Korean Non-Verbal Performance – Flying Through Time

Korea Non-Verbal Performance

Visitors to South Korea had heard or came across names of Korean Non-verbal performances such as Nanta. The Korean Non-verbal performances keep audiences entertained with the exaggerated expressions, non-verbal jokes as well as the stunts. Through these non-verbal performances, audiences will be introduced the Korean culture, be it dance, martial arts or cuisine. The more popular Korean non-verbal performances in South Korea are Nanta, Chef, and Jump, which has been running in Korea for more than 10 years.

Flying Through Time standee at the entrance of the theatre

Flying Through Time

The third Korean non-verbal performance to hit the shores of Singapore for the past 6 months is Flying Through Time. This is also the third performance that I have watched over the past months. Flying Through Time is directed by Choi Chul Ki, the same director who brought previous Korean non-verbal performances such as Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab and Jump that was shown in Singapore in the past few months. Flying Through Time is a new adaption of Director Choi’s popular show Flying in Korea.

Posting with the standee outside the theatre

The Plot

Flying Through Time is set in ancient Korea about a mythical relic that was bestowed by a fairy that was stolen by a villain. When the hero of the show found out, he battles the villain to retrieve back the mythical relic. In the course of the battle, a time portal opens up and the villain escaped the portal with the relic. The hero pursued the villain through the portal and ended up in modern-day a cheerleader training centre in Singapore where the hero continues to hunt the villain and retrieved the mythical relic. In the midst of the pursuit, the hero fell in love with one of the cheerleader members. Towards the end of the performance, a time portal opens up again for the ancient beings to return to their timeline. The hero, not wanting to leave his love behind, returns through the time portal to be together with his lover.

The first part of Flying Through Time uses multimedia projection as the backdrop

I find the use of multimedia as the backdrop rather refreshing

Korean cultural dance at the beginning of the show

Modern dance towards the end of the show

Cheerleading dance during the show

My Thoughts on the Show

The plot is easy for audiences to understand, even without language. I thought the virtue of these non-verbal performances lies in the non-complicating plot that one still have to ponder over the flow of the plot. The show is rather entertaining. I particularly like the interaction with the multimedia projection where one of the actors interacted with the projection of the villain. The timing and the placement of the actor onstage was immaculate, creating the impression as though he is fighting a real person. Unlike the previous non-verbal Korean performances that made its run in Singapore, Flying Through Time uses wires to hang the actors up in the air in several scenes, which was both refreshing and impressive. There is a scene where the actors were performing aerial dancing with the hammocks, mixed with gymnastics, creating a graceful visual effect. Interaction with the audience by getting a member of the audience on stage to participate in the play is a signature of Korean Non-verbal performances. I always enjoy this segment of the Korean non-verbal performances, which not just adds more laughter to the performance, it also immerses the audience into the performance.

I like the use of wires that suspend the actors in the air 

A scene where the actors are fighting on wires in the air

Aerial dancing segment during the show

More aerial dancing

Mix of gymnastics and aerial dancing

My friend being pulled to the stage during the show

Interaction with audience is a signature of Korean non-verbal performance

My friend participating Flying Through Time

The actors whispering to my friend on how to react to achieve a comedic effect onstage

My friend on the stage

Interaction with audience segment 

My friend part of the show

My friend trying to coordinate with the act during the show

My friend was given an inflatable club by the actors as a souvenir for his participation in the show

One of the things that I watched out for during the Korean non-verbal performances is the anti-gravity stunts. In Flying Through Time, the audiences were treated to a plethora of such performances, not only from the male casts but also the female casts. The show has numerous anti-gravity stunts such as somersaults, gymnastics and Taekwondo. I was awed by a scene where one of the actors performing a Taekwondo fly kicking stunt where he smashed a wooden plate with his leg that was held up high by an actor who was sitting on the shoulders of another. I was also impressed with some of the gymnastics move where one of the actors had his body positioned parallel to the floor held in place with his strong arms on the stand of the parallel bars. The several scenes of cheerleading performances, where the actresses were tossed into the air and caught in time by their male counterparts on stage, shown precision in timing of the performances which is very impressive. However, I do find the use of local Singapore colloquial mixing Hokkien with English and Mandarin is unnecessary as the performance is sufficient to create laughter in the theatre. It is a good thing that the use of these languages isn’t too excessive. I also find the use of gymnastics in the show, though impressive, seem a little out of the place and seem like a force fit into the show. Nonetheless, my friends and I still enjoyed Flying Through Time. The stunts that are being performed during the show is worth the ticket price.

Gravity-defying act is a signature in Korean non-verbal performances 

An actor doing fly kicking in Flying Through Time

It takes a lot of muscle to pull this stunt

Taekwondo performance in Flying Through Time

Gymnastic performance in Flying Through Time

Female casts doing somersault in Flying Through Time

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Winter Activities in South Korea

In the winter months of December to February, the Koreans did not allow the cold winter to prevent them from having fun. Other than hitting the ski slopes 1 of the 16 ski resorts in South Korea, there are several festivals and “must-do” activities that visitors can do while travelling in South Korea.

Gyeongbukgung Palace in Winter

PyeongChang Winter Olympics

The biggest event in South Korea for winter in 2018 is the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, to be held from 9 to 25 Feb 18. The hype of the Winter Olympics started since early 2017 as the country gets ready to welcome athletes from over 100 countries competing in over 100 events over 15 disciplines during the winter version of the games. The Winter Olympics will be held in PyeongChang, a county in the province of Gangwon, where the majority of the ski resorts in South Korea are situated. Several of the ski resorts are designated as the venue for the Olympics Games, where one will be able to experience the adrenaline and the excitement of the games. Not in South Korea in February? One can still catch the Paralympic Games from 9 to 18 Mar 18, where more than 3000 Paralympians will be competing for the gold medals in 80 events across 6 disciplines.

PyeongChang Winter Olympics is the biggest event in South Korea in 2018
Skiing is one of the events in PyeongChang Winter Olympics
Snowboarding is one of the events in PyeongChang Winter Olympics
Me and my nephew with the mascots of PyeongChang Winter Olympics Games

One of the events during the Olympic Games that should not be missed in the opening ceremony. The opening ceremony marks the start of the Winter Olympics Game to be held in PyeongChang Olympic Stadium, where one is expected to be treated with stunning visual effects. Expect traditional Korean cultural performances as well as neo-cultural performances such as K-pop performances during the opening ceremony. The opening ceremony will be held on 9 Feb 18. Travelers to South Korea in March 2018 still can catch the Opening ceremony for the Paralympic Games on 9 Mar 18. Tickets for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics can be purchased online here.

