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Archive for November, 2016

One of the beautiful highlights of my recent Seoul trip was something unplanned and unexpected.  Me and my colleagues were lucky enough to be at the right place and at the right time when we happen to experience one traditional South Korean ceremony.

bonsingak: a totally different belfry

bonsingak: a totally different belfry

During the Joseon Dynasty, the Bosingak Belfry was used to keep time.  In the very old days when Seoul was still enclosed by 4 main gates, the bell of Bosingak would ring 33 times at 4:00 AM so as to signify that people can be allowed to enter Seoul.  And by 10:00 PM, the bell again would ring 28 times to alert the public that the gates to the city are closing.

On our way to Insadong (one shopping capital in Seoul), just outside Jonggak subway station, we happen to pass by one oriental-looking structure.  Being first timers and tourists of South Korea, we of course were lured to take photos of the massive building.  When we were called to step in at the rather old compound and was informed that entrance for free, we temporarily suspended our shopping itinerary at Insadong and instead marveled at the beautiful structure in front of us.

i love the colors...

i love the colors…

ring my bell... hahaha!

ring my bell… hahaha!

high fashion!

high fashion!

While taking photos of ourselves, the buildings and the guards in traditional and colorful Korean clothing, we were told that we can participate in the day’s ringing of the bell ceremony.  But before we were allowed to hit the bell with a massive wooden log suspended from the ceiling, we were told to first change into Korean traditional costumes.  The changing into colorful Korean clothes even made this awesome experience more unforgettable.

And at 12 high noon, we were hitting the massive bell of Bosingak to alarm the whole Seoul, South Korea!  And after this awesome experience, we were so inspired, ended up buying lots of traditional South Korean goodies at Insadong.

Kampanerang kuba ang peg!

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I happen to stumble upon this young talent on YouTube.  And when I started listening to her, I realized that her singing voice is actually the quality of my voice every time I wake up suffering from a severe sore throat!

But seriously, I was stunned by this young Filipina’s amazing voice.  And what adds up to such a surprising rendition is that her singing seem effortless.  I am not a music expert but I know what a remarkable voice is when I hear one.  Her version of Fantasia Barrino’s I Believe is just perfect (or even better than the original, I suppose)!

Goosebumps were actually falling off my skin at the start of the song.  And these goosebumps started growing their own hands so as to give a humongous round of applause to such an amazing talent at the end of the song!

powerful voice at such a tiny frame

powerful voice at such a tiny frame

Halimaw ang talento ng babaing yan!

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In my recent journey to New Zealand, I got to spend a very short period of time in Australia.  It is because my flight from Manila to Queenstown was via Sydney.  It was a 3 hour layover at the land down under.

While at the Sydney airport, I was ecstatic because despite the fact that chances of bumping into my favorite Aussie celebrity was like asking for the heavens to give me the greatest love life I don’t deserve, I was still positively expecting some mystic phenomenon to happen.  I was not expecting to bump into Kylie Minogue or Hugh Jackman nor Cate Blanchett or Chris Hemsworth.  I was not expecting Australians to bestow me a red carpet welcome.  I was not expecting the mayor to hand me the key to their city.  I was actually hoping to see Australia’s singing diva, Dami Im!

dami-im

dami was not popular yet during my visits in sydney...

dami was not popular yet during my visits in sydney…

I know it’s stupid but as soon as my feet landed on the grounds of Sydney, my bizarre and inexplicable hope for Dami Im to be at the airport!  And since I don’t have any photos to show, it means this longing did not transpire.  I guess the heavens was smart enough not grant such a wish, otherwise, I would not have left the airport in time for my journey to fresh Queenstown.

Let me just satiate and mollify this stupid wish by posting and listening to Dami Im’s latest single “Fighting for Love”.  I actually prefer Dami’s live performance during the X Factor TV show than the actual music video of the song…

Na-aning-aning lang sa Sidni…

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I thought my best choice of restaurant in Queenstown that me and my friends dined at would be the establishment that will fix my rice-deprived anatomy.  Yeah, unlike the Philippines, rice is not a staple in New Zealand and my few days of stay in that fresh country made me yearn for it.  I know that I get all grumpy and grouchy if I don’t have rice in my meal for a couple of days.

But surprisingly, the best and finest food establishment I encountered in my recent New Zealand adventure was that of Winnie’s Gourmet Pizza Bar.  Located at The Mall in Queenstown, Winnie’s is a relaxed and casual part-bar and part-restaurant kind of a joint. I loved the ambiance because it is not plush, ritzy and intimidating.

What particularly made me love this restaurant was the food.  Their gourmet pizza was really outstandingly delicious!  And with a quick look into their pizza selection, I can tell that their pizzas were not just the classic types but instead seem to embrace various flavors around the world.  I noticed some Thai inspirations, a Moroccan fabrication, a Hawaiian motivation and some Mexican creations.

zucha  & montanara (flavors of heaven)

With limited tummy space, my friend Denton was smart enough to order one large sized pizza in which each half is of a different flavor.  We settled for the Montanara, which I consider to be the sinful half of the pizza and the Zucha for the wholesome and healthier half.  Both are gluten-free by the way.

Zucha according to my happy taste buds got some roasted pumpkin, olives, some feta cheese, capsicum and toasted almonds.  The blending of these flavors above the crunchy pizza crust, pizza sauce, Parmesan cheese and parsley brings magic to ones palette!

