I think I lost weight and I’m basing it on how my jawline is visible again. Since the Guimaras trip where I lamented the fact that I’m too fat for my swimsuit, I’m that my fitness efforts seem to be working. I limited my junk food intake, I do intermittent fasting, I don’t overeat, and I work out at least 3x a week. Slowly but surely, the weight has begun to shed off. So how do I celebrate the return of my jawline? By having a doughnut that’s how. Today, I googled a cafe I haven’t tried yet and found Poison Coffee & Doughnut.
And I was like, oh that’s why.
Angkas driver and I got lost a little bit trying to find it. It turns out it’s inside this place called Karrivin Plaza in Chino Roces extension. Within Karrivin Plaza is a compound called The Alley which houses art galleries, furniture shops, and a few dining options. Poison Coffee & Doughnut can be found at the end of this alley.
It’s a Sunday, most of the establishments are closed but Poison is opened, yay! I entered an empty, dimly lit space, with a neon sign above the counter. There go the doughnuts on display beside the coffee machine. The entire place is dark, tall ceiling, dark stained tables
The only way you can get decent photos is to use the flash or use the manual setting in your camera, which I did because you know, I was born ready hehe…
I asked for their bestseller doughnut, the barista mentioned three of them, glazed vanilla, egg custard brûlée, and salted dark chocolate. I almost selected the egg custard but it doesn’t have a hole, so I chose salted dark chocolate (₱60 – $1.11). Yes I know, not all doughnuts have holes, but it’s my first time there so I wanted to take a photo of a doughnut that actually looks like a regular doughnut; the one with the hole. I know, my reason is weird, but fudge logic.
The dough and the chocolate frosting are not overly sweet. The verdict, I liked it as I’m not a fan of diabetes-inducing doughnuts (yes I’m talking to you Krispy Kreme).
Then I ordered coffee. I looked at the menu, they just put them all under 4 categories; black, white, mocha, cold. Not sure if I mentioned this before but I usually take my coffee black. The only time I make an exemption is when I go to some fancy cafe that I haven’t tried before, in which case, I order flat white. Poison’s menu is pretty straightforward though, no fancy names like flat white or latte, it’s just all under their White category, comes in different cup sizes. I ordered the 7oz white coffee for ₱135 ($2.49).
Girl, the coffee is killing it! It wasn’t bitter at all, something I’ve gotten used to on specialty coffee. It was very creamy and 7 oz is not enough. I’d definitely order a bigger cup next time. Hell yes, there will be the next time, I still have to try that doughnut without a hole (egg custard brûlée) and I have to take my friends there too because that’s what I do when I like a place, I come back with an army of hungry people.
I brought a book that I’d been procrastinating on for months hoping to finish it. I thought I might just be able to get it done because I got all the cafe to myself. As soon as I said this in my head, groups of people came trooping in, some of them even had kids with them. I stared at them and I
I consider Guesthouse Woody a lucky find when I booked this accommodation 2 days shy of my flight to Seoul. I found it on the fifth-page results of Airbnb, most lodgings in the listing were either too expensive or no longer available on my desired dates. It had good reviews and for 5 days of stay, I only paid ₱3,554.00. Hotels in South Korea are bloody expensive, this was already a steal. I loved everything about it even when I got lost trying to find my way there.
Guesthouse Woody is owned by a guy in his 20s whose Korean name means “wood” in English, thus the name of his accommodation. Woody speaks excellent English making communication a breeze. He is quite responsive when you send him an inquiry or a message. In Airbnb, he is ranked as a “Superhost,” which in Airbnb world means an experienced host, highly rated by his previous guests.
The guesthouse sits in a posh and quiet neighborhood in Mapo-Gu, Seoul, about 10 minutes away from Hongik Univ Station. It’s located in a 3-story building with a rooftop; it has dorm rooms with shared bathrooms and toilets. The place has a clean, nice
I stayed in a room with 3 double-deck beds. There is no locker, guests just put their belongings either beside or below the beds. Towels and toiletries are provided for and there’s also free breakfast (instant coffee, toast, jam, and cereals).
