Tourists are so darn easy to sniff out. If you’ve been to Macau, you’d know the Ruins of St Paul’s (大三巴牌坊) but a one-sided wall, completely demolished and naked in the back. So the first-timers (like us) would still clamour for pictures with the famed 16th-century complex, an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. 68 steps would lead you to the southern stone façade, behind which lies the remains of the original pillars and a shrine. A wee bit of secret: the locals would tell you it’s customary to throw coins into the top window of the ruins from the stairs, for good luck.
From here, you can spot the stone façade, far left. Pretty deconstructed huh?
As we got closer, I realised it was just a one-dimensional wall. Didn’t stop me from my touristy shots!
Way to the ‘top’ – 68 easy-peasy steps! And so crowded on a late February weekday, we had to jostle a few elbows outta our way. Since this wall’s one of ’em things you’ve got to check off your Macau Bucket-lists, we made it to the top and beyond.
The best entitlement of a tourist is not being taken for a fool at stupid pictures. Here I am receiving a scroll from…some great Chinese scholar! (My bad, I can’t even remember names of half of my university Professors.) I CAME IN LIKE A CAAAANON-BAAAALLL (way before wreckingball became a thing)
Next best tourist entitlement: you don’t get judged for meaningless hand gestures in awkward I-don’-know-what-to-do-with-my-hands shots.
Not far from the Ruins of St Paul’s is the Museum of Macau, filled with relics from the time Macau was part of Portuguese empire, and also most importantly these were sacred and holy relics of art. Read: Museu De Arte Sacra = Museum Of Sacred Art.
The Museum of Macau is located in the famous Monte Fortress, in the heart of the city where the Portuguese first set foot. Being a fortress from where battles were fought and Macau defended, actual live cannons were left behind.
I had a hard time saying goodbye to the cannon I grew so fond off. They made a good war relic, and a decent sunbed.
Herein lies the footpath from midlevel (outdoors) to the top of Museum of Macau. Great weather, amazing scenery and good company makes for a fantastic walk.
Right at the top is where you see a grand entrance to the Museum. Conventionally, you’re meant to enter from the ground floor. The top floor consists of a garden, a small still fountain, and the fortress formation in which cannons are still located.
So the view from the top stole my heart! I loooove the vantage point, though ought to have been scared shitless standing so close to the edge. All I really wanna do is get close to the heart of the city.
Further snapshots from within the Fortress walls.
Every city I go, I try to get the bird’s eye view. Much like the Eiffel of Paris or Burj Khalifa of Dubai. It pretty much lays the city out at your feet for a much clearer picture than any map will provide you.
“I looked to the ceiling and told God, “God, next time I want an adventure, strike me with lightning. You have my permission.”
― Kristen Ashley, The Gamble
We were crazy for adventure and found our answer in Macau. The idea came like a flash of lightning. So with one day to spare we grabbed a pair of ferry tickets and bopped our way to the land of egg-tarts, casinos and tea-houses. I expected a whole new environment much like the gambling sitcoms we occasionally glimpse channel-surfing, but Macau is really an amalgam of new world Hong Kong with traditional Portuguese influences. What really amazed us – casinos were entities made of everything shiny, glazed with glamour and all that glitters that is actually gold.
Starving, we stuffed our faces with the island’s most traditonal Portuguese egg-tarts (or so every store says)
Then meandered the streets of Macau on foot. The air tingles with hope, because most people there were keeping their dreams alive. Making it big at the gambling den, or simply making it out alive.
Look what we found! Art in the heart of the city.
God knows who created these art but they are pretty darn amazing.
In Macau, basically, you can find hand-made pastries and cookies every-damn-where. It’s like stores fight for business. It’s what this place is known for, and all tourists are suckers for. We all want to bring a piece of Macau home. Almond biscuits, pork-floss crisps, handrolls. As traditional as it gets. I love their almond biscuit and egg-rolls which are out-of-this world. I have never gone for another bakery’s eggrolls ever since. Especially since Koi Kei makes the best egg-white egg-rolls, ooh lala.
My favourite is still Koi Kei – never have I gone home empty-handed from Hong Kong and he’s the reason why.
So since we’re on this topic, more food-talk and less sight-seeing! Sharetea in Macau is actually a cafe. The bustling cafe scene in Macau isn’t hipster at all…this is as hippie as it goes. Traditional teahouses, or cha-chan-teng 茶餐廳, which are known for eclectic dishes from Hong Kong cuisine and Hong Kong Western fusion cuisine, are more prevalent.
