Heart and Soul of Korean Culture – Hansik (Korean Cuisine) in Gangwon-do

Hansik

One of the best way to immense into the Korean culture is through its food. Mention about Korean food , Kimchi and Bibimbap immediately comes to one’s mind. There are more than Kimchi and Bibimbap to Korean Food. Korean Food is characterised by its strong flavours, typically combining 3 essential sauces: Ganjang (soy sauce), Doenjang (soybean paste) and Gochujang (Korean chili paste). Gangwon-do in South Korea has its distinctive cuisine. Surrounded by Taebaek Mountain range and East Sea, Gangwon-do benefits from the fresh ingredients from the mountains and the sea. Due to its geographic makeup of the province, dry fields have been cultivated for farming of corn, potato and buckwheat. And having the East Sea to the east of Gangwon-do, the province is blessed with the freshest catch from the sea. The cuisine in Gangwon-do revolves around corns and potatoes, which has been made into rice, rice cakes and rice wine. While the buckwheat has been a staple food for people in Gangwon-do. Here are three of my top picks that are the signature cuisine in Gangwon-do, where one can taste food from the mountains to the fields to the sea.

Places where one can taste food that are only found in Gangwon-do

(published by Korean Travel Organisation)

Food from the Mountains – Yangyang Songibap (Pine Mushroom Rice)

Yangyang region is famous for producing the highest quality pine mushrooms in South Korea. Of all the cuisines made with pine mushrooms, Songibap (steamed rice with pine mushrooms) is the most popular here. Pine mushrooms are aromatic in flavour, rich in nutrients like vitamins B1 and B2 and is thought to prevent cancer. Songibap combines the delicate flavour of the steamed rice complementing the robust flavour of the chewy pine mushrooms, giving it a flavourful and earthy taste to the dish.

Songibap

(Photo credit: http://mengnews.joins.com/view.aspx?aid=2920045)

Food from the Fields – Bongpyeong Memil Guksu (Buckwheat Noodles) and Memil Muk (Buckwheat Jelly)

What place to enjoy authentic buckwheat cuisine other than Bongpyeong, a town located in the northwestern part of PyeongChang county, renowned for growing the best quality buckwheat in South Korea owing to its geographical makeup. Koreans have been making and enjoying noodles and jellies made of buckwheat since ancient times. Cuisines made from buckwheat is said to have lower calories and benefits of reducing blood pressure. There are no lack of restaurants serving up buckwheat cuisines in Bongpyeong, one of the best restaurants in this region is Migayeon. Migayeon is renowned in the area for their buckwheat menu, everything in this restaurant is made with buckwheat.  Their buckwheat cuisine, usually served with the freshest vegetables and high quality meat, is as tasteful as it is nutritious.

Buckwheat Jelly (Memil Muk)

(Photo credit: http://www.migayeon.co.kr/en/)

Buckwheat Noodles (Memil Guksu)

(Photo credit: http://www.migayeon.co.kr/en/)

Food from the Sea – Samcheok Daege Jjim (Steamed Snow Crab)

Nested by the coast of the East Sea, Samcheok is blessed with the freshest catch of seafood. People flock to this south eastern city in Gangwon-do for the seafood. One of the dishes that is a must try here in Samcheok is the Daege Jjim or Steamed Snow Crab, where it is famous for its abundant catch of the large meaty snow crabs. Visitors will be able to taste the freshest catch from the East Sea. Snow Crab is popular amongst the shell fish owing to the abundant meat in its legs. Daege Jjim here in Samcheok is steamed on order to preserve its freshness. One of the popular way to eat Daege Jjim is to add steamed rice to the shell, where the intestines and roe are, which tasted buttery.

Snow crab is best enjoyed steamed where one can taste its natural flavours

(Photo credit: http://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/korea-food-map/index.html)

Steamed rice mixed into the shell of Daege Jjim

(Photo credit: http://m.kenterin.net/article/10518e)

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Jump – A Korean Non-Verbal Musical Comedy

A Unique Korean Contemporary Culture – Korean Non-Verbal Musical Comedy

A musical that is unique to the Korean culture is their non-verbal musical comedies. Such shows infuses dance and sometimes martial arts (depending on the show you watch) into a musical that makes speaking redundant. Nevermind that you do not understand the Korean language, one will still be able to understand the general plot of the show and laugh off the funny bits.

Of the Korean non-verbal comedies, Nanata, Chef and Jump are the more popular ones with locals and visitors to Korea alike. A few months back, I managed to catch the localised version of Chef in Singapore. After that show, I saw that another Korean non-verbal comedy is coming to Singapore, I wasted no time and recommended my friends to watch the show. The show Jump is in Singapore for 4 shows from 6 to 8 Oct.

Poster of Jump at the entrance to the theatre

Stage setting

Synopsis of Jump

The show Jump is a martial arts comedy. The scene is set in a martial arts house, where the students were seen cleaning and practising their respective areas of martial arts, ranging from Taekwondo, Taekkyun, Drunken Fist and gymnastic skills. The family of martial arts enjoy challenging each other to martial arts showdowns displaying their awe-inspiring expertise. The plot thickens when the house is being broken into by 2 burglars in the middle of the night. When the family discovers the burglars, a battle took place between the family members and the burglars.

Casts of Jump

One of the actors interacting with audiences before the start of the show

Jump is a mix of martial arts and dance that provides laughter to audiences

One of the many somersaults performed by the actors

There are a lot of “flying” movements throughout the show

Review on Jump

Never mind the lack of fanciful Phantom of the Opera like stage sets, never mind the fact that the plot of the show is simple, I find the show Jump very entertaining. The purpose of Jump is very simple, the infusion of martial arts (mostly Korean’s National martial arts – Taekwondo) with dance to produce a comedic effect. Jump kept audiences laughing throughout the 1½ hours of the show time.  I like the use of imagination in the show. There is a scene portraying the grandmaster’s speed in his martial arts, every actors on stage moved at controlled slow speed where the grandmaster moved at normal speed. There is also a scene where the actors portray the grandmaster’s flying skills where the actors carried him horizontally. Such scenes are common in Jump. There are no wires that hangs the actors on stage, all are done with what seem to be years and years of practice in their acrobatic skills. There are a lot more actions and acrobatic stunts in the show, displayed by both male and female casts of the show. Compared to Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab that I watched a few months ago, I like Jump better mainly due to more actions in the show. The neon light display of staff stunts in the dark was amazing, feels like one is watching light sabres being used from a scene in Star Wars live. A couple of audiences are invited up to the stage to interact with the casts of Jump, this adds to the comedic effect in the show. I highly recommend visitors to Seoul to catch Jump as such non-verbal comedies is uniquely Korea.

Actors in one of the fighting scenes earlier in the show

Female casts displaying their skills with a staff

Incredible flexibility displayed by one of the casts of Jump

Some of the stunts require not just agility, but strength too

One of the fighting scenes in Jump

Another fighting scene in Jump

This is towards the end of the show where the cast displayed coordinated Taekwondo

I like the neon staff display

One of the staff even light up at both ends, feels as if this is a scene from Star Wars

More “jumping” actions in the show Jump

The acrobatic display stunts audiences

The casts make all these flipping in the air looks so easy

A gravity defying flip

All the casts of Jump in coordinated martial art moves

The grand finale of the show Jump

The show ended with all the casts displaying their martial arts skills

[Hotel Review] – Hatten Hotel (Hatten Suite), Melaka, Malaysia (30 Sep – 1 Oct 17)

Location

Hatten Hotel is located in the middle of Melaka, where the only shopping malls are located in the town. The hotel sits on top of Hatten Square a shopping mall that is also linked to the rest of the shopping malls. Hatten Hotel is a mere 7 mins walk from Jonker Street and 5 mins walk from St Paul’s Church, making it a great place to explore the foodie scene and the major sights of Melaka.

Hotel Signage

Hotel lobby on the ground floor

The Suite

Hatten Hotel is an all suites hotel, offering minimally a Junior Suite. Guests staying in the Hatten Suite can check-in at the Premier Lounge located on the 12th floor of the hotel. There are no queues at the lounge at the time of my check-in. I checked into the large 74㎡ Hatten Suite, a 1 bedroom suite. The hotel has very limited Hatten Suites, with 1 on each floor a few more on its top level. The Hatten Suite is contemporary and in its decor and feels very comfortable once I entered the suite.

Living Room

Entering the suite, one would come across a toilet before the mini bar area. The toilet has only a sink and toilet bowl, which is perfect for guests to use without having to enter the bedroom. The placement of the minibar area next to the toilet in the living room makes total sense as guests in the suite can obtain water and wash their mugs without having to enter the bedroom.

Main entrance to Hatten Suite in Hatten Hotel. A small plate of welcome fruit consisted of an apple, orange and pear is placed on the ledge by the entrance.

The corridor inside the suite that leads to the living room. The toilet in the living  room is the first door on the right

The toilet in the living room

Mini bar area, located next to the toilet in the living room

Drinks in the fridge are complementary in Hatten Suite

Passing the toilet and the minibar area, the space opens up to the living room. Placed near the wall is a decent sized dark brown wooden dinning table with 2 chairs. One can have a decent meal at the dinning table. Further into the spacious living is where one can find a large comfortable 3 seater couch, facing a 32″ LED TV that is mounted on the wall. A coffee matching coffee table is placed between the couch and the TV. There are 2 single seat chair and a small side table placed at the end of the living room, right in front of the floor to ceiling windows looking out into the town of Melaka. I do find the single seat chairs a great place to relax and do some work in the living room. The entire living room feels very cozy and comfortable.

