Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What's in a (Business) Name? Setenta y ocho

Do they make exotic looking sportswear?
Spotted along MJ Cuenco Avenue, Cebu City

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Finding Solace in the Midst of Seoul's Urban Jungle

One of the things I love about Seoul is that there are many parks around, providing solace (or should I say Seoulace?) from the hustle and bustle of the city. In past trips, I would visit a park or two for a specific reason: Yeouido Park in spring of 2012 for the cherry blossoms (but we were there a few days too early); Namsan Park in autumn of 2014 for the beautiful autumn leaves; and Songpa Naru Park for the cherry blossoms and Banpo Hangang Park for its Moonlight Rainbow Fountain show, both in spring of 2016. For my autumn 2018 trip, I went park hopping and I had reasons for choosing these parks.

Dream Forest Park
북서울 꿈의숲

Dream Forest Park, with an area of 660,000 sq. m., is Seoul's fourth largest park and is not frequented by tourists (or at least, that's what I read). The park is so big that there must be many reasons to visit. Indeed there are. Dream Forest Park has an observatory, an art center, a children's gallery, different kinds of gardens, cafes, a restaurant, and an ancestral shrine. The main reasons why I decided to visit were the observatory and art gallery.

The Dream Forest Observatory, with a height of 49 meters, affords a view of the park, the city surrounding it, and the mountains beyond. The observatory is open from 10AM to 10PM and admission is free. To get to the observatory, I had to take elevators that go on an incline. It was a rainy day when I visited and the observatory was quite deserted—it was just me and two other visitors.

The Dream Forest Art Center had interesting art pieces on display. It is free to enter and is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10AM to 6PM.

A visit to the observatory and art center of Dream Forest Park on a rainy day would have been enough. But no, the rain could not stop me from venturing out to the rest of the park. The pond garden with Aewoljeong Pavilion was a pretty sight in autumn. Aside from the pavilion, it also had boardwalks and platforms for a view of the pond. The shrine on the east side of the park is called Changnyeongwigung Ancestral Shrine, which actually also includes a residence. The shrine (and residence) is designated as a cultural heritage. The shrine is dedicated to Princess Bokon (born 1818), the daughter of the 23rd king of the Joseon Dynasty.

Directions to Dream Forest Park: Take the subway to Miasageori Station. Take exit 3. Take bus #1124 (every 10 minutes) to Dream Forest Art Center Entrance bus stop. Bus fare is 1200 won.

Dream Forest Observatory

View from Dream Forest Observatory

Aewoljeong Pavilion

Changnyeongwigung Ancestral Shrine (and residence)

Oil Tank Culture Park
마포 문화비축기지

Oil Tank Culture Park? Oil tank? Yup, oil tank. This park has six huge oil tanks which used to hold enough petroleum to power Seoul for a month. It was in use from 1978 but closed down by the end of 2000 and was left abandoned until it was converted and opened into a park in 2017. Now the tanks hold a cafe, art exhibits, pop-up shops, an indoor performance hall, an open-air stage, and a museum about the history of the oil depot, instead of gazillions of petroleum.

I almost did not visit this park since—based on the few blogs I found about it—I had deemed it uninteresting. Because I had time to spare (yes, this was the only reason why I visited) I decided to drop by. My visit proved worthwhile, thanks to the fun art exhibits and pop-up shops that were there (and the fact that there were very few people in the park). It's all about timing, I guess.

Directions to Oil Tank Culture: Take the subway to World Cup Station Station. Take exit 2 and walk about 500 meters to Oil Tank Culture Park.

This tank contains a cafe, conference rooms, and lecture halls

One of the tanks is preserved

This tank has a performance hall (used for pop-up shops during my visit) and an outdoor stage

One of the tanks is a museum about the history of the oil depot

Inside the tank housing the museum

An art exhibit in one of the tanks

Haneul Park

Autumn is pampas grass season and this is the reason why Haneul Park was on my itinerary. Haneul Park has fields of pampas grass! It also has a uniquely shaped observatory in the middle of the pampas grass field.

On the southwest boundary of the park, there is a promenade that offers a view of Han River. An especially pretty sight at sunset.

What I did not know before I visited was that I would have to huff and puff up 291 steps to get to Haneul Park. On the upside (pun intended), the stairs gave an elevated view of another park across the road and of the city beyond.

For those who don't want a workout on the stairs, there is a shuttle bus (every 20-30 minutes; from 10AM to 6PM) that goes to three of the parks of World Cup Park (Haneul Park is one of the five parks that comprise World Cup Park). The fare for the shuttle bus is 2000 won one way or 3000 won roundtrip.

Directions to Haneul Park: Take the subway to World Cup Station Station. Take exit 2 and walk about 800 meters to Haneul Park.

