Tried and Tested: Good Shepherd Baguio’s Aroma Inhaler

InhalerBedtime has been very pleasant lately because of this aroma inhaler from Good Shepherd Baguio. Whenever I’d enter my room, I’d smell this fresh and clean scent and instantly feel calm and ready for sleep. It’s made from natural plants so it’s surely way better than synthetic ones from the supermarket. I don’t feel paranoid that I’m inhaling something bad for my health. I’m glad I bought this Good Shepherd aroma inhaler while I was vacationing in Baguio City. I wish I bought more, though.

For those not familiar with Baguio City, it’s considered the summer capital of the Philippines. North of Manila, it’s a mountainous place (think of a mountainous place like Seoul) that’s full of fresh flowers, pine trees, vegetables, and strawberries. Plus, because of it’s location, it’s cool there, too.

Good Shepherd Baguio is where you can buy goodies like breads, cookies, jams, and other stuff for the benefit of Cordillera students on scholarship. It is run by nuns. Buying stuff from here is a win-win situation: You get good quality foods and other things, and the students and nuns get to live better lives.

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My favorite hot cups of coffee and chocolate in Baguio, Philippines

This coffee by Cafe by the Ruins is made special by the shell-shaped sugar that comes with it. I thought it was a cookie, but it turned out to be some form of brown sugar. Just drop it gingerly on your cup, stir, and enjoy! Or, you can do as I did -- I pretended it was a cookie and I turned it into "dessert"!

This coffee by Cafe by the Ruins is made special by the shell-shaped sugar that comes with it. I thought it was a cookie, but it turned out to be some form of brown sugar. Just drop it gingerly on your cup, stir, and enjoy! Or, you can do as I did — I pretended it was a cookie and I turned it into “dessert”!

This hot chocolate drink, called tskokolate de batirol, is an old fashioned way of serving our favorite cold weather drink. It is made by manually mixing and stirring real cacao balls from a special wooden stick called "batirol". When in Baguio, don't forget to visit this place named after this well-loved chocolate drink at Camp John Hay!

This hot chocolate drink, called tskokolate de batirol, is an old fashioned way of serving our favorite cold weather drink. It is made by manually mixing and stirring real cacao balls from a special wooden stick called “batirol”. When in Baguio, don’t forget to visit this place named after this well-loved chocolate drink at Camp John Hay!

I got a cup of civet coffee, supposedly the priciest coffee in the planet, for 100 pesos from Good Shepherd in Baguio. I didn't get it from a fancy cup, just a normal paper cup, but it tasted...oddly...weird. It was good, but weird. I paired it with Good Shepherd's oatmeal and strawberry muffin, which was one of the most authentic-tasting oatmeal muffins I've tried thus far. They didn't scrimp on the oatmeal and molasses so the 25 pesos that I parted with was money well-spent!

I got a cup of civet coffee, supposedly the priciest coffee in the planet, for 100 pesos from Good Shepherd in Baguio. I didn’t get it from a fancy cup, just a normal paper cup, but it tasted…oddly…weird. It was good, but weird. I paired it with Good Shepherd’s oatmeal and strawberry muffin, which was one of the most authentic-tasting oatmeal muffins I’ve tried thus far. They didn’t scrimp on the oatmeal and molasses so the 25 pesos that I parted with was money well-spent!

I got my COMET GETPass already!

I got my COMET GETPass already. I figured I might as well get one since I found myself near the COMET loading station, anyway. For 20 pesos (or around 45 cents), this card will get me from Katipunan to SM North/ Trinoma for free until October 9. After that, I will have to top-up this card so I can pay for my fare.

COMET GETPass

The tap-in, tap-out system reminds me of the transport card I used in Seoul when I lived there. I used it for bus rides and for subway rides. Although this COMET GETPass can only be used on the e-shuttle, it’s a gentle reminder for me that public transportation in Manila is gradually improving.

I’m quite excited to use this card! I will support this because this is the kind of public transportation we deserve.

Homestay and traveling solo in Suncheon made easy by BnB Hero

Traveling solo has been on my bucket list since I started watching Ian Wright in awe at Discovery Channel’s Lonely Planet in high school. Although I’ve traveled in many parts of the world already for the past __ number of years, I still haven’t mustered up the courage to backpack by myself. It’s always been with family and friends.