PyeongChang Winter Olympics Show

The opening ceremony will include traditional Korean Cultural performance

Ice Fishing

The South Koreans flock to frozen rivers when winter months hit the country. One would see a countless number of tents, stools and people gathering on top of these frozen rivers. On closer inspection, holes are being drilled on the surface of these frozen rivers, a line or sometimes a rod is being lowered into the hole. This is ice fishing. Ice fishing is a favourite winter-only activity that is enjoyed by the Koreans and tourists alike. One would rent a spot or pay more for a tent to shield from the chilly cold wind in winter and try their luck on fishing on these frozen rivers. On some rivers, one can fish a trout. These freshly caught fishes can then brought to a nearby restaurant for the chef to whip up a fresh fish meal. Do note that live baits are prohibited to prevent water pollution.

Ice fishing is a favourite winter-only activity in Korea, where families and friends gather to try their luck in catching a fish on the frozen river

Ice fishing can be done in Hwacheon County in Gangwon-do. In fact, since 2003, Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival has been organised annually where hordes of locals and foreigners flocked to the county. One of the highlights of this festival is Ice fishing, on top of other activities such as sledding, ice skating. The Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival will be held from 6 to 28 Jan 18. More information on the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival can be found here. Also located in Gangwon-do, PyeongChang County is another venue where one can experience ice fishing.  The PyeongChang Trout Festival takes place from 22 Dec 17 to 25 Feb 18, where visitors can try their hand at catching the freshest trout from the Odaecheon Stream. Similar to the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival, there are a variety of winter-only activities that one can expect on top of the signature trout fishing. More information on the PyeongChang Trout Festival can be found here.

Ice fishing at the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival

Ice fishing at the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival

Ice fishing at the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival

Ice fishing at the PyeongChang Trout Festival

Ice fishing at the PyeongChang Trout Festival

Ice fishing at the PyeongChang Trout Festival

Visiting Winter Festivals

During winter, a series of winter festivals have been lined up in South Korea. This is a time where the Koreans wind down and have fun despite the low temperature that comes with the season. Most of these festivals are themed around snow and ice. On top of the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Fishing Festival and PyeongChang Trout Festival, here are some other festivals that one can part take while visiting South Korea during winter months.

Taebaeksan Snow Festival

One of the snow festivals that should not be missed, especially for those who are travelling to South Korea for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, is the Taebaeksan Snow Festival. Taebaeksan Snow Festival The festival offers visits a variety of activities and events that will excite and amuse visitors to the festival. Various performances are lined up during Taebaeksan Snow Festival to keep visitors entertained. There will be a lot Instagram, Facebook postings opportunities for visitors available during the festival with the large-scale snow sculptures. Visitors can even have fun snow sledding with the stunning Mt Taebaeksan as the backdrop. Taebaeksan Snow Festival takes place from 19 Jan to 11 Feb 18, at Taebaeksan National Park in Gangwon-do.

There are a lot of photo opportunities with the snow sculptures in Taebaeksan Snow Festival

Snow sculptures is a major highlight in Taebaeksan Snow Festival

Snow sculptures at Taebaeksan Snow Festival at night

Visitors to Taebaeksan Snow Festival can have fun sliding down the ice slides

Lighting Festival at The Garden of Morning Calm

The Garden of Morning Calm is the largest private garden in South Korea, covering a massive area of 30,000㎡. The all-year garden, located in Gyeonggi-do, is an excellent spot for families and photographers to visit. The garden is designed with a balance of Korean’s concept of natural curves with asymmetry and plants with synthetic material. The garden houses some 5,000 species of plants in 20 themed sections. During winter, the Garden of the Morning Calm will be dressed with colourful lights, giving the garden a different personality compared to the other seasons. At nightfall, the white snow-covered garden will give way to a plethora of colours, which adds a festive glow during winter. The Light Festival at the Garden of Morning Calm is the largest festival of lights in South Korea with the garden illuminated by over 30,000 lights. The Lighting Festival at the Garden of Morning Calm takes place from 8 Dec 17 to 25 Mar 18.

The Garden of Morning Calm being illuminated with colourful lights during the Lighting Festival

Lighting Festival at The Garden of Morning Calm

Lighting Festival at the Garden of Morning Calm

The beautiful lights during the Lighting Festival at The Garden of Morning Calm in winter

Winter in South Korea – Ski Resorts in South Korea

Winter in South Korea

Winter in South Korea started from the month of December through to February with January being the coldest month in winter. I visited South Korea (mainly staying in Seoul and made day trips out of Seoul) in January 2016. While it hadn’t snowed, the temperature is around the region of 5℃ on average. Coupled with the chilling wind, it made winter in South Korea felt colder. When it comes to winter, one of the things that comes to one’s mind is hitting the ski resorts in South Korea. South Korea might not be the top choice for ski holidays, especially when Hokkaido in the neighbouring Japan has long been “the”choice for skiing”. South Korea with its geography make up, especially in Gangwon-do where Winter Olympics in 2018 will be held in the city of Pyeongchang, is blessed with powder snow comparable with those found in Hokkaido. The world-class skiing facilities here is a fraction of the prices compared to neighbouring countries, allowing holidaymakers and professional skiers enjoy skiing and fun at the ski resorts without breaking their bank. There are a total of 16 ski resorts in South Korea. 14 of which found in the north part of the country spreading across the provinces of Gangwon-do and Gyeonggi-do. Half of the ski resorts in South Korea are located in Gangwon-do. With the Baekdudaegan Mountain ranges running through, the province of Gangwon-do receives the most snow annually. Of the Ski Resorts in South Korea, here are 3 that one can check out while planning a winter trip to South Korea.

Location of the 16 Ski Resorts in South Korea

Location of the Ski Resorts in Gangwan-do

High1 Ski Resort

High1 Ski Resort is one of South Korea’s leading Ski Resort and is the only resort in South Korea that is located in the mountains. The ski resort features over 21 km of slopes within a 4,986,775㎡area. High1 Ski Resort has 18 ski slopes catering to all levels of expertise in skiing. All of the slopes are at least 1.5 km in length and the longest slope stretches for 4.2 km.  The resort offers 5 slopes for beginners, 11 intermediate slopes and 2 expert slopes. The resort has three 8-person gondolas, one that takes visitors from the entrance of the resort to the midpoint of the resort, and another that takes visitors from the midpoint to the peak of Mt Jijansan, and yet another one that takes visitors from the peak of Mt Jijansan along the mountain range to High1 Hotel. There are activities available for visitors who do not ski in High1 Ski Resort, ranging from sledding to gondola rides. There is even a casino in High1 Ski Resort, the largest casino in South Korea.

