa/passport is between 2-4pm during weekdays.

The requirements are fairly easy to complete. What’s important is that you check and double check everything before submitting it to the consul. It’s also important to make sure that your documents proving source of income (Certificate of Employment, ITR) and savings (Bank Certificate) are substantial enough; so that they won’t doubt your ability to sustain yourself for the trip. It also helps if you’ve had a couple of out of the country trips stamped on your passport… better if you’ve been to other OECD member countries in the past 5 years.

Here are some great sources for tips on Korean Visa Application:
Our Awesome Planet | The Eager Traveller

CURRENCY: Korean Won (KRW)

The unit of currency in South Korea is the Korean Won (KRW). KRW1 is approximately equivalent to Php0.045; and USD$1 is approximately equivalent to KRW1,013. The best rates for foreign exchange could be found in Myeongdong area.

ACCOMMODATION: Rio House Hongdae

We stayed in a really charming and affordable inn called Rio House Hongdae. Its location is really great. It’s near a subway station. It is also walking distance from the hustle and bustle that is Hongdae (great area for night life/food/shopping). The rooms are cozy and comfortable and it had all the basic amenities one could ever need when staying in Seoul. There’s no breakfast offered; but there’s a kitchen, free WiFi and assistance from the manager/owner when you need it.

Deluxe Family Room for a maximum of 4 people (photo from Rio House Hongdae site)

My friends and I stayed in the Deluxe Family Room; and together with a portable WiFi rental (one of the most useful items we had on hand the whole trip), we spent an average of KRW40,222 (or Php1810) per day per person. The rooms offered may go up to a maximum of 6 people sharing. The more people in a room, the cheaper it will be per head.

TRANSPORTATION: Seoul Metro/Korail System

Seoul Metropolitan Subway
Seoul Metropolitan Subway Map

From our arrival to our departure, the Seoul Metro and the Korail served as our go-to means of transportation. It is one of the simplest and cheapest ways to go around the city without getting lost (most of the time). Compared to Osaka Subway, I found the Korean subway/train system fairly easier to navigate. If you need an easier guide, however, they actually have an app for that —

Subway Korea

This app is available on the App Store (iOS) and on Google Play (Android). Aside from an overview of the subway system, you could also click on your source and destination to know which is the fastest way to get there. It also provides transfer timetable, station and area guide. You could also determine the nearest station based on your current location.

In some instances, taking the bus or taxi would be a more practical way of getting around depending on your destination. However, about 95% of our trip involved riding the subway.

T-Money

The easiest way to pay for transportation is the T-money card. I was able to purchase mine from a convenience store at the airport for KRW3,000 (approx Php135). I then reloaded an initial amount of KRW30,000 (approx Php1350) with reloading machines at the station. This covered for about 5-6 days of riding the trains/buses including the Airport Railroad.

FOOD: Spicy to Sweet

just some of the food I ate throughout my trip

Koreans love food. It is evident from the numerous street food stalls to various restaurants to coffee shops that are present in almost every block. If you want to cover the extremes, be ready to eat some really spicy food and really sweet desserts. You will inevitably encounter some type of alcohol as well… either beer or soju. Just don’t be afraid to explore the streets for something new and different.

Must-try: Korean BBQ in all its forms (chicken, beef, pork, octopus), bibimbap (rice dish), chicken and beer (get the local beer such as Cass), chicken ginseng soup, any form of ice cream, any egg dish (steamed egg or egg roll), any street food (hotdogs and assorted fried food), any appetizer (especially kimchi), shaved ice dessert, any coffee or dessert from a local cafe.

SIGHTS: Past and Present Collide

a major road right in front of Gwanghwamun Gate

What definitely stood out from my exploration of Korea is how historical sites exist in the midst of a busy metropolitan setting. Hanoks (traditional Korean houses) are in line with modern residences. Palaces are preserved within their own gates; but it’s surrounded by busy intersections and high rise buildings. South Korea has also preserved a number of areas and turned them into places where everyone could just hang out or walk around. One would never run out of places to see and things to do. It’s a really beautiful country.

I will cover more of these sites in my next entries. I can’t wait to share more about my epic trip!

Up Next – Free and Easy

Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!

I’m riddled with guilt; because I haven’t posted a single entry this year… and it’s already JULY! The first six months of 2014 just whizzed by; and I’ve either been too busy or too tired to even think about writing. It’s a happy problem, though, so I’m really thankful.

