Monday, April 18, 2016

Seoul (Full) Day 1

Posted by vianica gallagher at 6:03 AM 0 comments
Yesterday's slate was a loose, play-by-ear sort. Started off in the morning riding the green bus #3 just across from Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon district. Woot, off I went to the Seoul Tower and Namsan Park! It cost 1,200 Won for a single ride and I got there in no time.

Last time in Korea I didn't get a chance to visit Seoul Tower & Namsan Park. I guess we were a little more focused on Jeju Island in the South, Gyeongju (the old capital), and Seokcho (where Seorak mountain is, which is the Northeast part of South Korea). By the time hubby & I got back in Seoul, after making the stop in Seokcho, we were pretty exhausted so we really just wanted to chill and stroll around in Seoul.

Seoul Tower was packed with visitors. They're mostly locals, Asian tourists, and a little bit of everything else. An adult ticket to the observatory deck costs 10,000 Won. Admission packages were also offered at the ticket booth, with some including beer + buffet dining at a restaurant up on the deck.

Done with Seoul Tower, instead of catching that bus #5 from bus stop area, I hiked down through Namsan Park, which turned out to be a mistake. I couldn't get on the bus #5 to Myeongdong from down there! *sniffle*

I got lucked out that I saw a male office worker (he had a suit on, which made me even sure he would speak some English). Asked the guy of how to catch #5 to Myeongdong. I ended up riding a bus to Seoul Tower (yep, where I was just a little while before this all happened), and transferred to #5 from there. Felt like I totally wasted my time doing the hike down! But the trail and view along the way down was pretty so I guess it wasn't so bad after all.

Satiated my craving for some Korean fried chicken in Myeongdong. Found this KFC-like place called Mom's Touch. Most chicken items on the menu were to be enjoyed by two people. This wasn't really explicit, but the cashier asked me if I was going to eat it by myself and told me it would be too much food for one. He then recommended the spicy chicken item, a smaller portion. I got served 7 medium chicken pieces, varied from drum sticks to parts of thighs. It was a very good deal for 55,000 Won.

Hit Namdaemun for prescription glasses next. Ended up getting a new pair, and new lenses for my old frame I bought in Jeju-Do back in 2014. All for 75,000 won -not bad at all! The optician spoke very little English, and I, as some of you know, also speak very little Korean. It was kind of fun navigating this language barrier challenge, though. It felt rather accomplished when things got figured out in the end ;)

After spending the rest of the afternoon strolling Namdaemun, I figured out my way back to Itaeweon -thanks to the easy-to-navigate Seoul subway system!

And guess what? I stopped by Gong Cha in Itaewon for some pearl mill tea before heading back to Yacht Guesthouse. So predictable Ha!

Oyasumi nasai..

Sunday, April 17, 2016

En Route to Seoul: No More Passport Ripping. Itaewon, You're Lovely!

Posted by vianica gallagher at 12:27 PM 0 comments
The thing I remembered about riding Seoul's subway back in Fall 2014 was the kind help offered by a random guy as I was dragging my almost-retired suitcase at the station closest to the Seoul Palace Hotel -where hubby and I stayed. I was impressed with the Korean hospitality!

Now.. that whole suitcase carrying and dragging thing sounds rather painful, doesn't it? Little did I learn from the experience, I came back the second time to Seoul bringing a suitcase again. Ouch!

I must say, though, despite some rough turbulence on the way from YVR to INC my travel so far has been running smoothly.

First of all.. See the title? What's that 'No More Passport Ripping'?? So.. The thing I found annoying about having my passport checked at airports is the way airport personnels ripped off (not literally, but more like removing it in a forceful manner) my passport cover.

As you see, my passport cover is quite cute. It says "Korea, The Land of Morning Calm". I bought it at the curio shop of the National Museum of Korea on my first Korea trip in 2014 (I know, I still owe you a few postings about it). For a while I didn't use it due to being annoyed that it kept being removed every time I handed my passport to immigration checkpoint personnel at airports. Well.  Since I was coming back to Seoul this time I decided to use it. And guess what? Surprisingly it has not even once been removed! Scored!

