Sunday, December 28, 2014

Father and Daughter's Experience at Pyeongchang Trout Festival

Happy mood right from the start as we wait for our shuttle bus, but at the wrong corner! Luckily we walked to the other side of this shop just before 8am and found the bus waiting for us!
If there was one thing that I would really like to do during our recent trip to Seoul, it was to try out ice-fishing together with my daughter. And to make sure that I really get to do that, I did some online research even before flying over to Korea, and found the easiest way (and cheapest too) for me to get to the heart of all the action, Hwacheon-Gun, Gangwon-Do. Apparently to encourage more tourists to the area, Gangwon Province is running a heavily discounted shuttle bus service between Seoul and Gangwon at only 5,000won per pax for a return trip. Check out their website for their bus schedule and online bookings.

This is where we stopped for our 15mins toilet break.
The weather was extremely cold and the roads were slippery! But scenery was really nice!
We had to get up really early to ensure that we get to the meeting point at Gwanghwamun Square on time. It takes more than 2hrs for us to get to Gangwon-Do, with only a toilet break in between. It was almost like a JB trip from Singapore, with a Yong Peng stopover. The scenery was absolutely beautiful, especially for me, who had never ever seen snow. But I must say we weren’t that well prepared for the extreme cold weather. It was already over 11am when we got to Pyeongchang Trout Festival site, and we were really excited to start fishing! But first, we had to decide on what type of fishing we would want. One can either opt for the open ice-fishing at 13,000won with absolutely no protection from the cold winter winds, or do a tent-fishing at 20,000won. And lastly, there was even bare-handed fish catching at 20,000won as well, but I am not even going to think about that after experiencing the COLD!

You might think what's the big deal about those tents, but when the wind really blows, you would wish you had one!
Here's where all the other fishermen fish, out there in the open and exposed to the full elements.
We chose the tent-fishing but as luck have it, the tickets were all sold out! We thus have to settle with the normal ice-fishing and proceeded to get our rods, which were priced at 3,000won and 6,000won each, depending on the type of artificial bait attached to the line. These were the cheapest rods, and there were of course, lots of more “advanced” gear for the fishing enthusiasts. I took Steffi’s hands and went straight for the nearest “hole in the ice” for the start of our "chilling" out. Steffi even scored an interview with their local mandarin television station! 

The holding area just before the entrance to the fishing ground. Where food and drinks were sold as well.
And here's the entrance to the fishing ground!
Children's favorite, huge hot dogs.
Chicken skewers in sweet sauce and breaded dog.
Steffi enjoying one in-between our fishing.
This is how the fishing hole looks like. 
Woohoo! We settled into the first empty hole we chanced upon.
Steffi started playing the fool already.
Steffi with a group photo with the television crew!
There were people catching fishes intermittently around us during our 2 hours of moving our arms up and down trying to entice the trout to bite the artificial bait. But we didn’t had much luck and Steffi got a little bored and started to play with ice and snow instead. It was so cold that ice formed on our fishing lines even as we move it up and down the hole and my hand would go numb in about 5 seconds after removing the glove to text or reply messages!

Steffi with some of the trouts that the other fishermen caught.
Before we got here, I never thought about where exactly all the trouts came from but when we didn’t catch any, I decided to snoop around and find out. We came across a truck that was transporting fishes to the river and realized that we had chance upon the holding area for ALL the trouts. Steffi was even given access into the area and we saw lots of fishes in the tanks! So now it dawned on me that fishing at the trout festival was really much like fishing at Pasir Ris fishing pond, except that the surface was frozen in the former! There were also regular replenishment of fishes into the river so that more people get the chance for a hookup.

Here's the tractor that was transporting fishes down to the river, for us to catch!
Steffi was given a tour of the holding area of all the trouts!
And in these holding tanks were ALL the trouts meant for the fishing festival!
So what do the people do to their catches? One can either get the fish processed raw as sashimi, or get it grilled the traditional way over firewood by the professionals. I didn’t manage to find out how much the services would have cost, for we didn’t catch any fishes but we do know that half a portion of sashimi cost 10,000won while the grilled fish cost 20,000won. We tried the sashimi and although the flesh looks (and tastes) like salmon, the texture was much more chewy than our regular salmon. Considering that this is a freshwater trout, the flesh is indeed nice and of course it was really fresh too.

