Friday, January 11, 2019

Korea 2018 | Bugak Skyway Palgakjeong {북악스카이 팔각정} in Winter - First Snow This Year!

Just 2 days after Lil Pumpkin and I arrived, Seoul had its first day of snow this year {Sat 24 Nov 2018}!!

Lucky us!! My Korean friends said that it usually snows later in the year so we were really blessed to experience it during our visit...

Lil Pumpkin was asking about it on our plane ride there and I'm so happy that she could play and experience a snowy winter's day again... It has been many years since she had the chance to!

Early that morning, I woke up to excited messages from friends telling me that it was snowing and quickly jumped out of bed to pull the blinds from our window...

Oh it was such a beautiful sight to see the snow falling and covering everything in a wondrous layer of white! J.B Priestley said it best,

"The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?"
No matter how old I get, I reckon I'd never outgrow the thrill of looking out of my window and seeing falling snow.

White, fluffy snow!! *yay*

Good thing we woke up earlier to catch the falling snow as by late morning, most of the first snow in Seoul city had melted or was cleared away from the streets by the efficient Koreans haha.

Can you tell I’m very happy to see and play with snow again too??!

Later that night we went up to Bugak Skyway after yakiniku dinner with Jaye and his family.

We had a lovely surprise to see that there was still plenty of white, fluffy snow on the ground!!

The Bugak Skyway offers lovely views of Seoul and its surrounding hills from the high mountain road connecting the Buam-dong and Seongbuk-dong districts in northern Seoul.

The highlight is Palgakjeong {i.e. Octagonal Pavilion} at the top of the mountain, allowing visitors a panoramic view of Mt. Bukhansan National Park’s Bohyeonbong Peak and downtown Seoul. Jaye drove us up but even if you don’t own a car, it’s a moderately priced taxi ride {about 6,000 won} from downtown, and there are walking paths {about 1hr from the bottom}, too.

You can enter the Palgakjeong during the day {Summer: 9am - 4pm, Winter: 10am - 3pm} to eat at the restaurant upstairs or coffee shop downstairs, but since we arrived about 8.30pm, it was closed.

However, we could still climb the exterior of the Palgakjeong to its observation deck to appreciate not only the beauty of mother nature, but a panoramic view of the entire city.

Unfortunately, there was a layer of fog that night so we couldn't see very far but nonetheless, we were very happy to play with the snow!!

There was more than enough to make cute snowmans or throw snowballs at each other hahaha..

This is the "slow mailbox". I wish I prepared a postcard before going up... apparently if you put a letter into the slow mailbox, the letter will be delivered a year later.

By that time, you might have already forgotten about that letter you posted so what a pleasant surprise it is to receive a letter from your past self and see how much has changed in that year, no?

It costs 3,000 won for domestic mail and 5,000 won for air mail.

Doesn't the sound of unadulterated laughter by sweet, innocent children fill your heart with joy?

Bugak Skyway Palgakjeong Pavilion {북악스카이 팔각정}
267 Bugaksan-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul {서울특별시 종로구 북악산로 267 (평창동)}
Admission: Free
Exterior & Park open daily 24 hrs / Interior open daily 9am - 4pm {summer}, 10am - 3pm {winter}

Other Korea travel posts:

Friday, January 4, 2019

Merry Christmas 2018 & A Happy New Year 2019!!! ❤

Since we are still in the New Year's week, and there are 12 days of Christmas, technically I'm not too late to post my family's holiday greetings to you, right?? hehe...

Wishing you peace, joy, and all the best that Christmas has to offer.

May this incredible time of giving and celebrating with family & friends bless you with happiness and love that lasts throughout the new year!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! (ノ^ヮ^)ノ*:・゚✧

Thank you for being a part of my 2018. Here’s to an even better & brighter 2019 for all of us! 新年明けましておめでとうございます!今年もよろしくお願いしますね〜

Friday, December 21, 2018

Korea 2018 | Toys & Stationery @ Changsin-Dong Wholesale Market {동대문 문구완구거리}, Dongdaemun Seoul

Where to find the biggest selection of wholesale toys in Seoul? Well, right here in Changsin-dong Toy & Stationery Wholesale Market at Dongdaemun!!

