Busan Museum (부산시립박물관), Busan, South Korea (Gallery)

We took a 3.5hr ride on the KTX to Busan, a busy port city on the Southern coast of South Korea, where we were to spend the next 4 nights. If you were to look at the map, Busan has 3 parts of its coast that juts out a little into the ocean – that’s also where most of the attractions are concentrated. The Busan museum (부산시립박물관) in Namgu, on the middle jutter-outer, has 3 levels of sprawling exhibitions from displays of artefacts – anything from bowls to tools to rust-eaten swords to life-sized mock-ups of blacksmith shops and fishmonger stalls.

I personally am not really a history buff, so these didn’t interest me at all (unless we’re talking about European palaces, which is a different story). Rather, we were there because the museum has a Cultural Experience hall at which you could try on traditional outfits like hanbokGonryongpo, Ikseongwan, Wosam, etc. And also had a Tea ceremony where we could try our hand at making tea – which, might I add, is a very intentional, delicate and lengthy process full of repetition and small hand gestures and placements, but constituted a whole lot of fun learning.

What most people might not know is that in the right season, Busan Museum has a gorgeous outdoor garden which you can slip into from the path on the right. We chanced upon it because we were killing some time before the tea ceremony at 4.30pm. I remember the scene unfolding before my eyes – cherry blossom trees in full bloom, lined up along the broad stone pathway all the way to the top of the hill, a heavy sprinkling of pale pink ‘snow’ strewn underfoot – to which I found that I could not resist staring at the ground.

948-1 Daeyeon 4(sa)-dong, Nam-gu, Busan, South Korea

Opens from 9am to 8pm daily (Closed on Mondays); Tea Ceremony Timings 10.30am, 1.30pm, 3pm and 4.30pm (Please note that you have to be there in person to book the slot).

Busan Museum Tea Making Cultural Experience 부산시립박물관 Travel Blog

Busan Museum Tea Making Cultural Experience 부산시립박물관 Travel Blog

Busan Museum Cherry Blossoms Garden 부산시립박물관 Travel Blog

Busan Museum Cherry Blossoms Garden 부산시립박물관 Travel Blog

Busan Museum Cherry Blossoms Garden 부산시립박물관 Zabrina Alexis Chew Travel Blog

No. 813 BBQ Restaurant, Seoul, South Korea

Category: Korean – Barbecue

Anyone who’s been to Korea or has watched any K-drama would know how much the Koreans love their barbecue. While I was in Korea, we had barbecue at least 5 times in 11 days, and man, that is A LOT of barbecue. When we first arrived in Seoul, we stayed in Gangnam-gu, and so I’d planned out an entire list of food places to go in Gangnam a week ahead. No. 813 BBQ Restaurant had been on Lady Iron Chef’s list of 17 Best Restaurants and Local Eateries to Eat in Seoul, and so was assigned as dinner stop for day 1.

Gangnam-daero 152-gil, opens from 5pm for dinner

Contrary to what was said online, it wasn’t all that hard to find, especially since No.813 has 2 units next door to each other – the larger one being to the right of the original one, with a slightly more modern (and less authentic) feel to it and also twice the size of the other. Since it was already the late afternoon, we ambled around Gangnam for a bit until 5pm when they re-opened for dinner.

Damage: $$

No.813 BBQ Restaurant has reasonable value with decent portion sizes, and we left reasonably full after spending about $20 each on a set selection of meats and some kimchi stew, but keep reading…

To Go: It’s okay, but it isn’t a must-try

It’s decent barbecue, but that’s all there is to it. This was the first barbecue we tried in Korea, and while the cuts of meat I thought were pretty average (and some of the meat was practically served just out of the freezer and had to be left defrosting at the table), we thought that all in all it offered good value… until we tried barbecue at like 4 other places, including one more in Seoul.

The kimchi stew here paled miserably to the one we had at Heukdonga on Jeju-do, and the side dishes were very average and limited (as compared to every other place we dined at while in Korea). Service was terrible; although we were only one of the two groups of guests, we had to wave several times just to get the attention of wait staff who were too busy chatting with each other over the counter just 3m away, and had to request multiple times for another serving of kimchi stew and kimchi which never arrived.

No. 813 BBQ Restaurant Barbecue Seoul Korea Food Review Blog

Liebster and One Lovely Blog Awards

I can’t tell you how incredibly surprised and honoured I was to be nominated for the Liebster and One Lovely Blog Awards! It’s always nice when fellow bloggers stop by to comment or like a post, but this! Such a special and pleasant surprise – thank you, Victoria! Check out her blog, Canny Cuisine, where she shares yummy recipes and the like (her instagram is full of food too).

