Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tummy Tour: California-Nevada Food Trip

Which food and restaurants did we try as first time visitors in US?

Ribs @ Lucille's

For my cousin's rehearsal dinner, we went to Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que in Cerritos and tried ribs with side dishes like coleslaw, fries and mac & cheese!

In-N-Out


Of course, we need to eat burgers! I was really excited about In-N-Out and we tried one of the joints in Orange County. It's really delicious and cheap!









Shake Shack




When my friend, Geny & I strolled around The Americana and ended up trying the newly opened Shake Shack in Glendale.









Tacos!



A trip to California is incomplete until you try tacos! This open faced taco is from the Grand Central Market in Los Angeles.










Cheesecake Factory



For my mommy's birthday, we went to Cheesecake Factory for this rich, non cheesecake, 
cake.






Urth Cafe



Power breakfast from Urth Cafe before going to Universal Studios in Hollywood!








Inside Universal Studio


I was too hungry to take a photo but I understand why Panda Express is the go to Chinese restaurant.







Clam Chowder


In San Francisco, the clam chowder is the first food that I searched in Fisherman's Wharf.









Denny's Dinner

Aebleskiever


We tried this Danish Pancake served with jam and powdered sugar when we passed by Solvang.
Pumpkin soup <3


Brunch buffet at Mandalay bay in Las Vegas.










Molten lava cake


We tried the lunch buffet with unlimited wine and drinks in M Hotel Las Vegas.










KFC hehe


Of course, we need to try KFC. The mac & cheese side dish is divine, the biscuit is good but we're sad that they don't have rice and we need to pay $3 for gravy!!







Surf and Turf


The best casino buffet that we tried is Barona's in San Diego. Aside from the usual international dish selection, we enjoyed the snow crabs!








I now understand why people who goes to US for vacation gains significant weight, the servings are huge!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Winter in Seoul: Sled at Korean Children's Grand Park

What are the other winter activities in Seoul?

Dec 28: On our last day in Seoul, we wanted to try another winter activity! I researched about Pyeongchang Trout Festival but it was hard to squeeze in another full day tour. It is 2-3hours drive outside Seoul and would mean another whole day dedicated for this sole activity. 

Here are some of the winter activities within Seoul that I've researched:
  • Ice skating in Lotte World's indoor rink - wasn't able to try it in 2013! How to go there: Jamsil Station (Seoul Subway Line 2, 8), Exit 4. 
  • Snow Buster sled slope in Everland - it was closed when I visited in November 2014! How to go there: Everland Station (Yongin EverLine), Exit 4.
  • Seoulland sledding slope - How to go there: Seoul Grand Park Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exit 2. ->Seoul Grand Park Plaza. → Take the Elephant Trolley to Seoulland Trolley Stop
  • Korean Folk Village Sled - How to go there: Suwon Station (Seoul Subway Line 1), Exit 5. Take Bus No. 37 to Korean Folk Village Bus Stop.

Children’s Grand Park Station (Seoul Subway Line 7), Exit 2. 
After considering the options above, we ended up going to the nearest sled park, Korean Children's Center Snow Sledding Field. After going out from Exit 2, we walked to the parking lot and along the buildings leading to the sled field. It turned out that it was better to walk outside, along the road, which is the quickest path to reach the area.
The park for children and feeling children
The park is operates from 9:30AM to 5PM and we arrived 30minutes after the opening time. We paid 10,000won for the general admission fee and it covers our access to the tube sled, 'snow mountain' and the ice skating rink. There's also an icefish catching program if you add 5,000won.
Sled time
My aunt, who didn't want to try skiing, enjoyed sled or ice tubing. She tried it once and felt that it's enough. It was actually tiring because you have to walk on an uphill bridge to reach the top of snow mountain while dragging your tube. From there you'll wait your turn, the guides will push your tube and you'll enjoy the adrenalin ride of going down the mountain in full speed for 20-25seconds! I tried it 6 times before calling it a day!
Cutie <3
Of course, we took turns with cute children like him on sledding in Korean Children's Grand Park!
(fake) Snow!
We knew that it was a man made snow mountain but it was a fun activity and definitely one of the recommended things to do and enjoy on a Seoul winter vacation!

