Friday, November 29, 2013

Autumn in Seoul: Namsan Park

Our first stop in this beautiful city was Namsan National Park. Well, it's a mountain so getting there can be a bit of a challenge. If you're part of a tour group, you ride the tour bus. If you're like us -- you have two options: 1) get there on foot 2) take the cable car. We took the second option and decided to go on foot, going down.

Hanbok: Korean Traditional Dress.

The Seoul Tower
The requisite jump shot!

I wonder what has happened to the love story of the lovers who professed their undying love here.

Love is all we need.

Taking selfie to another level!

I think Koreans are the cheesiest people on earth! Even their swept leaves are formed into hearts. Look at the photo above. It's just one of the many. 
Squirrels abound. How cute is that?

The park is so massive, one can easily get lost. Just like us. Ha ha ha.

Just the perfect backdrop if your home away from home is the Grand Hyatt. 

The moment I laid out my eyes on the color of leaves, I promptly fell in love with Fall/Autumn. It was awesome. It was amazing. All these from the eyes of a barrio girl who grew up with endless banana trees around me. 

So, we had a grand time... playing, sitting on benches and let the minutes and hours just tick by. And the shutterbugs in us kicked in -- full blast. On day 1, Tyrone has taken over 800 photos. 

To me, vacation always meant an opportunity to gain insight into other people's culture. Beyond the pretty photographs are a glimpse of the vastness of the universe, the chance to widen your circle of influence and to broaden your perspective. 

As all day 1s go, we all came back to our hostel tired and on our weary feet. The pain on my calves can attest to that. But we were eagerly looking forward to the next day to see what tomorrow has to offer in this foreign land of Kimchi, Korean Novelas and beauty junkies. 



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Autumn in Seoul

They say that the best experiences are borne out of spontaneity. It's what exactly how we capped our 2013. In one fateful phone call from the hubby (who asked if I were game to go to Seoul, South Korea in the next two weeks) our 2013 just got more colorful and interesting. 

Just a quick back story: I have resigned to the fact that we will not be going out of the country for a vacation this year because of two reasons: 1) we're still recovering from our wedding expenses last year 2) we just started amortizing for a 3-bedroom condo (that was not in the books at the start of the year but in a fit of inspiration took the plunge anyway, mid-year). You know being an adult comes with a lot of obligations and responsibilities. So, we sort of tamed our wanderlust. 

But the Seoul opportunity was just too tempting to pass up. We threw caution to the wind and said yes to booking our flight!
So, foursquare is doing a good job of mapping my digital footprint.

Getting There

Visiting South Korea requires a tourist visa. To apply, you need the following: a certificate of employment, a bank statement, a photo copy of your stamped passport (last five countries visited), your actual passport and a filled-out application form. 

The form says that it will take exactly five days for the visa to be released (if visiting for the first time) and three days (if you've got a stamped visa from an Organization of Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) member country). We got ours two days before our scheduled flight. 

So, at midnight on November 22 we took an Air Asia Zest flight to Seoul, South Korea. I had a few misgivings about my Fall gear (the cold might be too biting!) and I don't have much resources to buy new ones. 

And for the first time, I didn't have to worry about our itinerary. Since we were just joiners to this trip, Tyrone and I were just happy to take part in whatever activities, our friends have lined up.  
But my fears and worries were replaced with child-like wonder when we experienced -2 degree Celsius kind of weather. This four-day trip is promising!
We hoped for some snowflakes. But, sadly no snowflake.
Arriving at Incheon International Airport is already an experience in itself. Korea knows branding. Signs are everywhere. Even immigration has a friendly vibe to it with its KISS (Korea Immigrations Smart Service). 

I must say this is a great system for queuing. Everyone lines up around the circular column. Such discipline.


Incheon is about an hour from Seoul. At the arrivals, you take the airport express (train) to bring you to Immigration and Baggage Claim. Outside the airport, it's easy to spot which bus to take going to Seoul. Or if you want convenience, you can take a cab.  

The locals (and even tourists) get around Seoul in many ways but mostly through its complex but easy to use subway system. Buses run on scheduled trips; efficient system complete with GPS tracker posted on bus stops. And cabs are everywhere. I must say that cab and bus drivers are very well-dressed. Impressive.

At the airport, we took a bus that took us to Myeong-Dong (the shopping district of Seoul). We paid Korean Won 10,000 each. It's roughly PhP400.  Not bad.


Now, South Korea isn't a first world country for nothing. It is home of the grandest Hyatt (in my opinion),  Westin, and other international five-star chain of hotels. But these travelers chose to stay in a hostel, Zaza Backpackers. It is our second time. The first was in London Ole in Macau. So, I pretty much know what to expect. 


It was comfortable and safe, cheap with wifi connectivity and located right next to Myeong-dong's night market. 

Here are some street scenes that greeted us upon arrival. 

Our four days stay was packed but light enough for us to enjoy the food, the sights, the cafes and the luxury of walking around in unbelievable cold weather. Hey, to us who live in a tropical country, a -4 degrees Celsius is an awesome experience, by itself!

We visited Namsan Park, Dosan Memorial Park and the Seoul Tower and promptly fell in love with the colors of fall. I experienced donning the national costume called, Hanbok and just took the time to smell the roses. 

