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.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Itinerary and Expenses: 10D/10N Seoul and Sokcho, Autumn 2018

Like all my travel blogposts, I always include a list of places I went to and the expenses, in the hopes that it will, in some way, help you plan your trip.



The average spend for this trip was around 63,000 won per day, a little over my usual budget of 55,000 won per day. And this was because my sister and I opted to get a private room instead of a dorm (my usual choice when traveling solo).

If you care to find other places to see and visit in South Korea, here are itineraries (and expenses) of my past trips to this country:

Sokcho+Seoul+Gwangju, Autumn 2018
Itinerary and Expenses: 10D/10N Seoul and Sokcho (you're here!)

Saturday, January 19, 2019

UNESCO World Heritage: Namhansanseong Fortress

South Korea currently has fourteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites, two of which are fortresses: Hwaseong Fortress and Namhansanseong Fortress. Both are located in the province of Gyeonggi, just south of Seoul.

I left Seoul around noon planning to have lunch at the Traditional Food Town in Namhansanseong and keeping the sandwich in my bag as an emergency snack for the hike around the fortress. That was mistake number one. Mistake number two was going there on an autumn Saturday. I honestly did not expect Namhansanseong to be so popular. I was stuck in a warm bus crammed with passengers, all the while standing and holding on to straphangers trying not to knock over everyone behind me as the bus moved along and stopped and moved along and stopped on an incline. I don't know how long we were stuck in traffic but it felt like a very long time. I thought I was going to pass out from hunger!!! There was no way I would have the energy to look for food nor go on a hike! Bottom line: Go to Namhansanseong Fortress on a weekday and as early as you can!

Namhansanseong Fortress is 12.4 kilometers in length and is in the mountains, whereas Hwaseong Fortress is only 5.7 kilometers in length and is in the middle of the city. Each fortress has its own beauty. And I can easily see why Namhansanseong is so popular with the locals in autumn—it is surrounded by trees awash in beautiful autumn colors.

There are five hiking courses of varying lengths in Namhansanseong. The shortest one would take only an hour; the longest one would take thrice as long. I was so hungry that I did not care to follow any of the hiking courses. I just went to the nearest section of the fortress that I could find: Nammun or the South Gate, the grandest of the four gates of the fortress.

Nammun or South Gate

Near the South Gate, I plopped down on the first bench I saw with only one thought: wolf down my sandwich! As soon as I was sure the sandwich has stopped my body from wanting to faint, I commenced my hike from the South Gate to the West Gate by following the path along the fortress wall.

Following the path along the wall

Ugh, uphill!

The uphills sections, though not steep, seemed daunting to me and my half-filled stomach. But, I had no choice (I brought this on myself!), and so trudged on. I was rewarded with autumn colors, mountainside views, and city views. Very pretty indeed.

Autumn is my favorite season


Following the path along the wall, I found a pavilion, a hidden gate, and Sueojangdae or the West Command Post. There used to be five military command posts around Namhansanseong and Sueojangdae is the only one that remains.

Sueojangdae or West Command Post

Much as I wanted to explore more of the fortress, I was pressed for time: it was almost 5PM. I took a path that would take me down to the roundabout where the bus stops are, passing by Namhansanseong Haenggung.

Sadly, Namhansanseong Haenggung was already closed. Namhansanseong Haeunggung served as a temporary palace in times of war. It is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10AM to 5PM (closes at 6PM from April to October). Admission fee for the palace is 2000 won.

And because the queue for buses going back to Sangseong Station was too long and I did not want to miss the last bus (I had no idea what time the last bus would be)—I had to forgo, yet again, dinner at the Traditional Food Town.

Guess I will have to plan a visit to Namhansanseong Fortress again in the future!

Directions to Namhansanseong Fortress: Take the subway to Sanseong Station. Go to exit 2 and walk straight ahead for to the bus stop (about 100 meters). Take the bus #9 or #9-1 or #52 to Namhansanseong.