The kitchen is so cute and probably my favorite place in this guesthouse. It has a red vintage looking fridge, washing machine and dryer, bread toaster, and a microwave oven.
When I checked in, there is another guest, a Chinese girl who seemed to have made herself quite comfortable in the room, and by that I mean her stuff is all over the room. She occupied the bed across from mine yet her bag is under my bed. Her notebooks, toiletries, clothes are strewn about that I thought, she should have gotten a private room.
A day after, a bespectacled French guy was billeted in the same room with us. Unlike the girl, I was able to talk with this guy and I even attempted to converse with him in French so I can practice. Unfortunately, he wasn’t too keen on the idea and still replied in English (bummer).
Here’s a little tour inside Guesthouse Woody.
Woody invited me as well as the other guests to his friend’s pub at Baekbeomno, Hyochange-dong. I was the only one who said yes as the others have already made plans on the same day. It was the night before I left Seoul, I thought, why not, might as well talk with a local.
It proved to be a good decision. Woody is fun to talk to, he has a sense of humor, and he is very smart. From this conversation, I learned so much about the Korean culture like the fact that when they are born, they are automatically 1 year old. He said that he is close with his mom who does the famous 10-step Korean skincare routine everyday. All South Korean men are mandated to do a military service for 2 years. I asked him if he has already gone to the military, he said yes.
I shared with him the popularity of South Korean dramas in the Philippines and that they were part of the reasons I wanted so much to visit their country. I mentioned a few titles but he doesn’t know any of them. He said that he is not that fond of TV shows and prefer movies. The movie industry and the TV industry are two different things in South Korea he said. They usually cast what they call “idols” (K-pop music artists) for the dramas.
I told him that Kdramas are so big in the Philippines many girls were excited when they found about a service wherein you can rent an
By the way, the food in this pub is good! Also, it’s the place where I found the best beer I have ever had in my life, a Belgian strawberry flavored beer called, Früli.
So if you ever decide to book your stay at his guesthouse and Woody invites you to his friend’s pub, don’t hesitate to go. The food there is great and Woody is such a good company.
During our walk back to his guesthouse, Woody was on the phone talking with someone. He later shared that a friend of his just broke up with her boyfriend and he was trying to console her. What a nice guy.
The only disadvantage that I could think of when it comes to staying at Guesthouse Woody is the fact that it’s a bit of a walk to the Hongik Univ Station. Personally, I didn’t mind the walk, the neighborhood is safe and I could use some exercise. I imagine though that it might become a challenge to people who hate walking.
Overall, Guesthouse Woody offers a decent and comfortable place to stay in Seoul. I give it
I would remember that Friday as the day I flew to South Korea, but to the Koreans, the 27th of April bears a historical significance. It marked the day of the first meeting of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un and South Korean president, Moon Jae-in during a summit. The two heads of states had a symbolic meeting in the military demarcation line in the Joint Security Area of Panmunjeom. Since the end of the Korean War in the 1950s, this is the first time a North Korean leader has entered the South Korean soil. I saw it on the news while on a bus going to Hongdae. It may not have that much of an impact on me or other Filipinos, but for some reason, I feel fortunate that such a momentous event coincided with my first visit to South Korea.
Seoul is the capital of South Korea and the 4th largest metropolis in the world. The city has 25 districts, over 9.8 million in population, and 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It can be found in the northwest side of the country, strategically located over the Han River. Its main airport is Incheon International Airport where my plane landed.
I have a friend who was also visiting South Korea at the same time I did. I mentioned that I was ordering a SIM card via Klook. She said that she would be renting a WiFi device and that I could just tether to it, discouraging me from getting the card. I thought about my options, we wouldn’t be staying in the same place and I’d fly to Seoul several hours ahead of her, not having my own source of the Internet in a non-English speaking country would be a terrible idea. Thus, I went against her advice and got myself a SIM card. It turned out to be a sound decision as my friend had a credit card problem that she wasn’t able to get the WiFi device.
