Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Paris Las Vegas and Le Village Buffet

The Paris Las Vegas is a casino/hotel sitting directly across from the Bellagio.  On the right, we can see the Eiffel Tower behind the fountains of the Bellagio.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Eruptions @ the Mirage

The Mirage has been a fixture on the Las Vegas strip for over 20 years. With its palm trees and artificial lake out front complete with its iconic large 'man-made' volcano, the Mirage occupies a central place along the Strip opposite the Venetian Resort and next to Treasure Island.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Venetian @ Christmas

Visiting Las Vegas near the Christmas season (this was just at Thanksgiving) is always fun since you get to see all the holiday decorations put up (not to mention the Christmas sales!). The Venetian Resort was all decked out with a giant lighted Christmas tree standing outside.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Full House Review (2004)

Drama Rating: *****
Personal Rating: Loved it!

Han Ji-eun, an aspiring author, is tricked by her best friends into a free trip to China while they sell off her house due to a need for some quick cash. Once in China, Ji Eun realizes she's been duped and reaches out to Lee Young Jae, a famous actor whom she happened to meet on a plane, for help. With his aid and through various circumstances, Young Jae and Ji Eun end up in a contract marriage which was intended to help Ji Eun regain ownership of her former residence. However, the 'fake' marriage obviously ends up creating a host of confused feelings between Young Jae, Ji Eun and Young Jae's childhood friends Hye Won and Min Hyuk. Will the foursome be able to resolve their feelings and find the one truly for them?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Food in Düsseldorf

There were a large selection of restaurants to pick from within the Altstadt.  For lunch, I went with Benders Marie, the city's oldest mussel restaurant.  Here I also chose to have some mussel soup (which was quite good although a bit on the salty side) and some mussels in white wine and onions, which is a more French style way to make the mussels.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Shilin Night Market

Shilin Night Market is probably my favourite market I've visited to date. This was back two Decembers ago but despite the cool temperatures (it wasn't actually that cold in Taipei), the general atmosphere was exceptionally warm and lively. I had gone on a Saturday evening so I was certainly expecting huge numbers of people and clearly there was no mistaking the market's location once you get off the metro.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

City Hall Review (2009)

Drama Rating: **
Personal Rating: Enjoyable

What do you get when you mix politics with a romantic comedy? A drama known as City Hall.  Shin Mi Rae is a lowly secretary working at the Inju City Mayor's office when her life intersects with that of Jo Guk, an ambitious politician aiming for the presidency of South Korea. However, various circumstances led to him becoming the deputy mayor of Inju City and ultimately aiding Mi Rae in her path to become the Mayor. As they get to know one another more, will politics get in the way of their budding romance or will love prevail?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gyeongbokgung Pavilions

In spite of the grand front gate of Gwanghwamun and the majestic throne room, the most splendid parts of the palace remained yet to be seen. Here, a cauldron stands on the platform near the throne room looking back at the throne room gate.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gyeongbokgung Courtyard & Throne Room

Gyeongbokgung, the largest of the Five Palaces in Seoul built in the Joseon Dynasty, followed my ventures into Changdeokgung, Changyeonggung and Jongmyo. Having already seen two palaces, I was expecting something more along the same lines but was rather surprised by the augustness and grandeur given off by Gyeongbokgung in comparison to the former palaces. The outer courtyard of the palace was really quite huge and the majestic Gwanghwamun Gate was enough to give a good foretaste of the wonder to be seen inside.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hero Review (2001)

Drama Rating: ****
Personal Rating: Enjoyable

Kuryu Kohei is a newly transferred addition to the Jyosai branch of the Tokyo Prosecutor's Office. With his  flamboyant dress code and affinity for ordering from TV infomercials, Kohei seems an unlikely prosecutor and is initially looked down by his colleagues. Amamiya Maiko, his ambitious paralegal and aspiring prosecutor-to-be, is initially put off by his strangely cavalier ways but gradually develops respect and fondness for his noble pursuit of justice.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Gwanghwamun Gate

Sitting at the start of Gwanghwamun Square is Gwanghwamun Gate, the main gates opening up to the splendour of Gyeongbokgung Palace.  To the gate's east is a watchtower that still stands next to the arterial road that's been built beside it.

