Tuesday 31 July 2012


My favourite street in Seoul used to be Insadong. When I last visited in 2006, Insadong was a lively street filled with young, creative people selling quirky stuff from little shops that seemed to spring out from the narrow alleys. It is afterall, a centre for the arts and a focal point of Korean traditional culture. Most of all, I could not forget the piping hot Korean Hoddeok (sweet pancake with brown sugar and peanut filling) which tasted so good in the cold, wintry night.

 However, when I returned to Insadong last Saturday, it was a let-down. At 7.30pm, the street appeared so touristy and only the souvenir shops were opened. The street vendors, especially the one selling my favourite hoddeok, have all gone into hiding during the hot summer months.

Luckily, my Korean friend insisted on bringing me to Bukchon and Samcheong Dong first. She thought I would like it better than Insadong. Incidentally, Samcheong (sam means “three” and cheong “clean or good”) was given its name in reference to the three things it has plenty of: clean water, beautiful neighboring mountains and kind-hearted residents.
Indeed, while walking to Samcheong Dong, she pointed out Gyeongbokgung Palace (the home of royalty during the Joseon Dynasty) on the left and Changdeokgung Palace (a secondary palace during the Joseon Dynasty) on the right, with Cheong Wa Dae (the President’s Office) to the north.
 Samcheong-Dong appeals to the artistic type and there are lots of chic cafes, shops and boutiques integrating harmoniously with the traditional Korean houses. I fell in love with Samcheong-Dong instantly!

I love everything about this shop, especially the name!
The Naked Museum is scheduled for opening next year.
Robot romance?
Cute and quirky signs like this are present everywhere.
What can I say? Even the meter boxes are nice.
 There is a good mix of traditional wooden houses and modern buildings.
All the shops try to attract customers in their own ways. Some use pigs.
The dog is a living mascot for a pie shop.
My friend treated me to a traditional red bean dessert at this restaurant called second best in Seoul.
 The shop is run by a few old ladies and many locals kept streaming in to eat the desserts.
 The red bean paste served with chestnut, ginkgo nut, sweet beans and glutinous rice was so good!
 The sweet and cold puff rice soup was refreshing on a hot day.
 As the sky began to darken, we climbed up a small alley which led us to Insadong. It was a most intriguing experience.
 The alleys in Bukchon is maze-like, winding and twisting between houses. Everyday life here takes place not only within the houses but also outside. In the alleys, housewives hang out the laundry,  grains and hot peppers to dry.
 Maintained remarkably well, the calm, antique beauty of Korean traditional houses stand proud amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, making this one of the most extraordinary places in Seoul.

Friday 20 July 2012

Bloggers day out

Four bloggers - 3 mothers and a mother-to-be - got together for tea at Jones the Grocer today. Oh, Beanie came along too and made us all swoon over her. Petunia describes her so well here.
 Petunia brought her latest 'baby' too, one that is hot off the press. It's already selling very well. I'm going to read it from cover to cover and give a review when I'm done.
What is tea without food? We had tapas. This is chorizo with potatoes and onions.
Hidden under the tomato sauce is feta cheese wrapped in ham.
Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.

Monday 16 July 2012

CH's birthday celebration

Today is CH's birthday. We have been dating for 7 years and I must admit that during the last two years, his birthday went by without much fanfare. I wanted this year's celebration to be more special. Planning a memorable birthday isn't too hard afterall.

Since we've not been to Sentosa in such a long time, it might be a good base to start. I had in mind, a very relaxing weekend walking along the lush jungle trails or sandy white beach in tranquility. Sadly, none of that materialised.

Sentosa is experiencing an invasion of tourists that arrive by the busloads. Just look at the shocking number of tour coaches in the bus bay near Resorts World Sentosa. The sight was too bewildering.
As with the rest of Singapore, Sentosa is perpetually undergoing upgrading works. When we were there many years ago, the entire island was going through a major transformation. Now that Resorts World has been built, the rest of the facilities have to be upgraded to cope with the sudden influx of visitors. It's a never-ending cycle.

Despite our dislike for malls, casinos and crowded places, I told CH we need to check them out just to keep ourselves current. It is getting quite embarrasing each time our foreign friends ask about Universal Studios or Resorts World Sentosa. So here are some obligatory photos.

These must be the most widely photographed trees in Sentosa. What's this obsession with fake trees in Singapore? The Supertrees at Gardens by the Bay are now the latest craze. My kids are incensed that nobody pays attention to the beautiful natural forest in our central catchment area which in their opinion is the real green lung of Singapore.
We stumbled upon a nice garden at the quiet end of the building. Obviously not many people bother to walk all the way here.
I might not be wrong to say that all the tourists traveling in group tours spend a day at Universal Studios. There were tons of them, hanging around inside, outside and around the themepark.
Strangely, everything here is larger than life, from the carpark to the information centres to the mascots.

We were tempted to try some Malaysian food at the foodcourt but I had already made dinner reservations elsewhere.
 After wandering around in Resorts World, we drove out of Sentosa for dinner at a popular Italian restaurant called Parco Caffe @ Raeburn Park. What a surprise to meet my friend who was there to celebrate her nephew's birthday.
With Joyce.
The birthday boy.
 I chose Parco Caffe after reading good reviews in the papers just the week before. The degustation menu looked good and did not disappoint.
Chickpea soup.
The tortellini in cream sauce was really good.
Fresh prawn wrapped with sole fish - very fresh and yummy.
Kurobuta rib in honey sauce was too dry.
The polenta dessert came with the degustation menu. It was unusual but nice.
We also ordered ossobucco served over a bed of risotto. It was hearty and very tasty.
A complimentary cake from Movenpick!
 The celebrations continued the next morning with brunch at Ding Dai Fung. Even though we've just had coffee, toast and eggs for breakfast, I insisted on eating xiao long bao (dumplings) here.
Happy at last.
The chilli crab dumpling was pretty good..
He looked amused. Wonder what he was reading...
We went home and I spent the rest of the weekend catching up with chores.

 Last night, we had another celebration, this time at home with my kids. The cake was delicious!

Chowmahalla Palace

During our week in Hyderabad, some of the places we visited include the Mecca Mosque, the Charminar (the icon of Hyderabad), Sufi Shrine, Bi...