Food’s always the start of an adventure, as Anthony Bourdain puts it well: “I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure”. Every culture has its food norms. Anyone else finds it interesting MacDonalds’ caters to every country’s needs? Here’s a Red Bean pie from Macau. I still miss it.
Part One here was all about what we ingested plus wall murals we caught (well if I could inhale and live off devouring art I would but unfortunately graffiti is not food). The next one and thereafter’s all about the view, and what essentially keeps people coming to Macau. The mystery of the casinos maybe… I for one enjoyed walking through the Portuguese cemetery, reading headstones of all who’s walked the land and had the means to buy themselves a place here after death. #morbid
And Paris is a woman’s town, with flowers in her hair;
– Henry van Dyke
A full-blown visual tour of Galeries Lafayette’s gorgeous interior: other than to gush over luxury goods I took the liberty of snapping otherwise passed-over gush-worthy details. Has anybody ever really highlighted the architectural wonder that is this shopping mall?
Top-storey view: gorgeous and lofty. You could pretty much see a 360 of Paris.
“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there,
not even poverty, nor sudden money,
nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong
nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition
Let there be light! Through this massively gaping hole, summer was infiltrating the cool granite dome. Indeed, you haven’t seen Rome if you’ve never been to the Pantheon. This gaping hole right at the center of the majestic relic is what we call the oculus at the dome’s apex, which allows the only natural sources of light into the Pantheon. In a reverse sundial effect, light coming from the oculus moves around the interior of the grand space.
Whilst a large part of Rome still lay in ruins, the Pantheon is one of the best preserved and well-restored relics from the ancient times. Since the Renaissance the Pantheon has been used as a tomb, with two kings of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, as well as Umberto’s Queen, Margherita, buried in the precinct. Famed painters Raphael Sanzio da Urbino and Annibale Carracci, composer Arcangelo Corelli, and architect Baldassare Peruzzi are also amongst those who would rest eternally within the dome, which in the present day is being used as a church, for weddings as well as masses.
The Pantheon is circular with a portico of 16 large granite Corinthian columns. Two thousand years after its existence came into being, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. Impressive, isn’t it?
Friends, you know who you are and this is for you.
I’ve always read about Chiba Prefecture in Murakami’s works and although Narita isn’t my favourite Japanese tourist spot, there is so much to see and shopping to do! Whuddup – look at these fluffy kitties I found:
Lunch was mediocre chashuu ramen and some light post-shopping dango snacks. The latter was immensely satisfying that it doubled up as part of my dinner. Will never cease to love mochis and anything the likes of it!
After much gallivanting around town, here’s the sum total of my loot – snacks, cosmetics, beverages, and awesomeness from Fancl and Muji. Matcha chocolate Pockys will be the death of me.
A gleaming handful of Sapporo at the end of long day is my pot of gold at the end of a very short rainbow.
And I got to experience the rush of Seoul Fashion Week.
Of course Milan was way better, because the glamour and excitement was literally in the air whereas the activities were concentrated and somewhat limited to the big fashion hubs at Myeongdong. Most local designers were alongside big names on the runway and I knew few and close to none of the indie ones.
What a pity the shows were so few and far between!
I’ve been so caught up with life and neglecting this virtual space. Now that my writing gigs are on hold, I’m thinking way more about the future and which post-grad schools to apply to. I don’t even know if I should go back to studying or stay in this comfort-zone a little longer. Everyone tells me “you’re still young, you have so much time” but why don’t I feel the same? Darn easy it is to fall into living life as it is, going with the flow that has already been set in rhythm. Ultimately what I feel I have is not a safety net. It’s a trap.
Keep working or take my masters? Somebody please enlighten me.
Out of the blue comes this charming red cafe all white-washed walls and scruffy front yard, with a deservingly quaint name! Gabae Naru does legit hand-drip coffee, and mostly serves nine-to-fivers from neighbouring high-rise corporate offices (as far as I can observe).
After much snooping around, I discovered the Gabae Naru brand is creative brainchild of one Ham Soohyun, mastermind behind concepts of various other coffeeshops.
Mostly, the interior is peppered with keepsakes and mementos belonging to the cafe owners. Anyone can help themselves to the books on display. I especially loved the owners’ scattered polaroids of friends and customers. Goes to show that owning a cafe is indeed a personal and very sentimental affair.
I love a place that can fix a good cuppa iced cappucino. The espresso is hand-dripped, blended with ice, then frothed with a layer of milk. So much work goes into making it instead of pouring pre-made coffee over hot milk, then adding ice, which is basically what the big names do.
Let’s go see what’s on the upper floor shall we?
Basically, the second floor is dedicated space for smokers.
