Perth – Of captivating food, wine and sunsets

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I am not an utter stranger to Western Australia, yet I felt as though I was stepping into a new, unknown land. When I was a mere 5 years old, I took the plane for the first time in my life and landed in Perth. Out of my own will, I was taken to see the now-vulnerable koalas, experience a farm stay, admire black swans and play in the sand dunes. All of these I don’t actually remember but am able to describe thanks to physically developed photographs.

17 years later, I came back voluntarily for a short break in part due to a suggestion, in part due to the reasonable air fare, and in part due to my absent memories of Perth. For a short 4 days, we covered places extensively without bumping into throngs of tourists or Asians – which was secretly satisfying.

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With just a couple of days allocated to the city of Perth itself, we narrowed down to the most highly rated places for food and went without batting an eyelid. Our brunch at Hylin (178 Railway Parade, West Leederville WA 6007, Australia) was memorable simply for the Streetz Chicken Croissant we had. The buttermilk fried chicken was sufficiently good on its own for that crisp on the outside and juiciness underneath the skin, but further enhanced by the maple syrup-drizzled flaky croissant. Let’s also not forget about the bacon, smoked mozzarella, and tinge of spiciness from the basil chilli aioli. One thing I did forget was how sinful it was. We also got the Brisket Benny which was noteworthy for the soft beef brisket between the two slices of cheesy sourdough toast. Unfortunately, coffee here was pretty meh.

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We also stopped by Chu Bakery (498 William St, Highgate WA 6003, Australia) on the way to Swan Lake, which is perhaps the most popular bakery in Perth. The Strawberry Veil, a tart pastry filled with caramel ganache and topped with fresh strawberries, cream and a gelée veil was great for the uncloying sweetness of the filling; the Salted Caramel Donut, thanks to the fluffy brioche and sweet savoury filling, was also one of the best donuts I’ve had in a while.

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Yet another recommended place for brunch is Bread in Common (43 Pakenham St, Fremantle WA 6160, Australia) in Fremantle. Serving as a bakery, deli and restaurant in a huge industrial-like setting, a farm to table approach is taken for the menu here. I tried Kangaroo meat for the first time, wow-ed by the well-executed dish. The meat tasted just like seared beef tataki. We also had a Pigeon dish, and of course we couldn’t resist getting their bread and cheese to go along.

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I declared my best sunset of 2019 to be the one I witnessed at Cottlesloe Beach. We stopped just slightly north of the main attraction area and spent some sentimental time watching the golden hues amidst swatting away flies.

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Other places visited in Perth:

  • Matilda Bay Restaurant (3 Hackett Dr, Crawley WA 6009, Australia) – amazing steak, amazing food in general
  • Petition – brunch spot. 4.5 stars on Google Maps but nothing we ordered was good… will not recommend!
  • Arrival Hall – hipster lifestyle shop and café
  • Mandoon Estate – winery in Swan Lake region
  • Crawley Edge Boatshed – no pictures because the iconic blue boathouse was covered in a grotesque pink cloth for an advertisement
  • Propeller – brilliant atmosphere and service, and the Mediterranean dishes were modernised and well-executed
  • Harvest Boulangerie – amazing ham and cheese croissant and crème brûlée Please go!
  • Swan River Gelato – their pistachio gelato tasted so natural, so good.
  • Little Creatures Brewing – for craft beer tasting
  • Kailis’ Fish Market Café – known to serve one of the best fish and chips in Perth. Decent, but not the best.

On our drive down to Margaret River from Perth, we stopped by Busselton city and toured Busselton Jetty, the longest wooden pier that stretches 1.8km out to the sea. The area was busseling with activities – a marathon and cycling event underway, teenage boys diving into the ocean, families lounging by the beach, tourists strolling on the jetty. Unknowingly, I got sunburnt in that one hour walking out into the sea and back, but the view was worth it. There was also a train that can bring people back and forth but does so in a speed slower than our walking pace.

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At Margaret River, we maximized our time feasting, drinking wine, and immersing in nature. The prettiest winery we went to on this trip has got to be Voyager’s Estate (41 Stevens Rd, Margaret River WA 6285, Australia), where we enjoyed a bottle of sparkling Chenin Blanc with blue cheese and truffle crackers. We also encountered lots of tour groups from Singapore.

