Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Global Seoul Mate Mission: 2014 Seoul Kimchi Making And Sharing Event!

                 EVERYONE, LISTEN UP!

                  PREPARE YOUR HIGH 
                   TAEKWONDO KICKS!









Sunday, 26 October 2014

Cheonggyecheon: Cool Music On A Cool Stream

There is always going on at Cheonggye stream. This place has become a favorite spot to launch festivals and events to raise awareness for various causes.

From the Korea In Motion campaigns to the Sewol tragedy yellow-ribbon tribute, Cheonggyecheon is becoming one of the most popular tourist spots in Seoul. On any given day, you can see international tourists and locals crowding together to take photographs of the stream: from its fountains down to the different foot bridges a few hundred meters down.
But it's not just water flowing all the time. If you're lucky, you can also hear music flow, not from your headset, but from the musicians playing music or singing for a crowd.

Although a few times a year, there would be some staged musical performances at the entry tip of the stream next to the fountains, there are also musicians, individuals or in groups, who would pick a spot and share their music to passers-by and crowds enjoying their day, or night, along the stream.

These musicians who may not be as famous as your current K-pop celebrities (I actually refrain from calling them singers because these manufactured k-pop people sound horrible; you know what I mean. Ha-ha-ha!), but they are just as good, or even better, than the ones you see on TV!

One night, as I was heading home, I passed by the stream and heard a guy who sounded like Roy Kim from afar. He was good; no wonder he had a good crowd listening to him and to his music. 

So, if you're in Seoul and have nothing else to do, just get down to the stream, have a stroll and listen to these not-so-famous musicians and artists playing at Cheonggyecheon

They may not be famous for now, but who knows? 

So, at Cheonggyecheon, it's not only water that flows. Music does, too.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Yellow Rubber Duck On Seoul's Seokchon Lake

"Rubber ducky, you're the make bath time lots of fun...Rubber ducky, I'm awfully fond of you..."

I could almost hear Ernie from Sesame Street sing that cute little song as I saw for the first time a giant rubber duck on Seokchon Lake in the Songpa District in Seoul. (If you're not familiar with Ernie's song, click this>> clip at Youtube.)

(Sorry, Ernie. No swimming or taking a bath on the lake!)

I think this was my second visit to Seokchon Lake. Well, if you consider visiting the Lotte World Adventure's Magic Island that sits on the west side of Seokchon Lake, then it's my second visit. 

But it wasn't just the lake that brought me over to the south side of Seoul. Last month, as I strolled around the hilly part of my Hannam-dong neighborhood, I could see from where I was standing the imposing silhouette of what will be the tallest building in South Korea, the Lotte World Tower. Once completed, it will be a 555-meter tall tower with 123 floors. But what I'm looking forward to its completion is its rooftop cafe. At 555 meters above ground, I wonder how much their iced cafe mocha will cost. Ha-ha-ha!

(Finally, I saw the Lotte World Tower up close and structural!)

I have told friends who live in the Jamsil area that I wanted to see up close the tower even though it wasn't finished yet. I only could see its silhouette from afar; I wanted to see it up close and, well, architectural. Ha-ha-ha!

And since I read that a giant rubber duck appeared on the Seokchon Lake last week, I have another reason to travel down to the Jamsil area.

          (I'm waiting for the rooftop cafe to be completed.
        I hope their iced cafe mocha will be reasonably priced!)

                          (Couples enjoying the view)

From the Exit 2 of the Jamsil Station (Line 2), I simply followed the crowd that was moving out of the station. With their cameras, selfie-sticks and excited faces on a cool autumn day, anyone could tell that they were not there to go shopping at the partially opened mall. They were there to see big toy!

The giant yellow duck, created by a Dutch artist, Florentijn Hofman, is floating on this lake as part of the Rubber Duck Project Seoul. This duck has traveled, er, floated around different parts of the world, and until November 14, it will remain afloat on the Seokchon Lake, which I'm sure will draw more crowds during these chilly autumn days.

I read on online news that perhaps the appearance of the giant rubber duck was to help tone down certain controversies linked to the ongoing mega-project like the sudden appearance of sink holes in the area and the fall in the water level of the Seokchon Lake. 

But on this cloudy autumn day at Seokchon Lake, the curious visitors to the lake didn't seem to care about any controversy. They were just excited to see a rare spectacle of a rubber duck, not floating on their bath tub, but on a lake!

            (The area in front of the duck is very crowded)
And even if Ernie was here at the Seokchon Lake with his shampoo and bath soap, he wouldn't have been allowed to take a bath in the lake; it was prohibited. Ha-ha-ha!

So, if you want to see an over-sized rubber ducky floating in the shadows of an over-sized building, do visit the Seokcheon Lake by November 14. After all, it's not everyday that one gets to see a yellow rubber ducky swimming among real ducks on a lake.

