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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Shopping Diary #11: Shoe Love

I’m concentrating on shoes for this shopping diary. These weren’t bought in one go but over a period of time. I’ve been slowly updating my collection for the past year; since most of my sneakers/sandals have worn out and a few of them I rarely wear anymore… I had to say goodbye. My preference still gravitates toward comfortable footwear that are more appropriate for work; but I have recently developed a love for ballet flats rather than just rubber shoes and sneakers.

BUTTERFLY TWISTS
Cleo in Leopard
Php1699
Alexandra in Black
Php4599

I love this brand of flats. They’re really comfortable and stylish. When I wear them, it almost feels like I’m barefoot, which is just the way I like it.

I bought the leopard Cleos first… wanting to try out foldable flats without spending too much. I was so happy with it that I bought the Alexandra a few months later. I needed a more basic style that could be worn with almost anything. Every time I pass by their stall/store, I get tempted to buy another pair. It’s definitely a brand I highly recommend as an alternative to the more expensive ones out there on the market.

CONVERSE
Chuck Taylor Classic White
Php1850

My personal style in recent years has been leaning towards simple, basic pieces; and a pair of white Chucks is as basic as you could get.

Before I bought these, I was down to my last pair of black Chucks that are way way too worn out (over 5 years old and counting… but I still kept them). Plus, I’ve recently developed a love for boyfriend jeans and they go well with… yup, the classic white Chuck Taylors. I just had to buy a pair.

NIKE
Air Max 90 Essential

$119.90

No other explanation… I just WANTED A PAIR. I just HAD TO HAVE it. You know that feeling? It’s just so beautiful!! Unfortunately, the good designs of the Air Max (especially for women) haven’t arrived in Philippine shores. I’m so thankful to someone who did me a huge favor and brought a pair back to the country for me. Thank you!

TORY BURCH
Gold Reva Flats
Php8575
(on sale from Php12250)

For the past few months, I’ve been looking for a good pair of nude ballet flats. The search ended last week (but I ended up buying gold flats!).

I came across the Tory Burch sale at Rustan’s, tried a pair of the nude-colored Eddie flats and they didn’t really suit me or my skin tone. The gold Revas caught my eye and seemed like the next best thing so I tried them on. Gold is not my usual style; but the design isn’t on the heavy metallic side so it was just right for me. It served as a great alternative to nude flats. Plus, armed with the gift certificates I received last Christmas, I was able to save even more on this pretty big purchase. I can’t wait to wear these everywhere.

Shopping Diary #10: Apple Crazy

It’s been over a year since I’ve posted a shopping diary. Still, I’ve bought many different things throughout 2013, both for myself and for others. I just decided not to share all of them here. For the last quarter of the year, however, I rewarded myself with some truly wonderful items… all a product of hard work and year-long savings.

Anyway, I went a little Mac crazy and purchased the latest in Apple gadgets and accessories. Take note, though, that I didn’t buy all these in one day; and I didn’t dump all my savings into these “gifts.” These were budgeted and planned according to what I could afford (which is what everyone should do).

GLOBE
iPhone 5S Space Grey

My Best Ever Super Plan plus Cash Out (24-month lock-in)

It’s been 2 years since I got my iPhone 4S; and it hasn’t been working as great as it used to. After all, it fell into the water over a year ago and certain functions (such as the camera and the silent mode) aren’t at their optimal performance. I decided early on to recontract once my plan expires. Enter iPhone 5S.

Despite its confusing and more complicated billing plan, I stuck with Globe for convenience. With a little cash out and an upgraded plan, I now have the latest Apple smart phone that has so far delivered in terms of performance (great speed and screen quality) and features (amazing camera with slow motion, touch ID, etc.).

KIMSTORE
iPad Air White/Silver

I’ve been eyeing the iPad Mini since March; and I promised myself that I will buy the latest model once it comes out this year. However, my plan suddenly changed when I held an iPad Air in my hand for the first time (courtesy of a director who bought one for himself). I was convinced. With a bigger screen size and its much lighter weight (compared to older iPads), I just had to go for the Air. Its screen size is perfect for reading my magazines (Zinio, Newsstand), editing my documents (Evernote, DocsToGo) and playing games (Sims Freeplay, Bejeweled, Scrabble, Secret Passages). I would have been constrained by the iPad Mini when it comes to these apps.

The iPad Air has become a fitting alternative to lugging my laptop to work everyday. I just love it so much… by far my favorite gadget now.

POWER MAC CENTER
Lab.C USB Case for iPhone 5/5S

Php1,690

I just love multifunctional accessories; and the Lab.C iPhone 5/5S case is exactly that with its innovative design. Aside from protecting my iPhone, it also has an 8gb USB built into the case. This way, I can bring my important files with me anywhere; and since the USB is virtually part of my phone, I’m always reminded if someone has borrowed or is using it… No more leaving my USB anywhere.