Arrived around 4:40 PM at Incheon airport. Immigration line was huge, and by the time I was sitting on the subway it was already 6:15 PM. It took the sub about one hour before it finally hit Gongdeok station, where I transferred to line number 6 then got off at Itaewon. The whole ride only cost 4650 Won -amazing! Subway in Seoul is fast, easy to navigate, convenient, and clean.

On my way to the guesthouse, I stumbled into a chicken place inside Gongdeok station that I was very tempted to try (for dinner or snack I guess). But I was determined that I needed to check in first since it was kind of late already. Hey, who knows there are a lot of Chimaek places (place where Koreans have their fried chicken and beer) in Itaewon. Well as for me, it will just be the fried chicken without beer.

Little did I know, the guest house's owner pointed out KFC when I asked him of nearby Chimaek places -Sir! *Or maybe Haraboji* - a word for grandpa to address someone that's about as old as your gramps- that I can get anytime back home! Ended up not eating chicken last night. I guess I would not have finished half a chicken by myself anyway -Most chimaek places only offer big shared chicken portions as opposed to a portion to be enjoyed by 1 person. Well unless you're determined to finish a whole bucket of chicken by yourself then go ahead do it, no one's gonna stop you :D

Again, my mind wandered to the first night hubby and I were in Seoul in 2014. We took a stroll to the nearby neighborhood in Banpo, Central Seoul (where our hotel was) and found this chic little restaurant that also offered fried chicken on their menu. That was our first meal in Seoul. Didn't expect the portion of the fried chicken to be quite ample, BTW. It would have been enough for both of us without the second chicken dish we ordered.

Back to Itaewon! 
I was super ecstatic to find a Gongcha along the busy main Street in Itaewon last night. Guess my daily boba fix will be taken care of quite nicely here LOL.

There are so many places to eat in Itaewon, BTW.. But I really want to keep my body reasonably fed by not overeating on a first night. After grabbing some oolong milk tea drink, I headed to GS25 (yayy my favorite Korean convenience store!) for some snacks. Got tuna musubi packs, a box of drinkable yogurt, an apple, a gum, all for about $6. My bubble tea itself cost about $4 . Yeah.. that's about the same price I pay back in the US for a cup of boba.

Almost 5 AM local time (it is 1 PM Pacific time) and I find myself still adjusting to the time zone.
Will be posting most pictures to this post later today!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mae Hong Son: A Mellow Lake, Night Market, & Beautiful White Temple on the Hill

Posted by vianica gallagher at 7:00 PM 0 comments
Mae Hong Son was our next stop after Chiang Mai. It's a small town in Northern Thailand. You won't find too many travelers here as it is not a popular travel/tour destination. The cool thing, though, despite its small size the town has an airport.

We flew Kan Air from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong son. Took only a little over 30 minutes. Upon arriving, we asked a local tuk tuk guy at the airport parking lot to give us a ride to Gims Resort. As expected, we got ripped off! Later when we rented a motor bike we found out that the tuk-tuk driver took a way longer route to take us to the resort. From the airport, a normal ride using a normal, straight/non-winding route only takes about 7 minutes by a motorbike. We spent at least 25 minutes sitting on the frigging tuk tuk -YIKES!

We stayed at this place called Gims Resort for three nights (Nov 5th - Nov 8th). It has individual bungalows with their flooring set up higher than the ground. Our backyard was a big rice paddy field. It was such a beautiful, serene view to enjoy in late evenings as the Sun went down.

We spent some mornings and evenings hanging out by a man-made lake called Jong Kum in the heart of Mae Hong Son. The town is so small that if you ask someone of this lake, where the night market takes place, locals will certainly know what you're talking about. There are several temples in the surrounding neighborhood that you can check out as well.

Night market stroll is a must, I'd say! We got a  couple of cute items made by locals at the market, the likes of note books, magnets, and t-shirts. We also enjoyed eating dinner by the lake under the starry sky. It was hard to resist the delicacies offered by the local vendors that we at least tried two or three different dishes/snacks whenever we hit the market in evening time.

