Sunday, 24 March 2013

Jamkkanman yo (잠깐만 요)

Wait a minute..... where the heck am I?  One of the cons of going on your own tour is figuring out the location and terrain while travelling. Tours chauffeur you a long with you having zero sense of direction, on your own it's survival of the fittest.  I found myself saying "jamkkanman yo" - wait a minute a lot in Seoul as when people start blabbering it's left or right or straight ahead I am normally gob smacked by the language.  So the key is to get a good map while you are there in Seoul. Out of the airport, there is a lot of readily available maps. I also find sometimes the hotels give quite good maps as compared to the airport ones.  When all else fails, walk into a pricey hotel and ask for "help".

My first day was just wandering around in Myeong-dong.  That day was dark and gloomy and not to mention ... REALLY cold .... If you intend to take pictures, carry and umbrella, it really is very inconvenient.  Every shop you walk into, they will give you a little umbrella bag to put your umbrella in to prevent drip. How cute and clean :D While there are plenty of shops here, some of them can be quite pricey. So just window shopping for me here.
s abo

If you are keen on Korean cosmetics, Myeong-dong has a plethora of it.  Hanskin, faceshop, it's skin you name it, it's there. And do ask for free samples, they will load you with it.

After a few hours of wandering around Myeong-dong, i took the train to Insadong, got off Anguk station, exited Door 6. Insadong is an arts and craft area, if you love traditional korean arts and craft, this is the place to go. Note that it is still a bit touristy in price for some of the craft shops particularly the trinkets but if you want unique items such as pottery, brushes and korean traditional sweets, this is the place to go.

Though i did not take any pictures, there is a Hotteok shop at a corner near Fraser Place, that's the best street food i have eaten. For a 1,000(if i remember correctly) won you get a piping hot and thick Hotteok filled with brown sugar and chopped peanuts. My first day, i saw a lot of people queuing for this and could not resist the smell of the pancake frying in oil.  Mind you the calories are fantastic but since you walk so much in Seoul, you can easily burn it off

The rain cleared up, and i walked to Cheonggyecheon Stream. It''s about 10 minutes walk from Insadong ( a lot closure to Myeong-dong actually ) It was refurbished in 2005 and provides the people a bit of greenery and a quiet walk path right in the middle of the city. In fact the Cheonggyecheon stream ends at Dongdaemun Market! You can actually walk there if you are up to it
Cheongyyeong Stream 001
It will be nice if KL developed some of the City areas to be like this. Now if you are wondering why there are lanterns there, because 2 weeks from then it was going to be Wesak day.  It's a big thing in Korea and the river has lantern floats placed right in the middle and is super lovely at night!
Cheongyyeong Stream 003
Yup, you can cross from on side to the other on these stones .. and the water is nice and cold :D if you have tired feet, you can dip your feet in it.

After walking all the way to Cheongyyang, i went back to Insadong. Hungry...  And tried another street food. Poop Bread!!  (dong-bang in korean ). For another 200 won or so, you can get 3 poop bread. And they look like ....

... Ta da.... Poop 

Does not taste like poop lah.  It has red bean inside and the texture of the dough is like our kai tan koh...  Nice and not very sweet.  There are other Poop bread stalls selling stuffing of chocolate, peanut butter and other flavors but i thought the natural ..ahem red bean is just nice enough. 

While munching poop bread ... i walked around Ssamjigil. It's one of my favorite buildings... just because it's strange :D and colorful.. really and arts and craft area, you can walk around the lopsided building and explore the nooks and crannies.  For those who love Mandu ( dumplings ) there is a very popular shop on the left in a very tiny lane next to Ssamjigil.  The queue is so long every day, i couldn't get to try it. Further more... single kucing eat a big plate of mandu is hard T_T.......  Ok.. not so good benefits of travelling alone. 

Next up... The real Samgyeopsal..... 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Neko's first trip to South Korea!

One of the biggest challenges to go to Korea without a tour is how to navigate your way around. However with plenty of early research I don't think it is super hard but can be quite an adventure in my opinion. Second thing is price - the accommodations, the flight  - is it going to cost you a bomb? Actually no. This is my budget version of travelling in Korea/ 

Korea-  How to get there? 