It’s a KT Olleh SIM Card with unlimited 4g/LTE data connection. For 5 days of use, I paid ₱1,197.0 ($22.83 ). It has 120 hours of validity with free incoming voice calls and incoming text messages. I claimed it at the KT Roaming Center, 1st floor, Gate 4-5 of Incheon Airport.
In Manila, the train system is so horrific, I avoid it like a plague. But when I travel abroad, especially to the more developed countries, the train is my most preferred mode of transportation. It’s the cheapest, fastest, and easiest way to get around the city. I purchased an Amazing Pay T-Money before I left the airport and used it on trains and buses around Seoul.
Bus to Hongdae
The airport has a bus terminal that could take passengers to the different parts of the city. I could get there a lot faster by train, but I wasn’t in a hurry and took the bus instead.
While searching for lodging in Seoul, it was a choice between Myeongdong, the shopping district of Seoul and the more hipster, Hongdae in Mapo-gu. The lure of the urban arts and indie music culture of Hongdae is what ultimately compelled me to choose it over Myeongdong. From Incheon, a bus ride to this region takes about an hour.
Getting lost at Hongdae
I took off when the bus stopped at Hongik Univ station. My Airbnb host sent me detailed instructions with screenshots on how to get to his guesthouse. I was supposed to take the Hongik Univ station exit 2. I approached two girls in the waiting shed and asked where exit 2 is. They looked and whispered to one another, stared at me, and said that they don’t know. I later realized that they don’t speak English so they denied that they knew the place even when, in fact, they did. Why did I come to the conclusion that they lied to me? Well, Exit 2 happens to be just across the street. They looked like they are students in the area, it’s unlikely they don’t have any idea where Exit 2 is.
Hongdae to Seoul is what the university belt is to Manila. The population is markedly young, mostly students studying around that area. The majority of them are wearing stylish and trendy clothing that it’s the few drably dressed who stood out. In this respect, they reminded me a lot of the Japanese who also like to dress impeccably.
With my backpack and small luggage in tow, I spent almost an hour searching for the guesthouse. I know that I mentioned the host sent me an instruction with pictures, despite these, I still managed to get myself lost. Adding to my frustration is the fact that Google Maps is almost useless in South Korea as it doesn’t work in walking directions.
I approached people on the street to ask for directions but because most of them don’t speak English, they couldn’t really help me. There was this one guy who spoke good English but he didn’t know where the location is. I booked this Airbnb accommodation because it was inexpensive but it looks good on pictures. It also has good reviews from previous guests who said that the place is in a quiet neighborhood. What I didn’t expect is that it would be a long walk from the Hongik Univ station and that it would be hard to find. I wanted to cry and started regretting my decision for choosing it.
I think I stayed for like 20 or 30 minutes on the side of the street figuring out what to do. I searched the Internet and found out about Kakao Map. I downloaded the app right away and since the name of the guesthouse itself is not listed on the map, I figured I should just enter the shop sitting next to it, Chirlo. I sent the screenshot to my host for confirmation, he answered in affirmative.
I continued walking, this time with the help of Kakao Map. I felt a wave of relief wash over me when I finally saw the building of the Airbnb that took me forever to find, Guesthouse Woody.
Getting lost at Dongdaemun
My friend and I agreed to meet that evening but she wouldn’t be arriving until 8 or 9 p.m. I found myself with a renewed energy after a quick rest in the guesthouse so I decided to explore the city. I walked several blocks until I reached the Hongik Univ station where I took the subway to Dongdaemun.