Fields of pampas grass at Haneul Park

Han River at sunset

The view from the stairs

Naksan Park

Not to be confused with Namsan Park, Naksan Park is a small park on top of  Naksan Mountain. The Seoul City Wall is part of the park and is one of its main draws. (The Seoul City Wall, built in 1396, is 18.6 kilometers long built on the ridges four mountains, one of which is Naksan Mountain.) The other main draw of Naksan Park is its sunset and night times views. And those two reasons were enough to warrant a visit from me.

Considering it is only 124 meters high, Naksan Mountain doesn't seem like a mountain, but walking to Naksan Park will be a workout. For people who like hiking, the walk to Naksan Park is just a warm up for the third reason to visit: Naksan Mountain Trail, a 2.1-kilometer hiking trail that follows the Seoul City Wall in Naksan and ends at Heunginjimun Gate, one of the four Great Gates of Seoul City Wall.

Directions to Naksan Park: Take the subway to Dongdaemun Station. Take exit 3. Take bus 종로03 (small green bus) to Naksan Park intersection bus stop.

Seoul City Wall in Naksan Park

The view from Naksan Park


Bonus #1: If you're in Naksan Park, you can go to Marronnier Park 마로니에 공원 by taking the stairs on the north end of Naksan Park. The stairs will take you down to a quiet residential area, then to a busy area with shops, cafes, and restaurants, then to Marronnier Park which is surrounded by theaters. The park is small, more like a square, and there really isn't much to do....unless you're lucky, like we were! When we stumbled upon Marronnier Park, there was some kind of event going on and there were many local goodies for sale.

Bonus #2: From Naksan Park, you can also go to Ihwa Mural Village, a village with colorful murals. To get to Ihwa Mural Village, leave the park through its main entrance and take a right to Naksanseonggwakseo-gil. Follow the road until you see a rest area and stairs on your right. Go down the stairs to Ihwa Mural Village.

Yeouido Hangang Park

Yeouido Hangang Park is a park right along Han River. If you want to enjoy the breeze, have a picnic, take a walk or a bicycle ride (there are bikes for rent) along the river, or take the Han River Cruise, Yeuido Hangang Park is the place to go. (The Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival takes place in Yeouido Hangang Park every spring, when the cherry blossoms bloom.)

The reason we went to Yeouido Hangang Park? Because my sister's friend kept bugging her to go see Han River. The park is about 3 kilometers long but we were too tired to walk the entire length since we used up all our energy the previous days. We just went for a look-see at the boardwalk and the I Seoul U sign.

Directions to Yeouido Hangang Park: Take the subway to Yeouido Station. Take exit 2 or 3.

Han River

Gyeongui Line Book Street

Gyeongui Line Book Street. Did anyone say book? Anything that has to do with books, I am there!

Gyeongui Line Book Street. Street not park? It has green grass, trees, pathways, benches, book shops, book-themed art installations. Feels like a park to me!

On one part of Gyeongui Line Book Street (or Park!) is a section of an old railroad where they have built a platform with a small building and a signboard to make it look like a rail station.

Directions to Gyeongui Line Book Street: Take the subway to Hongik Station. Take exit 6.

Gyeongui Line Book Street

A section of an old railroad

Bonus #1: When you take exit 3 of Hongik Station, you can find a park called Gyeongui Line Forest Park in the middle of two roads. The park is 1.3 kilometers long with a stream running through its center and is lined by trees. In some parts of the park are preserved sections of an old railroad and old railroad signs.

Bonus #2: Near Gyeongui Line Forest Park is ArtPlatz 아트플라츠 연남, a cluster of colorful shops. ArtPlatz is along Seongmisan-ro 28-gil.

Colorful shops in ArtPlatz

Here's a map to help you find your way:

Sokcho and Seoul, Autumn 2018
Sokcho, Gangwon-do
Sokcho Accommodation: With U Hotel & Guesthouse
Seoul Accommodation: Hostel Tommy
Finding Solace in the Midst of Seoul's Urban Jungle (you're here!)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Seoul Accommodation: Hostel Tommy

I stayed in different hostels/guesthouses on all my visits to Seoul, including this fourth visit. This time, my area of choice was Jongno-gu, where Jongmyo Shrine, Changdeokgung Palace, Insadong, and Gyeongbokgung Palace are.

I usually budget below 20,000 krw per night for a dorm bed. Since my sister, who would be joining me after a few days, chose a private room in Hostel Tommy, I thought it would be best to stay in the same hostel even if their dorm room is a little over what I would usually spend for a dorm, rather than transfer from another hostel.

