Monday, November 29, 2010

6D4N Seoul, Korea (early November - late fall)

I am truly fortunate and definitely over the moon when  I know I was gonna go to Seoul in early Nov recently. Due to time contraint, we had to pick a 6D4N package. It took me 3 weeks to search for the best package that suit our needs and budget. A restraint I had then was we could only travel on 2 selected dates. It wasn't an easy task and it was definitely very time consuming to do the coodination work plus endless calls to the travel agencies, especially when I was given a tight budget to work on. As the saying goes, if money is not a problem, then there's no problem at all. But here, money was indeed a huge problem to overcome. After returning from the trip, I was actually informed by my travel mates that we got really a good deal for what we paid because it was inclusive of a 4 star hotel, most lunches & dinners (and boy, were they good), the costly entrance fees to a few local attractions and lastly, we flew on Malaysian Airlines ( MH which was dubbed as "Malaysian Hospitality" .... yeah.. right...).

Under this package, we visited following places :

1.  Guri Movie Studio
The 1st place we stopped by after arriving in Incheon airport. It's actually a place previously built for a famous Korean drama. Don't ask me for the drama title because I was then too busy snapping pictures and wasn't paying attention to our Korean guide.

2.  Nami Island
After lunch, we were transferred to Nami Island where one of the famous scenes from Winter Sonata was shot. The scenery there is truly breathtaking.  Here's a pix of me and my travel mates. I didn't lie about the scenery, did I? After Winter Sonata was filmed here, the place was transformed from a dead place to a lively tourist attractions for both foreign and local tourists. Yes, need to take a cruise ride to reach this island and cruise tix was inclusive.

3. Myeong-Dong Street, Chuncheon
We were brought to this shopping area in Chuncheon.  The main actor and actress from Winter Sonata visited this area and again, this place is now well known to everyone. We didnt' shop at these shops out here in the streets but instead, our tour guide brought us to the underground shopping area.

4. Mt Sorak National Park
Our 1st night in Korea was in Yongpyong Resort which is actually a ski resort. Had we come here during winter, this place would be covered with snow and will be packed with throngs of people. To some of us, we finally witnessed snow for the very first time! From here, we travelled about 1.5 hours to reach Mt Sorak National Park. This place is beautiful. I love the color of the trees. The temperature was then 4C and we didn't mind one bit. We took a cable car ride up to the top and the view was magnificient. From there,you can proceed to trek to the top but I for one will never do such a thing. It was super windy up there which really could blow a person off and we were standing precariously at the edge of the cliff  just to snap pictures: of the view and of ourselves, of course. It is here that you get to visit Shinhuengsa Temple and Kwunkeum fortress.

5. Everland Theme Park
We reached here closed to 5pm and to our dismay, had to assemble at 7.30pm. Definitely not enough time for us. Our guide took us to queue up for the safari to watch "Liger". It was an eye opener indeed : for the Liger as well as the entire safari.  After that, me and another 3 travel mates rushed to our the ultimate ride that we must have : T Express Rollercoaster. It is currently the world's steepest wooden roller coaster. It is also the world's 9th fastest, 4th tallest and 6th longest wooden roller coaster.  And yes...I rode it. That was by far the worst ever roller coaster ride in my life as I could hear my heart thumping as if I was gonna have a heart attack any time. After this ride, I made a pledge to NEVER ever ride in any roller coaster for as long as I live. You'll understand if you see how steep it is from the pix below.

Steep enough for you? Photo by Rastuso

The ride never seems to end. Photo by Rastuso


6.Kimchi making and Korean traditional wear
Yeah.. we tried our hands on making kimchi. A funny thing happened here.Before we start working on the kimchi, we were all asked to drink this drink served to us in a cup. Automatically, all 22 of us, took the cup in our hands, raised them up and said 'yuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmm.... sennngg'.  Yes, all 22 of us. It's like we have this instinct in us to do so.

7. Namdaemun Market & Dongdaemun Market & Insadong Market & Myeongdong Market
I would say 85% of us waited with bated breath for this moment that is the moment to shop fervently and recklessly. Namdaemun market wasn't in our itinerary but our guide included it for us because he said this is a place where the locals will shop. Unfortunately, this market closes around 9 - 10pm. Dongdaemun is a wholesale market and this market covers a very large area. This market closes between 3- 4am. However, I didn't had a good experience shopping here. Insadong is a nice market but caters mainly to tourists.

8. Seven Luck Casino.
Being the majority of 85% who wanted to shop, we omitted this place. Anyway, none of us were gamblers. Our Genting casino is way bigger and better than theirs. The guys didn't mind we skip it, so they said.

9. Gyeongbok Palace and  Folklore Museum
The place is a must visit place but I'm not a fan of any museum.

10. Jump Show
The tickets to Jump Show was included in our package. It seems that this Jump Show is very popular in Korea and they've been travelling around to perform. It's a live performance alright. Some may find it entertaning while others find it utterly 'wu liao' (can't find an English vocab to translate it).