This "foodcourt" is where one can purchase wonderfully delicious trout sashimi if one fails to catch any.
Steffi with our 10,000won worth! Yummy!
Here is where one can get their prized catch grilled to perfection by the experts.
Steffi with the firework used for the grilling. Whole fishes are sold at 20,000won a piece.
A great place to hide from the cold weather and to keep the tummy filled.
With our lack of luck (and skills) in fishing, we decided to call it a day and went walking around the entire area. There were slides made of ice blocks for the kiddos, as well as ice-sculptures scattered around the festival area. One would need to purchase tickets for the individual rides, or for entry into the ice-sledge or snow-tubing area. It would be a great place for little kiddos who like to experience the ice and snow play but unfortunately for us on a day trip, we do not have the luxury of time. We only had around 4 hours of actual play time before we need to board the bus for our trip back to Seoul. Now that I know exactly what to expect, the next trip with the entire family would be better planned, with perhaps a night or two stay over at Gangwon, with perhaps snow-skiing at nearby resorts thrown in as well.

We walked around the festival ground and took in the wonderful but cold atmosphere.
Steffi trying out the free rides.
There were also snow sculptures everywhere.
Here are some of the artists behind the sculptures with Steffi,
Steffi posing on one of the block of ice.
Steffi would have loved to try out the snow-tubing but we were really running out of time.
Here is one section of the river used for ice-sledging the traditional Korean way.
Until next time, it’s back to warm and rainy Singapore for now, but the memories of our first snow and ice-fishing encounter will forever be etched in our minds. A wonderful bonding trip between father and daughter.

I hope Steffi enjoyed the trip as much as I did with her around.
We simply loved the snow and the entire atmosphere. 
Aww... after only around 4hrs at the place, we had to board the bus for our return trip back to Seoul.
If you happen to be in Seoul from now till 08 February, you might want to consider a day trip to the Pyeongchang Trout Festival, with the cheapest and fuss free transport option by booking online here. There is also a Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival from 10 Jan - 01 Feb 2015 that may be nice too! Have fun everyone!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Swensen's Celebrates SG50 with Special Menu

It’s only a few more days before we enter into the new year and as everyone SHOULD know by now, SG50 is going to be the buzz word for the whole of next year! Most, if not all companies were quick to jump onto the SG50 bandwagon. Singapore has come so far since independence and I guess it is only right that we reflect on what we have done well so far and celebrate this joyous occasion. 

Swensen’s is no exception and we were delighted to be one of the first few to taste their new offerings for 2015, as part of their SG50 celebrations. Swensen’s localised special dishes for SG50 will definitely tantalize your taste buds (we tried), but will not hurt your wallet! There will be twelve dishes to look forward to, as Swensen’s will introduce ONE special dish per month for the ENTIRE 2015! Allow me to take you through what to expect for the first quarter now. 

January - Laksa Aglio Olio with King Prawns ($14.90) 

I love Laksa for the thick and flavorful gravy with coconut milk and I wondered how this dry version would taste like. I had tried dry Laksa spaghetti before and it tasted EXACTLY like Laksa, except that the gravy was condensed to a sauce form, so it wasn’t really a surprise. But this is Aglio Olio we are taking about. I was sian 1/2 when the dish arrived, because I hated Laksa leaves and the entire plate was full of it that it looked green. I took one mouthful, and then the next and for some weird reasons, I don’t seem to HATE it as much already. Maybe it’s because of the preparation style, the oil and everything. The 3 king prawns had a great texture (think HK Dim Sum) and were delish! However my wife found the dish a little “jelat” as it was a little too oily for her towards the end. Overall, it doesn't taste like our regular Laksa, but more of Laksa leaves instead. Still nice though, but renaming is Laksa Leaves Aglio Olio might align diner’s expectations better.

Stacci showing off our plate of spaghetti!
Laksa Aglio Olio with King Prawns that were really succulent! 
February – Grilled Chicken with Spicy Satay Sauce ($14.90) 

Have you ever had satay with the meat that was way too dry and tasteless? Or with watered-down satay sauce? That really spoils the mood, especially if one is hungry but no worries with this dish! The chicken meat we had was well-marinated, grilled to perfection and tasted wonderful with just a little dab of the satay sauce. As if finishing the meat alone is not enough to fill your stomach, the dish also comes with fragrant pineapple fried rice and a mixed salad (with our favorite onions as well). With the kids around, the crispy keropok (prawn crackers) were gone in minutes. 