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Sokcho+Seoul+Gwangju, Autumn 2018
Itinerary and Expenses: 10D/10N Seoul and Sokcho
Sokcho, Gangwon-do
Sokcho Accommodation: With U Hotel & Guesthouse
See Sokcho
Seoraksan National Park
Seoul Accommodation: Hostel Tommy
Finding Solace in the Midst of Seoul's Urban Jungle
Art Museums in Seoul
Food for the Seoul
Unhyeongung Palace, Cheong Wa Dae, Jogyesa Temple
Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do
UNESCO World Heritage: Namhansanseong Fortress (you're here!)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Seoul: Visit These Houses for Free

There are many places to visit in Seoul that require no admission fee: parks, temples, villages, and... houses!

The House of Royalty

Unhyeongung Royal Residence

464, Samil-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Tuesday to Sunday 9AM to 7PM
Admission is free

Unhyeongung Royal Residence was owned by the father of Gojong, the 26th King of Joseon Dynasty, and it was where King Gojong grew up.

In the present, one can view the Noandang Hall, Norakdang Hall, Irodang Hall, and Sujiksa in Unhyeongung Royal Residence. Noandang Hall was the men's quarters and Norakdang Hall was where the wedding ceremony of King Gojong and his wife was held. Both halls were built in 1864. Norakdang and Irodang Halls were the women's quarters. The latter was built in 1869. Sujiksa, located beside the main entrance, was the guard's quarters.

Some of the rooms in the halls are open for visitors to peek in (you cannot enter the rooms). Some rooms have items and figures to depict important people or events (such as a tea ceremony) or even just ordinary life (like kitchenware).

In Unhyeongung Royal Residence, there is an exhibit hall where one can see items related to the residence such as garments worn by King Gojong and his wife.

Unhyeongung is located near three large palaces (Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung). Compared to the three, Unhyeongung is very small. Not too many people visit Unhyeongung—or at least it was only me and two others when I visited Unhyeongung. If you're around the area, drop by Unhyeongung for some quiet time.

Directions to Unhyeongung Royal Residence: Take the subway to Anguk Station. Take exit 4.

Norakdang Hall

Irodang Hall

One of the displays in the exhibit hall

The House of the President

Cheong Wa Dae

You can enter Cheong Wa Dae by signing up for a tour at least three weeks in advance.

Since this is the Korean President's residence, security is tight and protocols should be followed. At the meeting area in the parking lot of Gyeongbokgung, passports are checked and instructions are given (photography is allowed only in designated areas, no food and drink allowed during the tour, etc) then guests are told which bus they should board.

At Cheong Wa Dae, guests were led to the Chunchungwan or the Press Center. Bags were x-rayed and souvenirs were handed out (it was a mug when I visited), then we went inside the auditorium for a short introduction. After the short introduction, we were led to Nokjiwon, a garden with about 120 different tree species and commemorative trees planted by former presidents. In the center of the garden path is one lone pine tree which is more than 160 years old.

Then we went to the site of the former Cheong Wa Dae Main Building and then to the present Cheong Wa Dae Main Building. The present Main Building was built in 1991. The Main Building is where the president's office and rooms for cabinet meetings and summits are. (We were not allowed inside, of course.) The building's most striking feature is its blue roof tiles. An astonishing fact: it is made up of 150,000 tiles made to last for at least a century!

The next and last stop inside Cheong Wa Dae was the Yeongbingwan or the state guesthouse. This is where meetings and events with foreign guests are held. (This, too, is a no entry zone for the tour group.)

The tour, which was about an hour long, also included a visit to Chilgung (just outside the Cheong Wa Dae compound), which is where the ancestral tablets of seven royal concubines are enshrined.

Nearby is Cheong Wa Dae Sarangchae, a museum about the history of Cheong Wa Dae and the Korean presidency. Admission is free in Cheong Wa Dae Sarangchae. (This is not included in the tour.)

Directions to the meeting area for Cheong Wa Dae tour: Take the subway to Gyeongbokgung Palace. Take exit 5 and proceed to the parking lot on the east side of Gyeongbokgung, which is the meeting point for the tour.

Taking photos of the Main Building

Main Office Building



The House of Buddha

Jogyesa Temple

55 Ujeongguk-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Main Hall is open 24 hours

Jogyesa Temple, built in 1910, is the center of Korean Buddhism. Jogyesa Temple's Main Hall is designated as a "Tangible Treasure"; enshrined in it is the Buddha Triad.