High1 Ski Resort slope map

Gondola station on the peak of Mt Jijansan

Non-skiers can take a gondola up to Mt Jijansan and enjoy the spectacular views

One of the slopes in High1 Ski Resort. I took this picture while riding the gondola up to the midpoint of the resort

Some of the accommodation available in High1 Ski Resort

High1 Ski Resort Mountain Ski House

Mountain Ski House where one can take the gondola up to mountaintop

Me with Mountain Ski House in the background

One of the slopes in High1 Ski Resort

I visited High1 Ski Resort in Jan 2017 during my trip to South Korea. Back then, I was looking for a ski resort that has sledging as both my friend and I had never skied in our lives before and would like to try if we can find an instructor to teach us. We wanted a ski resort that has sledding and something to else to do. A search on the trusty Google leads us to High1 Ski Resort. Located some three hours by KTX from Seoul, High1 Ski Resort seems like a good choice for us. Other than the ski slopes, there is a small sledding slope and a gondola system that would take us up to the peak of Mt Jijansan. While we did not manage to learn skiing or take the gondola to the peak of Mt Jijansan when we were there, nonetheless we still had fun with sledding in High1 Ski Resort.

My friend on a sled getting ready to slide down the slope

Me and my friend sitting on the sled getting ready to slide down the slope

My friend with the sled after a session down the slope

Us getting ready to slide down the slope on a sled for the Nth number of times

My friend and I at the foreground of the Mountain Ski House in High1 Ski Resort

Phoenix Park

Phoenix Park PyeongChang is perched 700m up upon Mt. Taegi (1,261 m above sea level), this ski resort is large and harmonizes well with the surrounding landscape. The resort is equipped with world-class facilities, making it an excellent choice to be designated as one of the venues for the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018. Phoenix Park has a unique vast base of 500m that which the courses converge to. The ski resort has 21 ski courses within a 3,978,575㎡ area.  Of the 21 ski courses, 7 cater for beginners, 10 for intermediate skiers and 4 for expert skiers. There is also a dedicated 90m sled slope for non-skiers to enjoy the natural beauty that Mt Taegi offers. This sled slope is fenced up so sledders can have fun sledding down the slope without worries. For those who wanted to learn skiing, Phoenix Park has a ski school that provides a one-stop service that includes rental of skiing equipment Phoenix Park PyeongChang has a renowned snowboarding park complete with a halfpipe, tabletop, round quarter, and rails. The park also has 8-person gondolas and a system of 8 lifts. Phoenix Park PyeongChang is located less than 2 hours from Seoul, making it a perfect destination for a day skiing trip. Come February 2018, Phoenix Park will turn into the event venue for freestyle skiing and snowboarding events of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Visitors can pay a visit to Phoenix Park and get themselves immense in the adrenaline of live actions during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Phoenix Park Ski Slope Map

On top of Mont Blanc in Phoenix Park Resort

At the base of Phoenix Park Resort

The 90m sledding slope in Phoenix Park Resort

YongPyong Resort

YongPyong Resort is the most popular ski resort in South Korea is also the largest in the country. It is located in the centre of the Baekdudaegan Mountain Range, just a little over 2 hours from Seoul. The ski resort boasts a total of 28 ski slopes within a massive 16,200,000㎡ area. Of the 28 ski slopes, 10 caters to beginners, 7 to intermediate skiers and 11 for expert ski slopes. With such a large selection, one will be able to find a slope that one is comfortable in skiing on. Due to the geographic location, YongPyong sees an average of 250 cm of snow every year, making this resort the best place for skiing in South Korea. There are a total of 15 ski lifts that connects visitors to the various parts of the ski slope in the resort. YongPyong also caters facilities for non-skiers. For visitors who want to do sledding, YongPyong has a 200 m long three-lane sledging slope that is guaranteed to provide hours of fun for non-skiers. On top of these, visitors to YongPyong should cater some time for the gondola tour, which stretches over Asia’s longest course of 7.4 km offering visitors a breathtaking view of Balwangsan Mountain. As a pioneering venue of skiing in South Korea, YongPyong naturally will also be an event venue for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The resort will host Alpine Skiing events during the games in February 2018.

YongPyong Ski Slope Map

The ski slopes in YongPyong Ski Resort

The 200m sled slope in YongPyong ski resort

Visitors can take the gondola for breathtaking views around YongPyong Ski Resort

Celebrating 10 Years of Korea Plaza In Singapore

What is Korea Plaza

During one of our meetups, the Director of Korean Plaza in Singapore invited all the PyeongChang Winter Olympics Supporters in Singapore for the 10th Birthday celebration of Korea Plaza in Singapore. For those who do not know the existence of Korea Plaza, it is located in Samsung Hub along Church Street. For those who are travelling to Korea, Korea Plaza has tons of information and brochures on different parts of Korea to aid one in the planning of their Korea trip. At times there are brochures for visitors which offer great discounts on attractions and transport to be used in Korea. I have been to Korea Plaza several times when I was planning my trip to Korea last year and have found valuable information on the places that I visited.

Korea Plaza in Singapore

Korea Plaza is more than a place for travel information about Korea. One can learn more about the Korean culture in Korea Plaza and even experience wearing the traditional costume – Hanbok in Korea Plaza. One can join Wah! Korea Club  (join from the link here: http://bit.ly/JOINWAH) for free and take part in the Korean Cultural activities each month in the premises of Korea Plaza. There are classes such as Basic Korean Language for travellers, Korean cuisine classes for making of Kimchi, Tteokbokki, Bibimbap that members of Wah! Korea Club can sign up for.

Wah! Korea Club

Korea Plaza Anniversary Event

On 25 Nov, my friend and I checked out the 10th year anniversary event in Korea Plaza. To promote the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018, there is a huge poster in Korea Plaza promoting the event. Most of the activities in the 10th-anniversary event are also linked to the Winter Olympics. There is a station where one experience Ski Jumping on the VR machine. I tried the VR and it is very realistic, feel as though I was doing the Ski Jumping. Another station that is popular with attendees of the event is the Hit the Olympic Date Station, where one stand to win a pair of the PyeongChang Olympic Mascots if one manages to stop the buzzer on 9 or 10 Feb, when the Winter Olympics opens. Other than these activities, we had our turn in wearing of the Hanbok, something that we did not even do when my friend and I visited Korea last year.