As you approach from the east towards the gate, there stands a large statue of a haechi, the legendary creature that was used to project law and order and offer protection to the city.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Carlsplatz Market

The Carlsplatz Market, located not far from Königsallee in the vicinity of Old Town (Aldstadt), is a wonderfully diverse open air market consisting of a number of stalls selling everything from fruits and vegetables to sausages and cheeses.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Seoul Metro

As one of the largest and busiest metro systems in the world, I was bracing myself for Hong Kong MRT style crowds or something along the lines of the throngs in the Tokyo Subway when I got to the Seoul metro.  Oddly, the crowds never materialized and there were never too many people.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


After exiting from Changdeokgung's main entrace, I headed in a generally southeasterly direction (more south than east) according to some directions given by a local as to the location of Jongmyo, the royal shrine. You probably won't go wrong once you hit a giant wall that keeps going on and on - that's the wall that surrounds Jongmyo. As it was a sunny Sunday afternoon, most of the shops were closed enroute to the shrine.

There was an interesting building along the way with the tiled roof usually seen at palaces or temples.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sora Kara Furu Ichioku no Hoshi Review (2002)

Drama Rating: ***
Personal Rating: Enjoyable

Ryo is a chef's assistant who meets Miwa on a cruise and also makes acquaintances with her friend Yuko. Smitten by him, Miwa develops feelings for Ryo, somewhat to Yuko's dismay. Around the same time, Detective Kanzo, Yuko's brother, is investigating a case where a young female university student supposedly committed suicide. Kanzo is not convinced by this explanation and after bumping into Ryo a few times, he begins to harbour suspicions that Ryo is somehow related to the case. Who exactly is Ryo and what is his involvement in the case? Watch on to unravel this mystery.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Schloss Benrath

Schloss Benrath (Benrath Palace) lies on the southern outskirts of Düsseldorf and is easily reachable by either tram, metro or local train. As I had stayed at the Ibis Düsseldorf Zentrum which was rather close to the train station, I took the train straight there. On the left is one of the vending machines at the station.

Monday, February 13, 2012

First Day in Aldstadt @ Düsseldorf

So while I was planning out my eastern European trip, seeing as how I was flying into Amsterdam, the only reasonable way I could get from or to Krakow (one of the must-see cities on this itinerary) was from Dortmund airport flying Easyjet. Having done my research though, Dortmund, being a relatively small town, didn't have as much to see to warrant 3 days between flying into Amsterdam and flying out of Dortmund.  So I picked Düsseldorf, a nearby city to Dortmund to do some travelling. It wasn't until later that I realized Köln, better known to me as Cologne, was just as near; as I had really wanted to see the Cathedral at Köln.  But since I didn't recognize its other name, I ended up missing out =( oh well, next time!

In any case, Düsseldorf was an excellent pick as the first German city for me to visit. Fresh off the train from Amsterdam, I started off the afternoon in the Altstadt (Old Town) at the Heinrich-Hein-Allee metro stop.

Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung, as you might know, is a pretty famous dumpling restaurant originated in Taiwan and now in various parts of Asia and the US. This was the one in Seatlle, one of their two US stores.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Silver Cloud Inn @ Redmond

I stayed at the Silver Cloud Inn at Redmond, WA (pretty near the Microsoft campus, which is huge btw in case anyone's interested) during my visit to Seattle. Silver Cloud Inns, a group of hotels in the Pacific Northwest, offer a very simple and straightforward Silver Rewards program that lets you redeem a free room after spending a certain amount at their hotels. In fact, they even transfer 1:1 over to Alaska Airlines (min. of 3k points required). If you stay in the Pacific Northwest area often, this definitely might be a hotel to consider.


Sitting adjacent to the Changdeokgung compound is Changgyeonggung palace, where most of the supposed historical Korean palace intrigue upon which historical dramas are often based supposedly took place.