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Deemed to be the breakfast spot in Margaret River, Margaret River Bakery (89 Bussell Hwy, Margaret River WA 6285, Australia) was a quaint little café with mismatched furniture. You must get the Banana & Honeycomb Pancakes here. Though I’ve always preferred fluffy pancakes, I indulged in their dense pancakes with crisp burnt edges.  The Chocolate Croissant was just as rich and crisp, with a good amount of diabetes-inducing chocolate hidden within.

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Of the many caves in the Margaret River vicinity, we picked Lake Cave for the best visuals and it turned out to be a well-hosted, informative and eye-opening tour indeed. Nearby, we made a short pitstop at Boranup Forest to snap some photos of the towering, native karri trees.

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For sunset viewing in Margaret River, we went to Surfer’s Point, just a few minutes’ drive away from the Margaret River’s river mouth. Apparently, a good spot to catch surfers but we didn’t manage to catch any in sight.

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Other places visited in Margaret River:

  • Morries – not quite sure of the concept of the restaurant. Decent food.
  • Pizzica – cosy, traditional Italian restaurant that served us a legitimate fare
  • Margaret River Distilling Co. – gin, whisky and cocktail tasting
  • Aravina Estate – yet another vineyard

Our last sunset of the trip was caught at Mandurah, a small city just south of Perth. Specifically, we caught it near Halls Head Beach where barely anyone was around and where we could almost have the entire beach to ourselves.

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Dinner place in Mandurah:

  • Oyster Bar Mandurah – for uniquely flavoured grilled and raw oysters

Apollo Coffee Bar

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My time spent on cafes this year has seen a drastic reduction compared to the previous years and I attribute it to various reasons – wanting to focus on school work, saving for travel, getting a little tired of visiting the same good old favorites and just because there were barely any new cafes which I took a liking to.

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But very thankfully, I got freshened up after visiting the newly opened Apollo Coffee Bar. Having heard that it is reigned by the people behind Atlas Coffeehouse, Lunar Coffee Brewers and Columbus Coffee Co., it was hard not to build expectations and I went with fluttering feelings.

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Being a North-Eastie, the location of the café at Serangoon Gardens feels homely and brings back faint memories of brunches at the now defunct Arbite. The café was lively on a weekday morning and I naturally found myself at the quieter “backyard” lit with sunlight via a transparent roof.

The menu is split into the brunch (9am – 4pm) and lunch menu (12pm onwards), with some familiar dishes from the sister cafes (i.e. pancakes, waffles, soft serve) that I haven’t had in a long time but decided to try new dishes instead.

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Having read good reviews on the Breakfast Burger ($16.50), it went straight to the order list. True enough, there was barely anything to fault at this satisfying dish – the back-bacon slices were thick and juicy, the cheddar-chive scrambled eggs were creamy, and the homemade brioche bun fluffy and savory.

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Featuring poached pears topped on buttery potato bun French toast, the Honey “Prench” Toast ($18.50) tasted best when I cut up a small piece of toast and soft pear and swiped it with a dollop of tangy lemon curd, a dash of fresh cream and a controlled serving of sweet honey before sinking my teeth into it.

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The Super Nutty ($15) Açaí bowl was well-balanced with fruits and nuts and I liked the distinct dark chocolate-y taste in the berry blend.

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A more ordinary item, the Smashin’ Avo ($16.50) was decent but the one thing that left a memorable note was neither the avocado, the soft boiled eggs nor ciabatta but surprisingly the cherry tomatoes which were drizzled in a special sweet sauce.

I also tried the Truffle Fries ($9.50) which although was not the best in Singapore, still had a distinct truffle fragrance and taste sufficient for us to clear the plate (and forget to take a picture of it).

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Drinks-wise, I felt that the Matcha Latte ($6) was on the sweeter side, while the Mocha ($5.50 for reg 7oz, $6.50 for large 9oz) was good and consistent with the ones I had at Atlas and Lunar. I would also recommend to stick to the coffee here, after having a rather weak and limp Chai Latte ($6) on my second visit.