It really sells more than just toys and has over 100+ shops selling a wide variety of items targeted towards kids and their indulgent parents haha. You can easily spend 2-3 hours here browing through the shops selling all sorts of toys, model kits, obento supplies, stationery, party props, shoes, gloves, hair accessories, toiletries, bags etc.

Best thing is, this market is really accessible and just about 10-15 mins walk from the fashion shopping hub of Dongdaemun where Doota, Good Morning City, Lotte Fitin etc. are located. Not some far-out, ulu area that's nowhere near civilisation!! heh

I prefer shopping here to Tai Yuen Toy Street Market in Hong Kong.

Mainly because the streets are wider, it is much less crowded {even on a Friday morning that we went}, and the shopkeepers seem less pushy and loud. Most of the time, they would leave you alone to do your own browsing and not keep watching you with a hawk-eye... which can be quite uncomfortable, right???  

Unfortunately like many wholesale markets, the items are not usually clearly marked with the prices. So, if you wish to know, you'd have to ask the shopkeepers how much something cost each time. Most of the shopkeepers understand a simple "how much", but don't expect them to be fluent in English.

To answer, they would usually whip out their calculator or write on a piece of paper to show you.

For your reference, a pen or stickers costs about 700won {S$0.85}, a pair of socks or a notebook about 1,000won {S$1.20}, a set of made-in-Korea cute erasers about 3,500won {S$4.25}, "Lego" head cup about 2,000won {S$2.45} and we got a new pair of gloves for Lil Pumpkin at 4,000won {S$4.85} but I reckon we could have gotten it cheaper at other shops there..

After getting a rough gauge of a few items, I usually don't bother asking for the individual prices anymore as I know that no matter what, it will still be cheaper than what I can find at shops outside Changsin-dong wholesale market. 

A lot of the shops at the market would sell the same items and maybe at different prices, but the price difference will not be too big a deal. If I find a shop with a few things we like there, I usually just get all of them from the same shop instead of comparing prices between the stores.

Oh, the good thing is that they allow you to buy in small numbers too, even 1 unit. But of course, the more you purchase, the better price or discount you will get.

Unlike Nandaemun or even at the Dongdaemun outlet shops where you know they charge "tourist prices", I wouldn't expect to bargain much here because honestly the items are already quite cheap, and the shopkeepers are rather adamant that it's already "wholesale price" and can't go any lower.

There really is a ton of hidden treasure to be found, if you only have the patience and time to sieve through everything!!

I expected Lil Pumpkin to go crazy here and even brought the large Ikea bag for our shopping... was also prepared to go back to our hotel {Ibis Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun} to leave our purchases there if we bought too many stuff as what we did the last time we came haha.

However, for this trip, Lil Pumpkin didn't find any toys that she liked and bought just a few adorable notebooks, erasers, pens etc. for herself and some friends. I showed massive restraint this round too and only got a few pair of socks and cute "Lego" head cups. Did not buy any obento boxes or character plates at all!!! #yayme

The last few times we came, there was a shop that sold lots of Hello Kitty products at the end of the street. The shop is still there, but unfortunately it does not stock much Hello Kitty items anymore... maybe it isn't so "trendy" in Korea at the moment. #sobs

Do note that like Tai Yuen Toy Street Market, this stretch of road is not sheltered so do bring along your own raincoats, caps and umbrellas {according to the seasons} as need be.

There are no cafes or restaurants here {although some shops sell snacks}, so do fill your belly and bring ample drinking water before you come.

5 year-old Lil Pumpkin during our last trip in 2013. Some things never change...

P.S. Pop by {and follow hehe!} my Instagram and FB page for more of our trip updates and pictures. I documented it on-the-go on my IG Story Highlights - look for Korea #1 and Korea #2 folders.

Changsin-Dong Toy & Stationery Market {동대문 문구완구거리}
36, Jong-ro 52-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul {서울특별시 종로구 종로52길 36 (창신동)}
Nearest MTR station: Dongdaemun, Exit 4 or Dongmyo, Exit 6
Open daily, 10am - 6pm

Other Korea travel posts:

Friday, December 14, 2018

Gym Review :: Ibis Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun, Korea

We stayed at Ibis Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun for our recent mother-daughter trip to the Land of Kimchi.

I like staying at Dongdaemun because it is bustling with activity, even at night. It is just so convenient {all the major train lines run through there} and the shops and restaurants are open until late... like 4am??

