Tag Archives: Food

Ginza and 12 STORY UNIQLO!

Another day in Japan = another day for ramen!!!

Our AirBnB host told us of this magical “Ramen Street” that could be found under Tokyo Station. OK! She probably only needed to stop at “ramen” for us to buy in.

So off we went to hunt down this underground shopping area. Tokyo Station can be quite big so it took a bit of skittering around to find the subtle 2 flights of stairs that led down into none other than — Ramen Street!

Upon descending the stairs, we caught sight of our target location, the famous “Rokurinsha”, where Tsukemen (ramen dipping noodles) were popular.

Waiting in line for the famous Rokurinsha

Waiting in line for the famous Rokurinsha

From the long line, it was a good sign that we were in for a good meal. As we learned so frequently on this trip, long lines = locals love it = good food!

And so we waited…

*grrrggglll*

Oy, both me and Piggy were starving. Luckily, there was a nearby onigiri shop. Yattaa!

Bought onigiri to ease the hunger while waiting in line

Bought onigiri to ease the hunger while waiting in line

Piggy with the onigiri

Piggy with the onigiri

Like the piggies we were, needed to “warm up” our appetites.

We waited for about 25 minutes, which wasn’t so awful, and were seated in a little corner after we got our meal tickets.

Rokurinsha Tsukemen menu

Rokurinsha Tsukemen menu

Once seated, I noticed a Japanese man eating by himself to the table next to us. He had finished all of the noodles in his bowl and waved over the waitress. What I saw next was new to me. The waitress brought over what looked like a tea pot and began pouring broth into the man’s leftover dipping sauce. With both hands, the patron promptly brought the new bowl of soup to his lips and began drinking. To my surprise, he finished it all!

Well, I thought to myself I would have to try that. And luckily, not long after, we got our orders.

Buttatama Tsukemen Ramen -- DELICIOUS

Buttatama Tsukemen Ramen — DELICIOUS

Ohhh yes. This looked so incredible. After I dove in, I found that I was halfway through my noodles and was already feeling stuffed!

Holy cow. How did that guy do it? Granted I did have a rice ball before but I could feel the formation of a food baby coming on. Still, both Piggy and I pushed through and I managed to do get my noodles down with some dipping sauce left. I gestured to a waitress and had the aromatic dashi filled broth poured into my dipping sauce. The newly created, steaming soup was tasty but I was so full I was only able to have a few sips before surrendering!

Done with our meals, we rolled off our seats and started to slowly shuffle out the restaurant. Desperately needing a walk, we began roaming the rest of the underground shopping mall and spotted several cool stores.

They have a GUNDAM CAFE!

They have a GUNDAM CAFE!

Shonen Jump Shop!

Shonen Jump Shop!

Awesome image of Shonen Jump Characters

Awesome image of Shonen Jump Characters

We were so stoked to see a Shonen Jump store! I’m a huge fan of their shows like Naruto, Bleach, Dragon Ball (woo!), and Hunter x Hunter.

Domo! Ahhh

Domo! Ahhh

Of course a Pokemon store

Of course a Pokemon store

 

Tamagotchi store - look at that massive tamagotchi!

Tamagotchi store – look at that massive tamagotchi!

Spotted an adorable doggy from the window

Spotted an adorable doggy from the window

Ready to move onto our next destination, we hopped on the train and made our way over to the Beverly Hills of Japan, Ginza.

Piggy admiring the puppy but looking very stunning too

Piggy admiring the puppy but looking very stunning too

Walking to Ginza

Walking to Ginza

Main Ginza shopping street

Main Ginza shopping street

People were not joking when they talked about the affluence of Ginza. All the major luxury brands lined the sidewalks. From Gucci to Chanel, all of the luxury brands were there and a wide variety of brands we’ve never seen.

About a 10 minute walk from the station, we finally found the famous UNIQLO! 12 glorious stories stood majestically before us.

12 story UNIQLO!

12 story UNIQLO!

Each floor had a different category: new releases, men’s business, men’s casual, women’s apparel, clearance. etc.

Just to illustrate how long we both spent in the store, it was completely dark when we finally got out.

Ginza lit up with luxury buildings and posters

Ginza lit up with luxury buildings and posters

Roaming back to the station, we knew it was time for dinner. We spotted this restaurant glowing in the distance and decided to go for it.

Paradise Dynasty - best restaurant from Singapore in Tokyo

Paradise Dynasty – best restaurant from Singapore in Tokyo

Apparently, it was famous in Singapore and they had one of our most beloved foods — xiao long bao!

Menu for their assortment of xiao long bao (dumplings)

Menu for their assortment of xiao long bao (dumplings)

Order to eat the different flavors

Order to eat the different flavors

Even better, the xiao long bao (soup dumplings) came in a variety of exotic flavors and colors. It was like a rainbow of bliss pillows waiting for us to plow our faces into.

DSC05707

Rainbow Dumpling Euphoria

To round out our meal, both Piggy and I ordered some more colorful concoctions. Both were sooo good we weren’t sure if there was even any alcohol in there.

Incredibly tasty mango cocktail

Incredibly tasty mango cocktail

Super smooth iced tea cocktail

Super smooth iced tea cocktail

It took about 10 minutes for it to set in. But there definitely was.

We picked up a few more bites, both really really tasty.

Very delicious cold cut spicy chicken

Very delicious cold cut spicy chicken

Soupy dan dan mian but still flavorful

Soupy dan dan mian but still flavorful

With full bellies, empty wallets, and bountiful shopping bags, we were ready to go home. Another awesome blossom day in Japan down!

Tokyo! Here we go! And some BOMB yakitori

Today we’re off to Tokyo! We grabbed all our bags, squeezed out of our Osaka abode, and headed to the station. We rode from Shin-Imimaya on the JR line to Osaka Station and then swapped over to Shin-Osaka Station, where we had to be to get to Tokyo — lugging all of our stuff the whole way, of course.

The first thing we did was pickup our tickets for the Shinkansen (the bullet train) which was scheduled to depart in 40 minutes. That, I thought, gave us plenty of time to grab a bite. Again, I thought.

I saw a little food court next to our train platform and headed in with Piggy. They had a takoyaki stand, a curry shop, a ramen shop, and a few others. I was in the mood for curry and Piggy was fine with that. I ordered the fried chicken curry while Piggy got the chicken cutlet curry.

Grabbed some tasty curry cutlet at Tokyo Station

Grabbed some tasty curry cutlet at Tokyo Station

Pork got the fried chicken curry and said it was amazing

Pork got the fried chicken curry and said it was amazing

The cashier told me the fried chicken would take 15 minutes, but since I thought we had so much time, I complied. When we got our food, I checked the time and saw we only had 20 minutes until it was time for departure. Ruh-roh!

I gobbled down my dish and told Piggy to do the same. It only took me about 5 minutes to wipe my entire plate clean. The curry turned out to be on point anyway so I probably would have eaten it just as fast normally. Piggy definitely does not shovel food in as fast as I can so I let her know I would go pick up the bento boxes for our bullet train ride. Because even though we JUST ate, we wanted to experience the bento-train-ride-experience for our 4 hour journey to Tokyo.

With about 10 minutes to departure, I ran over to the bento shop only about 30 feet away. There were so many options! But with the little time we had, I just pointed at two bentos, picked up two drinks, and headed back to get Piggy.

Luckily, she was done and had our bags ready. We rushed over to the platform and saw our Shinkansen had arrived. We hopped into our car, found our reserved seats, and let out a sigh of curry-breath relief.

About 2 hours in, we decided to watch Kiki’s Delivery on my iPad. Neither myself or Piggy have seen it and we figured we had to watch it since we would be going to the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. At this time, we also decided to bust out the bentos.

Outside packaging of the bento boxes

Outside packaging of the bento boxes

Ta-da! Inside the bento box

Ta-da! Inside the bento box

Our other bento box with a crazy variety

Our other bento box with a crazy variety

Our wicked setup for a great bullet train ride

Our wicked setup for a great bullet train ride

These bento boxes were amazing. The food was actually alright but I was more impressed by the packaging, variety of food, and presentation. These boxes are prime examples of Japan’s obsession with food presentation as an art.

Once we got to Tokyo, we hopped on a few transfers to get to our Umejima station. We got a bit lost a few times, but nothing too terrible so I’ll skip over it. The fun part was when we got to Umejima station and headed out to find the airBnB.