Side note: One of the highlights on our last day in Seoul is when we ran out of money and we're too happy to refund our T-Money! Remaining balance of 20,000won or less are refundable on convenience stores but 500 won service fee applies.

Christmas in Seoul 2016
Day1: Dragon Hill Spa & Myeongdong Shopping
Day2: Nami Island and  Elysian Gangchon Ski resort
Day3: Gwangjang Market, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Insadong & Eland Han River Dinner Cruise
Day4: Lotte Mall, Grevin Museum & NSeoul Tower
Day 5: Sled at Korean Children's Grand Park

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Diary of a Kokeshi Doll Collector

Do you have a unique collection? 

I do! I think.. 
Birthday ecards! yeah, they associate me to geisha/kokeshi dolls
In 2013, I blogged about my Anything Kokeshi collection. I was and still very fascinated by these Japanese wooden dolls. My family & friends supported me in collecting these. They gave me bags, pens, notebooks and small trinkets from Japan. During that time, I was still planning for my first Japan trip. 

Fast forward to present, I still receive it as a gift, I've been to Japan twice and to my surprise I was also able to buy Kokeshi dolls from the different places that I've been too! 

Tell people you collect something, and you shall receive! Plus you can help them give you a meaningful gift ;)
Umbrella from Hong Kong




The white one is a gift from a couple friend Keso and Ann who went to Hong Kong in 2014. What's fascinating is it's actually an umbrella but of course I rarely use it for it's true purpose. 







Key chain!



Another souvenir from Hong Kong! I helped Mapet on her DIY itinerary and she gave me egg tarts & Kokeshi key chain as pasalubong! 








My glass box, for easier cleaning
Recently, I organized the small trinkets on a glass box. The ones on upper left are my Nakamise dori loot in 2014 & 2015. The red one on middle right is a ref magnet from Agfa.

My friends Jess and Kat joined my family on our 2015 Japan trip. They went to Osaka without me, I chose watching CNBLUE's concert over Universal Studios Osaka, and they returned with a Sakura 3D puzzle!

Panda and geisha are my 2 favorites! Aysa gave me a Happy Meal toy,  aptly named 'MeiMei' from Kung Fu Panda movie.
Mirror


An orange-y mirror/bag accessory from Arbee who went to Japan as well.








From Dubai with love

My brother got confused with Matryoshka and Kokeshi dolls but nevertheless he went back from Dubai with these conservative, stackable dolls.

The blue ones on the left is the first set of Kokeshi dolls that I randomly bought in Trinoma stall. On the back is my Kokeshi inspired passport holder from Mama Rio and the early trinkets that I received from my friends, Pitz and Kei, who went to Japan.




To minimize guilt, buy it as a souvenir when you're traveling. You can splurge on a doll and it can serve as a reminder of a wonderful place that you've been to.

Japan 2015 loot
The purple/bluish wooden doll is my brother's Christmas gift to me. He choose it from a shop in Hakone during our 2015 Japan trip. We just finished our guided tour and we had 30minutes free time before we'll go back to Tokyo. Aside from the time limit the wide variety of options made it harder to decide which one should I buy as a remembrance. My brother noted that it's very unique. Although it's a combination of blue and purple and I generally collect blue dolls, I agreed and he said that he'll buy it for me instead!

I also bought the male doll from the same shop. Of course my geisha needs a Japanese knight and shining Samurai! I bought the White porcelain dolls from Nakamise dori, a street shopping area in Asakusa. It costs Y500 or 230pesos each, what a steal!
Tokyo, 2014

In my first solo backpacking trip in 2014, I already discovered that Nakamise Dori is a Kokeshi heaven. I went home with lots of memories, CNBLUE albums, 3 little Kokeshi dolls and a snow globe.

On the upper right are the two porcelains which I bought from Mandaue Foam in Shaw. I was hunting for curtains and I ended up with the white and blue geisha figurines.






Singapore, 2014

Who would've knew that Changi Airport has a piece of Kokeshi heaven. My mother actually encouraged me to buy the ones that I like but I ended up buying only one. The blue one on the middle.
Aside from I'm on a budget, I want my collection to have a meaning although I kind of regret that I didn't buy at least one of those with umbrella or the chibi version. =)))





Korea, 2014
After exploring the Trick Eye Museum, we joined an art workshop and I made my own Kokeshi inspired porcelain doll!