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Having only ordered from the brunch menu, I wouldn’t hesitate to be back for the lunch menu, which is further divided into small and large plates, and also their homemade pastries and cakes on display at the counter.

65 Serangoon Garden Way, Singapore 555961
9am – 10pm Tue to Sat
9am – 7pm Sun

Understated Coffee, Seoul 언더스테이티드 커피, 서울

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Right from its queer location on a quiet street amongst old shop houses and buildings, Understated Coffee is not what you would quite expect from a regular café. Through its floor-to-ceiling glass windows, one can easily see from the outside the interiors of this quaint café. Of course, the white-washed and minimally furnished space played a huge role, but what really stood out to me were the exposed concrete portions, irregular lines and uneven surfaces.

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Turns out that the owner (and main barista) majored in architecture in France and having a major interest in coffee, decided to start a café back in his home country.

While deciding on the beans and coffee to get, the owner kindly explained to me all 3 types of beans that were on the menu. Despite his cool exterior, he was friendly and I could feel his passion in making good coffee. All 3 types of beans I saw that day were sourced overseas, and the main beans that are still constantly in use are those from Belleville Coffee in Paris.

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I got the White (5,000KRW) which I liked a lot. It had a fuller body than other coffees I’ve tried in Seoul while not being too acidic.

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When I went, the only available pastries were their plain butter Scones (3,500KRW), but recently they have launched them in more extravagant flavours, such as earl grey cream, tomato confit fromage and chocolate matcha. The plain scone I had was towards the savory side with a moderate density.

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Though there were 2 other inner rooms for patrons, I decided to take a seat on the round, uneven structure right in the middle, just to admire the slightly penetrating sunlight, the baristas at work, the irregularities of the cafe interiors and the stillness of the street.

1F, 69-1 Mallijaeyet-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

12 to 7pm, Mon – Sat

Autumn in Seoul – 5 Spots to Catch the Fall Foliage

My stay in Korea last year encompassed many firsts in my life – flying alone, living independently of my family, solo travelling… and autumn. My first genuine autumn after 21 years of stale summer in Singapore. It was the season where I never felt like staying indoors, the season where everything seemed to have a sentimental value to it, the season where memories of rough summer days were awashed by freshness. 

In this post I’m sharing a few spots where I saw some unforgettable scenes of fall foliage in Seoul. I’ve actually picked and edited the photos in this post eons ago, but I missed the timing to write it, and eventually resorted to waiting close to a year to get this up. The best time for sight-seeing of foliage in Seoul is from the last week of October to the first week of November!

1. Haneul Park

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Nearest train station: World Cup Stadium

One of the 5 parks of the World Cup Park, Haneul directly translates to ‘Sky’, it’s name befitting of its location on the highest part of the World Cup Park on a hill. To get up, you can either pay a small fee for a tram or climb up 291 steps of stairs. I recommend the latter for the views on the way up, and also since the weather will not make you break out in a sweat. 

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I can’t remember how I first came to know about this park, but when my first time there was actually in the transition phase of Spring to Summer. During that time, the park was not crowded in the slightest bit and filled with mostly green plants, with occasional splashes of colours from planted flowers. Visiting again but in autumn was a different thing altogether – throngs of people (both locals and tourists) and the rich luscious colours of fall created a lovely bustling atmosphere.

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The two most representative plants at the park in autumn are the silver grass and pink muhly grass – though you may find them at spots all over Korea, the fields at Haneul Park are expansively planted with them and divided into specific zones. The best time to go would be at sunset, when the park is tinged with soft, golden light.

2. Campus Tour – Yonsei University

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Nearest train station: Sinchon

Having attended Yonsei University for a short semester, I’ve seen the transition from late summer green to autumn yellow, orange and red like a time-lapse video. The day-to-day anticipation was fluttering, and slightly kept me energised for lessons even. 

Most people know about the main pedestrian path of the school that starts from the main gate and that leads right all the way in to the heart of the school – in autumn, the gingko trees that neatly line this main road turn yellow. However, I preferred the foliage found deep in the remainder of the school – the gingko trees are larger and more densely grown with leaves and more fall colours can be spotted. I snapped these two photos on an uphill road that serves as a side entrance to the school. 