Remember the title of this post? Well, I chose it for a reason. I was originally intending to visit Cheonggyecheon River but I got lost again! I just continued walking and realized that I was already hungry. I saw a line of food carts on the side of a street and decided to get something to eat. It turned out to be my first greatest find in Seoul; the most delicious spicy cheese ramen.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza
It was already dark so I gave up on the idea of finding the river. Besides, I doubt it would look half as beautiful as when it is under daylight. Getting lost in a city is not necessarily a bad thing as proven by this incident. Because I got lost, I had unwittingly led myself to one of the best spots to see in Seoul, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP).
DDP is a major urban landmark in Seoul. It has art halls, museums, retail stores, media halls, and parks. It holds different events such as art exhibitions, musical concerts, fashion shows, and forums.
I walked around to check it out and found live musical performances, food trucks, and this beautiful garden of LED roses.
See, getting lost is not that bad.
Seoul night scene
I went back to Hongdae to a cafe called, Golden Crema to wait for my friend, Krish. The cafe is busy but I managed to find empty seats by the window. I ordered a mocha latte then the barista handed me a restaurant pager, only it doesn’t look like your typical coaster pager, this one has a small TV screen showing ads, so cute!
Krish arrived with a Korean-Filipino friend of hers who grew up in the States named, Lino. What ensued is a night of bar-hopping around Mapo-gu. We started in a crowded resto-bar where we tried what they call Buchimgae or Korean pancake. It’s basically pancakes ingredients, e.g., spam, okra, crab, fish soaked in the egg or batter then fried in a pan. They were delicious. In the middle of our late dinner, a soft-spoken, skinny Korean guy who is a friend of Lino joined us.
After our late dinner, we ambled toward the streets and found this open space teeming with young people drinking, hanging out, and watching street performers. I kinda wish there is a place in the Philippines like this where people are free to go and showcase their talent or enjoy indie music on the street.
We went to two more bars; one played EDM filled with people in their teens, the other played Korean traditional music that catered to a more mature audience, probably in their 40s. It fascinated me to see the contrast between the two. While the young people in the first bar danced slowly like they were high on something, the second bar had a more festive atmosphere with patrons dancing, laughing, and singing along to every goddamn song played that night. It seems like the older people knew how to party better than their juniors.
I’ve lost track of time and I’m not sure what time we called it a night. The two men walked Krish and me to our respective places of accommodation. By this time the cold had gotten worst, seeping through my clothing, chilling me to the bones. I’ve lost count of the times that Lino said that it’s cold, which he interchanged with, “your place is fudging far.” They had chosen to take another path so I didn’t know how to go back to the guesthouse anymore. Thus, even if I wanted to walk home on my own, I couldn’t send them away.
Finally, we reached the guesthouse, gave them a very awkward quick hug, said my goodbye, then I went inside. And that’s how my first day in South Korea went.
That night, I received a lot of compliments for my red dress. It was some time in December, I was in the media event of AirAsia. Actor Chuckie Dreyfus, the night’s host was calling out the name of the winners for the raffle. I was sitting among the other bloggers in a long table and most people who were on that table had already won something. Beside me was my friend and fellow blogger, Karla whose excitement was so high it was almost palpable. She kept saying that she wanted to win in time for her birthday in January. I kept my cool; I was in between hopes of winning and keeping expectations to a minimum. The next prize was a roundtrip ticket to any direct international destination, all eyes were on Chuckie as he called out the winner. The first name, he mispronounced, but the last name was unmistakable. I waited for him to reread the name just to be sure, he got it right the second time, “Marjorie Gavan.”
I caught a buzz from all the wine that I had been drinking yet it wasn’t enough to abate my glee. But I maintained my composure, stood up from my seat, and started walking toward the host. Before I even got there, I had predetermined my destination. “This is it, Marge,” I told myself, “you are going to South Korea.“
The beginning of my South Korean dream
Following the rise of Asian Filipino-dubbed dramas in 2003, GMA 7, a local television network brought the first Korean series in the Philippines, Bright Girl. I came to watch this series in the middle of its airing because my cousins were so into it, curiosity got the better of me. I don’t recall much of the story’s details but I remember being instantly hooked the moment I started watching it. This is the first Korean series and the one that got me initiated to this whole Korean drama wave. Over the years I watched as many Kdramas as I could, preferring it over shows from other Asian countries. Among my personal favorites are Full House, Goblin, Scarlet Ryeo Moon Lovers, and Signal.