View of the dinning area in the Hatten Suite

Dinning table in the living room is of a decent size for 2 pax in the suite

The living room feels luxurious and is a very comfortable and cozy place to laze in while not exploring the streets of Melaka

The use of floor to ceiling window allows a great amount of natural light in and also make the living room look bigger

TV in the living room mounted on the wall opposite the couch

View of Melaka from the living room

View of Melaka from the other window in the living room

Bedroom

The door to the bedroom sits between the dinning table and the couch. A huge king size bed sits in the centre of the bedroom greeting guests. The bedroom decor looks simple yet elegant, with the luxurious feel from the headboard of the king bed. The sleep quality on the king bed is excellent, I feel recharged after a night’s shopping. However the bedsheets are badly stained. The worst stain are found on quilt cover that is facing down, where there seem to be blood stains on them that seem to make the quilt cover look unwashed!

The king bed in the bedroom that provided excellent sleep quality

Stains found on the bedsheet of the king bed

There is a patch of red stain on the quilt cover that faces down

Spot stains that look like blood stains found on quilt cover

More stains on the bedsheet

Opposite the king bed is a elongated dressing table, which provided additional space for guests to place their small items on. I find the placement of the mirror on the wall here a little odd as the table lamp was blocking the mirror, meaning guests will find it challenging using the mirror while seated on the chair that is by the table. Another LED TV is mounted beside the mirror, facing the bed. The wardrobe is found at the end of the walkway in the bedroom next to the bathroom door. The wardrobe is of a decent size, sufficient for guests to hang their clothing. There is a 4 tiered cabinet inside the wardrobe as well as an in-room safe.

Dressing table and the TV opposite the king bed

Bedside table and the use of these bedside lamps gives the bedroom a luxurious vibe

Mirror and a stool where I placed my backpack on opposite the entrance to the bedroom

A decent sized wardrobe in the bedroom, next to the entrance to the bathroom

Bathroom

The bathroom of the Hatten Suite is located inside the bedroom. The marble laid bathroom gives it a opulent feel. As soon as I entered the bathroom, a large sink on a elongated sink counter top tucked to the wall of the bathroom was in sight. The clever use of the mirror that fills up the entire length of the wall in the bathroom makes it look larger. Bathroom amenities are being placed by the hotel staff on the right side of the sink counter top. However do check the labels on the bath amenities as I received 2 shampoos and no shower gel. A hug bathtub sits on the left side of the sink area, tucked by the wall of the bathroom. There is a glass (with curtain for privacy) that looks out into the bedroom, which is ideal for guests to watch the TV from the bathtub while getting a soak. On the right side of the sink is a walk-in shower cubicle, that has both a rain shower head and a regular shower head. The shower cubicle in the suite that was assigned to me smelled mouldy, especially when enclosed. The toilet bowl can be found on the right side of the door to the bathroom.

Sink area in the bathroom of Hatten Suite

Bath amenities in Hatten Suite

The bathtub is located beside the sink area

A large bathtub by the window in the bathroom, where guests can soak and watch TV at the same time

Separate walk-in shower cubicle

There are rain shower and regular shower head in the shower cubicle

Toilet bowl is tucked in a corner to the right of the entrance to the bathroom

Premier Lounge

Guests staying in the Hatten Suite can gain access to the Premier Lounge. The Premier Lounge is nested on the 12th floor of Hatten Hotel and faces Melaka Straits. It is a perfect place to chill out and watch sunset over Melaka Straits. The lounge is empty most of the time at the time of my visit, making it a great place to enjoy some quiet time. I did not see any snacks or finger food being placed in the Premier Lounge, however guests can request for coffee or tea, which the staffs will be happy to serve up. Guests staying in the Hatten Suite can opt to check-in at Premier Lounge, which I highly recommend to do so as there are no queues at the time of my check-in.

Premier Lounge is located on the 12th floor in Hatten Hotel

Reception at the Premier Lounge

The Premier Lounge is a great place to chill in and is empty most of the time

Swimming Pool

The swimming pool in Hatten Hotel is located on 12th floor of the hotel. There are 2 pools in Hatten Hotel, the larger deeper pool and a very small wadding pool with a slide for young guests to play in. The larger pool though is of a decent size capable to allowing guests to swim some laps in, however the swimming pool is usually very crowded making swimming laps a challenge. The swimming pool is tad small for the number of guests that the hotel can accommodate. There are also limited amount of furniture in the pool area for guests to even leave their towels around. Nonetheless the infinity swimming pool, sitting on top of the roof gives great view of Melaka at the edge.

Swimming pool view from my suite

View of the pool

Swimming pool in Hatten Hotel

There is a large sauna room in the toilet next to the swimming pool

There is also a steam room beside the sauna in the toilet next to the swimming pool

Gym

The gym is located on the 12th floor of Hatten Hotel, with the entrance located at the side of the swimming pool. The gym is rather small, however it is well equipped with treadmills, elliptical machines and some weight machines which is capable of providing guests with a decent workout. The drawing point of the gym is the floor to ceiling window which the treadmills are placed, providing a stunting view of Melaka and Melaka Straits while guests are jogging on them.

Entrance to the gym is next to the swimming pool
Some of the gym equipment
Gym equipment
Guests can enjoy the stunning view of Melaka and Melaka Straits working out in the treadmills and elliptical machines in the gym

Breakfast

Breakfast is served in the Chatterz restaurant located on 11th floor of the hotel. Chatterz has a large dinning area, capable of hosting a large number of guests dinning at one time. There are a huge variety of local and western food for breakfast. The food served during breakfast is very tasty. Guests staying in the Hatten Suite can also opt to consume their breakfast at the Alto Restaurant, located on the top floor of Hatten Hotel. The number of guests coming up here is far lesser compared to those heading for Chatterz for breakfast. This means guests can enjoy a peaceful breakfast while treated to the view of Melaka. The food options are lesser in Alto compared to those served in Chatterz.

Some of the many food served during breakfast

Some of the many food served during breakfast

Service

Overall the service in Hatten Hotel is good. Most of the time I met with very polite staffs that makes me feel welcome Hatten Hotel. The good service started at the point of my check-in, where I was made welcome by the staff in the Premier lounge processing my check-in. The staff processed my check-in with speed and briefed me on the privileges that I am entitled as a guest in the Hatten Suite. However during my booking of the suite on the hotel website, I indicated that I prefer a high floor suite. This remark seemed to be overlooked by the staff, making me feel if anyone bother to read the comments left by guests during booking. The staff even asked if I made my booking through their website despite showing her the email printout sent by the hotel. Nonetheless, the staff processing my check-in was patient and made me feel welcome to the hotel.

I find the staffs at the reception on the ground floor are very observant. I returned to the hotel late at night and had left my key card in the suite. As I was approaching the reception counter, the 3 staffs were seen talking to each other initially. One of the staffs saw me approaching the reception counter and prompted the other staffs. They were ready to serve me by the time I reached the reception counter.

Reception staffs on the ground floor

The housekeeping staffs were exemplary as well. I called reception to inform them about the stained bedsheets on my bed and it was already past midnight. Despite taking about 30 mins for someone to come to my suite and change the sheet (which is understandable), the housekeeping staffs first apologized for the stain bedsheets and proceeded to change the sheets swiftly so that I can rest sooner.

The good service in Hatten Hotel is smeared by the staffs at Chatterz Restaurant. I encountered what appeared to be racists behaviour from the security staff at the entrance of the restaurant. As I was queuing up for my turn to be shown to a table at the entrance of the restaurant, a group of Caucasian guests were chatting among themselves at the entrance. Instead of asking the Caucasian guests to move to aside to continue their chat, the security staff instructed me (yes in a very rude manner) to form the queue around them. I told the staff that he should have asked the Caucasian guests to move instead of instructing the queue to be formed around them, however this was turned to deaf ears. When I raised my unhappiness to another staff who showed me to my table, she gave me the look of “not my problem”. After settling on my table and grabbed some food, I returned to an empty table. The container of sugar that was on the table was being cleared and there are no cutlery placed on the table. I had to signal a staff member to bring a set of cutlery. Most of the staff inside Chatterz Restaurant are seen to be standing in one corner and chat among themselves. Plates are seen uncleared on the tables around as though they are not interested in doing their job.

Overall

Hatten Hotel is well located in Melaka and is very accessible in the town of Melaka. Hatten Suite in Hatten Hotel is very comfortable room to stay in. The space is large and yet the furnishing does not make the suite look empty. The Suite has a very comfortable vibe. The sleep quality on the bed is excellent. The service is generally good, but the service standards in Chatterz Restaurant is the black sheep that brought the service standards down.

Strolling Amidst the Autumn Foliage in Gangwon-do, South Korea

As the leaves turns from lush green to red and yellow in South Korea, autumn has arrived. The top pick for viewing autumn foliage in Gangwon-do on most travelers mind would have to be Seoraksan National Park, with its expansive area and no lack of trekking trails. Other than the usual Seoraksan (which has been extensively covered), I picked three other spots in Gangwon-do where one will also be able to enjoy the colours of the autumn in Gangwon-do. Gangwon-do is blessed with numerous mountainous sights. Baekdudaegan, the spine of the Korean Peninsular, is a mountain range that runs through the Peninsular. Most of Gangwon-do’s spectucular natural sights lies along Baekdudaegan, including Taebeak mountain range where Mt Seoraksan and Mt Odaesan is located.

Places in Gangwon-do to visit in autumn apart from the popular Seoraksan National Park

Nami Island, Chuncheon

Any Korean drama fan would have watched Winter Sonata, the K-drama that launched Korea Wave throughout the world. Nami Island is no stranger to these fans and those of us whom have watched the drama series. Nami Island, being the backdrop of Winter Sonata, has seen a surge in tourism after the airing of the drama. Located in Chuncheon county in Northwest Gangwon-do, the small half moon shaped island covering some 430,000㎡, is especially charming in Autumn.