Korea Plaza 10 Anniversary Celebration

My friend and I with the poster for PyeongChang Winter Olympics 2018

My friend won the last pair of PyeongChang Olympics Mascot plush toy while playing “Hit the Olympic Date” game. Everyone at the event applauded for him for winning this last set.

Me in a Hanbok. I look funny in it

My friend and I in Hanboks during the event

My friend and I in Hanbok

We were also treated to Korean Street food during the event. Of the food, I liked the Tteokbokki the most. It is flavourful but not overly spicy, and the rice cakes are cooked to perfection, not too hard and not too soft. Other than Tteokbokki other street food such as Kimbap and Eomukguk is also available. During the event, there is a lady who calligraphies one’s name in the Korean Language. My friend and I had our names calligraphed in the Korean language. The event ended with a lucky draw for visitors who attended the event.

Tteokbokki

Kimbap

Eomukguk

This lady was writing our names in the Korean Language

I won this pair of PyeongChang Winter Olympics sunglass by The Northface during the lucky draw

Special PyeongChang Korail Pass

Speaking of travelling in Korea, the Korean railway company – Korail has recently launched a special Korail Pass. To commemorate the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics, foreigners visiting Korea can purchase the special PyeongChang Korail Pass. The pass can be used on all trains throughout Korea unlimited times between 1 Feb to 25 Mar 18. This is a great way of saving money on transport during one’s travel in Korea. The pass is valid for purchase until 10 Jan 18. There are 5-day and 7-day pass options available and prices starting from 168,000 won for an adult pass. One can even reserve seats on the Korail network up to 30 days in advance. More information on this special PyeongChang Korail Pass can be found at http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/TRP/TP_ENG_8_4.jsp. The PyeongChang Korail Pass can be purchased at www.letskorail.com/pyeongchang.

The Special PyeongChang Korail Pass comes in 5 or 7 days ticket

Korail in Winter

Chiang Mai Day 4 (12 Nov 17) – Last Stop of Our Trip: Shopping in Warorot Market

Shopping in a Local Market – Warorot Market

Today is our final day in Chiang Mai. Our flight leaves Chiang Mai at 5pm and since we have a few hours to kill, we headed for Warorot Market after breakfast. Warorot Market is located around 7 mins walk from the hotel we were staying along the night bazaar street. Warorot Market comprises of 2 buildings on either side of the main road, selling similar goods. The market seems like a place where locals visit to get their daily needs. The stalls in the 3-storey Warorot Market are arranged in a rather systematic manner. Most of the stalls on the ground floor sell food items as well as a section where one can find eateries. At the centre of the ground floor is where fresh food items are being sold. The second and third level of Warorot Market is occupied by stalls selling clothing, shoes and bags. I find more locals visiting this market then tourists. There are more shops around the main building of Warorot Market, making this a great place for visitors to get last minute souvenirs before heading home. We could have spent hours shopping for souvenirs in Warorot Market, however as we have a plane to catch, we had to head back to the hotel and get ready for our flight home.

Warorot Market is a market that serves mainly locals
Such shops selling clothing are a common sight in Warorot Market
More shops selling clothes in Warorot Market
A section of Warorot Market selling fresh produce
The centre of Warorot Market on the ground floor sells mainly fresh produce
Warorot Market

Time to Bide Chiang Mai Goodbye

We left for the airport at around 3pm, in time for our flight home. I find people in Chiang Mai are friendlier and more patient as compared to their counterparts in Bangkok. The pace of life is slower here as well. The streets of Chiang Mai is cleaner and the prices of things in Night Market is lower than Bangkok. Chiang Mai is a place where even the locals, especially those from Bangkok visit to get a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. Even the air is fresher in Chiang Mai. There are beautiful sceneries and spectacular waterfalls in Chiang Mai, which I did not manage to visit. Perhaps the next time if I return to this northern city of Thailand, my focus will be more of nature.

Having a glass of mocktail before we depart Chiang Mai in the hotel
Departure drinks from the hotel
Driving towards the airport
Chiang Mai International Airport
Some very last minute shopping in the airport
Waiting to board our aircraft
The bird that will bring us home
Taxiing to runway
Flying past Doi Suthep
Doi Suthep and city of Chiang Mai
Bye bye Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Day 3 (11 Nov 17) – Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phan Tao – Ancient Temples in Old City and Another Day of Shopping in Chiang Mai

Today we planned to visit some of the temples in the Old City, after all during my research prior to this trip, I found out that there are several temples worth visiting in the Old City. As we did not have the dedicated car today, we moved around in the city via songthaew.

The impressive stupa in Wat Chedi Luang

The Chedi That Stood the Test of Time – Wat Chedi Luang

Our first stop today is Wat Chedi Luang. The main draw for us to visit Wat Chedi Luang is the partially ruin chedi that was believed to be the tallest building in ancient Chiang Mai. Entering Wat Chedi Luang, pass the ticketing counter, a small shrine – Inthakhin Pillar Vihara at the side of the main building is the first thing that we visit. Interestingly, there is a sign that says women are not allowed to enter this shrine. Upon reading the sign, it is believed that the city pillar of Chiang Mai was buried beneath this shrine and that women who entered might cause social instability. The interior of Inthakhin Pillar Vihara is very colourful, with paintings that depict Buddhism in Thailand. We headed for the main prayer hall just a little into the temple grounds of Wat Chedi Luang’s main entrance, pass Inthakhin Pillar Vihara. This large viharn is guarded by 2 elephants and 2 nagas, the 3 tiered roof of the main shrine is a work of art. The facade of the shrine is covered with Lanna-styled gold elaborate and detailed carvings. The interior of the viharn, decked in maroon and gold colours, look grand and elegant. A row of chandelier hangs in the centre of the ceiling that leads all the way into the prayer hall. The main Buddha, standing a whopping 3 storey tall, was cast in the 14th century. To this date, the Buddha statue is very well maintained and there are no signs that show its age. Visitors to Wat Chedi Luang can buy some gold foils from a desk at the entrance of the viharn to paste onto the Buddha statues. The Thais believe that pasting of gold foils onto Buddha statues is a way of making merits and is also believed that one would get their prayers answered by doing so. There is a row of small stupas nearer to the entrance of the temple building, where visitors can paste the gold foils according to the zodiac animals that one is born in. There are also Buddha statues further into the viharn next to the stupas, where one can paste the gold foil according to the day of the week one is born. We bought 3 gold foils and pasted one onto the Buddha statue at the entrance of the viharn, one on the stupa according to our zodiac animal and one onto the Buddha statues according to the day of our birth.

