Friday, December 15, 2017

Local Delicacies in Pyeongchang

" First we eat, then we do everything else." 
- M.F.K. Fisher

One of the joys of traveling is the opportunity to taste and appreciate local delicacy. Korea is surrounded mostly surrounded by the sea and 70% of the land is mountainous. Regions within Korea are bounded by steep mountain ranges and rivers. Thus, climate conditions vary within these regions and hence, there is a great variety of natural produce. During our winter trip to Pyeongchang, we got to taste and enjoy the various local delicacies as recommended by our pension hosts. 
Hwangtae (Dried Pollack)
 
Pyeongchang is the birthplace of yellow dried pollack. The fish is left to dry for weeks under the winter sun and it can get as tough as cowhide. In fact, dried pollack is considered the national delicacy. Our pension host recommended this place and even drove us to the restaurant. This place must be very popular for there is always a constant stream of diners walking into the restaurant. 
Hwangtae contains almost twice as much protein as fresh pollack due to the lengthy freeze-dying process. It is also a high-nutrient, low cholesterol health food. It is rich in amino acids, which is believed to aid the liver to recover from heavy drinking. 
Hanwoo Beef
Hanwoo is one of the four indigenous Korean breeds and it is regarded as a premium beef because of its high palatability and desired chewiness. Hoengseong County in Gangwon-do is best known for its hanwoo cattle, where the environment is well-suited for cattle farming. 
You get to choose your own meat from the butcher or buy from the pre-packaged section, then head to a table and grill the meat for a small table fee, which includes an assorted variety of banchan. 
The meat literally melts in your mouth, yum!
Osam Bulgogi 
Osam bulgogi is a dish made from squid and pork belly, marinated in a blend of seasonings and then cooked over a grill with vegetables. This dish is well-known for its texture, hence making it the ideal dish to eat with rice and/or goes well with wine. In fact, according to this report, a new food alley for this dish will be developed near Alpensia Resort, the main venue for the Winter Olympics. 
Dalgakbi
Dakgalbi (spicy stir-fried chicken) is not only a representative dish of Chuncheon, but also famous across the entire nation. Listening to the sizzling sound made from stir-frying the marinated chicken in gochujang-based sauce within the cast iron pan will make you salivate! Nothing goes to waste in this dish, for the remaining sauce is used for making fried rice after devouring the grilled chicken. 

These are just some of the Korean cuisines that we tasted over winter in Pyeongchang. I will be back with more local cuisines as I sort out our Korea adventures, stay tuned!


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Royal Cuisine: Jihwaja 지화자 , A Taste of Joseon Dynasty

With over 5000 years of history, royal cuisine is the essence of Korean food culture having been passed down by word of mouth of court cooks and royal descendants as well as the records written on royal feast. Royal cuisine was prepared by the best cooks in the court with quality ingredients sourced from across the country. Having reached its peak during Joseon Dynasty, there are still 7 traditional restaurants in today serving the royal cuisine that has been inherited over generations so that more people can enjoy the taste and art of royal cuisine. We decided on Jihwaja, which was the first restaurant specialising in royal cuisine in the country. 
The entrance to Jihwaja.
Directions to Jihwaja
There are a couple of ways to get there:
By Subway
* Alight at Anguk Station, Exit #5 and walk for 50m straight to SK Hub Plaza. Jihwaja is located on the first floor of the building. 
* Alight at Gyeongbokgung Station, Exit #3. Go straight for 1.2km, approx 20 min walk. Jihwaja is located on the left side of the street.
By Bus
* Gyeonggisanggo High School bus stop, green bus: 1711, 7016 and 7018. 
We reached slightly ahead of our reservation timing, so we ventured into the mini gallery next door which documents the history of Jihwaja and the founder, Master Hwang Hae-Sung. The late Master Hwang Hae-Sung, was appointed master of royal culinary art when the Joseon Dynasty royal cuisine was proclaimed part of the Important Intangible Cultural Properties of Korea (no.38). Jihwaja is run by the family and her daughter, Han Bok Ryeo is also known for her commitment to the culinary tradition. 
Posing on the Eojwa (the King's royal throne during the Joseon Dynasty) with Irworobongdo, a Korean folding screen with the landscape painting of a sun and moon with five peaks. The sun and moon symbolise the king and the queen while the five peaks denotes a mythical place. 
We were greeted by this gigantic porcelain vase when we stepped into the restaurant. We were then shown to our table at a little corner, giving us a lot of privacy for picture taking. 
A place card which detailed about the history of royal cuisine, as well as the founders of Jihwaja. 
Leecher kept saying that he is Jeonha (전하) aka King since this is a meal fit for a king. 
For appetizers, we had pumpkin soup, water kimchi and also, sauteed vegetables wrapped in pancakes and cucumber-stuffed dumpling. The pumpkin soup was so good and sweet. My first try at mulkimchi and the broth tasted so refreshing. The veggie wrap was really chewy and needless to say, they are delicious yet healthy. 
The highlight of the day - the royal casserole with vegetables and meat. I was talking to the server when I got startled by the fire and she was, in turn startled by me. 
The royal cuisine are very healthy and nutritious as they are prepared with only natural ingredients and royal culinary techniques, without using any MSG, artificial flavours or additives. As the server was explaining the dishes, I had a vision of Dae Jang Geum (大长今) preparing my dishes at the back of my mind. 
This was indeed a meal fit for a king for we struggled to finish all the dishes placed in front of us which included the casserole, glass noodles with sauteed vegetables and several other seasonal delicacies. 
We finished off the meal with dessert and tea.
We were lucky that the chef came out of the kitchen to greet the customers, so we took the opportunity to take picture with her and also, thanked her for the amazing meal. 
Jihwaja 지화자
Address: 125, Jahamun-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Tel: +82-2-2269-5834
Reservations are required

