Thursday, December 6, 2012

Seoul Seasons

Korea has four distinct seasons. Cherry Blossoms in Spring, Sweltering Summer, Fall colors of the leaves in Autumn and Skiing and snowboarding in Winter. These are the shots of the season, conveniently taken from my window :)

Spring in Seoul
Spring from my balcony

Summer showers from my balcony in Seoul
Summer showers in Seoul
Fall colors in Seoul
My window to the Fall colors
Snow fall in winter in Seoul
Snow show during Winter
First snowfall in the night
Snowfall at night

Beautiful snow in Seoul
Snow fall on the pines!

Snowed cars in Seoul
Snowed cars

Heavy snowfall in Seoul
Just started to snow :)
Skywatch Friday

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jihachul- The Korean Subway system

Seoul Subway - Jihachul
Jihachul of Seoul

Jihachul is the Korean subway system whose arms reach each and every corner of Seoul. There are 9 subway lines and also an airport railroad which conveniently runs to the Incheon from Seoul station in 45 mins flat. Each line is color coded, each station numbered, transfer stations clearly marked with directions (both in English and Korean) so that it is very easy to figure out how to get from one part of the city to the other.
The brown line on the Seoul subway
Stations in the brown line in Seoul
Subways are the fastest way to reach a place in Seoul, especially during the peak hours. It not only cheap (1,050 won per trip including the transfers and is just 450 won for kids and 900 won for teenagers), but always runs on time, is frequent and the lines reach almost every nook and corner of Seoul. People who live in Korea use the T money card which is almost a debit card used to swipe our way through the subway and also for travelling in buses, taxis. T money cards are even used in buying things in some convenience stores. There are special cards that can be bought in the subway station for one time use by people who visit the city. There are even refund machines in every station to get deposit the card and get the money back.
Ticketing machine to load money on the T money card - Seoul Subway
Ticketing machine to load money on the T money card.
Swipe the card to enter the tracks -Seoul Subway
Swipe the card to enter the tracks

There is an information booth for all problems and assistance - Seoul  subway
There is an information booth close by for assistance.

Travelling by the subway has never been easier except for the fact that:

Seoul subway system runs atleast 6 storeys beneath the ground level. Which means that you have to get down 6 storeys to reach the track and climb up 6 storeys to reach the city :( Well, thats why, i figured, Koreans are healthy and they have lovely legs and almost no thighs :) There are ofcourse elevators, escalators, moving walk ways to help out, but still, there are stations with a lot of steps!

Jihachul has a lot of stairs and escalators
Escalators to the tracks

Stairs on the Seoul Subway
Light at the end of the stairs!
More info on the station- Jihachul
More info about the station and the exits

Another interesting fact about the subway system in Seoul are the exits. There are so many exits from one station that you can almost reach the doorstep of the destination just by knowing the right exit of the station. Dongmyo station on line 6 has about 12 exits and exit 6 will directly take you to the stationery market of Dongdaemun while exit 3 will take you to the clothes market of Dongdaemun. The exits are marked very clearly both in English and Korean that it is hard to miss. There is also a "neighborhood map" in each and every station that shows a physical map of the area, showing the position of the exits.
Way to the exits- Jihachul
Subway stations are always crowded. But this is a rare shot.
The neigbour hood map- Seoul subway system
Planning where you are and where you need to go.

The subway stations are also shopping paradises where everything, right from the grocery to expensive cosmetics can be found. These shops are very convenient to pick some hot food after a long day and also keeps you from encountering the inclement weather of Seoul. Many apartments and departmental store have doors right from the subway station. Very convenient!

The Jihachul app is perfect and so easy to use. Just click on the destination station and the start station, the app shows you how many minutes it will take to reach it, where to transfer and even the optimal car to hop in so that you can walk less! I use the first and the second subway maps and they are so flawless and in English. These apps are available for iphones too, ofcourse!