Such a lovely hidden gem in a busy part of town, way too out of the way and underrated. This would be one of ’em cafes that locals frequent, and the occasional tourist stumbles upon.
Gabae Naru 가배나루
348-1 Chungjeongno 3(sam)-ga
Late night shopping at Hongdae with iced peach tea leads to planting thy ass at this comfortable hideout, tired out from endless sights, walking with wedge-heels, and very fascinated by observations I get from people watching at Cafe Joenill. Also, it had been drizzling, and I still wanted to keep my nose. Earpiece-plugged, this was the time I fell in love with EXO’s Peter Pan (the only song from their album I actually can’t stop listening to). I can only hope nobody in the cafe noticed my feet tapping to the beat. Nightfall sentimentalises all my favourite semi-emotional songs. xoxo, Viktoria Jean
So this is one of ’em chain coffee-stores that also offer legit mojitos and cocktails, where I tasted one of the best sweet-potato lattes I’ve ever had! Purple’s their defining colour. I’ve only so far tried one of their beverages. Everything else on their menu is the same as any of the other chain coffeehouses.
Was grabbing a hot drink before battling the cold spring weather on my way to Deoksugung at City Hall. This Hongdae franchise is the only one I’ve been to, given the amount of time I had, and usually it’s crammed up besides the other cafe giants like Caffe Bene, Coffee Bean, Starbucks and the likes, hence much neglected (by me).
On the day I decided to give this a try, it was incredibly empty at 10 am as the university kids were probably at school. Then again 10am isn’t exactly an ungodly hour, since the cafe is open 24/7. I pass this cafe every night while going back to my guesthouse and it really fills up past 10pm. Kinda reminds me of my own late-night uni days!
Edged alongside local eateries in the central business district of Jung-Gu, this diner was packed during the lunch hour, with loads of people still waiting for tables when I left! Café Mamas is amongst the popular franchised coffee houses in Seoul that offer a European brunch menu consisting of salads, paninis and soups. They serve a corporate crowd from neighbouring office towers as well as tourists and locals visiting Deoksugung and various palaces in the Sijeong City Hall area.
With a moustached coffee mug as the cafe’s icon, this place is hard to forget! You can expect wholesome all-day breakfasts, fresh juices and gourmet coffees at all their branches.
Kiwi juice and this potato soup looks pretty good~
Cold Chicken salad for brunch! I think I liked their bread most. The chicken was too dry – kind of tasted as if it was left overnight. I wonder if its just me or was the chicken so very tasteless? But they had so many customers that day. Probably the salad is not the best thing they have on offer, since everything else looks equally good or better. It was a decent meal though, but I guess I had higher expectations!
They also have franchises at places like Gangnam, Yeouido, Yeoksam, Garosugil and Gwanghwamun – a total of 15 stores Seoul-wide. Looking forward to try something else on their menu when I’m back ^^
Café Mamas 카페마마스
6-17 Sunhwa-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Seodaemun Prison History Hall: a former prison since 1908 that housed anti-colonial activists during the Colonial period. After colonial era ended in 1945, South Korean government housed prisoners at Seodaemun until 1987 when it was replaced by a facility in Uiwang City, Gyeonggi Province.
The main hall has three floors of exhibitions. Here, you can view lifelike re-creations of torture scenes in the nightmarish interrogation cells in the basement. This kinda resembled the Dachau Concentration Camp I went to in Munich, on a smaller scale but no less gruesome. Though it was built to house 500 prisoners, up to 3500 were packed within its premises during the peak of anti-Japanese protests in 1919.
Visiting places like this always gives me the chills, especially so since I was alone!! Educational value aside, these seem to be yet more depressing reasons to doubt humanity. Which doesn’t seem to have learnt any lessons that has struck us all in our faces during the past century. Seodaemun Prison was one such place where such brutal history seems too distant yet simultaneously real.
On a less depressing note, I’m so much more well-rested these days! Probably since none of my friends are in town, and I’ve pretty much been resting at home and in hotels. Have also been reading up on places to go in Gyeonggi Province and Busan! If anyone has recommendations, please let me know ^^
Have a good week ahead everybody!!
SEODAEMUN Prison History Museum 서대문형무소역사관
Address: 101 Hyeonjeo-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Phone: +82 2-360-8590
In late 19th Century, the King was many-a-times escorted through Dongnimmun Gate, thereafter to demonstrate personal reception towards visiting Chinese envoys. Dongnimmun is 独立門 in Mandarin, the gate that signifies independence and free will of a country’s people. Built in 1897, the gate served to concretize South Korea’s sovereignty.