When we visited in autumn, the temple grounds had a festive atmosphere with many colorful chrysanthemum flowers.

If you want vegetarian food, grab a bowl of noodles (or whatever is on the menu) at Jogyesa Kitchen nearby.

Directions to Jogyesa Temple: Take the subway to Jonggak Station. Take exit 3-1 and go straight for about 100 meters.

Jogyesa Temple

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Sokcho+Seoul+Gwangju, Autumn 2018
Itinerary and Expenses: 10D/10N Seoul and Sokcho
Sokcho, Gangwon-do
Sokcho Accommodation: With U Hotel & Guesthouse
See Sokcho
Seoraksan National Park
Seoul Accommodation: Hostel Tommy
Finding Solace in the Midst of Seoul's Urban Jungle
Art Museums in Seoul
Food for the Seoul
Visit These Houses for Free (you're here!)
Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do
UNESCO World Heritage: Namhansanseong Fortress

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Food for the Seoul

I love Korean food! The downside to traveling solo in South Korea is that I could not try dishes that have huge servings (good for 2-3 persons).  I was definitely happy that this time my sister was with me. We'd wander around sightseeing, walk until our feet feel like they're about to fall off, then stuff ourselves to make up for the calories we burned.

Samcheongdong Sujebi
삼청동 수제비
101-1 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Daily 11AM to 9PM

Sujebi is hand-pulled dough in anchovy broth (8000 won per person). We got to Samcheongdong Sujebi just as it opened and the restaurant quickly filled with locals—a sign that this place (and its speciality: sujebi) is a must-try!


Manjok Oh Hyang Jokbal
만족 오향족발

134-7 Seosomun-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
Weekdays 1130AM to 1015PM
Weekends 12NN to 945PM

The first time I tried jokbal, or pig's trotters, was when my friend brought me to Manjok Oh Hyang Jokbal in 2016. For my 2018 trip, my sister joined me during the second half of the trip, and I made sure to bring my her to Manjok Oh Hyang Jokbal even though I knew we could not finish all the food—one order is good for 3 persons. The restaurant is always busy and I was lucky to find a voucher for it in Klook. The voucher required to indicate the date and time of visit and we therefore did not have to queue for a table as long as we showed up on time. We ordered the jokbal and bossam (boiled pork) set. It came with soup and many banchan (side dishes). We could barely walk after this lunch. We were stuffed!

Jokbal and Bossam Set

Jogyesa Kitchen
조계사 승소

45 Gyeonji-dong, 45-20 Ujeongguk-ro, Seoul
Daily 11AM to 230PM, 4PM to 730PM

If you're looking for vegetarian food, try Jogyesa Kitchen. Jogyesa Kitchen serves temple food and temple food is vegetarian! At just 4000 won per order, food here is pretty cheap! There are limited choices though: only 4 to 5 dishes. My sister ordered the banquet noodles and I ordered the noodles with vegetables and red pepper sauce. My noodles were way too spicy for me and I had to swap with my sister who had a higher tolerance for spicy food!

To eat here, you must first buy a meal ticket at Jogyesa Temple's souvenir shop. Then show the meal ticket at Jogyesa Kitchen and choose from the menu.

Banquet noodles (left) and noodles with vegetables and red pepper sauce (right)

Tosokchon Samgyetang
토속촌 삼계탕

5, Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
10AM to 10PM

We saw a long line outside Tosokchon Samgyetang while we were exploring Seochon and decided we'd have lunch there the following day. We made sure to arrive as soon as it opened and, sure enough, as soon as we were seated, the restaurant filled up fast. Tosokchon Samgyetang is known for its ginseng chicken soup or samgyetang. One order costs 16,000 won. The samgyetang is one whole chicken! The order of samgyetang came with radish kimchi, cabbage kimchi, and insamju (ginseng liquor). It was so good, we left not a drop of soup in the bowl!

Tosokchon Samgyetang



52 Jong-ro 17-gil, Nakwon-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Daily 3PM to 2AM

There's a Korean fried chicken restaurant in Cebu that my family loves, but we have never tried it in its home country. My sister suggested we look for a restaurant that serves chicken and beer for early dinner. We tried Lickin, a restaurant we found near where we were staying.