Looking for our airBnB in the Adachi neighborhood

Looking for our airBnB in the Adachi neighborhood

Piggy running about looking for the place

Piggy running about looking for the place

Piggy, who booked this reservation, told me the address she found from the booking. So we made our way to that address and saw that it definitely was NOT the right place. Without internet connection, it made it difficult for us to look up additional details about the airBnB or to email our host. All we had to go off of was the name of the building and that it was at least 9 stories tall with a flower shop next to it. Given this, we frantically looked around the neighborhood around the station in hopes of spotting something with all of our stuff in tow. This definitely became cumbersome and so we decided to have Piggy wait at the station while I took off to run around the neighborhood to find this 9 story building.

I literally ran around the neighborhood. I zipped through small streets, hopped over a few bricks and sprinted out to the several tall buildings I could see from the distance. After searching for about 10 minutes and to no avail, I decided it would be best if I started heading back to the station. While heading towards the station, I spotted a flower shop and next to it… the name of our building!

To our luck, my run turned out to be productive and I dashed back to Piggy. As I approached her to tell her I found the place, she began telling me how she found the instructions to get to our airBnB from the station. Apparently, she did not read through ALL of the instructions…

ANYWAY! At least we found it.

We got into our airBnB and found the place to match the pictures exactly.

The fantastic view from our room!

The fantastic view from our room!

The view from the room was spectacular and we later found out that we would be able to see Mt. Fuji on a clear day.

After spending some time resting, our hostess, who was gone all day at work, came back home. She was extremely pleasant and asked us all about our plans. We mostly had none so she immediately began creating an itinerary for us. She even recommended we head to Ueno for dinner as that was a great spot with plenty of food and was only a few stops away.

Ueno's Ameyoko market

Ueno’s Ameyoko market

The market was bustling on a Friday night

The market was bustling on a Friday night

Ueno streets are filled with lights

Ueno streets are filled with lights

Ueno was poppin’. And we were hungry! We looped through a few of the busy streets and tried to decide on what to eat. There were so many options! A few times we passed the same yakitori shop which was PACKED with businessmen in suits. But on our 3rd time passing by, we saw 2 empty seats by the bar. Well, we hadn’t had yakitori in Japan yet and the place was popular so we went for it.

Right outside the yakitori - small local joint

Right outside the yakitori – small local joint

We were immediately seated. After a brief bit of gesturing, the waitress figured we were foreigners and handed us a foreigner friendly menu.

The foreigner friendly menu with pictures

The foreigner friendly menu with pictures

Yes! Exactly what we needed. It’s always a relief to get a menu in english AND with pictures. We started with 2 bottles of beer and a few skewers. We were ready to eat!

Getting our drank on at the yakitori joint

Getting our drank on at the yakitori joint

Pork tongue and garlic miso chicken skewers - SO BOMB

Pork tongue and garlic miso chicken skewers – SO BOMB

The chicken parts combo - chicken heart, thigh, meatball, cartilage, and skin

The chicken parts combo – chicken heart, thigh, meatball, cartilage, and skin

ALL of the skewers were SO GOOD. I enjoyed all of them, including the chicken cartilage and skin. Even the pork tongue I liked (which was weird given our nicknames–or was it?). We were so impressed, we ended up ordering 2 more orders.

More amazing chicken skewers

More amazing chicken skewers

These too were also incredible! And best of all, the place was considerably cheaper than any yakitori place I’ve had in the States. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch the name of the shop. But thanks to the magic of Google, I was able to find it in STREET VIEW!

Despite our full bellies, the dessert shop next door caught our eyes.

Piggy with her dessert

Piggy with her dessert

Om nom nom

Om nom nom

Now completely satisfied, we roamed a little more around Ueno and headed into a few of the SEGA/Taito stores that have our beloved UFO catcher machines.

And then, we did what we’ve been doing before…

WIN TOO MUCH STUFF TO BRING BACK.

Piggy's super winning!

Piggy’s super winning!

She got another one!

She got another one!

We cleaned the machine out

We cleaned the machine out

Fluffy kittays omg

Fluffy kittays omg

A great first day in Tokyo indeed.

– pork

Temples and Some More Temples in Kyoto

When we were planning our trip to Japan, we decided that while we were in Osaka, we would make a day trip to Kyoto! Since Pork wasn’t as interested in exploring temples and the “traditional” part of Japan as much as exploring the city life, we decided to only go to Kyoto for the day. The train ride is only 50 minutes from Osaka. And we started our trip the same way we start every day — with food! At Kyoto Station there was a standing restaurant. Since Japanese businessmen are always on the go, there are these “standing restaurants” located in metro stations where you order outside using a type of vending machine. The process goes somewhat like this: 1. Look at your options, 2. Insert your money, 3. Press the button that displays your choice, 4. Receive a ticket and change (if any). Then you step into the restaurant, hand your ticket to the waitress/chef, and you stand at the counter while you wait for your food. Two or three minutes later, you are served your food and you eat your bowl while standing. Japanese businessmen can eat these bowls in an average of 7 minutes! That’s a ridiculous amount of time to eat a piping hot bowl of noodles!!! I definitely couldn’t handle it. Pork, on the other hand, ordered cold soba noodles so his bowl was a lot easier to eat at a faster pace. He finished before I did so he waited outside for me. Trust me, the struggle was real. I noticed multiple people come in and finish their bowl before I finished mine. Afterward, I didn’t feel so good from eating that fast haha..

Soba set from standing soba restaurant in metro station

Soba set from standing soba restaurant in metro station

Piggy trying to keep up with the businessmen

Piggy trying to keep up with the businessmen

Vending machine for ordering food -- genius

Vending machine for ordering food — genius

Outside of Kyoto Station

Outside of Kyoto Station

The first touristy spot we decided to go to was Fushimi Inari (seen in Memoirs of a Geisha). This is the famous shrine where there is a path of torii (gates) that takes about 2 hours to walk through. We actually didn’t walk through the path because we heard that it wasn’t worth it, especially since we were only spending a day in Kyoto. Statues of foxes are also found throughout the main shrine area because they are considered to be the messengers of the Inari (spirits).

Some fox statue in front of Fushimi Imari

Some fox statue in front of Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Imari entrance

Fushimi Inari entrance

Center temple of Fushimi Inari

Center temple of Fushimi Inari

The famous rows of gates in Fushimi Inari

The famous rows of gates in Fushimi Inari

Piggy posing with the poles

Piggy posing with the poles

After walking around and taking a few pictures, we decided to head to our next destination, which was the Kiyomizu-dera Temple! Even though it was a cloudy day, it was definitely still humid. On the way, we passed by SO many dessert places and got hungry (ok, let’s face it, I was the one that became weak and succumbed to the delicious looking desserts). So we stopped by a dessert shop and ordered a dessert set with matcha green tea. SO DELICIOUS!

Matcha green tea came with our dessert set

Matcha green tea came with our dessert set

Delicious but small green tea sundae with azuki and mochi

Delicious but small green tea sundae with azuki and mochi

Road to Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Road to Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Finally, we got to the temple and found it PACKED with tourists and students. I have no idea what the Japanese school schedule is like but Pork and I were so surprised at how many Japanese students were out during the day. The uniforms looked different so we didn’t think it was just one school that got out early either.

Kiyomizu-dera packed with tourists and students

Kiyomizu-dera packed with tourists and students

Piggy would make a good temple guard

Piggy would make a good temple guard

Entering the main area of the temple

Entering the main area of the temple

We bought tickets to go inside the temple (I believe it was about 30 yen/person), and one of the first things we saw was this display of shoes and weapons. All of them were SO heavy, especially the one in the middle. I think we only saw one guy able to lift the middle weapon and it literally took all of his brute strength. Crazy how the guards back in the day had to carry those all the time!

School kids huddled around a massive steel pole

School kids huddled around a massive steel pole

These kids had trouble lifting the heavy objects

These kids had trouble lifting the heavy objects

The main pole was probably 300 pounds and this European insisted on moving it

The main pole was probably 300 pounds and this European insisted on moving it

Those are for some big feet

Those are for some big feet

Extravagant panorama of Kiyomizu-dera

Extravagant panorama of Kiyomizu-dera

I can only imagine what it’s like to be here during cherry blossom season or even Autumn. I hope I can come back to visit during one of those times to see how beautiful it is here.

Piggy used to be a dancer as you can see

Piggy used to be a dancer as you can see

Pork moving along

Pork moving along

We finished walking through the temple area, and walked out toward a busy street filled with tourists and students shopping for little knickknacks and mochi! We went inside the busiest looking mochi store and bought a couple of boxes of mochi as gifts! But then, after buying them, we realized they would be pretty “old” and possibly moldy by the time we got back from Hawaii so make sure you plan ahead if you plan on buying food as gifts.