Guardian at Wat Chedi Luang
Entrance of Wat Chedi Luang, from this angle, the massive stupa is not visible
Viharn that the city pillar is buried beneath. Woman are not allowed to enter this small viharn
The interior of the viharn, the murals painted onto the walls depicts Buddhism
Impressive mural inside the viharn
Murals inside the small viharn
Exterior of the small viharn by the entrance of the Wat Chedi Luang
The exterior of the main viharn of Wat Chedi Luang
Taking a wefie with the elephant statue in front of the main viharn in Wat Chedi Luang
One of the 2 nagas guarding the main viharn in Wat Chedi Luang
Entrance to the main viharn in Wat Chedi Luang
The interior of the main viharn is impressive
Small stupas for visitors to paste gold foil onto
Pasting a gold foil onto the stupa of my zodiac animal
Buddha statues for visitors to paste gold foil onto according to the day of birth
Buddha statues for visitors to paste gold foil onto according to the day of birth
Buddha statues for visitors to paste gold foil onto according to the day of birth
Me pasting gold foil onto the statue that represents the day of my birth
The Buddha statues in the main viharn in Wat Chedi Luang
Wax figurine of past head abbots of Wat Chedi Luang
Me pasting a gold foil on the Buddha statue at the entrance of the viharn
The main viharn with the stupa in Wat Chedi Luang

The highlight of Wat Chedi Luang lies behind the main temple, this is where the giant stupa that seems to stand the test of time is located. The 5-tiered stupa, built in 1441, is massive! With a height of 62m and base diameter of 54m, the stupa is impressive. It used to be 82m tall and was at one point, the tallest building in Chiang Mai. However, an earthquake sent the top 30m tumbling down. Despite that, the stupa is still impressive. The stupa once housed the Emerald Buddha at the top, which now sits in the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The Emerald Buddha is regarded as a symbol of power which gives whoever possesses it the legitimacy to rule the country. Walking around the stupa, it seems that the earthquake did not take away the grandeur the stupa exudes. Every inch is a work of art, I can imagine how grand and elaborate this stupa must have been in its heydey. A pair of Nagas statues guarding the 4 stairways on each side of the stupa, that leads to the top of the stupa for centuries. The Buddha statues housed in the top of the stupa on all four sides are visible from the base of the stupa. The stupa is fenced up these days to prevent visitors from climbing, thereby causing more damage to the dedicate stupa. On the southern side of the stupa, 7 elephants can be seen protruding out of the stupa on the 4th tier, that seem to be carrying the weight of the top tier of the stupa. Some of these elephants less 2 have been restored over the years.

The massive stupa that Wat Chedi Luang is built around
There are Buddha statues like this one on the base of each of the 4 sides of the stupa
Stupa up close
One of the 5-headed nagas guarding the entrance to the stupa at the base
Stairways up to the stupa, which is out of bounds these days
View of the massive stupa, a Buddha statue can be seen installed inside the stupa
Taking a wefie with stupa in Wat Chedi Luang
Another view of the stupa in Wat Chedi Luang
Stupa in Wat Chedi Luang with a Buddha statue at the base
Elephants on top of the stupa in Wat Chedi Luang
5 of the 7 elephants on the stupa

Behind the stupa lies an open building that houses a large statue of the Reclining Buddha, with a short fence at the front of the building. Initial we were just taking pictures from beyond the fence. A closer observation, I realise that the fence was not locked and visitors are allowed to enter the building through the gate. One can take pictures without pillars of the building blocking from inside the building. There are 3 other statues of Buddha housed in the same building. Next to the building with the reclining Buddha are 2 wooden buildings. These buildings houses wax figurines of the abbots of Wat Chedi Luang. We headed for the exit after spending a little more time admiring the stupa which Wat Chedi Luang is built around.

Reclining Buddha in the building behind the stupa in Wat Chedi Luang
Buddha statues in the same building as the Reclining Buddha
Another Buddha statue in the same building as the Reclining Buddha
One of the 2 wooden buildings next to the Reclining Buddha
One of the 2 wooden buildings beside the Reclining Buddha

The Unsung Treasure of Chiang Mai – Wat Phan Tao

Leaving Wat Chedi Luang, we headed to a small temple next to Wat Chedi Luang. This small wooden temple is Wat Phan Tao, which is often overlooked by visitors. Wat Phan Tao is a small temple, with only one wiharn that faces the main road. The beauty of Wat Phan Tao lies with the material that was used for its construction. Wat Phan Tao was constructed entirely of moulded teak wood panels fitted together and supported by 28 teak wood pillars. Not a nail was used in the construction of this temple. As it is not visited by tourists, I find it particularly peaceful inside the wiharn of Wat Phan Tao. Inside Wat Phan Tao houses a golden Buddha statue. There are some old temple bells, ceramics and old palm-leaf manuscripts on display inside Wat Phan Tao. After taking some pictures, we exited Wat Phan Tao and headed for more shopping.

 

Exterior of Wat Phan Tao
Wat Phan Tao is made entirely of teak wood
Exterior of Wat Phan Tao
Some gold decors on the facade of Wat Phan Tao
Buddha Statue inside Wat Phan Tao

Shopping in Central Festival Chiang Mai

Our next stop is Central Festival Chiang Mai, located northeast outside the Old City. Compared to Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre, Central Festival Chiang Mai not just is bigger, it is also livelier. The mega shopping mall is one of the largest in Chiang Mai, covering 250,000 ㎡ of shopping space, spread over 6 floors. The shopping mall houses more than 300 shops, with a good mix of local and international brands, such as Marks & Spencer and Uniqlo to name a few. This place is a shopping haven for shopaholics. It is a one-stop shopping complex that has everything that one would find in a modern shopping mall. There is even an ice-skating ring in Central Festival Chiang Mai, other than the usual mega cineplex. The 4th and 5th floors of the shopping mall mainly house eateries with local and international cuisines up for choice. There is a Thai local food roadshow in the basement of Central Festival Chiang Mai at the time we went. Here is where we got most of our local food souvenirs and the price is rather reasonable. At the time we were there, most of the shops are having a sale, we had a great time shopping here. The shopping mall has a tourist privilege scheme, where tourists can get a discount card good for discounts in numerous shops in the shopping mall, with discounts up to 50%, although the shop that we went to offer only 5% discount. The shopping mall event has a complimentary shuttle bus service that links the shopping mall with some of the bigger hotels in Chiang Mai. 6 routes at a fixed time schedule brings visitors to and from the hotel they stay in. A word of caution, as the shuttle buses can be quite small, do be at the shuttle bus pick up point 15 mins prior to the departure to secure a seat. When at the pickup point, just walk up to the bus and the staff will be happy to let you board while waiting for the scheduled time to depart. The bus that brought us to our hotel can take up to 9 pax, a group of Chinese tourists tried to board the bus but it was full.