Lickin had fried chicken in different flavors: regular, spicy, garlic, green onion, teriyaki. It took us some time to decide but ended up ordering just the regular fried chicken. Fried chicken in Korea is usually eaten with beer, and not as a meal. But because we are Filipinos, we ordered rice with our chicken. Pretty big meal for two people.

Fried chicken for 16,000 won

Tong-in Market

18 Jahamun-ro 15-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Tuesday to Sunday 11AM to 4PM

We ate at Tong-in Market for the novelty of purchasing food using yeopjeong (old brass coins). Inside Tong-in Market, near the stairs that leads to the second floor (where the eating area is), we had our 5000 won exchanged to yeopjeong. Along with the yeopjeong, we were handed a lunchbox to put all our food purchases in. The yeopjeong can be used to buy food from any of the Dosirak stalls—you will know it is a Dosirak because of the sign "도시락 cafe" and the price will be displayed with a picture of a yeopjeong. We had fun choosing what to buy with our yeopjeong. After spending all of it, we proceeded to the second floor to enjoy our lunch of random Korean food!

Inside Tong-in Market

Notice the signs


Trying out as many things as we can

Gwangjang Market

88 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
For food, 11AM to 10PM

If you're one who easily gets confused when there are too many choices then Gwangjang Market will be a big headache for you—there are too many food stalls to choose from!!! How did we decide where to eat? We just picked a stall that had things we wanted to eat, like mayak gimbap (small seaweed-wrapped rice rolls stuffed with carrots, pickled radish, and spinach), japchae (stir-fried glass noodles), and dumplings.

Mayak gimbap, japchae, and dumplings

Ikseong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

My sister and I wandered around the alleyways of Ikseondong and found a busy area full of locals and decided to eat like the locals do. There were so many restaurants that we settled with a restaurant that offered one we were familiar with: samgyupsal (grilled pork belly). I wish we had discovered this area early in our trip, then we could have had a foodtrip here!

Busy night

Samgyupsal = happy meal!

A treasure map of good food:

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Art Museums in Seoul

Whether you're an artist or not, find inspiration in these art museums in Seoul.

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Seoul)
30 Samcheong-ro, Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Sunday to Thursday 10AM to 6PM
Friday and Saturday 10AM to 9PM
Admission fee 4000 won (free every last Wednesday of the month)

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Seoul), located beside Gyeongbokgung Palace, offers eight galleries.

When I visited, one of the exhibits, occupying three galleries, was about the life and works of Yun Hyong Keun (1928-2007). He only fully committed himself to art in 1973, when we has 45 years old. The hardships he had to endure—he was imprisoned—showed in his work: from the blue tones of his art (1960s to 1973) prior to his detention to the dark/black tones after his imprisonment (after being imprisoned, he could not find a steady job).

Another exhibit showcased art installations by Choi Jeong Hwa. The collection was entitled "Blooming Matrix" and the installations were made from everyday things like chairs, pots, rocks, buoys, etc. Quite interesting what one can do with ordinary, everyday things!

The third exhibit showed the works of four artists, each answering a question as its theme and using a different medium. The best one for me was by Jae Ho Jung with his paintings of buildings and the art installation of a rocket.

I ducked in the museum not expecting anything—I was there to take respite from the heavy rain—and I came out really glad to have visited this museum. The two and a half hours went by so quickly. As they say: time flies when you're having fun.

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) has two branches in Seoul. The other one is in the Jeonggwanheon Hall of Deoksugung Palace (you must pay the admission fee for the palace, and pay a separate fee for the museum).

Directions to National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Seoul): Take the subway to Anguk Station. Take exit 1, and walk about 15 minutes to National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Seoul).

Early works of Yun Hyong Keun

"Dandelion" by Choi Jeong Hwa is made with about 7000 used kitchenware

Jae Ho Jung

Arario Museum in Space
83 Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Tuesday to Sunday 10AM to 7PM
Admission fee 10,000 won

Arario Museum in Space has permanent exhibits as well as temporary ones. Admission to the museum includes an audio guide to help guests better appreciate the museum's collection.

I was on the fence whether to visit Arario Museum in Space or not for the reason that its admission fee was quite expensive for me. On my fifth day in Seoul, I was too tired to walk or go anywhere far and ended up going to Arario Museum in Space since it was just a few minutes walk from where I was staying.

I am happy my tired legs brought me to Arario Museum. The museum had very interesting pieces in many different mediums. (Even the building itself was interesting!) Its permanent collection includes 147 works by 39 artists from different countries (includes Andy Warhol and Keith Haring). It also had an exhibit by Li Qing called "Museum in Museum" where the space was converted into eight rooms showing the life of a modern-day artist.

There was also a special exhibit called "The Great Chapbook II" by Noh Sang Ho which included 1500 artworks by just one artist—a staggering amount of artworks by one artist!

Directions to Arario Museum in Space: Take the subway to Anguk Station. Take exit 3.

Arario Museum in Space

One of the rooms in "Museum in Museum" exhibit

The Great Chapbook II

Seoul Museum of Art (Seosomun)
61 Deoksugung-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Daily 10AM to 8PM
Admission is free

Seoul Museum of Art has modern art exhibits changing every few months (check the website for current exhibits). When we visited the Seosomun branch, near Deoksugung Palace, the Seoul Museum of Art was hosting the Seoul Mediacity Biennale with the theme "Good Life". Modern artworks—videos, art installation, digital prints, etc—by 68 artists from 16 countries were on display. My sister and I found most of the art rather bizarre.

Directions to Seoul Museum of Art: Take the subway to City Hall Station. Take exit 1 or 12.

Seoul Museum of Art (Seosomun branch)

Dream Forest Art Center
173 Wolgye-ro, Gangbuk-gu, Seoul
Tuesday to Sunday 10AM to 6PM
Admission is free

Dream Forest Art Center is located in Dream Forest Park. The Art Center has performance venues, an art gallery, cafe, restaurant, and an observatory. Though the art gallery is small, it is worth a visit along with the observatory and the gardens of Dream Forest Park.

The exhibit in the art gallery is not permanent. During my visit, a solo exhibit by Park Min Kyu entitled "Coexistent City" was on display. His artworks were made of acrylic, wooden cubes, and iron rings. The pieces made with iron rings were most interesting for me.

Directions to Dream Forest Art Center: 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. 

Interesting pieces using iron rings

Dongdaemun Design Plaza
28, Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
Tuesday to Sunday 10AM to 7PM
Admission is free (some exhibits may require a fee)

Dongdaemun Design Plaza is a futuristic looking building. Aptly designed for its purpose: it is a venue for exhibits, fashion shows, product launches, etc. Since the exhibits are not permanent, there is always something new to see.

When we visited, we were not looking to check out a specific exhibit, but were there just to see the inside of Dongdaemun Design Plaza. While exploring inside, we happened to see an exhibit in the Design Pathway. It was Park Choon Moo's (a fashion designer) 30-year collection. And an amazing thing about the Design Pathway is that we had walked from the topmost floor to the basement without using stairs!

In the park surrounding DDP are sculptures, exhibit halls, and two museums. One museum is the Dongdaemun History Museum where relics excavated from the site are on display, and the other is Dongdaemun Stadium Memorial showcasing past events held at the stadium (DDP is where the stadium used to be). Admission is free in the museums.

Directions to Dongdaemun Design Plaza: Take subway line 2, 4, or 5 to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station, exit 1.

Park Choon Moo's collection on display at the Design Pathway

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Sokcho+Seoul+Gwangju, Autumn 2018
Itinerary and Expenses: 10D/10N Seoul and Sokcho
Sokcho, Gangwon-do
Sokcho Accommodation: With U Hotel & Guesthouse
See Sokcho
Seoraksan National Park
Seoul Accommodation: Hostel Tommy
Finding Solace in the Midst of Seoul's Urban Jungle
Art Museums in Seoul (you're here!)
Food for the Seoul
Unhyeongung Palace, Cheong Wa Dae, Jogyesa Temple
Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do
UNESCO World Heritage: Namhansanseong Fortress