There are no lack of spots to enjoy the autumn foliage on Nami Island. Visitors to Nami Island in autumn will be treated with clean and smoothing scent of bushy pine trees and tall redwoods that line the island. Other than the 20 gardens located in various corners of the island, there are numerous walking paths with trees lining up on either side of the paths for visitors to stroll on. The central artery across the island is dripped with the Korean Pine Trees, which visitors will encounter once arriving on Nami Island. From here visitors can choose to stroll amongst the Metasequoia trees,  Ginko trees, Cherry trees, White Birch, Cornel trees, just to name a few. Amongst the lanes, the most photographed and scenic would be the Ginko tree walk path, which is especially charming during autumn with tree leaves turning bright yellow. Other than strolling on Nami Island, visitors can rent a bike or the electric car around the island. There is even a UNICEF Tram that brings visitors around.

Visitors to the island can opt for the traditional ferry that departs every 30 mins and every 10 to 20 mins during peak hours of the day across the Han River. The more adventurous visitors can opt to cross the Han River to Nami Island via the zip line, where one will be treated with magnificent views around the Island.

Map of Nami Island

(image credit: http://res.klook.com/image/upload/v1486643761/Korea/Nami_Island_Map.png)

Nami Island during autumn
(image credit: 
https://namisum.com/en/) 

Nami Island during autumn
(image credit: 
https://namisum.com/en/) 

One of the walk paths on Nami Island

(image credit: https://namisum.com/en/) 

Nami Island is dotted with red, yellow and orange leaves during autumn

(image credit: https://namisum.com/en/) 

Ginko tree lane in Nami Island
(image credit: 
https://namisum.com/en/) 

Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest, Inje

Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest is more popular as a winter destination thanks to the tall slander Birch trees that creates an exotic Siberian feel with white trees thrusting into the sky from the snow covered ground. Visitors flock to Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest as it is believed that Birch Trees possess mystical power of healing. Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest is as charming in autumn as it is magical in winter. Instead of a land of white, Mother Nature painted the whole landscape with yellow and red in autumn. Coupled with the presence of leaves, which creates a smoothing rustling sound as wind blows through the forest, making it seem like the trees are whispering to visitors to this land. Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest is about 20km outside the small mountain town of Inje. The hill that Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest sits on may seem ordinary at first, one has to immerse in the midst of the Birch tree forest to feel the tranquility the forest brings.

Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest is located on the side of Wondae Peak in Wondae-li. Visitors to Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest can choose to stroll along one or all of the 4 courses namely Birch Forest Course (0.9km: 40-50mins), Healing Course 1 (1.5km: 1½ hours), Exploration Course (1.1km: 40mins) and Healing Course 2 (2.4km: 2hours). The walks on these trails are relatively easy as the slops are not steep, providing visitors a relaxing time to enjoy the forest.

Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest in Autumn

(image credit http://gangwon.com.my/color-your-autumn-in-gangwon/)

Mother Nature painting Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest with yellow and red in autumn

(image credit: http://www.yonhapnews.co.kr/bulletin/2016/02/25/0200000000AKR20160225180400062.HTML)

Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest is as charming in autumn as it is magical in winter

(image credit:http://blog.jeep.co.kr/?p=497&ckattempt=1)

View of Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest in autumn

(image credit: http://blog.jeep.co.kr/?p=497&ckattempt=1)

Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest in autumn

(image credit: http://blog.jeep.co.kr/?p=497&ckattempt=1)

Odaesan National Park

Odaesan National Park is one of three national parks in Gangwon-do, covering an area of 304㎢. Odaesan National Park compresis of 2 districts, Woljeongsa district despite being in a high territory, has some beautiful trails for hiking; and Sogeumgang district whose rocky formations are a sight not to be missed. Compared to the neighbouring Seoraksan National Park, Odaesan National Park isn’t as crowded and makes this the perfect place to enjoy the tranquility of the forested autumn foliage in Gangwon-do.

Map of Odaesan National Park

(image credit:http://english.knps.or.kr)

Odaesan National Park in autumn

(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264215)

Odaesan National Park in autumn

(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264215)

There are no lack of walking trails for everyone wanting to experience the beautiful autumn foliage. Trekking trails can be found in Woljeongsa district of the national park. For the mild trekkers, Woljeongsa Temple is a great place to start. The short 1kim Fir Tree Forest crosses over some streams, is also a filming site for the Korean drama Goblin. The Woljeongsa Fir Tree Forest trail is rather flat, which makes it suitable for most visitors to enjoy the bursts of red, orange and yellow forest in autumn. For the more adventurous trekkers, Sangwonsa at Odaesan National Park would be the starting point. There are numerous trails for varying degree of difficulty for trekkers to choose from, ranging for the shortest 4.4km (takes around 2½ hours to complete) Dongdaesan Mountain Course to the longest 18.7 km (takes around 10 hours to complete) Durobong Peak Course.

Woljeongsa Fir Tree Forest in autumn

(image credit: http://k-popped.com/2017/09/3-best-k-drama-filming-locations-to-visit-during-autumn-in-korea/)

Woljeongsa Fir Tree Forest in autumn

(image credit: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/xjVi_BuTGXE/hqdefault.jpg)

There are also no lack of opportunities to enjoy the autumn foliage in Sogeumgang district. For a start, visitors can take a short 2.2km (1 hour) hike from Guemgangsa to Guryong Falls and enjoy the autumn foliage along the way in the lust vegetation amidst a land of streams and rock formations. Visitors will also be treated to sights of groups of locals gathering for picnic on the flat rocks along the route towards Guryong Falls. The more adventurous hikers can continue the trail for more autumn foliage opportunities which is part of the 13.7km (takes around 10 hours to complete) Sogeumgang Course. The Sogeumgang Courses passes through forests, beautiful gorges and rivers towards Noinbong Peak.

Guryong Falls in autumn

(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=789858)

Noinbong Peak in Odaesan National Park

(image credit: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/6232468#)

[Hotel Review] – Holiday Inn Resorts (1 Bedroom Suite), Batam, Indonesia (26 – 27 Aug 17)

I recently received an offer email from Holiday Inn Resorts Batam. The offer is a value for money, which includes ferry tickets for 2 pax, 1 night stay in a 1 bedroom suite with breakfast for 2, a 60-min message in the Tea Tree Spa in the resort grounds and return land transfer from ferry terminal to the resort for the price of SGD240 nett.

Hotel signage at the entrance

Location

Holiday Inn Resorts Batam is located on the western part of the island, in a rather isolated part of Batam. The resort is about 30 mins drive from the shopping district of Nagoya Hill. Other than Waterfront City Ferry Terminal and a sleepy town of Waterfront City, which is just opposite the resort, there are not much happening in the vicinity of Holiday Inn Batam. Patrons can forget about shopping options around the resort. However the Holiday Inn Resort Batam provides complementary shuttle transfers to and from the resort to Nagoya Hill City from 6am till 10 pm daily. The hotel also provides regular shuttle service to the 2 nearby ferry terminals of Waterfront City and Sekupang. These shuttle services are tied to the departure timings of ferries.

Complementary shuttle service from the ferry terminal as well as to Nagoya Hill shopping district
Reception building in Holiday Inn Resorts Batam

The Suite

Dinning Area

As I entered the 60㎡suite, I immediately entered into the dinning area. The dinning area of the suite is simply furnished with a round table with 4 chairs. A small kitchenette, built by the walls of the suite is found behind the table, next to the main entrance of the suite. Rather than calling it a kitchenette, this area serves more like a pantry where one can find an electric kettle and a container where complementary drinks such as coffee, tea and a couple of drinking water welcomed guests. The mini fridge is well hidden inside one of the cabinets here. There are a number of cabinets in the pantry area, however these cabinets are empty, which makes this area seem poorly furnished.

Dinning table in the suite
Sparsely furnished kitchenette
These are the only items found in the kitchenette on top of the mini fridge
Main entrance to the suite and the dinning area

Living Room

Connected to the dinning area further into the suite, is where one will land into the living area. The living area is furnished with a 2 seater couch. A coffee table is placed in front of the couch. Tucked in one corner is where one can find a 32″ LCD TV placed on the TV console. There are no ceiling lightings in the living room, rather it is lighted with a couple of floor lamps, which gave me a warm and cosy feeling in the night with the lights turned on. Similar to the dinning area, the living area is  furnished with very minimal number of furniture, making entertaining guests a tad difficult due to the lack of sitting area. The plus side of having only the essential furniture makes the living room look large.

A cosy 2-seater couch and a coffee table in the living room
The TV is placed in one corner of the living room, next to the entrance to the bedroom

Balcony

Beyond the living room is a small balcony that overlooks the main swimming pool in Holiday Inn Resort Batam. The balcony is furnished with 2 wooden chairs and a wooden table. The balcony is great place to hang out and relax.

Wooden chairs are found in the balcony

Bedroom

Opposite the 2-seater couch in the living room is the entrance to the bedroom. The bedroom is separated from the living room with a 2-panel sliding wooden door. Inside, the bedroom is furnished with a queen size bed, placed by the wall. A couple of bedside tables provides space for guests to place some small items onto. A dressing table is placed in one corner of the bedroom, next to the windows. There is a small table placed next to the bed for guests to put their luggage onto.

The bedroom is fairly large with the Queen bed and side tables
Desk in the bedroom, there are no TV in the bedroom of the suite
Table for guests to put their luggage on is found in the bedroom

Bathroom

Inside the bedroom, one can find a small corridor that leads to the wardrobe. The wooden wardrobe looks worn, but still serves its intended function of allowing guests to hand their clothing onto. The suite that I stayed does not come with bathrobe. Other than places to hand clothing, an in-room safe is also found inside the wardrobe.