Thanks to my new obsession of K-POP, I had to fly to S.Korea for a holiday. Hoping to see Lee Min Ho, 2PM, CNBlue, Song Ji Hyo and the Running Man crew, flying to S.Korea now is not quite difficult but can be a bit pricey. So how do you get there - By plane of course!  There are now many choices to fly to S.Korea, you can take Air Asia X or MAS. But here's a tip; try during Matta fair - MAS offer's really good prices in more comfy seats. I got mine for about RM800 ( Return ) + taxes and all- I paid about RM1.2K for my trip. *Daebak*   However I do say i have preference for Mas due to comfort.

Did I meet any K-POP or K-DRAMA stars? 

No...........................................................................................i so-sad. 
The nearest I got to a KPOP star... Hello Nickhun and.. the other guy...
This is by the way not an advertorial for MAS or Korea Tourism. 

Where do you stay? 

There are many choices of places to stay from BNB, Hotels, Motels to Traditional Accommodations at the Hanok Villages. I picked a budget hotel nearer to the University towns which is bound to be cheaper but quite a walk from the train station ( A good 10-15 minutes with a luggage bag is NO JOKE )

Good areas to stay are in near Insadong - i found 2-3 budget hotels that are decent, Hongdae, Edae and Hyewha area - where plenty of motels are located.

Will provide some links in the next write up ...

Is there a language issue in getting around?

Not really though. But i did have some fear before i left of getting completely lost in Seoul.  Most major transportation have English signs and each train stop the announcer gleefully announces the station in English .Taxi may be a problem getting around though, most taxi drivers speak Korean only. And it helps to have the directions written in Korean. However there are translation services available if you need to take cabs plastered all over the cabs. ( Taxis are pricey by the way ).  

For shopping, most people understand the universal finger connotation for 1, 2 or 3. :) However, if it is much more complicated then it might a bit duck and chicken talking.   People understood my Yea, or Aniayo ( No ) quite well though. 

Amount of Travel time needed? 

If you are just going around Seoul, best to get 8-9 days. Travel time between towns take a bit of time and Seoul itself is so large to explore. I haven't even finish it yet. So if you plan to go down to Busan and what not, you need a good 10-14 days to enjoy the trip. 

I love to travel on my own, if the country is relatively safe to do so. And after travelling in Japan for many years, Korea was my next choice. For one, 2012 was actually Visit Korea year, and it was quite a good time to travel. My initial fear in travelling in Korea was the language but actually turns out it is quite easy to manipulate my way around with minimal issues. I did get lost though on my first day, missed a station ended up a bit panicky! 

Day 1 - Seoul

Incheon airport was large and overwhelming. However a lot of earlier research and i found my Bus Counters and got the bus that drops me off near Sungkyungkwan University. The first day in Seoul ... was rainy. Wet, Rainy and just wishing I had bought Rain boots. -_-. Supposed to be the end of Spring and start of Summer but it was cold. And wet.  After depositing my stuff, i headed to Cafe Bene for a warm up drink and sample Waffles. It's the in thing in Korea :) How i wish there was coffee shop with waffles in KL.  Taste wise, it's al-right, I should have gotten the Expresso instead but the waffles was to die for. 
Food 001 Food 003
At that time when i was there, salty caramel was a big hit so I took a salty caramel. In Korea a lot of things are self serve. They give you this UFO like thing you see in Snowflake that beeps loudly when your drink + waffle is ready. Cool or what. And I impressed that it is ready by the time it beeps.

Will blog more about the rather wet trip in Myeondong. Ah... lucky I brought umbrella.

Saturday, 12 January 2013


It's been a long time since i blogged. But guess where I've been to the last year? :D .. Think Roof Top Prince Country. 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Surisit Kopitiam- Thai food junkie in me

It's no secret, i like thai food a lot. Probably because the amalgamation of different type of flavors and textures, if anyone says "Thai Food" for lunch or dinner, i am game.  While i have been to the mildly up end Thai establishments in KL ( Basil Leaf, but not Erawan or Rama V)  I am always on the hunt for more simple Thai food and ones that don't kill my pocket. And serve Moo too :D { Thai for Pork ) and i am pleased Surisit exists for this purpose.

