30 August 2013

CutiCuti: South Korea - Banana Backpackers Hostel, Insadong

Assalamualaikum. 안녕!


After spending three nights at Namsan Guesthouse 2, we moved in to Banana Backpackers located in Insadong. Saja tukar angin. Padahal a bit bingai jugalah planning tu sebab kena mengangkut bags/luggages bila pindah hostel ni. And yeah, ndak pernah tau the flight of stairs at Anguk Station adalah membunuh. At least untuk orang yang bawa beg AF (trolly bag) super berat. Just like what happened to Ms Z. Hmm rugi pula aku ndak snap gambar makcik tu susah payah hangkut bag dia mendaki tangga subway. Ok, kau kejam Bie!

Nampak macam bias pula bila NG-2 langsung ndak da review suddenly rajin buat entry about Banana. Rasanya ndak payah buat review pasal NG-2 sebab ramai sudah orang stay sana. And sudah berlambak reviews about the guesthouse. Undoubtedly, staying at NG-2 memang best. Dekat sama subway, dekat sama tourist attractions...and paling penting, dekat sama the famous Myeongdong streets. 

Walau bukan kaki shopping, tapi aku suka pegi sana. Too lively a place. I enjoyed watching the many people there. Observing fashions & whatnots.

Anyway as said in my previous entry, we checked out from Namsan Guesthouse early in the morning. Jadual on the fourth day memang akan wander around Seoul only. Sebab takut bangun lambat & manalah tau ada problem with the check out & check in thingy, selamatlah sikit. Kalau plan untuk pegi tempat yang jauh2 berpuluh kilometer from Seoul, memang menempah. 
Direction to Banana Backpackers Hostel. Only five minutes walking distance from the subway station. This is emailed by the hostel as soon as I secured my reservation through booking.com. Tabiat aku, lepas dapat confirmation booking aku akan email hostel tu lagi untuk reconfirm. Sebab risau hostel tu belum dapat any notification about my reservation. 

Adalah sangat haru bila sampai di sana, booking nan hado in the system. Happened to few friends I know hence untuk avoid encountering the same thing, aku buat kerja annoying sikit. Selagi ndak dapat feedback from the hostel, I will email again & again until I got their reply. Bila sudah ada double confirmation from the hostel, barulah senang hati. Make sure to print the email. Boleh jadi bahan bukti if anything bad occurred (knocked on woods). Who knows the system ada problem ka apa & ur booking ter-delete accidentally. 
Tadaaa...newly renovated mini garden in front of the hostel. Aku stalker tegar hostel ni di fb page diorang. Sekian.
Yours Truly at the reception counter. We arrived quarter to 10a. As the check in time is after 1p, we left our bags & luggages at an area near the stair. Just next to the reception. Fyi, check out time is before 11a.
Brochures, pamphlets, maps etc available for free. If you wish to watch any show or performance, or even want to book tour...you can do so from the hostel. Just go to the reception counter & asked the staff there. They will be more than happy to assist you. We booked our DMZ Tour from the hostel. Easy peasy. We just need to pay the tour fee at the reception once booking is confirmed. 
Waiting area just in front of the reception.
Free pc usage & free wifi. Unfortunately, we have super weak wifi connection in our room. Lucky we rented the olleh pocket wifi else we need to go down to the lobby everytime we want to use the internet. I reckoned the reason behind the poor wifi signal in our room is because the neighbouring building stands too close to the hostel. Close enough I can see people in the room next building. 

Even with the pocket wifi, we had to put it on the window's pane in order to get clear connection. Elsewhere than the window, the pocket wifi shows zero connection. 
Stairs leading to the communal area; where we had breakfast throughout our stay at the hostel. The half-opened door on the right is where the laundry room is. 
Neat & tidy. Breakfast is serve free daily. Hot drink i.e coffee, tea is available all day long. Every morning, we watched the news at the tv while having breakfast. As if we understand...trip paham jaklah.
Electric cooker, microwave ove & air-fryer are free to use. Lepas guna, silalah ada courtesy to clean up. The appliances & the area. 
Guest can do laundry for free. Detergent is free as well. As for the dryer, an additional 2,000 KRW is charged. Kami cuci kain secara jemaah, jadi konsep sharing adalah caring harus applied. The service is only available from 7a-7p. I think because there is a room located next to the laundry area, hence it is not permitted to do laundry after 7p. Hormat orang lain please! 
We booked for a family room; consists of 1 queen bed, 1 single bed & 1 bunk bed. Super comfortable & spacious enough for us four to move around. 
Attached bathroom.

