Monday, June 30, 2008

More sights for the tourist

As I continue to recover, I figure I'd give myself another day or two before venturing into any food posts, so as not to bias my reviews, heh. Instead, here's a quick recap of some of MC's non-food related experiences. ^^

I've been to three palaces so far, and figured the average visitor (unless a huge royal palace buff) only really needs to see one during a week long stay. Would've preferred Changdeokgung, but it's closed on Mondays, so we opted for the next best option, an easy walk from Insadong.

This was my second
time to this palace, and again, we had a little more fun taking pictures outside the dare-I-say-dull-folk-museum...

Here, MC and I pounded some rice cakes. The first time around seemed so much easier! I could barely lift the thing... perhaps the ddeok had a greater stick-effect.

Of course, we had to do the obligatory trip to N Seoul Tower. I knew we could catch a cab there, since I had done it once before, but the drivers wouldn't believe me. Apparently, Koreans aren't allowed to ride a taxi up there. The gate guard even asked us for our passports, and when I told him I didn't have it and showed him my US driver's license, he ignored me, peered into the window, saw MC (obviously not very Korean looking), asked for $2, and we were on our way.

However, the highlight of our Namsan excursion was definitely the dancing. Yep, the dancing. After failing to convince me to get my groove on in the middle of the light show, MC spotted an Asian woman who was dancing next to her husband, and decided to ask for her hand instead. He even got the hubby to bust a few moves at the end. I guess music really does bring the people together.

More...outdoor...dancing... at Next Floor, an outdoor club music festival along the Han River. (Thanks, SJ. ^^)

What's that you ask? OF COURSE, we have video! ^^ Except you can't really see anything... just the guys screaming. MC wanted to go back to the hip hop tent after getting wiped out with jumping up and down ("What else are you supposed to do with this music?!") but it was a pretty good workout, I have to admit.

Little did we know we'd find a "beach" along Yeoido! The wonders of a bicycle. And only $3/hour! I think I'll be taking some solo rides this summer... if anyone's up for joining, let me know. ^^

Walking along Cheongyecheon...

Running into yet another protest near City Hall, we decided to play a Seoul version of "Where's Waldo?" Can you spot MC in the crowd? Bottom left corner. Hint: he's the one wearing the bright Johnny Cupcakes tee. ; )

And finally, what would Seoul be without shopping? ^^

Korea is so much more FUN with you here, MC! ^____^ Miss ya already!

Sunday, June 29, 2008


As I sort through the 500+ photos/videos of MC's trip, I'll slowly but surely work on some of the highlights. I'd start with the food posts, but I'm still somewhat incapacitated. It's hard to look at food, nor keep it down, after having foolishly eaten more than a couple pieces of beef a couple days ago. There's nothing wrong with the cows here - it's just that my stomach hasn't been used to beef consumption for about a decade... and I think I'll keep it that way from now on . : /

That having been said, why not start with the DMZ?

We took a tour with the United Services Organization (USO). Their Korean website is a bit outdated so if you're looking to book tickets, I'd recommend calling (+82) 02-7913-4102, as they only do tours on select days and departure times change depending on the day. Alternatively, you can visit the USO office at Camp Kim, a short walk from 삼각지역 (Samgakji Station). The total cost is around $44 for civilians and about half that if you have a military ID.

One fun thing about Camp Kim is their canteen... can't get much more "American diner" than this.

The food isn't particularly good, but it's dirt cheap, and you can find things like grilled cheese, fries, Diet Coke, Snapple, and the best part? Reese's peanut butter cups!

We started off by getting a glimpse of North Korea from afar...

Then stopped off for lunch. Although the restaurant has a variety of options, you're only allowed to choose between bulgogi or bibimbap, as the tour guide calls in the orders before you arrive. Here's a picture of MC's $10 bulgogi... I'd recommend bringing a sack lunch instead.

Next, we visited the 3rd Tunnel, discovered in 1978 and designed by the North Koreans for an attack on Seoul. No photography was allowed in the tunnel, but you can see what it looks like here.

The best part of the tour though, was entering Camp Bonifas, and making our way to the Joint Security Area (JSA), as well as seeing the Bridge of No Return and site of the Axe Murder Incident.

On the soldier's left side, you technically step into North Korea. On the right, you're still in South Korea. (Just don't attempt to go behind the ROK soldier who guards the door to North Korea or prepare to be taekwondo-chopped like a certain someone *cough cough*.)

The South Korean soldiers wear Ray Bans with that stance to intimidate the North Koreans. It's amazing to see soldiers from both Koreas facing each other here... you have to wonder what's going on in their minds.

A North Korean soldier scopes out us tourists with his binoculars.

The Bridge of No Return.

View of North Korea's propaganda village (no one lives here, it's all for show) and the world's tallest flagpole.

North Korean currency.

And finally, videos from the tour...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mmmh, dak kalbi

Everytime I eat chicken kalbi (닭갈비), I feel *extra* compelled to document the experience on camera. ^^ So here we go, just another night of eating with some of my lovely fam.

Waiting for a seat in the Sinchon (신촌) branch of 춘천집 (I think) in the sweltering heat.

3 orders of chicken for the four of us (I think that's a good ratio if you're planning to add sides like extra rice cakes or noodles... and especially if you want to eat fried rice afterwards!)