Still, better late than never. Now that I’ve finally pushed myself to write an entry, I’m going to kick off my blog this 2014 with a quick roundup of some projects I’ve been busy with for the first half of the year (different clients and different directors, FYI). This way, you’ll catch a glimpse of the crazy first half of my year (and hopefully understand my long hiatus from posting).

“ARTWORK”
This was an AVP shot on location in Pinto Gallery in Antipolo. We set up and shot features for three different photographers in a single location, which was a real challenge. But we did it!

Client: Canon Philippines | Agency: Publicis JimenezBasic
Director: Mark Mendoza | DOP: Sol Galang | Assistant Director: Randolph Longjas | Production Designer: Zaldy Manalang
Production House: Straight Shooters | Post Production: Engine Room

 “GAME”
This was shot in a house in Balete Drive, I kid you not. The house is pretty creepy; but the cheerful and happy nature of this board more than made up for it. The kids were great!

Client: Nestlé Philippines | Agency: Publicis Manila
Director: Pancho Esguerra | DOP: Monchie Redoble | Choreographer: Ickay Eusebio | Production Designer: Rious Caliso
Production House: Straight Shooters | Post Production: Engine Room/Optima Digital

“SELFIE”
The prep time for this board was a bit insane; but I’m glad we pulled it off. This was shot in one day in the Ortigas Center area and the beautiful campus of STI Ortigas-Cainta. Our DOP used a special handheld camera rig (called Brushless Gimbal) that allowed us to execute the smooth movement of from one angle to the other. It looks pretty good!

Client: STI
Director: Chris Martinez | DOP: Gary Gardoce | Assistant Director: Melvin Lee | Production Designer: Nina Torres
Production House: Straight Shooters | Post Production: Engine Room

“SIMPLICITY”
This was my first time working with a Taiwanese director. This spot was shot in 2 days in 2 schools: DLSU-Dasma and PUP. In a nutshell, the shoots were really quick and relatively painless… just the kind of projects I like.

Client: Johnson & Johnson Philippines | Agency: BBDO Guerrero
Director: Maureen Li | DOP: Ta-Pu Chen | Assistant Director: Pao Han Fang/Randolph Longjas | Production Designer: Adelina Leung
Production House: Straight Shooters | Post Production: Riot

“STAR”
This is the first of many materials for this project. Still waiting for the others to be approved… Anyway, all TVCs were shot in the span of a weekend (Friday to Sunday); and we had a lot of fun doing them.

Client: Unilab | Agency: Publicis JimenezBasic
Director/DOP: Yam Laranas | Assistant Director: Christine Blando/Manman Angsico | Production Designer: Rious Caliso
Production House: Straight Shooters | Post Production: Engine Room/Optima Digital

“SHOP & WIN”
This project was briefed and prepped in the span of exactly four days, two days of which included Saturday and Sunday. Insane, right? How we were able to pull it off is still a bit of a blur; but despite the challenges of prepping and shooting in a mall during mall hours, I think we did a good job.

Client: SM Supermalls/SMDC | Agency: BBDO Guerrero
Director/DOP: Jorg Schifferer | Assistant Director: James Sales | Production Designer: Marlon Baisac
Production House: Straight Shooters | Post Production: Engine Room

“SELFIE”
Yup. Another selfie-related project. This was also a commercial that had less than a week of preparation. The main challenge for us was maximizing one location to look like many different vignettes. How long was the shoot? One day. What location? Somewhere in QC. I think the team really pulled it off, don’t you think?

Client: Unilab | Agency: McCann WorldGroup
Director/DOP: Yam Laranas | Assistant Director: Melvin Lee | Production Designer: Butch Garcia
Production House: Straight Shooters | Post Production: Giantsponge Digital

Japan 2013: Beautiful Kyoto

DAY 5 IN JAPAN

At first, going to Kyoto was just an option in my itinerary. But after some convincing from people who’ve been there, I decided to go ahead and book a one-day tour of Kyoto via JapanICan. I went alone (yet again) for this day; but I did not regret it. Kyoto is an absolutely beautiful city. And considering that we just went to six out of the many, many temples and castles there, I wouldn’t mind going back to explore more of the city in the future.