           (Lo and behold...the soon-to-be tallest building 
                                     in South Korea)
              (Thousands visiting the lake...and the duck)

And if you're going there, the best view to take a picture of the yellow duck is on the side near the highway. The area right in front of the yellow duck is very crowded, and there are trees and shrubbery that block your view.

"Rubber ducky, you're the make bath time lots of fun...Rubber ducky, I'm awfully fond of you..."

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Boys Over Flowers: Namdaemun's Secret Garden!

I have only been to one flower shop; the one in my Hannam-dong neighborhood from where I bought a couple of plants for my apartment when I moved in for the first time. I actually don't know how to take care of plants, or pets for that matter. Even just to water them I forget; all those plants have since died. It could have been worse if I had pets. Or a garden. Ha-ha-ha!
                (The encircled words mean 'Flower shops 3rd floor)
                      (That's the Korean word for 'flower')

And speaking of plants, a few months ago, my friend Itchay who lives in Manila, asked me to buy her some sesame seeds which she wanted to plant in her garden in the Philippines. She was here in Seoul last year, and bought a few packets. She wanted more. 

So, I looked for sesame seeds at E-Mart and Daisu; they were out of stock. Itchay told me that she actually bought her seeds on a sidewalk at Namdaemun Market. 
                                (A vendor watering his plants)
                              (Plastic grapes of wrath)

So, off to Namdaemun I was, and stumbled upon the Seoul city government's tourist guides, the ones wearing red jackets and walking in pairs in major tourist areas in Seoul. I asked them where I could possibly find a flower shop within the Namdaemun Market area. And instead of pointing me to a shop, they pointed me to a building! A flower market building!
                       (A baby and his mom shopping for flowers)
                   (Roses are red...and yellow and....)

All these years of roaming around the Namdaemun Market, I didn't know it has a flower market. Maybe because all those years of roaming in Namdaemun weren't meant to find flowers, or plants, or seeds. They mostly were to buy K-pop souvenirs and...hotteok! Ha-ha-ha!
                                             (Orange roses!)
From Exit 5 of the Hoehyeon (Namdaemun Market) Station (Line 4), turn right and walk for 110 meters, after which you'll see a building with the 'man-woman toilet sign'. That's the building; it's painted white and has no open windows. It has several entrances from all sides, but there are stairs near the street. Just go up to the next floor, enter the door and voila! Smell the flowers!
                                                 (Real cacti!)
The first time I walked in, I was actually surprised and overwhelmed! There were rows and rows of shops selling fresh flowers of many colors!  During the summer, the whole place was air-conditioned. That's why the building doesn't have open windows. I just moved around, turned around corners, and feasted my eyes with the colors of red, yellow, pink, orange, green and everything else! It felt like I was in some garden. A garden, indeed! Namdaemun Market's secret garden! 

Secret....until today!
                                         (Sunflowers for you!)
On this floor of the building doesn't only have shops selling fresh flowers, they also sell artificial ones. And there were also shops selling plastic fruits, vegetables, bread, figurines, house decors, vases, lamps and all those daintily breakable decor light bulbs! This floor is an 'interior decoration market', too!

For a moment with all the colors and the smell of pollens, I forgot that the only reason I was there was to look for Itchay's sesame seeds. But I eventually found them at one of the shops where an ajumma was selling all kinds of seeds! And after getting the seeds, I continued on my tour of this secret garden, not to smell the flowers, but to take pictures. 
                       (I almost thought they sold fresh bananas 
                        when I saw these plastic fruits)
Although I have discovered that these shops definitely sell cheaper flowers and plants, I don't think I'd be buying a flower pot soon. All of my plants at home died, remember? Maybe, once in a while, when I am in the area to buy some yummy hotteok or a can of Nestle hot chocolate from the underground imported goods alley, I will drop by the flower market just to enjoy the colors. After all, where can you find a huge garden downtown? There may be no trees or fountains on this floor of the World Market Building, but this place is definitely a garden. 

The World Market Building is labeled 'E' on the Namdaemun Market tourist map, and the flower market is open from 3AM and closes at 3PM. They are also closed on Sundays. These flowers and plants must be coming from Korean provinces, and maybe they open very early in the morning so that flower shop vendors all over Seoul can get their flowers and plants from here to sell at their own shops. 
            (I didn't want to go near these crystal decors; 
            I was afraid I might break something. Ha-ha-ha!)

So, if you're looking for varieties of flowers and plants not found at your neighborhood flower shop, you now know which secret garden to head to. This Namdaemun flower market is actually the oldest flower market in Seoul that opened in the 1960s.
          (One of the entrances to the flower market)