The corridor that leads to the wardrobe and the bathroom inside the bedroom of the suite
A rather small wardrobe with in-room safe

The entrance to the bathroom is located next to the wardrobe. The bathroom is rather small for a suite. The toilet bowl seem to cramp beside the bathtub, which is also where guests would take their shower in. There are no separate walk-in shower stalls. Opposite the toilet bowl is where one would find the sink. The sink area provides sufficient space for guests to stow their toiletries. There are no power sockets in the bathroom for guests to charge their shaver. The hotel seem to undergo some form of cost cutting measures. Holiday Inn uses a standard house brand toiletries throughout the world. However during my stay only a single bottle of shampoo is their house brand, the other bath amenities are not that of the Holiday Inn brand amenities.

Bathroom with bathtub. There are no separate walk-in showers
Shower in the bathtub
Sink area in the bathroom

Swimming Pool

The centre piece of Holiday Inn resort is the large free form swimming pool, located in the centre of the resort. The swimming pool is a great place to get a tan or relax by. There are a number of suntan chairs by the pool for guests to tan on. There is also a jacuzzi area by the side of the pool. Beside the swimming pool is another pool area for children. There is a slide and a small river structure to ensure young guests have a great time in.

View of the free form pool from the balcony
Part of the children pool
Swimming pool in the evening

There is another lap pool in the hotel premises. The in-door lap pool is located beside the only Chinese Restaurant, Dragon Inn in the hotel. The pool was still in good condition and is functional during my last stay. However this time round, the pool seem abandoned. Even the towel counter beside the pool is covered with a layer of dust.

The disused and poorly maintained lap pool in the resort premises

Gym

The resort has a functional gym, located behind the blocks where the rooms are. The gym occupies the entire single-level building, and is rather spacious. There are equipment such as treadmills and a weight machine that allows guests to get a decent, but limited workout. The equipment, however looks poorly maintained as there are rusts on the weight machine.

The gym
There are limited equipment in the gym
Some of the equipment in the gym

Tea Tree Spa

Tea Tree Spa is Holiday Inn Resort Batam’s in-house spa facilities. There are numerous spa villas that will be assigned to patrons who come here for a massage. The villas have a Balinese feel to it and one will definitely feel relaxed when entering the spa premises. Walk pass the reception, one would come to a Balinese gateway to enter into the spa premises. A large straw hut Jacuzzi welcomes patrons and hotel guests to soak their tired bodies away. Entering into the spa villa, one is immediately being transported to Bali, a sense of zen and tranquility plus the use of aromatherapy oil during massage, guarantees to wisp whatever fatigue one might have away. After the massage, one would be given options of ginger tea or lemongrass tea to complete the massage session. I always enjoy the top notch spa massages in Tea Tree Spa, the masseuse whom was assigned to me, though petite in size, she applied great strength when giving me the massage, while constantly asking if the strength is okay. Do come here and book your session early, as they are always fully booked.

Tea Tree Spa
Massage menu
Massage Menu
Entrance to Tea Tree Spa
Jacuzzi inside Tea Tree Spa grounds
The massage villas have a Balinese feel to it
Sauna in Tea Tree Spa
Bathtub in the massage villa
Inside the massage villa

Breakfast

Breakfast is served at the Terrace Cafe, located on the first floor in the building where the reception is. The breakfast served is rather standard, similar to those that one can find in any other hotels. Other than the usual pastries and the continental choices, there are also some local delights. The food tasted decent and nothing impressive, although it does the job of giving me the energy to get the day going.

Indoor seating in Terrace Cafe
Outdoor seating in Terrace Cafe where breakfast is served

Service

The service in Holiday Inn Resorts Batam is exceptional. Upon our arrival, the hotel staff checked us in promptly. They took note of my IHG membership and welcomed me as a IHG member. I was given a letter that comes with the perks exclusively for IHG members staying in the hotel. However when asked if I could have a higher floor suite as stated in my preference when I booked the package, I was met with a cold answer that the hotel was fully booked, with the staff did not even appear to be checking the system to see if a suite has opened up. Other than this little incident, staffs around in the hotel are generally quite welcoming.

The good service at the reception continued the next day when I was enquiring about the shuttle service to the ferry terminal. I was well advised on the timing of the shuttle that I should be catching in order for us to make it in time for our ferry back to Singapore. I called the reception from the suite when I realised that I have mistaken the timing, the staff at the other end of the line replied very politely about my need to change the timing of the shuttle and gave advise on the time I should be at the lobby to process the check-out procedures and make it in time for the shuttle. Upon check-out I was handed a small moment from the hotel with products from Tea Tree Spa in recognition of me being an IHG member. This thoughtful gesture is welcomed and goes to show that the hotel paid particular attention to IHG members.

The staffs at Tea Tree Spa is forever welcoming.  I was there on 2 occasions, once when booking a time slot for the complementary message and the other time for the massage. Both times the staff ensured that  I was made to feel welcome and attended to me promptly. I was offered tea where the staff took prepared without letting me wait for longer than it is necessary. The masseuse at the spa was excellent, not only with their skill of massage but also with their service. They introduced themselves and welcomed us to Tea Tree Spa. Before any procedures, they would take the time to give a brief introduction of the materials being used for the massage. Every now and then, they would always check if the strength used was okay.

The service at Terrace Cafe is good as well. Staffs were seen clearing the plates promptly and would promptly attend to our requests while having breakfast.

Reception in Holiday Inn Resorts Batam
Welcome gift for IHG members

Overall

Holiday Inn Resort Batam is a great place to unwind and relax, especially so with the package that they offer through email (it is not available on their website). The lack of amenities outside the hotel and the distance from shopping belt in Batam did not bother me as I was expecting to stay in the resort premises throughout my stay. The suite, however feels dated and maintenance could be better, nonetheless, I had a relaxing time lazing around the suite. There are signs around Holiday Inn Resorts Batam that goes to show the lack of maintenance, however the main pool is well maintained. Service is good with staffs that are always welcoming and smiling at guests, even when one walks pass the reception. I would recommend Holiday Inn Batam for those of us who just want to stay in the resort, make use of the facilities and have a massage session with the Tea Tree Spa.

Places to Visit in Gangwon-do During Winter Olympics

The adrenaline and actions for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics will take place in less than 200 days time. Besides soaking in the thrills and excitement as well as watching the opening and closing ceremonies of Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in awe, there are numerous places of interest that Winter Olympics goers can visit whilst in PyeongChang. PyeongChang is one of the 11 counties and 7 cities in Gangwon-do, while Gangwon-do forms up one of the nine provinces in South Korea. Situated in the North-Eastern part of South Korea, Gangwon-do borders North Korea to the north and East Sea to the East. The province covers more than 20,000㎡ in area, with over 80% of the province being mountainous. Here are some of the places that visitors to the PyeongChang Olympics can visit while in the province.

Map of Gangwon-do

For the Nature Lover – Seoraksan National Park

One of the “must-go” places of interest in South Korea is Seoraksan National Park. This iconic national park was designated UNESCO Biosphere Protection Site, with oddly shaped rock formations, dense forests, abundant wildlifes, hot springs and ancient temples. Nature lovers would find it hard not to fall in love with Seoraksan National Park. The national park has a total of 15 hiking trails ranging from 1km to 24km, hikers of all levels of fitness are bound to find a trail that suits them.

Entrance to Seoraksan National Park

Seoraksan National Park

Rock formation in Seoraksan National Park

I visited Seoraksan National Park both my twice visit to South Korea, the beauty of Seoraksan National Park never fail to captivate me. Mt Seorak, the centre piece of Seoraksan National Park, stood majestically welcoming visitors to this area. Seoraksan National Park has activities catered for all visitors. Other than the hiking trails, a cable car system operated since 1970, has taken numerous visitors up Mt Seorak to soak in the views of the surroundings. From the summit station, visitors can walk up to Gwongeumseong Fortress, built around 1253A.D. during Koryo Dynasty to fend off Mongolian invasion. Instead of finding a building, what I saw at the Gwongeumseong Fortress was a bunch of rocks. As the fortress is built on top of the mountains, visitors are treated to views of the Seoraksan Mountain Ranges and fresh mountain air here.

View from Mt Seorak 

View from Mt Seorak 

View from Mt Seorak 

At Gwongeumseong Fortress

The other side of Mt Seorak

View from Mt Seorak

Nested within the valley in Seoraksan National Park is where Sinheungsa Temple sits. The ancient temple was believed to be built in 653 and is the oldest Zen temple in the world. With the surrounding tranquil mountain, I experienced a sense of peace and zen when entering the temple grounds. I could spend the whole afternoon here, sitting under the tree in the courtyard, enjoying the peace and calm the temple offers. This is a good place to escape from the sometimes massive amount of visitors to Seoraksan National Park.

Bronze Buddha Statue in Seoraksan National Park 

Temple building beside the Bronze Buddha Statue

Entrance to Sinheungsa Temple

The peaceful Sinheungsa Temple grounds

Sinheungsa Temple

The peaceful Sinheungsa Temple grounds

The peaceful Sinheungsa Temple grounds

For the History Buffs – DMZ

North Korea has always been a mystery to most people around the world. There are several places in Gangwon-do that allows visitors to get up close to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. Cheorwon county is one of the more popular places for visitors to get up and close to North Korea. Other than Cheorwon being situated on the North Western part of Gangwon-do, the county, bordering between the two Koreas,  was part of North Korea before the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement that created the DMZ between the two Koreas. The war broke out in Cheorwon during the Korean Wars, which saw the county being divided into two, with Cheorwon being claimed by South Korea. Speaking about visiting DMZ, many people flock to Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjeom, which is more expensive and crowded to peek into North Korea. Cheorwon offers a cheaper and less crowded alternative for those who are interested to learn more about the history of Korean wars and the aftermath of the war.

