Avant Musee, Seoul *

This is one of my favorite restaurants in Seoul and I had wanted to keep it a little secret of mine for awhile. But with my best friend from high school visiting me in Seoul and being the awesome tour guide that I am (HAHA), I decided this was the place to take her. This was my third time visiting Avant Musee and the food was as amazing as I had remembered it! I love the diversity and freshness of its ingredients and sauces and beauty in its presentation, taste and aroma. It’s located in a small alleyway near Hangangjin station (subway line 6) leading up to Leeum Art Museum (my favorite art museum in Seoul). I hope they never go out of business!

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Sanchon Temple Cuisine, Seoul

Finding a nice vegetarian/vegan Korean restaurant in Seoul is harder than you think. Although most of our side dishes are vegetarian-friendly, most Korean staple foods involve chicken (dakgalbi, jjimdak, samgyetang), beef (galbi, bulgogi), or pork (samgyupsal, bossam), and even “jjigae” (soup/stews) can be meat-broth based. However, with my friend and her vegetarian colleague visiting all the way from Pakistan, I wanted to find a restaurant that would finely introduce Korea’s traditional herbal and greens cuisine. It was my first time visiting as well, and Sanchon‘s Temple Food – entirely composed of vegetables, greens, and roots based – provided an impressive variety of intricate and well-presented Buddhist temple cuisine dishes.

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Wang Gun Bossam, Seoul

It’s been awhile since I posted about Korean food although I’m posted in Seoul. So for dinner, my sister, husband and I decided to head to Yaksu Sijang (Market) at Yaksu station (intersection of line 3 and 6) to get some BOSSAM!. It’s a very old market with lots of grandmas and grandpas selling vegetables, fruits, fish and other goods. Wang Gun Bossam was in the alleyway near subway exit 7.

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CALI Kitchen, Seoul

“California Chill with California Food.” I asked John to describe this place and that’s what he came up with after a minute of deep thought. We spontaneously decided to head over to Gyeongnidan-gil Road this evening, since we moved back to Hannam-dong this past weekend! Few of our friends had mentioned this place and about how you could tell the owner was Californian and really chill. John’s also from California and he kept insisting we check this place out.. and thankfully, it was worth the trip!

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The Best of Hong Kong, Lunar New Year Long Weekend Trip (Feb 6 – 10, 2016)

Super belated post from our Lunar New Year Long Weekend trip to HONG KONG on February 6 – 10, 2016. I LOVE Hong Kong. I visited in May 2012 for an art exhibition, and I was super excited to be going back with John this time! It was THE BEST DECISION EVER to visit Hong Kong during the Lunar New Year weekend. The air flight tickets were more expensive than usual (from ICN to HKIA), but we really had an amazing time with the beautiful fireworks, parade, and festivities that went on all week for the Lunar New Years celebration! We also got to take advantage of our IHG membership and got amazing rooms (with automatic upgrades to the Harbor View suite, complementary fruits and drinks, and late check out at 4pm) at the Intercontinental Hotel (2/6-8 Saturday, Sunday) and Intercontinental Grand Stanford (2/8-10 Monday to Wednesday) both located in Tsim Sa Tsui. It was too expensive to stay the whole stay at the Intercontinental for the entire week, so we decided to savor the weekend then move to the Grand Stanford.

The Harbor View Suite at the Intercontinental was AMAZING. The hotel’s decor was filled with red envelopes and a lot of tangerine (?) trees which symbolized wealth and good luck. The location was perfect for us tourists as it was located close to the subway station exit, the general Tsim Sa Tsui (TST) area, and we were right by the harbor with a splendid view of the waters and city lights. We also got to enjoy the lounge bar at the hotel with amazing live music and complementary drinks. Definitely was being spoiled. We had budgeted so that almost 98% of our travel expenses would  be spent on housing and FOOD. Priorities haha. We were excited to eat as much Dim Sum as possible. Thankfully my Big sister from aKDPhi lives in Hong Kong and also one of my closest guy friends from college was visiting his family here during this time, so we got amazing recommendations on where to eat and go. FYI, people in HK use http://www.openrice.com/en instead of Yelp for reviews!

Below is an extensive list that I had made before going to Hong Kong, thanks to my friends who responded with recommendations. We didn’t get to try all of them – it was impossible to fit in 123098 meals in 5 days haha but we tried! For future reference – the list consists of dessert places, restaurants for both fine dining and dim sum, as well as lounges. Bolded ones are the ones we got to try this time around! Definitely need to go back to try more.