Central Festival Chiang Mai is a modern mega shopping mall in Chiang Mai
Facade of Central Festival Chiang Mai
Inside Central Festival Chiang Mai
Inside Central Festival Chiang Mai
Wefie inside Central Festival Chiang Mai

Shopping on the Saturday Walking Street

After resting a little in the hotel and having dinner, we spent our last night in Chiang Mai shopping in their Saturday Walking Street. The Saturday Walking Street is a night market that opens only on Saturdays from 4pm until midnight. The street that this Saturday Night Market is located south of the Old City along Wualai Road and is popular with locals and tourists alike. As the entire road is closed to traffic, visitors can be assured of a safe vehicle-free shopping environment. The Saturday Walking Street is very crowded when we visited. We walked at a zombie-like slow speed. There is no lack of night market shopping here with the numerous stalls selling stuff that is typical of any night market in Thailand. Most of the stalls on the Saturday Walking Street sells mainly souvenir items like those “I have been to Chiang Mai” type of T-shirts, handicraft souvenirs from keychains to soap carvings. I do find the prices here to be cheaper compared to any night markets in Bangkok. As with the Night Bazaar, there are pockets of areas where one can detour in to find more shops or even a street food area. As it was a warm night at the time of our visit, there are insects flying around the lights, we did not try any of the street food here. We spent the whole night walking along the Saturday Walking Street, mostly browsing on the items that are up for sale.

One of the stalls selling food on Saturday Walking Street
Food stalls on Saturday Walking Street
Shopping on Saturday Walking Street
Shopping on Saturday Walking Street
There is a huge crowd on Saturday Walking Street
Shopping on Saturday Walking Street
Shopping on Saturday Walking Street

Surprise Find of the Silver Temple – Wat Sri Suphan

As we were walking in the Saturday Walking Street, we made a turn at a fork junction. Little did we expect this route that we took brought us to a surprising temple that is totally not in our plan to visit. As we were walking along the street, reliving that the crowd here is thinner than what we had experienced, we were attracted to some performances inside a temple ground. A thin crowd gathered to see some men performing with fire. After the performance, since we are already at a temple, we decided to check it out. The main wiharn of this temple is an impressive 4-tiered roof large building. A little further from the entrance to the temple, we saw a small 2-tiered wiharn in Silver. This is the Silver temple or known as Wat Sri Suphan. The silver temple is made using a mix of aluminium, compounded silver and pure silver. The temple is built in 1500 to serve as the main temple for a silversmith village. A couple of Buddha statues, one in silver and the other in gold, sits peacefully in front of the silver temple. The entrance of the silver temple is guarded by 2 5-headed nagas. The temple is especially spectacular at night when the interchange colours are being cast onto the temple, giving it a mystical feel. The temple is out of bounds to female visitors due to an old Buddhist rule. The work is impressive inside the temple. Traces of painstaking carvings in every panel can be seen. There are even carvings of the world map on the floor of the Wat Sri Suphan. There are murals that depict Buddhism as well as the late Thai King. A golden Buddha statue sits in the temple, contrasting with the silver used in the construct of the temple. After visiting the temple, we traced back our footsteps back to the night market and shopped a little before heading back to the hotel to rest as it is almost midnight and the stalls are packing up, ending the day of sales.

Entrance to Wat Sri Suphan
We were attracted to the fire performance in Wat Sri Suphan
Fire performance in Wat Sri Suphan
Main viharn in Wat Sri Suphan
The unique and impressive Silver temple in Wat Sri Suphan
Purple lighting cast onto the Silver temple in Wat Sri Suphan
Elaborate carving on the silver walls of the Silver temple
The Golden Buddha inside the Silver Temple in Wat Sri Suphan
Even the chandelier is cast in silver
Taking a wefie inside the Silver Temple
Buddha statue inside the Silver Temple
One of the Nagas guarding the entrance to the Silver Temple in Wat Sri Suphan
Gold Buddha statue outside the Silver Temple
Facade of the Silver Temple

Chiang Mai Day 2 (10 Nov 17) – Three Temples Visit: Wat Doi Suthep, Wat Phra Singh and Wat Sri Don Moon

The Golden Temple Overlooking Chiang Mai – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Visits to Chiang Mai is incomplete without a visit to their Temples. Apart from the “Big Four” Temples in Old City, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most visited temples in Chiang Mai. The Wat Doi Suthep sits on top of the mountain Doi Suthep, seemingly watching and protecting the city of Chiang Mai. The journey from Chiang Mai city to the Wat Doi Suthep takes us pass windy mountainous routes where we saw a glimpse of the city resting on the plains at the foot of the mountain. Wat Doi Suthep is perched on top of 309 stairs. There is a tram service that ferries visitors to the top of the slope where the temple sits in around 5 mins. Wat Doi Suthep’s facade itself looks like a work of art. Decked with red, green and gold paints with intricate carvings, the layer roofed tall and slim structure that surrounds the temple is portrays distinctive Thai-style architecture.