The basic order usually comes with chicken, cabbage, potato, rice cakes, sesame leaves, and chili paste. My only complaint is that this dish is a bit on the greasy side. How great would it be to offer a "well-being" version? Cooking spray instead of gollops of oil and lean chicken breast instead of skin-on, fatty rib/thigh pieces? I'd shell out the extra cash for that.

Start to stir fry!

In a few minutes, you end up with this.

Add your favorites sides (we got 2 orders of noodles), and dig in!

When meal #1 is nearly over, order a couple sides of rice and fry up meal #2 - bokkum bap! Even better with cheese.

As always, we ended up stuffed, but took a walk to Caribou Coffee near Ehwa. I wasn't particularly impressed, although the little guy's nokcha ice blend was pretty darn good. Is he too young to be drinking green tea lattes?

Cheesecake and some sort of cake - too creamy and too dry, respectively.

MC is officially en route to Seoul! ^_____^

Let the real eating begin...

Dancing in the DMZ

Check out the latest "Where the Hell is Matt?" installment.

He dances in the DMZ at 1:53. And in Seoul at 2:49. ^^

Korean food, wherever you go

I was flipping through some photos from one of my weekend trips to NY and was pretty amused... We might as well have been in Seoul!

Funny how these days all I can think about is a big juicy turkey burger!

KyoChon (교촌) - Mmmh, Korean fried chicken.

Kun Jip (큰집) - You can't really go wrong here.

Third Floor Cafe - Notice the pot of either jjigae or ddeokbokki below...

Maru (마루) - Where you pay $30 (gasp!) for your mango soju.

Pinkberry - Sort of Korean, no?

Homemade kimbap...


Yogurt soju...


S's new method of eating leftover kimbap - just turn it into bokkum bap!


Friday, June 20, 2008

Counting your calories

Over the past week and a half, I've attempted to make an effort to be more aware of what I consume. Even started a food/exercise log. I'm a little worried that may go completely down the drain upon MC's arrival.

Thanks to Dan over at Seoul Eats, along with a bit of Googling (or shall I say Navering?) and friends' recommendations, I've already started an itinerary. Rather than "visit Namsan Tower" or "check out a palace," the list revolves around, you guessed it, good eats. Expect lots of food in the coming blogs... lots of it.

MC and I have been known to do random taste tests (i.e. best packaged oatmeal raisin cookie; most refreshing bottled water) and fun reviews (really, just excuses to dine out), and have accumulated quite a few OpenTable points in our day... and I don't see that changing in a week-long visit to Korea. This should be fun. ^^

I've already begun preparations for the ride from Incheon to Seoul...

Aren't I a good pal? I've done a nice job clearing out the Kinder Bueno stock at the local convenience store. I wonder where I can buy these in bulk? Costco maybe? They're quite $$$ at $1.40 a pop.

Speaking of which, I bonded over chocolate, hazelnut, and the wonderful Ferrero brand with the someone I had met for the first time yesterday. There are only so many people in the world who appreciate such conversation.

On a related note, I thought this was an interesting concept...

I think it'd certainly make the chocolate bar experience a lot more fun and communal. "Hey, you want the 70 or 50 cal piece?"

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


TOYBOIZE! Funny stuff.
Check out the webisodes and other goodies here. I can't decide if Tim or Nicky's my favorite band member? ^^

Episode 1 -

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bundang... that's a far ride

I finally made it out to Bundang (분당)!

Just didn't realize how long of a ride it is via subway.

First impression? Lots and lots and lots of apartments and officetels. Pretty ones, too. ^^

After walking around the block (in Jeongja), I fell in love with all the prettily lit "Euro-style" cafes... As though I don't spend enough $$ on Starbucks, I'd probably go bankrupt if I lived here.

We checked out a place called Radio Garden... I didn't pay attention long enough to attempt to piece a theme together, but we had fun nonetheless.

Hoegaarden and... grapefruit juice. This was my attempt at being "healthy," which totally got canceled out by all the nachos.

I suppose I'm especially excited about Jeongja (정자) because it feels familiar, the roads are spacious (and comparatively clean), it's a lot less crowded, and therefore relaxing (especially after having spent a significant amount of time at the immigration office today, which I always find depressing). In particular, the view from SJ's awesome new office strangely feels like I'm standing in the StuVi on Comm Ave... ^^

For dinner, we went to a restaurant in the area for hanjeongsik (한정식), "a traditional Korean banquet made for a king." The meal consists of a variety of side dishes (ours came with grilled fish, raw crab, pork, two kinds of soup, and a ton of marinated veggies), and the entire table of food was literally wheeled and carried to us. This picture doesn't do it justice.

Anyway, more photos from Jeongja when we visit again next week!

I want to introduce one of my new favorite packaged goods - the rice sesame cookie! Amazzzzing. I ate an entire bag in 2 days, and vowed not to buy it again in the near future. (It's too tempting.)

Buttery like a shortbread cookie, with the perfect crunch-to-chew consistency, and just the right amount of sesame kick. Found in the organic/health section of Lotte Dept.

Something tells me I'll be making a lot of trips to Sweets Cafe this summer... it's getting hot, and strawberry ice is the the perfect substitute for shave ice!

5 days till MC's arrival, and a couple weeks for M and T - yay!!! We'll be eating it up big time. ^^