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Ski Resorts in Korea


There is just something magical about winter. It could be the smell of holiday season lingering in the air; it could be the snow-covered pavements; it could be the warmth from the cup of coffee that you hold in your hands. Winter season in Korea typically lasts from December to early March and with temperatures falling to sub-zero degrees, it is the best time to head to a ski resort and enjoy the winter activities. Gangwon-do province is surrounded by lush mountains and pristine waters. Due to the wet winter winds across Taebaeksan Mountains, the province gets a lot of snow hence a lot of ski resorts are located in the area, making it the winter sports capital. Boasting beautiful snow-capped views, Gangwon-do is an ideal winter getaway.
YongPyong Resort
Opened in 1975, YongPyong Resort is the birthplace of the development and popularization of skiing in Korea. It has hosted various international events and is currently one of the host stadiums for the Winter Olympics Games. With a ski area of 16,200,000m², the resort has 28 slopes and 14 lift facilities. The main slope, "Rainbow Slopes" will be there the Alpine Skiing competition is held for the coming games. 
On one of the 14 chairlifts, which took us to the start of the slopes.
Address: 715 Olympic-ro, Daegwallyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do
Website: www.yongpyong.co.kr
*image credit to KTO
Phoenix Park 
As the venue for free-style skiing and snowboarding events of the Winter Olympic Games, this clearly shows that Phoenix Park is equipped with world-class facilities, particularly those that address the thrilling need for speed of ski and snowboard enthusiasts. Of the total 21 slopes that allow skiers to experience dynamic speed, 12 have been officially approved by the FIS. The beginner course "Panorama" is 2.4km long and reaches the top of the mountain.
Address: 174 Taegi-ro, Bongpyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do
Website: www.phoenixpark.co.kr
*image credit to KTO
High1 Resort
High1 Resort offers 18 slopes, including a 4.2km beginner slope that starts at the peak of Jijangsan Mountain at an altitude of 1,345m. Three gondolas and 7 chairlifts knit the slopes like spider web to maximise your winter sports experience. The facilities have been designed to ensure safely for everyone, including those with disabilities. The resort also has extensive accommodation facilities with a variety of convenience facilities, as well as a casino and golf course to make your stay even more enjoyable. 
Address: 265 High1-gil, Sabuk-eup, Jeongseon-gun, Gangwon-do
Website: www.high1.co.kr
*image credit to KTO
Alpensia Resort
As the main venue for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics Games, Alpensia Resort is often known as the "Alps of Asia". Situated 700m above sea level in Daegwallyeong, Alpensia offers 6 slopes of various gradients allowing visitors to enjoy thrilling rides. The "Foxtrot" and "Echo" slopes are advanced courses certified by FIS while the "Bravo" slope is designed for beginners. 

Alpensia is also an integrated tourist complex that is open all year round, featuring european-styled accommodations, a convention center, water park and a 45-hole golf course. You can enjoy skiing in winter or golfing during spring/autumn. Nearby the resort, there is also a marvellous National Park and other tourist sites that will make your trip even more interesting. 
Address: 325 Solbong-ro, Daegwallyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do
Website: www.alpensiaresort.co.kr
With the opening of the KTX Ganggyeong Line, visitors can reach these resorts within 2 hours. Remember to get your Pyeongchang KORAIL pass to explore these areas!