The iconic Wat Doi Suthep

Driving towards Doi Suthep

The tram station is on the right side of the 309 stairs that visitors would otherwise have to take to get to Wat Doi Suthep

The tram rail that we have travelled

Shrines that form the facade and the walls surrounding Wat Doi Suthep

Shrine that forms the outer walls to Wat Doi Suthep

Like all other Thai temples, visitors are required to remove their footwear before entering the temple. Unlike most of the Thai temples that I have visited throughout the years of my visit to Thailand, the temple grounds of Wat Doi Suthep is mostly outdoors. Passing through the outer walls of the temple, a large golden stupa lies in the centre of the temple grounds. The stupa is surrounded by 4 prayer halls, each in one direction. It is believed that the Buddha’s bone that the white elephant brought to this piece of land is buried under the stupa. The stupa has been fenced up, devotees are seen walking 3 times around the stupa chanting some sutra (which is available in English and Chinese other than Thai) at the same time. Statues of Buddhas decked in white stone, golden paint and green glass are placed around the parameters of the walkway. One can choose either of the 4 sides to pray to the Buddha in Wat Doi Suthep. The main prayer hall, or wiharn, is next to the main entrance of the temple. This is the largest wiharn with several golden statues of Buddha placed in front of an elaborately painted wall. A smaller wiharn is situated opposite the main wiharn, where only 1 buddha statue is housed. One can obtain blessings from the temple monk in either of the wiharns. On either side of the wiharns are smaller shrines where statues of Buddhas, enclosed in glass panels. There are numerous spots for photo taking of the iconic golden stupa that defines Wat Doi Suthep. Most of the visitors are here to take the iconic pictures.

Counter than sells offerings for prayers

There are lockers available (free of charge) for visitors to store their shoes before entering Wat Doi Suthep

The golden stupa and umbrella that are icons of Wat Doi Suthep

Golden stupa in Wat Doi Suthep

Emerald Buddha statue in Wat Doi Suthep

A small reclining Buddha and another Emerald Buddha in Wat Doi Suthep

Buddha statues in Wat Doi Suthep

The main wiharn in Wat Doi Suthep

Whitestone Buddha in Wat Doi Suthep
The smaller wiharn in Wat Doi Suthep
Such Buddha statues displayed along the parameters of a temple is typical of a Thai temple
Golden stupa that rises amongst the buildings in Wat Doi Suthep
Another temple building in Wat Doi Suthep

As Wat Doi Suthep is situated on Doi Suthep, we headed for the viewpoint at the back of the temple, that granted us views of Chiang Mai city. At the first viewpoint, we saw Chiang Mai International Airport and parts of Chiang Mai city. A little further from the first viewpoint is another viewpoint where we saw the entire Chiang Mai city. Both viewpoints offer great photo spots for visitors.

A Pavilion at the first viewpoint
View of Chiang Mai city from the first viewpoint
Panoramic shot of the city of Chiang Mai from the first viewpoint
View from the first viewpoint
Taking a wefie at the first viewpoint
Bells in Wat Doi Suthep
En route to the second viewpoint
We see more of Chiang Mai city from the second viewpoint

Lanna Temple Art and Architecture – Wat Phra Singh

Leaving Doi Suthep, we headed to the nearby Wat Phra Singh, located in the western part of the Old City. Wat Phra Singh is a temple typical of Lanna art and architecture. Wat Phra Singh is a temple dedicated to the Lion Buddha. A Lanna styled and rather new large 3-layer roofed temple structure sits facing the main entrance to the temple greeting visitors. Most visitors would stop by this temple building during their visit to Wat Phra Singh. The decor inside this temple building exudes simple yet revered feel. There are no elaborated paintings on its walls, nor detailed carvings inside this temple building. At the end of the building, a large Buddha statue sits solemnly, seemingly welcoming visitors offering their prayers. Next to this Buddha statue are several wax figurines of past abbots of Wat Phra Singh. The treasure of Wat Phra Singh is not housed in this building, but in a less elaborated building further into the temple grounds. Behind the main temple building is a small inconspicuous wooden building, the Ubosot, used for the ordination of monks. Built in 1806, this simply decorated building but richly decorated with wooden carvings, houses a smaller image of the Lion Buddha and a replica of the famed Emerald Buddha (now housed in the Grand Palace in Bangkok).

Lion statues that guard Wat Phra Singh
The exterior of the main prayer hall
Inside the main prayer hall
Inside the main temple in Wat Phra Singh
Wax figurine of past abbots of Wat Phra Singh next to the Buddha
A large Buddha statue sits at the end of the temple
Mythical creature that guards the temple
Temple library in Wat Phra Singh
Ubosot behind the main prayer hall in Wat Phra Singh
The interior of the Ubosot is simpler compared to the main  prayer hall
Inside the Ubosot
A replica of the Emerald Buddha in the Ubosot
I saw this stone that has carvings of another language inside the Ubosot.  There is no signage to explain its significance

It is hard for anyone visiting Wat Phra Singh to miss the large Chedi beside the Ubosot. The golden stupa that stretches towards the sky, sits on a square base with images of elephants protruding out of the each of the sides of the square base. It seems like these elephants are carrying the chedi on their backs. A statue of the sleeping Buddha, housed in a very simple small building at the back of the temple grounds. The treasure of Wat Phra Singh is housed in a very inconspicuous building tucked at the back of the temple grounds next to the golden chedi. This white building is where the exalted statue of Lion Buddha rests since the 1360s. It is easy to miss out on this building.

Golden Chedi beside the Ubosot
It is believed that the ashes of the King’s father are buried on the ground where Golden Chedi is located in Wat Phra Singh
Golden Chedi in Wat Phra Singh
Main prayer hall, Ubosot and the Golden Chedi in Wat Phra Singh
There is a statue of the reclining Buddha in one of the smaller building in Wat Phra Singh
The white building is where the Lion Buddha statue is placed
This white building is where the Lion Buddha statue is placed
Around Wat Phra Singh
The building where the Lion Buddha is placed

The White Temple – Wat Sri Don Moon

The third temple that we visited today is a local temple, with literally no foreign visitors. Unlike the previous 2 temples we visited so far, Wat Sri Don Moon does not charge entrance fees. On our way to Wat Sri Don Moon, stopped at a Thai restaurant for lunch. Wat Sri Don Moon is located southeast of Old City and is about 30 mins drive from Old City. This temple can easily be missed by visitors to Chiang Mai as it is located in a remote part of the city. Wat Sri Don Moon is an all-white temple from the structure to the roof of the temple building. Unlike the temples we have visited so far, there is no layered roofing in Wat Sri Don Moon. Instead the roof of this temple building is painted in gold, giving the temple a unique look. The interior of Wat Sri Don Moon is decked with colours of all hues, unlike its exterior. Inside the temple houses 2 statues of white Buddha, enclosed in a glass case. What attracts me most in this temple is the artwork painted on the walls of the temple. The paintings seem to relate the life of Buddha and how he attained nirvana. Perhaps due to the lack of visitors, Wat Sri Don Moon appears to me as more serene and peaceful. We headed back to the hotel to rest and have dinner before ending our day with shopping along the night bazaar just outside the hotel we stayed.