Steffi loves the chicken and keropok! 
Tasty tender Grilled Chicken with Spicy Satay Sauce that comes pineapple fried rice and salad!
March – Beef Rendang Baked Rice ($13.90) 

Whenever I hear "baked rice", the image that comes to my mind would be the type that come covered in thick cheese. This is the first time I am tasting such a version of baked rice, but I managed to find the delicious cheese hidden in between the rice and the rendang topping. The beef strips were surprisingly tender and even the rice alone was nice when mixed with the home-made gravy! There is however one problem. I realized that when Leroy shouted out that he needed water, after he pinched a keropok from the top of the dish. The beef rendang was TOO spicy, even for my wife! So to be truly able to enjoy this dish, you need to be able to take really spicy stuff! Or simply prepare lots of water to standby. I finished the entire bowl myself and it was "numbingly" great! 

Leroy is just posing with the Beef Rendang Baked Rice, for it was way too spicy for the kids!
And what better way to end the meal with some awesome Swensen's festive sundaes! 
If you happen to drop by Swensen’s outlets for their wonderful ice-cream sundaes from next year onward, do not forget to try out these wonderful localized dishes too, for they will only be available during their respective months!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ergoworks School Bag


As many of you would have known, my Steffi will be attending primary school next year.  I had been hearing about stories about how much stuff school-going kids need to carry nowadays and realized that we have not gotten her any suitable schoolbag yet. However she did receive a hand-me-down from my colleague and I had thought that was good enough, for it had pictures of one of her love, My Little Pony on it!

Ergoworks showroom at Marina Square #03-337
Just recently I noticed a few of my friends posting on Facebook about getting schoolbags from Ergoworks in preparation for their kids going to primary 1 and I wondered why. From the name of the company, I can probably guess that it has something to do with the ergonomic design of their bags. All these while, our considerations for the kiddos’ bags (meant for childcare use) were only what cartoon character they liked, and of course the PRICE as well! 

Actually I was kind of concerned with Steffi’s development as I can see that she appeared to have bad posture from some of the photos that I had taken of her. She slouch very often and I am afraid that it will lead to a bent spine when she grows up. Back home, she was too used to doing work while sitting on the floor but I had already got them a working bench to address that problem. 

Now I only need to ensure that Steffi gets a good bag so that whatever heavy stuff that she needs to carry to school in the bag, would not affect her spinal development. And that is precisely why we paid Ergoworks' showroom at Marina Square a visit recently to find out more about their bags and hopefully be able to find a good affordable one. We were served by a staff who knew his stuff (pardon the stupid pun), who was not pushy at all too but also patiently answered my questions on the functionality of  the bags as well.

Steffi and Leroy trying out their kiddo chairs and desk!
Even Stacci is happy checking their wrist support and special computer mouse.
And Ergoworks is definitely not just about school bags. Its showrooms showcases a wide range of furniture such as desks and chairs, as well as accessories such like computer mouse, arm and wrist supports that ensure everyone from kids to adults gets the best possible care. The kids had a fun time trying out everything on display so much so that I was afraid that they will irk the sales staff and I ended up having to stop them from touching everything.

Having a hard time choosing her ideal bag from the range available.
Here's IMPACT IPEG - 220 ($129) in pink! 
A trolley bag in pink (opps, didn't get the model number) but it is a tad too heavy for Steffi.
Steffi posing with IMPACT IPEG - 092 ($119), in pink again! She says it feels quite comfortable!
Hearing from our friends about how well Ergoworks bags work and how long they lasts, we finally decided on an IMPACT IPEG-221 orange backpack that Steffi could grow into. This range of bags from is suitable for kids from 110cm – 170cm tall and has adjustable straps that would allow a comfortable fit for kids, even as they grow taller. It weights only 1100g and is considerably light considering its size. Beside using it as a school bag, I could imagine myself going hiking with Steffi, with her using this great-looking and functional bag and I am guessing that it would last her a really long time too!