US, 2016


It was a pleasant surprise to find part Kokeshi part Matryoshka dolls in San Francisco! I found the blue chubby one in a Chinese souvenir shop in Sausalito and until now, I'm unable to open it. I'm scared that I might break it!

The hot pink stackable doll is from a shop in San Francisco's Chinatown.





Unique kokeshi dolls



The blue one is the close up shot of the doll I bought from Changi airport.

I found the blue haired, headphone wearing, modern emo like wooden doll from Tai Yuen or the toy street in HongKong. We visited that theme street to look for Chino's toys but I ended up buying for myself!






Find a supportive boyfriend AND support his hobbies too!


Perfect pair!

My 1st KimiDoll was bought by Chino on our second date in May last year. During that time we're just friends who had dinner & watched a movie together. After sitting on our table at Art of Taco, he immediately gave me a paper bag from Rustans. I was trying to project that I have high EQ so I thanked him and tried my best not to peek on what's inside. He asked me to open it because he's worried that I already have it. It turned out to be a KimiDoll! I told him it's my first KimiDoll and I don't buy it because it's expensive.




Kokeshi Funko Pop!
Late last year, we went to Greenhills with his family. He was looking for something to buy but when we entered the Funko Pop store, I was instantly amazed by the Omamori dolls. It's an Asian edition Funko Pop and was inspired by Japanese Kokeshi dolls. I ended up with a new toy because he bought me my first FunkoPop! Apparently 'Nana' is one of 13 dolls that I can collect but I don't want to start another collection. I'm happy with my blue doll so this will be my first and last Funko Pop....for now.







excuse our wefie

Because I'm never too old to own Kokeshi inspired doll?

Early this year, we went to Manila Chinatown. Just outside Wai Ying, I noticed a Japanese shop and it was perfect because we're on search for Ichiran instant ramen back then. We went inside and failed to see that elusive ramen but on our way out, I saw a small Kokeshi doll which costs PHP1000. When I'm not traveling abroad I don't have the heart to spend that much. We're about to leave when we saw these geisha inspired Hello Kitty set for PHP500. The next thing I know, Chino bought it for me!

In the future, I would continue looking for Kokeshi dolls but as much as possible I'm looking for something unique or a souvenir for a new place that I visited.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Lotte Mall, Grevin Museum & NSeoul Tower

What to do on another chilly winter day in Seoul?
Euljiro 1-ga Station. From Exit 1
Dec 27: On our 4th day in Seoul, it was still very cold and we had another free and easy morning. I actually planned a food trip in Noryanjin market to eat king crabs but we had enough crabs from previous night's buffet. We ended up having lunch at Lotte Hotel Seoul which is along the way to Grevin Museum. We also passed by the Star Avenue where there were handprints of Hallyu or Korean Wave stars like Kim Soo Hyun from My Love From Another Star and Choi Ji Woo from Winter Sonata.
My daddy with his leather jacket fits right in
The Queen and Mommy Edna
There's a floor for Hollywood and World icons which my parents and aunts truly enjoyed.
The other Queen, Yuna
I am admittedly already deep into Korean pop culture that I was star strucked to see South Korea's ice queen's wax figure. Kim Yuna is one of the biggest sports stars, an Olympic gold medalist for figure ice skating.
Quiz show hosted by Steve Jobs and Einstein
Aside from the wax figures, we also enjoyed the interactive games like the quiz battle on this classroom. We played a trivia game and we got competitive because the scores were displayed on the screen/blackboard.
My mommy accidentally added a beard =))
In "Discovery Atelier" we're able to see the step by step process of molding and creating a virtual 3D model of ourselves. It's fascinating that they've spent months to mold one and designers or celebrities lend the museum something out of their wardrobes.
selca with GDragon
Titas of Seol with Lee Min Ho

The Heirs' Park Shin Hye

I was on full on fan girl mode on the 'Hallyuwood' floor. It was a fun experience to 'hang out' with these icons from my favorite K-dramas, even though we knew that they're not real =)))
Myeongdong Station Exit 8
From Grevin Museum, we went back to Lotte Hotel to do some grocery shopping on Lotte Mart. We ended our night with a mini hike to N-Seoul Tower. It was an uphill climb to go to the Namsan cable car but it's a must try for my family so that they can see Seoul's skyline from top view.

