Wednesday, 19 November 2014

떡돌이 died

떡돌이 died yesterday. That was the message Eunjin sent to me when I was on my way to Korean class.

I was really shocked because a few days ago Eunjin just sent me a video of a lively 떡돌이 with some tissue paper around him to keep him warm in the cold autumn. But now, suddenly he is gone. Eunjin must be much much more devastated. She went back home from Busan to bury 떡돌이.

떡돌이 has always been our happy fruit. Although I never met him before, I really like him because he is so cute. When I miss 떡돌이, Eunjin will record and send me videos of him and that always cheers me up.

떡돌이 got his name because according to Eunjin, he is just like a glutinous rice cake. Everytime Eunjin will joke about 떡돌이, saying he is a fat hamster and only knows "this person gives me food". Although 떡돌이 eats a lot, he exercises too using the wheel. He is chubby but lively at the same time.

떡돌이 is two years old. But Eunjin says a hamster life is short. But it was so sudden because 떡돌이 doesn't have any disease. He just gone like that. I want to see him when I go to Busan next year but it's impossible now T.T

I will miss you a lot 떡돌이.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Introducing Hellotalk App

If you are interested to learn foreign languages and are looking for a platform to practice your newly acquired language, here's an app that you won't want to miss.

Hellotalk app

I discovered this app because I am self learning Korean and was looking for ways to improve it. There are many platforms out there like language exchange websites but I found this Hellotalk app extremely user friendly and useful. Here are some of the interesting features of this app:

1. To date, it is free of charge and without any advertisement.

2. It enables you to practice language exchange with native speakers. You can narrow your search to look for locals by filtering their nationality and/or native language, If you would like to find someone near your region, you can do that too by adjusting the search settings. 

3. It has useful language exchange functions such as translations, language correcting features and voice message function. The language correcting feature is unique. You or your partner just need to tap on the language correction button, and the wrong sentences would appear on the screen. Delete the wrong part of the sentence and replace it with the correct one. This feature will then display the correction process as well as the final corrected sentences just like when you turn on your mark-up function in Microsoft Word. It is very clear which part of the sentences are incorrect and you will learn a lot from this function. I think this function is really unique and useful. 

Sample screenshot of Hellotalk (from Google image)

4. You can contact any member for free. So in a way, it also acts as a social networking app. Besides learning each other's languages, it is also a good platform to get to know foreign friends and share our culture. 

Sample screenshot of Hellotalk (from Google image)

5. There is also a doodle function which I like a lot. If you and your partner could not understand each other, you can make use of the doodle function and draw whatever object that both of you are unsure of. It also allows you to import photos and draw on it. This comes in handy when you want to pin point to your friend a particular location on a map.

There are many more functions but I will leave it for you to check them out. Through this app, I managed to learn many practical Korean words that are not taught in text books and also make new friends. Another friend of mine whom I introduced this app to just had his foreign friend coming over to visit him and the three of us had a good time touring around Sentosa for a day. 

So, if you are interested to learn foreign languages and practice with native speakers, I highly recommend Hellotalk. But please use it with a good purpose and not exploiting it as a dating app. No one can stop you from that but it defeats the noble purpose of this free and user friendly app and I am sure it won't be sustainable if you misuse it. 

As it is a free app without advertisement, they are only relying on word of mouth and translation purchases to sustain this app. I hope to do a small part in helping them to sustain this app so if you find this app useful, please do share it with your friends too :)

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Korea Trip Epilogue (13/06/2014)

We reached Gimhae Airport early and we were surprised to find out that the boarding time was  around 30 minutes before flight time. So we were chilling at the departure hall. There was a lady who approached us and asked us to do a survey on our experience in Busan. It was a tourism survey. I looked a the clock, it was still 9.45am and I thought the boarding time was way too early so I decided to do the survey. But the survey was pretty long. We couldn't finish the survey because we heard our names from the announcement. They were calling us for boarding! We apologized to the surveyor and quickly picked up our baggage and ran towards the gate.

On the plane we shared our photos taken in Korea. I think we took more than 2000 photos altogether. Mid way through our flight I saw something familiar. The orange Adidas jacket girl! The girl we saw twice in Jeju was on the same flight as us from Busan to KL! Wow this time is really a huge huge coincidence. I still can't quite believe it now. I don't know whether she recognized us but it was definitely her. Well, it's another memory we brought back from Korea.

After 7 hours of flight, we finally touched down at KLIA 2. The first thing that greeted us was hot, humid air. Argh. But I knew I had to get used to it again. Not only the air, but reality. They said an overseas vacation makes someone wonders. I am still wondering, wandering...

Korea Trip Day 9 (12/06/2014) - Busan

So here we are, on the last day of our vacation. We woke up late at around 10am. Without wasting anymore time we quickly washed up and headed to our first destination, Gamcheon Culture Village. When we came out of the subway station we were not sure how to get there although we could see the colourful Gamcheon Village houses on the hill. We asked a staff working in a convenient store and she was glad to help us out. She drew a rough map showing the way to the village and what bus to take. She also drew a zebra crossing on the map and asked us to cross the road.

Following her directions we took a mini bus from Busan Cancer Centre bus stop to go up the hill. While waiting at the bus stop, a Chinese girl approached us and asked us where were we from. We later found out that she was planning to go to Gamcheon Culture Village too. So we asked her to tag along and visit the place together. Later we got to know her name, Wang Qing. We took lots of photos at the village. There were some stairs climbing required but it's worth the effort. The view from the top of the hill was amazing, filled with colourful houses just like those on the postcards. The village was actually an old neighbourhood, with lots of old folks staying inside. We spotted a granny with her tongkat climbing the steep stairs. She must have done it every other day as well.

Gamcheon Culture Village

We also passed by a small shop selling snacks. The uncle was very kind and friendly. He showed us tourist messages written on sticky notes that were pasted all over the shop. There were so many of them. We also wrote down our message and took a photo there. After we had some drinks we headed downhill. Along our way down, we saw a stall selling the famous Ssi At Hotteok! It was recommended by Olivia earlier but we couldn't find it at Seoul. The Hotteok we fond at Seoul was different. This Ssi At Hotteok has little seeds inside and it was so delicious. I wish I could have more of it. Definitely one of my favourite snacks here.

The famous snack - Ssi At Hotteok

As we set off late, everything was pushed back an hour. After Gamcheon Culture Village, it was already around 2pm. We went to the famous Jagalchi Fish Market. It was just one subway station away. Wang Qing said she wanted to go there go so it was great to have her company. Once we came out of Jagalchi station, we immediately smelled seafood. And the market was just around the corner. There were many outdoor stalls selling all kinds of seafood. But we wanted to have seafood for lunch so we went to a Jagalchi Market building. From outside it looks like a department store, around 6-7 stories high. When we went inside we realized that the first two levels were markets and seafood food court. The upper levels were offices We wanted to find a famous stall that we researched online called Jackie's. His stall received numerous coverage on TV as well as on food magazines. It didn't took us long to find it among the other stalls. We looked at the menu. Indeed the food looked delicious. But it was quite expensive. Luckily we researched online that seafood stalls here are expensive but you can bargain for a discount especially tourists. So we asked the Ajumma "nomu pissa yo. Jum kakka juseyo" means "it's really expensive. Please give us a discount". And after awhile she agreed. I think they were expecting the bargain too. We managed to cut 10000won off the original price for all the food we ordered. We ordered Sashimi, seafood steamboat and a seafood pancake. The seafood steamboat was really awesome. The oyster was still alive, shrinking and expanding inside the steamboat. The Ajumma then turned on the gas and cook the seafood inside. After they were cooked we scooped the up and devoured it. It was fresh and delicious. Because of so many seafood inside, the soup was extremely sweet. It was probably the best meal of our trip. After our meal, we took a group photo with the Ajumma. They were so lovely.