Montanara according to our gracious waitress was the most popular among all their pizzas.  That is why we ordered for it.  And from the first bite of this delectable creation, I knew that the waitress knows what she was doing. This is actually the first time that I have eaten a pizza in which you would have to spread pistachio sour cream on it.  A mound of this yummy cream is actually placed at the middle of the pizza!

The Montanara toppings which consists of chicken fillets, brie cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, spring onions and sweet chili sauce, no doubt, was absolutely delicious.  It’s one pizza that gives me a reason to return and revisit Queenstown.  The taste was just marvelously unforgettable!

chicken!

chicken!

a kiwi classic

is this a kiwi classic? we loved it… especially when we dip the mussel meat into the cream sauce!

Aside from the pizza, we also ordered the succulent chicken wings which surprisingly was not oily and so tasty and crunchy.  And to add a Kiwi flavor in our meal, we of course ordered New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels.  Winnie’s freshly steamed NZ mussels in shallots, capsicum, white wine, cream and sweet chili sauce was one of the best in Queenstown.  I can say this because in almost all restaurants that we dined we always seem to order NZ mussels.  And Winnie’s version was always our basis of comparison.

happy tummy!

happy tummy!

With all these superlative thoughts, accounts and narratives about Winnie’s, I guess, I can really say that it is one of the must visits if you happen to be in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Winer ang tami ko sa Wini’s!

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It was our last day in Seoul.  Me and my colleagues decided that the whole morning will be spent burning our wallets out at all possible cheap buys at Namdaemun Market.  Right after breakfast we headed to the market and decided that we broke apart as a group so that we would be able to purchase what we want without wasting other’s precious time.  We decided that we would just meet up again at the hotel lobby at 11:30 AM for us to get ready for lunch together.

But an hour after searching and walking through the alleyways of this traditional Korean market, my head was suddenly spinning and everything seem to look the same.  That was the time I knew I was cloying from the sickening look of voluminous varieties of clothes, kitchenware, toys, fine arts, footware, ginseng, trinkets, Korean souvenir items, carpets and hats.

To ease this cloying feeling, I decided to walk away from Namdaemun Market.  And this was the time I reached and discovered a massive imposing structure just across the road.  I decided to go ahead and find my way to reach such a traditional Korean structure.

sungnyemun

sungnyemun

gate of exalted ceremonies

gate of exalted ceremonies

At a very small booth near the entrance manned by a very old man, I found a brochure and learned that the commanding edifice in front of me is called Sungnyemun.

According to Wikipedia, Sungnyemun is one of the eight gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul during the Joseon dynasty.  It is also known as the Gate of Exalted Ceremonies (which I don’t know what means but it sounds very good).  Wikipedia also indicates that it was built in the 14th century and was once the oldest wooden structure in Seoul and was given the status of National Treasure No. 1 during the 60’s.  But in 2008 some loony 69-year old arsonist burned the wooden pagoda portion of the structure.  Restoration was done for the burnt portion amounting to whopping 14 million US dollars and was completed only in April 2013.

pikchur! pikchur!

pikchur! pikchur!

Since its National Treasure Number 1, I of course did not missed the opportunity to take some photos of this beautiful site.  After which, I headed back to Namdaemun market, buy me some ref magnets before heading back to the hotel.

Ininggit ko sila syempre sa pikchurs ko. Hahaha!

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The beauty of autumn continues to fascinate me.  This is especially true this year because I got to spend some cool autumn time in Seoul, South Korea. My recent visit in Seoul can be summed up into three fascinating tenets:  the weather, the wardrobe and the verdure.  These I consider as the souls of my recent Seoul visit.

nice!

nice!

Autumn, is one strange type of season for an earthling like me.  The temperature, the climate and the cool breeze of the air is so atypical.  Growing up in a perennially clammy tropical country like the Philippines, autumn is such a wonderful novelty for me. I’m entranced every time some cloud would come out from my mouth each time I speak!

Aside from the cool weather, I also got to wear sweaters, scarves, gloves and leather jacket which I cannot wear in hot and humid Philippines.  I would be a laughing stock among the locals if I would don some leather jacket in Manila.

Lastly, aside from the weather and the clothes, you got to see some striking colors of bountiful vegetation during autumn.  Nature is so beautiful during this cool season, Koreans even have “Chasing the Autumn Foliage” as a past time.

red colored tree

red colored tree

cool colors

cool colors

bright!

bright!

selfie muna

selfie muna

 

And because it’s autumn, I enjoyed every bit of my stay in soulful Seoul, South Korea! Kamsahamnida!

Owtum! Wagas na tag-lagas!

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Nengkoy is the nickname of my mom during her pre-school years. Her parents and relatives call her ‘Ang Neneng Ko’. With her pretty charm and appeal, she was usually called in a melodic way using this lovely phrase. Until it evolved for easier articulation of the phrase, Ang Neneng Ko was shorten to Nengkoy.

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Nengkoy is the nickname of my mom during her pre-school years. Her parents and relatives call her ‘Ang Neneng Ko’. With her pretty charm and appeal, she was usually called in a melodic way using this lovely phrase. Until it evolved for easier articulation of the phrase, Ang Neneng Ko was shorten to Nengkoy.

Nengkoy

Nengkoy is the nickname of my mom during her pre-school years. Her parents and relatives call her ‘Ang Neneng Ko’. With her pretty charm and appeal, she was usually called in a melodic way using this lovely phrase. Until it evolved for easier articulation of the phrase, Ang Neneng Ko was shorten to Nengkoy.