Stayed at the family room for two nights & moved to another room after Ms H went back to Malaysia. 
Stayed in this triple room in our last two days in South Korea. Still wifi connection super lemah as this room is situated just one floor below our previous room. Masih melekat dekat sama building sebelah. Pocket wifi pun still letak tepi tingkap. 

Good thing about this room is the space near the window. Ala balcony tertutup. As the room is already quite crowded with beds & dressing table; we placed our things there. Also sangkut baju bajan semua di sana. And automatically jadi ruang solat tidak rasmi. 
Nasib baiklah ada instruction in English kan. Heating function aku rasa only useful during the cold winter weather. Supaya kaki ndak beku pijak lantai super sejuk. 

This hostel is a great place to stay. But from my point of view, I wouldn't stay here if I were to come to South Korea with Bunda & the aunts. Climbing stairs at Anguk station; the nearest subway to reach this hostel is super tiring but super refreshing though. I will stay here if I came alone or with friends who don't mind about the stairs thingy. Because I love the environment the hostel has. I feel at home staying here. 

And fact that this hostel is only a walking distance from many tourist attractions in Seoul; is a big bonus. It is situated very close to most of the UNESCO sites. 

I knew I made a right decision on staying here as we went visiting the main attractions only by foot. Jimat duit walau peluh ndak berhengat. Aktiviti sihat, bilang. And that is yet to be update soon.

To those interested to stay at this hostel, u can browse their website for more info (here). Or u can visit their sister hostel, Apple Backpackers (here). It is just a few minutes of walking from Banana. Accessible via subway Jongno-3-ga (Line 1 / Line 3). Price is a bit high than Banana for it is a new hostel. 


28 August 2013

CutiCuti: South Korea Day 5 - Han Gwa Chae, Insadong (Vegan Buffet Dinner)

Assalamualaikum. 안녕!


Another week before the cafe back to its normal operating hours. I've been lazying around for the past three months semester break. Took two good weeks of leave to somewhere outside the country. A month of cuti2 Ramadhan...a week off for the Raya. Annnnnnnnnnnnnnd I am yet to get the mind ready to embrace the working mode for the semester break will end soon! No more bangun lambat...no more tidur lambat! Boohoo!

Put aside the thought of "kaki aku gatal mau jalan2 weii". I defo need to work extra hard(??) to get extra moolah for the upcoming holiday. Four months to go before my winter trip with the cousins. Yup, I decided to dragged the cousins along for I don't wanna be alone during the new year. I heard people said; winter gives the most dingy aura for one to embrace. For that reason I rejected the initial not-so-brilliant idea to enjoyed winter alone in my favourite country. 

Alright, lets continue where I last left the entry of our fifth day in South Korea. I need to get it done before I got occupied with workload later. Kunun!

As I said in the previous entry, we went back to the hostel after coming back from Gyeonggi. Mandi & bersiap...off we went out. That evening, our only activity in the itinerary is to wander around Insadong area. And have dinner at this one vegetarian restaurant suggested in the Korean Food Guide for Muslim (refer here). 

We walked all the way from the hostel. We entered Anguk station from Exit 4 & came out at Exit 6. I clearly remembered this is where we ran very early in the morning to catch the Nami Island shuttle bus at Tapgol Park. Worried of being left behind for the bus only depart once; daily. But this time around, it was just a leisure walk. Ms G stopped by at one of the stall to taste the local street food. In which I didn't get to taste but she said it tasted nice. Benda she can consumed lah maksud dia.  
Walk straight from the Exit 6...and u will see this familiar cafe on your left; situated on the 2nd floor just above G25 convenient store. Miss Lee Cafe, Insadong. Ngeks! It's familiar to those who watched K-variety show; We Got Married (Yong-Hwa & Seohyun couple). This is where the couple spent their first date. We didn't enter as I read from a blog that some of their menu set (rice) has ham. Whenever I have this slight of doubtfulness, I chose to avoid. Furthermore, the plan is to have a buffet dinner. Eat all u can. To those who wish to enter & dine at this cafe, u can get more info from here
We walked the path in between Miss Lee cafe & Crown Bakery (opposite the cafe) to reached Ssamziegil. A unique concept of an open mall I must say. It's a building designed to look like a street. One can enjoyed shopping & learning Korean culture at this place. 