3. Seoul Forest

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Nearest train station: Seoul Forest

When I finally had the time to go to Seoul Forest with my camera, the weather had become much chillier (necessitating a winter jacket) and the season was about to come to its end. While thinking to myself if I had made the wrong choice in making a futile journey, I chanced upon a vast field of yellow fallen leaves. Bare trees grew interspersedly, while the afternoon sun cast their long shadows cast all across the field of yellow, creating a brilliant canvas. I spent a good amount of time there, before moving on and picking out the remaining trees in autumn bloom. A good number of maple trees were still bearing red crowns, thankfully.

P.S. Along Seoulsup-gil which is just right outside the park, there is a small cafe district that I feel is worth heading to after a stroll in the park. 

4. Seodaemun Independence Park

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Nearest train station: Dongnimmun

The fall foliage at this park was an unexpected and surprising find. I alighted at Dongnimmun Station in hopes of finding the path through Ansan Park that would lead me up to Ansan Mountain, but didn’t manage to do so. 

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Instead, I found myself at Seodaemun Independence Park (did not even know the name of the park at that time), an important historic cultural site serving as a remembrance of Korean liberation activists during the Japanese colonial period. It is also the grounds of the Seodaemun Prison History Hall and Museum which was used to hold Korean independence fighters captive. 

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Several other monuments were erected in the park, and there were also many spaces provided for recreational and family activities. The historical site, together with the background of lush foliage in varying colours, created a grandiose sight.

5. Gyeongbokgung

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Nearest Station: Gyeongbokgung

Oh, the classic spot that I just couldn’t leave out of this post, no matter how well-known it already is. There are many spots to admire the fall foliage in the Gyeongbokgung premises and the surrounding neighborhoods, but one of my favorites is that along Hyoja-ro. Running along the West Wall of the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the road is methodically planted with gingko trees which turn bright yellow in autumn, and runs through a few neighborhoods like Hyoja-dong, Changseong-dong and Tongui-dong. Compared to the grounds of the palace and the very touristy neighborhoods on the East of the palace (where Bukchon and Samcheong-dong are), the West side is less crowded (with the exception of Tosokchon Samgyetang) and allows you to take in the foliage in a more tranquil manner. 

On the other side of Hyoja-ro, you can expect to find small museums, galleries and cafes, from which you can get a view of the foliage too.

And to Each Season, Gwangju 광주 카페 앤투잋시즌

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On that fine Monday afternoon, the city of Gwangju was oddly quiet. It was my first time stepping foot there, and I realized a little too late that I made a miscalculated move of visiting on a day when many cafes and stores in general were closed. Good thing, that one café I really wanted to visit was opened and my friend whom I went to see in Gwangju kindly brought me there.

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Situated in the café district of Yangnim-dong, And To Each Season opened in summer last year, a permanent spin-off from a design company cum café created by the owner to concentrate on serving coffee.

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Heading right in to the cozy nook of the café, the atmosphere was that of a tiny, snug cottage. I could tell that extra attention was put into the layout and details of the interior. Later, I found out that the furniture is mostly recycled, refurbished and mended by the owner from thrown out furniture… impressive.

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What also caught my eye was the ordering sheet for drinks. On a small piece not much larger than a name card, various options to customize your coffee are presented: First, pick your choice of beans from Brazil (Cerrado NY2), Guatemala (Antigua SHB) or Ethiopia (Yirgacheffe G1). Second, pick your caffeine intensity to be strong or basic. Third, cold or iced. And lastly, your type of coffee – Americano (5000KRW), Latte (5000KRW), or Deep Vanilla (5000KRW). The latte I got was very satisfiable, with the right amount of acidity and flavor I would like in my coffee.

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For non-coffee drinkers, Matcha (6000KRW) and seasonal fruit teas are also offered on the order sheet.

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Since the space was small and trapped sounds easily, I was more than delighted to have the entire café to ourselves, watching the stillness of the neighborhood from translucent white curtains that led in diffused sunlight. Perhaps visiting on a Monday was not such a bad idea after all.