Planted aesthetically in areas surrounding the independence gate are vessels of mugunghwa – South Korea’s national flower. This place is also known as Yongeunmun, after its current location that used to be known as Yongeun.
True to form, Dongnimmun was built to proclaim the nation’s sovereignty – a grand spacious courtyard is dedicated solely for the King’s long walk to greet their allies from a foreign land. Majestic, isn’t it?
I found a sense of solemnity to the place. The Dongnimmun Gate must have been an impressive structure in the initial years, but is now dwarfed by high-rise estates and interconnected highways of the metropolitan city. Yet it remains a silent and powerful testimony to the struggles of the people’s ancestors.
Here are some other monuments and effigies at Dongnimmun courtyard:
The courtyard leads to Seoul’s Former Prison, a large space now barren and left empty for visitors. Dongnimmun is afterall a solemn place, and also an important national heritage site for South Koreans.
For book-lovers like myself, this is somewhere akin to heaven! With a two-floor occupancy, this cafe boasts more than 3,000 books stacked from floor to ceiling, with a ladder allowing visitors to peruse the books on higher shelves.
Run by Munhakdongne publishing group, Book Cafe Comma is known in Seoul for its investments in talented young writers. Most books in-store are sold at half-price. Some of them are not even available anywhere else!
What you see on sale are not restricted to those published by Munhak. A couple of popular English fiction (Fifty Shades trilogy – what’s new) were spotted in its midst. Books aside, I also loved the gorgeous interior and comfortably dimmed lighting.
At 7pm in the evening on a weekday, the place seemed deserted. On the upper deck however, loads of serious faces were mentally attacking their textbooks with wrath.
What they had on offer was pretty limited but trust me, the tiramisu was one of the best I’ve ever had! The square slice looked home-made as it was cut from a panned box, fresh from the refrigerator. Heavy on rum and espresso, the cake was not too sweet and very moist (I hate dry / flaky tiramisu).
I loved the ambience on the upper deck – it’s so conducive I wish I’d brought my laptop with me. The level of silence is adequate for sounding out your own thoughts, yet not mind-numbingly eerie.
I cannot emphasis how much I loved this tiramisu enough!!
In close proximity to Seoul’s top art university, Hongdae is home to a myriad of quirky hipster cafes. Cafe Comma is definitely up there on my list of favourites and cafes to re-visit when I go again in summer!
There’s also a separate reason why I love Cafe Comma i.e. tall and good-looking artsy-fartsy guy with laptop and books spotted. Teehee ^^
홍대 북카페 ‘콤마’에서 잘 생긴 남자를 봤어. 키가 크고 좋은 피부를 가지고, 그는 책을 읽고 있었다. 완전 내 스타일 ^^ ㅋ ㅋ 난 돌아올거야!
When I take my coffee black with no sugar, I know I’m tasting the results of seriously good cocoa beans. If like me, you loathe the acidic aftertaste that only milk or brown sugar can eliminate, and you would much rather down a dozen cups of cappuccino or caffe latte over multiple espresso shots, you’d be glad to know that gourmet black coffee can actually be sweet and very delectable!
At Cafe Miz Moren, there are no espresso machines. Every cup is vacuum-brewed using the siphon brewing method. These coffee makers are really cool-looking hour-glass shaped tubes with a bottom container where water is heated, a top container that has a siphon tube attached to it where the coffee brewing takes place, and a filter made of glass, paper, metal, or cloth. Unlike hand-dripped coffee, upon heating, siphon-brewed coffee is vacuumed into the top container, thus somewhat ‘defying gravity’ in the process!
My Ethiopia Yirgacheffe G2 with distinct aromatic floral tones in the aroma, and light, flowery non-acidic aftertaste. This went down so smoothly without any tinge of roasted rough bitterness.
In addition I love how the cafe offers a selection of interesting blends, highlighted in their menu along with acidity levels and iconic tastes. The Guatemala Antigua SHB is “smoky & spicy with unique acidity”, whilst the Tanzania Peaberry is described as having “deep richness – a bright pleasant flavor with mild acidity”. There’s nothing interesting about its interior as siphon brewing is the cafe’s main draw, along with its amazing blends. Loads of Korean cafe blogs also recommend their in-house Miz Moren Blend!
Food on their menu, totally overlooked in my quest to try all their coffees! But I failed, because it was evening time and that cuppa kept me awake for half the night. #totallyworthit
Their famous siphon-brewing coffee makers on display, with the siphon brew masters at work. This is not a cafe, it’s a laboratory.
Honestly, I will never take Starbucks Americano ever again.