66 Donhwamun-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Location. Hostel Tommy was very easy to find. The stop for the airport bus is only a 5-minute walk from Hostel Tommy. The subway (Jongno3-ga Station) is only 200 meters from the hostel. Within a 10-minute walk are Jongmyo ShrineChangdeokgung PalaceInsadongGyeongbokgung Palace, Unhyeongung, and Ikseon. There are convenience stores and restaurants nearby.

Hostel Tommy

Dorm Rooms. Hostel Tommy has a 2-bed male dorm and a 6-bed female dorm. The bunk bed has power outlets. Each bed has a pulldown shade for privacy. Each dorm room has its own dressing table with stool, mirror, and refrigerator. Each dorm room also has its own toilet and shower. Towel (handtowel size), soap, shampoo are provided.

Private Rooms. Single, double, triple, quad, and 4-/5-person family rooms are also available. Each room has an ensuite toilet and shower. Towel (handtowel size), soap, shampoo are provided. My sister and I stayed in a double room. The room had a dressing table, mirror, refrigerator, TV, hair dryer, rod with hangers, and coat hooks. The room was clean and the room size was perfect—there was enough room to move around even with the two cabin-sized suitcases and the table. It was not cramped at all.

Double room

Breakfast. Breakfast of bread with jam/peanut butter/nutella, eggs (cook your own), cereal, coffee, and tea is included in the room rate and is served daily from 8AM to 10AM. 

Common Room. The common room is brightly decorated and has PCs, games, TV, and cooking and eating utensils for guests to use. When the hostel is full (which is good for the hostel, of course) the common area can get crowded during breakfast. But then that would be a good time to meet and get to know the other guests.

Common Room

Laundry. The washing machine and dryer are free to use, guests only have to pay for laundry soap.

Staff. The staff can speak English and are helpful. Tommy, the owner, is very friendly.

Luggage Storage. Luggage can be left at the guesthouse if you arrive early or if your flight is still hours after check out. And I appreciate that they allowed me to leave my bags while I went to another city in between stays in Hostel Tommy.

Note: I failed to take photos during my stay. All photos grabbed from Hostel Tommy's page.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Sokcho Accommodation: With U Hotel & Guesthouse

3993 Donghae-daero, Sokcho, South Korea

Location. The location of With U Hotel & Guesthouse is perfect. It is just across the Express Bus Terminal (where buses to and from Seoul are located). The bus stop to go to Seoraksan National Park is just a few steps away. There are restaurants and convenience stores nearby.

Security. Each guest is given a keycard to get in the guesthouse and in the room.

Dorm Rooms. With U Hotel & Guesthouse has a 2-bed dorm and an 8-bed dorm. The dorms make use of space efficiently. The capsule is very spacious and clean. Each bed is assigned a locker. And each bed has four outlets, nightlight, coat hook and hanger, and a roller shade for privacy (though pulling it up/down can be a bit noisy). Towel (handtowel size) is provided and changed daily. Each room had an ensuite toilet and shower. Soap, shampoo, and conditioner are also provided. 

Private Rooms. With U Hotel & Guesthouse also has private rooms. Although I did not get to see it in person, the photos look really nice. If I were with five friends, I'd want us to stay in the Deluxe Family Suite, which is a loft-type room.

Breakfast. Breakfast is included. Unfortunately, I did not get to try it because I was out early on both days I stayed in Sokcho.

Common Room. With U Hotel & Guesthouse has a spacious and clean common room. It's located in the front building (some rooms are located in a separate building at the back). The only disadvantage of being assigned in  a room in the back building is that in cold season, it's kind of a hassle to have to wear shoes and a jacket to go to common room in the main building.

8-bed dorm

2-bed dorm

The comfy dorm bed

Deluxe Family Suite

On the loft of the Deluxe Family Suite are two more beds

Note: This is not a sponsored post. All photos are from With U Hotel & Guesthouse's page.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Wisdom from the Road #71

On learning
We can learn something quickly out of necessity.

Sometime late October 2017, weather reports for days have warned the public of a super typhoon that was making its way to Japan. And as luck would have it, it was to make landfall in central Japan on the day of my flight to Nagoya.

Of course, Cebu Pacific, when I called twice to inquire about the flight, would only say "flight is still confirmed" when other airlines have already cancelled flights for Nagoya (and Osaka and Tokyo)!

I never cared about understanding the map that came with the severe weather advisory, but this time I quickly learned to read the tropical cyclone track map in PAGASA and Japan Meteorological Agency. There was no way this typhoon was going to change course on the day of my flight or make landfall before or after my flight's arrival, so why the heck was Cebu Pacific not cancelling the flight?

They did cancel the flight...on the day, just hours before the flight to Nagoya, when I had already arrived in Manila.