[SUSHI RESTAURANT] New Seasonal Menu @ Sushiro, Isetan Scotts

Move aside, Genki Sushi and Itacho Sushi for there is a new kid on the block!

After what seemed like an eternity, Japan’s largest conveyor belt sushi chain Sushiro has finally reached our shores, bestowing us with not one, not two but three outlets across the island in just a span of 6 months (with the newest one at Causeway Point) to satisfy our insatiable appetite for sushi!

Sushiro at Isetan Scotts

Sushiro at Isetan Scotts

What’s the difference, the uninitiated may ask, between Sushiro and the many existing kaiten sushi chains here that warrants your attention? For a start, Sushiro has an extensive menu. Having tried Sushiro at their Taipei branch last year, I knew very well that the newcomer to Singapore’s food scene wasn’t going to disappoint in terms of their offerings. Apart from the usual sushi staples, you can expect other ingenious sushi creations as well, such as sea urchin and roasted beef (yes, this is actually one dish – best of both worlds for people like me!), monkfish liver gunkan, baby scallop and dongpo pork, not forgetting outlet-exclusive ingredients (which I will be elaborating on shortly)! Their appetiser and dessert menu is nothing short of inventive and decadent as well, with items like cold chawanmushi, mango shaved ice and heavenly catalana that will ignite the fireworks of enjoyment in you.

Free-flow of iced water near the entrance

Free-flow of iced water near the entrance

This is where you get your free-flow of soft drinks (except for juices and alcoholic beverages) if you have ordered them at S$3.50 per pax!

This is where you get your free-flow of soft drinks (except for juices and alcoholic beverages) if you have ordered them at S$3.50 per pax!

As my companion and I already had our orders in mind (we had long craved for a number of Sushiro dishes so their inception in Singapore was extremely timely!), we jumped straight into adding them to our virtual cart on the tablet. Within minutes, our personal conveyor belt (which is a division from the main lane) would be jam-packed with our orders and we had to scramble to bring them down onto our table (we had clearly underestimated the preparation time and trust me, it got crazier towards the end when we couldn’t find space on the table for approaching orders). Talk about efficiency 馃槄 Lesson learnt; clear your plates before you place new orders!

The iPad also alerted us when our orders arrived

The iPad also alerted us when our orders arrived

Sushi traffic jam on our dedicated lane!

Sushi traffic jam on our dedicated lane!

Now, here’s a fun fact: did you know that every sushi plate has an IC (short for integrated circuit) tag integrated into it to ensure that any sushi that has travelled 350 metres around the conveyor belt would be replaced with fresh ones? As someone who tends to avoid picking up sushi on the conveyor belt (as you wouldn’t know what other patrons had done to them before they reached you..), this certainly gives me a peace of mind.

Without further ado, let’s get right down to the truckload of food we had at Sushiro (so that you won’t need to) and some of our honest opinions on a selected few. Be warned, though, that the abundance of food pictures coming your way may trigger your hunger pangs so if you’re reading this at night, S-T-A-Y A-W-A-Y(and come back later 馃ぃ).

(Note: prices stated are exclusive of prevailing GST and Service Charge)

Appetisers

Chawanmushi with Scallop (S$3.50)

Chawanmushi with Scallop (S$3.50)

Cold Chawanmushi (S$3.50)

Cold Chawanmushi (S$3.50)

Cold Chawanmushi (S$3.50)

Cold Chawanmushi (S$3.50)

The cold chawanmushi was intriguing as it was something different from the norm. It had chunks of dashi stock that had been gelatinised to look like little pieces of precious gemstones that shimmered as the light bounced off the individual bits and pieces. Taste-wise, it was very similar to the hot version (I suppose the cold one would make a more refreshing alternative during sweltering days!) but I wouldn’t recommend this if you have sensitive teeth like me 馃槴

Mini Ramen, Sushi and Sashimi

Uni Ramen (S$8.50)

Uni Ramen (S$8.50)

The moment I saw this on the menu, I knew I had to get it because I absolutely love uni! I was rather impressed by the amount of uni (which is an expensive delicacy, if you didn’t know) served with such a small portion of noodles. The al dente te noodles were unfortunately clumped together which made it hard to eat. Furthermore, it would be a tad dry if not for the uni sauce. However, the dollop of uni compensated for all the shortfall.

And in case I wasn’t clear enough, the portion of the Uni Ramen is too small to be eaten as a main dish, but is definitely sufficient in satisfying your exquisite taste for uni! I totally wouldn’t mind returning just for this.

[SEASONAL ITEM] Blackthroat Seaperch Sushi (S$3.20)

[SEASONAL ITEM] Blackthroat Seaperch Sushi (S$3.20)

[NEW] Surf Clam (S$2.20)

[NEW] Surf Clam (S$2.20)

Steamed Abalone (S$3.20)

Steamed Abalone (S$3.20)

[LIMITED TIME ONLY] Giant Scallop (S$4.80)

[LIMITED TIME ONLY] Giant Scallop (S$4.80)

Salmon with Basil Cheese (S$2.20)

Salmon with Basil Cheese (S$2.20)

One of the crowd favourites, the salmon with basil cheese sushi is an east-meets-west fusion dish done right. The basil cheese added a different dimension and flavour profile to the sushi. The cheese might be a little too overwhelming to the extent that it kind of masked the taste of the fish, but it is still a unique dish that is worth trying nonetheless.

Whelk (S$2.20)

Whelk (S$2.20)

[OUTLET EXCLUSIVE] Otoro (S$2.20)

[OUTLET EXCLUSIVE] Otoro (S$2.20)

Available for a limited time only, the otoro sushi was value for money with mouthwatering marbling of fats to give a meatier chew.

Premium Grill Conger Eel (S$3.20)

Premium Grill Conger Eel (S$3.20)

Roasted Beef ($4.80)

Roasted Beef ($4.80)

As for the roasted beef sushi (which makes an unusual choice of sushi ingredient), the sauce complemented the cut of beef rather well. The cut of beef was cooked evenly although it might be a little too well done and was chewy at certain parts. Even so, it was not difficult to chew and swallow. The texture was also pretty soft for a cut of beef that was cooked well. If you like sea urchin (uni), be sure to opt for sea urchin and roasted beef sushi instead!

Salmon Sashimi (S$4.80)

Salmon Sashimi (S$4.80)

Desserts and Beverages

Warabimochi (S$3.80)

Warabimochi (S$3.80)

This paled in comparison to the real deal I had in Osaka last year as it did not give me that melt-in-your-mouth goodness I was anticipating. The texture felt more like that of a jelly – slightly rigid and rubbery. I say give this a miss unless you need some bitterness (from the matcha powder) to balance out the sweetness of other desserts that you are having.

Hattendo Shizuoka Matcha Pudding with Whipped Cream (S$4.30)

Hattendo Shizuoka Matcha Pudding with Whipped Cream (S$4.30)

Hattendo Coconut Pudding with Okinawa Brown Sugar (S$4.30)

Hattendo Coconut Pudding with Okinawa Brown Sugar (S$4.30)

Hattendo might have bade farewell to its patrons at Tanjong Pagar Centre following its store closure but its legacy remains. Sushiro has collaborated with Hattendo to continue to offer you its famous custard and chocolate cream buns, and matcha and coconut puddings! The coconut pudding had a satisfying crunch to it and the taste was rather close to chendol. However, we were slightly dismayed by the flat taste of the matcha one.

Mango Shaved Ice (S$6.50)

Mango Shaved Ice (S$6.50)

The mango shaved ice dessert lost out in terms of the richness of its mango flavour and sweetness although it can be argued as a healthier choice for people who are more conscious about their sugar intake. Texture-wise, the ice was shaved super thinly and was actually a joy to eat. This, combined with its not-so-sweet profile, meant that the dessert would be a hit among both young and old. The serving portion is huge too and can be shared between two or more people.

Crab Cream Croquette (S$3.50 for 2 pieces)

Crab Cream Croquette (S$3.50 for 2 pieces)

Chicken Karaage (S$4.80)

Chicken Karaage (S$4.80)

The chicken karaage, I would say, was a glorified version of har cheong gai聽– but I’m not complaining! Served piping hot, the batter was light and crispy and did not retain as much oil. It was so fragrant that I could actually smell it while on its way to me, and I just couldn’t resist having seconds! (And by seconds, I meant, like, repeated order 馃槢)

Catalana (S$3.50)

Catalana (S$3.50)

Catalana (S$3.50)

Catalana (S$3.50)

The catalana dessert was what I missed most about Sushiro during my stay in Taiwan. I even resorted to searching for the recipe online – that’s how much I loved it! Hence, when I got wind of Sushiro’s venture into Singapore, all that went through my mind was catalana… catalana… catalana…聽馃い

Catalana (or Crema Catalana as the Spanish calls it) is very similar to the French cr猫me br没l茅e, but is made from milk and then thickened with cornstarch and eggs. It consists of a rich custard base topped with a texturally contrasting layer of hardened caramelised sugar. I do not consider myself as one with a sweet tooth, but the catalana somehow managed to hit all the sweet spots!

Yuzu Juice (S$2.50)

Yuzu Juice (S$2.50)

Ah, yes, we were pretty amazed by the capacity of our stomachs as well. But it probably took me five trips to the gym to finally get rid of all the calories I gained that night. Still, stuffing my face with such great food from Sushiro was so worth it.

Despite the paranoia surrounding the virus outbreak, their Isetan Scott outlet was abuzz with diners lining up to secure a seat when I was there a few weeks ago and I am pretty sure the crowd hasn’t subsided yet (because there are only three outlets? And not a single one in the North-East region? How can?!). Hence, I thought it was very thoughtful of Sushiro to roll out a mobile application [Download: iOS / Android] for customers to make reservations for tables. The app also allows you to monitor your waiting time so that you won’t have to hang around the restaurant mindlessly when you could be doing something more meaningful (like shopping at Isetan Department Store? 馃槈) Oh, and don’t worry about table hoggers because there is a 60-minute dine-in period. This means you’ll definitely get a table within this time frame.

What do you think? Have you tried Sushiro before? What do you think about their food? Let me know your views in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

Sushiro (Isetan Scotts) 路 350 Orchard Rd #04-00 Shaw House Singapore 238868 路 Operating hours: 11.00 am – 9.00 pm (Sun – Thu) & 11.00 am – 9.30 pm (Fri & Sat) (Please refer to THIS FACEBOOK POST for temporary closing times) 路 Nearest MRT station: Orchard (NS22) 路 For more information, please visit Sushiro FACEBOOK PAGE, INSTAGRAM or WEBSITE.

Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for bite-sized food updates!
Be sure to watch out for my Stories because that’s where I post my tasty encounters
馃榿

[EVENT] Chinese New Year Bonanza 2020 @ Takashimaya Square

Happy 2020, everyone! It’s crazy how fast time flies, eh?

Spring will soon be upon us, and with that comes Chinese New Year (CNY) and the multitude of highly-anticipated CNY bazaars that follow. While establishments scurry to take down and store away all their Christmas collaterals and products, one, in particular, has already gone full swing into the CNY sales to give you a head start on getting ready for the festivity – even before the calendar year ended!

Takashimaya CNY Fair 2020

Takashimaya CNY Fair 2020

Decked out in red and gold at the extensive basement two event square of Takashimaya Shopping Centre with oriental tunes streaming in the background, the CNY Fair organised by Takashimaya Department Store is hard to miss. This year, the fair sees the participation of 67 local and international vendors that offer an assortment of seasonal treats to cater to all household needs and traditions. That’s right, whether you are of Cantonese or Peranakan descent, you are sure to find something here that strikes your (or your elders’) fancy!

Click here to download the list of vendors and their locations

Continue to let your taste buds revel in savoury bliss with homegrown delights from returning vendors, such as Butter Studio, Home’s Favourites, Juz Bread, Kele, My Mum’s Cookies, HarisAnn’s, and Old Seng Choong, all of which are known for their confectionery and pastries like pineapple tarts and sugee cookies. Of course, one cannot miss the presence of CNY staples, such as bak kwa from Bee Cheng Hiang聽and dried seedless persimmon from Korea-originated Abana that you can consider filling your snack tray with.

Butter Studio

Butter Studio

Home's Favourite

Home’s Favourite

Check out these vintage tins from Old Seng Choon!

Check out these vintage tins from Old Seng Choon!

Prosperity Assorted Pineapple Tarts (S$48) from Old Seng Choong

Prosperity Assorted Pineapple Tarts (S$48) from Old Seng Choong

Baker's Oven

Baker’s Oven

Bee Cheng Hiang

Bee Cheng Hiang

Semi-dried persimmons from Abana

Semi-dried persimmons from Abana

Also joining the ranks of these old-timers are new but familiar establishments such as Golden Moment (made famous by their durian charcoal snow skin mooncake but they are stocking up on their durian ice-cream this time), Mdm Ling Bakery (look out for their melt-in-your-mouth butter cookies!), The Lapis Place (known for their creative spin on traditional kueh lapis like pineapple lapis, a flavour exclusive to Takashimaya), One Farrer (try their homemade golden pineapple tarts and gawk in wonder at their Rice Bucket with Gold Coin Bucket Cake on display!) and Eureka (with its super addictive popcorn). Furthermore, famed Fukuoka ramen chain Ichiran will be making a pop-up appearance in Singapore once again to satisfy your famished belly with its limited-edition aromatic Tonkotsu Ramen retail packs, albeit only from 8 to 16 January (limit to 400 packs per day) at the fair and will replace the redemption counter that currently sits at its spot.

Mdm Ling Bakery

Mdm Ling Bakery

Golden Moment

Golden Moment

Rice Bucket with Gold Coin Bucket Cake (S$108)

Rice Bucket with Gold Coin Bucket Cake (S$108)

Despite the long history of some of the brands mentioned here, their efforts in keeping up with evolving times are evident in the smorgasbord of unconventional yet trendy flavours they offer. If you ever pass by Garden Pastry and Cake‘s booth, request to sample their Raspberry Snow Cookies (that is, if they’re still available because these little pink cookies made with US-imported pure raspberry powder are so highly sought-after, I won’t be surprised if the attendants become too stingy with the samples) – just one small portion of it is enough to make you crave for more! Trust me, I even bought two tins of the cookies immediately after sampling them because they’re just so soft and cake-like! If not for the fact that I might end up with a sore throat, I would have gotten three for 15% off the total purchase!

Garden Pastry and Cake

Garden Pastry and Cake

Garden Pastry and Cake's Raspberry Snow Cookies!

Garden Pastry and Cake’s Raspberry Snow Cookies!

The Cookie Museum is another local establishment that prides itself on creating one-of-its-kind Singapore heritage-flavoured cookies like Pandan Chiffon, Shrimp Laksa and Chicken Rice. How intriguing, right?! These are perfect for your foreign guests who may not get the chance to try the actual dishes since shutters of most hawker stalls will be shut during the CNY period 馃槣 Otherwise, you could also opt for a safer choice – Champagne Lychee which is a go-to flavour of mine. Don’t worry, the alcohol concentration in it is as good as nil so yup, perfectly family-friendly.

The Cookie Museum

The Cookie Museum

The culinary adepts would be thrilled to find lots of reunion dinner ideas at The Market Place – a section dominated by imported and prime meats, seafood and condiments essential for preparing lavish and wholesome meals. Instead of rice, you could opt for some wholesome handmade, air- and sun-dried wheat flour noodles from Taiwanese brand Yi Lai Shuen (涓鏉ラ『) that would merely take 30 seconds to prepare. Top it with one of its signature sauces (black bean, XO, mushroom, chilli bean, garlic chilli.. just to name a few) and voila! A restaurant-standard dish (minus the nasty MSG and preservatives) is prepared 馃榿 Then, end the meal on a sweet note with delicacies from Pat Chun, a producer of many sauces from Hong Kong which also makes to-die-for desserts and snacks like radish cake and nian gao, as well as their latest nutty additions – Curry Cashews and Spicy Garlic Almonds.

Yi Lai Shuen wheat flour noodles

Yi Lai Shuen wheat flour noodles

Yi Lai Shuen condiments

Yi Lai Shuen condiments

Apart from the edibles, you can also find CNY decorations and gifts for your loved ones overseas when you pay them a visit this festive season. Send your well-wishes for good health by gifting top-grade traditional Chinese medicinal food products from trusted brands such as Thye San Medical Hall and Wing Joo Loong. Alternatively, you could also gift your modern/westernised relatives contemporary tea sets from Pryce Tea or the limited-edition Golden Heritage Bloom from NestBloom.

Shevron

Shevron

There are many other stalls which I won’t be able to feature in this write-up without boring the pants off you, so your best bet would be to head down to the fair yourself! As the fair is sure to grow more crowded in the days to come, do plan your schedule ahead of time (i.e. mark out the booths you want to visit first), or drop by on weekday afternoons. Do also remember to head down with an empty stomach (and arm yourselves with a bottle of water to cleanse your palate!) as you will be invited to try a lot of food samples as you comb through the aisles.

Will you be making a trip down to the fair? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

Takashimaya Chinese New Year Bonanza 2020 路 Takashimaya Square, b2, 391 Orchard Road Singapore 238873 路 Operating hours: 29 December 2019 – 23 January 2020, 10 am – 9.30 pm (extends to 10 pm on 3, 4, 9-12 & 17-23 Jan) 路 Nearest MRT station: Orchard (NS22) 路 For more information, please visit Takashimaya Facebook page, Instagram or website.

Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for bite-sized food updates!
Be sure to watch out for my Stories because that’s where I post my tasty encounters
馃榿

[CHINESE RESTAURANT] Revamped Menu @ No Signboard Seafood at Esplanade

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Now that winter break is in full swing, you may be expecting to play host to some of your friends from temperate countries. With iconic landmarks like the Marina Bay Sands and the Merlion statue already on the itinerary, the next step is probably to look for a nearby place to dine and cool off while at the same time, show off some of our famous delicacies. If this describes your situation now, look no further.

Some orange juice for you?

Some orange juice for you?

After undergoing more than two months of refurbishment, No Signboard Seafood (NSB) at Esplanade has finally reopened its doors to the public, but not without a revamped menu to tempt your palate!

Exclusively available at the Esplanade outlet (for now) to enhance and refresh diners’ experience, the new menu takes inspiration from crafting Chinese with Western and Japanese cuisines. The latest culinary creations not only include a selection of unique and popular dishes from its overseas outlet in Shanghai, but also feature a stylish plating upon serving (likewise for existing dishes).

Be prepared to salivate at the sight of Shanghai favourites such as Glazed Australia Tomatoes Stuffed with Crispy Mushroom Salad, Heirloom Beetroot Foie Gras, Braised Cabbage with Chestnut in Saffron Sauce and Marinated Seasonal Hairy Crab in Shanghainese Style, or west-meets-east classics like Wagyu Beef Cube in Sichuan Style, Pan Seared Foie Gras with Cherries and Japanese Uni with Oba Leaf Tempura, all of which is a testament to NSB’s commitment to provide their guests with exciting reasons to return.

Chef recommended deep-fried butter prawns ($6++/pc, min. 6 for live prawns OR S$15++/pc, min. 4 for king prawns)

Chef recommended deep-fried butter prawns ($6++/pc, min. 6 for live prawns OR S$15++/pc, min. 4 for king prawns)

Petite Abalone & Scallop with Yam Nest (S$10++/pc, min. 2)

Petite Abalone & Scallop with Yam Nest (S$10++/pc, min. 2)

A closer look at the scallop buried in the nest

A closer look at the scallop buried in the nest

Wagyu Beef Cubes in Sichuan Style (S$68++)

Wagyu Beef Cubes in Sichuan Style (S$68++)

With mala being all the rage right now, it won’t be surprising to have at least one dish on the menu that is cooked with Sichuan peppercorns. While you certainly can’t go wrong with mala, caution needs to be taken to ensure that these proportionally-diced beef cubes are cooked to the desired tenderness – something which NSB has nailed perfectly.

Espresso Kurobuta Pork Ribs with Hazelnut Crumble (S$15++/pc, min. 4)

Espresso Kurobuta Pork Ribs with Hazelnut Crumble (S$15++/pc, min. 4)

Grilled Portobello Mushroom (S$32++)

Grilled Portobello Mushroom (S$32++)

The Grilled Portobello Mushroom is lightly seasoned so the taste of the mushrooms can be enjoyed to the fullest. Although grilled to the right crispness, sufficient amount of moisture is still locked within the mushrooms.

The mushrooms were glistening...

The mushrooms were glistening…

Regardless of any new dishes that NSB is betting on, the unspoken winner is ultimately the Chilli Alaskan King Crab which chilli paste recipe has meticulously been maintained true to its original over the years despite the menu having gone through an overhaul. However, if you are itching for a change, there is always the option of White Pepper Alaskan King Crab聽which NSB is more known for. In any case, ordering crab(s) is a must-do when you are playing host because, heck, that’s probably the national dish your foreign friends are dying to try in Singapore!

Chilli Sri Lankan Crab with Macaroni (Medium: S$10++/100g, Large: S$13.80++/100g, Dungeness Crab: S$128++/ea)

Chilli Sri Lankan Crab with Macaroni (Medium: S$10/100g, Large: S$13.80/100g, Dungeness Crab: S$128/ea)

Singapore may be touted as the land of chilli crabs, but there are people among us who find it a chore to eat them. Therefore, I actually thought it was very clever of NSB to come up with a chilli crab dish that is served with macaroni (in the carapace) so that it can be enjoyed by everyone.

Signature Fresh Mango Compote with Coconut Sago & Pomelo (S$10++/ea)

Signature Fresh Mango Compote with Coconut Sago & Pomelo (S$10++/ea)

Unlike typical mango pomelo sago you see at other restaurants, NSB’s rendition separates the pomelo and coconut sago from the mango compote so you can adjust the amount of these dry ingredients you want to add into the bowl, and it also comes with edible flower petals. The interesting presentation aside, I would expect this to have a more varied taste (considering that it contains some unusual ingredients like the petals and coconut sago) and a thicker, not so watered-down consistency. But on the plus side, it is not overwhelmingly sweet which is great for people who need to control their sugar intake. Quite frankly, the Signature Fresh Mango Compote with Coconut Sago & Pomelo is just a glorified version of mango pomelo sago. I say pass on this one and get orh nee (yam paste) instead for the same price 馃槣

Apart from the food, what’s also worth mentioning is, perhaps, the interior design of the restaurant. Gone is the gloomy Victorian-era decorating that used to adorn the restaurant. Upon entering the newly renovated outlet, guests will be greeted by a bright and welcoming dining area with a virtual ceiling aquarium on the left and a glass window that looks into the kitchen on the right to proudly exhibit the dexterity of the chefs while they are preparing the dishes.

Open kitchen concept

Open kitchen concept

All the tables would be readied with the necessary tableware such as crab crackers and meat pickers (because who doesn’t order crabs at NSB, right? But don’t worry, no one’s gonna judge you if you don’t 馃槅), and a really cute crab-shaped chopstick rest for each diner. In addition, wet wipes individually packaged in plastic packets are replaced by not one, but TWO tablet napkins which expand to full size when they come in contact with water (although I’m not quite sure if these napkins are still chargeable to the diners so please check with the staff before you proceed to use them 馃檴). Take notes, prospective restaurateurs – that’s one way of being more environmentally-friendly without compromising on the diners’ experience! *cough*nostrawmovement*cough*聽

Tablet napkins - 2 per person. Just drop the "tablets" into the little pond and watch them grow!

Tablet napkins – 2 per person. Just drop the “tablets” into the little pond and watch them grow!

Adorable crab-shaped chopstick rest. Look, it even has a baby crab next to it to support your meat picker!

Adorable crab-shaped chopstick rest. Look, it even has a baby crab next to it to support your meat picker!

All in all, the food lived up to my expectations and the incorporation of fusion cuisine is certainly a refreshing change. Given that the tastes and elements of the different cuisines are notably present in the most of the fusion dishes, it is evident that considerable thought was put into the recipes.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading!

No Signboard Seafood 路 Esplanade 8 Raffles Ave # 01-14/16 Singapore 039802 路 Operating hours: 11 am – 2.30 pm & 5.30 pm – 10.30 pm 路 Nearest MRT station: Esplanade (cc3), City Hall (NS25/EW13) 路 For more information, please visit No Signboard Seafood FACEBOOK PAGE, INSTAGRAM or WEBSITE. Alternatively, you may download the menu HERE.

Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for bite-sized food updates!
Be sure to watch out for my Stories because that’s where I post my tasty encounters
馃榿

[INTL BUFFET] Have A Merry Little Christmas & Usher the Year of the Rat with an Imperial Feast @ The Square Restaurant, Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay

Season’s greetings, everyone!

The time for merrymaking is upon us again and that only means one thing – endless parties and gatherings with your loved ones and friends whom you’ve been too busy to meet all year. Sadly, for the incompetent cooks like yours truly, whipping up a dish as simple as an omelette for a potluck can be a real headache. Rather than subjecting your culinary-inept friends (and your stomach) to the unnecessary torture, why not ditch the apron and leave the food preparation to the professionals?

In a food haven that is Singapore, however, buffets are so aplenty that it takes sheer dedication to even shortlist that few locations. Perhaps, we can start from The Square Restaurant at Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay which has quite a number of exciting festive dishes lined up for lunch and dinner!

Have A Merry Little Christmas
(1 – 31 December 2019)

Indulge in an extravagant feast throughout the month of December as The Square Restaurant brings you the finest selection from the land and sea. Expect to see traditional (but improved!) festive favourites such as their 24-hour Roasted Brine Turkey, Roasted Beef Striploin and Roasted Lamb Leg to get you in the Christmas mood alongside an array of the freshest seafood on ice, like the chilled Alaskan King Crab Legs, Half-shell Scallops and sashimi. At the same time, keep in touch with your roots with local delicacies such as The Square Signature Black Pepper Crab and Salted Egg Crayfish.

24-hour Roasted Brine Turkey with Giblet & Cranberry Sauce

24-hour Roasted Brine Turkey with Giblet & Cranberry Sauce

Baked Gammon Ham with Pineapple Sauce

Baked Gammon Ham with Pineapple Sauce

Mediterranean Seabass En Papillote

Mediterranean Seabass En Papillote

Roasted Cumin & Pepper Infused Pork Rib served with Mango Mojo

Roasted Cumin & Pepper Infused Pork Rib served with Mango Mojo

Spanish Seafood Paella

Spanish Seafood Paella

A la Minute Pasta: Salted Egg

A la Minute Pasta: Salted Egg

Making an introductory appearance at the buffet is the 脿 la minute pasta with your choice of sauce between homemade salted egg and Mala. Having tried both sauces, I must say each of them has its own merits and appeal to different taste buds. Salted egg was a little on the thick side (totally apparent in the above picture) and I could taste the chunks of yolk. But as with most salted egg dishes, the possibility of feeling gelat (surfeited?) is there so go easy on the servings. #sayNOtofoodwaste

Mala, on the other hand, was a breath of fresh air. It contains just the right amount of Sichuan peppercorns for me, a novice eater, to enjoy comfortably without being irked by the (many a time excessive) tingly numbness in my mouth. But that said, if you can’t handle spicy food (though I did suggest to have a range of spiciness level for guest to choose from), definitely opt for salted egg instead.

And do remember to make some room for desserts at the end of the meal as you wouldn’t want to miss delectable sweet treats, like The Square Signature Durian Pengat, Log Cake, Chocolate Fondue, Fruit Cake, Tiramisu and other assorted pastries specially curated for Christmas!

Lemon Meringue Cake

Lemon Meringue Cake

Brownie & Hazelnut Cream

Brownie & Hazelnut Cream

Apple Walnut Log Cake

Apple Walnut Log Cake

Apple Almond Puff

Apple Almond Puff

Tiramisu

Tiramisu – which I thought was Milo Dinosaur at first glance WAHAHAHA

Festive Buffet
Lunch
Monday – Saturday (except 25th Dec) 路 12.00 pm – 2.30 pm
Adult: $48++ 路 Child (5-12 years old): $29++ 路 Senior Citizen (above 55 years old): $38++
Dinner
Sunday – Thursday (except 24th, 25th and 31st) 路 6.00 pm – 10.00 pm
Adult: $68++ 路 Child (5-12 years old): $39++ 路 Senior Citizen (above 55 years old): $58++
Christmas Eve Buffet Dinner
24th Dec 路 6.00 pm – 10.00 pm
*includes free-flow martini, beer, wine and soft drinks
Adult: $88++ 路 Child (5-12 years old): $49++ 路 Senior Citizen (above 55 years old): $78++
Christmas Day Lunch
25th Dec 路 12.00 pm – 2.30 pm
Adult: $68++ 路 Child (5-12 years old): $39++ 路 Senior Citizen (above 55 years old): $58++
Christmas Day Buffet Dinner
25th Dec 路 6.00 pm – 10.00 pm
Adult: $68++ 路 Child (5-12 years old): $39++ 路 Senior Citizen (above 55 years old): $58++
New Year’s Eve Buffet Dinner
31st Dec 路 6.00 pm – 10.00 pm
*includes free-flow beer, wine and soft drinks
Adult: $88++ 路 Child (5-12 years old): $49++ 路 Senior Citizen (above 55 years old): $78++

Usher the Year of the Rat with an Imperial Feast
(8 January – 8 February 2020)

Hold off your New Year’s resolution of getting back in shape because the feasting is not quite over yet! With the Year of the Rat exactly one month away from Christmas, brace yourselves for another round of edible temptation coming at you from every direction in January!

For many Chinese families, zi char places and Chinese restaurants are usually the gathering point for reunion dinners, and it’s always the same old dishes offered in the set menus. Worse, the prices of these dinner sets can only rise each year while portions remain unchanged or get reduced. Share the same sentiments? Then, you might want to relook the style of your reunion dinner this coming Chinese New Year.

How about a reunion buffet dinner for a change? That way, you will be ensured everyone gets their fill from a myriad of dishes at their leisure (like, you know how some restaurants churn out dish after dish and you feel pressured to speed up your eating? SO STRESSFUL) and you actually pay according to how much each person can consume? Yes, extended families with a brood of very young offspring and blessed with longevity, buffet dinner should be the way to go. And The Square Restaurant has just the what is needed to satisfy diners of all ages.

Yu Sheng (charged separately at S$68++ for Medium or $88++ for Large, excluding 20% discount for dine-in guest). Of course, your Yu Sheng will not be presented as such. This is exclusively for media.

Fa Cai Yu Sheng (charged separately at S$68++ for Medium or $88++ for Large, excluding 20% discount for dine-in guest). Of course, your Yu Sheng will not be presented as such. This is exclusively for media 馃槣

Your Fa Cai Yu Sheng (courtesy of Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay)

Your Fa Cai Yu Sheng (courtesy of Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay)

From an assortment of BBQ meats, Poached Broccoli with Dried Oysters and Black Moss to Wok-fried Salted Egg Prawn and Laksa, the buffet boasts a good mix of traditional and modern Chinese New Year delicacies that is bound to please the pickiest and most demanding of taste buds. On top of that, the more hands-on family members would also find themselves immersing themselves in the experience at the DIY Kong Bak Bao station. What better way to bridge the generation gap between the young and old than to offer your elders the Kong Bak Baos you have specially prepared for them, right? 馃槈

Roasted Grain-fed Beef Striploin

Roasted Grain-fed Beef Striploin

Braised Broccoli with Dried Oysters & Black Moss

Braised Broccoli with Dried Oysters & Black Moss

Wok-fried Salted Egg Prawn

Wok-fried Salted Egg Prawn

Hong Kong-style Steamed Pomfret

Hong Kong-style Steamed Pomfret

The Square Signature Black Pepper Crab

The Square Signature Black Pepper Crab

Assorted Chinese BBQ Platter

Assorted Chinese BBQ Platter

Assorted Chinese BBQ Platter

Assorted Chinese BBQ Platter

Braised Pork Rib with Chinese Mushrooms & Bamboo Shoot

Braised Pork Rib with Chinese Mushrooms & Bamboo Shoot

Lastly, round off the hearty meal with more than just a boring bowl of mango pomelo sago. Everyone at the table gets to pick from a variety of pastries infused with local flavours including but not limited to Pandan Egg Tart, Taro Butter Cake, Bak Kwa Chicken Floss Swiss Roll and Golden Sesame Ball. Not really a pastry person? Sure. Have a go at the Chilled Peach Gum with Red Dates and Dried Longan – which is an absolute favourite of my plus-one because it is tasty yet so healthy – or Pan-fried Nian Gao. Are you salivating yet?

Pandan Egg Tart

Pandan Egg Tart

Bak Kwa Chicken Floss Swiss Roll

Bak Kwa Chicken Floss Swiss Roll

Savoury and juicy sweetmeat wrapped with pastry dough and topped with chicken floss, this ingenious creation was a hit at the media tasting session. I never liked聽bak kwa, but I just couldn’t resist taking seconds of this. It was hea-ven-ly.

Orange Mousse Cake with Red Berry Jelly

Orange Mousse Cake with Red Berry Jelly

The Orange Mousse Cake is another top pick of mine and I am pretty sure it accounted for most of my calories gained that night – but damn was it worth it! The yellow strip of fondant icing – which I strongly feel should not just be on both ends of the cake because without it, the cake is better off in the Christmas buffet spread – has a citrusy note to it and the slight sourness of the red berry jelly filling prevents the mousse from being too cloyingly sweet. There is simply no reason to dislike this.

Taro Butter Cake

Taro Butter Cake

Chinese New Year may be more than a month away from now, but it’s never too early to start making your reservations. Act fast before your preferred dates are fully booked!