Lanterns right outside of the mochi store

Lanterns right outside of the mochi store

Busy mochi store with students and tourists buying like crazy

Busy mochi store with students and tourists buying like crazy

As we were walking to Nishiki market, known for showing Kyoto’s famous goods and food, we met a woman from Canada who was somewhat lost and asking us for directions. It was actually hilarious because she tapped me on the shoulder, pointed to her map, and said, “Excuse me! Do you know if this road is..?” And since we were standing in a really narrow road, there was a car coming behind her and I motioned her to move forward and said, “Watch out!” And she looked at me a little confused and looked behind her, and she said, “Oh! You said ‘Watch out.’ So at least you know a little bit of English.” Then I said, “Oh! We’re from America!” From there, we found out we were taking a similar route, and we shared bits and pieces about ourselves and how we had just moved from Southern California to Northern California as she was telling us about herself and her life in Canada. She was so nice and had such a bubbly personality. At our separating point, we decided we should take a picture together to remember that we had met. Selfie skills FTW!

We met a lady from Canada while walking to Nishiki market

We met a lady from Canada while walking to Nishiki market

Once we got to Nishiki market, it was actually mostly closed and most of the fresh things were already sold. So we just walked through, and stopped at a coffee shop for a bathroom break.

Nishiki market street - mostly closed at this time

Nishiki market street – mostly closed at this time

Some of the food sightings in Nishiki

Some of the food sightings in Nishiki

Stopped for an iced coffee -- served in a copper cup!

Stopped for an iced coffee — served in a copper cup!

We decided to go back to Kyoto station for dinner since we were looking at the map earlier and saw that Kyoto station had a gigantic eating area (those floors that we were talking about in an earlier post). There are several different sections that we were considering, including The Cube Food Court, Eat Paradise, and Kyoto Ramen Koji. We were planning to have a lot of ramen in Tokyo so we opted to look at the restaurants in the other two sections which were across from each other. We decided to eat at a sushi restaurant that had a wait outside.

Beautiful set of digital stairs leading to the restaurant floor

Beautiful set of digital stairs leading to the restaurant floor

View from the top of the stairs

View from the top of the stairs

The wait was about 45 minutes and after being seated, we ordered sake and 2 Chirashi bowls.

Getting ready for some sake~

Getting ready for some sake~

Chirashi bowl (in this case, box)

Chirashi bowl (in this case, box)

Pork prepared to eat

Pork prepared to eat

Piggy also ready to dive in

Piggy also ready to dive in

We were both pretty disappointed in the quality of the sushi. It was definitely on the expensive side and not worth the price or wait. I think that’s when we learned that Kyoto is actually not known for having good sushi. Since arriving in Japan, we were utterly disappointed that we hadn’t had any great sushi by this point so we decided that we should just not order anymore sushi until we get to Tokyo. Dinner was our last stop and we went home after a long day of walking. Our airbnb host provided this full body towel for all women in the house since the showers were in the common area. I was pretty darn excited to use it.

Piggy posing in the awesome full-body towel provided by our host

Piggy posing in the awesome full-body towel provided by our host

Instructions for the body towel

Instructions for the body towel

To end, Pork routed our entire walk for the day! Our feet were really tired, but I guess it’s to even out all the eating/drinking. 🙂

Today's walking route -- we walked this much almost everyday

Today’s walking route — we walked this much almost everyday

Until next time!

– piggy

Fish Are Friends, Not Food: Captivated at Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Another fine day in Osaka and today we’re going to the aquarium! Osaka Aquarium, Kaiyukan, is the world’s largest aquarium and has been highly recommended by travel guides and locals so it was one of our top destinations. Both Piggy and I love watching Animal Planet, National Geographic, and basically anything featuring the fascinating creatures of our planet. So the aquarium was a perfect spot for us to go to. We headed out to Osaka Aquarium on a brief ride on the metro and got to our stop pretty quickly. Posters of whales, turtles, and other fishes covered the station. We definitely knew we were at the right stop. As we exited the station, we saw a group of school kids all lined up with the signature yellow hat commonly worn by little kids in Japan.

Group of kids on their school trip

Group of kids on their school trip

The walk to the aquarium from the station was brief and took us about 10 minutes. But before making our way to the aquarium, we desperately needed to eat lunch. Luckily, right next door to the aquarium is an entire shopping plaza along with a giant ferris wheel. The plaza was reminiscent of any shopping plaza you would see at a pier with lots of wood paneling. As we entered the food court section, we took a loop around and a Tonkatsu shop caught our eye. Really, those food display cases do a fascinating job luring in customers!

Tonkatsu restaurant before going to the aquarium

Tonkatsu restaurant before going to the aquarium

Piggy's tonkatsu set

Piggy’s tonkatsu set

Pork's tonkatsu set

Pork’s tonkatsu set

The tonkatsu here was cooked to perfection. The pork (yup, pork!) was tender and not dry whatsoever. The batter was crispy even with the sauce that my order was drenched in or the eggs that Piggy’s order was cooked with. With a full belly, we toured around the shopping plaza a little more and spotted a Crocs shop. Granted, Crocs are sold in America too, the two of us needed some better walking gear and Crocs seemed to be a good option despite their notoriously hideous styles. But to our surprise, they did have very non-Crocs-like shoes that would very easily be mistaken for another brand. You can see the ones I bought from their website here. With a new pair of kickin’ Crocs, we were ready for the aquarium.

The beautiful Kaiyukan, Osaka aquarium

The beautiful Kaiyukan, Osaka aquarium

From the outside, it’s easy to see how the Kaiyukan is the world’s largest. The building was massive but incredibly gorgeous. The two dolphins seen on the front of the building are made from chimes which shimmer as the wind blows. I knew this was going to be good. We purchased our tickets and got ready to head in. The tickets cost roughly $25 USD a person which is really worth it.

Piggy looking beautiful and ready for the fishies

Piggy looking beautiful and ready for the fishies

Before we entered, we also saw the Santa Maria cruise which was another attraction in the area. It looked neat but not really something worth our time so we didn’t bother with it.

View of the Santa Maria cruise ship

View of the Santa Maria cruise ship

One of the first things we saw when we stepped into Kaiyukan was a massive closeup of this mantis ray.

Greeted with a giant HULLOOOO!

Greeted with a giant HULLOOOO!

After admiring the posters, we followed the arrows pointing towards the aquarium route and was taken through a tunnel encased with an aquarium with fishes swimming above us.

Fish tank corridor near the beginning

Fish tank corridor near the beginning

The tank had a wide variety of colorful fishes and even what looked to be a small shark. After going through the tunnel, we turned the corner to see a long escalator ascending multiple floors. We rode it up to the 7th floor and proceeded into a forest-like atmosphere and spotted river otters by a waterfall.

River Otters going for a dive

River Otters going for a dive

The river otters were zipping through the water going for small fish at the bottom of the pond.

Continuing with the route through the forestry, we entered what appeared to be the indoor aquarium route where various tanks were visible. The next one we saw was a pleasant sight.

Adorable sea otter cleaning himself

Adorable sea otter cleaning himself

This sea otter was just floating around and scrubbing itself! It was incredibly adorable to watch and we took a few too many photos of him.

Just a few tanks over, we were stunned by what we saw next.

HUGE fish

HUGE fish

There were MASSIVE river fish that looked like serpents. I’m not sure what they’re called but they look to be straight out of the show “River Monsters”. Yes, that fish was bigger than those kids combined.

The route continued  in a downward spiral from the 7th floor and we passed more and more tanks with many amazing critters and fishes.

Emperor penguins strutting around

Emperor penguins strutting around

Dolphins playing in the water

Dolphins playing in the water

Great Barrier Reef section. There's Dori!

Great Barrier Reef section. There’s Dori!

The fish are all looking at something...

The fish are all looking at something…

The fishes in this picture were particularly eerie. All of the fishes were perfectly still in the water facing one direction. Creepy!

Some large mantis ray cruising by

Some large mantis ray cruising by

Around the aquarium were several posters with renditions of various sea creatures. This one is my favorite!

Best rendition of a sea otter ever!

Best rendition of a sea otter ever!

It’s so simple but it gets the point across. Haha.

Sea lion striking up a conversation

Sea lion striking up a conversation

Piggy admiring the majestic blue tank

Piggy admiring the majestic blue tank

This picture really demonstrates how the aquarium was laid out. As we descended the aquarium, we got to see the full breadth of the tanks. The one Piggy is staring out into is the main center tank that spans all 7 floors. It was truly remarkable and enchanting.

Mesmerizing, massive center tank

Mesmerizing, massive center tank

Turtle saying hello!

Turtle saying hello!