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198-1 Yangnim-dong, Nam-gu, Gwangju, South Korea

12-6pm on weekdays, 12-9pm on weekends

Avec El Shop & Cafe, Seoul 서울 카페 아베크엘

The original text in English was first posted on DanielFoodDiary.com.

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아베크엘은 몇 년 전부터 정말 가 보고 싶었던 카페인데 저번 초겨울의 12월에 드디어 방문했다. 한 번도 아니고 그 한 달에 두 번 갔다.

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특히 첫 방문이 또렷이 기억난다.  온도가 영하8도인 날씨에 칼바람과 싸우던 내 초라한 모습. 서울역에서 후암동에 위치한 카페까지 걷던 오르막길들. 암튼 카페 문 열린 시간 직전에 도착했으니 다행이었다. 카페 내부 사진 많이 찍으려고 했으니까. 창가 자리도 잡으려고.

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내부는.. 뭐라고 할까.. 완전 취향저격. 일단 인테리어 자체는 새하얀 톤으로 했기에 넘 깔끔하고 맘에 쏙 든다. 게다가 미니멀한 소품으로 가득한 카페의 구석구석은 아기자기하며 매력적이었다. 마치 이케아 쇼룸처럼? 소품들 중 직접 살 수 있는 것도 있었던 것 같다.

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여긴 계절에 따라 계절적인 과일이 들어간 디저트가 특징이다. 그때 겨울이었으니 시즌 한정된 디저트는 다 딸기가 들어가 있더라.

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첫 방문 때 메이플라떼 (6000KRW)랑 눈길을 제일 끌어당긴 베리베리토스트 (7000KRW)를 시켰다. 시즌 한정 베리베리토스트는 토스트랑 위에 풍부하게 올려진 베리콤포트, 치즈크림, 딸기의 조합이 상큼달콤했다!

avecel11 메이플라떼는 메이플시럽이 들어가 있었기 땜에 커피가 달달하고 커피 맛 안 셌다.

avecel7 옆에 있었던 두 테이블의 여자분들이 나와 같은 토스트를 시켰는데 동시에 서서 토스트 사진 찍는 게 너무 웃기더라. 아마 반투명한 커튼으로 비쳐 들어온 그 날의 햇빛이 예뻐서 더 열심히 찍었던 것 같다.

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그리고 두 번째 방문은 3개 시켰다. 사실 딸기티라미수 (7000KRW)는 티라미수처럼 안 생겼다고 딸기 사이사이에 스펀지케이크 레이어 있었으면 좋겠다고 생각했다. 그럼에도 불고하고 상큼한 딸기가 맛있었다.

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햇빛이 비치면 비주얼이 빤짝빤짝거리는 딸기소다 (7000KRW). 생각보다 달콤했지만 워낙 단 걸 좋아해서 좋았다.

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딸기로 너무 오버할까 봐 시즌 드저트가 아닌 홍차쉬퐁케이크 (6500KRW)도 시켰다. 얼그레이 맛 살짝 나니까 담백한 케이크였다.

싱가폴에 돌아온데도 인스타 활동을 꾸준히 하니까 아베크엘의 2점 (메이종아베크엘)이 생긴다는 소식도 알게 됐다. 사실  올해의 5월에 서울에 여행하러 갔지만 시간이 모자라 못 갔음.

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서너 번 가더라도 지루함이 아예 느껴지지 않을 아베크엘 카페.

대한민국 서울특별시 용산구 후암동 41-1

12-8시, 일요일 휴무

Bibibidang, Busan – Traditional Korean Teahouse with a Scenic Sea View 부산 전통 찻집 비비비당

bibibidang7After a quick brunch at a café in the Haeundae district of Busan, I had planned to have dessert at Bibibidang, which happens to be located in a building nearby on the same road (Dalmaji-gil). It turns out that the entire building is managed by the same brand, with each level showcasing a different concept.

bibibidang6 Bibibidang, occupying the 4th floor of the building, is a traditional Korean tea house and dessert café that had opened its doors since 2012. Till today, it retains its popularity much thanks to the amazing view overlooking the East Sea from the café itself.

bibibidang3The name of the café has origins that are as interesting as its name sounds. In Buddhist cosmology, there exist 3 realms in which the highest point of attainment is termed 非想非非想天(bi-sang-bi-bi-sang-cheon in Korean romanization). This point is where all desires are overcome and is also said to be the equivalent of enlightenment. Thus, Bibibidang (a direct translation to Chinese would be 非非非堂), represents a space where one can dream of transcending that point.