BTW, Mae Hong Son was where I found a cute little coffee shop that made the best Thai tea! They put grass jelly in, which made the tea even yummier. If you're in the area, give this place a visit. It's called Coffee Tato and it is somewhere downtown -again, ask local people  ha!

If you're looking for an afternoon to spend gazing at beautiful landscape, go up to the hill top temple complex of Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu -the view of Mae Hong Son overlooked from above is pretty impressive!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

A Little Bit from Our Stop-Over in Chiang Mai

Posted by vianica gallagher at 4:16 PM 0 comments

After spending the first two nights in Bangkok, hubby and I headed north to Chiang May. Flight was short, a little over an hour.

We flew out of Don Mueang airport in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. It was nice finding Mr. Cup bubble tea inside the airport! My way to Chiang Mai could not have been better. I was a happy camper waiting to board while sipping on my tapioca earl grey tea.

I guess, looking back, what stood out the most about Chiang Mai trip was the night market. We went there pretty much every night except for the last night -ended up eating dinner at a restaurant close to our B & B called Baan Orapin. 

Baan Orapin was really awesome! It is a privately-owned, Northern-Thai styled B & B. The garden was surrounded by tall longan trees, and has a medium-sized swimming pool. It may be just a little bit spendy for an accommodation in Chiang Mai, but the atmosphere, architecture, and location were worth it. It is within a close proximity to the night bazaar and the Ping River. There was also this traditional market within a 10 minute walking distance, that I forgot the name of already.

What was cool was then I started feeling a bit more adventurous and decided to rent a motorbike in Chiang Mai. We enjoyed our day riding around the area. Instead of riding the Tuk tuk (motorized pedicab) and paying 120-140 each ride, motorbike rent only cost us 200 baht/24 hours. 

One food court I was impressed the most was the one located on the underground level of Central Airport Plaza, a mall closest to Chiang Mai's airport. You can tell from its appearance and price range of the dishes served, it caters for locals!

It's a town I would not mind going back. Next time, though, we shall not miss the Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai!

On to Mae Hong Son!

Our rented motorbike! (the yellow one)

Sooo appetizing! @ Central Airport Plaza

Fried rice breakfast at Baan Orapin!

Souvenir shopping at Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
Me enjoying brekkie at Baan Orapin

Variety of yummy desserts at Central Airport Plaza underground food court

Friday, November 6, 2015

Bangkok, What's The Rip About?

Posted by vianica gallagher at 12:52 AM 0 comments
After the last vacation together with hubby in Sept 2014 (South Korea, I know I know I've been proscrasticating writing abt it for over a year now lol), Thailand is our stop!

We landed in BKK midnight of November 1st. We did our home work beforehand on getting a sum of cash upon landing, finding out where to catch a taxicab and not getting ripped off by asking the driver to run the meter. Much to our surprise, the driver wanted us to pay a fixed rate of 600 Baht (equals to roughly 17 USD, 1 USD translating to 35 Baht) to get to our hotel near the Siam Square.

First boba in Bangkok!
Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho
We said to the man that we'd rather have him run the meter, and assure him that we'll pay the toll fare (for a total of 75 Baht) and airport tax of 50 Baht. Glad he did not argue much, despite not looking too darn happy about it lol. At the end we ended up paying 290 Baht on the meter - the total was less than 400 Baht -saving more than 200 Baht there!

Some structures at the Grand Palace
It was close to 2 AM when we checked in at the Holiday Inn Express on 889 Rama 1 Rd. Nice location.. Quite close to the Siam Square, and price was not too shabby at roughly USD 75/ night. It's attached to a McDonald's, which closes at 2 AM. I ran quickly to get some chicken and OJ. Ended up with fries and chicken burger take-out since those were the only items they got closing down. Not bad!

Did not get much sleep as we woke up around 7 the next day. We planned out to pay the Grand Palace and Wat Pho a visit.