Hong Kong Restaurants

DAY ONE First night in we went to Yan Toh Heen which was inside the Intercontinental hotel. We had made reservations ahead of time for their Peking Duck before flying out. The peking duck was really good but I actually fell in love with their desserts with the little beads in them and the other mango dessert.

Then after a glorious meal, we went to the Flower Market in Victoria Bay, Causeway Bay. Happens once a year during Lunar New Years. It was incredibly packed and we were in the flood of people checking out orchids and tangerine trees, as well as street food and various items. It was definitely an experience. Afterwards we headed to a dessert place called Cong Sao Star Dessert for their mango and other dessert which was SO GOOD. The line was crazy long so we decided to do take out and eat it at our hotel room. We really wanted to go back to get more during our stay, but didn’t get a chance to. I WISH WE HAD THIS IN SEOUL.

DAY TWO I got to meet my aKDPhi big sister!!! and my extended greek family as well. I hadn’t seen them in a reallly long time, maybe during their last visit to Seoul, so it was a nice treat. It’s always really nice to have a close friend to visit when you’re traveling! My aKDPhi big sister means a lot to me, so it was really nice to see her in person again. She treated us to Aqua which had an amazing view of the harbor for an infinity brunch. There was soo much food and we also got to enjoy their unlimited cocktails. My big was looking as pretty as always with the perfect skin and I’m glad I got to catch up with her before she had to head back to work after her lunch break. ❤ ❤ ❤

 

Then, I met up with one of my closest college friends who was in town for the weekend for family. I hadn’t seen him in years, so I was super excited. He showed us all around Central through all the little temples and alleyways to a dessert shop called Teakha. He was exactly as I remembered him, so chill, laid back and kind hearted. I was happy he could meet my hubs for the first time too! Can’t wait to see him more often once we move to California!

Then we went to Mott 32 for some red wine, Apple Wood Roasted Peking Duck and Sweet Char Siu. Nom nom. Wish we had ordered some veggies but we were just SO FULL. The ambiance of the place was very nice. Dimly lit and decor was quite pretty.

After some quality feasting and resting our feet, we went to the Peak to get on the tram up to the Sky Terrace/ Peak Tower. Breathtaking view of Hong Kong with all the city lights. One of the best views of Hong Kong! I guess it is a tourist must-go-to spot.

We were pretty exhausted by walking around everywhere all day and decided to go relax at the Lobby Lounge at the Intercontinental. We got to listen to live music by an amazing singer and her band. We also got complementary drinks for being IHG members, which was a nice cherry on top. It was the best way to wind down after a day of adventuresss!

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DAY THREE We finally got some delicious DIM SUM from Dimdimsum Dimsum Specialty Store in Jordan recommended by my big. It was super cheap and SO GOOD. We got crispy rice flour rolls with shrimp and like 9 other dishes that we devoured in 20 minutes maybe. We didn’t speak any cantonese so there were some communication barriers, but we pointed and listed and we were happily full by the end! I really wish Seoul had some good dim sum places like these… until then, we’ll have to keep going back to Hong Kong!

The weather was absolutely amazing in Hong Kong that week. It was February but it felt like SPRING. So we decided to make the most of this wonderful weather and walked to Kowloon Park. It was not too crowded and people were preparing for the Lunar New Year Parade for that night! Yay! We got to see a preview of the dragons!

Then we headed back to our hotel to move to the Grand Stanford. After settling in, we decided to take a stroll along Victoria Harbor. Once again, amaaazing weather. Korea was pretty cold then in February, can’t believe one short flight over and we are in sunny yet breezy Hong Kong before the humidity kicks in. So blessed.

Then we slowly headed to Tsim Sa Tsui for the LUNAR NEW YEAR PARADE! KUNG HEI FAT CHOY~~ It was CROWDED with SOO many people and we stood around 3 hours during the entire parade haha which was pretty exhausting. But we were super happy to enjoy the Chinese festivities of the Lunar New Years in all its scale! We don’t celebrate the Lunar New Year as lavishly in Korea. Oh and there were monkey decorations everywhere to celebrate the year of the Monkey. Can’t miss it!

DAY FOUR We got to visit Sun Tung Lok for their Dim Sum, which may have been the BEST DIM SUM EVER haha. I’m pretty sure I gained a lot of weight during this trip….. which I’m failing to lose even four months later… but anyways IT WAS GLORIOUS. Pricey but quality. We got all of their recommended dim sums. I loved ALL OF THEM. every. single. one.

With our bellies happily full and feeling good about life, we got on the ferry from TST to central. There we took a double decker bus (TOP floor FRONT to get an amazing view the whole way!!) and went to Stanley, which is their beach type area with a very European feel. We checked out their Stanley Market and roamed around the sunny port area. I loved how a few hours bus ride away we could get to the other side of Hong Kong to enjoy the beach. I didn’t realize how much smaller Hong Kong is in comparison to Seoul and Korea. Again, lovely weather!

Then we headed back up, since we didn’t want to miss out on the Lunar New Year FIREWORKS that night! We stopped at Central to get some afternoon tea at the Clipper Lounge at Mandarin Oriental. We didn’t make any reservations but we were seated not too long after. Their scones were incredible, and I LOVEd their rose petal jam so much I bought like two big jars of it to take to Korea haha. Afternoon Tea for Two was perfect!

Mandarin Oriental

Then finally, we watched the fireworks! I was really exhausted by then, and didn’t want to stand hours waiting to watch so we decided to go back to our hotel where we had a nice view anyways. I took a little nap and woke up to find the beautiful night sky filled with fireworks that continued on for awhile! Definitely worth every penny for our flight over!

To finish the night, we went downstairs to enjoy some live jazz music at Tiffany’s New York Bar at the Grand Stanford and got some cocktails and oysters. The singer was absolutely amazing and I’m so glad we didn’t just stay in our room but came down to grab drinks! After enjoying the music, we went to Causeway Bay to meet my aKDPhi Big one more time before flying out the next day! She took us to Tsui Wah Restaurant where I got the spiciest noodles in the world haha. Perfect night snack with millk tea.

DAY FIVE This was our last day so we packed and took a last stroll along Victoria Harbor and Avenue of the Stars. Oh, and we ran over to Tai Cheong Bakery to try out their EGG TART and CHICKEN PIE, both of which was so good (T__T) I want more. I should’ve eaten like five. Regrets, regrets. After this, we hurriedly walked around TST and then headed back to the hotel to leave for the Airport! This was seriously one of the best trips ever, and I’m so glad we came during the Lunar New Year celebration period. So grateful for the friends we were able to meet up, the food we could feast on, and the best weather possible! Thank you God for all of your provisions 🙂

The Proposal!!! and Getting Personal on How I Knew He was the One, Seoul

I’ve been waiting for some time to write this post. I was organizing my photos last night and found a video that John had filmed of me during the proposal dinner… this was already two years ago! And I look so happy, my hair and dress look really nice, and I’m laughing so much ha ha. Young love! At this point, I still didn’t know John was going to propose to me that night.. it was still a well-kept secret. It was our 1 year anniversary dinner of dating and I thought he was just treating me to a nice meal – thinking back, it was a realllly nice meal. He had rented out an entire room (called the Guy de Maupassant private room decorated by the Mountain piece by Marco del Ray) with a full wide window view of Namsan tower and Seoul downtown at Pierre Gagnaire on the 35th floor of Lotte Hotel in Seoul. After a long windy corridor led by the server, I entered a private room decorated with hundreds of rose petals, glowing candle lights, and white and purple flowers (because purple is my favorite color). Apparently, John had visited the restaurant 3 times to hand pick the color of the roses and flowers and to check on every little detail. And it was perfect. John won my heart over as always. As they say, Happy wife, Happy life. John knew this early on. haha.

Cheers!

This post is on my, once in a lifetime, proposal from my husband which happened on August 29, 2014 on our 1 Year Anniversary of Dating! He had disguised this event as a “bowling party” (because I hate bowling) facebook event to invite our friends from near and far to surprise us that night – I still remember getting upset because I found out from another friend that John had invited several others to bowling without me! HA HA I have issues. Nevertheless, I had no idea that this “bowling party” was actually planned on this night so it was a complete surprise. We had celebrated Junhye’s graduation that morning, and went off to celebrate our Anniversary Dinner together at Pierre GagnaireWe had wanted to check this place out as we heard that the Chef was a Michelin 3 star. To be honest, it’s been two years so I don’t remember what the endless course meal consisted of haha but I do remember it was elegant and delicious. I was just grateful for the experience and felt so loved and cared for, down to the smallest details.

When John and I first started dating, I was the most insecure being on this planet recovering and having had closure from my past intense relationship. I was lost and broken not only emotionally but also as to my purpose and direction in my career. I had just applied to graduate schools in Seoul after getting rejected after 3 months of interviews and on the final round of an opportunity to work at UNEP in Kenya and at the second round of a national examination that I had studied 8 months for. I felt defeated. I had always done well in school, I was Valedictorian of my high school, and had graduated from studying Economics and Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago. I had always gotten the internships I had applied for. And, to be honest, I had never really experienced failure up to this point. And thus, the following rejections and failures had hit me really hard. It was a period where I had trouble loving myself, where my identity was still chained to my education and pedigree and God was in the mission of setting me free from what the World defined as success. It was a season where I was learning to let go of my controlling and perfectly-planning-everything nature which was not healthy, and learning to re-define how I valued and loved myself. My pride had become too big and I looked down on people who didn’t come from good schools or were as educated. I had a strong sense of “entitlement” where I believed I “deserved” certain things because of what “I” had achieved through my hard work and education. I had avoided meeting people as I didn’t have the ideal job that I felt would “justify” and redeem my identity and I was becoming severely depressed. And obvisouly, that disrespectful attitude and perspective had to go. God was in the process of cleaning me inside out. I found New Harvest Ministry and I found myself listening to many messages on identity. How I have been beautifully and fearfully created by the creator and that it is not by works but by grace that I have been given new life to live a fruitful and abundantly giving life on this earth. God reminded me of how much He treasured and loved me, for just being me without all the accomplishments or failures.

And it was during this time of healing and recovery that I met John. He loved me when, by the world standards, I had nothing going for me – no job and all uncertainty. He loved me when I had a hard time loving myself for who I was. John walked by my side throughout that entire journey, of finding myself and re-grounding my identity in Christ, in coming to love myself for my unique and beautiful self. He encouraged me every day, cherished me every day, prayed for me every day, and was by my side as I fell and learned to pick myself up again from the negativity and self-doubt. He thanked God for me every day and reminded me of how beautiful and valuable I was. And from that humbled self, I learned to value others and view others through the eyes of God. That every single soul is precious and valuable because He has created them in His image.

From the first week and first month, John said he knew that I was the one. Even in my dark times and ugly moments of falling apart, John never considered leaving the relationship as an option. He would always be there for me. And thinking back, I am so grateful that God has allowed for this genuine, loving, and kind man to be in my life particularly at that point in my life. I became thankful for EVERYTHING. Before I had always expected certain things to come my way because they had, but I realized that they were all blessings and I had been extremely privileged. I learned that Gratitude is a CHOICE. We have to choose EVERY SINGLE DAY to be thankful. It is a mindset and choice. And how that choice transforms our lives…”Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)” Life-giving words indeed. With the prayers and support, I slowly but surely began healing from the inside out.

I applied for and got in to the Discipleship Training Program at New Harvest Ministry to learn and read the entire bible for the next 9 months which was an incredible learning experience and journey. And I also got in to Seoul National University, Graduate School of International Studies to study international cooperation and development as I had always wanted to! God placed AMAZING professors and fellow students who became amazing friends and continually showed me favor and showed me how everything was in His perfect timing. There is so much more I want to say on this but I shall wait for another post, seriously though EVERYTHING in perfect timing. The perfect classes that openend, the perfect visiting students that came that exact semester, and the professors that came that semester. God is good. All in all, John saw me grow, heal, recover, rejoice, soar like an eagle ha ha and come back to “life”. He celebrated and rejoiced with every little success that I was given and blessed with, and was there to encourage me in the dark spots.

So back to this proposal night. After this fabulous dinner, it was pouring rain and we headed back to my house near Namsan. Little did I know, the gazebo infront of my house was lit with hundreds of little christmas lights which lit up as we came near. Moongchi, our puppy, ran to us with a ring box tied to his tiny back. And John got on his knees to propose to me. I think I laughed in shock and then said I’ll think about it HA HA and then I said Of course!  And to my shock, our friends popped out left and right from the dark bushes to say congratulations! I am so blessed and thankful. It was magical. Thank you John! So when people ask me, how did you know John was the one, this is why! In a world filled with millions and millions, God placed this genuine gem in my life. I had prayed for many many things regarding my future spouse, and my three main prayer requests were exactly John which I found within the first week and onwards! (1) A man who loves the Lord and who will get on his knees to pray with me when $h*t hits the fan, (2) One who loves children and education (I had been very interested in educational policy and early childhood education), (3) One who would be willing to live in distant places – far away developing countries (as I’ve always wanted to work in international development). I did not tell this to him when I first met him, but in our sharing he talked about his passion for all three. THANK YOU GOD. HAHA He knows the desires of my heart.