11. Cheongwadae 'The Blue House'.
Nobody can go in this place. We just stood stupidly outside and had a glimpse of it. It is an official residence of the South Korean head.  It is called The Blue House but the house is anything but blue.

12 Hot spring at Aqua World.
Our package include a hot spring  for us but I forgo that for shopping. I am a shopaholic. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mince Pork Porridge

Of all the dishes I've cooked at the spur of moment, this porridge is really the last of all the last-minute dishes. I was down with a terrible sore throat , was feverish (for the 1st time in my life) and my bones were aching. My throat was still very sore and I desperately need to eat something bland and light. Anything that is not fried and without chili for a change. At 1.40pm, hubby called to say he had a lunch appointment and therefore, we couldn't have lunch together. I was hungry and still unwell and immediately after I hung up the phone, I went to the kitchen to start cooking my porridge.

Here's what I did :
  1. Boil half a cup of rice (since it's only for my own consumption) with water
  2. While boiling, chop some carrot to small cubes, slice some ginger, then add into boiling rice.
  3. Chicken cube - add half in.
  4. When rice is about to become porridge, add in the marinated mince pork (marinated with sesame, soy sauce, pepper and salt)
  5. Stir in well and let it boil till your desired porridge texture
  6. Lastly, garnish with spring onions and parsley

Here's a pix of my porridge boiling and gurgling in the pot.
In 30 minutes time, the porridge was ready for consumption. Just in time before I faint from hunger :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

5D4N Hanoi & Halong Bay, Vietnam

Vietnam has never been in my 'places-to-visit' list but we selected this destination purely because Air Asia was then offering a great deal for the airfare. We decided on Hanoi because we could visit Halong Bay, which is a UNESCO World Heritage. There is a saying that if you had visited Vietnam but never got around to visit Halong Bay, then you have not visited Vietnam at all. Everything we want for our trip has got to be cheap and economical. As such, we did a DIY 5D4N package all by ourselves. Here's our itinerary :

In Hanoi, we visited the surrounding places of interest with the help of a representative from Hanoikids just for Day 1. She will tell us on the history and culture of Vietnam and assist in calling a cab for us for the next destination. Here's our DIY itinerary from Day 1 to Day 5:

Day 1 : Hanoi
  • Temple of Literature --must visit
  • Museum of Ethnology -- real size of houses by different ethnic groups. Must visit.
  • The Old Quarter -- we stayed in one of the hotels located in this area. An area full of shops
Day 2 : Hanoi /Halong Bay
  • Proceed 3.5 hours ride to Halong Bay
  • Pre purchased a luxury cruise : Emotion cruise for 2D1N
  • Had lunch on board while cruising towards Bai Tu Long Bay
  • Visit Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave), one of the most beautiful cave in Halong Bay, found by a Frenchman.
  • Visit Titop Beach -- you can opt to climb to the top where you will have an awesome view of Halong Bay
  • Had seafood dinner on board
  • Squid fishing at night
Day 3 : Halong Bay / Hanoi
  • Tai Chi lesson on board at 6.30am
  • International Buffet Breakfast on board
  • Visit Ba Hang floating village
  • Sit in sampan where the local fisherman will row to areas only can be reached via boat
  • Lunch in Halong city
  • Transfer back to Hanoi
Day 4 : Hanoi
  • Walk to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
  • Visit Museum of Ho Chi Minh (next to each other)
  • Visit One Pillar Pagoda (nearby)
  • Leisure walk to Hoan Kiem Lake
  • Dong Xuan wholesale market
  • Exploring and shopping in Old Quarter
  • Weekend night market in Old Quarter
Day 5 : Hanoi / Kuala Lumpur

  • Transfer back to KL early in the morning and... BACK TO REALITY

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Big Bad Wolf Sale (12 - 17 Nov 2010)

Yes, the Big Bad Wolf Sale is back and it's badder than ever! That was the slogan staring back at me when I flipped through The Star paper 2 days ago. I wasn't as enthusiastic this time round because I've recently bought some books and what's more, the recent trip to Seoul made me almost a pauper. It came as a surprise to me this morning when out of the blue, hubby suggested that we have the famous Ubin Fish Head Noodle in Seri Kembangan and then proceed to The Big Bad Wolf Sale in South City Plaza. In the years I've known him, he has not once suggested to visit a bookstore, let alone a booksale because he's just not into books like me. Seri Kembangan sounds remotely far to me but I went anyway. The Fish Head Beehoon really lives up to its name but I just love the soup. I wish the soup is available for sale, just the soup and not the fish.

It was my 1st trip to South City Plaza and upon entering the place, the first thought that came to me was The Summit in Subang Jaya is a much better and presentable place than this. Anyway, we headed straight to where the booksale was. True to what was published in the papers, the normal paperback novels cost RM8. In fact, most books there cost below RM15. There were throngs and throngs of people, mostly carrying a brown fibreboard carton filled with tons of books. I thought I don't need one but as it turned out, I needed one in less than 20 minutes. All sorts of books were available. People were grabbing them as if the books were free. Despite my niece's plea of NOT having another book as a Christmas present, I bought some for her anyway. I can't help it because the books were really cheap.