Seoul Subway apps

ABC Wednesday -U for Underground Subway System
Thursday Challenge- Signs

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sanchon Restaurant - Temple Food

Sanchon is a quaint, very-hard-to-find Temple food restaurant in Insadong, Seoul. Brain-child of Kim Yon Shik, who learned the art of creating Temple Food when he was a Buddhist monk for 18 years.
Temple food in Korea, Sanchon Restaurant
The myriad tasty and healthy veggie accompaniments to the rice

Temple Food is primarily the cuisine of the Buddhist monks Korea. Since they only prepare food with fresh, healthy vegetables without the stimulants- onions, green onions, garlic, green chilli- Temple Food has become very popular in Korea due to their unique taste and a refuge for vegetarians. Interestingly, the royalty in Korea were also primarily vegetarian and the royal court cuisine also has a lot of influence in the Temple cuisine. Maybe thats why Temple food is so expensive! 

Directions to Sanchon
You miss this sign to the Sanchon restaurant, no way you are going to find that place!
Sanchon is located in a tiny alley from the Insadong main road. The restaurant itself is an ambience to enjoy and immerse in.
Sanchon- Sitting on the floor  and eating
Its all about Ambience- Eating sitting down on the floor was also a nice experience. The place is lit by lotus lanterns and decorated with antiques. Carved chests, painted shelves, huge bronze bells. I was transported to a different century!
Sanchon Restaurant tables in Seoul- Temple food
You could choose to sit on chairs too!

The lunch is a 20-dish experience starting with a soup and watery kimchi to fried kelp, seasoned wild roots. There was also pajeon and other kinds of seasonal vegetable pancakes. The rice and the accompanying veggies stole the show with the different tastes and presentation.

glass noodles and veggies at Sanchon
Glass noodles with jelly and veggies- looks awesome, tastes even more!

Dishes at sanchon
Watery Kimchi

different kinds of veggie pancakes in Sanchon
Veggie pancakes with seasoned salad
The first course- soup and starters at Sanchon
The first course- soup and starters at Sanchon
Mushroom and tofu stew to be eated with rice
The hot tofu-mushroom with soy bean paste stew to be eaten with rice
Veggies to top the rice at Sanchon temple food
Veggies to top the rice
Veggie fritters- Temple food
With veggie fritters to crunch on the side!
dessert, with syrup
Sticky rice pastry was a yummy dessert with the not-so-sweet syrup

 With tea and a sweet drink to keep us company, the 33,000 won lunch was a filling affair. The dinner is more expensive has a longer course with more seasonal veggies and also includes a Korean dance show. The menu varies depending on the seasons. Reservations are recommended especially on weekends.
lotus lantern
I never get tired of these lotus lanterns!

Entrance and the shoe boxes to store the shoes

Entrance of Sanchon
Dead end alley where the restaurant is located.

About sanchon

ABC Wednesday- T for Temple Food
Thursday Challenge- Containers, bottles

Thursday, November 22, 2012

2 Very Addicting cellphone games

If Evolution is believed to be, "the gradual process in which something changes to different and usually more complex or better form", our fingers will probably be the first ones to change. They'd probably evolve into more independent, snake-like entities each acquiring the ability to be able extend and reach out more with minimum movement from the arms while having more nerve-endings for sensitivity. All because of their boundless usage on the touch screen of the cellphone.

The touch screens have made our lives so much easier. Just touching, dragging and swiping the fingers and voila! the call is made! Game is won! Minimum movement of the arms and the ball and socket joint. But i have to concede that the games have never been more interesting or addictive. These are the few games that i see people play in the subway, while standing on the bus, waiting in line, waiting for lunch! If you have not played them, download them now.

The games are on the Kakao portal which is very famous here in Korea as it offers free calls and free messages, free games and chat rooms. aka. if you have a phone number, you can make calls and sms for free! The moment you download Kakao on a phone (on apple or android) and authenticate, Kakao happily connects you with all the people on your address book. They might be your best friend. But they are your competitor now.

Anipang was the hot free game which was played by almost everybody- both young and old. It is just another Bejeweled game with a animals replacing the jewels. Get three or more of the same characters in a row/column and you score. More faster the match, more bonus received. It is very common to have the person next to you on the subway or on the bus, here in Seoul to swipe a few critters to give your score a push up! The catch is that the game ends in a minute and all your friends will be able to see your score! The 1-minute deadline is very convenient (one more stop to the destination? Two more games of Anipang), though insufficient during the game itself.
Anipang game
Anipang on Kakao

Matching the animals on anipang- Korean android game app on Kakao
Bonus after the minute of gaming

Anipang score card
Sharing the score :)

Dragon Flight is the latest of the addicting games from Kakao. The aim of the game is to navigate your dragon through the maze of enemy dragons by shooting. Grey dragons take some shots to disappear, gold ones more, pink ones even more and so on. The final score takes into account the distance navigated, dragons destroyed, gold collected, crystals amassed on the way.
Dragon flight from Kakao
The latest of the addictive games

Dragon Flight game with dragons from Kakao
It is pretty easy to navigate through the dragons by fingerpower!