DMZ (image credit: https://koreaprivatetours.com/tours/cheorwon-dmz-tour/)

View of DMZ (image credit: https://koreaprivatetours.com/tours/cheorwon-dmz-tour/)

Cheorwon saw the fierce fight during the Korean War and reminiscence of war is still present today. Most of the War sites lie within the Civilian Control Zone that spans 20km from the border. The Second Tunnel, dug by North Korea in 1975, allows visitors to experience what the soldiers went through during the Korean Wars. The tunnel was a tactical move for the North Korean Army to infuriate into South Korea. About 1km of the 3.5km tunnel lies in South Korea and it’s large enough for some 16,000 soldiers to stream through per hour. The tunnel isn’t as cramp as the famous Vietnamese tunnel, however headroom can be a challenge at some parts of the tunnel. A 150m staircase leads down to the well-lit albeit damp tunnel, which brings visitors just 300m from the border.

Entrance to 2nd Tunnel(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 
Inside the 2nd Tunnel (image credit: https://koreaprivatetours.com/tours/cheorwon-dmz-tour/)

The Cheorwon Peace Observatory lies about 1km from the DMZ, which makes it a great place for visitors to glimpse into the mysterious North Korea. Due to the proximity to the North Korea, the coin-operated binoculars found on the second level of Cheorwon Peace Observatory allows visitors to gaze into North Korea and its ‘propaganda village’ of Seonjeon. There are exhibits on the first level of the observatory displaying photos of the Second Tunnel, military barracks, checkpoints, and the DMZ. A short video clip is shown in the auditorium at scheduled timings on the Korean Wars, however the clip is in Korean language.

Cheorwon Peace Observatory
(image credit: 
http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 
Exhibits on the 1st floor of Cheorwon Peace Observatory(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 
Exhibits on the 1st floor of Cheorwon Peace Observatory(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 
Observation Deck on 2nd level(image credit: https://koreaprivatetours.com/tours/cheorwon-dmz-tour/)

Not far from the Cheorwon Peace Observatory is the Woljeong-ri Station, left as a memorial to the railway line between Seoul and Wonsan, and housing the battered, twisted remains of a bombed train.

Woljeong-ri Station(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 

After passing a few battle-scarred buildings, visitors arrive at the former Labour Party HQ. Here is where one would be able to see the reminiscences of the Korean war. The surviving facade look and feels eerie, more like a haunted house. This building is where many civilians were imprisoned and tortured when Cheorwon was part of North Korea. Visitors are not allowed to enter the whatever remains of the Labour Party HQ as the building is being cordoned off, however looking up at the facade of the building is sufficient for one to feel the sufferings that war brings.

Ruins of the Former Labour Party HQ (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 

Ruins of the Former Labour Party HQ (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 

Ruins of the Former Labour Party HQ (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482)

Ruins of the Former Labour Party HQ (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 

For the Cultural Seekers – Naksansa Temple

One of the oldest temple in Gangwon-do, Naksansa Temple has a 1,300 year old history and is found by the ambassador of the 30th King of Silla Period in 671 after his return from China during the Tang Dynasty. Since then Naksansa Temple has been rebuilt several times and the most recent reconstruction of Naksansa Temple was in 1953 as the temple fell victim to the Korean Wars. Naksansa Temple is a major cultural attraction in this region, that also offers temple stays for visitors who wants to immense into the religious culture of South Korea. Through the temple stay, visitors not only are able to experience the life of Buddhist practitioners, they can also learn the various aspects of Korean Buddhist Culture and history through stories told by the monks in the temple.

Map of Naksansa Temple (image credit: http://www.koreanbuddhism.net/bbs/board.php?bo_table=250&wr_id=7)

There are two gates that forms the main entrance to Naksansa Temple. The first gate that greets visitors to this ancient temple is the Iljumun Gate, which is also called the One-Pillar Gate as it appears to be supported by a single pillar when viewed from the side of the gate. This gate sybmolises the one true path of enlightenment and purification that one must leave their worldly desires when entering the temple. The second gate that visitors will pass through before hitting the temple grounds is the Hongyaemun Gate, which is built by King Seo in 1466. The Hongyaemun Gate is built with 26 stones representing the number of counties.

Iljumun Gate – The first gate at Naksansa Temple (image credit : http://en.gangwon.to/cyber/en/board/read/id/en_themetour/page/2/num/34)

Hongyaemun Gate is the second gate that visitors will come across before hitting the temple grounds (image credit: http://en.gangwon.to/cyber/en/board/read/id/en_themetour/page/2/num/35)

Naksansa Temple is spread out over a large area and houses numerous cultural assets. A little further from Hongyaemun Gate, the first thing that greets visitors is the bell pavilion to the far left side, housing a large copper bell, one of the cultural assets in Naksansa Temple. Further from the entrance is where one would land themselves into the Cheonwangmun Gate, with statues of the Four Heavenly Kings guarding the temple. Sitting in the middle of the upper courtyard is another cultural relic of this temple, the seven-tiered stone pagoda. The temple building behind this pagoda houses the statue of Gwanseeum-Bosal. Further into the temple grounds, up a small slope is where visitors can find a large statue of Gwanseeum-Bosal. This 18m tall statue, looking out into the East Sea, also called the Haesugwaneumsang. The Haesugwaneumsang (Bodhisattva of Mercy) stands on a 9 foot tall pedestal looks peaceful and serene.

Copper Bell Pavilion in Naksansa Temple (image credit: http://chdkstks.tistory.com/233)

Seven-tiered pagoda in front of the temple (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264245)

Golden Statue of Gwanseeum-Bodal inside the temple behind the stone pagoda (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264245)

The 18m tall stone Haesugwaneumsang that looks out into the East Sea (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264245)

The other highlight in Naksansa Temple is the pavilion built on top of the cliff facing the East Sea. Uisangdae Pavilion was built where Ui-sang used to sit and mediate. The view from this pavilion is stunting and peaceful. One can simply spend some time here and enjoy the scenery of the sea. A little further from Uisangdae Pavilion is where Hongryeonam, a small Buddhist temple built above a stone cave sits. There is a 10 cm hole under the sanctuary floor where visitors can peak through the view the sea.

Uisangdae Pavilion(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264245) 

View of the East Sea from Uisangdae Pavilion (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264245)

Hongryeonam, a small temple built on a cave(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264245) 

Hongryeonam up close (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264245)

[Airline Review] – Singapore Airlines (SQ972) / (SQ979) – Economy Class, SIN-BKK, (21 Jul 17) / BKK-SIN (23 Jul 17)

Singapore Airlines deployed the B777-200 for SIN-BKK

Singapore Airlines A330-300 is used from BKK-SIN

On The Ground

SIN-BKK

Check-in

Singapore Airlines uses Terminal 2 in Singapore Changi Airport for flights departing to Bangkok. Check-in counters for SQ are located in rows 3 and 4, with row 4 catering for passengers who opt for self check-in and baggage drop offs. We used the counters in row 3 to check-in due to our bulky luggage. There was no queue at the check-in counter probably due to SQ encouraging their passengers to use the self check-in counters, as there are ground staff deployed at the check-in rows to direct passengers to the self check-in machines. We were greeted by a friendly ground staff who processed our check-in with haste and reminded us the boarding gate and the time to be at the gate. Singapore Changi Airport is a shopping haven with lots of activities for passengers to spend their timing waiting for their flight. Other than numerous luxury brand boutiques, duty free cosmetics and liquors, there are activities such as gardens, movie theatres, snooze areas for passengers to kill their time.

Singapore Airlines SIN-BKK departs from Terminal 2 in Singapore Changi Airport

Passengers traveling on Singapore Airlines checks in from Row 3 in the terminal building

Empty queue at the check-in counters

Artwork in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 

Singapore Airlines departs from Gate E4 in Singapore Changi Airport

Walking down the aerobridge towards my Singapore Airlines  flight

BKK-SIN

Check-in

Check-in rows for Singapore Airlines are located in Row K in the centre of Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. 3 queues are set up for passengers flying with Singapore Airlines in the airport, one each catering for Business Class passengers, Economy Class passengers and passengers who has completed online check-in. As we were early for our flight, all three queues were relatively short. I have the habit of completing online check-in whenever I fly as the queue is usually much shorter then the other queues. There were no one waiting in line at the time we were at the airport. We were served promptly by the ground staff, who processed our check-in and took our luggage swiftly. The friendly ground staff briefed us on the gate for our flight as well as the time of boarding. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport is always bustling with life, there are huge crowds in the airport. We spent a considerable amount of time clearing immigration. There are no lack of shopping in this airport, particularly souvenirs, however the souvenirs are much pricier than that found in downtown Bangkok.

Singapore Airlines check-in counters are located in Row K in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

Check-in rows for Economy Class passengers and passengers who have completed internet check-in traveling on Singapore Airlines in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

Singapore Airlines internet check-in counters in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

Economy Class Check-in counters

Singapore Airlines departs from Gate D7 in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

Waiting area in Gate D7 in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

The Cabin

SIN-BKK

Singapore Airlines uses B777-200 for this leg of the flight. The Economy Class cabin look aged as I entered the aircraft, which signals the airlines would either replace the aircraft or refurbish it. Despite the aged look, the cabin is still bright, thanks to the white lighting used in this aircraft. The seats are arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration, draped in hues of blue and purple. Comparing to the newer aircrafts, the seats onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200 looks more comfortable with thicker cushioning. A stark difference from my previous experience with Singapore Airlines (some 7 months back), no pillows or blankets were placed on the seats. It seem that Singapore Airlines is cutting back budget. Pillows and blankets are available upon request.