I will share highlights about the places we went to. Below them is a gallery, which will show you just how pretty and well-preserved the historical sites are. I love how Japan values its heritage. Seeing such a rich history up close at this day and age is rare. I really loved the escape this short trip gave me. It’s definitely a stop you should make if given the opportunity to go to Osaka, since Kyoto is just a 30-minute train ride away.

NIJO CASTLE

Our first stop was Nijo Castle. This is a castle that served as lodging for the Tokugawa Shogun in the 1600s. Here, we were able to walk by the many chambers that go deeper and deeper depending on your ranking. Each room has intricate wood carvings and paintings on the walls. Most of what I saw are already reproductions because the originals are being preserved. However, we got to see some original wall paintings as well.

What I remember most about Nijo Castle is its “nightingale floors.” The floors of the corridors squeak like birds whenever anyone steps on them. This protects the occupants from sneak attacks or unwanted visitors. It was so cool hearing such a sound as we were walking through the castle.

KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (THE GOLDEN PAVILION)

Our second stop was Kinkakuji Temple. It’s a huge garden complex with The Golden Pavilion as its main attraction. It’s a Zen Buddhist Temple that has been built and rebuilt in the past century. It has an amazing landscape design, with an almost flawless view from all angles. It was pretty surreal seeing it in person, like I was transported into a painting.

KYOTO IMPERIAL PALACE

Our last stop in the morning was Kyoto Imperial Palace. It is the former ruling palace of the Emperor of Japan. It is a massive area with a number of structures that we only had glimpses of from the outside. It has the Emperor’s Habitual Residence, the Imperial Library, the Court Room, among others. Entrance here is pretty strict. We had to fill up forms with our information. We also had to walk in pairs and were escorted by guards while going around the grounds.

HEIAN JINGU SHRINE

After lunch, we proceeded to Heian Shrine. It’s a Shinto (belief that everything has a kami or spiritual essence) shrine with a huge garden within its grounds. Here, we saw hanging ema. Ema are small wooden plaques where wishes or desires are written upon and left in the shrine in the hopes that they may be fulfilled. They also sell protective amulets and talismans at the shrine. It offered us a glimpse into the beliefs of this ancient Japanese practice.

SANJUSANGEN-DO TEMPLE

Next, we went to the Sanjusangen-do Temple. It is a Buddhist temple whose main deity is a huge Thousand Armed Kannon in the middle. On its left and right side, there are 1,000 life-size statues of the Thousand Armed Kannon. On top of that, there are also 28 statues in front of the Kannon that serve as guardian deities. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the temple; but it was pretty mind-blowing to see all those intricately made statues in one room.

KIYOMIZU TEMPLE

Our final stop was the Kiyomizu Temple. It is a Buddhist temple which is atop the hill. What’s most interesting about this structure is that there is not a single nail used constructing it.

On the way up to the temple, there are a number of shops and stalls where tourists could get their fill of Kyoto souvenirs. We were allowed to go around on our own before going back to the bus. And with that, we made our way back to Osaka.

Here’s just some of the sights I could share from this brief Kyoto trip.

After a long day of sightseeing, I had breakfast for dinner at Brothers Cafe. Yum!

spam, eggs and pancakes for dinner at Brothers Cafe
spam, eggs and pancakes at Brothers Cafe

And with that, I packed my bags that evening and left Osaka bright and early on DAY 6. This, after all, had to end some time.

All in all, Osaka was a truly epic, unforgettable trip. I do not regret plopping down some savings to finally travel to Japan. The sights, the culture, the food… everything summed up to a unique and exciting experience.

Previous PostOsaka Castle & Universal Studios

The Cronut Hunt

In May this year, a pastry named Cronut was launched by Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York. It’s a croissant-doughnut hybrid which is rolled in sugar and filled with cream. Almost overnight, stories about its popularity has reached worldwide notoriety. People line up as early as 5:30am to be able to buy at least one of the 250 pieces made available everyday.

The ORIGINAL Cronut/Ken Murray/New York Daily News
The ORIGINAL Cronut – Ken Murray/New York Daily News

Because of this media attention, it’s not surprising that the Philippines has caught on with the craze and local bakeries are now offering their own incarnations of the Cronut.