Finding a metered taxi cab was another hassle that morning. The first guy we talked to wanted to take us to the Grand Palace for 200 Baht. After talking  the receptionist at the hotel, we got a metered taxi and ended up only paying 100 Baht  -fare was actually only 71, but we rounded it up to 100, a practice recommended by Thai travel forum we came across.

We enjoyed sightseeing at the Grand Palace (admission was 500 Baht/person) despite the awful humidity that afternoon. What I found amusing there was the military guards in front of the palace. They were fun to take photos with. They never moved an inch, and I, posing next to them, honestly could not feel their breathing. Thumbs up Guys for not laughing despite being teased by visitors lol!

@Wat Pho. I had to chuckle on the sign :D
Wat Pho was the next site we hit after Grand Palace. This one's admission was quite cheap at 100 Baht. You got a free bottled water too by turning the admission slip in inside the temple. We got a 30 minute Thai massage (at 260 Baht) at the massage school in the complex. The wait was a little over half hour due to the long queue but it was well worth it.

The heat was a bit too much for us that we were not even hungry when it hit lunch time. After palace and temple sightseeing, we were headed to the Siam Square and started munching on snacks (bubble tea at Dakasi and chicken skewers) at around 4 pm.

We ate early dinner at the Central World food court. It's a nice-looking food court with over 50 food vendors offering delicacies at inexpensive prices. You can get a very nice meal starting at 50 Baht here -amazing! I had a delicious squid pad thai for 60 Baht. I was full but my eyes were still hungry for more food. Ended up getting a bowl of tempura udon for 70 Baht. I was barely able to walk when leaving the mall!

My, so many good food to eat in Bangkok! Life is hard! *sarcasm intended*
I was just hoping I would not get a heart attack while traveling.

Me teasing a Grand Palace guard
Our first day ended in Health Land Spa, where we were refused services but the expensive massages. Ended up spending 3000 Baht (close to $90) for 1.5 hrs of body massages for us both. They kept saying they were fully booked for cheaper massages. That sounds more like a bs to me.

If they had therapists available, which they did, why couldn't they give us the basic 60-min Thai massages (priced at 500 Baht)? Instead, they gave us the pricey red menu and made us pay for more expensive massages. I was rather upset that I only ended up tipping 100 Baht for each therapist. Yeah, that's not even 10% of the service price. But, whatever. If you run a business that way, expect nothing but unhappy customers.

Arrived back at hotel 11 pm that night. Wheww.. What a busy first day!
Checking in at the Holiday Inn

Gorgeous golden structure at the Grand Palace

It was a really hot day at the Grand Palace

Saturday, August 22, 2015

We All Do Judge, But...

Posted by vianica gallagher at 12:00 PM 0 comments
This note is inspired by a very recent occurrence in my life. Phew.. How do I start? So.. A long story short, must say that I never met a person so micro-managing before until a couple of days ago. Okay, this is a person I encountered during some training (won't say where and what it's for since I'd like to keep this confidential). She is almost a decade younger than me. Funny thing was that I thought she's older than she actually was. And now that I think about it, I may have thought so simply because of the way she acted. So yea.. Not necessarily did she look old or have wrinkly skin or anything, but just from how bossy she was to a trainee so to speak.

Truth is.. I don't mind with people being bossy to certain extent. But when one criticizes/comments/rectifies (according to her very own standards) on every single thing that the other person does, that's simply a no-brainer definition of annoying.

A few of the many examples I have: I was pouring some milk shake from the carton, tapping the carton to get the last milk drops just for a couple of seconds. She said: "It's not gold, you don't need to do it like that". Other things were: "Do it like this,.. do it like that". Another one: "You're funny. Just stack it, don't have to be perfect." -when all I did was stacking row of cups while making sure they're even. She also eyed on my every move, and commented how I should have done almost every single thing I did. Being married, I can say that I wouldn't stand being with a person of that kind in a marriage XD

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the school I went to for nursing. It's a prominent university; Its nursing programs are known for being some of the bests in the nation. The teaching staff (our instructors and professors) were very nurturing with our learning. Despite the rigor of the program, they promote creativity and acknowledge individuality.

