Monday, October 29, 2012

Seoul street food: Grilled Squid

Yesterday Dutchman and I were in Itaewon, a really cool and trendy neighbourhood in Yongsan-gu, Seoul and I bought my first street food—‘Grilled Squid’!

They were grilled directly on coal.

Yummy! They are going at 3,000 KRW a pack (about EUR 2).

Will be posting more street food stuff soon!

Travel Period: October 2012
Destination: Itaewon (Yongsan-gu - Seoul), South Korea

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Neon signs in Samil-Daero, Seoul

Samil-Daero is a sub-locality of Jung-gu (Central District) or Jung in Seoul. Dutchman and I discovered this place one evening after our Bulgogi dinner (will post this soon) while looking for a place to have coffee and tea.

The area is quite lively and is overloaded with colourful neon sign boards.

It looks like Samil-Daero is not the first choice by many because no one told us about the place. We found  this place by ourselves. With popular Myeong-dong and Insa-dong nearby, I can understand that it can be overshadowed.

Nevertheless, it’s very busy here with locals, mainly the younger ones and I am really loving the neon sign boards. It reminds me of Times Street in New York City.

We finally had coffee and tea at Cafe Pascucci, with a view down to the main road.

I love Green Tea Rice! I need to buy a few packs to bring back to the Netherlands.

Travel Period: October 2012
Destination: Samil-daero - Jung-gu (Central District, Seoul), South Korea

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Our first Korean Breakfast in Seoul and a glimpse of our Hanok

We arrived yesterday Friday just before 1PM and have been out and about in the city already. So far no jet lag because we quickly adjusted our body clock to Asia by sleeping later.

It’s Saturday morning right now here in Seoul and it’s raining cats and dogs. Weather forecast says it is going to be grey and raining ALL DAY. So we will have to be creative in finding things to do in the city indoors. That will be a challenge I am sure but I have ideas.

So far there is no hurry because we are enjoying our time in the Hanok place that we are staying. We slept the Korean ‘floor mattress and ondol’ (heated floors) way and had breakfast, Korean style as well! Here it is:

I told the owner no fish or anything from the sea for the Dutchman while I gobble up anything she serves.

We had chicken, kimchi, vegetables with courgette and mushrooms, rice, and I had fish soup with tofu, black tea for drinks and persimon for dessert.

Dutchman is trying to get used to the idea that the Korean household is minimalist. He was like, ‘Where are the furnitures?’ and ‘Do we have to do everything on the floor?’ – LOL.

Well, we are moving to the other wing of the Hanok house today and there we will have a normal bed.

Here is a quick glimpse to our Hanok house:

This wing of the Hanok house is exclusive for us. We have lots of space! I took this picture from our bedroom. There is a modern and tastefully designed private bath and toilet behind the white sliding doors to the right. On the right picture is our inner courtyard which is a typical Korean Hanok thing. Our wing looks out to this view and we can also open the sliding doors to the courtyard.

OK, more about our Hanok stay soon.

Travel Period: October 2012
Destination: Bukchon - Jongno-gu (Seoul Old City Centre), South Korea

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Counting the hours to South Korea

Yep, we are counting the hours to our departure to Seoul, South Korea! However, I am not yet ready. So many last-minute stuff to do tomorrow at work and I now have a headache. I want to sleep! Anyway, I am afraid I may not be able to finish everything in time and may have to work a bit while on holiday. *sigh* (ugh)

Travel Period: October 2012
Destination: Seoul, South Korea

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On the road to Cayo Coco: Cuba espresso stop and the causeway

When you are driving for longer hours you need some caffeine to keep awake and concentrate on the road. So we decided its about time for another stopover, and this time we want to take some of the famous Cuban espresso. We found this roadside ‘comida’ restaurant and they are selling Cuban coffee for CUC$1.

Probably one of the best roadside coffee I will ever have. Strong, pure and just soooo good.

Done with the coffee (so little in a big glass) and we have 2 more hours to go to reach the keys!

Then we finally reached the causeway to Cayo Coco. This reminds me of the causeway to Marken (Netherlands). Now this man-made causeway linking mainland Cuba to the Cayos (keys) is approximately 27 kilometres long. The whole thing is so cool considering that Cuba is a relatively poor country, they still managed to build this up.

We are almost there!

Travel Period: May 2012
Destination: Cayo Coco (Ciego de Avila), Cuba

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On the road to Cayo Coco: Cow Traffic and the Toilet from Hell

So now that Santiago de Cuba is behind us we are an experience richer!

Our next destination in the agenda is Cayo Coco—the islands or the keys. This is where the famous Cuban beaches are located, in the eastern part of Cuba. We will be staying in a 4-star beach resort.

The drive from Santiago de Cuba to Cayo Coco is about 7 hours. We will be making 2 stops.

Cow Traffic: Mooooo!

While on the road, we saw cows joining lazily in the traffic. The biggest hazard in driving in Cuba are animals  that think the highways are their domain. I have a horrifying animal encounter on the road story to share later.

And then we saw the usual scenery on the Cuban highways.

The Toilet from Hell

Then we have to make the necessary stop—our FIRST stop nearby Holguin, because nature called us to do THE deed. We’ve probably driven about 2-3 hours already.

This is the roadside café restaurant that we had the stopover. And because nature called us to stop here we proceeded to their toilet.

The toilet from HELL! EWWWW. The picture did not do justice, the toilet was really so bad in person.

When I saw this, I was speechless and my body hairs were literally standing! Goosebumps. I wanted to run away but I realised that I am a girl scout (and Blondine as well) who deals with the situation at hand. So I held my breath, make sure I balance myself well without touching anything (so gross!) and just stared at the ceiling (because I don’t want to see the hell around me) while doing the deed. UGH.