Singapore Airlines B777-200 Economy Class cabin is decked  out with blue and purple seats

Seat onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200 Economy Class cabin

Economy Class cabin ambience onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

Front gallery and peeking into Business Class cabin onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

The lavatory is of a decent size, almost the same as its newer counterparts. The use of mirrors in the lavatory made it look bigger than it actually is. Despite the aged look, the lavatory is very well maintained. Singapore Airlines places additional amenities such as toothbrush, comb in their lavatory which is getting rare for Economy Class onboard other airlines. On top of these amenities, the standard amenities such as mouth wash, hand moisturiser and hand soap are also available.

Mirrors in the lavatory onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

Mirrors in the lavatory onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

Coat hangar found on the door to the lavatory

Sink in the lavatory onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

Toilet inside the lavatory

Amenities found in the lavatory onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

Additional amenities provided by Singapore Airlines. Not all airlines provide these amenities these days

Amenities in the lavatory onboard Singapore Airlines

BKK-SIN

For this sector of the flight, Singapore Airline uses the A330-300. There are 2 different colour tones in the forward and aft Economy Class cabin. The forward Economy Class cabin has a lighter and more “skyish” colour scheme. Decked out in light blue and light brown, the forward cabin feels livelier in the choice of colour. The aft Economy Class cabin is decked in hues of brown, giving it a more earthy feel. Coupled with the use of mood lighting in the cabin, the Economy Class section feels very comfortable. Seats are arranged in 2-4-2 configuration in Singapore Airlines A330-300.  As with the previous flight, no pillows and blankets are placed on the seat. However they are available only upon request from the flight attendants.

Singapore Airlines A330-300 livery

Flight attendants welcoming passengers during boarding

Peeking into Business Class cabin onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

Forward Economy Class cabin onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300 is decked with blue and brown seats

The aft Economy Class cabin onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300 is decked with different shades of brown

Similar with the previous sector, the lavatory is of a decent size and was very well lighted. Unlike the lavatory in the B777-200 which uses mainly white lighting, the A330-300 lavatory uses yellowish lighting, which makes it feel comfortable. There are Hollywood style lighting in the mirrors of the lavatory onboard this aircraft. Again the clever use mirrors makes the lavatory feel bigger than it is. The standard amenities such as hand soap, mouth wash and hand moisturiser are found in the lavatory. On top of these, additional amenities such as toothbrush and combs are also found in the lavatory.

Sink in the lavatory onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

Toilet in the lavatory onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

I like this pedal onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300 lavatory for activating the trash bin lid

Hollywood style lighting on the mirrors in the lavatory

Amenities in the lavatory onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

Amenities in the lavatory onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

Coat hangar on the door in the lavatory onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

Mirrors in the lavatory onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

The Seats

SIN-BKK

Despite its aged look, the seats onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200 are comfortable and well maintained. Thanks to the thicker cushioning for the seats, it feels as though the seats hugs around my body. Seats in Economy Class cabin are 32″ in pitch and 17.5″ wide. The legroom is good on the Economy Class cabin. Tray tables are the standard single piece, which is different from the bi-fold design in their A330-300. The placement of a small cup holder on the back of the tray table is a good design which allows passengers to stow their drinks when the tray table is folded up. Seat recline button is found on one of the armrests, while the IFE controller is stored on the other armrest on each seat. Unlike its more modern counterparts, there are no USB or power sockets onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200 aircrafts.

Economy Class seats onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

Legroom is decent in the Economy Class onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

Cup holder on the back of the tray table

Seat recline buttons in the Economy Class seats onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

2-tier seat pocket onboard onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

Tray table in the Economy Class cabin onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

Singapore Airlines B777-200 flight safety card

Seat pocket contents onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

Cabin lighting onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

Cabin ambience in Economy Class cabin onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

BKK-SIN

The seats onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300 are very comfortable despite appearing to be thinner in the cushioning compared to their B777-200 counterpart. It has a pitch of 32″ and width of 19″. Legroom seem slightly better than the B777-200 in the Economy Class section. The multiple pocket seat pockets is a welcomed addition in the Economy Class section as it allowed me to store various small items that I carried onboard. A coat hanger can be found in every seat as well as the audio input and USB connector, which allows passengers to charge their mobile devices inflight. Tray tables are bi-fold, allowing passengers to use the tray table and still allow passenger sitting in the window seat to gain access to the aisle without having to put away the tray table. A small mirror on the back of the tray table is a nice touch to the design of Singapore Airlines Economy Class onboard the A330-300. On the top left corner, next to the IFE screen is a small pocket that allows passengers to store small item, a cup holder is also found in this area, which means passengers can put away the tray table and not have to hold their drinks on their hands. The seat recline button ad headphone jack is found on the armrest of each Economy Class seat.

Singapore Airlines Economy Class seats onboard A330-300

Legroom is excellent in Economy Class onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

Cup holder found on the left of the IFE screen along with a coat hangar

I like the design of the seat pocket with a lot of small compartments to store small items  in Economy Class onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

Singapore Airlines A330-300 flight safety card

Seat pocket reading materials onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

Bi-fold tray table with mirror in Economy Class onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

Tray table fully extended in Economy Class onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

IFE in Economy Class onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

Seat recline button in Economy Class onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

Headphone jack is found on the armrest in Economy Class seat onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

In-Flight Entertainment

SIN-BKK

Singapore Airlines B777-200 has a smaller 6.5″ screen for their IFE compared to their A330-300 aircrafts. IFE onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200 features video on-demand, which allows passengers to watch the shows available as and when they like. The IFE does not have touch screen function and lagged a fair bit when used with the controller stowed on the armrest. Despite the aging equipment, the IFE still packs a wide selection of movies, TV shows, games that kept me entertained throughout the flight. The IFE on my seat malfunctioned halfway through the flight, showing the age of the equipment. My screen resetted itself halfway through the flight and I was faced with a blank screen. I highlighted this issue to the flight attendant and she resetted the system for my seat. However after the reset, the IFE lost its on-demand function and I was only able to watch movies through the schedule timing. The IFE controller is aging as well, it did not respond well to the button pressing and lagged a fair bit. One would have to have patience when operating the IFE onboard this aircraft.

6.5″ IFE screen in Economy Class cabin onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

There are no lack of entertainment options onboard Singapore Airlines

IFE controller is stored on the armrest in Economy Class onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

Aging IFE controller in Economy Class onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

Back side of the IFE controller

Headphone jacks on the armrest in Economy Class onboard Singapore Airlines B777-200

My IFE reseted by itself halfway through the flight

BKK-SIN

The IFE onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300 has a large 10.5″ screen compared to the B777-200 aircraft. As with all aircrafts on Singapore Airlines, passengers are treated to video on-demand allowing them the flexibility to watch the shows they wanted onboard. The controller for each seat is stored below the IFE screen. As with most of Singapore Airlines aircrafts, there are no touch screen function for the IFE, however the system is rather responsive with the controller. Singapore Airlines has a good library of entertainment options, ranging from the latest Hollywood blockbusters to TV shows, that is sure to keep its passengers entertained throughout the flight.

10.5″ IFE screen in Economy Class onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

IFE menu in Economy Class onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

Audio and video inputs as well as USB port in Economy Class onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

IFE controller in Economy Class onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300 is stored below the IFE screen

IFE controller and headphones onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

Back side of the IFE controller in Economy Class onboard Singapore Airlines A330-300

Meal Service

SIN-BKK

As the SIN-BKK leg lasts around 2 hours, flight attendants sprung into action preparing the meals soon after the  seat belt sign is turned off. On this leg of the flight, passengers are given the meal options of Chicken Sausage with Egg or Fish with Rice and Omelette for breakfast. Passengers are also treated with the standard drink options such as soft drinks, beer and various juices. I opted for the Sausage option, which is tasty and well seasoned. The fried eggs are done perfectly and the mash potatoes are moist. Despite portion looking small, it is enough to fill my stomach. Each meal comes with fresh fruits and chocolate mouse cake, which are tasty as well. My friend opted for the Fish and Rice, which is well flavoured and tasty. The omelette is full of flavours as well.

Flight attendants doing their meal runs shortly after the seat belt sign is turned off

I took the Chicken Sausage and Egg option

My friend had the Fish with rice and omelette

BKK-SIN

For this leg of the flight, passengers are given the option of Chicken with Rice or Beef with potato option. I took the Chicken with Rice option which comes with apple and prawns as appetiser and coconut cake as dessert. The chicken is well marinated and is very tasty. The prawn is well poached but the apple is a little to sour for my liking. Standard drinks such as soft drinks, juices and beer are available for passengers.

Flight attendants doing meal run service

I took the Chicken and Rice option for this leg of the flight

Service

Service onboard Singapore Airlines is impeccable on both legs. For the SIN-BKK leg, the excellent service started at the time of boarding. Flight attendants are seen helping passengers with the carry-on luggage and helping passengers settling into the seat before taking off. Service is always done with a smile. As my sister is traveling with my young nephew, flight attendants are seen checking on them constantly to ensure they are comfortable and well taken care off.

Flight attendant distribution hot towel before taking off

Flight attendants attending to the needs of passengers during meal service runs

The service on the BKK-SIN leg is nothing short of excellent as well. The team of flight attendants were friendly and did not feel imposed upon when requesting for items such as additional bread or drinks or even blankets. During the fight, Eunice Tan made us feel comfortable and ensured that all our requests are being attended to. Usually flight attendants would forget about requests for drinks during meal service. This is not the case for Eunice. Despite the drink I wanted was not in her cart, Eunice offered alternatives and promised to get back to me after servicing the section she was responsible for. Eunice was seen rushing back to the galley after doing her job and emerge with the drinks I wanted. Eunice was also attentive when she noticed that my drink was finished, she took the initiative and asked if I need more drinks. This is the first time I encountered such attentive service onboard Singapore Airlines. Eunice was attentive to my sister as well. During meal time, she was seen suggesting to my sister to be served meal first, so that my brother-in-law can “entertain” my nephew. Eunice took note of the meal option for my brother-in-law and returned later to check if my  sister has finished her meal. After clearing the meal tray from my sister, Eunice promptly returned with my brother-in-law’s meal.