There are two awards here, and I’m going to take them both on at one go! (If not you’ll probably be reading until tomorrow morning, OR fall asleep – which is more likely to happen)

For One Lovely Blog, the rules are:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to his/her award post.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Nominate 15 other bloggers and let them know about this.

The Liebster Award is more complicated, and the rules go like this:

1. Put up the Liebster Award logo on a blog post
2. Thank your nominator and provide a link back to his/her blog
3. Write 10 random facts about yourself
4. Answer 10 questions posted by the nominator
5. Nominate 10 other bloggers for the award and inform them about it
6. Come up with 10 new questions for your nominees

Which puts me at 3, where I swan dive into 10 random facts about myself

1. I’m a Violinist and I do gigs as well as teach violin to kids during my free time.
2. I was a semi-finalist in a nation-wide singing competition, and eventually got to perform on stage in front of a crowd of 30,000 – the stress was intense, from choreography to vocal training to wardrobe, but was also where I got to know an amazing bunch of very musically-talented people.
3. I’m a rather sentimental person and Interstellar made me tear a record 8 times.
4. I love food, and it probably occupies my mind about 60% of the time. Okay, maybe 50%.
5. I’m actually kinda geeky and enjoy reading about all sorts of things from cryptography to writing code to nutrition to the science of smell :/ I think I’m just making up for how disinterested I was in everything when I was a kid.
6. I did the world’s highest bungee jump off the Macau tower last year – the craziest thing ever but woo yea!!
7. I love being outdoors- and near plants. They make me happy. I need plants.
8. I can lucid dream, which means adventures await almost every night.
9. I learnt muay thai for a few months last year and when I went into office one day, my boss asked if I was suffering from abuse.
10. I like the idea of being bad-ass. Sometimes, I try.

And incoming, the 10 questions posed by Victoria. Here goes!

#1 What is your favourite food and why? Chocolate. I just can’t. live. without. it. 

#2 Why did you start blogging? I love taking photographs, and I love writing so 1+1=Memoirs of Taste! Naw, that’s the half truth. I wanted to record of all the places I’ve been so that not only can I recall them, I can also share useful information about these places – information that I myself would have found useful to know before my visit and find so hard to find online.

#3 What do you do when life gets you down? I sit down in the quiet and think. I’d have a conversation with myself, reflect on the state of things, and then make a list of ways to improve the situation or overcome it.

#4 What is the weirdest song you know? Uh… What does the fox say?

#5 If you were a colour, what colour would that be and why? This is tough… I don’t have a favourite colour either. Black? I wear a lot of black because it’s so classic.

#6 What is the most difficult dish you’ve ever made, and how did it turn out? I made chapati from scratch. It took hours and it wasn’t bad, but I also succeeded in covering the entire dining table in flour and dough.

#7 What is the one thing you can’t live without? I hate to be cheesy, but it’s gotta be love. And water. Yea, that too.

#8 If you had the chance to be invisible for 1 day, what would you do? I might raid the bank. Haha.

#9 Who is your favourite super hero? Iron Man! He has the tech!

#10 What is your most favourite thing that you’ve ever done? Can I say travelling?? If I had to be specific, it would be my roadtrip through Italy! Amo Italia!

My turn to nominate – Yes you!

1. Peeled Wellness – K shares recipes that are great for people who believe in eating the natural way

2. Chincinitie – Very unique perspectives on street trends

3. Petite Christine – Plenty of adventures in America, including travel and food

4. Alex Elliott Photography – If you love beautiful scenery, Alex is your man. Stunning, stunning pictures.

5. Checking in. – Yes, check-in for great travel tips from budget travel to airbnb

6. Cooking with Kathy Man – A curated reel of recipes sourced from everywhere and interesting food facts

7. the L A Z E of days – Lovely recipes and mouthwatering pictures – a good resource for ideas on what to cook

8. Duane Pandorf – I don’t think Duane needs more followers, but I do think lots of people haven’t discovered his fantastic photography yet, and since Liebster is not just for newbies, I’m adding Duane to the list.