DIGITAL WALKER
Olloclip 4-in-1 iPhone Lens

Php3,250

I love taking photos with my phone; and the Olloclip 4-in-1 iPhone Lens elevates the quality of my shots with minimal effort. Despite its simple design, I get four different lenses in one device: fisheye, wide, 10x macro and 15x macro. It’s so much fun experimenting with the lenses and the effects they create. Definitely a must for any iphoneography enthusiast.

With technology like what we have right now, there’s no doubt in my mind that this isn’t the last time I’ll go gadget crazy. The important thing is that they were well thought out purchases, all of which I have no regrets spending on. I’m absolutely happy to have them… Merry Christmas to me!

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!

Previous PostKobe/Dotonbori
Up Next – Osaka Castle & Universal Studios

Japan 2013: Kobe & Dotonbori

DAY 2 IN JAPAN

My first day in Japan mostly involved travel. We arrived at our hotel at almost 5:30pm. There wasn’t much time except eat dinner and do a bit of walking around. I was so tired… didn’t really feel all that well that evening. So DAY 2 was my first FULL day of walking, eating and sightseeing.

KOBE: Chinatown and Ramen!

It was a very cold two degrees outside. I wore between 2-4 layers of clothing; but it still felt a bit cold. We wasted no time and headed straight to Kobe to visit Chinatown (Nankinmachi and Motomachi areas). I saw an arch that is all too familiar in any Chinatown. Of course, I had to take a picture.

There were also a lot of shops lined up, ready to be explored!

We ate at a nearby Ramen place for lunch. It had a vendo machine outside where you could select then pay for your order. A slip of paper will come out; and that’s what you’ll hand in to the cooks inside. I ordered a bowl of pork chashu ramen and it set me back a mere 780 Yen (cheaper than some local ramen restaurants). The bowl was pretty huge but I finished it. It was so delicious! Perfect comfort food for the cold weather.

the vendo machine where we placed our orders and instantly paid for them. no need for waiters!
the interior was just one deep hallway where customers sat next to each other.
if you think this tastes as good as it looks, you’re absolutely right!

There was around two hours to kill after lunch; so of course I went shopping! First thing I bought (which I didn’t really plan on)… a Canon EOS M mirrorless camera. This is one of my wish list gadgets; and my brother suggested I check it out. The tag price had quite a huge difference already compared locally, the added discount for travel tax made it even cheaper! It was the right decision to purchase it right then and there. The seller gave me a free 4GB SD card to boot.

I bought the white Canon EOS M model with both lenses and flash attachment.
the store where I bought the camera from

After doing a bit of shopping, we took a taxi and headed to Europe Town (Kitano Ijinkan Foreign Residences). As the name implies, the tourist spot featured a couple of Western-style houses and structures that are really pretty. We didn’t really have time to go in; so I just took pictures. It seemed like I wasn’t even in Japan!

We then walked to the station heading back to Osaka; and I saw some more pretty sights, including a really pretty set-up for a Starbucks branch.

cute Starbucks branch

IMG_4809

MIDOSUJI: An Apple Store and A Beard Papa

Back in Osaka, we split up. My sister-in-law and I walked along the Midosuji Avenue, hunting for the Apple Store. We were buying an iPad Mini for my mom. Along the way, we stopped to buy Beard Papa Cream Puffs, which were absolutely wonderful (warm on the outside, cool and creamy on the inside). I don’t know why the franchise here in the Philippines doesn’t have the same quality.

Jackpot! found the Apple Store where we bought an iPad Mini
Beard Papa: best cream puffs I’ve ever tasted (so far)

DOTONBORI: Sights and Food Food Food

We walked back to Dotonbori where we stopped by H&M, walked along the many shops calling our name, ate authentic takoyaki and waited for the Glicos sign to light up in the evening. Beautiful!

just one of the many huge and colorful shop signs around Dotonbori
yummy shrimp takoyaki
infamous Glicos sign in the evening

Afterwards, we had dinner at a famous local restaurant. I had some beer and ate okonomiyaki. At this point, my stomach was really full with all the scrumptious Japanese food I had! It was a great final meal to cap off a tiring day.

okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake with  a whole lot of stuff inside
okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake with a whole lot of stuff inside. you top it with sweet or spicy sauce and a drizzle of mayonnaise for added flavor. it really went well with the beer.

Next up, I’m venturing on a solo trip; and I promise to share the experience.