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Being ushered in by a smartly uniformed waiter, I was surprised to find that the space was much more spacious than I expected, and that the scenic sea view could be seen from nearly every dining table. The café was further divided into a main hall with modern tables and chairs and a few Hanok style rooms with wooden floors, low dining tables and cushion seats. I went for the hanok-style table by the window.

On the menu, a wide variety of hot and cold teas including green teas, yellow teas, flower teas, grass field and mountain teas can be found.

bibibidang1However, instead of tea, I went for a popular dessert on the menu, the Sweet Pumpkin Bingsu (10,000KRW). Meant for 1 person’s portion, the bingsu was plated delicately on a wooden tray, together with small piece of tea confectionery (called dashik) on the side. Unlike any of the bingsus I’ve had, the top layer was slathered generously with sweet sauce, giving a sticky consistency. The shaved ice, a pure bright natural pumpkin orange, contained real chunks of pumpkin within, giving a rich and intense flavor.

bibibidang4 Another popular item on the menu is the Red Bean Porridge (8000KRW), perfect as a warm treat in winter.

bibibidang9Very much reluctant to leave the serenity of the café, I stayed for as long as my self-planned itinerary would permit. Perhaps one of the most peaceful time I’ve spent in a café.

4F, 239-16 Dalmaji-gil, Jung-dong, Haeundae, Busan, South Korea

11am to 10pm daily (except Mondays)

Choryang 845, Busan – Cafe and Restaurant with Comfort Food and View 부산 카페 맛집 초량 845

choryang845I’ve long heard of both cafes Choryang 1941 and Choryang 845 – the former being the first established outpost and the latter a new business concept and expansion by the same folks.

Café Choryang 1941 sits within an old Japanese house built in 1941 during the Japanese colonial period, hence its name. Meanwhile, the restaurant-café Choryang 845 is brilliantly (or effortlessly) named after its location itself, being situated in 845-1 Choryang-dong, a quiet, non-touristy neighborhood in Busan.

choryang84511Despite being on a hill in a less accessible district, getting there was fuss-free since there were direct buses running to and from Busan subway station and Choryang subway station, with not much walking required.

choryang1choryang2choryang4Amazing light and shadows in this biscuit store. Got some sesame crackers back.

Choryang 845 is situated within a building that houses a couple of shops and galleries which I browsed around, being attracted to the raw and minimalistic designs they bore. When I finally entered the café premises, I was in awe at how an old factory container was remodeled into the current chic space of the café. It was hard to grasp the design concept from the mismatched furniture yet it didn’t make me feel unsettled.

choryang84513choryang8459choryang8458I immediately picked a table right by the extensive glass windows. On that clear sunny day with no traces of micro dust in the air, the view overlooking the residential neighborhood of Choryang was comforting.

choryang8455There were separate sites for ordering food and drinks (+pastries). I ordered the Yuzu Hibiscus Tea (7,000KRW) from the barista by the coffee machine and it came in two pretty layers of red and yellow; I ordered the Korean Set Lunch (13,000KRW) that comes with rice and a variety of side dishes from the counter right in front of the kitchen.

choryang8456When I was there, I didn’t have time to look up what I was eating so I only recently looked them up again and translated them to English. Looking back at this list, I was reminded of how clean and healthy each dish tasted and how the entire set came together as a wholesome meal. My kind of comfort food for the soul.