Various kinds of seafood sold in Jagalchi Market

Seafood steamboat at Jagalchi Fish Market

It was around 4pm after we had our late lunch and we wanted to go to Nampodong. But it was raining cats and dogs. It was the first rain in our trip and it fell on the last day. We were grounded at the market as there were no shelters. During that time Wang Qing shared with us her experience and some great photos taken at various parts of China such as Yun Nan and so on. The views were breathtaking and we said that maybe one day we should go there. We waited for about 40 minutes and we saw a group of girls waiting at the market with umbrellas. We asked them where can we buy the umbrellas but they said it would be quite far. After some discussion among themselves. one of the girl passed us two umbrellas and asked us to follow them. They shared the remaining umbrellas and led us to a grocery shop that sells umbrellas! We were so touched and grateful for their help. Busan people are really helpful. Wang Qing had to go back to Seoul in that evening by KTX and we changed our plans to go to Seomyeon instead because there were shopping malls there so we could avoid the rain. Wang Qing wanted to find a bank to withidraw Korean won to return to us because we paid for her meal at Jagalchi earlier. But we couldn't find the bank so she gave us China RMB instead. Maybe we can use them at Yun Nan one day! After that we headed to the subway station. We bid goodbye to Wang Qing as she had to alight earlier at Busan station whereas we would alight at Seomyeon. On the subway, we were all standing. But there was this uncle, probably in his 50s asked us to sit down. I was the closest to him and he kept insisting me to sit. We actually had similar experience before yesterday when we just arrived at Busan where old folks insisted us to sit. So I knew there was no point refusing since it was a courtesy of them. Then during one of the stops, an old lady boarded the train. I wanted to give up my seat to her but the uncle pressed me down firmly and told me something in Korean. I guess he was saying tourists should have the privilege compared to locals. I was a bit stunned by his actions and a bit embarrassed too. He talked to me in Korean and some broken english which I thought was Korean. Although he knew I couldn't understand but he still wanted to talk to me.

Seomyeon is like a city, with shopping malls and restaurants just like Seoul. We went shopping and had dinner there. It was our third Korean barbeque meal. But the staffs there could not speak English so we relied on sign language to communicate. The was one female staff there, a bit plum but very cute like cartoon character. Her reactions were also very cute. I still remember her confused cute reaction when we talked to her in English. After that we walked around for awhile before going back to our hostel.

Time really flies. We have ended our vacation in Korea. It feels so short. I will definitely come back here again. I love the time I spent here whether in Seoul, Jeju or Busan. There were so many friendly and helpful locals. I wonder if I will one day migrate to Korea. You only live once. Our flight tomorrow will be 10.40am from Gimhae Airport. Quan Yen and Shi Keat bought some fried chicken for supper before we went to bed, our last night in Korea.

Korea Trip Day 8 (11/06/2014) - Busan

We took a morning Jejuair flight to Busan. We bid goodbye to Forest Hostel and headed towards the airport. After about 1.5 hours of flight, we reached Busan Gimhae Airport. We had to take a subway (they call it Metro in Busan) to Sasang and changed line to go to Haeundae where our Hostel is located. We had lunch first before taking the subway nearby the airport. We could immediately tell that Busan people speaks in a different accent. During our lunch, when we pressed the button to call for the waiter, all the staffs in the restaurant yelled out "ne~ (which means yes)" at once. After our lunch we took the subway towards Sasang and then changed to another line towards Haeundae.

The journey was very far, from one end of Busan to the other. We alighted at Haeundae station to look for HiKorea Hostel but we were not sure of the way. So we asked a local there and she said that we should alight at the previous station Dongbaek. We went back to the train and alighted at Dongbaek we found the hostel. It was located on the fifth floor of a building. Here we could easily spot tall buildings, condos like in Singapore.

Street view at Haeundae
We checked into HiKorea hostel and we were required to keep our shoes outside in the locker and wear their slippers into the premise for cleanliness reasons. All the staffs there were students, very young and were very friendly. The girl staff was pretty too. The room had a passcode lock just Mely's. The room was cozy but without any windows. The bathroom was a surprise to us. There were two shower compartments in the male's room but the compartment was very open. You can actually see the guy next to you clearly. So we decided to lock the door outside when we were showering so that no other guys can share the shower place with us. It will be so awkward I think.

We went to Haeundae beach after we have checked into the rooms. Haeundae beach was just behind our hostel. We walked about 7 minutes to the beach. It was a huge beach. The sand was whitish and the sun was bright that day. But there were not many people there. I guess it could be because the weather was still not very warm. Although there was hot sun, the breeze was still very chilling. Most of the people there were tourists, western people. We took lots of photos there. Quan Yen had multiple attempts on his jump shots. We also saw a couple of Korean girls with bikini tops laying on the beach. After hesitating for quite some time, I've decided to approach them to ask for a photo. Shi Keat became my cameraman. I was so nervous but what the heck. I asked them and they were so happy to accept my invitation for a photo together. I wanted to ask for one of the girl's but in the end I took photos with both of them. I think they were waiting for guys to ask them for a photo. Too bad I wasn't in good shape to show off LOL. We also saw many seagulls. I've never seen so many seagulls at once before.

Serene Haeundae Beach

After Haeundae beach we went to Gwangali beach to see the famous Gwangwon Bridge. It was a double deck bridge with cars traveling from one side to another on two levels. We took a subway there. It was a smaller beach and behind it were full of high rise buildings. We went to have dinner first before we came back to watch the Gwangwon Bridge light show. As the day got darker, the lights started to kick in on the bridge. Then the music begins and the lights fluctuated along with the music, one of which was Crayonpop's BarBarBar. At night, the beach was a beautiful place for couples to have a stroll along the bay. Very romantic.

Evening and Night view of Gwangwon Bridge. Quite a huge difference!

I can't quite remember what we did after visiting Gwangwon bridge. I think we walked around and headed back to the hostel. There were quite a lot of people at night at the hostel lounge. We met one of the staffs who worked there at night. Her name is Taeyoung and she was very friendly. She likes to travel and she can speak Mandarin and a little Cantonese. There was also a German guy who sits there at the lounge. He was on his laptop all the time until we talked to each other. We had a great time chatting and joking around. Taeyoung was talking about a phone called Xiao Mi and that it has a function whereby the phone takes photos with a sound of a clap. Both the German guy and I were puzzled and our first question was, wouldn't all the photos will be people with their hands clapping together since the shutter was triggered by clapping sound? It was really funny. Taeyoung also asked us to review her on Tripadvisor, which I did when I got back to Malaysia because with 500 reviews she will be sponsored to a trip to Japan. Such an awesome deal!

There were also local tourists there but we didn't talk to each other. Later that night, two girls from Hong Kong checked in. Because we could speak Cantonese, we quickly made friends with each other. We chatted a lot. And they taught us how to play Hong Kong card games. We played "Stop The Bus". Another game was about "chat kap ju" (seven level pig). The mission was to rotate card in hands and whenever someone gets a set of cards with he same number, he/she has to use the cards to cover his mouth and the rest have to follow suit and keep quiet. The last person to react will be raised to level one pig and here comes the fun part. If a pig with lower level talks to a pig with higher level, that lower level pig will be raised to the same level as the higher level pig. Only same level pig can communicate with each other. When someone reaches 7 level pig the game ends and the loser will forfeit. It was really fun as the higher level pig will always prompt the lower level pigs to talk to him/her. We really enjoyed the games. We also played a story game where the storyteller has the ending of the story and our mission was to guess the whole story by only asking true or false questions. We had a hard time guessing the helicopter story but with some hints Quan Yen finally got it. We played until 3am that night. We still have one more day left in Busan the next day. It will be a challenge not to oversleep on that night. But the schedule on the next day wasn't very packed so we were not so worried about it. Yup, it's the last day tomorrow. Time really flies.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Korea Trip Day 7 (10/06/2014) - Jeju

Today we will be exploring the eastern region of Jeju Island, which will cover arguably the most famous tourist spots in Jeju, Seopjikoji and Seongsan Ilchulbong. We've decided to take a taxi to go to Manjanggul first (because the bus stop is 2.6km away from the cave) and then to Seojikoji and finally to Seongsan Ilchulbong before taking a bus back to Forest Hostel.

The taxi driver this time could speak better English and was quite humourous. He offered to wait for us and bring us to our next destination. He said Manjanggul is hard to flag a taxi which charges by meter. And most taxis would ask for a service charge for waiting but he was offering just the fare by meter. No waiting charges. So it's basically the same just that we won't need to flag a taxi from one place to another, just hop on to his and pay by meter. It was a pretty good deal.

Manjanggul is a famous lava tube cave in Jeju. The temperature gets colder as you go deeper into the cave. The lava marks on the walls of the cave was amazing. Just imagine this cave was once filled by flowing lava. Different types of flows leave different kinds of marks. And there were stalactites and stalagmites too. Water was dropping from the ceiling and the ground was wet due to condensation. It was dark so we couldn't really take good photos in there. But it was an awesome experience. At the end of the route opened to tourists, there's a dead end. So we turned back and walked the cave again from the inside. The taxi driver told us that people usually spent 45 minutes but we took 1.5 hours.

Entrance to Manjanggul

Next we went to Seopjikoji. The view was breathtaking and so windy. The walked along the path until the "light house" (not sure what it is but looks like a light house or tower) which was the highest part of Seopjikoji hillside. Below Seopjikoji you can see waves splashing on the rocks. It was amazing. There were many tourists there including a tour group from  Malaysia. There was a girl within the group with an orange Adidas jacket. More on that girl later.

Beautiful scenery at Seopjikoji

Then we moved on to Seongsan Ilchulbong, our last stop. It was about 15 minutes drive from Seopjikoji. The taxi driver was kind enough to show us the bus stop that will get us back to the terminal. He dropped us off at the junction and we thanked him. We found a Korean fast food restaurant there called Lotteria. We decided to give it a try since we have not tried Korean fast food before. I ordered Bulgogi burger. Not very special but I enjoyed it. Then we walk toward Seongsan Ilchulbong. There was an Amway roadshow there and also Haenyo show at the bottom of the mountain. But we didn't go there. We took some photos at the foothill because the backdrop with the mountain was magnificent. And guess who we saw? The Adidas jacket girl! It was really a coincidence since we left Seopjikoji first and went for lunch (and it doesn't end here!).

We hiked the mountain (actually they have stairs so basically we climbed the stairs), not very high, just around 180m. And within 20 minutes we were at the peak. We took photos along our way to the top but I would advise not to waste time taking photos on your way up because the higher you go the better the view. At the peak we saw the Ilchulbong (sunrise peak). Obviously we were not here for the sunrise but we were hoping to see sunset but we were not fortunate that day due to the cloudy weather. The peak was all green and flat. It was very unique. It was really windy too and lots of people up there. We spent about 40 minutes up there and decided to call it a day.

The famous Seongsan Ilculbong

We went down to the bus stop and looking to board the 4.45pm bus. In Jeju you will need to get yourself familiarized with the bus schedule because some buses do not come along very often. We left at this time because it takes about two hours to travel back to the terminal and we had to transfer to bus 100 back to the hostel. On the bus we managed to find a seat and had a short nap. Shi Keat and I sat next to each other that time and we were awaken by chatters. There were lots of students who got on at one stop, I guess it was a secondary school bus stop. And we were lucky to be awaken because the girls were so cute. I am sure they didn't do plastic surgery because they were just teens. probably around 14 years old. They did apply make up though, unlike in Malaysia where school students aren't allowed to apply make up. I think they've practiced their make up skills since young.

When we reached forest hostel it was already around 6.45pm. After dinner we went to the fun fair near Forest Hostel. This time there were people playing the Tagada. Quan Yen and Shi Keat went up there and I took video of them. The Tagada was manually controlled and the operator can spin, jerk and do anything he likes with the Tagada to give the riders an "enjoyable" ride. The operator would joke with them in Korean too and there was constant interacting. It would have been more fun if we could understand him. The operator usually pick on girls and on the second ride he picked on a girl who dropped her coins while the Tagada was jerking. The operator asked her to pick up the coin but when she went to the middle he jerked and spinned the Tagada again to make her off balanced. It was pretty enjoyable to watch people struggling to get on their feet and seat. I am sure they enjoyed it too.

We returned to the hostel after a tiring day and we shared the photos that we took over the past week. There were so many good memories in Seoul and Jeju. Life in Jeju feels like..carefree and simple. It seems like a nice place to stay if you are someone who like simple life. The next day we will be heading to Busan, the second largest city of Korea. It is going to be exciting. Beach! Bikinis! Seafood!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Korea Trip Day 6 (09/06/2014) - Jeju

We had free breakfast at the lounge of Forest Hostel at the basement level. They had coffee/tea, bread and also an electric stove. There were some other tourists there and from their accent we could tell that they were from Hong Kong and Malaysia. We also knew a guy from China and he was about to depart to another hostel at Seogwipo. The lounge was cozy. We had a couple of bread spread with jam to go along with coffee and off we go to meet the taxi driver who we had arranged a day tour with. However, the driver who greeted us was another driver. He said he was yesterday's driver's friend. To convince us, he called his friend and we talked to him. We agreed to let his friend drive us since he couldn't make it. The driver's name was Mr Yang. We had a short discussion on our schedule and he added a few more destinations like "Yong Du An", "San Bang San", Osulloc Tea Farm, Glass Castle and Mount Halla. We will be touring from the northern part of Jeju and make a loop around the western part of the island.

We started off with Yong Du An (Yong Du is dragon head) along the shores. Mr. Yang parked his taxi and asked us to walk on the rocks until we are in front of the dragon head rock. He was kinda rush and asked us for our smartphones to take photo for us. He was really helpful but we thought that we could have given us more time to sight see. We then went to a beach, I forgot the name but it was nearby. Very few people there and we just took some photos and left.

Yong Du An (Dragon Head Rock)

After that, we visited Osulloc Tea Farm. The sight was beautiful and so relaxing. There's a tea cafe/museum where they sell teas and also allowed us for free testings. I tried the tea with tangerine seeds. It was awesome so I bought one pack for mum they all to try. We also saw this really pretty girl who works there. I asked her for a group selfie together. She is Korean but she can speak Mandarin. She asked "是自拍吗?我喜欢自拍”. Till today, her sweet voice still rings in my head.

Osulloc Tea Farm

Then we went to a couple of theme parks, Glass Castle and So In Guk (小人国). The glass castle was full with art works made from glass by various glass artists. Some were really beautiful. We wanted to go for the glass making class but the we missed the glass making schedule. It was not very fun there. We had lunch at So In Guk theme park. It was a Korean Buffet with many buffet dishes and soup. The driver expected us to pay for him but we didn't know about that until we have gone in. The food was great and unlimited supply including meat. We had a really sumptuous and filling lunch buffet there before entering the theme park. The theme park was basically scaled-down monuments from all over the world. We even found a mosque from Malaysia but had no idea it was from Malaysia. There was also a mini train and we took a ride. But it went for two rounds which was quite puzzling. Anyway, the park was not very well maintained, and more suitable for kids i guess. It certainly wasn't the highlight of that day.

The highlight of the day was our next destination - San Bang San. The shape of the mountain was unique with a temple at the foot of the mountain. On the mountain there was a hotspring but we didn't go there. Instead we went to a rock-cave opposite the mountain. The view was breathtaking. I was awestruck by the beauty of it. Sea waves flapping on the rocks. We spent a good two hours there I think, just walking about, embracing the works of mother nature. I will recommend this place to anyone who is visiting Jeju.

Breathtaking views at San Bang San 

by then it was already around 5pm. We then proceeded to Cheonjeyeon Falls. Mr. Yang asked us to "Pali pali" which means hurry and only gave us 25 minutes. There were three falls in Cheonjeyeon fall. We went to the second fall and the site was so beautiful. The water was so clean. The photo of the fall looked as if it was being photoshopped. We also crossed the "Seonimgyo Bridge" (Seven Nymph Bridge) to get to the falls. After that we went to Jusangjari, a famous tourist spot in Jeju. At the site, there were numerous lava tubes sticking out from the shores. The rock formation was very unique. But we didn't spend much time there. I think if you are interested in geology, you might find Jusangjari very interesting.

2nd fall of Cheonjeyeon Falls

After Jusangjari, we headed back north to our hostel through Mount Halla or Hallasan. The road was winding and steep and Mr. Yang sped through the mountain roads like Initial D. By the time we reach near the peak Mr. Yang stopped and asked us to explore the mini garden there. It was super cold as we were at about 1100m above sea level. We spotted many unique plants there and also a lonely deer. Then, we continued down hill due north. Before we reach the hostel, we passed by the Mysterious Road. It was the Mysterious Road that we couldn't find yesterday. Mr. Yang turned off the engine and pushed the gear into "N" and let the breaks go while we were uphill. Miraculously, the car slides forward slowly. It was as if we were at an anti-gravity mode. We also saw a couple of tour buses moved slowly uphill beside us. It was amazing.

By 7pm, Mr. Yang sent us back to Forest Hostel and we paid him 120000KRW. But we told him that the next day we would like to explore Jeju on our own. One reason being we wanted to experience bus services in Jeju (which was notoriously difficult) but also today was kinda rush. That being said, we wouldn't have managed to visit so many places if Mr. Yang hadn't rush us. He tried to convince us to engage him again the next day but we already made up our mind.

That night, we had dinner at a famous BBQ restaurant near Forest Hostel. It was delicious and the restaurant owner, an aunty even taught us the method to eat Korean BBQ. It was the second of our three BBQ meals in Korea (one each at Seoul, Jeju and Busan). Then we explored around the town. There were many shops around there but most of them were closed after 9pm unlike Seoul which was still vibrant at night. Shi Keat and Quan Yen wanted to play the Tagada at the fun fair but strangely that night no one was playing. Those who came played the pirate ship and bumper car. We decided to play the next night.

It was a fun and tiring day today. We couldn't believe that we managed to communicate with Mr. Yang with our broken Korean and sign language. We really thank him for being a good day tour guide for us today. It was a wonderful experience. The next day we will be exploring Jeju with a mixture of taxi and bus to save cost. We did some research before dinner and asked the hostel staff. She was really helpful and searched the bus information for us. She even called the tourist information centre to ask for more details. We really met lots of helpful Koreans during the course of our trip. That night, we played Dai Dee in our room while having some Hallabong. Can't wait for the next day to arrive as we will be visiting the two most famous places in Jeju.  

Monday, 30 June 2014

Korea Trip Day 5 (08/06/2014) - Jeju

We left Mely's house at around 8.30am although our flight to Jeju was 11.35am. We took a photo with Mely and her cute daughter Aria and said goodbye. We took Eastarjet to Jeju and our flight departed on time and arrived slightly ahead of schedule. When we touched down at Jeju International Airport, there was no gate, but a couple of buses parked in front of the plane and we got on the bus to be transported to the airport building. The air was even cooler than in Seoul. At the airport terminal, we board on bus 100 to Dongmun Rotary as our hostel, Forest Hostel is located nearby. However, the announcement on the bus was a little weird. We couldn't quite make out the announcement as some of the stops were not announced. So Shi Keat asked the little girl beside him for some assistance. The little girl was cute but couldn't speak much English. But from her expression I think she understood. At the end, we found out that she was getting off at that stop too. With some help from other people on the street we managed to find Forest Hostel. We checked in but it was before check-in hour and the room wasn't ready. There was no one at the counter too. But after we rang the bell, a Korean girl came from the basement (which was their lounge) and help us. We put our luggage in one of the store rooms and decided to have lunch first at the corner Bibimbap restaurant. The girl also recommended us black pork restaurant.

We tried the Bibimbap and it was delicious. Another food crossed off the checklist. We also saw this Korean kid, probably around 3-4 years old. She was a bit noisy, bugging her mother with lots of questions until a point that the mother got so frustrated that she tapped her cheek to ask her keep quiet. Her cheek was so chubby and her reaction after that was so cute. Later we headed back to the hostel to check in. The room had some odour, like a room that has no ventilation. We open the windows and on the aircond for better ventilation. It also had a TV with many Korean channels (without subtitles of course). Our plan today was simple, just to visit Jeju Loveland. We took a taxi there and when we arrived it was already around 4.30pm. Oh ya, when we told the taxi driver "Jeju Loveland", he didn't understand. We tried to speak slowly but to no avail. Then when we showed him the map, he finally understood. "Ah~Jeju Lo-bu-lan-de!"

Jeju Loveland was full of erotic statues. It's quite unbelievable that a conservation country such as Korea has this kind of theme park. There were a couple of girls in their twenties behind us. We can tell that they were pretty excited. There were also many groups of elderly people, uncles and aunties in their 50s and 60s touring around the park. The aunties were so high they kept laughing loudly. We took lots of photos there, some with erotic poses which were not appropriate for public sharing. I guess that's the fun part of Jeju Loveland. If you go there just to take photos of statues, you might as well stay home and browse them through the internet. There was also a bicycle with a unique design. When an aunty rode it, we finally figured out it's function. She was very daring. There was also a sex toy museum in Jeju Loveland. There were male and female sex toys on display, so many varieties. Really made us 大开眼界.

Unique bicycle at Jeju Loveland just for the ladies

After Jeju Loveland we wanted to find the Mysterious Road where cars or water bottle seem to roll uphill. It is located nearby Jeju Loveland but we couldn't find it. In the end we took a cab to have dinner. We showed the taxi driver the note that the Forest Hostel girl gave us, (recommendation of black pork restaurant) and the driver took us there. After we arrived, the driver offered us a day tour on the next day. He showed us the map and also the plan for the day tour. It was quite inviting as some of the places coincided with the places we wanted to visit. On top of that he also suggested a few more attractions along the way with a price of 120000KRW.  Mely told us that day tour with a price of 100000-150000KRW is reasonable. We decided to get his number and call him later if we are interested. The restaurant we tried wasn't that extraordinary. We ordered the wrong dish, a cold pork elbow. It was so difficult to eat and we didn't really enjoy it. After the meal we decided to take the day tour. We called up the driver and the deal was done.

On our way back, we stopped by a Hallabong stall to buy Hallabong. It's like Mandarin Orange with a buldged head. We tried it at night and it tastes really good, very refreshing. When we got back to Forest Hostel, we explored around. We found that there was a fun fair going on near our hostel. And they have Tagada. I saw it in Crayonpop's video during their trip to Wolmido. We decided that we must give it a try. The next day will be exciting as we are taking the day tour. It will be a tour around the western part of Jeju island and there are so many attractions to visit. Plenty to look forward to!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Korea Trip Day 4 (07/06/2014) - Seoul

It's our last day at Seoul. We started off the day by having Kimchi Chigae (Kimchi soup) for breakfast. It was located around the corner of Itaewon street and was recommended by our host Mely. It was the best Kimchi soup I've ever tried! The taste was just amazing. I could've had another bowl if we can spend more time there.

Awesome Kimchi Jjigae

Later we went to Myeongdong. We dropped by at Lotte department store first and at the rooftop there were life sized SNSD and Kim Soo Hyun's cardboard figures. We took many photos there and had a great time with those life sized figures. Then we proceeded to Myeongdong street.

Myeongdong Street - a shopping haven

Kim Soo Hyun Museum!
Meyongdong street..what can I say. It's a shopping haven! So many things to shop along the main street ranging from cosmetics, clothes, bags, food, shoes etc. Not to mention the side alleys. We visited many cosmetic shops. I bought aloe vera cream and a pair of New Balance shoes there. For lunch, we had Ddeokbokki hot soup in one of the restaurants called Red Sun. Inside the hot soup there were rice cakes, ramyeon, vegetables etc. It was so delicious and spicy! After the meal, the owner, an aunty asked us whether we want some fried rice (which was included in the menu). She took the left overs and did some stir frying and after 10 minutes we had our "left over fried rice". It was also really delicious and special since the ingredient used was from the hot soup itself. After that we were given free ice creams! It feels so good to have ice cream after a spicy meal. Later we continued to shop along Myeongdong streets. I guess we need a couple more days to shop here.

Ddeokbokki at Red Sun

Due to time limitation we had to moved on to Namdaemun. We arrived at Namdaemun at around 4.30pm. It was something like our flea market. The things sold there were cheap but not very fashionable. We didn't spend much time there. And at around 5.15pm we were off to Gangnam area, Garuso street or Garusogil. 

Gorusogil is famous for its fashion. And indeed the streets and people here have really good (and daring) fashion sense. We also spotted a couple of girls with heavy plastic surgery. They don't even look like Korean. Gangnam area has many plastic surgery clinics. We passed by a few of them along the street. We went into a couple of clothes stores but the price is really expensive. I found a nice t-shirt which was of reasonable price and bought that for Chong. He loved it. We had dinner in a traditional Korean food restaurant. The side dish and main course are a bit different from usual Korean food. Some of the side dish tastes weird. But the main course (soups) were delicious. After the meal we were off to Banpo bridge.

Banpo bridge is famous for its colourful water fountain sprayed from the bridge into Han River beneath it. It has specific timings for the fountain show but we couldn't find Banpo bridge. We followed the instructions gotten from online sources but I think it led us to the wrong subway station. We also asked directions from a couple of joggers there but they pointed to the wrong direction. So, we missed it. It was a shame and I was a little frustrated. Bad luck. Along our way back to the subway station, we say Caffe Bene, one of the most famous Korea franchise coffee shop. It was recommended by Yunji that we should try Caffe Bene snow corn (or Bingsu). We didn't want to miss this. We ordered Bingsu and it was a huge cup. Three person just enough to finish it. It was really nice to have Bingsu in the summer. It like ice kacang but much more delicious and more variety. I heard Singapore is going to open Caffe Bene franchise soon! After that, we headed back to Itaewon and pack our luggage.

Bingsu at Caffe Bene

So, that marks the end of our stay in Seoul. Our flight to Jeju will be in the morning 11.35am. Although we miss Seoul, there are plenty to look forward to in Jeju! So stay tuned!    

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Korea Trip Day 3 (06/06/2014) - Seoul

Today's plan was to visit one of the most famous theme park in Seoul, Lotte World. Lotte World is an amusement park with a mixture of indoors and outdoors activities. There are 4D theaters, roller coasters, water park rides and so on. We had to cross the Han River in order to reach Lotte World from Itaewon.

On the Subway Crossing Han River to Jamsil
We took a subway to Jamsil station and after exiting the station underground, there were clear sign boards that points us towards Lotte World. It was connected to the subway station via an underground shopping mall. There were regular tickets and one-day-pass tickets sold. The regular one was for entrance only and you cannot take any rides. I think it caters for parents who are accompanying their children there. If you'd like to have fun, you have to purchase the one-day pass. It was quite early so not as crowded. We tried a 4D shooting game. Shi Keat was pretty good at it. After that we went on to take the Sinbad ride. We queued for 45 minutes but the ride was a huge let down. No excitement at all, just riding on the boat into dark passages. It was already lunch time after the ride. We wanted to take the indoor roller coaster but the waiting time was 90 minutes. I entered the queue and at about half an hour the waiting time was increased to 120 minutes. Queuing behind us were two young kids. They seem to be so excited about the ride, showing no fear at all. I wonder where are their parents. After queuing for about an hour and 45 minutes it was finally our turn. The ride was fantastic, with the roller coaster making 360 vertical turns and 540 degrees horizontal revolution at pretty high speed. The ride was only about a minute or so but it left us dizzy and high. After that I had waffle for some light lunch. The wafer girl was really cute.

Lotte World

By then it was already around 3pm and it was getting super crowded. We later found out that that day was a public holiday, an election day. We went outdoors. The sun was scorching and was very crowded. The Hong Kong girls recommended us to try the Atlantis ride. It looked really exciting but the waiting time was 3 hours! In fact most of the outdoors rides had more than 90 minutes waiting time. We decided that we could not afford to queue for so long under the hot sun and headed back indoors. We tried another 4D shooting game and also some arcade games and decided to leave Lotte World. For those who decide to go Lotte World, I strongly recommend to get a "Magic Pass" whereby they fix the ride schedule for you and you don't have to queue (at least the queue for magic pass line is way shorter). I'm not sure whether you need to pay extra but what I heard from others after that day was that there is no extra cost.

After Lotte World we went to Gwangjang Market. It was very crowded. It's something like our pasar malam here, with many stalls selling foods and also groceries. The food stalls have stools around it for people to have meal there. We found that although there were many food stalls, it was mainly comprised of Kkalkoksu (knifed noodle), fried pan cake, seafood and Bibimbap. We sat down at one of the Kkalkoksu stall and ordered. Quan Yen ordered a soy milk noodle. It was a cold noodle immersed with soy milk "soup". He had a hard time finishing it. It was arguably one of the worst food we tasted, besides the prok elbow in Jeju (more on that later). However, the lady sitting beside Quan Yen seemed to be enjoying the soy milk noodle. After that we continued to explore the market and had some pumpkin porridge for dessert.

Gwangjang Market
Kkalkoksu at Gwangjang Market

Next we went to Dongdaemun. It was already 8++pm but the sky was still quite bright. In summer, the day in Seoul starts early and ends late, quite a good way to live actually. Dongdaemun looked a bit like Orchard Road. We were at a cross junction and were surrounded by famous shopping malls such as Doota, Migliore and Max Style.

Doota! At Dongdaemun

We went to Doota first as Shi Keat said it sells more fashionable clothes. And indeed the clothes sold there were top class albeit a bit more expensive, mostly at least 40000 KRW. The design was nice and elegant and there were many local brands too. I bought three shirts there and the good thing was they had tax rebate so all the items there are tax free if we declare it at the customs upon leaving Korea. We Later we headed over to Migliore, just beside Doota which sells cheaper but not so "atas" clothes. After shopping at Doota, Migliore's clothes were a bit ordinary. There was this shop owner who asked us where are we from. We told him and asked about the price. He was not very polite, a bit pushy, and spoke to us in Korean and took out a calculator and asked us to enter the price that we want for that shirt. We were a bit taken aback and decided to leave. We were not really interested in the shirt anyway. Nonetheless, it's another side of Korea that we experienced, the more straightforward facade.

On our way back to Itaewon, we bought Makgeoli and Soju to drink later that night at Mely's. We played Dai Dee and drank soju until around 2am. Holiday was fantastic. The next day would be our last day at Seoul. Time really flies.  

Friday, 27 June 2014

Korea Trip Day 2 (05/06/2014) - Seoul

Day 2 begins with the challenge of having the busiest schedule throughout the trip. Our plan was to visit Gyeongbokgung palace > Bukcheon Hanok Village > Changdeokgung > Insadong > Cheongyecheon Stream. It was a tall order knowing that all these attractions are so worth visiting.

We started off with Gyeongbokgung, the grandest of the five palaces in Seoul. It was built by the first King of the Joseon Dynasty. We witnessed the changing of guards ceremony at Gwanghwamun. We were allowed to take photos with the guards after the ceremony was over. However, some peculiar things happened. When Shi Keat wanted to take a selfie with one of the guards, the guard, with a huge flag on his right hand, moved the flag to cover his face without uttering a word. It was strange and we couldn't figure out why he did that. Then we proceeded to take the Chinese free tour around the palace. The tour guide was very detail in her explanation, although we needed some time to adjust to her accent. Many areas were touched on including the architecture of the palace buildings, superstitions, function of the building, feng shui and so on. I would not elaborate here, those who are interested in Korean culture and history, Gyeongbokgung is a "must go" and be sure to take the free tour as it is very informative. We also learned that the current Gyeongbokgung is not the original one but one which has been redeveloped. This was because of several reasons including the Japanese invasion and fire. The current Gyeongbokgung which was rebuilt is only approximately 30% of the original palace.

One of the Main Gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace 

One of the palace buildings in Gyeongbokgung where festivals were held

Next we went to Bukcheon Hanok village. It is a traditional residential village with some guest houses and tea houses. The architecture of the houses were unique.

Bukcheon Hanok Village
we spent about 30 minutes walking about and decided to go to our next destination, Changdeokgung. It was recommended to purchase the entrance ticket plus another ticket to the Secret Garden. And fortunately we bought both tickets as the Secret Garden was beautiful. This time we took the English tour as it suit our timing. Changdeokgung is very much smaller than Gyeongbokgung. But the attraction was the Secret Garden, which took about 1.5 hours to walk about. You need to join a tour in order to enter the Secret Garden though. It was really beautiful with lots of trees and slopes. The pond could have been better maintained but nevertheless, the view was still breathtaking. After Changdeokgung, it was already about 5.30pm.

The Secret Garden at the Rear of Changdeokgung

We proceeded to Insadong, streets full of food, handicraft, clothes etc. It was crowded with so many things to look at. We arrived at one of Insadong's famous shopping centres, Ssamziegil. It has no stairs and the walkway are sloped at mild angles. So basically you will walk up the slope around the mall and after you have completed one round, you will be at the next level of the shopping centre. It also has a rooftop garden, a nice place to chill. There was also an alley on the rooftop garden full with little "lovey dovey" messages chained onto each other. I hope one day I can bring my love ones to leave our mark there =)

The unique Ssamziegil
After Ssamziegil we went to a traditional tea house in one of the back alley in Insadong, called Shin Old Tea House. I found about Shin Old Tea House from a blog and the blogger highly recommended this tea house. But we needed some assistance from the tourist information guide to find the tea house. As it was a bit secluded, there were no one besides us in the tea house. It was dim but relaxing. I ordered papaya tea and boy it was the best tea I have ever tried! The taste was amazing and it refreshed your mind. I will definitely try it again next time.

Shin Old Tea House at Insadong
After having tea it was already quite late, approaching 9pm. We wanted to go to the trick eye museum in Insadong. Along the way, there were many street performers showcasing their talents at the streets of Insadong. There was this guitar solo guy whom we passed by. At the back of my ear I heard a familiar opening of the song. It can't be true?! And when he sang the first line I immediately ran back to him to watch his performance. He was singing the late Kim Kwang Seok's "잊어야 한다는 마음으로 (With a Heart to Forget You)". It was my favourite Korean song. Everytime I listen to it it never fails to touch me. Such a coincidence. I donated 3000 won for his performance and then we proceeded to the trick eye museum. We knew exactly where it was on the map but just could find it. In the end we asked help from a couple of Korean girls. They were really helpful and searched the building for us. When we arrived it was already 9.15pm and the museum will be closing in 45 minutes. We quickly bought the tickets and explored the museum. Still we managed to take many funny photos and enjoyed ourselves. But we couldn't finish it. However, the owner was kind enough to extend their opening hours to 10.30pm just for us! (Yup there were only three of us in the museum LOL). We managed to finish the whole museum with the extra 30 minutes. 

Our final destination of the day, Cheongyecheon Stream. It was a natural stream at first but redeveloped into a highway later on in the early 1900s I think. Then recently it was converted back into a stream again which runs East to West below Insadong. The stream was famous for its beautiful landscape and is a hot spot for couples. Indeed there were many couples there. It was a romantic site, with cool air breezing past you. The stream is located below the highway level so from the top is a busy highway and when you take the stairs down you will see the stream laying in front of you. It was beautiful. We just sat there and chill and without us realizing it was already past mid night. The subway has closed and there were no more buses. Our only resort was to take a taxi back. However, past midnight, the taxis were super expensive as they didn't charge on meter. Some taxis even refused to send us to Itaewon. We were a bit worried and thought that maybe we should flag a taxi near the main road. On our way there we decided to ask a Korean couple (well they said they are friends) about taking taxi back to Itaewon during this hour. The guy said it is quite difficult. He then asked us to follow him. And at the traffic light, he spotted an empty taxi and went up to talk to the driver. I think he was negotiating with him and telling him that we are his friend and asked him for a favour. After about 30 seconds, the taxi driver agreed to give us a lift. It was on meter and the fare was cheap when we reached Itaewon. We were really thankful to the guy who helped us, not only to get a taxi but one with reasonable price. At the end of the day, we had good impression about Koreans =)

It was a tiring yet fulfilling day. We managed to achieve our targets in visiting all the destinations and we met some really wonderful locals. We slept quite late but was looking forward to day 3 in Seoul!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Korea Trip Day 1 (04/06/2014) - Seoul

I've been wanting to visit Korea for quite some time and finally my dreams have come true. On 4th June 2014, I realized my dream to visit Korea with two great buddies Quan Yen and Shi Keat. We departed from KLIA2 because the Air Asia flight from KL is much cheaper. I arrived at Tunes Hotel one day earlier and stayed overnight as our flight was an early morning flight. KLIA2 is really huge for a low cost terminal and the interior design is world class.

After checking in our baggage, it's time to fly. There are a couple of Korean air stewardess on board and they are so gorgeous! Anyway, we arrived at Incheon International Airport after 6 hours of flight. After alighting, we took a direct subway train to the arrival hall to clear immigration. They actually have a camera to take a head-sized photo of you at the immigration. I mistakenly thought that it was for some sort of eye scanning verification. If there is an excuse, it would be my inexperience in flying. It is my first time flying to another country besides Singapore. Ok, it was a lame excuse. I was stupid LOL.

Our guesthouse was at Itaewon, known as the foreigner's hub. It is located at the centre of Seoul, just about Han River. We took the Airport Railroad Express Train (AREX) from Incheon and transferred to Line 6 to get to Itaewon. The subway was similar to Singapore's MRT so it wasn't a big problem for us especially with the help of Jihachul App. We commuted using T-money, an all-in card similar to Ezlink. One thing we noticed was that on the subway there are so many gorgeous Korean girls. All well dressed and had decent make-up. We literally had our eyes open (大开眼界). Up until the point that we alight at Itaewon station, we were all the while indoors. It was when we took the stairs out of Itaewon station that we finally had a feel of Korea air. It was so chilly. So different from Singapore/Malaysia. The feeling of cool air caressing your face is fantastic, even cooler than indoors air-cond!

We then proceeded to Hamilton Hotel to meet our host, Mely and her husband Keegan. We will be staying over at their house for 4 nights in Seoul before moving to Jeju and Busan. We managed to recognize each other at the hotel and they greeted us very well. They also had a 10-month new born baby girl. She was so so cute with big sparkling eyes! Their house is located at the top of the hill, very steep. The landscape was unique and the air is even cooler up there. Mely showed us the way to get around their house including the password to unlock the gate and door. It was something new to us as we don't lock our doors using password. The room was cozy and clean with three beds. We were surprised that there was no air condition or even fan in the room. But later that night we found out the reason. It was so cool that a fan was not required. The whole room feel like air-conditioned, so comfortable to sleep in. After unloading our luggage, we set off for our first destination - dinner at Haha's BBQ Restaurant.

It is located at one of the corners of Hongdae area. Took us quite a while to find it, with Keegan lending a hand using google map before we set off. The waiter greeted us in Korean and speak more Korean to us. We've expected this sort of language barrier so we were cool. Fortunately, the other staffs can understand and speak some basic English. We ordered two meat and a soup. As for drinks, we order Makgeolli and Soju. We didn't expected the Makgeolli to come in a huge bottle, probably around 700ml. And then the soju. We then decided that we will just have the makgeolli and returned the soju. It was a little embarrassing. Makgeolli is Korean rice wine, milky. For me, it doesn't taste as good but Quan Yen loved it. The BBQ and soup were awesome. After the meal, we stroll around the streets of Hongdae. The variety was great - street foods, clothings, bags etc. and people roaming around. I like the street culture here. It has 人情味, and it's clean. We also spotted a transparent Noraebang (Karaoke) where you can see people singing their hearts out from the outside.

Transparent Noraebang

We continued our exploration arond Hongdae until 10+ at night before heading back to Itaewon. Itaewon is relatively quiet at night. But they have quite a number of bars at the back alley. We can see people including many angmohs going to and coming out from that alley. The shops were all closed and you can easily spot many graffiti on the shop doors.

Grafiti on shop houses at Itaewon
 It felt so free here compared to Singapore's rather strict culture. We didn't go to the bars but headed back to our guesthouse instead. We also got to know a couple of Hong Kong girls who stayed in the other room of Mely's. They were Cadens and Irisa. We spoke a mixture of Cantonese and English with them. They have been in Seoul for quite some time already and it was their 4th day at Mely's. Their trip was much more relaxed than us as they have much more time so they were kinda chill. They have visited both Everland and Lotte World and we asked their opinion on the theme park. They recommended Lotte World and so we took their advice and changed our itinerary from Everland to Lotte World. We will have our busiest schedule on day 2, exploring palaces and Insadong. Stay tuned! 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Final Sem Results Out

My final sem results are out this morning. Yes it's my FINAL sem. No more exams. No more assignments. No more studying for the sake of exams after 18 years!!!

My last sem brought me my best result in my whole uni life. Got a B+ and 3 A- including FYP. I'm really grateful for so many people who had been there for me during these four years. They say NUS is a tough place to study. I certainly found it to be less tough and less stressful than I thought because of all these people.

I'm not one who loves to study for exams. And I'm not obsessed with exam results. To me, the learning process is more important. In my first year, I didn't do well and my CAP was like 3.55 out of a maximum of 5.0. My scholarship was under threat and I knew I had to do something to improve. So I got out of hall, readjusted my study habits like sitting in front in LT, find friends to discuss assignments, improved on my study discipline and so on. Although I worked harder, I didn't want to sacrifice time for friends, family and myself even if it's during exam period. I don't like to just focus on exams and exams only. I could have spend more time in studying but that would mean that I would sacrifice time for other precious things in life. I'm also not good at studying for long hours as my attention span will not last and productivity will just go down. So by making the necessary adjustments every sem, I managed to get back on track, improving my results bit by bit for the next 6 sems. Finally, I'm proud to graduate with a second class upper. It's not so much of the class which matters, but rather a self achievement and satisfaction having made the adjustments and see the improvement. Although I'd like to have attained CAP 5 and make big leaps on my CAP but it is important to recognize that there are others out there who are working very hard too and they also deserve credit to do well. So, I'm just pleased with the work that I've done and also thankful to the people around me.

There are a few important lessons that I've learned throughout my uni years and I'd like to share some with readers of this blog:

1. Be thankful to those who show love to you, your family, your friends, the cleaning aunty who talks to you etc. People who love you are the ones who care for you and appreciate you for who you are and you should spend more time with them. They are the ones who gives you energy to go on.

2. Assess your life from time to time. There is no use in setting a ambitious long term goal because life changes, our priority changes, the people who revolve around us changes. So give yourself some time to reflect on your situation from time to time and make sure that you are not sucked into a "system" that makes your life a routine.

3. Be honest with yourself. Honesty is important not only towards others but more importantly towards yourself. Do your work honestly. Assess yourself honestly. Ask yourself questions and answer them honestly. If it's bad, it's bad. If you don't like what's happening, then don't like it. There's no need to force yourself into some so called "positive thinking" mindset and psych yourself up that everything is going fine or you are blessed and so on. Just be honest to yourself. Not to say that positive thinking is not important but one has to draw the line on when is the right time to be positive so that we don't end up in self delusion. I will write a post about my take on positive thinking in the future.

4. Learn from mistakes and walk the talk. Assess yourself honestly and ask yourself what did you do wrong and what could you do to improve. Make slight adjustments according to your priorities and methods. Know your strengths and weaknesses and make the adjustments according to your capabilities. Everyone has their own way to get things done and there is no perfect way because everyone is different. Most importantly, execute your plans to improve yourself. You might not succeed immediately but if you continue in making small adjustments and execute them, you will see the results.

5. Write down the events and happenings during your uni life (and perhaps in your life). A blog, or a simple diary will do. We are so busy these days that every thing happens in a flash and if you would probably struggle to recall what happened last year. I think it is worth to keep track of the things that happened in our life and look back once in awhile. You will be more appreciative and learn more life lessons by being aware of the things that happen in your life.

Alright. So that wraps up my study life. Time to embrace for working life ahead. But first, GRAD TRIP!!!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Yoogane Korean Restaurant

Finally had a chance to visit Yoogane, one of the most famous Korean franchise restaurant. Yoogane Singapore opened in May 2014 at Bugis Junction second floor near Seoul Garden and Sakae Sushi. Long queue is expected even on weekdays. We reached there at around 6.45pm and had to queue for about 20-30 minutes.

The menu looks extremely delicious. Basically there are two sections: main course and side dish. The main courses are like marinated bulgogi chicken, seafood (which comes with some veg) and they are cooked on the spot. The staff will assist you with the cooking. You can add on rice or noodles to the main course too!
We ordered marinated chicken and added on Ramyeon. The Ramyeon is spicy. And also there is unlimited Kimchi and salad supply. You can take as much as you want from the Kimchi and salad counter.

Marinated Bulgogi Chicken cooked on the spot
Ramyeon add ons

We also ordered a side dish called Royal Ddeokbokki. It's different from the usual ddeokbokki that we had before. It has garlic and some marinated chicken cooked with the rice cake. Really worth a try!

Another highly recommended dish is the cheese fried rice. It is also a side dish that has to be ordered separately. What I did was I got a scoop of cheese fried rice, some Kimchi and spicy Ramyeon and gobbled them up at one go. Fantastic! Take a look at the cheese fried rice below!

Cheese Fried Rice
It's definitely one of the best Korean restaurant in Singapore. Slightly expensive but definitely worth a try! The Seafood main course looks good too and hopefully I'll be back soon to try it out!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Thomas Cup Final 2014

Date: 25 May 2014
Venue: Siri Fort Complex, New Delhi
Event: Thomas Cup Final

It was a tie which no one had expected - Malaysia going up against Japan in the 2014 Thomas Cup final. Both teams were riding on morale boosting victories over the two most successful teams in Thomas Cup history. Japan upset tournament favourites China while Malaysia demolished Indonesia both in convincing 3-0 scorelines. Being a Malaysian, without a shadow of a doubt that I was rooting for Malaysia to beat the Japanese especially after witnessing our spirited performance against old arch rivals Indonesia in the semis.

Concurring with most experts' predictions, I thought that the key was the first doubles. It will be neck and neck. Looking at the strength of squads of both teams, whoever wins the first doubles would have a really good chance to bring home the trophy. It was the first time for Japan to play in the final whereas Malaysia, with a much decorated record had to go back to 2002 when we last challenged for the title.

The match got underway with world number one Lee Chong Wei taking on Kenichi Tago. Tago surprised everyone when he dispatched Chen Long with much ease in the semis. With that in mind, Chong Wei did not take any chances and raced into a healthy lead in the first game. Tago looked out of sorts, and hesitant in his movements. Without letting tago into the game, Chong Wei took the first game comfortably at 21-12. In the second game, Tago began to find his grooves. By cutting down mistakes and playing more freely, Tago managed to pull away at 15-10. However, the much experienced Chong Wei steadied the ship and strung a series of points without reply and edging to a two point lead at 18-16. Drawing on his previous wins over Tago, Chong Wei  went on to clinch victory at 21-16 and brought the first point of the tie to Malaysia. At the end of the match, both players embraced each other by swapping shirts which shows great sportsmanship.

In the crucial first doubles, Malaysia's Hoon/Tan were up against Japan's Hayakawa/Endo. Hoon/Tan showed their capabilities after dismissing Indonesia's world number one Ahsan/Setiawan albeit in nail biting fashion. And without breaking sweat Hoon/Tan dismissed the Japanese pair 21-12 in the first set. The Malaysia camp was fired up as Hoon/Tan were on course to a crucial victory especially the manner in which they dominated the Hayakawa/Endo. The Japanese never looked like they were in the game until midway through the second set. Hayakawa stepped up his game and playing fast and furious attacking shots from the net. The Malaysians were not able to keep up the pace which led to the Japanese leveling the match at 1-1 with a 21-17 scoreline in the second. The third set was neck and neck with the Malaysians playing catch up. There were moments when it seemed like the Japanese might steam away but were held back by the determined Hoon/Tan. In the end, the Japanese managed to secure the rubber game at 21-19, with Hayakawa finishing at the net.

After a little more than 2 hours into the tie, it was all square at 1-1 but more importantly, Japan had won the crucial first doubles. Now the momentum was back on the Japanese side. Next up was the second singles, with Malaysia's Chong Wei Feng facing Japan's Kento Momota. Both were left handers. Wei Feng had to fought through his previous matches in rubber games whereas Momota shooked the badminton world the 19-year-old gave Japan their third point after dismissing world number six Du Pengyu of China. Momota continued his aggressive style against Wei Feng and never looked troubled throughout the match. Although with a much matured game and improved defense, Wei Feng could not find the answers to Momota's game, coming short at almost every department of the game. Eventually, he had to succumb to a 15-21, 17-21 defeat to the young Japanese, who was tipped to be a rising star in the future.

Victory was definitely within sight now for Japan coming into the second doubles. Another scratch pair from Malaysia, Tan/Goh going up against Sonoda/Kamura. The second doubles were played with a slightly higher tempo than the first, with the Malaysians dictating the pace of the rallies. The Japanese could not break down the defense of the Malaysians and often found themselves in no man's land when Malaysia counter attacked. At 18-14, Tan/Goh looked on course to take the first game. However, the never say die attitude of the Japanese kicked in and after a few mistakes from the Malaysians it was match point to Japan which they took it to win 21-19 in the first game. No one had seen that coming especially how dominant Tan/Goh were for almost 80% of the first set only to collapse while trying to close out the match. Cheers in the Japanese camp were deafening, knowing that they were only one set away from lifting the Thomas Cup. Nevertheless, Tan/Goh picked themselves up and continued to press the Japanese who seemed to have faded slightly in the second game. In fact, the Malaysians were clearly the better pair and this time around they did not falter while leading 18-14 in the second game. By playing fast paced badminton throughout, Tan/Goh, under immense pressure eventually defeated the Japanese 21-17, 21-12 and took the tie into the deciding third singles.

The third singles was played between captain Darren Liew and Takuma Ueda. Darren Liew did not have the best matches, losing two of his previous rounds against lesser opponents. He was dropped in the tie against Denmark, replaced by rookie Goh Soon Huat. However, with Goh unable to impressed, the coaches were banking on the experience and nerves of Darren to bring home the Thomas Cup after a 22-year wait. Ueda did not feature in many matches and both players only played each other once, with Darren winning their sole encounter in the 2013 China Open in three games (14-21, 21-17, 24-22). In was staged to be a nail biting finale as both players walked nervously on court. After exchanging passages of play, it was Ueda who came up on top, owing to unforced errors from Darren. Without much of a challenge, Ueda took the first game 21-12 to bring Japan once again a set away from lifting the Thomas Cup. The Malaysian camp was silenced, as if knowing that their chances of winning was slipping away after witnessing the errors creeping into Darren's game. And indeed their dismay was compounded when Darren did not seem to recover, handing Ueda a healthy 15-9 lead. However, this time it was Ueda under tremendous pressure and mistakes started to creep into the Japanese's game. A spirited Darren saw the opportunity and strung a run of points to close in on 15-16. Now the Malaysians were on their feet whereas the Japanese looked extremely nervous. Darren pounced on the net and gambled a few shots which paid off to take the match into a decider. No one could have scripted a final would be decided on the final set of the third singles. Both players were under tremendous pressure as errors flowing from both sides of the court. It was not so much of who had the better skills but who had the nerves to pull it through. Eventually, after a thrilling match, Ueda emerged victorious after a cross court smash from Darren went wide. The elated Japanese camp stormed onto the court. On the other side of the court, a devastated Darren could only watch the celebrations, with his racquet on the floor and head down. Soon he was consoled by his team mates as well as Youth Minister Khairy Jamaluddin who flew in to New Delhi to support our team.

It was a thrilling encounter in a nerve-wrecking Thomas Cup Final. This was arguably one of the most exciting final in Thomas Cup history with both nations hungry for success and going for the win. The momentum swung from one end to the other in a roller coaster ride of emotions. Congratulations to Japan for winning their maiden Thomas Cup. Surely they have proven to the world that they are an emerging force in badminton, especially with a squad of players under 30 years of age. Although we have lost, the fighting spirit of the players on court were well applauded. In sports there are bound to be winners and losers. This time, we put up a great fight and the better team won. We have surpassed our target to reach the semis and only came up agonizingly short in the final. There were a couple of positive sparks within the team and hopefully in two years time, we could ignite these sparks and make them glow in Thomas Cup 2016.