Surisit - is located in the depths of TTDI, along where Penang Village is. And behind Artisan Roast. I am liking this area a lot because it is quite and has a varied variety of eating places.  Do not expect this place to be fancy, it is a simple Kopitiam yet clean and run by real Thai people. The deco throws you back to 2 decades, with medicinally smelling and drinkable green and red Fanta. { Brother tried Green today and declared it tastes like cough syrup  } and his campy 1980's GREENSPOT drink.

Typical condiments from Thailand. The dry chilli flake is pretty awesome. Goes well in practically anything. I like this a lot with my fried noodles as well. :D 

One of the specialties in Surisit- their Moo Thod Gapi. It's fried pork lor coated with some asian herbs. Pretty addictive stuff. And i was wondering how come i did not come across this in BKK?? #feelscheateditellyou. Rice is served in big aluminium pots so you can eat as much as you like. 
Behold! Moo Thod Gapi ... yumz
Surprisingly we had an order of Prawn. Lil Bro R-A-R-E-L-Y likes to order prawns because he is the kind that does not deal well with shells.  However i realized why when i saw the prawns later. Cooked in tumeric, curry and all, this is one dish that swipes the rice clean.  Note: however, it is not potent. Prawns were sufficient, though i thought there was more gravy then prawns!
While the other 2 dishes was a hit ( can't remember if i ordered Tom Yam ) i did find their stuff chicken wings dish a bit of a let down. It felt a bit un-cooked in my opinion.

For desserts, we had the sea coconut with longan. Was ok nothing really to shout about. Didn't get to try the red ruby dessert because i was pretty stuffed as well.

Overall price wise, Surisit is not that bad - definitely below RM100 for 3 persons drinks included. I like the simplicity of the food without having to fork out a lot of $$ to eat decent thai food.  If i want slightly fancier but still reasonable- i will head over to Smokehouse, they have the best Chor Ladda out of Bangkok!

The Locale:
No 17, Lorong Rahim Kajai 13
Taman Tun Dr Ismail

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Nabe Bakery & Cafe

Coffee and Bakery places are popping up in KL.  I am always a big fan of such places particularly if you have studied long enough overseas where the culture of popping into a cafe is like a common past time. Most attractive of such places is the smell of coffee and fresh bread wafting away in the shop. Friends working overseas also have been plugging Korean coffee culture to me ( however, we are unfortunate not to be graced by the likes of Caffe Bene, or Angel-like-Us and Cafe Tiamo ) but 1/2 similar to it i am fine.

I found this place via KampungBoyCityGirl, in the far reaches of Ampang, a sole Korean Bakery called Nabe Bakery and Cafe among all the korean bbq places. The ahjeossi manning the shop has been in malaysia for almost a year, and it seams he runs a similar business back then in Seoul. Guess the standard of living in KL is by far better(Translated: Cheaper) than in Seoul. Sometimes i wonder what makes people up and leave your country like that.

A word of warning though -if you are looking for early breakfasts, please note, he only gets his engine going by 12pm :)  The shop is pretty simple, nothing fancy. You can choose to have fresh bread, pastries or go for sandwiches or pastas.  My friend and i decided on bread. [ How i wish he had waffles ] 
That's Ahjeossi in the background, looking at his one sole helper that day. Ahjeossi doesn't speak really good english but he is a cheerful soul who will willing try to explain to you what the bread, pastry is made of. Funnily enough, when my friend and i walked into his shop, first thing he asked the both of us are "Are you Korean?". (?_?)  Must be thinking - " ah crap, have to speak in English now" ... However, don't be put off, as he has little sign on his shelves giving you a clue of what that pastry is! While I thought this place may be a bit far to attract a lot of attention, turns out local Koreans flock to this place to buy his breads. They must miss their type of bakeries. Now if only more will flock to less far off areas such as PJ/bangsar or hartamas.

We decided to pick a few bread that was at the shelves ( some needed a bit of warm up ) to have for lunch and call a patbingsu later. A very Korean dessert i would say is a Walnut Tart. I have to say it is an acquired taste. Initially i thought it was okay but takes one or two more bites for me to give it a thumbs up.  That purplish bread next to the walnut tart is Taro Bread. I found that interesting. Normally i am not a fan of Taro except for in the form of Yam Basket and Yam Cake but i thought the Taro Bread is interesting!

Another shot of the Taro Bread - looking a bit over exposed. [ The picture that is ] If you need a bit of warm up for your bread, there is a microwave for you to zap your breads :D 
I think this is Hawaiian Pizza bread and Garlic Chicken Bread. Pretty nice. I like savory breads! The bread here is extremely soft and fine not like those in the Roti Boy type.

Koreans also have "ice kacang" which they call Patbingsu. Kinda less creamy version slightly healthier. Lots of fresh fruits here in this and of course a dollop of red bean and rice cakes. Don't be fooled by the picture, it was an extremely large bowl of patbingsu - good for 2 persons. It was quite interesting to have mochi/rice cakes in a ice dessert but it gives this dish that strange umami kinda of taste
I had expresso after that ( which was quite strong, was like an owl after that ). Ajeosshi's wife is the person who mans the Patbingsu machine and the barista as well. Here is a sample of her coffee art. Not sure where they get their beans from but according to my friend, this is the typical type of beans they have in korea and it is normally quite strong and flavorful.

Later we bought a bread made from Glutinous rice (fresh made that day ) - that is quite a staple in Korea. I can guarantee you this shop does not use a lot of preservatives in their bread, my last small piece of the Glutinous bread which i forgot to finish actually fat mou about 2-3 days time :) Good news for me no preservatives - bad news, before i put food in my mouth must check first if got blue dots!

If you are looking for something different in the area of Little Korea, drop by to Nabe Bakery and Cafe.

Nabe Bakery Cafe
No. 16-11, Ground Floor,
Jalan Ampang Putra,
68000 Ampang. 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Croisette's - French Food at reasonable prices


French Food it's Haute Cuisine to many. The epitome of culinary skills < which i lack off >  However, my last attempt (of tasting)  of French food in Nice was not what i quite expected. Chalk it all up to toursity kitschy places tours take you to. And it is hard to find good french restaurants around town ( La Maison in Ampang is one that is pretty good )  without having to pay and arm and a leg for. However, i fancy food from the Burgundy region of France as it is influenced with the use of wines in their cooking bringing out more earthy and rustic flavours. Think Beef Bourginon and Coq Au Vin!

So when scouting other people's food blogs to find out there is a French Cafe in the midst of Bangsar... Voile! One could not resists this.

I heard it is helmed by a French man who has probably been staying in malaysia for some time. And amusingly so, it's situated in an apartment block. For those who are not sure where to park, you can park inside if the visitor's parking is not full. However, for those who have rather large cars... tell the guard not to let you park in those weird shape parking bays right at the front.
Croisette is not fancy in terms of decor. Its sparse in decoration but with small simple touches such as a flower here and there - I do enjoy simple restaurants like these instead of the over hyped and over decorated places. So place your orders and you wait. And wait. And wait. T_T. Maybe i am not sure, but French cooking is decidedly slower than the rest? A quick peek in the kitchen, i only see a one Chef Show. I didn't even want to think of ordering starters in case i upset the balance of nature by making food later. After about 1/2 hour ( or longer ) food arrived!!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

It's all about eating in Hong Kong

Hong Kong. Is a food heaven. After being deprived of good Chinese food for a good while, being in Hong Kong was like a massive eating spree. Every nook and corner there is something good to eat. (Depravity also induces your mind to think like all food is good :D )  My dream to go to Hong Kong involved a few crazy notion or things i always wanted to do

1) See a TVB star: Nope, hardly saw any
2) Eat HK egg tart: eat a few... Best was at this small place on Carnavon Street
3) See a Hong kong Police man and say to him "Ah Sir.": Yeap, did that hehehe and giggled like a school girl. Funny part is Ah Sir spoke perfect English!. < impressed >
4) Shop till i dropped: Yes! And after that when see credit card... After that, menangis kau kau ....
... and so forth however at such short time ... can only achieve a few lah...