I like to pinch

I like to pinch

Magnificent colors

Magnificent colors

Lovely ice lighting

Lovely ice lighting

This baby seal has such a dopey expression like my doggy

This baby seal has such a dopey expression like my doggy

The aquarium was incredibly alluring. The lighting and the classical music humming in the background really created a fully immersive experience. The aquarium was quite large and we saw many animals from various regions of the world. They even had a rainforest section with none other than…

Heehee sleeping sloth

Heehee sleeping sloth

…a sloth! It’s as adorable in person as it is in pictures. We also happened to be in that section when the river otters were being fed.

These small river otters were being fed. So cute!

These small river otters were being fed. So cute!

The rainforest section was the last part of the entire route. It took us about 2 and a half hours at an easy-going pace. I definitely think it was worth it and highly recommend it to anyone. Just look at those cute animals!

We thought the aquarium would take the whole day but we finished around 4PM. So we decided to try and visit some other tourist spots and find some dinner. So we decided to go to Osaka Castle.

Osaka Castle moat

Osaka Castle moat

Path to Osaka Castle

Path to Osaka Castle

In front of the gilded castle

In front of the gilded castle

It was very windy at the castle area but the views were great and the sky was fairly clear. There wasn’t too much to see but it was really a nice walk and you can see many locals around that area jogging or relaxing on benches.

Stunning look over the city

Stunning look over the city

Once we got our fill of Osaka Castle, we were ready to fill our bellies! We headed to Osaka Station because we figured that it would have plenty of restaurants. And of course, it did.

On the 11th floor of one of the department stores sitting on top of the station, we found a ramen shop with a line. In Japan, lines = good food. So we waited.

Fast Ramen shop

Fast Ramen shop

We managed to get 2 seats within 15 minutes but our food came out even faster and we had our meals in less than 10 minutes.

Pork rice came with the set

Pork rice came with the set

Very yummy and hearty ramen

Very yummy and hearty ramen

The ramen felt very homey and hearty but not greasy like many of the Tonkatsu based ramens. It was delicious and satisfying and also affordable too.

After our meal, we stepped outside the department store from one of the top floors and caught a glamorous view of Osaka.

The lights of Osaka glowing in the night

The lights of Osaka glowing in the night

With that, we were ready to go home. But before getting home, we needed some dessert!

Finishing the night right

Finishing the night right

We picked up this strawberry cake and brought it back to our room in Shin-Imimaya and proceeded to devour it. It was light and fluffy and the perfect way to end a perfect day.

– pork

Claw Machines Will Ruin Us: Osaka Shopping at Shinsaibashi

Full first day of Osaka, here we go! We decided to hit up downtown Osaka otherwise known as Minami (Namba), which consists of smaller shopping and restaurant districts. The main shopping and restaurant districts we explored were Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori. But first stop, lunch! So what you will find in Japan in general is that at a lot of subway stations and inside malls, there will be restaurant floors, where you either go to the basement, or the 10th/11th floors of the building to find restaurants galore! And if you are little piggies like we are, this is either Heaven or Hell, depending on how you look at it. It is Heaven because there is food everywhere! It is also Hell because if you are indecisive, then it will take you a long time to decide where to eat.

Also, word of advice: before you go to Japan, learn how to read/speak Japanese. A lot of Japanese restaurants actually don’t offer English menus so just keep that in mind. It won’t be the end of the world if you don’t learn anything, but it will definitely help since Japan has much less access to English than Korea did, therefore making foreigner-native interactions very charades-like with a lot of pointing, nodding, and bowing..haha. Anyway, Pork and I downloaded 2 Japanese language learning apps (“Learn Japanese Phrasebook” and “Learn Japanese”) to learn some common words/phrases. For those interested in downloading these apps, “Learn Japanese Phrasebook” is by Codegent and “Learn Japanese” is by Bravolol. The apps definitely came in handy at certain points of our trip but we will get to that in a different post.

So anyway, back to the restaurant Heaven/Hell. It’s GREAT seeing so many restaurants in one area but it makes your decisions that much harder because Japanese restaurants put out a lot of fake displays of what’s on their menu (as you see at Japanese restaurants in America), so every restaurant has something that looks delicious but then you also don’t know if it’s good. So another tip: do as the Japanese do. If you see a lot of Japanese people waiting at a restaurant, that restaurant must be pretty good and you should probably wait too. If there aren’t that many people in the restaurant, then I bid you good luck. Haha, I’m kidding, it’s not that scary. Just don’t expect the food to be great. Our first glimpse to this restaurant Heaven/Hell was in Osaka station. We decided on this ramen restaurant and once seated, the waitress quickly realized we didn’t speak any Japanese so we ordered our food by walking to the outside of the restaurant with the waitress and pointing at one of their fake displays of ramen sets. Thank goodness for those fake displays! 🙂

Grabbing lunch on the way to Shinsaibashi

Grabbing lunch on the way to Shinsaibashi

Piggy and her ramen set

Piggy and her ramen set

Pork's sesame noodle with side of omelette rice

Pork’s sesame noodle with side of omelette rice

Piggy's ramen and fried rice set

Piggy’s ramen and fried rice set

Once we finished and paid, it was time to shop! Woot! We stumbled past a lot of different types of stores selling clothes, shoes, accessories, you name it. We didn’t really buy anything though. I bought shoes because I definitely wore the wrong pair of shoes that day, so yay! New shoes for me! ^^

Uniqlo in Shinsaibashi. Looks heavenly

Uniqlo in Shinsaibashi. Looks heavenly

Sanrio store

Sanrio store

Silly Attack On Titan paper model

Silly Attack On Titan paper model

And then we stumbled upon this…

Sega UFO Catcher store!!

Sega UFO Catcher store!!

So if you guys don’t know what UFO Catchers are, they’re claw games. Pork and I got ridiculously addicted to these claw games when we studied abroad in Taiwan for 3 months way back in 2010. So, OF COURSE we went crazy and spent a ridiculous amount of money on these claw games in Japan because we’re such suckers for cute things and anything that has to do with LINE or any anime that we know/watch!!! This hobby is not recommended for anyone. You feel so much pride and joy from winning the prize, whatever it may be, but then you end up with a bunch of things that you don’t even know what to do with, and you can’t part with them because like I said, they’re your pride and joy. Please don’t judge us. (Okay okay, judge all you want. We shall pretend that you guys are all jealous of all the stuff we won, so HA! Ignorance is bliss.)

They have LINE characters!

They have LINE characters!

Brown and Cony dolls

Brown and Cony dolls

Piggy won a Moon doll

Piggy won a Moon doll

Pork won 2 Brown dolls at the same time!

Pork won 2 Brown dolls at the same time!

After our fun, we explored more through the downtown area.

Famous Dottunburi Glico board

Famous Dotonbori Glico board

Oh, another thing that we found very common in Japan is restaurants having gigantic mascots (I’m not sure if this is the right way to describe them) above their location to attract attention and boy, did they get our attention!

Giant crab that moves!

Giant crab that moves!

If God made and handed us sushi, I imagine it would look like this

If God made and handed us sushi, I imagine it would look like this

We found more claw machines! Of course, this machine has things that only Japan can get away with… Not sure if you guys know, but the subject of “sex” is way more common and open in Japan. No one really talks about it, but it’s just understood that Japan has an entire industry involved around sex. I’m not talking about prostitution. Yes, Japan has that, but Japan takes the sex industry to the next level. I’m sure a lot of you have heard, but we can save that talk for another time. Anyway…the next picture, haha. 🙂

Japan can be silly...

Japan can be silly…

So we got to Dotonburi and this area is filled with more shops and restaurants.

Dotonburi shopping

Dotonburi shopping

And it was time to try some takoyaki (octopus dough balls)! Pork and I didn’t look up any really famous takoyaki places to go to, just because we figured any place in Osaka would be good. Osaka is known for having the best takoyaki and okonomiyaki. So the takoyaki that we’ve had back in the states were more fried and chewy, whereas this takoyaki that we had was very soft and runny. All the foreigners I spoke to about it said the same thing as well. I’ve noticed a lot of Japanese dishes have egg and most of the time, the egg has that soft boiled or poached texture. (I also noticed a lot of the eggs we ate in Japan had an orange-red colored yolk, as opposed to a yellow yolk that’s so common in the states.) So if you’re into that type of texture, then definitely try some!

Takoyaki covered in green onions

Takoyaki covered in green onions

It started to rain later so we rushed inside a department store to get some coverage. Near the entrance of the mall, we found a small group of people gathered, examining at first glance, what looked like a girl dressed up in a kimono. But when you step closer, you notice that she’s not exactly a human. It’s pretty crazy where technology is going these days.

Super creepy and life-like robot girl

Super creepy and life-like robot girl

Anyway, after we checked that out, we left and went to go find more UFO catcher places. 🙂

More UFO catchers!

More UFO catchers!

So before you plan that trip to Japan, make sure you have a handy coin pouch. Everything below $10.00 US is a coin in Japan. So if you don’t have a coin pouch, be prepared to jingle. Pork and I won these silicone coin pouches from (what else) a claw machine!

Pork won a much needed coin pouch

Pork won a much needed coin pouch

Piggy with her coin pouch winning

Piggy with her coin pouch winning

After all of this spending (ahem, I mean WINNING), we needed some dinner! Pork and I were determined to get some good sashimi/sushi (since we weren’t so impressed with last night’s sushi), but we kept finding Sushi Train/Boat places, and knowing the reputation of those types of places in U.S., we wanted to avoid them. So we finally settled on this rice bowl place and both ordered the Deluxe size of the rice bowl pictured below. It honestly wasn’t…great. Truth be told, there weren’t that many people inside the restaurant either. That was our first mistake. The uni had a bit of a fishy aftertaste (bleh). So, we spoke with a friend (hi Tim!) we met at the Osaka airbnb about it afterward and he was the one that told us we should just follow as the Japanese do. We should still go into a Sushi Train restaurant if it seems popular, and if we see the Japanese people taking sushi off the train, then the sushi should be okay to eat it, but if we see the Japanese people ignoring the sushi train and ordering directly from the chef, then we should follow suit too. Good advice, however, we never even set foot into a Sushi train restaurant for the rest of our time in Japan (heh..we kinda forgot about them). But nonetheless, the advice still generally applies to dining out at Japanese restaurants. So remember guys, I know I’ve already repeated it a lot, but when in Japan, do as the Japanese do.

Uni, salmon, and negi toro rice bowl

Uni, salmon, and negi toro rice bowl

-piggy

Yattaa!! Planes and Trains to Osaka

Today was the big day to move onto part 2 of our month long vacation. Our flight was to depart at 10:10 AM but we decided to get up at 6 AM to be out the door by 7 AM. BIG mistake.

Of course, we left at 7:15 AM instead of 7 and had to taxi over to Seoul Station. Once we got there, we hauled our asses along with our 15 lbs of makeup and clothes to the ticket counter. We picked up our 2 tickets for the Airport Express which would get to the airport by 8:45 AM at the earliest. Shit! That would be cutting it real close but we had no choice.

As soon as the train opened the doors, we bolted. We had to find Asiana airlines to check in but Incheon International Airport is pretty huge. And I made the mistake of going towards section A only to find a bunch of Korean Air kiosks. I checked with an Info Desk lady only to find out Asiana literally was on the OPPOSITE SIDE.

It must have been the length of a football field to get over there. It was a sight. The 2 of us rolling our bags, sweating our asses off from the stress and the extra weight we put on from the eating.

Once we got to the Asiana line, we heard over the intercom, “last call for flight number 01070 bound for Tokyo, please check-in at the counter immediately.”

We cut a few customers and ran to the counter. Our service rep was calm and proceeded to check us in. Phew!

From there we were able to get onboard without too much of a rush, but let that be our lesson. Never again, please.

Just landed in Narita Airport

Just landed in Narita Airport

Our flight to Tokyo was a quick 2 hour ride. We also happened to sit next to a Korean American who was on vacation from having worked in Korea for the past year. After chatting with him for the whole flight, we found out that he was our age and was also going to Tokyo and Osaka but during opposite days so we would just miss him. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to have met him on our way to Tokyo and it really gave us a good start to part 2 of our excursions.

Once we arrived to Narita airport, we could immediately feel a difference in the atmosphere. There were more foreigners around and definitely a lot less English. We managed to get our JR Passes, which would get us around Japan for our 2 weeks, and proceeded to wait for the Narita Express.

About to ride the Narita Express

About to ride the Narita Express

Reserved seating with our JR pass

Reserved seating with our JR pass

Since we were actually bound for Osaka, we had a few transfers to make and 4 hours of train rides to get to our destination. It was a struggle. We found the train system nothing like Korea’s and were a bit thrown off and utterly confused. Somehow, we managed to get to our station at Shin-Imimiya, but after lots of lucky guesses.

Our arrival to Shin-Imimiya was… unexpected. As we set foot out of the station, we could hear the loud ringing of Pachinko slots. And as we followed our AirBnb instructions to the location, we passed by several old homeless men, trudging along or propped against a wall with a cigarette, devoid of hope and aspirations.

One of the instructions indicated that once we saw a hospital with a green cross and a picture of a hippopotamus, we should cross the street. We did just that and were led down a dark alleyway with a few old shops, an old sushi bar with a few patrons inside, and alas–Yoccola Islands.

Our share house kitchen

Our share house kitchen

Once we punched in the code and stepped in, we immediately saw an Asian man and an Asian woman cooking in the kitchen.

“Umm, hello?” I quietly let out.

The woman was peeling apart some cabbage and pleasantly responded, “Hi! Did you guys just get in?”

After a bit of chatting and introductions, we found out that the two were from Canada and they, with their 2 kids, were also staying in the place. We knew that we would be staying at a “sharehouse”, but really had no idea what that entailed. As I soon discovered, the sharehouse was like an apartment in that the common areas were shared with other guests but everyone got their own room. The place had 3 floors but was by no means very big. The first floor had a kitchen by the entrance, 2 showers for all guests, and 2 guest rooms. The second floor had 4 rooms for guests. And the 3rd floor was the rooftop where the laundry machines were located. It was impressive how much was crammed into such a small space.

So we made our way to our room on the second floor. In order to go up the stairs, you have to go down the hall and make a very sharp turn directly onto the staircase. The space at the foot of the stairs is a few INCHES from the wall and you have to step directly onto the first step from the side to get up. I would not be surprised if some larger people could not physically fit through the space to get on the step.

We managed to squeeze through and get to the second floor and into our room.

Our own little sink in our room

Our own little sink in our room

Tatami style room!

Tatami style room!

The room was small but very cute. We got to sleep on tatami mats which were surprisingly comfy. It was quaint and cozy.

Once we were settled, we were ready to find some dinner nearby. On our way out, David, the husband from Canada we met earlier, offered to walk us over to the nearby restaurants. As he led us a few yards away, he chatted with us and told us that the location we were in was notoriously known as the most dangerous and poorest part of Osaka, even Osakans don’t set foot here.

Umm. Great.

We even looked this up later and he was right. But!!
Even though we were initially worried, we quickly discovered later that even though the area was poor and dangerous, it was only relative to Osaka. And we found the area was really not that unsafe or dangerous at all! Compared to most places in the States, I would rather be here any day. Seriously, little old Japanese men aren’t nearly as scary as the 6″+ heat-packing thugs and cholos that plague LA.

We went down the old shopping arcade that David brought us to and found an awesome sushi restaurant that had an amazing figure of the owner with animated eyebrows and glasses. Okay, you got us.

Salmon sushi

Salmon sushi

Tuna sushi nom

Tuna sushi nom

Tiny uni sushi

Tiny uni sushi

Eel sushi

Eel sushi

Piggy and the sushi

Piggy and the sushi

We ordered plenty as you can tell. But to our dismay, the sushi was good but not great as we had overly anticipated. We came to realize that’s because it was cheap sushi.

With our “appetizers” in, we continued to roam the arcade for more food.

The shinsekai shopping arcade mostly closed down

The shinsekai shopping arcade mostly closed down

The sizzling sounds from this okonomiyaki shop called to us. We went in.

Small little Okonomiyaki restaurant

Small little Okonomiyaki restaurant

Little grill at our table

Little grill at our table

Pork with some refreshing beer

Pork with some refreshing beer

Our decadent okonomiyaki with seafood

Our decadent okonomiyaki with seafood

The okonomiyaki was hearty and tasty. The chunks of octopus, pork belly, salmon, and shrimp were all well cooked. And the density of the mix was just right.

Ahh what a way to kick off Japan. This meal was a solid signal for good times ahead.

– pork

Last Day in Seoul: Relaxing in Samcheongdong

Our last full day in Seoul before we head off to Japan! After all of the shopping and great eats, we were prepared for a relaxed day to wrap it all up–Seoul style.

The goal for the day was to get to a coffee shop and spend time relaxing as many people here do. It’s really a pasttime to just hang out at these cute coffee shops (ref. any Korean drama that takes place in the modern day).

So we headed out to Samcheongdong. We had been there before and loved all the boutique stores and the old downtown vibe, so it was a good destination to chill.

But like most days of late, we have been getting out the door later and later. And this time, we were out by 12pm! So of course, we got our mind on some food and some food on our mind~ Yeah… Ok cheesy references aside, we came across a small little noodle shop as we worked our way closer to Samcheongdong through the small side streets.