My initial plan was to enjoyed the view of Insadong from the open top floor. Unfortunately, the tummy refused to cooperate with my plan. From the moment we entered the entrance, it threw tantrum straight away. Menyanyi krook kriik; lagu dangdut. Bunyi bass segala dikasi keluar. Next trip, akan dipastikan singgah sini. Harus!
Since ndak dapat naik atas cuci mata or even jalan2 tinguk kedai2 unik, we asked direction of the vegan restaurant from one of the vendor there. Korean is one helpful community! The only problem, diorang ndak dapat converse in language yang kau faham. Still diorang akan explain as if kau faham every words they said. Luckily, I know few basic direction terms in Korean language. Kiri kanan, depan belakang. Faham yang tu, kira selamatlah sudah kalau sesat. Eh?
Turned out the route to Han Gwa Chae restaurant is so easy to find. Located right next to Ssamziegil is the Su-Doo pharmacy (pic above). Turn left after this pharmacy. 
And it will lead u to this view (pic above). Walk straight for about 20 metres (or less?). See that white building (with an added pink arrow from the sky wth?), that is where the restaurant is located. 
Enter the building & take the steps down! At first, we didn't think it is located underground. Upon entering the building, we directly went up. Sebab ndak da direction which to go except for the signboard Han Gwa Chae di entrance tu. Sampai atas, semua kelam kelibut sebab pintu tutup. Tiada tanda ada restoran beroperasi. We went down & decided to look for other place to dine when suddenly, an Ahjussi appeared near the stair that leads to the basement. 

"Sigsa? (Eat?)" he asked. 
And I nodded "Ye. Chaesig sikdang? (Yes, vegan restaurant?)". 
He replied "Ttalawa (come follow me)". 

Fuh! Very basic conversation! Yet very useful indeed! 
Baca aku lepas. But jangan tanya aku apa maksud ayat berjela tu ah. Yang aku tau HANYA ayat bawah Vegetarians Restaurant tu *Menu for today* & of course the numbers. That says operation hour is 1130-1430 for lunch; and 1700-2030 for dinner. Ndak payahlah faham menu, kan as everything they served memang soy-based & vegan food (hence the name lah Bie oii!). 
Depan entrance door ada meja kaunter where I saw a monitor on top of it. Ouh di situ Ahjussi nampak kami exercise naik tangga segala. Memang dia tau kami sesat & sedang cari sesuatu. No wonder dia muncul tiba2 macam Superman penyelamat kami. 
That's the lady boss at the kitchen. Merangkap tukang masak. She made all the dishes by herself. Pasal tu dia sangat happy; senyum sampai telinga bila aku cakap masakan dia sedap2. Bukan bodek tapi memang sedap!
Macam biasa, in every restaurant we went there...also yang selalu nampak di drama. Baru melabuhkan bontot, terus datang orang taruk cutleries & banchan atas meja kau. For them, customer is like family. So kena treat sehabis baik!
I swear this black sesame seed porridge is to die for! Paling sedap. When I first saw this dish, I hesitate to try it. Takut nanti ndak ngam selera, ada aku bermuntahan di sana. Tapi tengok Ms G kesedapan, aku pun cuba. Ha sekali terus suap lagi & lagi. Licin mangkuk! Appetizer paling sihat lah pernah aku try. 
Done with the appetizer...we moved to the buffet corner. We were indeed spoilt with choices!
This I regret. Sebab aku hanya merasa yang sebelah kiri. Reason to repeat visit?
This petite lady...never judge her based on her appearance. Tangki dia super besar ok. Memang salute nampak cara dia makan. She can eat whatever she wants without gaining weight! Ok tipu, maybe naik 1-2kg but definitely ndak kan dapat paha gajah macam aku! Part perut sila jangan ditanya, itu part paling kena berbisik. 
Healthy dishes. Saya chenta kimchi! Ulam2an itu juga!
Soy-based food. Paling sihat.
Aku cuma mampu sampai dua round. Buffet kan, eat all u can. Tapi make sure jangan membazir. Ambil banyak tapi ndak habis. Malulah kalau kalah sama nafsu tamak. Jadi ambil berpada2, kalau habis baru tambah. 
Ahjussi helped us took this. He is one happy owner seeing us enjoying the food. The buffet dinner cost us 10, 000 KRW per person. Berbaloi considering ndak kan dapat buffet vegan di Malaysia with that price. 