Prosperity Buffet
Lunch
Monday – Saturday聽路 12.00 pm – 2.30 pm
Adult: $48++ 路 Child (5-12 years old): $29++ 路 Senior Citizen (above 55 years old): $38++
Sunday Brunch
Sundays only 路 12.30 pm – 3.00 pm
Adult: $68++ 路 Child (5-12 years old): $39++ 路 Senior Citizen (above 55 years old): $58++
Dinner
Sunday – Thursday (except 26th Jan) 路 6.00 pm – 10.00 pm
Adult: $68++ 路 Child (5-12 years old): $39++ 路 Senior Citizen (above 55 years old): $58++
Chinese New Year’s Eve Dinner
24th Jan 路 6.00 pm – 10.00 pm
*includes free-flow wine, beer and soft drinks
Adult: $88++ 路 Child (5-12 years old): $49++ 路 Senior Citizen (above 55 years old): $78++
Chinese New Year Dinner
25th & 26th Jan 路 6.00 pm – 10.00 pm
Adult: $68++ 路 Child (5-12 years old): $39++ 路 Senior Citizen (above 55 years old): $58++
Fa Cai Yu Sheng
$68++ for Medium 路 $88++ for Large
(20% discount for all dine-in guests)

Overall, The Square Restaurant has impressed me not only with their palatable offerings, but also their creative spin on traditional dishes. I mean, just look at the presentation of the desserts especially! The effort is unmistakable.

Thanks for reading!

The Square Restaurant @ Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay 鈥 177A River Valley Rd Singapore 179031 鈥 For more information on buffet timings, please visit Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay’s WEBSITE

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[FAST FOOD] FIRST IN SINGAPORE: Mom’s Touch Chicken & Burger at Paya Lebar Quarter (PLQ)

Hello everyone!

East-siders have one more reason to rejoice: along with the opening of Paya Lebar Quarter (PLQ), popular South Korean fast food chain Mom’s Touch has also launched their first-ever Singapore outlet at the mall!

Courtesy of No Signboard Holdings

Courtesy of No Signboard Holdings

Here, Mom’s Touch – which presently has over 1,200 stores across South Korea and is established in major cities in the USA, Taiwan and Vietnam – offers the same famous chicken and burger dishes that they are particularly noted for in an al fresco dining setting (still sheltered in a way, so you are safe from the rain, the harsh afternoon sun and now, the annoying haze – just no air-conditioner, yeah?). Plus, since it is located at the open space right next to Paya Lebar MRT station (so exit from the fare gates on the first level), it would be impossible to miss!

Back in their home country, Mom’s Touch has always been touted as the restaurant that serves properly-made food. In fact, for the uninitiated, the brand name Mom’s Touch derives from the notion of the way mothers prepare meals for their families –聽heartwarming聽– so you can certainly expect your food to be prepared with a great deal of passion and flair. Their renowned chicken, for instance, is hand-battered and hand-breaded in the kitchen and marinated with their very own special blend of seasoning for a fuller, tender and juicier taste.

Mom's Touch (SG) on opening night

Mom’s Touch (SG) on opening night – queue immediately started forming the moment the restaurant announced that there were still limited amount of fried chickens left

Despite being a newcomer to our shores, Mom’s Touch seems to have already won the hearts of the locals as evident from the snaking queue formed outside their PLQ outlet when it first opened its doors to the public on 30 August (though, to be fair, many of the patrons were Koreans who probably missed home, and there was an irresistible 3-day opening offer as well). The demand got so overwhelming that everything (the mains) was sold out by 5pm on the first day (馃槺鉂) that even food bloggers like myself who were invited down for media tasting in the evening had to be turned away. A few of us eventually stayed to try the desserts and a few sample portions of their fried and sauced chicken (apparently they brought in more chickens towards closing time but still ran out of buns to make burgers) so as not to waste the trip. Even though we were only expecting a few menu items, it wasn’t until 40 minutes later that we finally got them. So… hungry…

Left: Citrus Yuzu Orange Ade / Right: Raspberry Melon Ade

Left: Citrus Yuzu Orange Ade / Right: Raspberry Melon Ade (all at S$3.80 each)

Mom's Spicy Sauced Chicken

Mom’s Spicy Sauced Chicken (1 pc: S$3.80 / 2 pc combo meal: S$8.90 / 3 pc combo meal: $12.00)

Mom's Fried Chicken

Mom’s Fried Chicken (1 pc: S$3.60 / 2 pc combo meal: S$8.70 / 3 pc combo meal: $11.70)

But the food sat well on my palate – Mom’s Fried Chicken (available in spicy and non-spicy versions, though I must say the spiciness didn’t really hit me) was crispy and non-greasy while the sauced-drenched Mom’s Spicy Sauced Chicken was tantalising to say the least. It was also juicy and succulent – yum! Between both flavours, the latter stood out more because of its more flavourful aroma and sweetness. That said, opt for both on your first visit. After all, you can never go wrong with fried chicken.

Cajun fries

Cajun fries (S: S$2.60 / M: S$3.40)

The cajun fries we had were served fresh from the fryer so they were very crunchy on the outside and fluffy inside. Taste-wise, I thought they were comparable to Popeye’s which is one of my go-to places for cajun fries, so no complaints there.

Black Sesame Sundae

Black Sesame Sundae (S$3.80)

As for desserts, we were served Black Sesame Sundae which was essentially vanilla ice-cream topped with a pretty generous dose of black sesame powder, a few sticks of Oreo Pocky and some vanilla waffle biscuits which gave an added crunch to the whole texture – nothing really groundbreaking here but it was surely a great dessert to end a savoury meal.

Fortunately, a second tasting session was held and I was able to try most of their signature dishes. As it was on a weekday afternoon, the queue would have died down significantly. Still, we were not spared from the relatively long waiting time of about 20 minutes. Granted, it was an improvement from the previous visit but it was still a stretch for a fast food restaurant.

Post-promotional period.. there's still queue omagawd!

Post-promotional period.. there’s still queue omagawd!

Joining me at the panel was a companion who couldn’t quite take spicy so we ordered both Mom’s Thigh Burger and Mom’s Spicy Thigh Burger (what suggestive and cannibalistic names though… 馃) to provide you with the most balanced views.

L-R: (Cajun) Cheese Fries, Peach Pear Ade, Elderflower Apple Ade

L-R: (Cajun) Cheese Fries (S$4.40), Peach Pear Ade, Elderflower Apple Ade (at S$3.80 each)

The packaging of the burger!

The packaging of the burger!

Dinner of the day! Burgers, L-R: Mom's Thigh Burger, Mom's Spicy Thigh Burger

Dinner of the day! Burgers, L-R: Mom’s Thigh Burger (a la carte: S$5.70 / combo meal: S$8.20), Mom’s Spicy Thigh Burger (a la carte: S$6.00 / combo meal: S$8.50)

Close-up of spicy patty

Close-up of spicy patty

Non-spicy patty

Non-spicy patty

Both burgers came with the same chicken patty, freshly cut lettuce, onions and pickles with the only difference being the type of sauce used – Mom’s Thigh Burger was infused with homemade burger sauce while the spicy version drizzled with authentic Korean spicy sauce. Even though the sauce was given in generous amounts that could potentially turn anything soggy, the crispiness of the patty crust could still be distinctively felt with every bite and the buns remained fluffy and light. On the downside, we thought the tenderness of the patty was largely overshadowed by the insanely crispy batter, so much so that the meat felt almost non-existent in contrast.

Fleshy, succulent meat..

Fleshy, succulent meat..

What disappointed us more, however, was how different the actual thing looked from the images depicted on all their promotional materials which show an exaggeratedly thick stack of ingredients slapped between the buns (I’m sure it was done from a marketing standpoint to showcase what go into the burger more clearly but still… clueless people like us would naturally assume that the height is attributed to the thick patty instead) and that kinda distorted our expectations. I think the same issue applies to the other burgers as well, so take note and don’t have high hopes 馃ぃ

I haven’t been to any of their outlets in South Korea so I cannot tell if the quality and taste are consistent with the original. But based on what I have tried so far, the food is decent, something different from the usual Korean fare here, I guess. Of course, there are many more items on the menu which we didn’t get to eat because our little stomach could only handle this much food. So the only way for you to verify our reviews is to try them for yourselves! Just be prepared to wait, okay? 馃槵

What is/are on your must-try list? If you’ve eaten at Mom’s Touch in South Korea before, are you excited about their arrival here? Otherwise, would you be keen to give Mom’s Touch a try? Let me know your thoughts and reviews (if you’ve already tasted the food) in the comments below!

On a side note, travelling 2800 miles to South Korea to get our Korean food fix may soon be unnecessary as more of such foreign-based restaurant chains permeate our local F&B scene! Woohoo!

Thanks for reading!

Mom’s Touch Chicken & Burger 路 Paya Lebar Quarter, 10 Paya Lebar Quarter, #01-37, Singapore 409057 路 Operating hours: 10 am – 10 pm (including public holidays) 路 Nearest MRT station: Paya Lebar (EW8/CC9) 路 For more information, please visit Mom’s Touch FACEBOOK PAGE, INSTAGRAM or WEBSITE.

Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for bite-sized food updates!
Be sure to watch out for my Stories because that’s where I post my tasty encounters
馃榿

South Korea, the Land of Morning Calm – Exploring Seoul & Jeju Island

Happy 2018, everyone! 馃巻馃帀

I know it’s a little late, but how did you spend your Christmas and New Year’s? In view of our financial constraints brought about by our upcoming wedding in November,聽fianc茅 and I settled on a staycation in lieu of a getaway last year-end holiday. In a way, I was relieved to have escaped the harsh cold weather in the destinations we had shortlisted before aborting the plan. Being someone with exceptionally low tolerance for cold, holidaying in temperate places during winter is seldom fun for me. But unless I’m travelling alone, I usually don’t have a choice. Tropical Asians generally prefer to go somewhere cooler (it’s like air-conditioned air everywhere, they say), don’t they?

I wanderlust pretty often. But much as I enjoy jetting off to foreign lands from time to time, I’m not going to lie – I tend to drag my heels over writing travelogues mainly because of the amount of time needed to invest in editing the colossal torrent of pictures taken and recalling the experience (which is often impeded by my bad memory) when it could be better spent on doing beauty reviews. But knowing these experiences will be mostly forgotten in a few years, electronically journaling them is an absolute necessity. Thus this is why, after procrastinating for more than a year, my Seoul travelogue is finally happening 馃ぃ

Changi Airport was decked out in Pok茅mon deco for Christmas in 2016! Their best theme yet :B

Changi Airport was decked out in Pok茅mon deco for Christmas in 2016! Their best theme yet :B

The gigantic Pikachu that has been making its rounds in Singapore - its last appearance was at Hillion Mall in December!

The gigantic Pikachu that has been making its rounds in Singapore – its last appearance was at Hillion Mall in December!

Having immersed ourselves in quite a number of Korean dramas and Running Man that year (largely kick-started by Descendants of the Sun聽in 2016聽馃ぃ), Seoul came naturally as our top destination pick. That said, it was my second trip to Seoul with the first being solo (fully subsidised by BLS Korea – thank you for having me!)聽during summer in July in the same year for a conference as a beauty blogger. I had a blast so I didn’t mind going there again to stock up on my Korean beauty supplies. My fianc茅 and I normally travel free and easy on our own but this time we were joined by his parents who prefer going on organised tours. For that, they engaged the services of Super Travels聽who provided us a Chinese-speaking tour guide聽(a Taiwanese living in South Korea)聽for our 8D6N trip.

The trip started on an awry note as my winter kicks gave way in the midst of my Grab ride to the airport unbeknownst to me. It was only after alighting from the car that I realised one side of my shoes was missing its thick sole. The infrequent usage must have dried out the glue and caused the sole to detach in the car 馃槴 I immediately changed out into my spare espadrilles meant for indoor use and discarded the unusable pair while praying that I wouldn’t need to hike across rough terrain.

For easy navigation, click on the hyperlinks in the daily itinerary to jump to their respective write-up, or choose one of the days below:

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6 | DAY 7

* * DAY 1 * *

(Pocket WiFi Rental 鈫捖Korean Healthfood Restaurant聽鈫
ELAND Cruise聽鈫 GLAD Hotel)

We boarded our SQ flight at 7.05 am at Terminal 3 and arrived at Incheon International Airport about seven hours later. If I remember correctly, we had to take a shuttle bus after disembarking from the plane to get to the immigration hall. The queue to clear customs was relatively short (like my previous time) so it didn’t take long before we could collect our luggage at the carousel. Our tour guide and a few other Singapore tourists (who took the same flight as us) had already gathered at the waiting area when we emerged through the arrival gate.

Anticipating that we wouldn’t have time to look for and pick up a pocket WiFi at Incheon Airport (there are plenty to choose from and the booth I got my WiFi Egg from on my first visit was super efficient), we had actually聽rented one from WifiBabyin Singapore for S$44 for 8 days ($5.50/day per unit). It ran on 4G with a daily fair usage of 500MB (after which the network speed would slow down) and could be shared among five devices. Technically, pocket WiFi isn’t entirely necessary if you’re on a free and easy trip because there is practically WiFi at most touristy areas. But I hate the thought of having to hunt for hotspots to post a photo on Instagram because I heavily rely on GPS to identify my location then and there. Besides, if you’re travelling in tour groups which often set off on long and dreary journeys, a pocket WiFi is a definite must.

Changi Recommends was our initial choice (for convenience sake) but all units were – as usual – already booked for that period when we tried to make a request online four days before. I figured that unless you plan your holiday way ahead of time (especially during peak seasons), it is almost impossible to successfully place a reservation for the pocket WiFi with Changi Recommends so the next best alternative would be WifiBaby for their comparable rates. The downside, however, is that you’d have to put down a deposit (though I don’t remember having to do so for my order) and collect and return the device to their office at Raffles Place during business hours.

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Chilly winds engulfed me the moment I stepped out of the airport to get to the bus, followed by speckles of drizzle on my cardigan. Looking up at the gloomy sky, the rain didn’t seem like it was letting up anytime soon and that was when I knew my feet were going to be trapped in moist, smelly shoes for the next seven days. Therefore, my dedicated hashtag for this vacation was along the lines of #coldrea which was an understatement in itself. Perhaps #soakcoldrea would have been more apt 馃檮..

Like Japan, South Korea is one hour ahead of Singapore which, by the way, requires some getting used to for sleepyheads like myself (as this means having to wake up an hour earlier every time 馃槾). After what felt like an hour’s drive, the bus dropped us off at聽Korean Healthfood Restaurant聽for dinner at about 6pm KST.

Korean Healthfood Restaurant

Korean Healthfood Restaurant

The overall facade of the restaurant somehow reminded me of that of a factory store. The name of the restaurant wholly in Chinese characters, coupled with the absence of local diners inside, gave me the impression that it was very tourist-oriented. For a split second, I thought we were going to be pressured to buy something at our first destination! Thankfully, this suspicion proved to be unfounded when pots and pots of piping hot samgyetang聽(ginseng chicken soup) were served to our table.

Kimchi (salted and fermented vegetables), a common side dish in Korean cuisine

Kimchi (salted and fermented vegetables), a common side dish in Korean cuisine

Pickled radish, another common side dish

Pickled radish, another common side dish

Samgyetang

Samgyetang

Glutinous rice inside the chicken

Glutinous rice inside the chicken

As if there wasn't enough carb in this dish, I went ahead to add some noodles..

As if there wasn’t enough carb in this dish, I went ahead to add some noodles..

For the record, I am not very well-versed in Korean cuisine (outside of kimchi and barbecue) so despite samgyetang being a relatively popular Korean dish, I had never tasted it prior to this trip. What better way to try a Korean delicacy for the first time than to have it in its place of origin? 馃構

This bubbling pot of samgyetang sent warmth to my chilled soul (and belly) right from the very first mouthful. The ginseng taste in the broth is pretty mild on my Chinese taste buds but may be a little overpowering for those who’ve not had it before. And then came the surprise when I pried the chicken open with the spoon: there’s even glutinous rice with red dates and chestnuts (and a whole lot of other herbs) tucked in there to complete the hearty meal! Apparently, each ingredient of the samgyetang also packs tons of聽health benefits聽including聽boosting energy and the immune system.

The chicken meat was soft and tender but the many fragments of bones made it rather bothersome to savour fully. Still, the samgyetang was a great introductory dish to Korean cuisine, especially during the cold weather months. I was craving for samgyetang so much within a week from returning home that I started hunting it down at Korean restaurants and stocking up on the instant version!

Korean Healthfood Restaurant 路 93 Yeonnam-ro, Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul聽 03975, South Korea
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Post dinner, we hopped onto the bus and headed to the next destination. The vehicle halted at a bus bay and we walked some distance to an area lit with colourful neon lights. Behind these Christmas decorations was Eland Cruise, purportedly the filming location of the ship scene in My Love from the Star.

Hello day 1!

Hello day 1!

The entrance to Eland Cruise ferry dock

The entrance to Eland Cruise ferry dock

Pok茅mon milk cartons in the Eland Cruise convenience store! (Pok茅monGO wasn't launched in Korea yet at that point in time 馃槴)

Pok茅mon milk cartons in the Eland Cruise convenience store! (Pok茅monGO wasn’t launched in Korea yet at that point in time 馃槴)

Winnie and Pikachu on the packaging? TAKE OUR MONEY!

Winnie and Pikachu on the packaging? TAKE OUR MONEY!

We were ushered to a kitchen (or bakery) on the second floor of the dock where we would try our hands at making danpatbbang (sweet red bean bread) alongside a live demonstration by a troupe of good-looking Korean performers who also attempted to inject some entertainment into what they were doing. To get us into character, we were also given a disposable聽toque blanche to wear.

Ingredients all set up on the table!

Ingredients all set up on the table!

Performers teaching the tourists how to make bread!