I took the Mugunghwa train from Yongsan Station in Seoul to Suncheon City. It took me around 5 hours. A very long trip, indeed! I took the KTX going back from Sincheon to Seoul — only 3 hours! ^^

But thanks to the opportunity presented by BnB Hero, I finally did it. As my prize for churning out one of the best blogs about the Seongju Life and Culture Festival, I was given a free homestay at Suncheon for the Suncheon Bay International Garden Expo.

The entrance to the Suncheon Bay International Garden Expo

Truth to tell, this wasn’t on my list of things to visit in Seoul since I am not fond of gardens. But I’m glad I soldiered on, anyway.

I bought the night ticket on my first day, since I arrived at Suncheon late in the afternoon. And on the second day, I bought the one-day pass.

Not only did I see the ecologically friendly Suncheon City, I also experienced the joy of living with a Korean family.

Beside me is Tina, my beautiful and kind homestay host!

Initially, I was concerned about traveling solo and staying with an unfamiliar family for 3 days and 2 nights. I voiced these concerns with BnB Hero and they helpfully arranged things for me. They recommended a nice apartment room for me that’s owned by a very kind woman named Tina.

Breakfast was included in the deal, and woah, what a big breakfast it was! It was my first real Korean breakfast that’s not in the school dormitory, kekeke. Tina and her husband cooked it together. What a loving family there are.

Tina also spoke English well, as she was an English teacher. So for foreigners like me who are worried about communication barriers, there’s nothing like that when you stay with Tina.

There were a lot of beautiful gardens in the Expo! One whole day is not enough to explore! You need two—or more!

I also feel I got lucky in my first homestay. The room was clean, the host was nice, and she even accompanied me in some trips, like at the Suncheon Bay Garden Expo and at the Suncheon Drama Set!

The awesomely serene Suncheon Bay! Entrance came free with my Garden Expo ticket purchase. There’s also a free shuttle to take you there. Easy-peasy! ^^

A panoramic shot of the Suncheon Drama Set. Entrance also came free with my purchase of a Garden Expo ticket. Just take Bus 777 to get here. But luckily, for me, Tina kindly accompanied me!

All in all, this trip made me braver in terms of traveling solo. Korea is such a safe and easy place to travel around in. And with the help of BnB Hero, your travel is bound to be safe, easy, economical and fun!

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R-16 B-Boy Festival at Uijeongbu City (featuring Morning of Owl)!

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This is the video of the winning performance of Korean B-Boy crew Morning of Owl
at the Uijeongbu Arts Center in Uijeongbu City, Korea. They were up against Drifterz Crew.

I can see why the judges had a unanimous decision. They had amazing stage presence, they can work up a crowd, and they have awe-inspiring dance moves. Plus, they’re cute. Hehehe! ^^

Thanks to Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) for this one-of-a-kind opportunity! I didn’t mind the almost 2-hour train ride from Seoul to Uijeongbu City just to see hot Korean B-boys. Korean B-boys are the best!

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Happy Bike Tour with KTO: Bike tour from Hanam to Yeoju in Gyeonggi, South Korea (24 May 2013)

I know how to ride a bike and I think it’s fun. So when Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) invited K-Performance Supporters to the Happy Bike Tour from Hanam to Yeoju in Gyeonggi province in South Korea, I immediately signed up.

But I didn’t know it involved hardcore biking with this kind of opening ceremony…

…and this complete set of biking gear.

But I suppose people like us are game for anything.

So when this band set us off…

Off we went.

I enjoyed looking at the beautiful scenery around Gyeonggi province.

I also enjoyed taking pictures of everyone like this.

But I soon realized that this really is a contest of sorts, when I was informed that I really came in late, and that I had to take the bus to the finish line because of the tight schedule.

But this didn’t prevent me from enjoying the scenery.

I like seeing cute scenes from Koreans’ daily life, like this.

So thank you again, KTO, for giving us the chance to go around Gyeonggi by bike! Ah, and in this photo is one of the staff who cheered us on and took care of all of us while biking. Hwaiting! ^^

Geeky Stuff I’ve Been Doing in Korea Part 1: Museum Hopping

I’m currently spending the Spring semester in Seoul National University. Of course I’m studying as hard as I do in Thailand, but here, it’s a lot more fun. I read, I go to classes, and I supplement this geeky-ness with even more geeky-ness via (ta-daaah!) Seoul’s many museums on Korean history, society and culture. What’s even better is that these museums are for free!

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National Museum of Korea. Accessible by Subway Line 4, Ichon Station. Just go to the tunnel leading to the museum. It’s super easy!