Masa mau keluar, Ahjumma bagi kami bungkusan full with boiled guguma (ubi manis rebus). Memang makanan South Korean. Yang ni Seohyun-ssi (SNSD) punya favourite. Lidah aku memang mengada, makan boiled guguma di sana rasa sedap jak. Manis. Di Malaysia, ndak pernah mengada makan guguma bagai aiiih! Masa aku sambut bungkusan tu, aku cakap sama Ahjumma "Ouh, guguma. Kamsahapnida Ahjumma". Direct aku dapat tamparan sedas di lengan sebab kunun tau guguma tu apa. Motif? Like I said before, tahap mesra pelanggan diorang memang gitu. Remember that so nanti bila tiba2 kena penampar manja, ndaklah kau terkejut badak terus buka kuda2 mau amuk.
We wandered around Insadong after dinner. Ms H last shopping spree. Her flight back home is early the next morning. 
Konsep coffee shop di sana memang comel & kreatif. Almost semua pun ada tema. Coffee is an essential drink for Korean...regardless for breakfast or lunch or tea or dinner or supper. Berhambur coffee shop di sana, tinggal pilih jak mana berkenan di hati. 
Malam masih muda, we decided to go to Myeongdong. Again! Area nilah paling banyak kami jejak during the trip. Keluar dari exit subway, kami dihidang sama view ni (refer pic above). Ramai gila orang bertenggek di tangga, almost all holding cameras. DSLR, digicam, hatta handphone sekali! And we wondered what's the occasion. Semua pun berdiri facing the Nature Republic building. 
And for second aku dapat teka...ni sure artis K-pop ada sana. Oh my! Before the trip, Ms G said jokingly "Punya best kalau kita bumped into any K-pop artist. Biarlah ndak femes sekalipun". 

Be careful with what u wish or say; quoting bestie Ernie. Memang betul jadi. I heard the crowd said "Henry Suju-M". And I was like...squeeze me?

I listened to Suju songs, as well as Suju-M's latest single; Breakdown. And I recently listened to Henry's latest single; Trap too! U gotta be kidding me. 

"Betul meh ada artis. Am not into artist-watching lah now. Mari jalan pi SPAO". So the as-if-not-interested-and-no-mood Moi said.

"Eee waitlah bah. 5 minutes, if no one came out from that door then kita blah. Look there, ada macam bodyguard artist" Ms G replied. Ouh yeah, as if dia kenal bodyguard artist tu macamana. Yang aku nampak few females dress in black-and-white tshirt jak.

"Bah 5 minutes" I agreed. Tanpa disedari, aku sudah di atas sebiji batu besar. Berdiri kukuh; higher position dari crowd yang bertenggek tadi. Over! Not into artist lah SANGAT!! 
We knew Henry was out from the screaming we heard. Seriously, sangat bingit! Kuat! Hingar! Bingar! Tapi sungguh malang, apa guna posisi atas batu tinggi dari yang lain...kalau cuma mampu ambil gambar gegar begini??!?! Next time tinggal lagi dslr dalam bilik hostel Bie, biar Oppa reception jak guna! 

Perhaps I was too excited as well hence the shaking picture? Mungkin kan? Or maybe worst, I was shouting & jumping at the same time. Pun boleh jadi juga. Clearer image was in Ms G's camera. Ndak palah, biar ndak da bukti janji pernah nampak live. Walau bukan bertentang mata. And Henry left the scene after standing in front of the store for less than two minutes. Sempat melambai dua round, dia pun blah. That's all? 

Fine, let us go to SPAO. Cuci mata tengok muka2 kesayangan aku. Even itu hanyalah poster. Sed!

Cuma jalan tawaf dalam store ni. I purposely plan not to buy anything. Sebab sudah ada plan untuk kembali this Dec to buy something. Winter apparel from SPAO adalah akan jadi must-buy item nanti. Oppa kesayangan endorsed brand ni, perlulah kan tripping at least ada one item of this brand in the wardrobe. 
Sudah puas verangan depan poster, we made our move to this coffee shop. A blogger-cum-Suju fan suggested me this shop few days before the trip. I didn't plan to go here but since we're already in Myeongdong, I decided to pay the store a visit. Aku punya kemahuan, yang lain mengikut jaklah. Paksarela. 
Twosome+ Coffee Shop is co-owned by one of Suju handsome member; Siwon-ssi. My favourite Donghae-ssi owned a cafe too but it is too far away. In Taiwan it is located. Maka lambat lagilah dapat menjejak ke sana. 

As usual, masuk coffee shop harus terus tripping Seoulite. Kita ngopi dulu before we called the night off, arasso. 
Apart from a coffee shop, this store sells anything K-pop as well. From cds to merchandises. Sebab tu nama dia Twosome+ kali kan?
Nasiblah dinner berat, jadi perut ndak bertebiat minta diisi kek segala. Semua pun nampak sangat tempting! Midnight snack perlu avoid everything cheesey, Bie!

While waiting for our drink...layan lagu jap. Padahal sebab kaler headphone yang pink, tulah semangat segala.
Super Junior at one shelf & Big Bang at another! Both groups I love! Minat2 pun tapi syukur iman masih kuat, pembaziran duit tidak berlaku semata untuk beli album. Yo'oh.

Siap minum, kami bergerak balik hostel. Naik subway, hello. Next morning ada aktiviti lain. And Ms H akan balik Malaysia; she purposely want to go back a day earlier than us. Rindu anak bilang.