Guksu restaurant

Guksu restaurant

Piggy in her new outfit

Piggy in her new outfit

It was hot that day and so a refreshing bibim guksu, which is spicy cold noodles, sounded quite pleasing.

Refreshing Bibimguksu

Refreshing Bibimguksu

Pork got the same dish too

Pork got the same dish too

We have had bibim guksu before, many times, but this place served it almost like a noodle salad on a plate instead of a tin bowl. What was great about it is that they even put shaved ice in the dish to keep the noodles nice and cool. And we especially liked the seaweed in it too.

After our typical inhalation of our meals, we were ready to roll on. Pun intended. I, to speak for myself, have definitely gained more depth on the z-axis, rounding my body and making it more suitable for tumbling down hills.

We went through the same Samcheongdong-ro street which carried the majority of the shops in the area in search of a good place to perch ourselves. Unlike our first time around, there were waaaay more people here given that it was the weekend. We squeezed through the packs of oppas with their skinny nyoja chingus (girlfriends) and stopped in several accessory stores for Piggy to buy some rings. Er.. Not of the engagement kind.

Piggy found some great deals at 5,000 won a pop or ~$5, and bought several cute simple little bands (which she will likely lose as she has done in the past).

Making our way further up the street, we saw a cafe advertising the most scrumptious looking shaved ice dessert we had seen around.

Cafe Dal for patbingsu

Cafe Dal for patbingsu

Green tea patbingsu

Green tea patbingsu

IT WAS SOOOO alright. OK, it wasn’t bad just really really expensive for what you get. The order cost us about $15 and all that comes in it is a large bowl of shaved ice, 2 scoops of green tea ice cream, 1 mochi, half a banana, and a scoop of red bean paste. Really underwhelming for the price. But we’ll let it slide because Korea hadn’t disappointed us before.

Once we got our fill of dessert, we tried to find a hip coffee shop to settle in but ended up going back to Cafe Chloris where we had also went to the last time. We picked up 2 drinks and proceeded to spend the next 3 hours on blogging and researching for Japan.

Back at Cafe Chloris in Samcheongdong

Back at Cafe Chloris in Samcheongdong

As the night drew in, we packed up for home. We wanted to keep the day simple and went into a chicken shop called Oppa Dalk near our place.

The restaurant was a popular fried chicken franchise but we wanted to have a somewhat healthier order this time around and got a simple chicken salad. At least, we thought it was.

Chicken yogurt salad with ICE CREAM

Chicken yogurt salad with ICE CREAM

The salad came with 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream on it! We figured that a yogurt chicken salad is fine, especially since we live in Sunnyvale where yogurt is used liberally in the many Indian joints around us. But ice cream??

Well it ended up being a surprisingly acceptable mix when eating the fried chicken and the ice cream in one bite. I wouldn’t say it was amazing, but it sure was interesting.

We got back to the room by about 9pm since we had an early day ahead. As we were packing, we wanted to review our haul before playing Tetris with our luggage space.

Our makeup and other stuff haul

Our makeup and other stuff haul

Piggy's clothing haul

Piggy’s clothing haul

I would say we did some good damage for the first week of our stay abroad and we had plenty to carry for our next stop in Japan, but it was worth it.

To recount on the past week in Seoul, I must say that it has been a fantastic experience. The delicious food and the wondrous views made the trip thus far so very satisfying. But the biggest takeaways for me are the experiences of discovery, surprise, and even confusion which have all contributed to my feelings of enlightenment. Although I had seen Korea before, I felt I was much more aware of my surroundings this time around and really soaked in the environment. Kamsahamnida Seoul! I hope to see you again.

– pork

Dakgalbi, Banpo Bridge, and Drinking Like Locals!

Getting close to the end of our time in Korea! We are now trying to fit in everything else that we should do in Korea. So we wanted to find some dakgalbi for lunch first. Since Pork had it when he was here when he studied abroad at Yonsei University a long time ago, he wanted to take me to eat it and he knew most of the dakgalbi restaurants were near the university. So we went to Sinchon again! I think the dish is mostly known to be a really good drunchie (drunk munchie) for all those drunk students.. 🙂 I knew it was spicy marinated chicken cooked on a hot, flat stone, but different restaurants had their own variations of it. The place we went to cooked the chicken with vegetables and cheeeese (mm mm, my favorite)! They also serve it with spaghetti. You can also opt for the fried rice at the end, just make sure to leave 1/3 of the meat and veggies to be cooked with the rice. We didn’t get the fried rice since we didn’t want to be too filled up with carbs, but everyone else in the restaurant seemed to get it and eat it all up. Another nice thing about Korean restaurants is that they provide aprons for you so your clothes don’t get splattered on with the spicy sauce.

Also, the weekend had so many more tourists and people than usual. We noticed a lot of tourists from Taiwan in the restaurant as well as a lot of other areas in general. We were glad to have gone to the really popular tourist areas already, otherwise we would have been packed in like sardines.

Dakgalbi restaurant in Sinchon

Dakgalbi restaurant in Sinchon

Piggy excited to eat

Piggy excited to eat

Pork donning an apron

Pork donning an apron

Raw ingredients ready for some cooking magic

Raw ingredients ready for some cooking magic

Voila! Cooked dakgalbi

Voila! Cooked dakgalbi

Spaghetti added into the mix

Spaghetti added into the mix

After lunch, we decided to cool down at Gong Cha and get some teas. Gong Cha is a really big franchise of tea in Korea; it’s basically the Starbucks of tea. Pork got the Wintermelon with Crema, which was REALLY good. I wanted to steal it. >:] If only my Grapefruit green tea wasn’t so good too, haha. I know, I’m greedy.

Gong Cha! Wintermelon with Crema and Grapefruit green tea

Gong Cha! Wintermelon with Crema and Grapefruit green tea

We walked toward the area of Ewha University to check out the area and maybe do some shopping – definitely did some shopping alright, got a HAUL at this one store called Be Seto. So many cute things for good prices (the range was from 5,000 to 30,000 won but MOST things were 10,000 won). Woo woo! A lot of other clothing stores actually sold similar things so I didn’t bother looking. I had to pee really badly after (from the shopping adrenaline? Baha jk, from that grapefruit tea probably), so we went into the nearest cafe, which was a Dunkin Donuts. Hence, the cronut.

New York pies aka Cronuts

New York pies aka Cronuts

After that, we walked toward the station to get to Banpo Bridge and stopped to get some street food!

Chicken skewer stand in Ewha

Chicken skewer stand in Ewha

Grilled chicken skewer with green onion, spicy sauce, and drizzled cheese

Grilled chicken skewer with green onion, spicy sauce, and drizzled cheese

Pork enjoying a spicy chicken skewer

Pork enjoying a spicy chicken skewer

Banpo bridge is a famous bridge that has a water show every night with lights and music. I honestly didn’t think it was THAT impressive. Maybe we didn’t go on the right night? I’ve seen pictures online where the lights look really vibrant but when we went, I could barely see the differentiation. I will admit though, it is still a nice place to bring your significant other and/or friends, maybe some snacks, and blankets to sit down and chill out.

Banpo bridge water show

Banpo bridge water show

After Banpo Bridge, we set out to find some dinner near our place so we found this alleyway full of food. I think we walked up and down the entire alleyway 3 times before we decided on something. Since it was our last night, I thought we should get some good ol’ KBBQ because it just never gets old when you’re in Korea, haha. But this time, we decided to drink like the Koreans do! Or as close as we could get. We decided to share a bottle of soju. Man oh man, Koreans are hardcore. They usually drink 1 bottle of soju per person for DINNER. And then go drinking more after at multiple bars and then karaoke. I started realizing and was amazed that in all of the restaurants we’ve been going to, even though Pork and I are still in that young, prime-drinking-age, we found the ajusshis/ajimas and older business men/women sitting near us pounding soju like it was nothing. Sharing this bottle of soju and having 1 bottle of beer each got us druuunk. But it was probably the best kind of drunk, definitely didn’t feel sick and had lots of giggles. It was probably the best way to spend our last full night out in Seoul.

Some food alley in Cheongdong near our place!

Some food alley in Cheongdong near our place!

Prepped for KBBQ action

Prepped for KBBQ action

Kalbi and samgyepsal. Yummmmm

Kalbi and samgyepsal. Yummmmm

Piggy pre-buzzed

Piggy pre-buzzed

Drinking soju to have a real KBBQ meal

Drinking soju to have a real KBBQ meal

– piggy

Namdaemun and Namsan Tower

Friday! The trip so far has been so eventful but rewarding. We started off our morning with… walking! Walking is fine and all, but this is probably the most ground I’ve covered on foot especially in such a short period of time. Wish I brought Nikes.