Performers teaching the tourists how to make bread!

At the dock waiting to board the cruise ship

At the dock waiting to board the cruise ship

Everything on this display looked fine until I saw the English translation of the text.. Why..

Everything on this display looked fine until I saw the English translation of the text.. Why..

Following the bread-making session which lasted around 30 minutes, we proceeded to board the cruise ship to watch the聽Pang Show聽put up by the same group of performers earlier while all of our danpatbbang was being baked. The show, inspired by TV series King of Baking, Kim Tak-goo, went on for another 30 minutes, bringing laughter to the audience with their silly antics despite the language barrier.

During the performance, the boat would have already sailed to the middle of Han River so once the show ended, we spent the next few minutes at the deck viewing the rainbow fountain (the world’s longest bridge fountain) along Banpo Bridge. I don’t remember paying attention to the attraction because I was literally shivering and couldn’t wait to return to the bus聽to take refuge from the biting cold!

The ticket to the Pang Show!

The ticket to the Pang Show!

Pang Show

Pang Show

The "pastry chefs" showing us what they can do with pots and pans

The “pastry chefs” showing us what they can do with pots and pans

Halfway through the show, the actors froze for a few seconds for the audience to snap some pictures LOL

Halfway through the show, the actors froze for a few seconds for the audience to snap some pictures 馃槀

On the deck

On the deck

My ready-to-eat danpatbbang!

My ready-to-eat danpatbbang!

By the time we landed at the dock, our freshly baked聽danpatbbang was ready for collection! Excitedly, I sunk my teeth into one of those I made, foolishly expecting it to聽have a similar taste to the red bean buns we have in Singapore. Needless to say, I didn’t really enjoy it as I found it a little too bland for my liking 馃槪聽But on the overall, it was a great and educational experience your kids wouldn’t want to miss.

ELAND Cruise (Pang Pang Cruise) 路 290 Yeouidong-ro, Yeoeuido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul, South Korea聽路聽Book through Klook or KKday
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As the night wore on, an increasing number of yawns filled the bus as it crawled down the slippery road towards our hotel for the night. Located in the financial center of Seoul, GLAD Hotel Yeouido is built opposite the South Korean capitol building and in front of National Assembly subway station (like, literally a minute’s walk away, visible from the lobby) which makes commuting around Seoul extremely easy. If only the hotel I lodged in on my first visit (Belle-Essence Seoul Hotel, 15-minutes’ walk away from Yeoksam station, permanently closed now) was that convenient – I would have been more inclined to tote back a bigger shopping haul 馃ぉ

There were a few convenience stores and pubs (chimaek, anyone?) in the vicinity of GLAD Hotel. Oh, KBS Broadcasting Station is nearby too if you want to catch a glimpse of Korean celebrities (though we didn’t see any during our stay 馃槅)!

GLAD Hotel Yeouido at night

GLAD Hotel Yeouido at night

GLAD Hotel Yeouido in the day

GLAD Hotel Yeouido in the day

GLAD Hotel Yeouido lobby (taken on our last day when we checked out) - the ambience gave me a very warm-and-fuzzy feel and I really liked that huge Christmas wreath they hung on the wall

GLAD Hotel Yeouido lobby (taken on our last day when we checked out) – the ambience gave me a very warm-and-fuzzy feel and I really liked that huge Christmas wreath they hung on the wall

Our room

Our room

Quotes about life!

Quotes about life!

LOVE the design of the sink! The knobs next to the tap are for adjusting the water temperature and pressure

LOVE the design of the sink! The knobs next to the tap are for adjusting the water temperature and pressure

As always, fianc茅's eyes lit up upon the sight of a rain shower head.. I'm more of a handheld shower head kinda person so I was GLAD the bathroom was equipped with the best of both worlds lol

As always, fianc茅’s eyes lit up upon the sight of a rain shower head.. I’m more of a handheld shower head kinda person so I was GLAD the bathroom was equipped with the best of both worlds lol

The toilet bowl is strangely separated from the bathroom perhaps due to space constraints. But that didn't bother me much. Furthermore, it's a smart toilet, baybeh!

The toilet bowl is strangely separated from the bathroom perhaps due to space constraints. But that didn’t bother me much. Furthermore, it’s a smart toilet, baybeh!

Much to our delight, we accommodated at this hotel twice during the trip (once more before we departed) and both times were equally wonderful. It is one of the better five-star hotels in Seoul that are not too exorbitantly priced for their rooms (according Agoda) and the best one we stayed in Korea. Certainly a hotel worth considering for our future Seoul visits!

GLAD Hotel路 17-5, Yeouido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul 150-874, South Korea
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* * DAY 2 * *

(K TurtleNamsan Seoul Tower聽鈫
Korea Bibimbap Experience Center聽鈫
Gimpo International Airport [Seoul to Jeju Island with T-Way]聽鈫 Mysterious Road 鈫捖Arboretum Theme Park聽鈫
Da Hae Jeong聽鈫 Yongduam Rock聽鈫捖Best Western Hotel)

One reason for my preference for independent travel is the freedom to sleep in which is never possible in group tours. Our daily morning call was around 7am KST (8am latest) because it was a primarily weekday trip and the tour guide wanted to avoid the rush hour jam. It was so tough leaving the warm bed for the chilly morning air. With our bulky luggage in tow (since we were scheduled to leave for Jeju Island later that day), we joined the other early risers in the bus.

For breakfast before setting out for Namsan Seoul Tower, we were taken to a buffet restaurant called “K Turtle” in an unknown building (another reason for my dislike towards group tours is not knowing where I am most of the time, especially when it comes to meal times). The food spread (Chinese-Korean) there was boring at best.

K Turtle entrance

K Turtle entrance

Dining area

Dining area

Dreadful food..

Dreadful food..

I wasn't kidding when I said there were more veggies than meat at the buffet

I wasn’t kidding when I said there were more veggies than meat at the buffet

One of the more decent food at the buffet..

One of the more decent food at the buffet..

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The first tower-type tourist attraction in Korea,聽Namsan Seoul Tower is聽one of the tallest towers in the Orient with its highest point at almost 480m above sea level. An iconic symbol of Seoul today, it was聽first established as a broadcast tower to send out TV and radio signals in 1969. Although I am not very familiar with the landscapes in Korea, I had certainly seen and heard about N Seoul Tower聽in the earlier episodes of Running Man so I was pretty psyched to be there.

Vehicles were not allowed at certain point so we had to get to the tower by foot

Vehicles were not allowed at certain point so we had to get to the tower by foot

N Seoul Tower

N Seoul Tower

We took a lift up to the observatory level

We took a lift up to the observatory level

Mandatory shot as a Singaporean!

Mandatory shot as a Singaporean!

They've got quite a number of observatory binoculars like this on the level!

They’ve got quite a number of observatory binoculars like this on the level!

"I'm on a diet," says no one ever on a holiday. Churros and Ice Cream to compensate for the horrible breakfast!

“I’m on a diet,” says no one ever on a holiday. Churros and Ice Cream to compensate for the horrible breakfast!

Apart from the breathtaking view of Seoul from the observatory, many couples go to N Seoul Tower for the purpose of locking their “padlocks of love” on the railing along the ground terrace because, y’know, it’s a cheaper alternative to travelling all the way to Pont des Arts in Paris for the same thing 馃槢聽That aside, it’s also an unusual way to leave your footprints at this popular dating spot, so much as I am not the mushy sort, I could not let this opportunity pass!

The locks typically come in pairs (duh) with a black permanent marker and are sold as a set at souvenir shops there at a reasonable price (I think). However, there was little variety of designs to choose from and most had a smooth, rubbery texture which made the ink less resistant to fading (the writings on some of the existing locks had been completely wiped off). The design of the padlock is so generic that you won’t be able to spot yours easily among the sea of others so bring your own padlocks and markers if you’re planning to lock your love here! Ideally, if I were to do this again, I would be #extra and put a written note in a hollow padlock made of fluorescent or reflective material.

No prize for guessing who picked the colour.. I wrote the one on the right!

No prize for guessing who picked the colour.. I wrote the one on the right!

The railings were so overly saturated with padlocks that there wasn't any space left to hang ours and we had to resort to padlocking them to someone else's like a love triangle LOL. It won't be long before all these padlocks get removed because I doubt the railings will be able to withstand the weight of so much love 馃槢

The railings were so overly saturated with padlocks that there wasn’t any space left to hang ours and we had to resort to padlocking them to someone else’s like a love triangle LOL. It won’t be long before all these padlocks get removed because I doubt the railings will be able to withstand the weight of so much love 馃槢

SO. MANY. OF. THEM. (and this is just one tiny part of ONE railing) Of course, it doesn't have to be padlock. Some creative people actually hung handphone covers and pencil cases lol

SO. MANY. OF. THEM. (and this is just one tiny part of ONE railing) Of course, it doesn’t have to be padlock. Some creative people actually hung handphone covers and pencil cases lol

Basking in the sun while it lasted 馃槦

Basking in the sun while it lasted 馃槦

Fianc茅 and I kept the keys as memento of the visit even though they were supposed to be discarded. But we are not the most organised people on the planet so the keys are as good as gone now聽馃槤

If you have a choice, swing by Namsan Seoul Tower at night because that’s when it comes to life with magnificent illumination (more bang for your buck 馃槍)!

Namsan Seoul Tower聽路聽105 Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan 2(i)ga-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
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They say no trip to South Korea would have been complete without eating聽bibimbap, a healthy and fuss-free mixed rice dish traditionally using day-old rice and leftovers. Dubbed the Korean spin on nachos, the bibimbap is served with a medley of vegetables and meat arranged over a bed of rice, topped with fried egg and a dollop of hot chili paste and is so dearly loved by the Koreans that it is聽ranked second after kimchi聽(or among top 10 on other reports) as the most popular Korean food. At the Korean Traditional Bibimbap Experience Center聽(another place meant for tourists, I reckon), we got to observe how the bibimbap was made before relishing it for lunch.

Korean Traditional Bibimbap Experience Centre

Korean Traditional Bibimbap Experience Centre

This was served together with the banchan (side dishes) but none of us knew what it was.. Any ideas? I remember not liking the taste..

This was served together with the banchan (side dishes) but none of us knew what it was.. Any ideas? I remember not liking the taste..

Hunje ori (smoked duck) - the only dish on the table that called my name 馃槏

Hunje ori (smoked duck) – the only dish on the table that called my name 馃槏

A gigantic stone bowl of bibimbap (minus the sunny side up) to be shared among a table of 8-10

A gigantic stone bowl of bibimbap (minus the sunny side up) to be shared among a table of 8-10

How bibimbap is supposed to be eaten (kinda looks like fried rice now haha)

How bibimbap is supposed to be eaten (kinda looks like fried rice now haha)

Bibimbap in its unmixed state kinda reminds me of our traditional聽Hakka聽lei cha fan聽(“thunder tea rice”) but with more ingredients (like meat – which is mostly absent in聽lei cha fan), flavour and better visual appeal, and has to be stirred together like lo hei. It offers nutrients and a snappy crunch with every bite but as someone with a deep fondness for savoury and scrumptious food, the abundance of greens in this dish doesn’t quite make my taste buds throw a party for my mouth. Plus, taking into account that this place was specially created for tourists to participate in the Korean culture, it would be unfair to peg our expectations of a good bibimbap to that level (heck, there wasn’t even a fried egg on top 馃檮) as I’m sure there are better ones out there.

That said, the bibimbap would have been much more of聽a pleasure to chow down on during our final days of bulgogi and Korean BBQ indulgence in Korea!

Korea Traditional Bibimbap Experience Centre聽(Gung-gol) 路聽瓴疥赴霃 瓿犾枒鞁 雿曥枒甑 鞖╇憪搿 121 氩堦父 6 (鞖╇憪霃) /聽6 Yongdu-ro 121 beon-gil Deogyang-gu, Goyang-si Gyeonggi-do 10549, South Korea
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As food coma started to kick in, we made our way to Gimpo International Airport to catch our T’way flight to Jeju Island. T’way Air is a South Korean low-cost airline serving several destinations in Asia including China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam that flies directly to Jeju International Airport. The interior design of Gimpo Airport is, of course, incomparable to the world-class beauty of Incheon with its slightly dated amenities (or lack thereof) in the transit area but service was generally pleasant and more acceptable than that of Jeju International Airport. The journey from Gimpo to Jeju took about an hour or thereabouts according to the timestamps of my photos.

T'way check-in counter at Gimpo International Airport

T’way check-in counter at Gimpo International Airport

Upon landing at Jeju International Airport, we proceeded to the baggage claim area where we waited half an hour or more for our luggage to show up on the turnstile. Probably because of the limited number of conveyor belts there, at least three carriers had to share one so there was a significant delay in processing ours which got us more anxious as time went by.

We exited the airport only to realise that it was pouring quite heavily. Dragging the wheels of our luggage, we braved through the strong winds聽with our spare hands futilely shielding us from the haphazard downfalls of rain to get to our tour bus parked at an unsheltered area. At this juncture, my feet were already drenched to the skin, no thanks to my water-receptive shoes. Plagued by the discomfort of walking in squishy shoes and the risk of developing foot odour, I was in a desperate need to buy a new pair which wasn’t feasible given our tight itinerary 馃槬

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And off the bus went. Along the way to Arboretum Theme Park, we experienced the oddity of being moved against gravity on theMysterious Road (Dokkaebi Road). To illustrate that things roll upslope on this road’s inclination, the bus driver turned off the engine and true enough, the entire bus actually propelled slowly forward on its own! If not for the rain, we would have gotten off the bus to do more experiments on the road, such as pouring water or rolling a coin on it and observing where it trails to and taking pictures (hence, none taken) but obviously we figured it wasn’t worth catching a cold over. Although this baffling phenomenon has been explained by numerous theories (mostly centered around optical illusion), it was still a fascinating sight to behold!

The Mysterious Road is marked at the start and finish points in multiple languages and the sidewalk beyond the end of the inclination are dotted by souvenir shops and street food stalls. We stopped by one of the stalls to grab a quick bite before taking part in an impromptu session of archery at the shop next to it. I vaguely remember the tour guide leading us there so I’m pretty sure he got a cut from the earnings because the archery activity was so random and nobody wanted to participate in it initially (most of us were puzzled by the choice to go there in fact) until some subtle nudging 馃槒聽Or maybe, that was his way to kill time before resuming our trip to聽Arboretum Theme Park.

When hunger strikes... everything looks good

When hunger strikes… everything looks good

The best! I can't remember what it is.. perhaps crab stick in fish cake? But the chili sauce ruined it (I am not a fan of sauces lol)

The best! I can’t remember what it is.. perhaps crab stick in fish cake? But the chili sauce ruined it (I am not a fan of sauces lol)

Why must everything go with ketchup/chili sauce?!

Why must everything go with ketchup/chili sauce?!

Mysterious Road 路 2894-63 1100 (Cheonbaek)-ro, Nohyeong-dong, Cheju, Jeju-do, South Korea
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Dusk had already fallen when we arrived at Arboretum Theme Park (the fa莽ade of Sumokwon Theme Park looks strikingly similar on Google so it could also be known as another name) even though it was barely 6pm KST. The theme park comprises an indoor museum and a 5D theatre. The inside of the building looked far too institutional (literally, it resembled a school) for a place of interest but it was clean and easy to navigate our way around because as far as I know, there were only a few rooms on every floor.

Arboretum Theme Park at night

Arboretum Theme Park at night

The first room we were brought to was the 5D theatre (camera is prohibited) where we saw a 10-minute (or so) kids-friendly animation called “Poseidon”. Apart from the 3D effect and the occasional water spritzing and chair movements, it was nothing too spectacular and memorable partially because I didn’t like the plot. Maybe, just maybe, if I had stayed on for the next screening – an animated horror film (my favourite genre) – which was another 15 minutes later, I would have a different opinion. Alas, we left because fianc茅 chickened out wanted to spend the limited free time given to us on exploring other parts of the theme park.

The ice museum is one of the permanent features of the theme park which showcases ice sculptures crafted by famous Japanese artists. It is kept at sub-zero temperature to preserve the ice and visitors are expected to bring their own winter outfits all year round. Unlike many ice museums of the like, visitors are allowed to touch the sculptures, so hug them or kiss them (that’s gross, though) – nobody’s gonna stop you!

Biiiiig snowman

Biiiiig snowman

Icy globe

Icy globe

My favourite part of the ice museum - the ice slide! Visitors get unlimited rides down the slide on an inflatable float. Cheap thrills 馃槅

My favourite part of the ice museum – the ice slide! Visitors get unlimited rides down the slide on an inflatable float. Cheap thrills 馃槅

Unable to bear with the cold any longer, we moved over to the 3D illusion art museum which is the theme park equivalent of Trick Eye Museum where 2D art installations are turned into three-dimensional through the use of optical illusions. This was a great opportunity for us to experience illusion art without additional charges since we hadn’t (still haven’t – too far and expensive!) visited the local Trick Eye Museum at Sentosa and I beat myself up for not doing so earlier because, omagawd, we had so much fun!

