Monday, August 15, 2016

Lunch Promos at Han Guk Kwan Korean Restaurant

While trying to come up with blogposts about my last South Korea trip, I came across photos of jajangmyeon (stir fried noodles in black bean sauce), bossam (pork belly), and jokbal (pig's feet) which ignited a frenzied search for those dishes in Cebu. Going through the labyrinth that is the internet, I somehow found my way to Han Guk Kwan's facebook page which wasn't updated at all. I dropped a message (asking if they had any of those dishes on the menu) on the off chance that they might read it. I salivated when they replied in the affirmative. And my mouth became a faucet when they said they had a lunch promo for jajangmyeon and bossam!


A bowl of dubu jjigae (tofu stew) and a plate of bossam and kimchi

I rarely go out of the office for lunch but the only way to turn off the leaky faucet on my face was to stuff it with these dishes. I just had to go out and drag some officemates to help gorge on a bowl of jajangmyeon (lunch promo Php 100; regular price is Php 200) and bossam (lunch promo Php 250, bossam comes with a bowl of rice and a bowl of tofu stew). It was worth the over break that day! 

On the way back to work, I was already planning to go back to Han Guk Kwan to try the other dishes I had picked from their extensive menu: jokbal (pig's feet), dakdoritang (spicy chicken stew), and godeungeo jorim (spicy braised mackerel). A serving can feed two to three persons. Who wants to go with me?

(Their lunch promo is only for jajangmyeon and bossam. Note that the serving size for their lunch promo is good for one person only. On the regular menu, most dishes are good for two to three persons.)

Han Guk Kwan Korean Restaurant
Mahogany Court, Archbishop Reyes Avenue, Cebu City
0906 308 2020 / 0932 608 1408 / (032) 516 8859 / (032) 231 1533
Open 24 hours daily

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Seoul World Heritage: Jongmyo Shrine, Seolleung and Jeongneung Royal Tombs

I am a heritage hog. And, surprise surprise, this trip wasn't without its share of visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites. South Korea has twelve inscribed in the World Heritage List:
  • Baekje Historic Areas (2015)
  • Changdeokgung Palace Complex (1997)
  • Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites (2000)
  • Gyeongju Historic Areas (2000)
  • Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks (1995)
  • Historic Villages of Korea: Hahoe and Yangdong (2010)
  • Hwaseong Fortress (1997)
  • Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes (2007)
  • Jongmyo Shrine (1995)
  • Namhansanseong (2014)
  • Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty (2009)
  • Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple (1995)
Do I want to visit all these sites? Heck, yeah. But quite impossible to do in just one short visit. So I try to squeeze in at least one per visit. In 2012, I visited Changdeokgung Palace Complex in Seoul. In 2014, Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple in North Gyeongsang Province. And in 2016, I managed to visit four: Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul, two of the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty in Seoul, Hwaseong Fortress in Gyeonggi Province, and Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon in South Gyeongsang Province.
157 Jong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Wednesdays to Mondays 9AM to 530PM
English Guided Tours at 10AM | 12NN | 2PM | 4PM
Admission Fee KRW 1000

Directions to Jongmyo Shrine: Take subway line 1 to Jongno-3(sam)-ga Station, exit 11. Or subway line 2 or 5 to Jongno-3(sam)-ga Station, exit 8. Jongmyo Shrine is a 10-minute walk from any of the three options.

Jongmyo Shrine was founded in 1395 by King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty. For centuries, Jongmyo Shrine was where the Confucian ancestral rites—Jongmyo Jerye (royal ancestral rites) and Jongmyo Jeryeak (royal ancestral ritual music)—for the deceased kings and queens was held several times a year. It is also where their spirit tablets are enshrined. Nowadays, the ritual is only performed once a year, on the first Sunday of May.

It was a solemn tour around Jongmyo Shrine with only about a dozen guests. The structures in Jongmyo were plain and similar looking but it's the history and the ritual behind it that made it an interesting visit (thanks to the guide who spoke English well and encouraged visitors to ask questions). There are some countries that follow Confucianism, but it is only Korea that still performs this ritual.

  • Eventhough Jongmyo Shrine is open from 9AM to 530PM, visitors can only enter during scheduled tours. Purchase an admission ticket at least five minutes before the scheduled tour.
  • If you'd like to visit Jongmyo Shrine without a guide, you can do so anytime between opening hours on Saturdays and on the last Wednesday of every month. Added bonus on the last Wednesday of the month: free admission.
  • If you plan to visit Jongmyo Shrine and all four palaces (Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, and Deoksugung), get the combination ticket KRW 10,000. It will save you KRW 4,000.
  • Visit on the first Sunday of May to witness the Confucian ancestral rites being performed.

The Main Hall called Jeongjeon is where the spirit tablets of kings and queens are enshrined.

Yeongnyeongjeon or the Hall of Eternal Peace enshrines four generations of King Taejo's ancestors.

Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty
Seolleung and Jeongneung Royal Tombs
서울 선릉과 정릉
1 Seolleung-ro 100-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Tuesdays to Sundays 6AM to 9PM
(Opens 630AM November to February)
Admission Fee KRW 1000

Directions to Seolleung and Jeongneung Royal Tombs: Take Seoul subway line 2 or Bundang Line to Seolleung Station, exit 8. Walk about 5 minutes along Seolleung-ro, turn right to Seolleung-ro 100-gil to find the entrance to the park.

There are 18 Royal Tomb sites, and five of these are in Seoul. Of the five, I visited the Seolleung and Jeongneung Royal Tombs (also known as Seongjeongneung Royal Tombs), which is located in the same park and can be reached via a subway ride (for the other Royal Tombs around Seoul, one has to take the subway and bus).

Seolleung is the tomb of King Seongjong, the 9th ruler of Joseon Dynasty, and his third queen, Queen Jeonghyeon. Jeongneung is the tomb of King Jungjong, the second son of King Seongjong, thus the 11th ruler of Joseon Dynasty. (King Jungjong's first queen, Queen Dangyeong, is buried in Olleung Royal Tomb in Gyeonggi Province, which is not open to the public. His second queen, Queen Munjeong, is buried in Taereung Royal Tomb in Seoul.)

The tombs all look similar: it has a red spiked gate that marks the start of a stone path (the king's road on the right, and a slightly elevated spirit's road on the left—no man should walk on the spirit road!), which leads to a shrine where the ancestral rites are held. There is also a small shed where tombstones inscribed with the deceased royalty's achievements are kept. Then a small hill where the burial mound, surrounded by stone figures and a low stone wall, is.

Of the three burial mounds at Seongjeongneung, the burial mounds of Queen Jeonghyeon and King Jungjong can only be viewed from below the small hill where I didn't really see anything but grass and, if I made like a giraffe, heads of some stone figures. The burial mound of King Seongjong though, I did see up close, because it had a small viewing area off to the side of the wall that surrounds the burial mound.


Clockwise from top left: Red spiked gate of Jeongneung Royal Tomb, burial mound of King Jungjong,
the ceremonial area in Seolleung, burial mound of King Seongjong

King Seongjong's burial mound

Here's a map of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Seoul:

South Korea on Three

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Seoul Art: Nanta!, Ihwa Mural Village, Dongdaemun Design Plaza

I injected some art in my three days in Seoul:

Meongdong | Hongdae | Chungjeongno | Jeju
Tickets from KRW 40,000 to KRW 70,000

Music made not with instruments but with kitchen things like pots, pans, knives, ladles, vegetables. Who wouldn't want to watch such a performance? My friend (MinJun) and I settled in our seats in the Nanta Theater in Hongdae and having researched a little bit about it, MinJun told me Nanta is not only music, but a story (with minimal dialogue) of three cooks who are tasked to prepare a wedding feast by 6PM of the same day. On top of that, the three cooks also had to teach a new guy to cook and prepare food.

It was also MinJun's first time to watch Nanta so we weren't really sure what to expect. When we emerged from the theater, we both had a wide grin on our face. It was absolutely entertaining; the storyline and the actors were funny, the performance enjoyable. Not a second was a bore. (Plus the audience participated!). It was worth every won!

Tip: If you have a Korean friend, maybe you could ask him/her to buy you a ticket online...there is a Korean website (I assume most, if not all, Koreans know about this website) that sells cheap tickets not only for Nanta but also for other shows and events. Thank you MinJun for finding KRW 25000 second row VIP tickets and not accepting my payment!

The only photo I have on Nanta...because photography and videography are not allowed during the performance.

Ihwa Mural Village
이화 벽화마을
Ihwa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Directions to Ihwa Mural Village: Take subway line 4 to Hyehwa Station, exit 2. Walk towards Marronnier Park.

GaEun, whom I haven't seen since 2012, took some time off to go sightseeing with me around Ihwa Mural Village. She herself hasn't been to Ihwa Mural Village and has been wanting to go. We walked around the village looking at murals, sculptures, and artistic facades. We walked and walked (and it was no easy was mostly uphill!) until we reached a viewing deck in Naksan Park. Only then did we sit, wipe sweat off our brows, and take a breather. If it wasn't so tiring, we would have wanted to look at every alley around the village!

Tip: Wear good walking shoes!

Art around Ihwa Mural Village

And more art!

The view from Naksan Park

281 Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
Directions to DDP: Take subway line 2, 4, or 5 to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station, exit 1.

There are exhibit areas in Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), but I was more interested outside. I spent some time at DDP's park just looking at the smooth curves of the DDP building, the sculptures around the park, and the LED roses (this exhibit has been extended until October 2016).

Tip: If you want to see the LED roses lit up, go to Dongdaemun Design Plaza after dusk.

Clockwise from top left: At the Creative Park, LED roses, drinking fountains, rest areas

South Korea on Three