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(Mainly for my reference since the side dishes change seasonally)

  • Perilla Seeds & Radish Leaf Soup
  • Multigrain Rice
  • Beef Brisket (on a bed of salad)
  • Glazed Sweet Potatoes
  • Paprika (napa) Cabbage Roll (with Yuzu dressing)
  • Vegetable & Mushroom Pancake (made with Kale, Cabbage, Carrot, Shiitake Mushrooms)
  • Kimchi (Napa Cabbage)
  • Seaweed Salad (topped with dried persimmon)
  • Tofu with Vegetables

Other than the set meal, other main courses like pastas and rice dishes are also on the menu, but I would skip the other mains and go for the luxurious set meal again. Regrettably, I didn’t manage to grab dessert at Choryang 1941, but I know I will be back to explore more of this quaint neighborhood.

choryang84512845-1 Choryang-dong, Dong-gu, Busan, South Korea

11am – 9pm daily (except Wednesdays)

5 Places I visited in Gangneung

gangneung16This short trip to the coastal city of Gangwon-do was an impromptu decision made just a week in advance, and it was really impromptu for someone like me who likes to have ample time to plan trips ahead.

gangneung17We arrived at night in a city, oddly quiet right from the radius of the KTX station itself. The walk to our AirBnB apartment (link here) opposite the station was slightly eerie with dimly lit paths and no one in sight – I couldn’t imagine if I had to be alone then. Thankfully, we arrived to a small but clean, cosy and warm (especially with the ondol floor) apartment that we liked immediately. I had a pretty good 2 nights of sleep despite sleeping on a floor mattress.

  1. BTS Bus Stop – Jumunjin Beach

gangneung1gangneung2Early in the morning, we headed out to our furthest destination on our roughly planned itinerary – Jumunjin Beach. From Gangneung KTX station, the ride by a public bus took about 45mins and we arrived at a near empty beach that morning.

gangneung12gangneung3While we were there, we also took a mandatory shot at the BTS Bus Stop (not an ARMY, but I have been listening to their music since I started listening to kpop).

  1. Jumunjin Breakwater

gangneung4Our next stop, Jumunjin Breakwater, was a tricky one to get to from Jumunjin Beach due to the odd intervals bus arrival times. Eventually, we gave up waiting for the bus and took one hour on foot to arrive at the breakwater. It was a decision we half-regretted – the walk along the coast was soothing initially until our weak bodies started to feel the physical toll.

gangneung14When we reached, I picked the most decent looking restaurant (called Lobstar) on the spot and entered. From the second level of the restaurant, there was a clear view of the several breakwaters extending out into the aquamarine sea. This included the specific breakwater that appeared in drama Goblin – it’s easily identifiable with a line of people waiting to snap some photos there.

  1. Ojukheon

After lunch and a mandatory photo op, we hopped back on a bus to Ojukheon, feeling ever so relieved that we didn’t wait long for it. This attraction is the birthplace and residence of historical figures Shin Saimdang and Yulgok Yi I – try to find them on the 5000KRW note and 50,000KRW note. Also spotted some beautiful trees in the color transition phase.

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  1. Sonamujib Chodang Soondubu – 354-4 Chodang-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon-do

From Ojukheon, we went to Seongyojang House and spent a very short 15 minutes there before moving on to our planned dinner venue, the Chodang-dong Soondubu Village. By this time, we got pretty jaded from the bus rides and switched to taxis to commute. The ride by cab to the village took less than 15 minutes.soontofugelato1soontofugelato2

I found out about this village from a friend who highly recommended me the famous soondubu gelato from a store in the village. The unlucky me stumbled upon the ice cream store’s break time as soon as we arrived, so we took a detour on foot to the nearby Gangmun Beach (~15 mins walk) before returning.

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We ordered the Soondubu Gelato (3500KRW) and Halla Green Tea Gelato (3500KRW) to share. Tofu has been one of the most essential food in my life (I eat it almost everyday) so I was excited and had high expectations for the soondubu gelato especially. With its smooth texture, aromatic fragrance of tofu and light yet distinctive soondubu flavor, it hit my expectations easily. The green tea gelato was forgettable, on the other hand.

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Unsure of which restaurant in the village served the best soondubu, we ate at the same restaurant which operated the gelato store to play it safe. The tofu here reminded me of the tofu my grandmother used to make.