The other crew onboard that truly stands for what the Singapore Girl means is Ploypom. When I requested for a blanket from Ploypom, she responded to my call for attendant promptly and took the initiative of bringing 2 blankets, with the other 1 for my friend as well. Such thoughtful gesture surprised me, Ploypom did not only do what was requested, she went above and beyond that.

Flight attendant distributing hot towels before taking off

Afterthought

I had a comfortable flight with Singapore Airlines for this Bangkok trip. Despite its B777-200 being aged and a small hiccup on the IFE, the aging aircraft is comfortable to fly in. The A330-300 that Singapore Airlines deployed is comfortable and the IFE system kept me entertained throughout the flight. The service is impeccable onboard both legs of the flight. Flight attendants are seen serving the passengers well and ensured that our needs are being taken care of. Nothing seem to be too troublesome for these industrious flight crew who strived hard to keep the standard of service that Singapore Airlines is well known for consistent. Despite traveling with infant, Singapore Airlines does not offer priority boarding for passengers with young children, boarding is done sequentially by rows organised in groups. Singapore Airlines no longer provide pillows and blankets on their seats during boarding, these amenities have to be requested should passengers need them.

Singapore Airlines ready to depart Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

Flying above the clouds

Sun setting in the sky

Winter Sports and PyeongChang Olympics 2018

With PyeongChang Winter Olympics happening less then 200 days from now, there are no lack of winter sports that I would certainly be watching out for. In one of my previous post, I mentioned there are a total of 102 Gold Medals up for grabs across 15 winter sports for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics game and 80 Gold Medals up for grabs across 6 winter sports for the Paralympics Games. Of all the winter sports, I like Luge, Skiing and Ski Jumping most. I had the opportunity to try out the amateur versions of these winter sports.

PyeongChang Winter Olympics is less then 200 days away

Sledding – an Amateur version of Luge

I was in High1 Ski Resort, 3 hours train ride from Seoul, last year for winter. Coming from a tropical country, snow is never seen here in Singapore. As I have never tried skiing before my trip, I was hesitant to try skiing without going through proper lessons. Being my first winter sports, I wasn’t ambitious in trying skiing, and opted for sledding instead. Sledding requires me only to slide down a short slope on a sled. Sledding is a fun version of the Luge, which is a competing sport in the upcoming PyeongChang Olympics. Luge is a fast sliding sport where competitors (one or two lugers) race down 1,000 to 1,500m track while lying face up with their feet stretched in front of them. Runs are timed up to 1/1,000 of a minute. While the sledding is not as intensive nor the track is as long, however it gave me a glimpse of luge as a winter sports. Sledding requires no training, all I did was to grab a sled and slide down the slope. The only “technical” part about sledding is the braking. It is a fun sport for amateurs and families.

High1 Ski Resort, 3 hours train ride east from Seoul

The ski slopes at High1 Ski Resort in Gangwon-do

My friend getting ready to sled down the slope in High1 Ski Resort

Me and my friend trying sledding for the first time. This is our first time trying a winter sport

My friend with the sled in High1 Ski Resort

The snow in High1 Ski Resort is perfect for sledding

High1 Ski Resort in Gangwon-do

My First Shot at Skiing

As I visited Hokkaido earlier this year, I finally got to try skiing. I took a beginners lesson on skiing and I loved it. Without the use of poles, the trick to skiing is really to control the braking speed with the inverted “V” shape that one would need to form with the skis. Prior to learning to ski, I always thought that the poles are used to control the speed and was initially puzzled why I was not provided the ski poles. After some clarifications by the instructor, I realised that the poles are used to increase the speed of skiing down the slope, especially for Alpine Skiing, another event in the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics, where competitors slides down snow-covered slopes on skis with fixed heel bindings. Alpine Skiing is comprised of largely two types of disciplines: the speed (velocity) events and the technical (skills) events.Skiing down the slopes gives me a sense of freedom, just letting gravity doing its job. I can imagine the exhilaration the competitors must have feel during velocity Alpine Skiing, rushing down the mountain at great speeds. Skiing is a fun sport and is a fun even for kids.

Having ski lessons

I was glad that I managed to ski for the first time

My friend learning to ski

A Skier in action

Skier coming down the slope

Despite still learning to ski, we immediately fell in love with this winter sport

Me on a chairlift up a ski slope for beginners

My friend skiing down the slope under the watchful eyes of our instructor

The Elegant Ski Jumping

I had the opportunity to watch Ski Jumping broadcasted over the television when I was in Hokkaido. Prior to visiting Ski Resorts, I always thought Ski Jumping is boring. However with my very limited experience in Skiing, I came to realise Ski Jumping is quite fun to watch. The skier glides down a ramp at 90km/h to jump and fly as far as they can go in Ski Jumping. Because the downhill launch souring through the air is so beautiful, it is also called “The flower of ski sports”. Just looking at the jump from the slope is enough to deter me from trying this sport (perhaps one of these days I might try this sport). Ski Jumping is both elegant and thrilling just by watching it. This is also one of my favourite winter sports. Ski Jumping is also an event in the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Can’t wait to see Ski Jumpers in action during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018.

Ski Jumper in action (image credit: https://www.pyeongchang2018.com/en/sports/ski-jumping)

[Hotel Review] – Anantara Baan Rajprasong (2 Bedroom Superior Suite), Bangkok, Thailand (21 – 23 Jul 17)

Location

Anantara Baan Rajprasong is a service apartment under the Anantara group, a Thai hotel chain group. The location of Anantara Baan Rajprasong is very central, located next to Lumpini Park. It is within 10 mins walk from the famed Erawan Shrine and within 15 mins walk from Central World. There are 2 BTS stations that provides excellent accessibility to the service apartment. The nearer Ratchadamri BTS station is 5 mins walk from the service apartment. This BTS station is one stop from Patpong and also one station away from Siam Interchange Station, where Siam Square and Siam Paragon is located.

Hotel Signage

Facade of the hotel

Fountain at the entrance of the hotel

Reception in the hotel lobby

Hotel lobby

The Suite

Kitchen

We checked into the 127㎡ 2 bedroom suite in Anantara Bann Rajprasong. Entering the main door to the corner suite, the kitchen to the suite is located to the right of the entrance to the suite. The kitchen is well equipped with a stove, a microwave oven and a full size fridge, allowing guests to do some cooking. There are utensils and cutlery, together with dinner wares for 4 stowed in the various cabinets in the kitchen area. There is a coffee machine as well as a electric kettle placed on the counter top of the kitchen area. A washing machine is also found under the sink in the kitchen area.

Fully equipped kitchen in the suite
The kitchen in Anantara Baan Rajprasong is furnished with a full sized fridge
Kitchen area in the suite. This door leads to the bathroom in the second bedroom
The kitchen is well equipped that it allows guests to do some cooking in the suite
Kitchen washing gears, that also comes with detergent for the washing machine
Mini bar amenities with complementary water, coffee and tea

Living Room

Further into the suite, pass the kitchen area is where the living room is located. Just behind the counter that separates the kitchen from the living room is a small dining table with 2 chairs. I particularly find it weird that only 2 chairs are furnished despite the suite being a 2 bedroom suite and can accommodate 4 adults. Further into the suite is where one can find the lounge area, decked with a 3 seater L-shape couch that faces the 42″ LED TV. There are no lack of international channels being played on the TV. The TV is placed on top of the TV console that stretches to the end of the room, extending into the work desk tucked by the wall of the living room. A little further into the suite, is where the balcony of the living room is located. The balcony is furnished with 2 chairs and a table, which makes it a great place to hang out. The view from the balcony here is not that great as it faces an office building.

Dinning table for 2 pax only in the suite
Couch in the living room of the suite
TV console and work desk in the living room of the suite
Air conditioner controls in the suite
The balcony in the living room is furnished with 2 chairs and a small table for guests to chill out

Bedrooms

Master Bedroom

The bedrooms are located on either side of the living room. To the left of the living room, from the main entrance is where the Master Bedroom is located. The Master bedroom is significantly larger than the second bedroom. The Master bedroom is furnished with a super king size bed, that can sleep 3 adults comfortably. The king bed is placed by the wall, next to the entrance to the bedroom. A couple of side tables are placed on either side of the bed. To the right of the entrance to the Master bedroom is where a couple of wardrobes are located. These large wardrobes provides ample space for guests to store their clothing. There is an in-room safe placed inside the wardrobe next to the make-up table. The make-up table is placed on the left corner of the bedroom, with a large mirror and a chair, the make-up table provides space for guests to place their cosmetics on. At the other corner, to the right side of the king bed is where the TV placed on the console is located. The placement of the TV console and the make-up table provides ample space for guests to walk inside the Master bedroom. The King bed is placed opposite a floor to ceiling window, allowing guests to lie on the king bed and peep into the scenery outside the room. The balcony in the Master bedroom is the biggest in the entire suite. The balcony wraps around the parameter of the bedroom and provides a great view of the swimming pool below.

King bed in the master bedroom. The TV console is nicely tucked in a corner so not to obstruct the view outside from the bed
Dressing table
TV console in the master bedroom
Wardrobe in the master bedroom
Another wardrobe in the master bedroom with in-room safe
A large balcony in the master bedroom that wraps around the perimeter of the room

Second Bedroom

To the right of the living room, from the main entrance, is where the second bedroom is located. The second bedroom is significantly smaller than then Master bedroom and there are limited walking space in the second bedroom. Furnished with 2 super single bed with a bedside table between the 2 beds, the second bedroom feels a lot more cluttered compared to the Master bedroom. Opposite the beds here is where a third TV placed onto the cabinet that stretches the entire length of the second bedroom is located. There is another make up desk at the end of the cabinet with a large mirror hung onto the wall, next to the entrance to the balcony in the bedroom. The cabinet provides ample storage space in the second bedroom. There are 2 small wardrobes placed on either side of the entrance to the bathroom here. There is also another in-room safe being placed inside the wardrobe. The balcony here is the smallest in the entire suite and it is not furnished with any furniture.