IMPACT IPEG - 221 ($129) comes with adjustable straps that would comfortably fit kids from 110cm to 170cm tall.
Steffi giving the thumbs on on our final choice, a bright orange IMPACT IPEG - 221 that looked really cool and fitted her nicely as well!
A check with their Facebook page and website showed that they are currently having a promotion where Passion, Safra and Cordlife Circle cardholder are entitled to a 15% discount off all regular-priced items and that meant the bag we selected will cost me almost $20 lesser with the discount. Have a look at their website for the full range of  school bags they are carrying at their stores and I am sure that you would be able to find one that's simply suitable for your kid, and their backs!      

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Heart Studio December 2014 Holiday Program


We were really excited when Steffi, Leroy and Stacci were invited to a canvas painting trial class by the wonderful folks from Heart Studio Singapore! I know that Steffi have a love for coloring, as she would often ask us for paper and coloring pencils at home. As for Leroy, he loves to draw but I have doubt that he could draw anything that we can make out easily. Erm for Stacci , she can't even hold her pencil correctly, so I would worry about her the most.

This is the very first time that I am bringing the kids to any formal type of art classes and I wasn't really sure of what to expect. Seeing the course outline, I had initially thought that the kids would be given some "pre-drawn" canvas board to paint in. I know that there are some painting kits for adults in the market that comes with numbered portions for easy painting with the right colors. So I thought that this is how it would be for the classes too.

The students' artwork being proudly displayed everywhere in the school.
As I have said, I was really excited and we ended up reaching the school a full 30 minutes earlier as I remembered the wrong timing. And to pass some time, Ms Rena allowed the 3 kiddos to help her out with making shapes out of plasticine for decorating some paintings, using cookie-cutters. I hoped that the kids never created too much trouble for you Ms Rena!

Making plasticine shapes to pass time as we went too early!
When it was finally time for the kiddos to get into their respective classes, Steffi and Leroy took off to their class in the basement without a care in the world, and I ended up having to stay with Stacci , who rather apprehensive. Stacci doesn't like to respond to the teachers, and relied on me to help to convey her replies. Perhaps it's because she doesn't converse well in English, but it also doesn't help that she is really shy and "cold" when not warmed up.

Patient teacher Syafiq introducing the different colors to the kiddos.
I was surprised when the kids were each handed a BLANK canvas and told to choose their favorite colors for the background. Where is the FOX I thought? And then I realized that Stacci is going to start painting from scratch! Hmm... how would it go? I sneaked out of the classroom when she wasn't looking and went to look for the other two to find out how they are doing.

With the proper guidance, even 3 year old little Stacci was able to paint!
The little fox is taking shape!
Steffi and Leroy were settling well into their classes and both had chosen their Monster Inc. characters to paint. Like Stacci, they were also given blank canvasses and had to rely on a small print of the characters to sketch onto the canvas. I could already make out the respective characters by the time I got into their classes and they were already painting the different shades of colors on them, much like REAL artists!

Here's Steffi adding different tones of blue onto Sulley based on the printout on the left.
Leroy painting after drawing out the outline of Mike himself.
I cannot help but feel proud when the 3 kiddos showed me their artworks, for I would never have imagined that these could have came out from their hands. I know for a fact that the patient teachers had helped the kiddos at some point, either by touching up or holding their hands to help them understand where to paint etc. But a big portion of the work were by the kiddos themselves and I can also feel their pride in their work.

With Mikey almost done and a happy Leroy!
Steffi concentrating on adding the teeth to Sulley.
I also asked the kiddos if they would like to continue with more art classes at the school after the trial classes and ALL of them shouted a big "YES"!  The classes available for the kiddos are not exactly cheap but I guess it would be a worthwhile investment in the kiddos for they will not only learn about painting nice pictures, but it will also allow them to exercise their imaginations, train their concentration, improve their dexterity and and increase their self-confidence as well!

The kiddos taking a short tea break before getting back into classes to finish off their painting.
The finished paintings of Monster Inc, characters by Steffi and Leroy 
Little Louie popped by to pay his older siblings a visit too!
Woohoo!!! The kiddos with their masterpieces that would definitely find a place on our wall!
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Their December holiday program is still on til 19 Dec 2014! Check it out here!