Ibis Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun is located about 10-15mins walk away from the shopping hub of Dongdaemun i.e. where Doota, Good Morning City, Migliore, Hello apM, Lotte Fitin etc. are located.

The hotel also enjoys easy access to the subway stations {Dongdaemun, Dongdaemun History & Culture Park and Euljiro 4-ga} and public buses to other Seoul attractions like the royal palaces, and if you've enough time, Cheongyecheon stream is a stone's throw away and you can stroll along there to Myeongdong {about 20 mins} and Insadong {about 30 mins}.

From the airport, we just had to take 6001 airport limousine bus {about 1.5hrs journey} and it dropped us directly opposite Ibis Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun at Baiton Hotel. Going back to the airport was a breeze too as it's a loop service from the same bus stop. 

The rooms are affordable, clean and comfortable with reliable free WiFi throughout the hotel, and there's a convenience store next to the hotel too. Good enough for those on short-term visit looking for a safe and relaxing night's stay. However, don't expect to find family-friendly facilities like kids' playgrounds or swimming pools there. 

Staff are very friendly and can speak English, Chinese and Japanese too.

Note: There's a Ibis budget Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun that is a different hotel, but also located in Dongdaemun. I assume that it's even cheaper and has no frills. Might try that out the next time we are in Seoul if there's a significant price difference as it seems even nearer to the Dongdaemun center hub and there's also an indoor "onsen" space haha.

As Ibis Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun is a small hotel, I didn't have much expectation for its hotel gym. I'm just happy that it had one and I didn't have to find one outside the hotel for my holiday workouts ( ᐛ )و

Hey, it's hard enough training during your holiday, much less getting out of your warm, cozy hotel and trudge out in the cold just to exercise!! (*^▽^)/

True enough, their 24hr gym was more like a small fitness room located in the basement with 1 stair-climber, 2 exercise bikes, 2 treadmills, 2 exercise mats, 1 exercise ball and a set of dumbbells {2-14kg}.

It did not even have a bench and I'd have appreciated a water cooler.. but the hotel does provide free bottled water daily in your room.

It did have a weighing scale and a rather interesting Power Belt Massage machine though which I guess is to massage your fats away???! hehe

I must also add that I did like that the room was smoke-free, very bright and cheery. On the mirrors it had cute drawings with motivational quotes to encourage you on in your workouts!

My travel programs are usually short, around 1hr max. For this trip, Superman planned for me to do weights one day, then cardio on the treadmill {groan!!} the next.

Holiday Workout with the heaviest weights I lifted:
A1. Standing Shoulder Press, 4 sets, 12 reps - 10kg
A2. Reverse Lunges, 4 sets, 8 reps - 12kg
B1. One Arm Row {hand on rack}, 4 sets, 12 reps - 10kg
B2. Goblet Squat {minimal rest on top}, 4 sets, 20 reps - 12kg
C1. Biceps Curl, 4 sets, 9 reps - 8kg
C2. Floor-lying Triceps Extension, 4 sets, 9 reps - 8kg

I  trained in the early morning before our day started while Lil Pumpkin was still sleeping. Good thing that the gym was usually empty and I only met one other lady there walking on the treadmill one morning.

The holiday season always makes me feel more "nua" in my diet and training but rather than let the lack of results make me feel stressed, I'm just gonna roll with it. No point complaining about it either, as Superman has zero sympathy for me when I don't do my part during training... but he knows that it's wiser to let me rest more, rather than push when my heart isn't in it as it might backfire and make me resent training.

Keyword this holiday season is "maintenance". If I can maintain my strength and current weight, I'm happy. Not aiming for any drastic progress in the gym but just want to make sure that all my injuries are under control this month {damn scalene muscles causing me a lot of discomfort but good thing my knees and back injuries are manageable} so that I can start 2019 all fresh, rested and rejuvenated with a new cycle (*⌒∇⌒*)

☆ Gym Star Rating for Ibis Ambassador Seould Dongdaemun, Korea Gym
Overall satisfaction: 3/5
Equipment: 2/5 
Atmosphere: 3/5
Cleanliness: 4/5
Accessibility: 5/5
Staff availability: Nil

Other Korea travel posts:

One-on-On Personal Training Updates:

Genesis Gym Personal Training Updates:
The Beginning - Signing Up for Personal Training