Tip: A lot of people in Seoul either wear fancy business attire or running shoes. So wearing a pair of colorful Nikes here is totally acceptable.

Our first destination was Namdaemun Market, about 1.5 miles away. We passed by City Hall on the way there and it looked like there was some sort of awareness day going on.

In front of City Hall

In front of City Hall

There were yellow ribbons all around just like with breast cancer awareness and pink ribbons. It wasn’t only until I looked it up later that I learned that the yellow ribbons represent hope in light of the Ferry Disaster.

As we began approaching Namdaemun, we followed a crowd into a small street which, of course, was filled with restaurants! The great thing about Seoul is that, the little streets are the places to be. Not sure where to find food? Take a turn off the big road and into the groves of BBQ meats and pork cutlets.

The same way we picked all our other restaurants, we looked for a restaurant filled with people.

Restaurant on the way to Namdaemun

Restaurant on the way to Namdaemun

The restaurant served KBBQ but also regular lunch food like Galbi Tang and Soondubu.

Galbi Tang

Galbi Tang

Soondubu Soup!

Soondubu Soup!

Both dishes were spectacular! Seriously, eating Korean food in Korea has yet to disappoint.

Piggy with her soondubu

Piggy with her soondubu

After our satisfying meal, we shuffled on to Namdaemun Market but had to go through an underground shopping center first.

Namdaemun underground shopping stairs

Namdaemun underground shopping stairs

The stairs were lined with little vendors with tiny nooks where the merchants would sit. Once we were in the shopping center, we found ourselves in another cheap goods galore.

Namdaemun underground shopping

Namdaemun underground shopping

The shops were small, antique shops as well as the typical clothing stalls we’ve seen before. So we made our way to the surface without any purchases.

Namdaemun market packed on Saturday

Namdaemun market packed on Saturday

Whoa! Upon surfacing, we found ourselves in a pool of locals and foreigners all scurrying through the narrow paths of Namdaemun Market. There were plenty of foreigners from China, America, and Europe, all strolling around to admire the variety of apparel as well as food. We even saw a whole section for military style clothing with camo prints.

The market was a fascinating change from the other stalls we’ve seen before in that it reminded me of shopping in Chinatown in LA as a kid, before it got all hipster. The market was old and comprised of a much older merchant base. It’s like where Grandma goes to see friends and play Mah Jong, while someone is inevitably smoking a cigarette while hunched over a pink plastic stool. Yup, nostalgia.

Once we were through the market flurry, we headed in the direction of Myeongdong which was close by. And just a block away from the little stalls of Namdaemun Market, we were greeted by a towering Shinsegae department store.

It was a beauty filled with high end brands like Gucci, Prada, and Burberry. But the best find in the entire building was in B1, a floor for FOOD!

There was a grocery store, a slew of restaurants, and an array of food stalls. This bakery had a wide assortment of baked hot dog goods!

Wide array of hot dog goods at Shinsegae

Wide array of hot dog goods at Shinsegae

It looked amaaaaaazing. But we were too full for another feeding frenzy. But we did find a tea place to quench our thirst. But it was none other than SHARETEA!

We found ShareTea!!!

We found ShareTea!!!

We were so thrilled to find this because we had just tried this place back in San Mateo, CA, and loooved it.

We also noticed this neat machine that sanitizes all of the shopping carts with UV.

Ingenious UV sanitizing cart machine

Ingenious UV sanitizing cart machine

It’s pretty amazing and ingenious. One point up for Korea over Amurrrica.

The amazing Shinsegae also had a rooftop garden to relax from shopping desensitization.

Rooftop garden of Shinsegae

Rooftop garden of Shinsegae

There were so many moms here with their babies. I suppose it’s where all the housewives of Seoul hang out.

Aside from the drinks at ShareTea and the food on B1, we had no appetite to buy anything from Shinsegae as it was all designer and beyond our lack of money. So we decided to head back into Myeongdong where we were a few days before.

We went into H&M, Forever 21, Uniqlo, and a few other stores to look for some clothes. Piggy got several shirts and tanks from a store called Top 10 while I got a shirt from BSX, where I was suckered in by how good G Dragon of Big Bang looked in the clothing. He was literally the only model for the store and was plastered on every wall.

As the night rolled in, we had worked up our appetite and so we got a chicken wrap from a food stall.

Chicken wraps with wasabi sauce

Chicken wraps with wasabi sauce vendor

Piggy going in for the bite

Piggy going in for the bite

Dat wasabi sauce

Dat wasabi sauce

The wrap was essentially a Taco Bell chicken wrap taken up 3 levels from the better ingredients and a bomb wasabi sauce.

Just getting through our appetizer made us want a bit more. Piggy had been wanting kimbap practically since we got to Korea so we found a popular kimbap franchise in Myeongdong.

KimGaNe store

KimGaNe store

The prices were stellar at ~$4 a roll. We ordered a tuna kimbap and an assorted kimbap. Both were made to order!

Our 2 orders of scrumptious kimbap

Our 2 orders of scrumptious kimbap

The kimbaps here were loaded with ingredients and felt much heartier. And I loved that they were wrapped in the salty seaweed that’s often used for snacking. It brought out more of the flavors.

Kimbap pieces displaying their bountiful treasures

Kimbap pieces displaying their bountiful treasures

After annihilating our 2 rolls, we were ready for the trek to Namsan tower.

On our way through an underground pass, we saw an old lady with 2 boxes…

Tiny kitten at the subway. Sooo small!

Tiny kitten at the subway. Sooo small!

They were filled with kittens and puppies! They weren’t leashed and the kittens were chilling on the steps while hundreds of people passed by. It did make me sad though since I knew those little fluffs probably weren’t very well fed or taken care of.

The trek to the cable car took about 10 minutes of walking. When we got there, we found way more Chinese tourists than local Koreans and we all had to cram in an elevator to even get to the cable car station.

Elevator to cable car for Namsan Tower

Elevator to cable car for Namsan Tower

After riding the elevator up, which happened to be more of a box on an escalator, we had to wait in line for about 20 minutes just to get on the cable car. But once we got on the cable car, we got a great view of the city as we made our way up. And the tight spaces of the car had all the couples embracing (although Piggy was a little resistant at first, she gave in too). 😉

At the base of the tower, there were many cafe shops and small eateries as well as gift shops for the visitors. We snapped a picture of the tower as we were making our way into the crowd.

Beautiful Namsan Tower glowing at night

Beautiful Namsan Tower glowing at night

One of the main attractions of Namsan Tower is the abundance of lover locks which decorate entire walls and trees!

Lover lock trees. ALL of those are locks!

Lover lock trees. ALL of those are locks!

These locks are hung by couples to symbolize their everlasting love for one another. Although, it’s probably more of a gimmick to make money as the tower sells the locks for $15. But you can still bring your own to save a few bucks.

The view from the top was magical and really made it a great date spot.

Piggy and the glistening city in the background

Piggy and the glistening city in the background

Another neat thing about the tower is that it has shops and attractions inside of the base. There is a restaurant and observatory deck at the top of the tower too, but it costs money so we opted out of it.

Instead, we roamed the inside and found this A Twosome Place banner with Lee Min Ho who we were familiar with from Boy’s Over Flowers (a Korean romantic comedy drama).

Twosome Place banner with Lee Min Ho

Twosome Place banner with Lee Min Ho

After about an hour or so, we were ready to leave the tower. But when we saw the massive line for the cable car down, we knew it would have easily been an hour wait. So, the abled-bodies that we were, decided to hike down from the tower base.

The long descent from Namsan Tower

The long descent from Namsan Tower

It took about 20 minutes of nothing but stairs to reach the bottom. There were plenty of others on the path so it assured us we weren’t doing anything out of the ordinary, and we even saw plenty of people still going up!

Even though we had a 20 minute march down from Namsan Tower, we had about another mile and a half to walk to get back to our room.

On the way we saw a McDonalds with all of its delivery bikes outside. They deliver McDonalds here!

Array of McDonalds delivery bikes

Array of McDonalds delivery bikes

Well they also deliver fried chicken, sushi, and jjajangmyun here too. Ahhh… it would be too easy to get fat here.

And our next meal didn’t help this from being true either. We found a HOF, a common type of Korean pub all around Seoul, and dropped in for some beers and food.

Pork enjoying an ice cold Cass after the long walk

Pork enjoying an ice cold Cass after the long walk

We ordered a spicy tteokboki with seafood dish which is popular to eat with beer.

Ooey, gooey tteokboki and seafood dish

Ooey, gooey tteokboki and seafood dish

And oh boy was it a cheesy, gooey, mouthgasm mess. We managed to eat it all. It was really a great way to more than make up for all of the Calories burned throughout the day, but oh well. We are here to eat! And eat we shall!