Monday, December 4, 2017

KTX Ganggyeong Line: Bringing you to Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

Times flies and now, we are fast approaching the last month of the year. It is now less than 70 days away from the opening of Pyeongchang Winter Olympics! During my winter trip to Korea, I shared on how you can travel to Pyeongchang from Incheon Airport via the express bus, which took us 3 hours to reach Alpensia Resort. Then, it was announced that a new KTX line - KTX Ganggyeong Line - will be constructed to facilitate visitors who are travelling to Pyeongchang from Incheon Airport or Seoul, reducing the journey time to less than 2 hours. With this new service, Pyeongchang is now more accessible. The trains will stop at Pyeongchang Station, Jindu Station and Gangneung Station near the host city. Now, I am happy to share that KTX Ganggyeong Line is now open for booking! 
KTX Ganggyeong Line: Ticket Purchase & Fares
Tickets can be pre-purchased from KORAIL Talk (코레일톡), KORAIL website or at the ticket counters of the railway stations. Those who purchase a ticket during this period may receive 20% discount. That is not all - for ticket holders, you are eligible to board the free shuttle bus service from the KTX station to the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games venues. 
image credit: pyeongchang2018.com
International visitors also have the option of purchasing the PyeongChang KORAIL pass, where the pass can be used unlimited times on the KTX and other KORAIL-operated trains throughout Korean between 1st Feb till 25th Mar 2018. 
KTX Ganggyeong Line: Journey Time 
image credit: nowpyeongchang.com
Incheon International Airport → Pyeongchang (Jinbu Station): 1h 38 minutes 
Incheon International Airport → Gangneung Station: 1h 52 minutes 
image credit: nowpyeongchang.com
Gimpo International Airport → Jinbu/Gangneung Station: within 1.5h 
(transfer at Seoul station is required)
image credit: nowpyeongchang.com
Seoul → Jinbu/Gangneung Station: 58 minutes
KTX Ganggyeong Line: Frequency & Time Table
A total of 51 trains are expected to run daily during Games time. Each train is able to accommodate up to 410 passengers. During Pyeongchang 2018, KTX will transport up to nearly 21,000 passengers each day from Incheon Airport to Jinbu and Gangneung stations. 
image credit: pyeongchang2018.com
KTX Ganggyeong Line: Stations
Jinbu station is only 10 minutes away from Alpensia Olympic Park and Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies will take place. Meanwhile, Gangneung station is 15 minutes ride from Gangneung Olympic Park, where all of the ice sports will take place. 

Last but not least, the new KTX train will make its first public journey on 22nd Dec. There isn't much time left, so grab your tickets soon! 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Pyeongchang Korail Pass


Visitors to Korea are no strangers to the KORAIL pass, where each pass can be used within the designated duration period. We bought the KORAIL pass during the last summer visit, where we travelled on the KTX from Seoul to Busan on one of the trips.
Arriving at Seoul station bright and early for the 3-hour journey. If you are overwhelmed by the number of tracks/trains, just approach one of the staff and they will guide you to the right platform. 
The trains are well-maintained and clean. The train journey was so comfy that I fell asleep without knowing it. Before we knew it, we arrived at Busan for our adventure. Since we are at the topic of trains, let me bring you another exciting news as part of Pyeongchang Olympics Games shout-out: PyeongChang KORAIL pass! Read on to find out more. 

PyeongChang KORAIL Pass
This pass is specially introduced to commemorate the Olympics Games for foreigners/visitors going to Korea. Like the KORAIL pass, this pass can be used unlimited times on KTX and other Korail-operated trains throughout Korea (between 1st Feb 2018 till 25th Mar 2018). The pass is available for 5-day or 7-day (consecutive), which is a decent period of time you will need to explore the various regions. Ticket sales will be open until 10th Jan 2018. Purchase your pass through 3 simple steps: 

1. Visit the official website at www.letskorail.com/pyeongchang
2. Select the type of pass - either 5-day or 7-day
3. Select the pass start date (date of first use)

Seats can be selected up to 30 days in advance. Please print your ticket and bring along with your passport when using the train. You may be asked to present these items while on the train and/or when collecting your commemorative travel card. 

Pass Types and Cost
Available in 5-day or 7-days.
*image credit to KTO
If you are travelling in groups of 2-5 people, you can purchase the "Saver" pass.

Benefits of PyeongChang KORAIL Pass
That is not all! If you purchase the pass between 10th Oct 2017 to 10th Jan 2018, you will get to enjoy the following benefits:

1. Commemorative reloadable prepaid transportation card value at KRW5,000. This can be collected at designated locations when purchasing the pass. 
2. 10% discount luggage storage and shipping through Airport Railroad.
3. Various discounts with affiliated partners. See this link for more details. 