Before the Asian dramas became popular in the Philippines, Filipinos were served with shows that have overused plotlines [the kid who grew up poor turned out to be the missing daughter of a rich family; “kabit” (mistress) series; the climax always in a warehouse and somebody getting kidnapped] for so many years. If that’s not bad enough, these shows also took forever to finish.
Koreanovelas, as we call them locally are such a breath of fresh air. They usually last for only 16 episodes, they have unique plot lines, and most of the time, even when there’s an evil villain they don’t end up in an abandoned building for the penultimate shoot down. Koreans are also better at making romantic stories; they don’t go for cheesy lines and even when their kissing scenes are usually rigid or too wholesome for comfort, the employ techniques that are effective in inducing that
The interesting plot lines are just one of the things I love about these shows. They often film in the most beautiful locations in South Koreaworst incidents and that’s what got me dreaming of going there. Wouldn’t it be amazing to visit the dreamy setting of the popular series, Winter Sonata?
But what the hell is an “Oppa?”
To the uninitiated, Oppa is the term used by a woman to refer to her older brother or men who are senior to her. Younger men use another term to address their older brother and that is “Hyung.” To refer to older women, young girls use the word, “Unnie,” while men call them “Noona.”
Now going back to Oppa, I gathered that this term has another connotation. Some women call men with whom they have a romantic interest as Oppa. In the Philippines, due to the influx of Korean dramas, the word has taken a new meaning. If you hear this from Filipino girls, chances are they are using it to refer to a cute Korean guy. Yes, he must be cute as the leading men in Korea dramas that we binge on.
There is a new Korean visa application process for Filipinos starting July this year, which I didn’t experience because I processed my visa in March. The old application involved submitting the required documents yourself to the South Korean Embassy in Taguig. Back then I had to fall and wait in a long queue outside the embassy. I haven’t the mind to bring an umbrella so I don’t even know how I was able to withstand hours standing there with the sun bearing down on me.
With the new process, visa application must go through a travel agency, meaning you don’t have to go through the penance-like setting that I had the misfortune of experiencing. For more information on the visa application, I found a pretty detailed guide on How to get a Korean Visa here.
I emailed the AirAsia representative written on the voucher that I won in the event to book my flight. It was all a little bit last minute, I have yet to book my accommodation, but my leave vacation has already been approved that I got so worried when it took her a while to get back to me. Finally, it got sorted out; my flight was booked on the 27th of April to the 2nd of May.
Sidenote: This is not the first time that I won an AirAsia flight. As a matter of fact, I scored a roundtrip trip to Iloilo at another AirAsia event in the early part of this year. I have yet to write that story.
To continue, I usually fly at night where I encountered some of the
And you’ve reached the end of the first part. In the next few days, I will share to you what went down
Thanks to Manny Pacquiao, the Philippines has been put into the map where the sport of punching people is concerned. Of course, you know what I mean, boxing, and it’s the one thing I never thought I’d ever do, much less enjoy, but you’re now reading this post, which could only mean one thing, I loved it! Okay, got overly excited there.
I just happen to see the Instagram story of my friend, Cathy, one day when she went to a boxing gym. Just like that, I decided I wanna try boxing and asked her to come with me. I remembered I have another friend who has been boxing for a long time, Krish, so I asked her too and that’s how this boxing trio came to be.
Elorde Boxing Gym
Elorde is a reputable boxing gym named after one of the greatest Filipino boxers that ever lived, Gabriel “Flash” Elorde. There are numerous Elorde gyms in Metro Manila, the one that we visited is in Arnaiz, Makati as recommended by Krish.