All in all, I bought 14 books and they cost me exactly RM100. Not one cent more and not one cent less. The pix above shows my latest acquisition :-) Just as the attendant was busy putting my books in the plastic bag, my eye caught on a tiny box set of The Olsen Twins Sleepover Party. I thought maybe little Latysha might like it.

If you love to read, make a trip there and don't miss this big sale.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fried Beehoon with Hot Flushed Taste

That day, I was feeling slightly peeved off in office and coupled with the mountain high papers on my desk which never seem to get any lower, I decided to call it a day when the clock struck 5.30pm. Upon reaching home, I ransacked my fridge and to my delight, I found 2 carrots and 1 mid size zucchini. This is enough to start frying a real quick hassle free beehoon, I fried half a packet of beehoon just for the 2 of us so that we could eat it the following day and perhaps for another day again.
The ingredients and frying method is so easy that anyone can whip it up in a jiffy.

Ingredients :
Garlic (chopped)
Big & small onions (slices)
Soy sauce
Mushroom powder / Chicken powder
Chilli flakes
Carrots (shreded)
Pinch of salt
A little black soy sauce
Dried herbs (I happened to have mixture of dried spring onions)
Corriander (for garnishing)
Beehoon (soaked till soft)

I could sum up the frying method in just a few sentences : Heat up oil, saute the garlic and onions, add in carrots and zucchini. When vege is almost soft, add in the beehoon , stir for a while then sprinkle in the powder, dried herbs and sauces (soy). Add water when necesssary. Lastly, sprinkle in some chilli powder and garnish with corriander.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NIKON D7000: My Review

Is NIKON D7000 the best DX format DSLR camera ever? I have this question since 15 September 2010, the day this model was launched. Just yesterday, I came back from a brief trip to Hanoi and with a fatigue body, I dragged myself  to KL Photofest 2010 in Mid Valley to find out the answer.

The Specification
New 16.2 MP CMOS Sensor (NIKON DX Format)
ISO 100 to 6400 (Expandable to 25600)
New 39 Focus Points
NIKON latest image-processing engine, EXPEED 2
NIKON latest 2,016-pixel RGB metering sensor (now only available in D7000)
Full HD Movies (1920 x 1080p, 24 fps)
High-speed continuous shooting at 6 fps
Twin SD Card Slots
And more… I just named a few interesting, important features and details. You can find out more from NIKON website.

The Feel
Once I grab the NIKON D7000, I have this familiar feeling... oh yes, it feels like my old NIKON D90. For me, the grip is good and it fits nicely in my small palm and short fingers. It feels tougher than NIKON D90 thanks to the magnesium alloy body and thicker rubber coating. The adoption of new Multi-CAM 4800DX Autofocus Sensor Module makes the 39 focus points work very well. The automatic focusing is fast and smooth with the NIKKOR 18-105mm kit lens. The 3 inch 921k dot LCD screen is crystal clear and crispy sharp but don’t be too happy with this because you will be disappointed when you view the photo in your computer LCD monitor.

The operation and controls is pretty much similar with NIKON D90, almost identical except NIKON D7000 has a unique Live View Switch and movie record button. Perhaps the biggest changes NIKON D7000 has is the Mode Dial. It has a second drive mode dial which is only available on higher end model like NIKON D300s, D700 and D3 series. The second drive mode dial controls the shooting frame mode, timer, ‘Quiet’ mode and mirror lock-up function.

Other interesting features in NIKON D7000 includes the new U1 and U2 setting which allows you to assign frequently used settings including ISO sensitivity and exposure compensation. Just rotate the mode dial for instant recall such preset settings. NIKON D7000 has 2 Auto White Balance setting namely AUTO1 ‘normal’ and AUTO2 ‘keep warm lighting colors’. I have tested this two AWB setting and I reckon it might solve some color cast problem especially in warmer lighting condition.

My Recommendation
Before the announcement of NIKON D7000, there were rumours that NIKON will launch a replacement of the very popular NIKON D90. In fact at this point, the new NIKON D7000 position is in between NIKON D90 and NIKON D300s. It serves a very good upgrade option for those who possess an entry level (NIKON D60, D3000, D5000) and mid range (NIKON D80, D90) DSLR camera.

So, if you are a new comer with a slightly ‘bigger’ budget and you like NIKON DSLR cameras, then NIKON D7000 is a very good choice for you. It comes with a handful of latest technology and advance features. Trust me, you won’t regret what you buy this time…
I have to admit that on the very day when NIKON D7000 was launched, I have the sudden impulse to sell my NIKON D300s in order to buy a new NIKON D7000. Based on the specification of the camera, the features available in the NIKON D7000 is so impressive and easily beat D300s in almost every aspect. But hold it NIKON D300s users out there , after I have tried several times again on the NIKON D7000, believe me your NIKON D300s is still a better camera in terms of handling and control, customization with comprehensive and detail shooting menu. Now, I will rather wait for the NIKON D300s replacement in 1st quarter of 2011. Happy shooting!