The best way to get more gold to upgrade to a higher level is by writing a review. It is worth 3000 gold coins which gets you up to the 8th level atleast!

Hatching an egg takes 4000 gold but also gives you a baby dragon that flies with you and helps by shooting with you. Aww, so cute!

How to get these games:

Both Anipang and Dragon Flight are in English and available in Google play.

ABC Wednesday- A for Addicting cellphone games: Anipang from Korea
Thursday Challenge- Games: Cellphone games from Korea

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Samsung shirts?

Samsung TVs, Samsung Washing machines, Samsung cellphones, this one is new to me! This picture was taken in Gangnam, very close to the Kyobo book store in Seoul.

Samsung fashion house

ABC Wednesday- S for Samsung Fashion :)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The War Memorial of Korea in Seoul

The War Memorial in Seoul is a grim reminder of the atrocities and trauma of the war and the looming fact that the countries are just under an armistice (An armistice is a situation in a war where the warring parties agree to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, since it might be just a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace) and not protected by a peace treaty.
I remember signing off documents after documents that incase of a force majeure, (which literally means superior force, but in South Korea, i think they refer to war) we shall not hold the house owner, school or the company responsible for any damages!

1910- 1945                 Japanese Rule in Korea
1945-1950                  Civil unrest due to opposing ideologies of the powers controlling in the country
June 25th 1950 (Sunday)- North Korea attacks South Korea
June 28th 1950          Seoul is captured by the North Koreans
Sept / Oct 1950         US and S Korean  soldiers push back the North Korean attack behind the 38th parallel and take over Seoul
Oct/ Nov 1950           China enters the war as it feels threatened by the advancing S Korean, US forces into N Korea
Jan 4th 1951              North Korean and Chinese forces recapture Seoul
April 1951                 S Korean forces recapture Seoul
July 1951- July 1953 war goes on but not major cities captured on both sides.
July 1953                   Armistice instituted and a Demilitarized zone established between North and South Korea.

Though i was accompanied by 100 happy kids, i couldnot help being perturbed by the somber nature of the place. There were life-size models of markets, homes made out of cardboard, handicapped people and even a 3 minute automated show of shootouts- all about life of suffering during the war. Details, short movies, re-enactments which leave an indelible mark on you.

The War Memorial of Korea in Seoul is free can be reached by a short walk from exit 12 from the Samkagji Station.
Entrance of the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul
Entrance to the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul on a gloomy Autumn day
The statute of the long lost brothers in the War memorial of Korea in Seoul
This statue is based on the true story of two long lost brothers, fighting for the opposite sides in the Korean war, finally meeting each other on the battle field. Their bodies are buried side by side in Seoul.
Entrance inside the Korea war memorial, Seoul
Entrance of the War Memorial

Memorial Hall in the War memorial of Korea in Seoul where the soldiers are revered
Memorial room in the Memorial where the soldiers who laid their lives for the country are revered
Names of US soldiers in war memorial
Names of the US soldiers from Minnesota, Mississippi and Wisconsin who laid their lives to protect the lives of those in a different country. 
sending messages to soldiers from the war memorial
There are many computers on which kids can send messages to the soldiers.

Life -size ships at the memorial
Kids had a great time exploring the replica of the ship used during the war which even had bullet holes marked in red.

Tanks from the war memorial
A replica of the US tank that helped during the war

Anti-aircraft weaponry
Anti-aircraft weaponry on display at the war memorial at Seoul

Weaponry used during the war
Some of the weaponry used during the war

Parachutes on display

Korean soldiers at the Memorial
Korean soldiers paying respects at the memorial

Manless Future weaponry
Future of weapons : without men

Future Soldier
Future soldier

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