The first museum I went to was the National Museum of Korea where I studied various aspects of Korean history and culture. My favorite, of course, is the section on Joseon Dynasty, where I had my fill of looking at various norigae (those colorful ornaments hanging beautifully on a hanbok) and hair accessories of the queen.

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War Memorial Museum of Korea. Accessible from Samgakji Station, Exit 12.

I also went to the War Memorial Museum of Korea, where I studied not just about the Korean War in the 1950s but various wars in ancient Korea as well. I was thrilled to learn about my country’s (Philippines) participation in this war — We were one of the countries that sent troops to help Korea!

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National Palace Museum of Korea. Accessible through Line 3, Gyeongbokgung Station, Exit 5.

Then there’s also the National Palace Museum of Korea, where I had my fill of learning about Joseon palace life. It’s great for feeding my sageuk addiction!

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Seoul Museum of History. Accessible via Gyeongbokgung Station, Line 7.

Since Seoul is such an amazing city, I didn’t miss the opportunity to learn about its exciting history and rapid development, from the ancient period up to contemporary times at the Seoul Museum of History.

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Seoul Baekje Museum, near the Olympic Park.

With all the attention that the Joseon Dynasty has been garnering in Korean TV dramas, it’s a shame that we sometimes overlook the Baekjae period, which is also a glorious period in Korean history. In one word, it’s about power. Visit Seoul Baekje Museum  near the Olympic Park to learn why.

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Seoul National University Museum

Of course, I didn’t dare miss this museum in my own backyard — the Seoul National University Museum. It’s also an interesting museum where we can learn about ancient (well, paleolithic life) in Korea.

While it looks like I’ve visited a lot of museums in Korea, there are still a lot more I haven’t seen. And I want to see more!

Seoul is a great city for museum-hopping. There are lots to see and learn, the contents are creatively presented, and best of all, it’s ultra-accessible and mostly for free! Perfect for Korea geeks like us!

Come with me?

Coreana Cosmetics Museum: A window to Korean beauty in history

Korean beauty fans! Before you head on to Myeongdong for your Korean cosmetics fix, you might want to make a sidetrip to where Korean beauty has its place in history–the Coreana Cosmetics Museum.

As someone fascinated with how Korean women stay beautiful and elegant (as seen in our favorite sageuk and contemporary TV dramas), I made sure that my second trip to Seoul involved going  here.

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I first read about this museum while researching related material for my ancient Korean makeup article for WKB, and have since vowed to visit once I return to Seoul. September’s participation in an academic conference gave me the opportunity to do so. And I must tell you that my sidetrip to Apjugeong, where the museum is located, was well worth the visit.

Coreana Cosmetics Museum showcases a wide array of makeup cases and vials, trinkets and costumes collected by Corean Cosmetics Company founder Dr. Sang-Ok Yu for over 40 years. The collection numbers around 5,300 pieces, so you can just imagine the sheer delight this museum will give to makeup and beauty junkies! It’s really the largest cosmetics museum in Korea! =)

The musuem has two exhibit halls at the 5th floor and 6th floor of space*c at Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu in Seoul

The museum also shows how Korean women in ancient times prettified themselves with colors that can be found nature: Chili peppers for a pretty pout, for example.

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The museum also shows how Korean women loved beautiful things even in ancient times. From celadon makeup bottles and bowls to colorful contemporary powder cases, this museum will make you appreciate and learn about Korea’s makeup culture.

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How the body looks is given importance, too, through accessories for the hair and for the clothes. Overall, Korean’s look as colorful and cheery hundreds of years ago as they are in the present time.

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I highly recommend that you visit this place if you’re serious about beauty—the Korean way!

How to get there:

By subway, take Line 3 Apgujeong. Go out at Exit 3. Take a 3-5 minute walk to CGV Apgujeong Theater, and you’ll see a sign that says Space*c. Go in that direction until you see the building to your right.

Admission Fee:

3,000won for adults and 2,000won for students

How to go to the Korea Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand

Here’s a guide for foreigners (like me) living in Bangkok, and who want to apply for a Korean visa for one reason or another. Don’t worry, it’s pretty easy. You won’t get stuck in Bangkok traffic with this.

1) Take the MRT (subway) to Huai Khwang station.

2) Take Exit 2.

3) At this point, you can choose to walk or to take public transportation.