If you want to stay indoors, visit Grevin Museum, shop inside Lotte Mall and trek N'Seoul Tower to view the Seoul skyline through the Observatory deck!

Christmas in Seoul 2016
Day1: Dragon Hill Spa & Myeongdong Shopping
Day2: Nami Island and  Elysian Gangchon Ski resort
Day3: Gwangjang Market, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Insadong & Eland Han River Dinner Cruise
Day4: Lotte Mall, Grevin Museum & NSeoul Tower
Day 5: Sled at Korean Children's Grand Park

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Gwangjang Market, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Insadong & Eland Dinner Cruise

What is the must see classic day tour itinerary in Seoul?

Dec 26: My sister and I specifically planned to have a free morning so that everyone can rest after spending the entire Christmas day outdoor and for us to finally visit Gwangjang Market! This was included on our 2014 trip's itinerary but for some reason we weren't able to visit it. We were inspired by Running Man's episode featuring CNBLUE where they were fighting to be Seoul's face and the challenges revolved around the main tourism areas. 
Jongno 5(o)-ga Station and go out exit 11

Their first mission was on Gwangjang market where they got to eat no frills Korean food. I created a separate blog post for Seoul food trip here.  
Gyeongbokgung Station Exit 5

We met the rest of the family at the exit of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Originally, we planned to borrow free hanbok from Insadong's tourism center but it started drizzling and we needed to take cover. We walked on the exit going to Anguk, crossed the street and luckily found a hanbok rental shop. It started to rain hard outside and we just enjoyed trying out traditional Korean clothes. We spent more than an hour trying on 'tops' and 'skirts' while convincing my dad and Mommy Edna to finally join us.
Hanbok rental: 15,000won/PHP700 for 3hrs

We went back to the palace and walked around traditional clothes, it was a fun experience! We're a big group so it was hard to miss us and some palace guests even took our photos. It was my 3rd time to go to Gyeongbokgung Palace because I always make sure to include this on the itinerary. The palace is always a must see place because of the history ingrained in it and the visual experience from the intricate architecture and art.
Anguk Station

We took the train to Insadong to eat lunch and shop. It was everyone's happy place. My parents and aunts were able to buy their souvenirs, my sister and I went crazy on tax free beauty products while my brother found this gem of 10,000won bag store. My brother gifted me with a knitted PHP450 laptop bag from that same store.
Han River Cruise 79,000won/PHP3600
For our dinner, I booked a dinner cruise thru FuntasticKorea and it's definitely worth very won that we spent. It was supposed to be our 'Noche Buena' big dinner but my brother and his girlfriend booked a late flight for Christmas eve. The cruise started from 7PM and lasted for 3 hours.
Our 2 days delayed Noche Buena

The girl is the receptionist AND lounge singer

It is a great way to enjoy the nighttime skyline of Seoul while cruising along Hangang River. Aside from the dinner buffet, we also enjoyed a live performance onboard.
Yeouinaru Station (Subway Line 5), Exit 3.
We wanted to visit the winter illumination on Dondaemun Market but on the way back to the train station, we saw this beautiful light installation along Yeouido Dock. 
Yeouido dock
You're so fine!
I was able to catch CNBLUE's performance on KBS year end gayo.
And there was snow..

Before going to bed, my siblings and I saw an actual snow fall by our window. We thought about going outside but we're already ready to sleep and it's a lot of work to put on our winter clothes. The lesson for the day is that when things don't go according to how you planned it, learn to adapt and enjoy the moment instead!

The best way to have a quick taste of Seoul is to eat at Gwangjang Market, visit Gyeongbokgung Palace, shop & have tea at Insadong and experience a cruise in Han River, preferably while enjoying a sumptuous buffet!

Christmas in Seoul 2016
Day1: Dragon Hill Spa & Myeongdong Shopping
Day2: Nami Island and  Elysian Gangchon Ski resort
Day3: Gwangjang Market, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Insadong & Eland Han River Dinner Cruise
Day4: Lotte Mall, Grevin Museum & NSeoul Tower
Day 5: Sled at Korean Children's Grand Park