As much as individuality is being valued in the Western society, it is not always perceived as a positive value, right? But what I mean by acknowledging individuality is the uniqueness of every of of us in my cohort was appreciated. Our teachers comprehended the idea that there are multitudes of ways of learning and that different people adopt different ways of learning. We are not robots so trying to program us to do things in certain ways will probably not work too well.

K, back to the micro-managing case. I was so taken aback by the attitude of this person took. First of all, I had over a year experience working in the work setting I was involved in, which means I've developed certain ways of doing things. Second of all, I certainly wasn't in training for elementary stuff -such as.. how to stack medicine cups, how to pour liquid to cups, how to crush pills, how to talk on the phone, bla bla bla -some of the things she instructed to do actually made me want to laugh.. a bit silly to be persnickety about, and most of the times they're just a bunch of non-substantial particulars. Oh Lord, help meeeh :D

I think we have to keep in mind with learner's age. Adult learners shouldn't be treated the same way as kids. Teaching elementary-level stuff in a condescending way, to me, is almost like insulting one's intelligence.

One thing though, you can always be as informative as you can get.. meaning that you may try to mold a newbie they way you want him/her to do things using a tactful/nice way when delivering your messages.

I've been quite pleased, however, with how the training went overall! My other trainers were great and I was able to learn a lot from them. I learnt a lot from Ms. Bossy too. For the entire time being with Ms. Bossy, I just went ahead with whatever she told me to do. I needed to complete my training without any conflicts and thank God I was pretty good at getting any potential frictions away from us.

As you see.. I judge people. In fact, I judge people all the time. But I learn when to say it and when not to. I also try my best to check with my assumptions first, that way I can assess my own judgments. This is one of the things that nursing school taught me. They kept saying to check our assumptions. We often times forgot where others are coming from with what they do. And I can say the same for the bossy trainer, like.. perhaps that's the only way she knows on how to do things instead of me saying.. wow I can see how she's not very open to new ideas!

Anyhow, that was my pet peeve of the week. I treasure the experience, but wouldn't want to do it again if given the choice lol. It definitely helps me figure out myself better: I know one thing and let me say it loud and clear.. I don't like being excessively bossed around -this is also one of the reasons why I hated (training) for hospital nursing. I don't like being treated like a robot, and I believe there are a thousand ways to Rome.

'Nuff said.

Any comments will be appreciated!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Food, Property, Job, Ya Da Ya Da..

Posted by vianica gallagher at 8:22 PM 0 comments
Today I spent a relaxing afternoon with hubby at a tea shop called Tea Bar in North part of the city. I figured out about this place from a friend's facebook post a good while ago. Surrounded by several legit boba places in the area, I didn't get a chance to check it out until today.

Hubby ordered lavender milk tea, while I had the original black milk tea -featured in the menu as Hong Kong Style Milk Tea. The tea comes out a tad too strong than most other places. So if you're much of a tea person, this place is for you!

I often get asked, especially by friends and family back home, about the kind of diet (read: food) I consume in the States. That has inspired me to write this post. I guess to give people a better idea about not only myself but also general ethnic food ubiquity in Pacific Northwest -Portland and the surroundings, especially.

Like some, my bestie and I love bonding over eating-out. We typically eat out once to 3x every week, depending on our free time/day-off. I must say that I'm blessed to have been exposed to a good variety of ethnic cuisines, and wouldn't be hesitant to call them Heaven on Earth. My bestie agrees with that too -good food is indeed our true love! Yeah.. You may laugh at that :D

Before going over my favorite kinds of food, I wanna share a few pieces of happy news I've got. I am finally a home owner! Wait a second, I've been a home owner since moving to the States. But what I mean by this is that I finally purchased a property on my own.

It's a condominium, or as people in Indonesia would say, an apartment! I was, and still am, super excited whenever I think about it. The condo is located in the city of Jogjakarta, Central Java. The whole complex is still being built and is estimated to come to completion by the end of 2017. 