Some buildings in the palace compound.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hwaseong Fortress

One of my favorite parts of Suwon City was Hwaseong Fortress.  Suwon is located about 30 km south of Seoul and is most well known for the fortress, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The easiest way to get there is probably to take the Suwon City bus tour which is located just outside the Suwon metro station. If you look around and see these two 'generals', you've found the right place. This 2-hour city tour also includes a visit to the outdoor KBS studio set and the Hwaseong Haenggung palace.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Original Starbucks @ Seattle

I'm not really much of a coffee person but for curiosity's sake, I thought I'd stop by the relocated original Starbucks @ 1912 Pike Place, which is just a stone's throw away from Pike Place Market in Seattle.  Looks like they've even kept all the original lettering!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Insadong was the one area in Seoul I wish I had more time to explore.  The entire street is well known for its traditional and historical flavor, with many stores selling antiques and artworks. In fact, Queen Elizabeth II has visited this area.  Definitely going to spend some more time here next time I visit!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Nodame Cantabile Review (2006)

Drama Rating: ****
Personal Rating: Loved it!

Megumi Noda (aka Nodame) is an extremely talented pianist studying piano at a music college where she meets Shinichi Chiaki, an aspiring conductor, who was also gifted in piano and violin.  Together, especially as next door neighbors, they learn more about each other, from Nodame's messy room to the fact she took showers once every few days to Chiaki's fears of flying. This relationship continues to mature and grow as Chiaki and Nodame draw on each other's support as Chiaki takes the helm of a student orchestra while Nodame faces her fears in attempting a piano competition.  Will they both be able to achieve their dreams?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lunch @ the Grand Hotel

The Grand Hotel has a couple of restaurants and I decided to try some Taiwanese style 'dim sum' (if you can call it that) for lunch.  Here's an appetizer of fishcake mixed in with some peppers and chili.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Grand Hotel in Taipei

One of the more iconic symbols of Taipei is the Grand Hotel, suggested originally by Chiang Kai Shek as a venue to house foreign ambassadors in luxury. Seems that that policy was pretty successful as the hotel has since hosted Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela and Ronald Reagan to name just a few notable guests. The hotel is built on Yuanshan Mountain with an impressive Chinese palace style complete with eaves and Chinese style balconies.

KBS Studio

Aside from the outdoor KBS studio in Suwon City, KBS has another studio/museum open to the public in Seoul in Yeongdeungpo. I had taken the metro to Yeouido station and little did I know how far a walk it was to get here, it certainly looked a lot closer on google maps! After exiting the subway, you can head towards the huge park in the northwest direction (you can't miss it, huge patch of green), then take the underground walkway (this was a bit scary since there was no one walking in it...). When you exit, don't walk to the nearest building because that's not KBS (I made this mistake =P). Head southwest for a little bit and then you should probably see this building below.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Food @ Taipei 101

I was visiting a friend in the Xinyi district and we decided to stop by the Taipei 101 for a visit and to grab some lunch.

The cafeteria/food court was immaculate and rather spacious, with an upscale feel to the surroundings, rather unlike the food courts generally found in North American malls.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Change Review (2008)

Drama Rating: ***
Personal Rating: Loved it!

Asakura Keita was just working as a regular elementary school teacher when his father, a member of parliament died in a plane accident.  Kanbayashi-sensei, a powerful and influential member of the ruling Seiyu party, suggests Asakura to run in his father's stead and sends his secretary Miyama to persuade and aid him.  With the help of election planner Nirasawa, Asakura ends up unexpectedly winning his seat.

Not long after, the Prime Minister was forced to resign and Kanbayashi-sensei conceives a plan to have Asakura run for the leadership of Seiyu's party, thereby becoming Prime Minister of Japan.  Kanbayashi's planned to be the real power behind the PM and simply wanted to use Asakura as a puppet.  However, once Asakura took office, things start to go awry for Kanbayashi as Asakura begins to realize the power he wields for change.