Years ago ( like about 20 years ), my mom told me HK was dirty, people were rude etc... but i am totally amazed at the modernization blended with the old. I think their public transport rocks. Rude people - we can get in any country any time. But if space was not an issue - HK is my next most livable country. Besides Japan. Of course.

Before i left for HK, i did a lot of research on what's the best place to eat and all but i would say some are hit and misses. My advise for first timers - go with the flow. Some places are really over hyped i found better places to eat in tiny nondescript places.

The Misses .... 
I didn't have a super long stay in HK to try EVERY dim sum place, but i tried the one called Luk Yee teahouse in Hong Kong island. This place comes with some history.  Apparently the triads frequent this place a lot and one such person was murdered in broad day light in this tea house. Seems to be a popular tourist spot, lots of foreigners here. Menu comes in english but some how i fail in my order for Char Siew Pau.. Came out something else.
Hong Kong Day 3-006
Some Dumpling thing we had in Luk Yee
The Not so bad but a bit overhyped... 
Since the weather was freaking hot in Hong Kong, what a good excuse to try their desserts. There was Gong Cha and Cha Time there, but skipped that, every where you have that, i decided to try their famous Hui Lau San Dessert branches. You can see this any corner of Hong Kong, however i went to the Mongkok one, after wandering around in Lui Yan Kai, Goldfish street and what not.. All the shops of Hui Lau San is normally packed. You can either order take out or wait in line ( patiently ) to get a seat in the shop. Thankfully, we got our seat fast, and placed our orders. It's a place known to be serving Healthy Desserts. Mango is the key fruit served here if i am not mistaken. :)  

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Daorae - ... KPOP Promoter...

Daorae - 001
U-KISS - ... dare desuka?

It's official. Malaysia is stuck in the Hallayu wave. Even I have to confess of late i am also stuck in the KDRAMA series ( of the non weepy kind ), how can one resist the sometimes good looking heroes and er ... kinda carbon copy actresses in the show. I used to dislike kdramas because all i got was those weepy, really worst luck (Guy is blind, or some one has a fatal disease, they die etc ) in the world kind of stories. Of late, there are more general funny ones that came out that is worth watching. You can say i was 'k-drama-fied'. So i shouldn't be suprised when i stepped into Daorae recently, and they were kpopped/kdramafied as well. The walls of Daorae Sri Hartmas was adorned with the likes of Rain, U-KISS, did i see SNSD as well all signed and autograph adorning the walls of the shop. Unfortunately my Rain pic had my brother's head 1/2 way there, and i could not photoshopped him away.  I will be very happy if they can bring Lee Min Ho round to the KL parts *hehehehe*
Daorae - 002 Daorae is my current go to place for Korean food, besides Ko Hyang and my office area's sole Korean shop. However i should start venturing to other areas for Korean food ( just that Little Korea is a wee bit far to go for dinner. Attempted once, food very good. Got lost 1/2 way )

In my first months back to KL, my usual makan gang and i decided to have a "eat together" session. Since i left for overseas work, rarely everyone caught up and during flybacks, it was too short to catch up. Most of the time was spent 1) Sleeping 2) Doing chores that i cannot do online 3) Eating malaysian food to the max.
Daorae - 003
Makgeolli - it is better than Soju IMHO

I haven't been to Daorae since a year back and i wanted to introduce everyone to Makgeolli :)  My preference of alcohol as compared to Soju. I normally don't drink but if i do, i like alcohol that is sweetened. Makgeolli is actually rice wine and served in a chilled cup. It looks like pale diluted milk. Doesn't really smell like milk.  Drinking it before and after you have eaten food is helluva difference. Before we had food, the taste felt like cheap toddy... however after a few bites of food and especially with barbecue, the makgeolli changed taste a more sweetish taste. Weird.  But that's how i felt it tasted like and the more everyone started to drink. Initial taste -everyone was giving me disdainful looks >_<. [ i swear!] But paired with BBQ meat, the sweetish taste started to come out.

Bachans in Daorae is plentiful and unique.  However, we always like the potato salad, which we only got it once after that, it seldom re-appeared.
Daorae - 006
Banchan Galore - check out the brown cups serving makgeolli


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