We stop by a Thai restaurant for lunch en route to Wat Sri Don Moon
We had Tom yum seafood for lunch
Pineapple fried rice is delicious and flavourful
Deep fried Sea Bass with garlic and salt
Taking a wefie in the outdoor area of the restaurant
The white temple in Chiang Mai – Wat Sri Don Moon
Wat Sri Don Moon is mainly white in colour with golden colour painted on its roof
A naga protecting Wat Sri Don Moon
Facade of Wat Sri Don Moon
Wat Sri Don Moon
Wat Sri Don Moon has a statue of Buddha enclosed in  glass  panel
Statue of Buddha in Wat Sri Don Moon
These paintings no the wall tells the story of Buddha
These paintings on the wall tells the story of Buddha
These paintings on the wall tells the story of Buddha

Chiang Mai Day 1 (9 Nov 17) – Exploring the Shopping in the Northern City of Thailand

Hello Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand and is the northernmost city in the country. Chiang Mai used to be the capital of Siam, the old name for Thailand before the capital shifted to Ayuthaya and subsequently to the current city of Bangkok. Chiang Mai is full of historic sites, mainly Thai temples. Other than temples and shopping, people visit Chiang Mai for the sceneries. Chiang Mai houses Thailand’s highest peak, Doi Inthanon measuring an astounding 2,565m. During this trip, I visited mostly temples and of course, shopping!

Looking into the tarmac of Chiang Mai International Airport

Driving to the hotel in Chiang Mai

As we were rather tired due to having to wake up early to catch our flight from Singapore to Chiang Mai, I planned today to be light. We plan to visit one of the few shopping malls in Chiang Mai followed by strolling along the night market in Chiang Mai. The taxis in Chiang Mai is unlike those we saw in Bangkok. The taxi in Chiang Mai is modified from pickup trucks, Songthaew which literally means 2 rows, can ferry up to as many passengers as it can take. Instead of running on meters, these Songthaews charges a flat fee of ฿30 per person that takes you anywhere in the city.  Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre is located across the city from the hotel we stayed. As we were driven across the Old City, remnants of the Old City Wall are still visible. Most of the Old City walls are reduced to rumbles, except for the Eastern City Gate of Pratu Tha Phae, which seem to be have been restored either to attract tourists or to commemorate a glorious pass when these walls were useful.

Getting onto Songthaew, Chiang Mai’s version of taxi
These Songthaews are comfortable and cooling, making the experience of travelling within Chiang Mai unique
Moat in marking the limits of Old City in Chiang Mai
This remnant of the Old City Wall is a common sight in Chiang Mai

The Modern Shopping – Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre

Driving across the Old City, we soon find ourselves arriving at Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre. The facade of the shopping centre looks promising as a place where we can shop till we drop. Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre is a modern shopping mall with 7 floors of shopping including a basement. Our excitement soon died down as we entered Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre. The shopping mall was dead and there are very few people shopping here. Even the effort to hold a Northern Thailand roadshow failed to draw in the crowd. As it passed lunchtime, we were more concern with filling our stomachs and did not let the lack of life in the shopping mall bothered us. We headed straight to the 4th floor to hunt for food. After walking around a couple of times, we did not find anything that suits us. Instead, we settled our lunch at a Thai brand cafe that serves Thai food.

Christmas decorations already up outside Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre
Outside Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre
Facade of Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre

After lunch, we walked around the shopping mall, thinking that we might enjoy the shopping in here after all. However, no matter how we try to find things that might excite us in terms of the shopping here, we fail to do so. Most of the time, we find ourselves walking in the mall like zombies. Perhaps due to the lack of crowd that makes the entire shopping mall boring. Finally, we decided to give up and head back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner. As we were walking out of Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre, the night market outside the shopping mall started operations. This is where we saw more people walking around these night market stores in the shopping mall. There are stores selling everyday stuff such as clothing and footwear, as well as a section where one can find delicious street food.

A small night market set up outside Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre

Night market outside Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre

Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre

Strolling in the Night Bazaar

We headed back to the hotel and rest a little before heading to the restaurant in the hotel for dinner, that is part of the hotel package we booked. After dinner, it is time to explore the night bazaar that is just outside the hotel we are staying. The night bazaar opens daily from 6pm to midnight and is situated east of the Old City, between Ping River and the East gate of Tha Phae along Chang Khlan Road. Countless stalls that seem to stretch forever lined up along both sides of Chang Khlan Road, mostly selling T-shirts and handicraft items. Generally, I find things being sold in this Night Bazaar cheaper than what one would find in the night markets of Bangkok. Walking along the street of stalls is sufficient to occupy one’s night with the endless shopping. As though these make-shift night market stalls are insufficient to satisfy visitors’ shopping needs, there are some shops on either side of Chang Khlan Road that operates late into the night every day. As we walked along the street full of stalls that burst into life at night, there are some pockets of entrances that lead to more night market shops. There is one such entrance leads to a large food area. Stalls lined up around the parameter of this area where one can find Thai cuisine being sold alongside cuisines from other countries.

Thai set dinner in hotel

Thai set dinner in hotel

Walking along Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

Walking along Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

The food area in Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

The food area in Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

The food area in Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

Taking a wefie at the food area in Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

Lanterns in  Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

Along Chang Khlan Road, there are entrances that lead one to huge areas of night market stalls under the shelter provided by huge tentages, which makes these areas weatherproof. The stalls here mainly sells clothing. 2 wooden structured buildings, one on either side of the road, with huge letters that spell “Night Bazaar” seem to promise more shopping inside. These night bazaars are a lot quieter than the main streets, with stalls selling mostly art pieces. There isn’t a lot of crowd inside these night bazaars. After walking around the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar for a while, the stalls seem to be repetitive, selling mostly the same items. Our mood shifted from finding out what’s on sale to which stall offers a better deal.

More stalls at Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

Some of the roadside stalls in Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

More stalls in Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

One of the shops in Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

Shopping around Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

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

Hansik

One of the best ways to immerse in the Korean culture is through its food. Mention about Korean food, Kimchi and Bibimbap immediately come 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 chilli 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 is 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 are 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 is 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 southeastern city of 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 shellfish owing to the abundant meat in its legs. Daege Jjim here in Samcheok is steamed in order to preserve its freshness. One of the popular ways 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)

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 infuse 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 actor on stage moved at a 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 hang 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 are 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