For public transportation, you can take either a taxi (40baht or thereabouts) or a motorbike (40baht). Me, I took the taxi since I doubt I’ll remain alive en route to the embassy (or anywhere else in Bangkok, for that matter) if I take the motorbike. These motorbikes drive so fast, only Thais well-trained in balancing themselves in the midst of the mad rush on the road can enjoy (endure?) this, IMHO.

To ensure that the taxi driver understands my destination well, I had a Thai friend write “Korea Embassy” in Thai script. This, I showed to the driver. Maybe it’s a good idea for you to do this, too.

Anyway, the taxi or motorbike should just go straight ahead and then turn left. After which, the Korea Embassy will appear on the left side of the road. You won’t miss it since it kinda looks like a hanok.

On a good day (meaning, no crazy Bangkok traffic), the taxi/ motorbike ride will take less than 5 minutes.

For walking, it’s something that should be done only if a) walking is your form of exercise, b) you don’t mind sweating in Bangkok heat, c) you don’t have enough money for taxi or motorbike.

The walk will take roughly 20-25 minutes. Again, just go straight ahead and turn left when you see the big road to your left. Continue walking until you see a hanok-like structure, which is the Korea Embassy.

That’s it. Hope this helps!

Korean Studies…in Bangkok. Yes. =)

Chula at night

Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. I’m studying Korean Studies here right now, under Chula and SNU professors! Best of both worlds, right? =)

When people want to study Korea, the obvious thing to do is to move to Korea for schooling. But did you know that there are other ways to know more about Korea from other Asian universities? A lot of Korean universities are establishing partnerships with other universities in Asia. So you actually have a lot of options for further studies.

Take for example, the program that I am currently enrolled in here in Bangkok, Thailand. Right now, I am pursuing a degree in Master of Arts in Korean Studies at Chulalongkorn University (or “Chula”), which is said to be the best university in Thailand. My program is a joint interdisciplinary program between Chula  and Seoul National University (SNU), so I am learning from professors from both Chula and SNU.

In the 2008 agreement signed by Chula and SNU, Lee Jang-Moo, 24th president of SNU, said that the program seals Chula’s reputation as a pioneer of Korean Studies in ASEAN. He also said that he hopes for Chula to be the “Mecca of Korean studies in the not too distant future.”

And it seems to have come true. I am here now, along with students from other ASEAN countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and of course, Thailand as ASEAN University Network (AUN) scholars who have come to Chula because of this program.

ASEAN University Network (AUN) scholars and AUN administrators and staff.

It’s been a month since I moved from Manila to Bangkok, and so far, so good. I study Korean language almost everyday with Ajarn Kamon Butsaban, a Thai teacher (“ajarn” = “teacher” in the local language) and with Ajarn Min YooMi, a Korean teacher (or “seonsaengnim” in Korean).

Korean professors from SNU fly from Seoul to Bangkok to teach us for one week or so.  I’ve had one brilliant Korean professor named Park Tae Gyun who taught us a class called Changes in East Asia. I learned a lot about the inter-relations and intersections of Asian countries’ histories and how these have shaped East Asia. Outside of his class, I’ve come to know the warmth and friendliness of Korean professors who love to eat and drink! =)

Our class, together with Professor Tae Gyun Park from SNU.

Next week, another Korean professor from SNU will fly to Bangkok and teach us a class called Introduction to Korean Studies. I am totally looking forward to that since I’ve read our entire book and found it very engaging. The book, “Korea 2020: Global Perspectives in the Next Decade” gives a balanced assessment (or at least that’s how I understood the book =) ) of the strengths and challenges that Korea will face, as well as recommendations on how to maintain their success and how to move forward to the next phase of their development.  I am excited about the discussions that will happen in class.

Thai professors will also teach us these classes, since the nature of my program is interdisciplinary, and therefore, team-taught. My program’s interdisciplinary nature is actually what attracted me to this program. From here, I can get the best of both worlds: An experience of Korea from an ASEAN  perspective. Since I come from an ASEAN country, my decision hinged on the desire to know ASEAN-Korea relations better. I want my knowledge to be balanced and well-rounded.

Another reason why I got attracted to this program is because I also get the best of both worlds in terms of travel. Right now, I am studying in Chula in Bangkok. But next year, I will also have a chance to study for a semester in SNU in Seoul. Cool, huh? Knowledge, one-of-a-kind experiences, travel, a diverse set of friends—these are some of the reasons why I am doing Korean Studies…in Bangkok.