Recommended places to visit in Gangwon
The famous Dragon Peak at Yongpyong Resort, which is also the filming site of K-dramas such as Goblin and Winter Sonata. This place is really beautiful during winter, where you will see a thick blanket of snow covering the area. 
My favourite place, Nami Island. Check out the cute snowman dressed in Xmas coats. I have recommended this place as part of Gangwon Autumn series, but you can always make a visit during winter too. I tend to make a trip here every time I'm in Korea. This place is just too beautiful to be missed! 

Since winter is coming, it is still not too late to start planning your winter adventures in Korea. Hurry and hop over to www.letskorail.com/pyeongchang and start clicking away! 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Korea Sale Festa

"I'm not a shopaholic, I'm just helping the economy"

Hands up if you agree with me that the emails that you love receiving the most are those that tells you your orders has been shipped :) Shopping is my middle name (besides procrastinating and many others) though I have toned down my shopaholic nature for the past 2 years. To stretch my dollar further, I'm always on the lookout for deals or promotions. Be it physical goods or services, I feel happy (or do a silent YEAH!) whenever I'm paying the discounted price instead of the original price. Having said so, let me share a piece of good news for the shopaholics who are heading to Korea for Autumn - the month-long Korea Sale Festa will start from 28th Sep. Festa doesn't simply means festival; it also includes entertainment, shopping, tour and attraction. This means an entire month of discounts, not just on shopping but also on K-wave cultural festivals and customised events for foreign visitors. You get to indulge without having to break the bank. Furthermore, 20 companies are selected as TOP20 of Korea Sale Festa. By just being a foreign visitor, you get to enjoy discounts from airfare, hotels, attractions, transport and shopping! Read on to find out more on how you can make use of the deals for your (upcoming) trip.
Official website: Korea Sale Festa

TRANSPORTATION
Besides discount on airfare and car rental, there are also special discount on the AREX/Airport Express for those who are traveling to Seoul station from Incheon airport. The airport express is one of the quickest and most convenient way to travel, bringing tourists to central Seoul within 45 minutes.

For more information on transporation, refer to this link
ACCOMMODATION
Agoda.com is kicking off the sale period for a duration of 2 months starting 9th Aug, whereby you get to enjoy up to 80% special discount for hotels worldwide with an additional 7% Korea Sale Festa special discount for hotels in Korea. Use promo code "KRFESTA7D212" in the hotel reservation page. This promotion is valid only for the hotel with the mark of "Promotional Product". 

For more information on accommodation, refer to this link
CULTURAL
A trip to Korea is not completed without wearing the hanbok and walking around Gyeongbokgung palace. With discount from 3355 Hanbok, the experience is now more affordable! Not to mention that you can gain free access to the various palaces if you wear a hanbok. 
Woongjin Playdoci is an urban leisure sports complex located just 30 minutes from Seoul. The park includes a water park and spa; Snowdoci which is an indoor ski and sledding park. We went to the water/spa park and it was really fun sliding down the slides. We even enjoy the spa at the outdoor rooftop, which was quite an experience. For foreigners, there is now a 1+1 special offer when purchasing a ticket for the water park or snow park. 
The Korean Folk Village is one of my favourite places to go for it felt like going back in time to the Joseon period. Visitors get to see the cultural performances such as tightrope walking, horseback martial arts and traditional wedding in this place. Not forgetting that the Korean Folk Village is the filming location of period dramas like Moon embracing the Sun, Jang Ok-jung and Sungkyunkwan Scandal. With a reduced price of KRW11,000 (from now till 31 Oct 2017), this place is definitely worth a visit.

For more information on culture, refer to this link
BEAUTY/HEALTH
Skincare and cosmetic shopping is a must-do activity when the sun sets. Consumers are spoilt with choices as many K-cos brands make their presence in Myeongdong. I usually stock up on my skincare whenever I travel to Korea, hence I'll bring an empty luggage with me to contain my hauls, haha! 

For more information on beauty/health, refer to this link
TRADITIONAL MARKET SHOPPING TOURISM FESTIVAL
The traditional Korean marketplace is one of the best way to soak up in the local spirit of Korea. In here, you get to rub shoulders with the ahjummas, bargain with the store-owners and feast to your heart's content. These traditional market places are littered throughout Seoul and Namdaemum Market is the most popular of all. The fall festival will be held in 17 major markets and 500 traditional markets with local features, harmonized with experience, culture and sightseeing. Visit this site for more information on the dates and activities of the various markets.
KOREA ONLINE HOT SALE
For those who enjoy shopping from the comfort of their homes, you can still enjoy the benefits from the online sale. Did I mention that I love 1+1 deals?Websites like G-market and Kmall are participating in this event and there is also a 20% discount for international orders (for G-market). Click here to find out more and start adding your items to the cart, check-out and wait for the email(s) that indicate your items are shipped! Hurry and grab the offers while it last.
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