Through the help of this guide (from ABS-CBN News), I tagged along with my brother and did a little Cronut Hunt. Our mission? To visit at least 2-3 establishments and try out the infamous croissant-doughnut. We decided that a Makati-Fort combo was the way to go since about 3-4 stores were relatively close to each other and it had the most likelihood of success. Let’s begin!

YAMATO BAKERY CAFE
Jupiter Street, Makati City
Price: Php110-120

Our first stop was Yamato Bakery Cafe along Jupiter. We were able to buy the Vanilla Cronut. It is a flaky pastry with cream in the middle. It has a thin coating of sugar outside, topped with thin powdered sugar glaze and drizzled with chocolate.

I liked this one; because it merged the flakiness of the croissant and the fried nature of the doughnut without being too oily. The cream filling is rich but not too sweet. Most importantly, the topping does not overpower the overall taste of the pastry.

On a side note: I do recommend that you try out Yamato’s Choux Cream and Green Tea Choux Cream. It reminded me of the Beard Papa I ate back in Japan. They used fresh cream and it isn’t too sweet. The green tea version has (obviously) green tea flavored cream and red beans, which is a pleasant surprise. It’s a yummy must-try item.

LE COEUR DE FRANCE
San Antonio Plaza, Forbes Park, Makati
Php89

Our second destination was in San Antonio Plaza, Forbes Park. We bought the Parmesan Cheese Croughnut (left) and the Mixed Berries with Cream Cheese Croughnut (right) from Le Coeur de France. It’s relatively smaller compared to the one from Yamato. Also, this one is more like a croissant made to look like a doughnut. It has the flaky layers but doesn’t seem to have been fried (though that’s just my opinion). It is also filled with cream (lesser compared to Yamato) and isn’t too sweet, which is how I like it.

WILDFLOUR CAFE + BAKERY
Net Lima Building, The Fort, Taguig
Php120

From Forbes Park, we headed to BGC looking for Wildflour. It is said to have been the first to offer a version of the Cronut in the Philippines. They call it croissant-doughnut. Unfortunately, there weren’t any more available when we got there. They said reservations should be a day in advance. If we were to wait for the next batch, however, they weren’t sure what time it would be available.

Anyway, I was able to take a picture of the Dulce de Leche Croissant-Donut through the window. I just assumed this is a reserved batch. Oh well, there’s always next time… maybe when the hype dies down.

THE JEEPNEY BAKERY, INTERCONTINENTAL MANILA
Ayala Avenue, Makati City
Price: Php130

We went back to Makati and passed by InterCon Manila for one last Cronut purchase. The Jeepney Bakery had the most number of options for us; so we bought all 5 Cro-nut flavors that were available: Red Velvet, Sugar Cinnamon, White Chocolate, Dark Chocolate with Vanilla Cream, and Cheesecake.

At first, I thought there is no cream at all. But for InterCon’s version, only pockets within the pastry are filled with cream. I could also make out the oil which may mean it was fried at some point. The base of the pastry is the same for all variants. The sides are simply wrapped in whatever flavor it is (i.e. chocolate/almonds or red velvet crumbs, etc.). There’s also a thick powdered sugar topping. I think these are the biggest of the three products I tried. However, I found the Cro-nuts a bit sweet. I think the sugar glaze overpowered the pastry and it was all I could taste. However, that’s how some people might like it.

Despite not being able to try Wildflour’s Croissant-Donut, I think our Cronut Hunt was a success. I got to clue in on what the original Cronut might taste like and what its basic components are.  It’s not something I would actively seek out on a regular basis. Its fried nature is not that appealing for me. (I’d rather come back for that choux cream in Yamato). Still, it’s a new and interesting product that’s definitely worth a try… a welcome addition to the range of breakfast pastries we enjoy.

Japan 2013: Kaiyukan & Shinsekai

DAY 3 IN JAPAN

I felt both excitement and dread for day three. I was about to go solo and check out Kaiyukan Aquarium. I’ll just meet up with everyone else for dinner afterwards. Despite all the horror stories of getting lost in Japan in my head, I just had to suck it in and do it. Thankfully, it wasn’t a traumatic experience.

KAIYUKAN AQUARIUM

I got off at Osakako Station and walked to Kaiyukan Aquarium. The weather was comfortably cool; so a couple of blocks walk wasn’t too much of a hassle. The streets were pretty much deserted… very few people with a number of stores that were closed. It was weird for me since it was a weekday.

looking towards Osakako Station. i took pictures in case i got lost on the way back.
looking towards Osakako Station. i took pictures in case i got lost on the way back. i know… paranoid.

