Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Low Cost Air Service to Moscow, Ukraine

The British-based low-cost airline Wizz Air (,) began service this week between Budapest, Hungary and Moscow, and also serves destinations in Ukraine.

The budget airlines are starting to make inroads in the Russian market, which is good news for flyers. According to an article in, several low cost carriers now have flights to Russia, including Easyjet ( Oslo-based Norwegian has flights to St. Petersburg.

Wizz Air currently flies to Kiev and Donetsk in Ukraine, and will begin flying to Lviv next year. Vueling, a Spanish budget airline, also flies to Russia. Apparently even Aeroflot (,) the major Russian airline, will soon have a low-cost subsidiary.

Now if Rusia would just ease up on its visa requirements, it might someday become a major tourist destination. It certainly deserves to be.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Seonyudo Park - Part 2

My partner in crime: Chrystal

크리스틀, 널 보고 싶당!!

I have blogged about this park before here but without personal experience I couldn't review on how tranquil the place was and how gorgeous this park will be during my favorite season; autumn. T_T the weather is getting cooler in Seoul now, it makes me miss autumn so much!!

Bun Sok - my WWOOF host from Joy Farm has suggested this park due to its uniqueness.

Unique? Because... Seonyudo Park is located in the middle of Han River! It seems like a small secluded island in the middle of a bustling city.

Bun Sok supports ecological projects and stuff so she urged me to check it out but I have delayed the visit so many times because the place is just so so close from where I stay, Sinchon...lalalalala...excuse, excuse and more excuses.

Back then ( in 2009), I have set it aside as one of my to-visit list but it only materialized after a meet-up with my dearest friend from Malaysia; Chrystal. We visited Seonyudo Park on a very hot day of the 16th May 2013.

Initially, I followed the direction that I have blogged myself here, hence I chose to take the bus from Dangsan station. However, I think it's easier to just take the bus after you exit from Hapjeong Station.

The bus number to Seonyudo Park is either:

  • Blue bus - 603

  • Green bus - 5714

The bus stop id is 19-277 and the bus stop name in Korean is 선요도공원. If you have Seoul Bus application and know how to use NaverMap application, it would be a whole lot easier to navigate your way. encouragement to get you to study Korean...kekeke.

How to go to Seonyudo Park?

출발 (chulbal) is where you start. You can see the bus icon there and that is where Hapjeong station is located.

도착 (dochak) is your destination; Seonyudo Park.

Once you reach Hapjeong Station (Line 2 or 6); go out from exit 9 and walk towards the bus stop which is in the middle of the street. Take the blue bus, number 603. Once you get on the bus, press the bell and get down at the next bus stop. Yup...only one stop!! Don't sleep...heheh. The ride will cost you 1,050 won (price may change).

The bus stop id at Hapjeong station is 14-012 and the bus stop name in Korean is 합정역.남경호텔.

You gonna pass by this gorgeous bridge before you reach Seonyudo Park but me and Chrystal chose to walk from Hapjeong Station to Seonyudo park instead. 

The very green Seonyudo park is just behind Chrystal!

More information on KNTO.

More pictures in my Facebook here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cheap Weekend Getaways

Even if you don't have the time and/or money to take a long vacation, with a long weekend getaway you can enjoy a new destination and a change of scene. Check out a blog at for some suggestions on how to keep costs under control  on a weekend break.

The author suggests flying on a Thursday rather than Friday if possible, and waiting until the last minute for the best air fares. Also, try to avoid major holidays or sports events in your destination city. Rather than burden yourself with a travel guidebook, he counsels, just look up the top 10 things to do in your destination city online.

I would also suggest that you may just want to sit around at a cafe when you reach your city, and if possible get suggestions from locals on the best things to see and do. You might also make new friends this way.

Of course it is far easier to travel to interesting cities for a weekend break from the UK than it is from most cities in North America. Budget airlines fly from the UK to places such as Riga, Latvia, Prague, Czechoslovakia, and Barcelona, Spain on a regular basis.