Just like any tourists, we hunted the shopping districts for good finds. One place in particular interest is Paju Book City -- home of the biggest Lotte Premium Outlets. It's designer brands' heaven-on-discount. 

Of all the palaces, we only had the chance to visit the Gyeongbukgong Palace which is massive and well-preserved. 

And of course, we didn't have the heart to miss Gangnam (and Rodeo Street), made more famous by Psy. And home to some of the biggest luxury names in the world. 

More photos on the next posts. 

Anyeong haseo!



Monday, November 18, 2013

Wink Laser & Wax Studio

Who would have thought that a barrio girl like me would be so bold to go for waxing. I grew up seeing women plucking their underarm hair. And I saw how bad chicken skin looked in majority of these women. So, I made it my quest to be gentle on my skin. 

It took me a whole two decades from my pubescent years to be introduced to the wonders of waxing. And I never looked back. Although if I am truly honest, I'd go for laser. But that's another story. 

For now, let me tell my journey to waxing my hair off. Not counting the years I spent for over the counter solutions, like using Sally Hansen and the likes. I started with hot wax at Brazilian Bare in Rustan's. It's painful, yes but after your second session, the pain is almost non-existent. I used to go for a full brazilian when I would hit the beach. But through the years, underarm and full brazilian waxing are the norm for me. I never looked back. 

With so many waxing shops sprouting in the city, you get tempted to check it out and shop for the best one there is. I tried Lay Bare. It's no non-sense and cheap. I keep a loyalty card there. 

Sometime last year, I heard of Wink Laser & Wax Studio. Well, it's hard to miss when one is always hanging out at the Bonifacio High Street Central. But I never got around to trying it because the time is always off, on my side. 

Last Saturday was a different story. I went to a Lay Bare salon but I found out that I would have to wait for a full hour. Long queue! Confession: queuing is not my strongest suit. I don't have the patience for it. So, I asked the hubby to just drop me off at High Street Central while he does some work at his office. 

Here are my impressions on Wink. I was not able to take photos. So, all these pictures are from Wink's Facebook page.

The salon is airy, warm and very hygienic. When I walked in, I informed the front desk that I have no appointment yet I was promptly accommodated. I like that its Reception staff is well-mannered, professional and courteous. 

It was music to my ears when I was told that I can be provided service right away. I noticed that it has several rooms to accommodate many clients who might arrive in droves at any given time. 

I love it that the salon is almost silent. The staff speaks in hushed tones and piped in music is very calming and unobtrusive.  

After inquiring about the service I intend to have, the lady at the front desk asked me if I want to refresh first. I was directed to a discreet rest room to clean up. It's a major plus point that it provides wet tissues, paper hand towels and a dizzying array of hand soap. The rest room is tiny but clean and functional. I just wish that they put in a hook for bags.

This is how their treatment/service room looks like. It even has its own sink and running water. I appreciate the leg room, the chair for the client's bags, a hook and a hanger for clothes. It also provides a clean body wrap instead of the usual towel. I just wish they make it longer/wider for customers' who may be on the big side. 

The bed is covered (the entire surface) with glassine-like paper. It makes this funny, crinkly sound. I salute them for thinking about the client's well-being ensuring that cleanliness and hygiene are top of mind. After the service, I saw the technician remove the paper cover and throw it in the waste bin. She then sprayed the surface with what I presume to be an anti-bacterial spray. Two thumbs up! No icky feeling.

Am overdue for underarm and brazilian wax. So, I had both done. I learned that on a weekday, you get a discounted price. But since I came on a Saturday, I paid the full price: PhP330 (underarm) and PhP680 (Brazilian). It's pricier than the obviously mass-niched Lay Bare but you know that you're getting your money's worth with the kind of service provided and the overall hygiene of the place.


Price List
The technician assigned to me appeared to be competent. I just wish that technicians refrain from too much chattiness. I hate contrived conversations and patronizing comments. 

She used hot wax on me. I normally cringe on hot wax because the right temperature of the wax is a tricky thing to achieve. I've seen countless technicians blowing air into the wax -- which is another cringe-worthy thing! But here there was none of that. And I've read that there was no double-dipping. *clap*

The wax was just hot enough. I had some ouchie moments, though. I normally would just read and surf on my phone while being waxed. I think I've developed already a high tolerance level after so many waxing sessions. And it pays when you have a sure-handed technician who doesn't second guess her movements so that hair comes off in one swift movement (in a particular patch or area). But last Saturday was kind of different. I hope it isn't going to be that way the succeeding sessions. Otherwise, it's a skill issue already.


After my session, the technician told me what to do and what not to do for the next eight hours. And she handed an after-care flyer, for my reference. 


Back at the reception, the staff asks how the session went and hands you a flyer for other services they provide. I felt at ease asking questions on the merits of laser over wax, as she was very pleasant and did not appear to be distracted.
Overall, I had a wonderful experience at Wink. Would I go back? I think I would. It's just a question of schedule and budget. Perhaps next time, I'll get to try its laser services.
Wink Laser & Wax Studio
3rd Level, C2 Building
7th Ave cor. 28th Street
Bonifacio High Street Central
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Hours of Operation:
Monday to Friday : 11:00 am to 9:00 pm Saturday to Sunday: 10:00 am to 8:00 pm  Contact Numbers:
+632.808.7258 | +63917.303.