2 super single beds in the second bedroom
TV console and dressing table in the second bedroom
The wardrobe is a lot smaller than that in the master bedroom.
Wardrobe in the second bedroom with in-room safe
Wardrobe in the second bedroom
The bedside table is placed between the 2 beds in the second bedroom

Bathroom

Master Bathroom

What I like about the 2 bedroom suite in Anantara Baan Rajprasong is there are 2 bathrooms inside both the bedrooms. The bathroom in the Master bedroom is very big. The walk-in shower, enclosed in a glass cubicle is tucked in one corner of the bathroom, with the toilet bowl opposite the entrance to the bathroom. To the left of the entrance is where one can find the sink area, which does provide sufficient space for guests to stow their toiletries. A huge bathtub is placed on the right of the entrance to the bathroom. Anantara Baan Rajprasong provides 3 types of bathsalt, each with different healing properties for guests to soak in. Anantara Baan Rajprasong does not provide toothbrush as part of their bathroom amenities.

Walk-in shower and toilet in the master bathroom
Sink in master bathroom
A large bathtub only found in the master bathroom

Second Bathroom

The bathroom in the second bedroom is a lot smaller as compared to that in the Master bedroom. Unlike the bathroom in the Master bedroom, the bathroom here does not have a bathtub. Entering this bathroom, the first thing one would see is the walk-in shower. Compared to that in the Master bedroom, the walk-in shower in this bathroom is bigger. The toilet bowl is located to the left of the bathroom, while the sink area is located to the right of the entrance to this bathroom. A second entrance in this bathroom leads to the kitchen.

Sink area in the second bathroom, exactly the same as the one found in the master bathroom
Toilet with bidet
The walk-in shower in the second bathroom is bigger than the one found in the master bathroom

Swimming Pool

Anantara Bann Rajprasong features a freeform swimming pool located on 3rd floor of the hotel. The swimming pool is fun for both adults and children. For the adults, the swimming pool allows guests to get a decent swim. For the children, the freeform pool is a great place to play in the water. There is a wading pool that is separated from the main pool for the children. There are plenty floats around at the swimming pool for both adults and children. There are no lack of suntan chairs around the swimming pool. There are more of these chairs on the second level of the pool, allowing suntanners to get a great tan. Inside the toilet by the pool, guests can enjoy the sauna and steam room facilities. The swimming pool is a great place for guests to escape the heat in Bangkok, however the water temperature can be a tad too cold for some.

View of the swimming pool from the balcony in the suite
There are 2 sections to the swimming pool, the smaller wading pool in the foreground and the main swimming pool in the back
Free form pool is located on level 3 in Anantara Baan Rajprasong
Floats are provided in the pool area for patrons to use
Sauna inside the toilet at the swimming pool
Steam room inside the toilet at the swimming pool

Gym

Located next to the swimming pool is where a small gym can be found. Despite its small size, the gym still allow guests to get a decent work out. Treadmills, stationary bicycles and weights can be found inside the gym.

The gym is located next to the swimming pool on level 3 in Anantara Baan Rajprasong
Small gym which has the basic equipment for guests to do a decent workout
Inside the gym in Anantara Baan Rajprasong

Breakfast

As I booked my stay directly on the Anantara website, the hotel gives guests a choice of opting for complementary breakfast or 1-day BTS ticket. We opted for the breakfast. The breakfast is served in the Coffee Club located on the first floor of the hotel. The hotel does not provide buffet for breakfast, instead we were given an option to choose from the various breakfast sets from the menu. The breakfast was decent, sufficient to fill guests for the start of their day exploring Bangkok.

The Coffee Club on ground floor behind the reception where breakfast is served daily
Fruits were served as part of the breakfast set
One of the choices of breakfast set

Service

The good service started even before our stay in Anantara Baan Rajprasong. I emailed the hotel several times to make arrangements for our stay, the staffs were very prompt and replied to my emails  acknowledging my requests within minutes of sending these emails.

Whenever we walked past the reception, the staff will never fail to greet us with the signature friendliness that the Thais has come to known for. During check-in and check-out, we were offered drinks and cold towels. We were warmly welcomed by Vincent and Kwan at the reception at our arrival. Their friendly smiles gave us a feeling of familiarity, very much like friends welcoming us to their homes as guests. Both Vincent and Kwan processed our check-in swiftly to ensure that we do not need to wait longer than necessary despite our arrival at the hotel earlier than the stipulated check-in timing. Vincent took the chance to find out what we wanted to see in Bangkok and was not stingy in recommending other places of attractions and how to get there by BTS. Kwan brought us to our suite, explaining the locations of the various facilities in the hotel. She also took the time to explain the features of the suite to us and assured us we could call the reception at anytime if we needed help.

The bellboys in the hotel were excellent in service as well. They promptly helped us unload our luggage from the cab and brought our luggage to the suite without any delay. These very observant members of the hotel never failed to open the door for us whenever we enter or leave the hotel lobby. They took great care of our luggage when we were out spending our last few hours in Bangkok and ensured that the cabby took us to the correct airport in Bangkok. The bellboys were never stingy with their smiles and “wais” whenever we walked past them.

The exemplary service was also received by members of the housekeeping team. As I had requested for a baby cot and baby bathtub, shortly after our luggage were being brought to our suite, a member of the housekeeping team knocked on our door and brought us the baby bathtub. He also explained that he will be bringing up the baby cot soon upon confirming that we indeed requested for one. The housekeeping staff even checked with us if everything in the suite was fine and informed us to notify them at anytime should we need anything else.

Welcome tropical fruits are found in the suite adds to the thoughtfulness of the hotel

Towel origami found in the Master bedroom is a delightful sight when we enter the room

Overall

I had a wonderful stay in Anantara Baan Rajprasong Bangkok. The suite was terrific and well appointed to provide us with a comfortable stay during our time in Bangkok. The air-conditioning was very powerful to dispel the heat in Bangkok during the time of our visit. The bedrooms were functional and the beds provided us with excellent sleep quality, ensuring that we wake up afresh the next day. The freeform pool ensured that children can have fun and was decent for adult patrons to swim their laps. The service provided by the staff is top notch, making us feel welcomed and we were treated with smiles and “wais” by the staff. I would highly recommend for visitors to Bangkok for this hotel, given its central location and the excellent hardware and heartware.

Chef : Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab – Immensing in Korea’s Non-verbal Comedy Musical

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One of the dancing scenes in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

Non-Verbal Comedy Musicals in  Korea

Non-verbal musicals that infuses Korean culture, be it food or lifestyle with dance and acrobatics, is one of the must-dos while visiting South Korea. These popular musicals are watched by Koreans and visitors. Several years ago I had a chance to watch Jump, one of the several such non-verbal musicals, whilst traveling in Korea. I was amazed by the fact that despite no language was used, I was still able to understand the show and was kept entertained throughout the show. It is refreshing that the Koreans are able to pack laughter throughout the theater despite not using any form of language. My friend and I managed to catch one of such non-verbal musicals that has made its round to Singapore. Chef: Bimbap is a show about a group of chef learning to make a perfect Bibimbap. It combines dance, beat boxing whilst introduces Korean’s iconic dish, Bibimbap to the audiences.

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Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab standee outside the theater

Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

The show that is being shown in Singapore, Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab, feels like a localised version of the original show Chef. The story seem slightly different from the original Chef. Instead of having a group of chef learning to make a perfect Bibimbap, Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab is about 2 chefs (green and red chefs) pitting their culinary skills to outcook each other. The show saw both chefs taking turns cooking up cuisines from sushi to pizza to Chinese chicken noodle and ended off with a show down of both taking the stage, with one side cooking the Chili Crab and the other Bibimbap. Despite departure from the orginal show, Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab, still has the same theme throughout and did not lose its essence of infusing break dancing and beat-boxing into the show. The 1-hour show saw the use of beat-boxing live on stage most of the time, with small occasions where recorded music was used or complimented with the beat boxing. The actors doing the beat boxing seem to be masters of the art, verbalising musics for the most part of the show (including the Korea Folk Song, Arirang). There is segment where they beat- boxed a series of songs from K-pop songs to Michael Jackson hits. The beat boxing added to the entertainment value of show.

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Beat Boxing was performed lived on stage

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Beat boxing was the main source of music throughout the entire 1 hour show

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One of the character singing to the tune of beat boxing

Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab packed laughter in the theater for the entire duration leaving audiences amazed by the breakdancing of the actors. There is a segment where one of the characters sang and the light went out. In pitch black emerges luminous hands mimicking fishes and scenes of underwater. There is even a diver swimming underwater in this scene. Audiences later were made known how this diver underwater was created with the diving appearing in a comic way. Audiences were also invited up to the stage to become part of Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab at times during the show, which adds more comedic effect to the show. Watching Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab does reminds me of similar performance that I watched some years ago in Korea, which has earned itself a place as a pop-culture of Korea. The show is highly recommended for one who wants to immerse themselves into this aspect the Korean Culture.

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Scenes in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab where the 2 master chefs pit against each other

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Scenes in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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The underwater scene in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Break dancing in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Scenes in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Audience (the guy in the middle) were invited to the stage to participate in the show

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Final showdown in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Audiences were treated to breakdancing in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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More breakdancing in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Breakdancing in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Scenes in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Breakdance showdown in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Breakdance showdown in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Scene in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Audiences were treated to a series of dance and songs in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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The cast of  Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab