Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Scents of Seoul

Spring just transforms the city and people alike.With the heavy coats off, the sun beginning to caress the skin with warmth, and the stark, bare trees beginning to sprout their little green shoots again, there is then the fragrance of enthusiasm and vigor in the city. Cherry blossoms, azaleas and forsythias emanate sweetness in scents and people come from far and near to rejoice in the longer, warmer days.

Cheery cherry blossoms
Cheery cherry blossoms bloom only for a week in spring

cactus budding
cactus budding

pink buds
Summertime, though, is scorching hot and humid, interlaced with thunderstorms which do not bring any respite from the hot temperatures. But the people are so cool about it and beat the heat at public parks along the Han river, sniffing the scent of rain soaked grass, ordering anything from chicken to pizza which is handed to them within the next 20 minutes! The place just revels in laziness along with the whiff of smoke from the diligent delivery guys, the energy of the people coaxing you to try their secret recipe chicken, and sweaty kids frolicking around along with the deep sense of serenity. 

ice cream in korea- big on binggsu
Binggsu- Beans on shaved ice with marshmallows and fruits. Unique combination to cool it off in Korea.
summer fun at Banpo
Summer time fun at Banpo park
Evening at Banpo
Long summer evenings

Fall, in all its color and splendor along with Chuseok~ the most important festival of honoring the ancestors in Korea~ adds in the aroma of family, friendship and camaraderie. This is also when people travel in droves through the length and breadth of the country and savor a totally different essence of the very same places, incensed with the smell of the sweet persimmon fruit.

Fall colors

fall colors in Seoul.

Sweet persimmons
Sweet Persimmons

Cold, dull winter adds yet another dimension to Seoul, transforming it into a white, icy wonderland. It is easy during this time to succumb into the toasty smell of chestnuts baked on beds of coal or the roasted sweet potato in makeshift stalls that seem to appear in every street corner. But the most satisfying smell comes from ice fishing in Seoul and immediately getting your catch on your plate, roasted, grilled or baked in spices in any of the restaurants nearby.

Early winter

Bare trees in winter

And then, there are some smell that just leaves one shell shocked. 

Fermenting soybean in huge pots
Doenjang is made from fermenting soy bean in huge pots and has a bad smell

The Doenjang (된장) or the fermented soya bean paste might have all the anti-carcinogenic properties, flavinoids, vitamins and minerals but it still smells disgusting. 

Drying fish
Drying fish

Dried Fish: Fish smell funny cooked or uncooked. But dried fish which is used as both toppings and side dish and of course, as the main course of a meal, smells really bad.

Kimbap preparation
Kim is the green, papery seaweed, used here for making kimbap. 

The See Weeds: Laver and Kim (김.) The green wonders, packed with nutrition and properties to get rid of cholesterol still smells really peculiar and the taste for it has to be cultivated ...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Smartphone accessories~ latest from Seoul

Anyone could go to COEX mall, the largest underground shopping mall in Asia, at anytime and still end up doing something fun! Visitors get to shop around in the mall, see the famous Kimchi museum, check out the huge aquarium; whereas Seoulites tend to hang around in the game area where the computer game tournaments are held or go to the movies, take a look at the latest trends in exhibition halls. People might get a bit confused as to what to eat or drink as there are so many variety of cuisines in every price range to cater to the cravings.

Last week, anyway, being gadget geeks, we naturally wanted to check out the Smart gadgets and accessories exhibition at the COEX mall.

Smart gadgets exhibition
Image from

To bypass the long lines and evade the entrance fee, it is essential to pre-register for these shows by checking out the webpages and filling out the form. Thereby, we were able to get the badges by just telling (read spelling and later writing :) our registered name. I would take a screenshot of the pre-registration form on my cellphone the next time though, to avoid spelling my name and confusion with the email addresses!

The exhibition did not have anything state of the art, but it was a good place to check out the upcoming product ideas and really cute gadgets. There were some pretty weird stuff along with some quirky ones too.

Cute thing to stuff into the ear
We started off at the ear phones booth. Cute little things to stuff into the ear!
Things that  you stuff into your ear!
Yeah, i would probably feel more comfortable knowing what i am stuffing into my ear!
shoe colored earphones
Do you match your earphones with your shoe?
Earphones at exhibition
Earphones~ To match your personality and profession.
Alien ear phones
How about the UFO flavored earphones? It is all in the box!
curvy caterpillar headphones
With earphones done, curvy caterpillar headphones can't be far behind!
Cute emoting characters on the headphone jack
Don't forget to flaunt down to your head phone jack. Cute characters that emote according to your moods
 (when you tap on the emoticon app)
Any way you want cell phone covers
Dream it? you can have it~ cellphone covers!

Lego cellphone covers
Build your own cellphone covers

Cellphone covers were jazzy but I like the variety and designs at Express bus terminal or Gmarket.
cellphone covers with a stand
Cellphone covers that make a stand!
On-the-go cellphone holders
Cellphone holders~ Recording on the go!
cellphone covers for the athlete
Cellphone holders for the athlete. Notice the cover for a sweat free usage and lights that shimmer according to the music!
Underwater cellphone covers
Just in case you want to take the call under water or browse while taking a swim, look no further...

Butterfingers cellphone holder
Holders for the butterfingers
Extra lens for the cellphone
Extra lens for the cellphone. Wide angle, macro etc
self balancing two wheel electric scooter
One thing that i would have loved to take home from the exhibition
two wheeled scooter
Self balancing two wheeled scooter
Charge transferrer
The only thing i got to buy was this cable. It transfers the charge from one cellphone to another...

Textured printer
This printer was able to print pictures with some texture.

black and white laser printer
This laser printer was able to print black and white pictures at extremely high resolution

Fit Bit-like watches that constantly track your health.

blue tooth connected weighing machines
Bluetooth connected weighing machine, as useful  add on to the health monitoring 

More cool stuff...
More cute stuff.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sealed in Seoul!

Yet another reason to be a foreigner in Korea:

You get to do some really cool things for free! You just need to know where to look, register with all the details and show up on time.It really is that simple! Global centers in Seoul really take the cake in providing some awesome activities. I had signed up for the Seal Making activity held by the Seoul Global Culture and Tourism center along with my sons aged 16 and 10 as they are in vacation right now. It was a morning I would never forget. Nor would my sons!

Seal making with the good people from Seoul global center
The art of Seal making
Perfectly timed with the return of the Royal Seals of Korea by President Obama, the activity was conducted at the National Museum of Korea, which made the setting so perfect to dive into the realms of the art of engraving Seals. (한국을 새기다) The activity was conducted by a well renowned professor who went on to give us an introduction about the history of seals in Korea and around the world.
It was quite interesting to know that the seals and amulets in ancient Korea was made from the wood of the Jujube tree which was struck by lightening in the olden days. It was believed to provide protection for the holder. And the seals later on were made by different materials, with exquisite and sophisticated designs depending on the social class of the person making it so that it couldn't be imitated.
The royal seals
The top part of the Royal seals

The top part of the seal, called the Nyu (뉴) was decorated with elaborate designs for the royalty like the dragon (to denote the seal of the emperor), the tiger, turtle. The body or the Insin (인신) of the seal is the part which is used to hold the seal. To expel the possibility of an upside down impression, the date when the seal is made is engraved on the place where the thumb is held (Whew! that is a handy trick :)

Harry Potter's Seal, maybe?
D's Insi(g)n  

 The face of the seal or the InMyeon (인면) is where the name engraving is done. The Inmun (이문) is the letters or the patterns or design that is used to represent the person for whom the seal is being made. Apparently seals were made carrying the name of the person or a favorite phrase or a cherished design or even the zodiac symbol.

All professionally set for the engraving! 
Choosing what goes on the seal :)
My name in Korean, which i wanted to engrave. But later decided to add in a flower
Getting the design on the seal
Getting the design on to the seal ~ The easy part
Engraving the design on to the stone
Engraving the design on to the stone ~ The fun part
Carving more personality!
Adding more personality to the seal! ~ Dh style
The Seal tried and tested
Dh's seal all done and tested.
D was brave enough to try both the back ground carving and letter carving techniques!
Finishing touches by the Professor
Dh was all enthusiasm :)

Sealed on the Board of Fame!

lilies and lotuses at the museum
The huge pond in the museum was sporting lilles and lotuses

Lotuses at the museum
I could sit here all day, looking at the lotuses
lotus bud at museum

Koi pond

A serene spot in the heart of bustling Seoul
A serene spot in the heart of bustling Seoul

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