Still, it is possible in North America. The destinations may not be so exotic, but they can be equally fun. Sign up for air fare alerts from all the major carriers that serve your city, or your closest airport. Sometimes you can find some amazing last-minute deals.

And speaking of last-minute deals, Via Rail Canada ( recently offered a one-day only sale that reduced prices greatly on many of their routes, such as Toronto to Montreal for only $27 one way. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Rent Apartments for Savings

One way to beat the high cost of hotels when you travel is by renting apartments directly from their owners. An apartment gives you a place to stay, a place to cook and sometimes a place to park. Rates are per apartment, so they are especially well-suited to couples, families or groups. Even the smallest apartments usually accommodate at least three people.

One good source for rentals is www.tripadvisor.comé They list apartments in pricey cities such as Washington and Moscow for prices well under $100 per night. Some apartments have minimum stay requirements.

For example, in the central area of Dupont Circle in Washington, a one-bedroom condo goes for as little as $88. Farther out in the lovely Palisades neighborhood northwest of Georgetown, you can rent a studio for as little as $62 a night, a one-bedroom for as little as $74. Given all the free attractions in Washington, and the possiblity of cooking at home, a stay in one of these places could be a real budget vacation.

Similarly in Moscow, a centrally-located one-bedroom flat goes for as little as $74 per night. Depending on the season of the year, Moscow hotels can be quite pricey and this sounds like a real bargain.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Casino Moscow

That is the title of an excellent book on Russia and Eastern Europe during the 1990s, when the area was known as the Wild East. The subtitle is A Tale of Greed and Adventure on Capitalism's Wildest Frontier, and it is indeed a good read.

The author is Matthew Brzezinski, a descendant of Polish landowners who found himself at loose ends in the early 90s after his Montreal construction business went bankrupt. Like many young people at that time, he headed east to see what was happening now that the Soviet Empire had collapsed.

He certainly found a lot of adventure. He barely survived a home invasion and beating in Kiev, and sometimes dining at Moscow's top restaurants was almost as dangerous. As a reporter for the Wall Street Journal in Moscow he had access to many oligarchs and other top people. His girlfirend and now wife Roberta was even better connected, and he tells of how the size of his yacht dreams varied with her potential commissions on deals.

It all came crashing down in 1998 when Russia defaulted on its external obligations and its stock market collapsed. Then the foreign investors discovered that it was a lot easier to make money in the Wild East than it was to take that money out of the country.

I have long regretted that I did not visit Russia in the decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union, when it was so exciting. Now it seems much tamer, but still always interesting. Through this book, though, I was able to get a good idea of what it must have been like. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Alcohol in Rice Cake

I have been shot by a few curious readers whether rice cake or tteokbokki is permissible for Muslim.

"Hey, just wanna ask if tteok are generally permissible for muslim to eat? Always thought that they contain soju/alcohol...Thanks" - on Crazy Tteok in Hongdae

~by anonymous

Under my investigator mode and some lurking over here and there on Naver and Google search engine, I found some answers:

  • what kind of alcohol was put in rice cake

  • the term used in Korean for alcohol in food

  • how much is the alcohol content in rice cake (in this case: SOGA brand)

  • is rice cake permissible for Muslim?

Rice Cake, brand: Soga from Pulmuone   

Image from E-Mart

Picture 1: Alcohol put in rice cake is called as 주정

 Picture 2: 발효 알콜 - alcoholic fermentation process

Research 1

Alcohol put in rice cake is called as:

  • 주정 (Picture 1) - Ethanol

  • 알콜 (Picture 2) - Alcohol

Based on this question,  on Naver; the question was answered in detail.

주정(酒精): 알코올의 한 가지. 술의 주성분으로서 주로 녹말로 만드는 무색투명한 액체.

Ethanol (酒精): one kind of alcohol. Of alcohol as a main component to make mostly colorless and transparent liquid starch.

Research 2

A detail research on alcohol: Alcohol - The Myth and The Realities by Dr. Mian
N. Riaz
(He has a Ph.D. and presently working as food scientist
with Texas A&M University in Texas.)