9. Watch! – A reel full of macro pictures full of colour, and incredible detail – Laila captures some truly amazing moments

10. Having fun with my camera – For someone who’s “having fun with (the) camera”, they sure take a lot of good wildlife photos 😛

And finally, some quick questions to you guys:

1. What is your biggest source of inspiration?
2. What was the first thing you ever wrote (or remember you ever wrote)?
3. Monochrome or sepia?
4. What is one thing you haven’t done but want to do?
5. Favourite food/dish and best associated memory?
6. If you had everything you needed to do whatever you wanted for a week, what would you do?
7. What do you fear (e.g. heights, darkness, etc.)?
8. Ever thought of overcoming that fear, and how would you do it?
9. Favourite book or movie, and why?
10. What do you hope to achieve with your blog and how can we help you get there?

PHEWWW that was long! All the best to my nominees – do tag me if you reply because I’ll love to learn about you.

Prose by Photography: The Song of the Sea

There we stood- in quiet anticipation, watching as the waves lapped against and over the smoothened boulders leaving trails of white foam, while Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak) rose up with its formidable rock face, basking in the sun. The water was a rich shade of teal, washing over the rocks tauntingly, challenging us to come closer. It looked cold. Really cold. For a moment I imagined falling into the strangely blue water, and shuddered at the thought of sinking into the sea and the things that might greet me beneath. To my right, a rugged-looking american photographer rubbed his hands together and stuffed them into the pockets of his grey windbreaker.

A moment ago, Jeju’s Haenyeo (also known as “women divers”) having suited up in black wet suits, singing with fishing nets slung over their shoulders, vanished into the embrace of the sea. I shifted around on my feet, feeling around the rock with the toe of my boot, careful to stay away from the water spray, and wondered how in the world these women could be so strong, so brave, and why they would choose such a challenging occupation or if it was even a choice at all.

A sharp whistle pierced the air, jolting me from my thoughts. Everyone’s gaze was transfixed upon the waters now. Sure enough, the Haenyeo were resurfacing. They were making some sort of whistling exhalation; a sound of victory as they resurfaced, bringing harvest from the sea. Even before they came close, I could see that they were smiling. It was something about the way they moved, the way they approached the shore, or maybe it was the deep pink flush of their cheeks that showed a surprising youthfulness.

What originally started out due to a need to survive, was no longer just that- and it occurred to me that perhaps these seemingly simple women had a wisdom after all. A wisdom that a large number of people in the world didn’t have – people who I knew were at this moment sitting in office cubicles, staring blankly at computer screens and dying to get out, when they could be doing something else. Something better.

A Haenyeo came by the spot where I stood and she looked up from her basket, at me. She smiled, as if knowing that I now understood that the message was as simple as this. Don’t let fear stop you like it’s stopping others from doing what they love, and you will be the early bird which finds its rewards.

Seongsan Ilchulbong or “Sunrise Peak”, Jeju Island, South Korea, April 2015

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Early Bird.”

Meal Top (밀탑), Seoul, South Korea

Category: Korean – Desserts – Bingsu (Ice shavings)

So apparently the Koreans are crazy about their bingsu, a dessert made from ice shavings, and topped with fruits or red bean, etc. (there being many renditions). Meal Top (밀탑) is one of the more famous ones and comes very highly rated at 4.5/5 on Tripadvisor, and is particularly famous for the ones with red bean topping.

165, Apgujeong-ro, Hyundai Department Store 5F, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 강남구 압구정로 165 (압구정동)

The Hyundai Department Store is right at Apgujeong metro station, and taking the escalators up to the fifth floor, you’ll be delivered right to the doorstep of Meal Top. You’ll hear it before you even see it – the clatter of cutlery and dishes and a busy chatter comes as a bit of a surprise as you navigate the escalators up past floors 3 and 4 which are full of luxury label shops and also extremely quiet.

Damage: $-$$

Each bingsu is about 8,000 KRW (~$10), which I find mighty expensive for something that comprises largely of shaved ice. Bingsu in Korea is pretty much one of the best ways to blow your money in a wink because they’re all about $10 (the cheapest one I came across was about $9). I had bingsu at 4 places around Seoul and Busan while I was there, and not once ever really left the shop feeling like it was worth the money. Nonetheless, it is a very Korean dessert, so you should probably try it at least once.

To Go: Maybe once (whether here or elsewhere, it doesn’t really matter)

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the profit margin on the bingsu is probably somewhere close to 90%, before the utilities and wages of course. The red bean, whilst wholesome and generous, could not divorce from the fact that it was still just a red bean paste, simply dolloped on top of shaved ice drizzled over with some condensed milk. The dessert was simple, good and tasty, especially if you’re having it on a warm day, but the thing that I found most spectacular, was oddly nothing to do with the dessert at all.