I don’t want to bore you with a bunch of pictures and make this post ridiculously longer than it already is, so here are some of my favourite shots:

Literal meaning of "holding (your) sh*t together" 馃ぃ

Literal meaning of “holding (your) sh*t together” 馃ぃ

Baywatch starring @griftz

Baywatch starring @griftz HAHAHA

@griftz, a wanted man? Nah, the text below him reads "First Korean Nobel Prize Winner in Literature" (Google-translated lah, don't whack me if I'm wrong!) If we had known what it meant then, he would be smiling instead 馃槄

@griftz, a wanted man? Nah, the text below him reads “First Korean Nobel Prize Winner in Literature” (Google-translated lah, don’t whack me if I’m wrong!) If we had known what it meant then, he would be smiling instead 馃槄

My (fail) attempt in becoming part of SNSD (no more soon, though)

My (fail) attempt in becoming part of SNSD (no more soon, though)

Due to time constraints, we were only able to see and take pictures with a handful of the many art installations at the museum which, in my opinion, was what made the admission ticket worthwhile. Of course, if you don’t have an abnormally low tolerance for cold like me, the ice museum would also make an enjoyable highlight of your time at Arboretum Theme Park!

Arboretum Theme Park路 69 Eunsu-gil, Yeon-dong, Cheju, Jeju-do, South Korea
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After everyone gathered at the assembly point, we boarded the bus to our (late) dinner venue to fill our stomach with another round of authentic Korean fare. Da Hae Jeong (which also has an outlet in Busan) was vacant when we got there so we had the whole restaurant to ourselves!

Da Hae Jeong

Da Hae Jeong

Our dinner spread

Our dinner spread

Grilled fish

Grilled fish

Gyeran-jjim (steamed eggs)

Gyeran-jjim (steamed eggs)

Other banchan dishes. I can't remember what the middle one is... Maybe chicken?

Other banchan dishes. I can’t remember what the middle one is… Maybe chicken?

Many of the dishes were pretty much standard across all the meals we had but the star of the table that night was, no doubt, the聽gyeran-jjim, or steamed eggs. Fluffy and custardy in texture, the gyeran-jjim was served simmering-hot in an聽earthenware bowl and has a mildly sweet taste. This unassuming dish is often sprinkled with scallions but I loved it in its bare form, and so did the rest at the same table as evident by how quickly the bowl was emptied. The small portion was obviously not enough to satisfy our appetite so we ended up ordering another, paid for out of our own pocket.

Da Hae Jeong (雼ろ暣鞝) 路 877-2 Yongdam 2(i)-dong, Cheju, Jeju-do, South Korea 路 Phone: +82 64-745-1688
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Before calling it a night, the tour bus stopped somewhere near the northern coast for us to view the Yongduam Rock (or Dragon Head Rock) but we had to get off and walk a distance. Feeling exhausted and reluctant to venture out in the cold and drizzle (which gradually became heavier, phew!), fianc茅 and I chose to stay in the bus while everyone else alighted. Missing out on the Yongduam Rock was no big deal to me because I was never intrigued by geological formations, regardless of how peculiar or stunning they may be. Furthermore, perhaps it聽takes a certain kind of imagination to make out the dragon head among the pile of rocks but, I just cannot see it in any of the Yongduam Rock pictures I found on Google Images聽馃

Yongduam Rock (Dragon Head Rock 鞖╇憪鞎) 路 Yongduam-gil, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea 路 Phone: +82 64-728-3601
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For the two nights in Jeju Island, we put up at Best Western Hotel (undeniably a name made up of highly searchable keywords 馃槅) where we would max out our daily sugar intake at the Starbucks outlet next to the lobby with a cuppa hot chocolate or Green Tea Frapp茅. Just a few steps away was a 24-hour convenience store that would become our spot for midnight munchies, and facing the hotel was a stretch of malls that we didn’t have the opportunity to explore owing to the unfavourable weather and the fact that we were always returning from our tour past standard operating hours.

Best Western Jeju Hotel (taken on the day we checked out)

Best Western Jeju Hotel (taken on the day we checked out)

Our spacious room - just for the two of us!

Our spacious room – just for the two of us!

The pantry area, separated from the beds with a little partition

The pantry area, separated from the beds with a little partition

The toilet. No rain shower head, though

The toilet. No rain shower head, though

Like many other large lodging establishments, Best Western uses electronic keycards for room access, and unless you want to leave the hotel several tens of dollars poorer, do not lose your keycard if you plan to stay with them. Do not attempt to keep it as a memento. Don’t even think about it.

We thought we had misplaced one of our keycards聽and was told to pay upon check-out a replacement fee of 鈧40,000 (S$50) – or thereabouts (but it was an amount astronomical enough to drop my jaw) – which was ridiculous considering that it was just a generic card and the hotel could easily deactivate it. What’s a cheap keycard to a hotel, much less an international one? By and large, the stay was pleasant (I mean, the location is great and the room had almost everything we needed) but this incident sure left a bad taste in our mouths.

Well, it turned out the card was actually in the pocket of one of fianc茅’s soiled jeans all the while 馃槕聽and it was only discovered when he unpacked his luggage in Singapore. Now that we’ve found the precious keycard, can we get a refund?!

Best Western Hotel 路 27 Doryeong-ro, Cheju, Jeju-do 690-762, South Korea
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* * DAY 3 * *

(Olleh Gaseo Jeonbok Meogja聽鈫 Teseum聽鈫
Seongeup Folk VillageSeongsan Ilchulbong Peak
Mandarin Orange Farm)

Since breakfast wasn’t included for most of our hotel stays in Korea, we were often driven out to designated eateries to have our first meal of the day. This arrangement enabled us to break away from the repetitive menus of hotel breakfast buffets and be fully immersed in the flavours and aromas of the Korean cuisine from the get-go each day 馃構聽So on the third day, we started our morning with a bowl of聽juk聽(Korean porridge) and ended the night with the most palatable jogaetang (clam stew) and my virgin聽sannakji (moving octopus sashimi) experience – all from the same seafood restaurant called Olleh Gaseo Jeonbok Meogja which translates loosely to “let’s go and eat abalone”.

Restaurant front - all the fresh seafood 馃構

Restaurant front – all the fresh seafood 馃構

Dining area

Dining area

Very grateful for my clear skin throughout my stay in Korea because I usually break out whenever I travel. All credits goes to Dr Ram of The Wellness Clinic for keeping my pimples at bay

Very grateful for my clear skin throughout my stay in Korea because I usually break out whenever I travel. All credits goes to Dr Ram of The Wellness Clinic for keeping my pimples at bay

The usual banchan, again

The usual banchan, again

Korean porridge (juk) topped tiny seaweed shreds

Korean porridge (juk) topped with seaweed shreds

Jam sandwich for those who were still feeling hungry!

Jam sandwich for those who were still feeling hungry!

Filling merely half the bowl, the juk was plain without any superfluous ingredients apart from the mounds of seaweed shreds on top of it (no abalone too, in case you’re wondering). The grains looked like they were submerged in water and not smoothly blended together and we didn’t like the slightly gritty texture and taste (or lack thereof). Perhaps it is the Korean tradition to keep breakfast light, but a bowl of porridge definitely didn’t satiate our hunger so we reached for the jam and bread thereafter.

Fortunately, dinner was worlds apart from the bland and mediocre food we had in the day. Admittedly, we felt a pang of a disappointment when the bus pulled over in front of the same restaurant as that seemed to spell yet another round of unsatisfactory meal.聽But as soon as we dug in, we were all blown away!

Three-quarter of the dinner spread. It does not look that fantastic, I know

Three-quarter of the dinner spread. It does not look that fantastic, I know

Spicy rice cakes (tteokbokki)

Spicy rice cakes (tteokbokki)

Seafood/clams stew (jogaetang) - hands down the best dish of the whole Korea trip!

Seafood/clams stew (jogaetang) – hands down the best dish of the whole Korea trip!

In no time, our table was populated with dishes but ultimately, it was the jogaetang that stole the scene. Loaded with at least four different kinds of seafood fresh (largely short-neck clams) from the tank and then boiled in light, clear broth which thickened with flavour over time, this piping hot stew provided a much-needed respite from the cold. The natural sweetness of the prawns balanced out the briny tang of the abalone (which was still moving in its shell when the stew was served) and clams to give a refreshing taste, making it worthy of whatever calories it contained. Fianc茅 asked if we could go for a second serving but for some reason, I refused?! 馃槶

Even till today, I am still kicking myself for not ordering another bowl of jogaetang and this is probably one regret I’m going to have to live with for the rest of my life..

Moving octopus tentacles (sannakji)

Moving octopus tentacles (sannakji)

This has got to be one of the must-try dishes in Korea!

This has got to be one of the must-try dishes in Korea!

The restaurant was also where I didn’t expect to strike an item off my bucket list – trying the sannakji! The sannakji is inarguably the most controversial South Korean delicacy as it involves slaughtering the baby octopus alive (which I didn’t know prior to this experience) and serving its still-writhing tentacles to diners. It聽was never supposed to be served to the guests in this restaurant until someone in our tour group spotted it appearing from its hideout in one of the tanks, thereby leading it to its unfortunate fate. The聽sannakji was a treat from our tour guide and although I enjoyed the chewy and slimy texture, I wished it was, at the very least, given a quick and minimally painful death before it was severed for the dinner plate.

Olleh Gaseo Jeonbok Meogja (鞓爤臧靹滌爠氤惦ü鞛)聽路聽2614-3, Doduil-dong, Jeju-si, Jeju, South Korea聽路 Operating Hours: 07:00 – 21:00 路 Phone: +82 64-713-2277
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South Korea is home to at least five teddy bear museums in the world, of which two – including the first in the country which was established in 2001 – are in Jeju Island. However, the concept of teddy bear museums didn’t quite gain traction among international visitors until it was popularised by the 2006 hit Korean TV series Goong. As part of our itinerary, we were able to聽embrace our inner child at Teseum Jeju (Teddy Bear Safari), a spin-off from the original that prides itself as the world鈥檚 first exhibition theme park with various real life-sized wildlife and marine stuffed animals and teddy bears. Apart from those, there are also teddy bears dressed in聽traditional clothes of countries around the world (though the depiction can get a little stereotypical, so view with an open mind) and as gods from Greek mythology. On top of that, you can even come face-to-face with celebearties 馃槅

Teseum / Teddybear Safari (Jeju)

Teseum / Teddybear Safari (Jeju)

The museum is made up of two interconnected 2-storey buildings (A and B), each dedicating to a certain theme. Stuffed animals (not teddy bears, mind you) are displayed in a safari context on the first level while marine animals, subjects of prominent artworks and notable film characters take the form of teddy bears on the second. The place seemed moderately small and well-structured so two hours is all you need to see everything. I vaguely remember that there was a聽caf茅 somewhere in the building too but I could be wrong. Fianc茅 and I then concluded the tour with a brief shopping stint at the gift shop which honestly had more interesting variety of teddy bears than the museum itself.

Finds at the safari

Finds at the safari

This is also part of the Safari Zone, I think..

This is also part of the Safari Zone, I think..

There were quite a number of teddy bears with this “eyes shut, mouth wide open” expression to the extent that it looked kinda lazy.. Makes me wonder if this was the operator’s way of saving cost on the eye balls..

Why go to the bird park when you can see stuffed flamingoes at Teseum? /s

Why go to the bird park when you can see stuffed flamingoes at Teseum? /s

Aye, aye, captain!

Aye, aye, captain!

Lifesize bear!

Lifesize bear!

More safari animals..

More safari animals..

The most docile-looking tiger

The most docile-looking tiger

Generic bears at the gift shop

Generic bears at the gift shop

Racks and racks of teddy bears for sale..

Racks and racks of teddy bears for sale..

For sale: Kate Middleton and Prince William teddy bears. But I don't know, the workmanship looks kinda sloppy

For sale: Kate Middleton and Prince William teddy bears. But I don’t know, the workmanship looks kinda sloppy

Teddy bears in hanbok (traditional Korean costume)

Teddy bears in hanbok (traditional Korean costume)

More choices at the Korean section. We got a pair from here! All of the displayed teddy bears are placed upright using a stand which you would have to buy separately

More choices at the Korean section. We got a pair from here! All of the displayed teddy bears are placed upright using a stand which you would have to buy separately

On the whole, I thought the museum was rather.. pointless? It might have lost its charm over the years but it certainly didn’t live up to whatever hype it had a decade ago. First of all, to call this a museum would be a misnomer because none of its exhibits bear any cultural or historical value. I would have probably closed my eyes to this if there was at least a vintage bear but no, you’re paying to see mass-produced ugly – well, some – teddy bears pretending to be of great worth (though the museum claims otherwise). Echoing what an online reviewer wrote, Teseum is “more like a showroom for a teddy bear manufacturer” and it certainly doesn’t take much time and effort, as compared to making wax figures, to create teddy bears with generic faces. Calling Teseum a teddy bear gallery or exhibition would have been more apt.

And is it me or is the term ‘museum’ very loosely used these days? It seems like anyone can put a few bunches of human hair together and call it a hair museum just so that it would justify the collection of admission fees.

Secondly, as a tourist attraction (assuming since there were hardly any locals when we were there), not having the descriptions of the exhibits in English is patently absurd which further validates my point about Teseum serving absolute no educational purpose at all. Teseum feeds mainly on the obsession of teddy bears so I wouldn’t recommend this place if you’re not a fan. In fact, if you’re interested in genuine vintage toys or plushies, our MINT Museum of Toys would be so much more worthy of your time and money! (#notsponsored)

Jeju Teseum (鞝滌<韰岇鞗)路 2159, Pyeonghwa-ro, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea 路 Operating Hours:聽08:30-19:00 路 Phone: +82 64-799-4820
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The afternoon dawned and it was time to eat, again! By then, our immunity to the usual Korean fare had set in so we were exhilarated to learn that we were going to be grilling some meat for lunch that day. It’s a pity I had forgotten to note down the name and address of the restaurant because the seasoning for the meat was actually quite en pointe, so much so that there wasn’t any leftover at the end of the meal (or we could just be hungry). To aid in my digestion, I would wrap the meat in the lettuce provided before chomping down on it – just like the Koreans do!

The restaurant

The restaurant

Banchan

Banchan

I'm terrible at identifying the different kinds of meat.. This is either chicken or pork.. Most likely it's the latter..

I’m terrible at identifying the different kinds of meat.. This is either chicken or pork.. Most likely it’s the latter..

This could be beef.. Haha #ifail

This could be beef.. Haha #ifail

Rubbing our overindulged bellies in delight, we set out for Seongeup Village which was one of the filming sites for the most amazing miniseries of all time, Dae Jang Geum. Coincidentally, I had just rewatched the show with聽fianc茅 a few weeks prior to the trip because he, who had never watched a single episode聽due to his NS commitments when it was first aired on TV, didn’t understand why I loved it so much. Hence, while the excitement of most fans had already waned off, we were both thrilled to bits to set foot on this culture-rich old-fashioned village (even though up till now we still can’t figure out the scene/episode(s) in which the filming was done there聽馃槓). Once we were at the entrance, we were handed over to a Chinese-speaking villager (more precisely, a Chinese who married into the village) for a guided tour around the village.

Seongeup Village boasts cultural properties that聽have been handed down from generation to generation and it is unique in the sense that some of its thatched huts are still inhabited by people who sleep, work and go about their business there. Even so, there wasn’t much activity going on (apart from the sounds of TVs blaring from inhabited huts) and many huts we went into were either empty or used to store their pots whereas those that were inhabited had their doors shut for privacy reasons. It would be better if there were demonstrations on how the pots were utilised to make kimchi or the miraculous tea they were about to sell us, though.

Mandatory shot for DJG fans

Mandatory shot for DJG fans

The dol hareubang, a large rock statue said to offer both protection and fertility to the household, is a common sight in Jeju

The dol hareubang, a large rock statue said to offer both protection and fertility to the household, is a common sight in Jeju

The thatched huts - mostly vacant

The thatched huts – mostly vacant

The pots used to store kimchi or brew tea, I guess?

The pots used to store kimchi or brew tea, I guess?

Inside one of the vacant thatched huts.. now just a storage space

Inside one of the vacant thatched huts.. now just a storage space

At the end of the tour, we were brought to a well-furnished hut where another villager would deliver her sales pitch about horse bones and their five-taste tea (omija) which was touted to possess all five basic tastes – sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness and spiciness. But she also mentioned that, depending on the individual’s physical conditions, the taste of the tea may vary on every taste bud (something along the lines of people with illnesses would only be able to taste bitterness or spiciness).

I’m sorry to be rude but, this smells like bull to me.

Sample cups filled with the tea were distributed to the group and frankly, it tasted like plum juice to me and people I asked (including a diabetic lady) – sweet with a hint of sourness. Well, I guess you must be on your deathbed to taste the other end of the spectrum, then. Each jar of omija cost about S$50, I think, as I remember it being quite expensive. However, because I accidentally articulated my liking for the taste (I mean, I’ve always liked eating sweet plums),聽fianc茅 purchased one jar on a whim despite my best efforts to stop him 馃槖聽And as usual, it’s still sitting in the refrigerator, barely touched.