Once I got there, I went straight to the aquarium and bought my ticket. Entrance costs 2000 Yen for adults (around Php800).

Kaiyukan Aquarium -- huge and unique structure
Kaiyukan Aquarium — a unique and beautiful structure

The place is HUGE, needless to say; and it housed thousands of species of marine life. They had dolphins, penguins, stingrays, sharks, turtles, giant crabs and so much more. What’s great is that these animals are encased in huge aquariums where they could swim freely, with coral reefs and rock formations that simulated the real ocean. Here are just some of the awesome things I saw:

TEMPOZAN MARKET

It took me around two hours to explore the aquarium. After shopping for some souvenirs, I headed to Tempozan Market to have lunch.

Tempozan Market entrance
Tempozan Market entrance

I had some karaage at the food court and it was delicious!

chicken karaage with rice and veggies
chicken karaage with rice, coleslaw and potato salad

Since I had a couple of hours to kill before meeting up with my companions, I looked around and found some more stores which sold great Japanese souvenirs. There were also a couple of unique shops that sold vintage items.

this store sold vintage Coca-Cola merchandise, among others
this store sold vintage Coca-Cola merchandise, among others

My last stop at Tempozan was the Giant Ferris Wheel. It offers an amazing view of Osaka at a maximum height of 112.5m. One ride costs 700 Yen (less than Php300), which is really worth it.

view from below the wheel
view from below the wheel
Kaiyukan Aquarium and Osaka Bay
view of Kaiyukan Aquarium and Osaka Bay
view of Tempozan Bridge
view of Tempozan Bridge

Before heading back, I made one quick stop at Milky for some ice cream. I know it’s cold; but I just had to try this one.

choco chip cookie soft ice cream
choco chip cookie soft ice cream. yum!

SHINSEKAI: Three restaurants. One big dinner.

I successfully met up with my other companions (yes!) and we headed to Shinsekai for dinner. It was sort of the Old Osaka and it is said to have some of the best local food. We walked around first and took in the sights.

Since we couldn’t decide on one thing to try for dinner, we settled on just eating all of them! I was in for the food trip of my life when we ate at three different restaurants, starting off with kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers), followed by sushi, topped off with some blowfish.

With full stomachs, we headed back to the hotel to rest. My solo trip was a success. I didn’t get lost in the craziness of the Osaka Railway system. As a bonus, I tried as much local food as I could in one night.

Next up, seeing Hello Kitty, Snoopy and Elmo at Universal Studios!

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“EMBRACE” & “SALLY”

It’s been a while since I shared  some behind the scenes scoop on a project I was part of. Let me remedy that by covering two projects in one entry. Both were shot last February; and both were directed (and lighted) by Yam Laranas.

“Embrace” is a Biogesic for Kids TVC featuring John Lloyd Cruz. The commercial is pretty straightforward and simple; so setting the whole thing up wasn’t hard. The only challenge was keeping the little boy talent focused and alert until 8pm (which was the time we packed up). We shot this in one day in a studio set-up. Production designer: Butch Garcia. Production House: Unitel/Straight Shooters. Post House: Riot Inc..

These aren’t much; but here are some photos from the shoot.

“Sally” is an introductory TVC for Jollibee Ultimate Burger Steak. Compared to “Embrace,” this was a bit more challenging to mount because of its Darna nature. Darna projects are coined as such because we have to make like superheroes and finish everything as soon as possible. This project took us a little over a week from briefing to final presentation of material. That covers meetings, shooting and editing. Needless to say, I was very stressed that particular week. Still, the material turned out great and quality wasn’t sacrificed. I love the food shots in particular. Those took a lot of work and a lot of time to capture!

We had exactly 3 days to prep, with another two days to shoot the material. The first day was shot in Jollibee Lakefront (Sucat). This covered all the in-store scenes and food shots. The second day was done in two different locations (one in The Fort and the other at the Regus offices in Zuelling Building), covering the different vignettes of people ogling at the picture of the meal.

Other credits… Production Designer: Edwin Garcia. Production House: Unitel/Straight Shooters. Post House: Underground Logic.

And here are some behind the scenes snapshots from the project.