  1. Nov 12 Café – 5 Gangneung-daero 202beon-gil, Gangneung, Gangwon-do. 12pm – 9pm daily except Wednesdays

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Nov 12 was a charming café and pit stop on the way to Gangneung’s Jungang Market that we looked up online and visited on the spot due to freedom of time on our second day.

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This small cosy nook, with its white walls and wooden furniture-filled interior, won our approval from the start when we entered as the first customers of the day.

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I had a Latte (5000KRW) and Chocolate Chip Scone (3500KRW), both of which were decently good. Turns out that the beans used are from Manufact Coffee.

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I usually visit the Jungang Market as a final stop in each city in Korea and try a couple of snacks from stores that boast long queues. At Gangneung Jungang Market, I tried the garlic bun – the best one I’ve ever tried.

Daejeon Cafe-hop – Halfrest, 100sheets 대전 카페 하프레스트, 백시트

A short 26 hours in Daejeon, a city known for its research institutes and its being at the crossroads of transport lines running in South Korea. Getting around the city was just as fuss-free as getting to it by a 1-hour ride on the KTX. The sole subway line takes you to most places you will need to go, and you can count on buses to get to less accessible neighborhoods (though frequencies of buses vary).

On top of visiting the usual tourist spots (Skyroad, Daedong Sky Park, Expo Park & Bridge, Yuseong Foot Spa and Sungsimdang Bakery), I squeezed in time for just 2 cafes that were on my list.

Halfrest

482-5 Oncheon 2(i)-dong, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon, South Korea

12pm to 10pm daily (except Tuesday)

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Just a short walk away from KAIST and Chungnam University is Café Halfrest, which is also accessible from Yuseong Spa subway station by a 15min walk. Note that the café is not visible from the main road – you’ll have to turn into a small alley to get you to the other side.

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The atmosphere in the café was very much soothing, and I believe the part-Scandinavian interior played a huge role in that. We managed to grab the best seat in the house – a round table lined with white linen tablecloth, flanked by rattan and wooden chairs with white seat cushions.

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Coffee here was decent, but compared to the Café Latte (4000KRW) we had, the Apple Earl Grey Tea (5500KRW) was more memorable for me, thanks to its sweet and refreshing taste.

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We also chose the Madeleine (2500KRW) and Apple Crumble (5500KRW) from the small selection of pastries available. Both were good, especially the apple crumble despite it not being heated up.

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After our tea break, we walked down the main road to Yuseong Foot Spa, a natural hotspring for your feet that is open free of charge to the public. Amidst receiving looks of wonder from the all-native crowd at the hot spring, I rested and recharged my feet in the relaxing outdoors of this small city.

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100sheets

2F, 36 Daeheung-ro 121beon-gil, Daeheung-dong, Jung-gu, Daejeon, South Korea

12pm – 10pm daily

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I first discovered this café on Instagram and told my friend that we just have to visit – you can see why from the interior itself.

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After a flight of stairs to the second floor, I came face to face with the vast expanse of café space. Except for the concrete floor, every corner was white-washed, and together with the windows letting in a good amount of sunlight, it felt like heaven to me.

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Being the first customer of the day, I basked in a good 10-15mins of photo-taking time before the café became slowly filled, and before I finally decided on my order.

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Feeling slightly adventurous, we ordered the Strawberry Latte (5,500KRW), not knowing how it would look like, and the more ordinary Lime and Lemon Soda (5,500KRW). The strawberry latte turned out having a higher ratio of pink than expected, and a more artificial shade of pink than what I had imagined. Perhaps a regular cup of white coffee would’ve been better.

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Since they brand themselves as a “pancake club”, we just had to try the pancakes here for ourselves. We opted for the Fresh Fruit Pancake (13,000KRW) that came topped with seasonal fruits and ice cream. From its aesthetically pleasing visuals, I was expecting a fluffy texture but unfortunately it tasted too moist and eggy. Sigh.

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I also got a sandwich which came stuffed with a generous amount of spam and vegetables but felt like it was something I could easily make at home.

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Not gonna lie, I left feeling disappointed with the food. Well, at least the photos turned out good, and I was on a relaxing weekend trip.

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