Seongeup Folk Village聽(靹膘潔氙检啀毵堨潉) 路聽104, Seongeupjeonguihyeon-ro, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, South Korea聽路 Phone:聽+82-64-740-6000~1, +82-64-742-8866, +82 64-758-7181
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The weather grew progressively gloomier and more blustery as the bus got closer to our next outdoor destination – the聽Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak聽or also known as Sunrise Peak – and eventually poured. Hard. What luck! Foreseeing that it would rain, our tour guide had thoughtfully prepared disposable ponchos for each and everyone of us so that we could comfortably scale the tuff cone. But the rain was just too heavy and my shoes were already wet beyond redemption (which makes them prone to slipping), so聽fianc茅 and I decided, once again, to stay put on ground level while the rest soldiered on and continued their expedition to the peak.

After the rain cleared

After the rain cleared

Seongsan Ilchulbong. I really wanted to go to the peak.. Damn the bad weather!

Seongsan Ilchulbong. I really wanted to go to the peak.. Damn the bad weather!

In the meantime, we brought business to the gift shops with our purchase of a few boxes of the Jeju cactus crunch choco (an airy snack covered with little rice puffs) for our family and friends back home. Available in a handful of flavours, the Jeju specialty is usually packed – individually – in boxes of roughly 12 pieces and is cheaper when bought in larger quantities, which makes it an ideal souvenir.

From there, we went to an Innisfree shop located further down the sloped base amidst the now-subsided rain to do my first round of cosmetics shopping. But just as we were about to leave, the rain returned with a vengeance, trapping us in the shop for a good 20 minutes 馃槕

Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak [UNESCO World Heritage]聽路 284-12, Ilchul-ro, Seongsan-eup, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, South Korea 路 Phone:聽+82 64-710-7923
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Our final stop before dinner at聽Olleh Gaseo Jeonbok Meogja was a Mandarin orange/tangerine farm where we were supposed to pick our own oranges. But the torrential downpour had sort of dampened everyone’s mood and caused much of the farm to be mucky and marshy. With no desire to dirty our footwear, we were there for merely 20 minutes, tops – most of which spent on entertaining the affectionate dog guarding the farm. Others took the opportunity to visit the loo and buy boxes of the Jeju snack we got at Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak earlier (but pricier) as well as other miscellaneous stuff made from tangerines from the shop next to the farm.

Wet, wet, wet

Wet, wet, wet

Jeju Orange Farm

Jeju Orange Farm

Smelly boi 馃槤

Smelly boi 馃槤

Unfortunately, I do not know the name and address of this farm but if you are interested, here is a list of all the tangerine farms in Jeju Island compiled by Jeju Weekly.

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* * DAY 4 * *

(Jeju International Airport [Jeju to Seoul with T-Way] 鈫
Nami IslandGeummun Dak-galbi聽鈫
Holiday Inn Resort Alpensia Pyeongchang)

After two fruitful and much warmer days in Jeju Island, it was time to leave. In lieu of not partaking in the hotel breakfast (as we couldn’t wake up in time for it聽馃槅),聽fianc茅 and I had a quick meal at Lotteria, a popular Korean fast food joint in the bustling departure hall at Jeju International Airport. In front of it (and a few more shops) conveniently lay a row of departure gates which were visible from where we were eating. Subsequently, we joined our tour group on the floor (chairs were scarce so people were literally seated everywhere) while waiting for the cue to board our flight which had already been delayed once.

Goodbye Jeju!

Goodbye Jeju!

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Our touchdown in Seoul was followed by lunch at a restaurant in Banghwa-dong (exact location unknown) where we had spicy hot pot to help us adjust to the sudden dip in temperature. Adding flavour to the broth were mainly vegetables (too much of them, actually) and beef shavings which,聽I vaguely recall, weren’t enough to go around.

Spicy hotpot for lunch

Spicy hot pot for lunch

After having our fill of lunch, we piled onto our bus and headed to Namiseom Ferry Dock where we would take a 10-minute ferry ride into Nami Island. As Nami Island is not accessible via road, visitor can only reach the place by sea from its designated dock at 鈧10,000 per entry (for foreigners).

Once a desolate piece of land with only few scattered chestnut trees, poplar trees, and mulberry trees on the fringes of a modest peanut farm, Nami Island is presently known for its picturesque setting and tree-lined pavements that provide the perfect backdrop for (wedding) photography. With its popularity heightened by the 2002 Korean TV series Winter Sonata, the self-governed nation continues to draw flocks of nature-loving visitors annually, thereby making it one of the most visited weekend getaways in Korea. Getting into Nami Island would require one’s passport.

Ferry to Nami Island

Ferry to Nami Island

Nami Island entrance (the queue is for the return trip to the dock)

Nami Island entrance (the queue is for the return trip to the dock)

Wet everywhere 馃槕 It made me feel like staying in the bus..

Wet everywhere 馃槕 It made me feel like staying in the bus..

Clearly a tourist destination as evident from the different country flags placed along the stretch of pavement near the entrance

Clearly a tourist destination as evident from the different country flags placed along the stretch of pavement near the entrance

Some of the shops at Nami Island

Some of the shops at Nami Island

Fireplaces like this can be found in various parts of Nami Island. While others used them to warm their hands, I tried to dry my shoes above them (which obviously didn't work lol)

Fireplaces like this can be found in various parts of Nami Island. While others used them to warm their hands, I tried to dry my shoes above them (which obviously didn’t work lol)

Peacocks can be found near food establishments

Peacocks can be found near food establishments

Let your nose take you to where these red bean pancakes are sold..

Let your nose take you to where these red bean pancakes are sold..

Plain buns, I guess? This stall was unattended when I took this picture

Plain buns, I guess? This stall was unattended when I took this picture

My guilty pleasure.. A must-have in the cold

My guilty pleasure.. A must-have in the cold

Generic sausages but still, worth every penny!

Generic sausages but still, worth every penny!

Tree-lined pavement with lamps in the shape of balloons illuminating from above the moment dusk set in. Our tour guide actually took a picture of fianc茅 and me against these trees but it turned out awful.. I looked so fat in my pink Taobao winter coat 馃槶

Tree-lined pavement with lamps in the shape of balloons illuminating from above the moment dusk set in. Our tour guide actually took a picture of fianc茅 and me against these trees but it turned out awful.. I looked so fat in my pink Taobao winter coat 馃槶

More dreamy lights

More dreamy lights

Fianc茅 and I were walking around Nami Island aimlessly (and buying food as we saw them) because there wasn’t any activity planned out for us. Tired of repeatedly stepping into the puddles of water left by the rain, we decided to head back to the meeting point before the rest.聽Don’t get me wrong – Nami Island is, indeed, a lovely place worth visiting, especially during the autumn season when foliage turns fiery shades of scarlet (just Google the pictures – breathtaking, I tell you). But as always, the persistent rain (and the extreme cold for me) ruined the experience and made me really reluctant to fully take in the beauty of the place.

Maybe next time!

Namiseom Island聽(雮澊靹 膦呿暕頊挫枒歆)聽路 1, Namisum-gil, Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do (accessible only by ferry)聽路 Namiseom Ferry Dock: 1024, Bukhangangbyeon-ro, Gapyeong-eup, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do 路 Phone:聽+82-31-580-8114
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A short distance away from the ferry dock was Geummun Dak-Galbi where we had spicy stir-fried chicken (dak galbi) for dinner. The restaurant was housed on the ground floor of a three-storey building which, on the surface, would have resembled a haunted school if not for the illuminating presence of the LED signboard against its dark fa莽ade. Although I’m not sure if the restaurant actually owned the entire building, the only activity seemed to be coming from them.

For some reasons, taking this picture made me feel eerily uncomfortable, like, I half-expected "someone" to be standing near one of the windows on the second floor (yeah, probably too much horror flicks haha)

For some reasons, taking this picture made me feel eerily uncomfortable, like, I half-expected “someone” to be standing near one of the windows on the second floor (yeah, probably too much horror flicks haha)

Inside the restaurant

Inside the restaurant

Before mixing in the condiments

Before mixing in the condiments

Where's the chicken?

Where’s the chicken?

Possibly the laziest and most underwhelming meal we had during the trip, the dak galbi felt like a poor attempt at passing off as a meat dish with only a few chunks of chicken among a mass of cabbage strips despite the fact that it was meant for four grown adults. The pathetic portion is a far cry from the way it looks on Google pictures taken by walk-in diners so either our agency had opted for the cheapest meal package or the restaurant had run out of chickens聽by 6.30pm KST.聽And to top it off, it tasted nothing short of ordinary so it failed to leave a lasting impression on us. In fact, none of us remembered we had dak galbi until we went through all the photographs again.

Geummun Dak-galbi 旮堧 雼皥牍 路 323 Daljeon-ri, Gapyeong-eup, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea 路 Phone: +82聽31-581-9282
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Shortly thereafter, we embarked on a five-hour drive to Pyeongchang聽(hats off to the driver, and tour guide for keeping him in conversation to help him stay awake behind the wheel – tough job!). The bus stopped by a deserted convenience store en route for us to buy some nibbles as well as to use the toilet before completing the rest of the journey. As we were nearing our destination, we dropped by a ski rental shop to choose and collect our ski suits that would be used on the next day. The designs of their female ski jackets were generally very obiang-looking(kinda like those of聽Lularoe leggings 馃ぃ) but I realised the patterns tended to be less ostentatious and tacky with smaller sizes. Still, they were goddamn hideous. I very much preferred the men’s which were predominantly in simple colours of red, blue, and so on. Blah.. gender stereotyping at its finest 馃槕

For my future reference, I wore M for the ski jacket and L for pants.

It was already past midnight (KST) when we checked into our room at聽Holiday Inn Resort Alpensia Pyeongchang but having spent the whole evening sleeping in the bus, we wanted to stay up for a little while to watch TV after taking a shower. The in-room TV came with an extensive selection of premium TV channels – including a few catered to the kink-inclined 馃槈

Our room (for 4 actually!) at Holiday Inn Resort Alpensia Pyeongchang

Our room (for 4 actually!) at Holiday Inn Resort Alpensia Pyeongchang

Spacious pee-pee area equipped with basic amenities

Spacious pee-pee area equipped with basic amenities

Fianc茅's favourite rain shower head!

Fianc茅’s favourite rain shower head!

But our bodies couldn’t resist the softness of the bed and warmth of the duvet so very soon, we found ourselves drifting into our slumber with the TV still turned on in the background (our usual practice when staying at hotels to cancel out any unwanted sounds in the middle of the night, if you get what I mean 馃槓).

By the way, the hotel (as with most hotels in Pyeongchang) charges for WiFi access at 鈧14,300 (S$18)聽per day, so good thing we had rented a pocket WiFi for our trip!

Holiday Inn Resort Alpensia Pyeongchang聽路 325 Solbong-ro, Daegwalnyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do, South Korea聽路 Phone: +82 33-339-0000
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* * DAY 5 * *

(Alpensia Ski Resort聽鈫 Hotel Inter-Burgo Wonju)

Looking through our room windows, we saw the rays of the winter sun cast upon the accumulation of snow around the hotel compound, unveiling what was in the pitch darkness the night before.聽Are we in Winter Wonderland now?

Since we wouldn’t be checking out until late morning, we had the luxury of sleeping in but nevertheless managed to wake up just in time before the hotel breakfast buffet ended. Given that time was tight, we would have passed on it if not for the fact that breakfast and lunch on Day 5 were excluded from our tour package. At the restaurant with only 5 minutes remaining until the chafers were taken away, we scrambled to scoop whatever was left聽 – basically croissant, smoked salmon, sausages and chicken wings – onto our plates. Although the dishes had already cooled down to room temperature, they were still fairly tasty!

My all-time favourite buffet food XD

My all-time favourite buffet food XD

The casino is no longer in operation

The casino is no longer in operation

The sole purpose of coming to Pyeongchang was to ski at the聽Alpensia Ski Resort聽behind our hotel. We kept our personal belongings in a rented locker and obtained a complete set of ski gear over a counter (rental fees already included in the cost of our tour package). But because we didn’t know how to ski (and couldn’t be bothered to hire a private instructor), we took them off after a couple of minutes of reckless “skiing” as the weight of the boots was hindering our movement. We were freezing too so it didn’t take long for us to retreat indoors. Oh my.. when did we become so boring? 涓嶈鑰侀兘涓嶈浜嗐

Awful ski jacket -_- We had snow on our hair!

Awful ski jacket -_- We had snow on our hair!

Ticket to Alpensia Ski Resort! (Tested an Innisfree nail polish in Jeju.. obviously I can't do nail polishes for nuts)

Ticket to Alpensia Ski Resort! (Tested an Innisfree nail polish in Jeju.. obviously I can’t do nail polishes for nuts)

Entrance to the ski area

Entrance to the ski area

Time to ski!

Time to ski!

This place is huge!

This place is huge!

Successfully "skied" without falling down WOOO maybe I'm born for this!

Successfully “skied” without falling down WOOO maybe I’m born for this!

Never too old for a snowball fight!

Never too old for a snowball fight!

This was where my then-boyfriend proposed! (The guy behind him looked like he was proposing to someone else as well lol)

This was where my then-boyfriend proposed! (The guy behind him looked like he was proposing to someone else as well lol)

Food options are limited at the Alpensia Ski Resort so unless you don’t mind going on a 3-hour bus ride to Seoul to tame your hunger, you are pretty much stuck with the usual hotel restaurant fare, fast food restaurants (Domino’s Pizza, Baskin Robbins, etc.) and the cafeteria within the resort that served mediocre international food. For convenience sake, our lunch venue was settled on the cafeteria which would become packed with famished skiers as the afternoon set in.聽Stalls were run on a self-service basis, where diners would receive a queue number to collect their orders.

The Japanese food stall I bought my lunch from

The Japanese food stall I bought my lunch from

Free flow of unappetising sides.. (those aren't onion rings, in case you're wondering. And no, I still don't know what those were haha)

Free flow of unappetising sides.. (those aren’t onion rings, in case you’re wondering. And no, I still don’t know what those were haha)

Cheese Pork Cutlet (13,000鈧). only ordered this because of the cheesy factor. The breaded pork was lightly filled with cheese and served with a fist-sized lump of rice and salad. The portion size was just right for me but the meat itself was dry.

Cheese Pork Cutlet (鈧13,000). only ordered this because of the cheesy factor. The breaded pork was lightly filled with cheese and served with a fist-sized lump of rice and salad. The portion size was just right for me but the meat itself was dry.

As we had some time to spare before setting off again for another region of South Korea, we looked around in the retail shops and (finally) bought a pair of winter boots for myself to wear in place of my damp and musky espadrilles (that’s like 4 days later but聽better late than never). The new dry boots added what felt like a spring to my step and for once in this trip, I just wanted to keep walking 馃槃

Alpensia Ski Resort聽(鞎岉帨鞁滌晞毽“韸 鞀ろ偆鞛) 路 325, Solbong-ro, Daegwallyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do, South Korea聽路 Phone: +82-33-339-0000~9
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Moving farther out of Pyeongchang, we had another round of Korean hot pot at an unidentified restaurant – which most locals probably don’t even know exists – for dinner. This time around, there were more ingredients (that appealed to my taste buds) with a free-flow of meat but the bland broth did little to enhance their tastes and vice versa. Granted, the meal was healthy but everyone got bored of them very quickly.

Red meat and lotsa mandu

Red meat and lotsa mandu

Our bus resumed its route and at last ground to a halt at the top of a slope where Hotel Inter-Burgo Wonju was located. Once we had collected our access cards, we took the lift up to our respective rooms. Upon entering ours, we were greeted with a slight musky odour and warm air as if the air-conditioner hadn’t been turned on for a while. But that’s not all, for there were more to be undesired when the power came on.

The lights were dim but non-adjustable and were unevenly distributed across the room. Thus there were a lot of dark corners which I had absolutely no hankering to inspect (God knows what was inhabiting there). The wallpaper, furniture – especially the armchair by the stained coffee table – and carpet looked dated while duvets were of an odd, mold-like green with a texture that resembled crepe paper – crumply and thin. The pillows were as flat as pancakes and dust was amassed on the bedside wall lights which were not working. Television reception in the room was terrible as there was not one channel聽that had optimum signal quality. What’s more, the only English channels were BBC and CNN 馃檮 Thanks Hotel Inter-Burgo, just what I needed to catch up on current affairs and be bombarded with Trump news.

Can you feel the eeriness in this room just by looking at this picture?

Can you feel the eeriness in this room just by looking at this picture?

A dark corner next to the bed. Yikes!

A dark corner next to the bed. Yikes!

The filthiness of the room made me extremely wary of what might be lurking on that bedspread so I would scrutinise its every detail. While doing so, I would occasionally spot little critters crawling on the bed frame. As a former victim of bed bug infestation, I was tremendously fearful of repeating history. Hence I laid a bathroom towel on the duvet before sleeping on it to avoid direct contact with the bed.

I could go on about the condition of the room, but you get the gist. To be fair, the room in the day looked less shabby and had a beautiful view of the surrounding snow-covered landscape but I was essentially so paranoid and crept out throughout my stay that I couldn’t wait to leave this hotel. Thank goodness it was just for a night.