After looking at property for quite some time, I felt like the right time had come. I got offered a good deal on the condo I'd been eyeing for quite some time. It's nil down payment, zero interest, and I chose that payment are made in 48 installments. That said, I will be finished paying for it in less than 4 years now -made 2 payments already so far.

Even though I am very excited about this condo, I haven't even told the news to my family in Indonesia. I am not ready because they will start asking questions. They may think the price is too high (it's 410 milions IDR or equivalent to 31K USD -given 1 USD equals 13,500 IDR- which is quite reasonable for a 1-BR condo in Jogja), and that I should have bought a house instead, ya da ya da. It's just difficult explaining those things over phone calls & text messages. So I decided to keep my mouth shut until I see them next time -which probably won't be till end of next year XD.

Secondly, I just landed an out-patient nursing job! Yep, it's a clinic job.. Where patients will be in and out in no time. What does this mean? This means less stress -and more pay too- compared to my previous rehab job. I am so excited and can't wait to start the orientation in a week -yayyyy!!

On top of that, I also recently got hired on a weekend on-call basis at a rehab facility very close to home. This is a similar setting to my old work place but of a better one as I do have enough help/support. My patient load is also lower than that of the old place.

When I said this rehab place being very close to home, this place is literally only a 7-minute drive from where I live! Pretty awesome, isn't it? I recently started my training there. And boy, let me tell you.. it's sooo nice leaving for work just 15 minutes before your start time.

'Nuff rambling! Mwahaha.. Let's go over the food I eat on a regular basis.

1. Chinese
Nope, as some of you probably already know.. I am no Chinese. However, we eat quite a bit of Chinese food on our regular eating out. Chinese fried rice, sizzling plate dishes, sweet and sour and/ egg drop soup, shrimp in lobster sauce, and chow mein are probably our choices most of the time.

We devour a wide variety of the cuisines from Cantonese, Hong Kong style, Sichuan, to the Americanized (read: fake) chinese name it!

Whatever the style of the cooking is, as long as it suits our palates and has no pork element to it, we'll eat it. Our go-to places in the area, though, remain Taste of Sichuan, Powell Seafood Restaurant, and Wong's King.

2. Japanese

We eat lots of sushi (including nigiri but only those with shrimp, octupus, and eel on top), bento items (teriyaki style mostly), to traditional dishes such as sukiyaki, udon, and black cod collar dish. We, however, don't eat sashimi and other raw fish stuff. Oh, and definitely not a ramen eater -will have it once in a bluemoon under one condition: if the broth isn't pork-based.

We found our favorite Japanese restaurant about 23 miles (37 km) from home. In Beaverton (a suburn of Portland, the home for the Asian people/families) it is. We've been eating there for a few years now and will continue to keep going back there for our authentic Japanese food fix. For sushi + hibachi quick-eat, we go to this Sushi place called Chiyo -a 4-minute drive from home.

3. Vietnamese

Who doesn't love a steaming hot bowl of pho (Read: fuh)?? I know this is an acquired taste, as most of my fellow Indonesians living in the homeland prefer bakso (meatballs in noodle soup) than pho. I didn't like pho at first. I actually started loving the taste after my second exposure to it. I have had pho in both the US and its origin Vietnam, and must say.. that pho we eat in Oregon is just as close -if not better, in some places- as those in Vietnam!

I consider myself lucky for being surrounded by a few good Vietnamese restaurants in town. My favorite one remains this one named Pho Van. In addition to pho, I enjoy veggie spring rolls. What's different with Indonesian lumpia is that Vietnamese spring rolls have minced/ground taro in it, making the taste quite distinct.

Banh Mi (Viet sandwich) and also Bun Ga (Viet vermicelli dish served with pickled veggies, grilled lemongrass chicken, and fish sauce) are also among our Viet delicacy favorites. Yum, I am salivating just talking about it now! be continued. Guess what I am about to do now? Hubby is done with cooking tempura udon so am going to jump right in the kitchen and devour it :)


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