The gym is small and old, with several gym equipment, such as heavy bags, double-end bags, dumbbells and barbells, a power rack, and a boxing ring. I liked that there weren’t many people around when we visited, which means I had a few witnesses to my embarrassment, haha…
They also offer Muay-thai training but since I haven’t tried that one yet, I’ll just give you the boxing training rates:
- Walk-in: ₱350
- Member: ₱200
- Annual Membership Fee: ₱1,000
Krish brought a purple-colored hand-wrap for me, this is used to protect the hand and wrist against injuries. You can rent them at Elorde but for hygienic purposes, it’s best that you purchase and bring your own. After our training, I bought my own hand-wrap from Landmark for ₱250. As with the gloves, you can rent them for ₱50. I’d probably buy my own once I’ve enrolled in a boxing gym.
Krish, having done this longer than us, has already mastered the moves, Cathy tried it before, and then there’s me, the only newbie in the group. Krish specifically asked for Kuya Edel, who she said, is the most sought-after and the best trainer in that gym. He is a dark-skinned man with a mustache, probably in his 50s, and a former professional boxer.
He was the only trainer who assisted us, so I had a lot of downtimes when it was either Cathy or Krish’s turn. We started with the hand-wrap, Kuya Edel did mine and I cringed a little at how it tight it was, it felt like the blood in my hands had been restricted.
I started with the double-bags and though it looked simple on movies, it wasn’t. It required timing, a tempo that I couldn’t ace. It had me frustrated but I had to keep telling myself that I am new to all this, I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.
Finally, it was my turn to work the pads but first, I had to learn the footwork. Kuya Edel instructed me to keep my left foot forward while my right foot stays in the back. I had to bend my knees a little and have to keep them soft, so were my ankles. Many times, Kuya Edel asked me to pivot, but whatever happens, I had to end up in a stance in which I am facing him.
He then taught me the basic punches, jab, straight, uppercut, and hook. There was a moment when Kuya Edel got frustrated that I couldn’t get it right that he took off my gloves and taught me the techniques first until he was confident that I got the basics down pat.
Each round lasts for 3 minutes, after which, you would hear a bell ring. I can’t remember the last time I had been this absorbed with a task. It seems like all the outside noise has been muted and all I could hear was Kuya Edel’s voice. He told me to move forward, jab, uppercut, straight, hook, then repeat. I started out real slow and weak, fully aware of just how awkward my movements are.
I’ve been doing the 16-hour intermittent fasting so I went to the gym with an empty stomach. I found out soon that this was not a good idea. I felt my stomach grumbling the entire time and I also felt weak. They advised me to eat a light breakfast next time at least 2 hours before the training.
I don’t know what it’s called but on my next round, Kuya Edel wrapped something around my waist that is tied to a pole. It created resistance and forced me to use all of my strength so I could get closer to him and throw punches. It amped up the difficulty like 10 times. I was only able to do 3 rounds of it because it made me more hungry and turned my knees to jelly.
You can watch my vlog about this boxing experience in this video below.
It wasn’t easy but not as hard as I imagined it to be. I wasn’t happy that I was stiff and slow, but then I am a beginner, that’s to be expected. All in all, I enjoyed boxing that I decided to keep doing it. I love how it made my heart race, how it successfully made me maintain my focus (coming from a restless person, that’s a huge statement), and the fact that it was tough yet it felt like I was just playing a game.
Kuya Edel was awesome! He was quite patient with us and maintained a good sense of humor when we didn’t get it right. It is no wonder that many customers prefer to train under him.
The trio has agreed to meet again this coming Saturday for another round of boxing sessions. Not sure what my boxing future is, but I hope that the next time I talk about this here in my blog, I have already improved a lot, not just with my boxing skills, but as far as my overall fitness is concerned.