I was so proud of myself after. I did it!!!

Back at the café restaurant we bought some soda. Yep, this is a cafeteria in Cuba.

And we saw some locals stopping by as well for drinks and some socialising.

It is now time to go back driving and be on the road. We still have another 4 hours to reach Cayo Coco. Wish us the best!

Travel Period: May 2012
Destination: Holguin (Holguin), Cuba

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Dancing the night away in Casa de la Trova in Santiago de Cuba

The blood that is MUSIC and DANCE runs in every Cuban’s veins. People there live to sing and dance. This is really serious business in Cuba.

In every town and city in the country, they have a ‘Casa de la Trova’. It’s a community social centre where the locals from the neighbourhood gather in the evening together except that playing music and dancing are on top of the agenda. In Santiago de Cuba they have opened the Casa de la Trova to tourists for a minimal fee of CUC$5 per person. In fact, the Casa de la Trova in Santiago de Cuba is the most famous because they feature the unique musical style—‘Son’.

Naturally, Blondine and I did not let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass. We had luck as well because the Casa de la Trova is located just beside our hotel, Hotel Casa Granda. So very near, we can go back to our room late!

So we went and paid, and we took our seats right on the front row. Perfect, we have the best seat in the casa.

The night started with some cha-cha-cha dancing. Blondine and I were invited by the local males to dance with them but we were coy--NOT. Well, our apologies misters, Blondine and I are allergic to dancing. We just came to watch and enjoy the music really, so kindly leave us alone please =)

Honestly, I don’t think Blondine and I will ever let our hair down. It’s just not us—well, unless we are with our partners, then that changes the situation drastically. In our travels, we are constantly plagued and felt the need to show off our prim and proper behaviour. It is something that is unnatural that has become natural. Am I making sense? Or am I truly getting old? All that fun and wild night life does not interest us anymore. I know it sounds pretty boring, but its part of growing old (and becoming responsible like behaving your age--Hi, I am 42).

Or like I said, it is just not us, or not for us.

Anyway, the entertainment started with the ‘Son’ band and a female guest singer. Then a couple, who are part of the act, came forward and danced together. Here is the video below:

Then later into the night, after the band and dancers have gone around selling their CD's and asking for tips, they opened again the dance floor for everyone to dance the night away. I took another video of everyone getting into the groove on the dance floor:

As you can see, it is quite busy at Santiago de Cuba's Casa de la Trova. Everyone here wants to jiggle and party, well except us, the boring ladies who just want to watch, haha.

So, when you find yourself in Santiago de Cuba, do not miss Casa de la Trova!

And oh, this is what we ate for our last evening in Santiago de Cuba, at Hotel Casa Granda. We were so full from the El Cayo Restaurant lunch bingeing that I opted for vegetables and a yummy pina colada. Blondine was craving for pizza though. Then we had coffee and an egg flan.

For the next day we are off to the eastern part of Cuba, to the islands, to Cayo Coco!

Travel Period: May 2012
Destination: Santiago de Cuba (Santiago de Cuba), Cuba

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Daily scenes of Santiago de Cuba’s pedestrian zones and street markets

Blondine and I were so glad to have discovered the pedestrian lane—Calle Jose Saco. We were literally harassed, walking on the narrow and busy streets of the city, such as the chaotic Calle Heredia where you practically walk side by side with pedestrians, bikes and vehicles as well. These are very poorly maintained vintage cars and old trucks blowing out very thick clouds of black smoke. The horrid air pollution was making me dizzy and I could feel the grime gumming on my skin. I know it is only a matter of minutes that I will catch allergy.

If I was to be re-born again, I would ask for a super power skin where no amount of bad environmental elements can make me itch, sore or fly off the handle. Seriously. It is not easy having very sensitive skin.

Anyways, oblivious to our surroundings, Blondine and I walked as fast as we could to get out of this traffic, noise and pollution madness. We just want to reach the corner of the street and turn to somewhere where we can breathe. We need fresh air so bad! Luckily the corner is a plaza.

Here, we came upon ‘Plaza de Marte’ and discovered the local Starbucks of the city—Café Mama Ines. In front of the plaza is ‘Calle Jose Saco’, the only pedestrian main and big street in Santiago de Cuba. However, it is only a pedestrian street between 9AM and 9PM.

Calle Jose Saco is a very lively and colourful street adorned with shops, cafeterias, fast food windows and beautiful colonial crumbling (as usual) architecture. There are street markets as well located on the parallel streets. Moreover, here at Calle Saco we can now inhale normal air while walking the streets (of Santiago de Cuba)!

Window kiosks selling fastfood such as Cuban sandwiches and pizza are very popular in Cuba.

Papaya's are great medicine when you experience constipation.

Taro but we call this 'gabi' in Cebuano which is a popular vegetable in the Visayas region of the Philippines.

There are many locals cafeterias such as this that are subsidised by the government.

Cubans like it colourful.

This is Plaza Marte with the Column of Independence and statue of Jose Marti.

This is between Calle Jose Maria Heredia and Calle Francisco Vicente Aguilera, the nook by the Barcardi Museum:

Cuban dolls are usually black.

Happy vendor because Blondine bought something from him!

And this is Plaza Dolores. This area is very popular for night life in the city. Lots of bars, cafe terraces and restaurants rings the plaza.

Moi, souvenir shot in front of Plaza Dolores.

Travel Period: May 2012
Destination: Santiago de Cuba (Santiago de Cuba), Cuba

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