The toilet, on the other hand, was better lit than the bedroom and equipped with possibly the most state-of-the-art technology in this ageing hotel – a washlet. The grouted gaps between the tiles contributed to the clean look of the toilet. Still, I wouldn’t want to sit in the bathtub. Basic toiletries were also provided although it was rather miserly of the hotel to combine hair and body wash in a single diminutive bottle. The shower door hinge was faulty too as it kept swinging open and couldn’t stay shut when I was bathing.

Bathtub and an additional shower head

Bathtub and an additional shower head

Another shower head, but with rain shower effect

Another shower head, but with rain shower effect

Washlet

Washlet

Not wanting to be cooped up in this hellhole all night, fianc茅 and I decided to explore the hotel grounds and perhaps, look for something in the vicinity to fill the void from our unfinished dinner earlier. When we got to the spacious but empty lobby, we realised that all the restaurants in the hotel were closed although it was barely 8pm KST. There were also no malls or dining options nearby and according to the tour guide, the city centre was a 30-minute drive away 馃槕 There was, however, a 7-Eleven store near the drop-off point from where we eventually bought cup noodles and some Korean beverages.

The saving grace of this hotel would be the free fast-speed WiFi connection which we tapped into to stream Running Man (I remember it was the BLACKPINK episode 馃槅) on our phone. It was truly a no-frills business hotel with the most basic amenities at a mid-range cost (if booked through the right medium) and聽could be the best hotel you can find in Wonju based on online reviews. That said, Hotel Inter-Burgo still fell short of the expectations of a four-star hotel. In my opinion, it deserved three stars or less.

Hotel Inter-Burgo Wonju聽路 200 Dongbusunhwan-ro, Bangok-dong, Wonju, Gangwon-do, South Korea聽路 Phone: +82 33-769-8114
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* * Day 6 * *

(Everland聽鈫捖Sky 頃滌嫕 (Sky Hansik)聽鈫 Dalin Laver Museum聽鈫
Doota Mall聽鈫 Nolboo Restaurant聽鈫 GLAD Hotel)

Once again, we overslept and missed the hotel breakfast (or maybe instinctively we just weren’t keen) so lugging our baggage, we jumped straight onto our bus for聽 Everland. The theme park was thronged with many other tour groups who, like us, were all heading to see the two newly-arrived Chinese giant pandas, Ai Bao and Le Bao, at Panda World first. But we ended up devoting more time at the gift shop because the pandas were resting (and also if we really wanted to see pandas, we can always visit Jia Jia and Kai Kai at River Safari).

Thereafter, we were given time to roam Everland on our own. Due to fianc茅’s acrophobia (*yawns*聽馃槒) and our reluctance to squander our (limited) time at theme park away on queuing, we didn’t take any of the rides and only went on a food hunt and gift shop-hop for the most part.

Tickets to Everland!

Tickets to Everland!

Feeling some Disneyland vibes at the entrance

Feeling some Disneyland vibes at the entrance

Home to Ai Bao and Le Bao

Home to Ai Bao and Le Bao

Also includes the mandatory red pandas to complete the panda family

Also includes the mandatory red pandas to complete the panda family

ZzzZz leave me alone

ZzzZz leave me alone

The panda from the opposite angle.. clearly just pretending to sleep. Lazy, lazy.

The panda from the opposite angle.. clearly just pretending to sleep. Lazy, lazy.

The centrepiece of Everland - an enchanting Christmas tree

The centrepiece of Everland – an enchanting Christmas tree

Closed 馃槧

Closed 馃槧

LINE FRIENDS official shop

LINE FRIENDS official shop

LINE FRIENDS merchandise

LINE FRIENDS merchandise

Argh Brown is so cute

Argh Brown is so cute

Brown snacks!

Brown snacks!

We had three servings of this matcha churros.. #sorrynotsorry #madforchurros

We had three servings of this matcha churros.. #sorrynotsorry #madforchurros

The same cafe also had a dine-in area but it wasn't easy getting an empty table. By sheer luck, we managed to find one 馃榿

The same cafe also had a dine-in area but it wasn’t easy getting an empty table. By sheer luck, we managed to find one 馃榿

Dine-in area

Dine-in area

Panda Mushroom Soup (4,300鈧) - The soup, although palatable, had a similar creamy consistency as that of canned ones - nothing to write home about. But how cute are those panda-shaped croutons?

Panda Mushroom Soup (鈧4,300) – The soup, although palatable, had a similar creamy consistency as that of canned ones – nothing to write home about. But how cute are those panda-shaped croutons?

Candy galore!

Candy galore!

Edible and stackable Lego blocks

Edible and stackable Lego blocks

Last gift shop stop - Monami

Last gift shop stop – Monami

Stationery paradise! It's always a joy for me to be surrounded by colourful pens 馃槏

Stationery paradise! It’s always a joy for me to be surrounded by colourful pens 馃槏

You can even build your own Monami pen! But I don't really like the quality of Monami pens so I didn't bother with this section.

You can even build your own Monami pen! But I don’t really like the quality of Monami pens so I didn’t bother with this section.

Queuing to get tea and some food for our starving stomachs

Queuing to get tea and some food for our starving stomachs

Cold weather + hot tea = pure bliss

Cold weather + hot tea = pure bliss

Bet this was a better breakfast option as compared to the breakfast buffet at Hotel Inter-Burgo.

Bet this was a better breakfast option as compared to the breakfast buffet at Hotel Inter-Burgo.

Generally, we are not fond of visiting theme parks while on a time-sensitive tour because it wouldn’t be possible to enjoy them to the fullest under a tight schedule and this was no exception. If given a chance to visit South Korea again (without being on a tour group – just no, thank you), I would certainly insist on going to Everland or Lotte World (against fianc茅’s will) and queue for the rides 馃榿

Everland聽路 199 Everland-ro, Pogog-eup, Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea聽路 Operating Hours: 10:00 – 19:00 (Mon to Thu, Sun) 10:00 – 20:00 (Fri & Sat)
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Under the recommendation of our tour guide (that’s what he claimed), we were taken to Sky Hansik (Sky 頃滌嫕) somewhere in Pil-dong (exact address unknown but it was quite near to Everland) to binge on Korean barbecue for lunch. The restaurant was bustling with a mix of locals and foreigners in another tour group when we were there and staff were scuffling around trying to clear used plates from tables. It operated on a self-service system so we were free to take as much food and drinks as we wanted. All in all, the meat quality and seasoning was average and the food selection was nothing spectacular. But I was glad to have had a satiating meal for the first time in a long while.

Sky Hansik

Sky Hansik

Meat section - that's literally all they have

Meat section – that’s literally all they have

Some banchan

Some banchan

Beverage dispenser

Beverage dispenser

Barbecue away!

Barbecue away!

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Our next stop was聽Dalin Laver Museum and while there, we were taken on a guided tour around the gallery聽to learn about the process of making laver (seaweed). The tour聽 concluded at their – what else – in-house laver specialty shop where the Chinese-speaking sales representatives demonstrated the various uses of the laver, such as cooking them in soup or stuffing them in rice balls, in an effort to entice customers. They then invited us to try the samples of all the flavours before beginning their sales pitch. Among the 8 (I think) flavours available, barbecue is my favourite because not only is it indeed infused with barbecue essence, it also has only right amount of saltiness 馃槅聽Others that come close are sea salt and kimchi聽and I prefer eating them as is to preserve the original flavour of their seasoning.

They call themselves a museum but there was hardly any English on their information panel 馃檮

They call themselves a museum but there was hardly any English on their information panel 馃檮

Laver sales pitch 馃槃

Laver sales pitch 馃槃

Laver rice balls!

Laver rice balls!

Samples 馃構

Samples 馃構

Dalin Laver packaging (click to enlarge)

Dalin Laver packaging (click to enlarge)

The laver is sold in bundles of 5 packets in the same flavour. Each packet contains 5 sheets of laver that are a little smaller than A4 and most amazingly, it only breaks along intentional creases; no scissors is necessary to cut them into bite-size pieces! Fianc茅 noticed the grin of satisfaction when I bit into the samples and readily bought 10 different sets (I forgot the prices, but our order cost at least S$100) with the secondary intention to give some out as souvenirs. It was one of the rare on-tour purchases we did not regret making. Unfortunately, this brand of laver is not sold anywhere else, not even online聽馃槓 So..聽anyone booking a Seoul tour package soon and doesn’t mind letting me tompang my laver order? 馃槴

Strangely enough, the museum also enables visitors to partake in a hanbok fitting experience on the second floor 馃え聽It felt a little out of place but I suppose that helped save us a trip to Gyeongbokgung Palace. The entire level is dedicated to this short cultural experience so you can find different styles of hanbok in common sizes strewn all over the rack with plenty of photography props to aid you in perfecting your shots.

With my <em>jeonha</em> (king) (please pardon any costume inaccuracies - we just took whatever matched and fit us from the rack!)

With my jeonha, or king聽(please pardon any costume inaccuracies – we just took whatever matched and fit us from the rack!)

Food replicas - can see, cannot eat 馃槅 The dishes that contributed to the jeonha's obesity. (But seriously though, that's A LOT of food. Did he share them with his subordinates?!)

Food replicas – can see, cannot eat 馃槅 The dishes that contributed to the jeonha‘s obesity. (But seriously though, that’s A LOT of food. Did he share them with his subordinates?!)

LOL at the indecent exposure caused by the slit on the back of my chima (skirt)

LOL at the indecent exposure caused by the slit on the back of my chima (skirt)

One last shot before we took off the hanbok!

One last shot before we took off the hanbok!

We had fun playing dress-up but still, nothing beats wearing hanbok to the actual locations where history was made. Furthermore, as an added advantage of wearing hanbok at any of the palaces, admission is free. However, this is likely to be counterbalanced by the rental fees of the costumes if you don’t own one.

Dalin Laver Museum聽路 7 Hangang-daero 21-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea聽路 Phone:聽+82 2-793-7300
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As promised on our itinerary, we were allowed time to shop and have dinner in Dongdaemun district so our bus dropped us off in front of Doota Mall. We could have walked over to Dongdaemun Market but considering that none of us had been there before, we didn’t want to risk getting lost in the maze of stalls (which we honestly didn’t mind if we were in Seoul without a tour group) and hold up everyone else. Thus, we chose to remain in the mall for some serious shopping 馃樃

One of the levels in Doota Mall

One of the levels in Doota Mall

Cosmetics shops

Cosmetics shops

Doota Mall is composed of 8 floors, each catering to different demographics. While I went crazy in ARITAUM (for Laneige) and Tony Moly on 4F, fianc茅 monitored my spending discreetly, occasionally dissuading me from purchasing more cosmetics. But when it was his turn to go gaga on B2, he had no qualms about forking over his money on several shoes 馃槒 #doublestandard

Doota Mall 路 275 Jangchungdan-ro, Gwanghui-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea聽路 Nearest Subway Station: Dongdaemun (Line 1 or 4 鈥 Exit 8) Dongdaemun History & Culture Park (Line 2, 4 or 5 – exit 14)
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Once we had shopped till our hearts’ content (read: bank almost emptied), we reunited with聽fianc茅’s parents at 1F for dinner nearby. As we were walking along a row of eateries at an alley, we caught sight of the signboard of Nolboo Restaurant and decided to聽give it a try not knowing that it was actually part of an established chain (they even have an outlet in Singapore). We placed an order with the waiting staff for two hot pots with chicken-based broth (yeah, so much for variety 馃樁) because we weren’t in the mood for spicy. Soon after, the ingredients – a mixture of fresh meat and vegetables – were served to our table and they were ready to be cooked!

Nolboo Restaurant front

Nolboo Restaurant front

Restaurant entrance

Restaurant entrance

What we ate

What we ate

But the moment we took our first bite of our meat, we regretted our decision because it lacked flavour. Should we have gone for budae jjigae (army stew) like everyone else in the restaurant, the food might have tasted a lot nicer so we’ve only got ourselves to blame. Nevertheless, the portion and quality of the ingredients were undoubtedly much better than those of what we had eaten during our tour.

Following our uneventful dinner, we recharged ourselves for our final day in South Korea at GLAD Hotel Yeouido which I have already covered on Day 1.

Nolboo Restaurant聽路 34, Eulji-ro 43-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul 04564, South Korea聽路 Phone: +82 2-2264-1669
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* * DAY 7 * *

(LOTTE Department Store聽鈫 Myeongdong Shopping Street聽鈫
Cheongha Korea Co. Ltd聽鈫 Departure [Tax Refund])

So long, GLAD Hotel Yeouido! Much as we didn’t want to leave the hotel, we had to 馃槳 Once our tour guide had gone around to do a headcount on the bus, the driver stepped on the gas pedal and drove a short distance to a rather dilapidated-looking commercial building (exact location unknown; not worth knowing anyway) for our breakfast. Due to the size of our tour group, we had to take a cramped lift up in batches to the Chinese restaurant at the topmost floor. Before the waiting staff arrived at our tables with our breakfast, our tour guide assured us that it would be food that’d take us back home, so in our minds we were imagining kaya toast, fried you tiao, dim sum, Teochew porridge or whatnot.

But, lo and behold…

...the heck are these?

…the heck are these?

*deep breaths* For the last time, Singapore is not in China, and the food on the table is downright criminal, they belonged in the trash because I certainly had more delectable breakfast dishes when I was in Beijing and Chengdu. The appalled expression on everyone’s face said it all. I had lamented about breakfast on Day 2, but this took the cake. We dried beancurd, peanuts, baby bok choy and this white rolls thing to go with our plain porridge (not pictured).聽Bruh,聽where is the meat?! Did someone just assume we had turned vegan for the day? In the end, only the bok choy and peanuts were eaten up and the white rolls were practically untouched.

Checking off more compulsory shopping stops on the itinerary, we were subsequently brought to a ginseng gallery showroom where the spendthrift fianc茅 bought a box of red ginseng extract. Then, we were driven to a cosmetics megastore that stocked up on seemingly pass茅 products and unheard-of brands. As a way to curb impulse spending, I was constantly looking up products on Carousell to ascertain if I could get them at a bargain price (and you’d be surprised to see tons of them listed there in their unopened condition). That tactic worked wonders because, much to the surprise of聽fianc茅, these tourist traps failed to make me any poorer 鉁

We climbed back on the bus and thereafter alighted near Lotte Department Store in Myeongdong. Since breakfast was horrendously inadequate, we made it a priority to have lunch first at聽瓿犼惮霠 (Goguryeo) Corean Cuisine聽on 13F of the mall to acquire some energy for the vigorous shopping later on.

I must say, these banchan looked much more appetising..

I must say, these banchan looked much more appetising..

I underestimated the portion of my samgyetang and added fried chicken (鈧18,000) to the order. The parts were huge and it felt like the entire chicken was there. But it was heavenly - crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, and perfectly coated with salty deliciousness.

I underestimated the portion of my samgyetang and added fried chicken (鈧18,000) to the order. The parts were huge and it felt like the entire chicken was there. But it was heavenly – crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, and perfectly coated with salty deliciousness.

My samgyetang (鈧15,000, cheaper than the fried chicken 馃槸) meant for two. The broth was thicker and more flavourful than the one we had on Day 1!

My samgyetang (鈧15,000, cheaper than the fried chicken 馃槸) meant for two. The broth was thicker and more flavourful than the one we had on Day 1!

After footing the bill, we and his parents went our separate ways because they wanted to wander the mall on their own. Before taking the underpass to the shopping street across the road, I went on a lipstick shopping frenzy at the HERA booth on B1 while聽fianc茅 splurged on a new cologne.

LOTTE Department Store (main)聽路聽30, Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea聽路 Nearest Subway Station: City Hall (Line 1)
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Having already familiarised myself with the layout of聽Myeongdong聽shopping street聽on my first visit to Seoul merely a few months ago, getting to the intended shops and back was a breeze. I continued my shopping streak at one of the numerous Innisfree and Etude House outlets in Myeongdong near the underpass and amassed considerable amount of samples in the process. For the remaining few minutes of free and easy time, we scoured a small area for delicious street food but only managed to buy from three stalls. In response to not being able to try a wider range of the food, fianc茅 groused about spending too much time at Lotte Department Store earlier聽馃ぃ Well, would this constitute as a good excuse to return to Seoul? I don’t mind hitting the streets of Hongdae and Ewha (I was there on my solo trip) again 馃槅

Fianc茅's favourite snack - mochi

Fianc茅’s favourite snack – mochi

The baked cheese had a firm texture which was hardly stretched when bitten. But it was not too bad!

The baked cheese had a firm texture which was hardly stretched when bitten. But it was not too bad!

The beef steak was what made me fall in love with the shopping street! Fianc茅 and I are both steak lovers so I knew I had to introduce this stall to him!

The beef steak was what made me fall in love with the shopping street! Fianc茅 and I are both steak lovers so I knew I had to introduce this stall to him!

Sizzle, sizzle! If I remember the cost correctly, each serving should be about S$5?

Sizzle, sizzle! If I remember the cost correctly, each serving should be about S$5?

Thick chunks perfectly seared with a drizzle of teriyaki sauce! Fianc茅 gave this his stamp of approval.

Thick chunks perfectly seared with a drizzle of teriyaki sauce! Fianc茅 gave this his stamp of approval.

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Our bus picked us up outside Young Lotte Plaza and proceeded to a random jewellery shop in hopes of exhausting the remaining Korean banknotes we had with us. The group obliged the tour guide by making a couple of rounds about the display cabinets but ultimately left empty-handed within minutes because clearly no one was interested in splashing out hundreds of dollars on some impractical piece of ornament. Taking the hint that we were eager and ready to leave, our (dismayed) tour guide told us to get on the bus for our last meal in Seoul at Cheongha Korea.

The building comprises a hypermarket on the first two floors and a restaurant on the third, and it accepts strictly (tourists-only) group reservations accompanied by a tour guide. Judging from its close proximity to Incheon International Airport, I reckon this place typically serves as the final stop for tourists to eat and stockpile on local specialities and souvenirs before catching their return flight home. Hence, perhaps to facilitate human traffic flow and speed up the payment process, any individual customers who attempt to shop or dine there would be turned away.

Restaurant at Cheongha Korea

Restaurant at Cheongha Korea

What we ate for dinner - beoseot jeongol

What we ate for dinner – beoseot jeongol

Our dinner was yet another simple and healthy one-pot meal, but this time it was聽beoseot jeongol (mushroom casserole) which had broth quite similar to the taste of sukiyaki, topped with a touch of spiciness. Some felt it was a tad too salty but not so for me since my taste buds tend to gravitate towards briny and piquant flavours. However, as someone who isn’t really big on mushrooms and vegetables in general, the measly amount of meat in this dish didn’t do it for me.

Following an extensive shopping spree at the hypermarket where we snapped up packets boxes of聽tteokbokki and churros crackers, and honey tong tong (‘coz honey butter chips are so overrated), our bus made its way to the airport.

Cheongha Korea Co. Ltd(for tourist groups only) 路 211-2 Unnam-dong, 78 Jung-gu, Incheon City, South Korea聽路 Phone:聽+82 32-751-0448
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Hauling our inflated luggage out of the vehicle to the SIA check-in counters, we were relieved to have met the baggage weight allowance despite buying so much. While waiting for the gates to open, we went to the refund counters at the departure hall with our passports and the applicable receipts to get our tax reimbursement. Technically, based on the information I read, we were supposed to do this before checking in our luggage but past experience told me it wasn’t necessary.

A useful rule of thumb is that any purchases made at large, touristy department stores and brick and mortar stores downtown amounting between聽鈧30,000 and聽鈧200,000 on a single receipt聽(unless products are already tax-free) would be eligible for tax refund. That said, do check with the shop assistants first just to be sure. Some department stores are also equipped with tax refund kiosks and counters to process聽your tax refund on the spot (yay to more shopping cash 馃) but it is only possible up to a certain limit. Plus, we usually leave our passports in the hotel safe because we can be quite careless at times 馃槬聽We had the option of receiving the refund in USD or KRW but somehow fatigue from seven days of non-stop touring had kicked in… and I stupidly opted for KRW. When I finally realised the blunder I had committed, it was already too late because completed transactions are irrevocable 馃槶

LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE AND DON’T BE LIKE ME OK.

At last, we boarded our SQ flight and was once again greeted with a sense of familiarity. As the plane gained speed and began to lift skyward, we bade farewell to South Korea. Admittedly, I didn’t have as much of a great time as I did on my solo trip because of various natural factors and oversights on my part – for a start, I hated the cold and was inadequately dressed and prepared for it. On top of that, it was constantly raining and that made commuting a hassle. Referring back to the original itinerary from the tour agency, I also noticed that we had skipped several stops such as the Garden of Morning Calm in Seoul as well as Seopjikoji in Jeju, which could likewise be attributed to the weather.

Therefore, if we ever plan to travel to South Korea again, I am going to make doubly sure it doesn’t happen during the winter season (spring or autumn would be ideal). And yes, it has got to be a free and easy one.

My Korea haul!

My Korea haul!

Thanks for reading!

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[POP-UP] MINIONS CAFE @ THE Guest cafe&diner Singapore

Bello everyone!

After two runs of the immensely popular聽Pok茅mon Caf茅 at EwF Bugis Junction in 2015 and 2016, PARCO (Singapore) returns with another pop-up caf茅 concept and this time, it revolves around the adorably small, yellow, cylindrical critters of the Despicable Me series – the Minions!

For a limited time, the first pop-up MINIONS CAF脡聽outside Japan will operate from 23rd November 2017 to 31st January 2018 on the third floor of Orchard Central. Rebranded from “The Despicable Me 3 Cafe” in Japan at five THE GUEST cafe&diner outlets located in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo and Fukuoka during July and September this year, the Singapore edition brings in 14 original food and beverage items on the menu – all of which are specially conceptualised and developed by THE GUEST cafe&diner for the MINIONS聽CAF脡.

MINIONS聽CAF脡

MINIONS聽CAF脡

Waitstaff are donned in Minion-inspired attire so it's very easy to identify them!

Waitstaff are donned in Minion-inspired attire so it’s very easy to identify them!

More Minions posters hanging from the ceiling. Sadly, these are not for sale at the merch corner

More Minions posters hanging from the ceiling. Sadly, these are not for sale at the merch corner

Or in the language of the minions, "Po ka?!"

Or in the language of the minions, “Po ka?!”

One part of the dining area

One part of the dining area

Apart from that, exclusive MINIONS CAFE Original Goods – currently not available anywhere else in the world – can also be purchased alongside other official 鈥淒espicable Me 3鈥 merchandise with either cash or NETS (we didn’t see the option to pay by credit card). Considering how well-received the Minions are, long queue is expected at the聽MINIONS聽CAF脡 so why not take this chance to browse the merchandise booth while waiting to be seated or served?

A small corner for the merchandise

A small corner for the merchandise

Minion-inspired toys, snacks and stationery found here!

Minion-inspired toys, snacks and stationery found here!

Below is a low-down of all the dishes offered at the MINIONS聽CAF脡 with the exception of the Banana Smoothie (S$12.30+) which was missing from the media preview.聽Dishes that we managed to taste at the event would also be accompanied with our (honest) review as well as our verdict of the presentation, taste and value for you to make better informed decision on whether it is worth the trip.

The menu

The menu

As with most themed pop-up caf茅s, do bear in mind that licensing fees (the killer) and importation charges among other overhead expenses are factored into the costs so the prices will unsurprisingly be on the high side. All prices stated are not inclusive of 10% service charge and prevailing government taxes. Payment, we believe, can be made with cash, NETS or credit card. We will update should there be any factual error.

Unfortunately for my Muslim readers,聽MINIONS聽CAF脡 is not Halal-certified.

Minion’s Great Escape Cream Stew (S$20.90++)

In the latest Despicable Me film, Minions are caught and imprisoned! Oh no! This time, they are really in the cream stew!

In the latest Despicable Me film, Minions are caught and imprisoned! Oh no! This time, they are really in the cream stew!

Presentation-wise, the Minion’s Great Escape Cream Stew gets all the credit it deserves. The visual presentation of the displeased Minion is very well done to the point that it was a struggle deciding whether to keep the edible facial features of the Minion or to dissect and eat it. Of course, we went for the latter choice. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have known it was actually made of tasteless thin rice wafer instead of some cardboard material we initially suspected was solely for decorative purposes.

The saffron rice that forms the bulk of this dish is slightly buttery with a subtle sweetness. The cream base – which reminded me of cream of mushroom soup – was a little too cloying on its own for my liking but when paired with the rice, the fragrance from the carb complemented the sweetness of the sauce very well.聽That said, the amount of ingredients in this dish is too little. Visibly, the number of broccoli florets, carrot and potato chunks on the plate is minimal to say the least and there is far too little protein in the form of chicken meat for it to qualify as a main course. If not for the scanty portion of meat, we would have seriously thought this was a vegan dish. Nevertheless, the abundance of greens, coupled with the fact that this comes with a mini salad bowl, makes this an extremely healthy dish.聽 聽

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 馃崒馃崒馃崒馃崒
Taste: 馃崒馃崒
VALUE:聽馃崒馃崒
Overall:聽馃崒馃崒馃崒

Minions Vacation Plate (S$23.90++)

Aloha! Take a trip to Hawaii with Minions and indulge in the Hawaiian Iuau inspired plate of beef hamburg and garlic shrimp, accompanied by tropical pineapple and luxurious avocado. Margo, Edith and Agnes certainly thought this dish was a great idea for a honeymoon's set up for Gru and Lucy! It comes with a green soup of Gummi Bears and meat, courtesy of our darling Agnes.

Aloha! Take a trip to Hawaii with Minions and indulge in the Hawaiian Iuau inspired plate of beef hamburg and garlic shrimp, accompanied by tropical pineapple and luxurious avocado. Margo, Edith and Agnes certainly thought this dish was a great idea for a honeymoon’s set up for Gru and Lucy! It comes with a green soup of Gummi Bears and meat, courtesy of our darling Agnes.

Looks like a glorified version of Nasi Lemak!

Looks like a glorified version of Nasi Lemak!

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 馃崒馃崒馃崒
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived value: 馃崒馃崒
Overall:聽馃崒馃崒馃崒

Minion Riceball Party (S$21.90++)

Straight from Japan, Minions transform into adorable rice balls, flanked by fried prawns, sweet corn, fried chicken and French fries with original Minions Balloon.

Straight from Japan, Minions transform into adorable rice balls, flanked by fried prawns, sweet corn, fried chicken and French fries with original Minions Balloon.

Tulaliloo ti amo~

Tulaliloo ti amo~

An original Minion’s balloon will be provided with each order of Minion Riceball Party. The image on the balloon may differ and the colour (I saw pink, blue and maybe yellow) is chosen by the staff at random. The balloons are not helium-pumped and will be tied to a stick.

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 馃崒馃崒馃崒
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived value: 馃崒馃崒
Overall:聽馃崒馃崒馃崒

Pizza Box (S$13.90++)

Mel and Minions are hungry! They want pizza! Unexpectedly, a live singing competition awaits them... Hawaiian pizza topped with chicken ham and pineapple, with corn and French fries on the side.

Mel and Minions are hungry! They want pizza! Unexpectedly, a live singing competition awaits them… Hawaiian pizza topped with chicken ham and pineapple, with corn and French fries on the side.

This dish comes with a Movie Scene Card which we didn’t see at the event. The inside of the cover has a maze game stuck on it to keep your children entertained as you devour the pizza in peace!

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 馃崒馃崒馃崒
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived Value: 馃崒馃崒馃崒馃崒
Overall:聽馃崒馃崒馃崒馃崒

Minion Pudding (S$24.90++)

This Minion is too cute to be eaten! Mango pudding with fruits and vanilla ice cream within.

This Minion is too cute to be eaten! Mango pudding with fruits and vanilla ice cream within.

Luk at tu!

Luk at tu! *jiggle*

This dish comes with a free character cup. A brand new cup will be provided upon order. But better act fast because limited quantities are available (while stocks last).

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 馃崒馃崒馃崒馃崒
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived Value: 馃崒馃崒
Overall:聽馃崒馃崒馃崒

S’more and Minion’s Ice Cream (S$16.90++)

Perfectly browned marshmallows surround a lone Minion (made of mango ice); sandwich molten marshmallow with biscuits for a campfire s'more effect!

Perfectly browned marshmallows surround a lone Minion (made of mango ice); sandwich molten marshmallow with biscuits for a campfire s’more effect!

Gelato!

Gelato!

If you’ve been eating marshmallows straight from the bag, you’ve been doing it wrong. Or rather, you probably haven’t tried s’mores yet! This traditional nighttime campfire treat popular in the United States involves roasting marshmallows before placing them between two biscuits (or atop just one piece since the biscuits provided are odd-numbered). Then, you proceed to chomp them down like a sandwich. Yummy!

The brown crust and soft gooey middle of the still-warm toasted marshmallows (which sweetness is further enhanced by the chocolate syrup beneath them) represent an epitome of a simple pleasure. In between bites, take generous spoonfuls of mango ice-cream in the shape of a lone Minion for maximum enjoyment. Needless to say, it took us no more than one bite for us to realise that we were in the presence of an absolutely heavenly combination of comfort food!

Granted, this may not exactly be the most innovative dish on the menu but is certainly one of, if not the best. However, I would advise you to share this dessert with your friends as it may be a sugar overload and calorie overkill.

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 馃崒馃崒馃崒馃崒
Taste: 馃崒馃崒馃崒馃崒
Value: 馃崒馃崒馃崒馃崒
Overall:聽馃崒馃崒馃崒馃崒

Caramelized Banana (S$16.90++)

Minion's favourite food... Banana! Torched lightly to create a smoky caramelized taste. No wonder the Minions want some too!

Minion’s favourite food… Banana! Torched lightly to create a smoky caramelized taste. No wonder the Minions want some too!

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 馃崒馃崒馃崒
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived value: 馃崒馃崒馃崒馃崒
Overall:聽馃崒馃崒馃崒馃崒

Rescue Mel Affogato (S$13.90++)

Save Mel by unlocking his cell! Break open the chocolate with your spade and pour espresso into vanilla ice-cream; watch Mel float to freedom!

Save Mel by unlocking his cell! Break open the chocolate with your spade and pour espresso into vanilla ice-cream; watch Mel float to freedom!

We didn’t get to taste this, unfortunately, but just by the looks of it alone, the fun factor of this beverage warrants a high score for creativity!

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 馃崒馃崒馃崒馃崒
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived value: 馃崒馃崒馃崒
Overall:聽馃崒馃崒馃崒

Upside-down Minion Jelly Soda Drink (S$12.90++)

Enjoy the jiggly mango jelly soda drink from bottom up!

Enjoy the jiggly mango jelly soda drink from bottom up!

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 馃崒馃崒馃崒
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived value: 馃崒馃崒
Overall:聽馃崒馃崒馃崒

Be Bad Caf茅 Latte (Hot S$8.90++, Cold S$9.50++)

Minion commands you to Be Bad!

Minion commands you to Be Bad!

Hot and iced

Hot and iced

A closer look at the latte art on the hot latte

A closer look at the latte art on the hot latte

The Be Bad!聽Caf茅 Latte comes in hot (what we were offered) and cold and topped with two versions of latte art on thin, flavourless gelatin strips which are served randomly. Made from boiled fresh milk and espresso, the bitterness of the latte complements, or rather, balances out the sweetness of the s’mores dessert earlier. On top of that, it also refreshes the palate and provides a caffeine jolt to go with your sugar rush from the all the other dishes.

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 馃崒馃崒馃崒馃崒聽(both)
Taste: 馃崒馃崒馃崒馃崒聽(hot) / NOT RATED (Cold)
Value: 馃崒馃崒馃崒馃崒聽(both)
Overall:聽馃崒馃崒馃崒馃崒聽(both)

Free limited edition original coaster with any order from the drink menu (but you're unable to choose the design)

Free limited edition original coaster with any order from the drink menu (but you’re unable to choose the design)


GRU&LUCY “GRUCY” Soda (S$8.90++)

Perfect combination of Gru and Lucy. Frozen fruits in stunning blue soda drink.

Perfect combination of Gru and Lucy. Frozen fruits in stunning blue soda drink.

We are not sure if this drink is meant to be stirred but we did in attempt to evenly distribute the flavour and fizziness. But surely it wouldn’t have caused the soda drink to instantly lose its carbonated sting? The absence of the tingling sensation intensifies the sweetness of this drink so we ended up not enjoying it as much as we hoped to. But if you are not a caffeine person in any way, this would be the most affordable (i.e. cheapest) non-caffeine beverage option on the menu.

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 馃崒馃崒馃崒
Taste: 馃崒馃崒
Value: 馃崒馃崒馃崒
Overall:聽馃崒馃崒馃崒

BALTHAZAR’s Bubble Gum?! Milk Tea (S$10.90++)

Fashioned after Balthazar's giant pink bubble that ravaged the city, dance battle it out with Robot Clive in this eclectic milk tea drink!

Fashioned after Balthazar’s giant pink bubble that ravaged the city, dance battle it out with Robot Clive in this eclectic milk tea drink!

Kampai!

Kampai!

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 馃崒馃崒馃崒
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived value: 馃崒馃崒
Overall:聽馃崒馃崒馃崒

Free limited edition original placemat (paper) with any order at the MINIONS聽CAF脡

Free limited edition original placemat (paper) with any order at the MINIONS聽CAF脡

Gru and Minions make a special appearance at the media preview!

Gru and Minions make a special appearance at the media preview!

Find out when Gru and Minions will make another appearance on The Guest Cafe Singapore Facebook page!

Find out when Gru and Minions will make another appearance on The Guest Cafe Singapore Facebook page!

You would, however, have to either make a purchase on the merchandise or dine in to get a chance to take photo with Gru and Minions. (Psst.. the easiest way to meet the mascots is to get something affordable from the merchandise corner!)

That’s all from us. We hope this little review has helped in one way or another!

Pank yu for reading and poopaye! 馃枑

MINIONS聽CAF脡 – a concept by PARCO

Orchard Central
181 Orchard Road, #03-23/24/25,聽Singapore 238896
(take the escalator next to Desigual for easier access)
Opening hours: 11.00 am – 9.00 pm (last order)
Nearest MRT station: Somerset
*MINIONS聽CAF脡 is not Halal-certified*
PARCO SG Website | The Guest Cafe Singapore Facebook

The post is co-written with Alphonsus, my fellow glutton.

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