Right before getting home, we wrapped up the night by picking up some Makgeolli, a Korean rice wine, to try out in the comforts of our own room. It’s a common drink here but neither of us have ever tried it.

Makgeolli to finish the night

Makgeolli to finish the night

It was surprisingly not bad. It’s about as strong as a Zinfandel but with a grittier consistency like horchata. You can taste and feel a bit of the creaminess from the rice mixture but it still isn’t very thick at all and would be closer in consistency to water than wine.

It was the perfect way to end a long day. Kanbe!

– pork

Sinchon, GANGNAM, and Dongdaemun Shopping

Jocheun achim-ieyo (good morning)! Day 3 of our 7 day trip to Korea! Today was filled with a ton of walking. I wished I brought my pedometer. Would’ve broke numbers on it. Pfft oh well.

Starting our day, we hopped on the green line to Sinchon, where the famous Yonsei University is and where I took a Summer program 5 years back. Upon exiting the station, I caught a glimpse of a huge SNSD advertisement and had to stop for a pic.

Large SNSD advertisement

Large SNSD advertisement

Seriously, when celebrities are famous here, they are EVERYWHERE. Like, each celebrity will take up endorsements from 1 brand of each industry. As in they need to be featured on coffee posters, clothing lines, and of course makeup.

As we got out onto the street, we found the giant red tube mirror thing by the station exit.

Giant mirror in Sinchon

Giant mirror in Sinchon

It’s a perfect tool for what so many Koreans here do regularly–admire themselves or fix their meticulously assembled hair. You will easily catch girls AND guys pausing to look at themselves in a mirror or on their phone. We even saw a girl pull out a large mirror, the ones with a handle.

We continued on through Sinchon which was very nostalgic for me. Some stores I remembered from years back were replaced by the newest trends but luckily some remained. After briefly roaming, we saw a busy cold noodle shop and decided to grab a bite.

Pyongyang Choson in Sinchon

Pyongyang Choson in Sinchon

The cold noodles or Naengmyun is popular in Korea especially on hot days as it’s very cool and refreshing. The noodles are usually buckwheat or arrowroot which make for very chewy noodles that need to be cut up with scissors to eat more easily. Piggy got the bibim naengmyun which is the spicy noodles.

Bibim Naengmyun

Bibim Naengmyun

I opted for the mul naengmyun.

Mul Naengmyun

Mul Naengmyun

Both were delicious and made for a very light lunch.

Pork and his noodles

Pork and his noodles

Piggy and her noodles

Piggy and her noodles

We continued roaming Sinchon a bit more.

Streets of Sinchon

Streets of Sinchon

And even stumbled upon some neat art and funky buildings like this cafe.

Wacky cafe in Sinchon

Wacky cafe in Sinchon

After Sinchon, we hopped on the metro for a long ride to Coex mall in Gangnam. It took about 45 mins. but gave me time to nap. Much needed for all the walking ahead.

Once we got to Coex, we discovered it was mostly under construction!

Coex mall in Gangnam

Coex mall in Gangnam

It was a shame because Coex is reknowned for being the largest and most spectacular mall in Seoul. It even has an aquarium. We still got to enjoy the area though and enjoyed the breeze while walking outside before we headed towards Gangnam Station, closer to the heart of Gangnam.

After exiting Gangnam Station, we were greeted with massive highrise buildings.

Towering buildings in Gangnam

Towering buildings in Gangnam

We could definitely see the plethora of sharply dressed businessmen here and the abundance of coffee shops.

We stopped by Angel-in-us Coffee for a break and some free wifi. Hehe.

Angel-in-us Coffee

Angel-in-us Coffee

Speaking of which, we found that there are random pockets of free wifi around Seoul but generally the coffee shops will have free wifi.

Piggy relaxing from all the walking

Piggy relaxing from all the walking

Our iced americano and red orange tea

Our iced americano and red orange tea

We checked our Facebooks (gotta stay in the loop) and then planned our next stop to Sohhyeon Station which is just about half a mile from Gangnam Station. Heading up to the station, we passed by all of the hip bars and shops of Gangnam.

The hangout areas of Gangnam

The hangout areas of Gangnam

Hopping on the metro, we made a quick trip to Apgujeong, an area still within Gangnam.

Getting low on blood-sugar, we stopped by Paris Baguette, a popular bakery chain also found in the States. Piggy took a few moments then found the pastry she wanted.

“This is the one”, she told me.

Piggy enjoying a chocolate pastry from Paris Baguette

Piggy enjoying a chocolate pastry from Paris Baguette

I took a bite and could see why. It was fluffy, not too sweet, and chocolatey. It was like biting into a creamy pillow of euphoria.

Look at that fluffy chocolate goodness

Look at that fluffy chocolate goodness

So good…

We kept on our trek through the famous Gangnam and made our way to Rodeo Street, the birthplace of none other than the OPP-OPP-OPPAN GANGNAM STYLE! The song rightfully parodies the affluence of Gangnam which we could see from the prevalence of luxury cars.

Just an Audi R8 in Gangnam

Just an Audi R8 in Gangnam

We spotted several Porsches, a Maserati, and a Lamborghini.

Finished with the window shopping (because everything in Gangnam is expensive), we were ready for Dongdaemun.

Walking to Dongdaemun

Walking to Dongdaemun

Dongdaemun is popular amongst tourists and locals for clothing and wholesale goods. It’s a bit like the fashion district in LA where many fabric shops line the sidewalk. But the more popular parts of Dongdaemun are the multiple shopping complexes. Basically, they’re like low end department stores packed with small booths.

We opted to go into Migliore, an 8 floor of shopping mania.

Shopping in Dongdaemun at Migliore

Shopping in Dongdaemun at Migliore

So many clothessss

So many clothessss

Here, you are expected to haggle for a better price. And if you’re not Korean or fluent in it, expect to be ripped off. Which… I’m sure we were. But nevertheless, we managed to get Piggy a few things at a “discount” that she was happy with.

It's packed with clothes

It’s packed with clothes

We were a bit overwhelmed and the clothing started to get repetitive. Although there were still neat things worth buying.

Too much clothes!

Too much clothes!

The Migliore building in Dongdaemun

The Migliore building in Dongdaemun

While in Dongdaemun, we saw PACKS of tourists from Hong Kong, China, and I think the Phillipines.

Tourists and locals in Dongdaemun

Tourists and locals in Dongdaemun

Piggy was glad to be outside after her bit of shopping.

Pleased with shopping

Pleased with shopping

At this point, it was time for dinner and we roamed into the backstreets away from the main roads where all the good food is found.

Backstreets of Dongdaemun

Backstreets of Dongdaemun

And we discovered this poppin’ restaurant.

The awesome chukumi vs. kimchi jiggae restaurant

The awesome chukumi vs. kimchi jiggae restaurant

We saw amazing looking pictures for this place and were able to get seated right away.

Piggy ready to chow down

Piggy ready to chow down

We ordered the first item in the menu which all the other tables seemed to have.

Delectable meal combo

Delectable meal combo

The mussels part of the combo

The mussels part of the combo

This combo came with a SPIIICY octopus and pork belly stir-fry which is cooked at the table. It even came with a pot of mussels and a side of sesame leaves and seaweed.

Close up of the amazing spicy octopus and pork belly

Close up of the amazing spicy octopus and pork belly

This. Was. BOMB! The red sauce packed a lot of heat but this dish was so tasty and different from the typical KBBQ we have back home. This combo cost 13,000 won a person which was totally worth it. They gave plenty of octopus, pork belly, and mussels to more than warrant the price. They also give free refills on seaweed, sesame leaves, and side dishes. It was a solid meal.

I’ll definitely remember it and the spiciness!

Pork feeling the HEAT

Pork feeling the HEAT

Another tip for other foreigners like us, we had to peek over at other tables to figure out how to eat the food. Do as the locals do! Also, a lot of communal places like this serve by the number of people in your party. Just like if you were to get AYCE in America.

With tingly mouths and happy tummies, we wandered Dongdaemun some more and stumbled into DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza). It was a windy, curvy building with sporadic bits of art. We also saw Akdong Musician being projected on a wall!

Akdong Musician!

Akdong Musician!

Outside of the building in the courtyard, we saw an alluring stairway.

Magical stairway to the land of the unicorns and rainbows

Magical stairway to the land of the unicorns and rainbows

This whole structure was incredible. It’s a massive, metallic and round building that’s hard to describe. It felt very futuristic. From the lights, the walls, and pathways, it all felt inspiring.

The marvelous DDP structure

The marvelous DDP structure

Ah, another great day in Seoul. Wish you guys could join us!

– pork