Previous Post – An Overview
Up Next – Kaiyukan Aquarium/Shinsekai

Shopping Diary #9: Spree

I just went on a much needed shopping spree. It’s my reward for working so hard the past month. Remember that big project I mentioned a couple of posts ago? It has just finished; and I’ve been catching up on rest, watching new shows and buying beautiful stuff with my paycheck.

Here’s the damage I’ve done at Trinoma:

PENSHOPPE
blue top

Php569

I’ve recently discovered that this loose, comfortable style suits me quite well. I also like the lace-like detail because it’s girly yet casual. Paired with a light racer back and shorts and I’m good to go.

DIGITAL WALKER
WhateverItTakes.org Notebook Wrap Designed by Coldplay

Php2,050

It’s been a while since I last bought a notebook cover. This one is perfect because it’s unique (the wrap design looks really cool), it’s blue (my favorite color), it’s designed by Coldplay (one of my favorite bands) and it’s for a good cause. Royalties for the design have been waived by the celebrity donors in support of Whatever It Takes, an artwork campaign that contributes to a number of causes. (Learn more about them from their site.)

PROMOD
tomato red cardigan

Php1,500 — from Php2,295

I love cardigans. I pair them with anything and everything; because it’s just so comfortable. It will also keep me warm in the coming (cool) months. I particularly liked this one because of the color (I don’t have a red one yet), the loose pockets on the sides and last but not the least, the sale price!

MANGO
camel blazer

Php1,450

Blazers are the perfect weapon to style up any outfit. I already have two black ones (Freeway & Bayo) and a green one (Cotton On). And with a price like this, I just had to buy this camel-colored one. I especially liked the pinstripe detail when you roll up the sleeves. Paired with a plain shirt, jeans and a simple necklace… Instant casual chic. Nice.

LANDMARK
wall clock

Php419.75

The wall clock in our room hasn’t been working for weeks. It’s about time I found a replacement. After looking at expensive models from stores like Dimensione, I decided to check out the selections from the nearest department store — Landmark. Lo and behold… Here’s a design I like at an unbelievably cheap price!

PABDER
soft leather handbag with shoulder strap

Php7,980

I usually splurge the most on bags. Needless to say, this item did the most damage. It costs more than everything else combined. Still, I have no regrets buying it. I first saw this bag at their Gateway branch. I didn’t buy it at once because I wanted to look at other bags first. In the end, I couldn’t find anything else that matched this in terms of price and design. (The other bag I was eyeing is close to Php15,000!!! Scary!) Anyway, I love the soft leather material and its simplicity is just my style. It’s my first time to buy from Pabder so I hope the quality will speak for itself in the long run.

And that’s it… Six items. One blissful day of shopping indulgence. With that, I have to take a break from spending because Christmas is just around the corner and shopping for others will soon be on the agenda. It’s going to be crazy and fun. Wish me luck!

Pinterest Envy

I LOVE PINTEREST.

I have recently reacquainted myself with the awesomeness of this virtual pinboard. In the past week, I have been pinning away like there’s no tomorrow. It’s now one of the pages I immediately log into every time I’m in front of the computer… right up there with the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

Pinterest is absolutely wonderful. Everything I like is arranged visually right in front of me — simple and useful. Scrolling through so many pretty things has never been this fun. I get to discover new brands, products and styles. I learn new recipes and pick up tips about everyday life.

It’s also a great social app. I get to see what my friends pin on their boards. In turn, I could repin anything they post that catches my eye. I learn more about their tastes and if they’re similar to mine. Aside from your friends, your pins are also shared with other users; and they too can repin your pins, regardless of who you are or where you’re from. It has allowed the world to seem even smaller. Sharing my interests has now given me a sense of community. I’m just amazed at how much people have in common. It’s pretty cool.

pinning

I like pinning the usual stuff… favorite shows, movies, books and music artists. This giant online cork board would never run out of space for what I love; and I have a lot of them. Believe me. In TV shows alone, I could pin one series after another. Movies? Don’t even get me started.

I also spend most of my time on Pinterest just pinning and pining away. I keep on pinning stuff that I WISH I had. I spot some cute luggage — PIN! I see an amazing indoor pool in a house I won’t ever own — PIN! I catch sight of a gorgeous dress that probably won’t look good on me — PIN! Pin this. Pin that. Every single beautiful thing… without even blinking… PINNED!

pining

Pinterest is genius, actually. It leads me to products that I now want to buy. Looking at my pins every single day creates this desire for a product. Here are just some of the things I actually covet and want to buy at the moment:

Unhealthy, right? So far, I haven’t really bought anything… Thanks to my amazing self-control (ha!). But it’s only a matter of time before I click that “Buy Now” button. It’s what I both love and hate about Pinterest. Still, I can’t stop pinning and pining.

Check out my pins at http://pinterest.com/mars_mg/