The service was impeccable from start to finish. Meal Top is an open-concept cafe, and the moment I stepped in from the ‘wrong’ side, the manager immediately spotted me, graciously ushered me to the seating area on the other side and pulled a waiting number from the machine for me. It was running at full house and there were several people ahead of us in the queue, but the wait wasn’t long. I watched, fascinated, as waiters transported trays of dessert barely 2 minutes after it was ordered, and as they swooped in on tables the moment guests departed, readying it within seconds for the next guests to be seated.

Meal Top bingsu dessert Seoul South Korea Food Review Travel Diary Blog

Bongeunsa Temple, Seoul, South Korea (Gallery)

I’ve just returned from Spring in South Korea – a great time to go, with gorgeous and breathtaking scenes of Cherry blossom trees. On my first day in Seoul, I set up basecamp at a hotel in Gangnam-gu. Gangnam is a beautiful trendy district (made famous by Psy’s “Gangnam style” song) with lots of cafes and indie label shops, and lies to the south of the Han river, which winds horizonatally across the city. It is an area obviously loved by the teens to 20 somethings, but probably not so much the elderly because I hardly saw them hanging about.

Bongeunsa Temple lies in the eastern part of Gangnam-gu, just north of the sprawling COEX mall, and is an unexpected sight amidst tall buildings decked in glass. Near the entrance to Bongeunsa, street beggars sat or walked up to visitors waiting to cross the road at the traffic lights, holding their hands together with dark crinkles of toil etched into their tanned skin. Inside, there was a sense of quiet calm – especially in the gardens. I drifted from one building to another, drawn by the beautiful green and red-brown coloured paints incorporated into a simple but seemingly complex design and the neatly tiled roofs of slategray. Rows of brightly coloured paper lanterns folded into lotus flowers were strung across the ceiling of the main prayer building, and I watched silently as a lady unclasped her hands and lifted a flame to light a candle at the altar.

531, Bongeunsa-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 강남구 봉은사로 531 (삼성동)

Open all year round; There is also a 2-day temple stay activity should you wish to participate. Alternatively, there is also a 3hr programme where you can experience participating in different temple activities.

Bongeunsa Temple Seoul South Korea Things to See Travel Diary Blog

Bongeunsa Temple Seoul South Korea Things to See Travel Diary Blog

Bongeunsa Temple Seoul South Korea Things to See Travel Diary Blog

Bongeunsa Temple Seoul South Korea Things to See Travel Diary Blog

Tian Tian Chicken Rice, Singapore

SCRIBBLES
As anyone who’s visited Singapore would know, we’re pretty well-known for amazing and affordable hawker fare, and Chicken Rice is one of the dishes which tops the list. It sounds like a simple dish – just chicken, steamed or roasted, patted atop a dome of rice – but that is exactly why this dish could be easily underrated by someone who didn’t know better. #01-10/11 Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur Street, Singapore 069184 Tian Tian Chicken Rice is situated on the left most row of the Maxwell Food Centre when entering from the main entrance, and will be easily spotted due to the queue that trails in front of it almost every hour of the day. However, they are very quick and one never has to wait that long. Ambience is typical of Singapore’s hawker centres, where there are many stalls selling a variety of local fare at affordable prices, operating in a very casual no-frills canteen concept. Damage: $ With a plate of chicken rice priced about $4 or $5 (if you ask for more chicken), and vegetables priced around $3 to $4, you get incredible value here. We had a feast (see feature picture) on just $16. A great option for travellers on a budget! To go: Yes! If you’re in southern Singapore / Near Maxwell Tian Tian’s is a hainanese chicken rice, and is also the one Singaporeans are proud of for having won the cook-off against celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay in a publicly held tasting and vote in 2013. The chicken is smooth and the skin is silky, and unlike other hainanese chicken rice sellers, Tian Tian does a slightly thicker sauce instead of the usual light soy-sauce seasoning. Everyone would notice that Tian Tian’s chicken rice is particularly noteworthy – each and every grain remains intact, and coated over with the tastiness and aroma of natural chicken oils. They were extremely generous with the vegetables too, and they were cooked perfectly with good bite and delicious oyster-sauce flavours, and daym is that chilli spicy! Tian Tian Chicken Rice is a great choice for anyone who’s in the southern parts of Singapore (Tanjong Pagar, Duxton, Chinatown, etc.), but elsewhere, there are other great choices too, such as Boon Tong Kee at Balestier and one of my all-time favorites, Tong Fong Fatt Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice at Raffles Place.