Dr. Mian N. Riaz said:

"Alcohol (ethanol, ethyl alcohol) is usually made from starch,
sugar and other carbohydrates by fermentation with yeast; also,
synthetically from acetylene or ethylene. It is clear, colorless,
very mobile, flammable liquid; a pleasant odor; burning taste;
and miscible with water and with many organic liquids. It is hygroscopic
and relatively nonionic. Ethanol has a slightly sweet taste and
a characteristic aroma."

 "ethyl is the best-known alcohol and the one that concern us most,
as it is the principal alcohol to be found in all alcoholic beverages."

There is no any difference between ethyl alcohol and ethanol.
Both are the same thing except two different names."

"Muslims don't have to worry, if they find a
food label statement which says "sugar alcohol."

" The non- alcoholic drinks may not be entirely
free from alcohol, as there is no known process that will extract
all the alcohol from an alcoholic drink.(2)
The small traces of alcohol make the labeling of the beverages
an issue."

"From the above discussion, it is clear all alcohols and liquors
are not same
. Some are intoxicants and some are not. Often, alcohol
and liquor are used simply as a description. Therefore, Muslims
should not be confused or worried with terminology. However, if
any intoxicant liquor or alcohol is used in any product then we
should avoid that product. In Islam, all intoxicants are Haram whether
they are in liquid, solid or in any other form and in any quantity

Research 3

"Ethanol CAN be obtained in foods through fermentation. Many
fruits and/or other foods with sugars can ferment in the presence of
yeast. However, this process normally doesn't happen because the food
would need to be in a container that allows CO2 to be released, yet keep
oxygen out. Oxygen effectively stops the process. A good example of
this is bread. Many leavened breads produce a small amount of ethanol
through the yeast reactions."

Research 4

You may read more about Ethanol here.

Research 5

I have personally sent an email to Pulmuone for the rice cake's brand SOGA.

Please ignore my bad Korean.

This is the reply from Pulmuone's representative.



풀무원이샵 담당자입니다.

풀무원에서는 유통기한을 연장하기 위한 합성첨가물을 사용하지 않기 때문에...

저희 떡, 면 등의 제품에는 유통기한 확보를 위해 주정을 사용합니다.

말씀하신 떡제품에는 떡중량의 0.4%정도의 주정이 사용되며,

이는 대부분 조리과정에서 휘발/ 제거됩니다.

대부분 알콜알레르기가 있으신 분들도 제품에 사용된 주정이 문제되지 않는 수준이므로 

제품 이용에 문제는 없으실 듯 합니다만....

안내드린 내용을 참고하셔서 제품이용을 부탁드립니다.


Translation (I tried to translate it as best as I could):


I am Pulmuone's representative.

In order not to use synthetic additives to prolong the shelf-life of Pulmuone's product, we use alcohol instead to prolong the shelf-life of the products for example rice cake, noodles and etc.

As the referred rice cake products (SOGA - in my email), from the total weight of the rice cake (which is 600gm of rice cake) 0.4% is the alcohol perused (about 2.4 gm). Most of it (volatile alcohol) will be removed (evaporated) after the cooking process (for example: after making the tteokbokki)

Most people who have alcohol allergy; in other words will not have any problem using the products (from Pulmuone) because of  the alcohol level perused in the products.

We would be glad that you could use our products after the information given as reference. 

Thank you"

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Queen Mary 2 Deals

There are some great prices for Trans Atlantic crossings on Cunard's ( Mary 2 this fall and winter. Rates for the seven day crossing between New York and Southampton start at only $699 per day per person, or about $100 per day. Considering that this includes your cabin (probably inside) all your meals and lots of free entertainment, it is hard to beat.

These deals are available on sailings on October 27, November 19, and January 3. This could be a nice treat for Thanksgiving or to see in the New Year. The Atlantic can be rough in winter, but it can also be bad in summer--it's all part of the sailing experience.

While I have yet to sail on the Queen Mary 2, I have crossed twice on the Queen Elizabeth 2, her smaller sister, and enjoyed both voyages a lot.

If you prefer to sail along the coast of New England and Canada and down the St. Lawrence River with its great whale-watching opportunities, the Queen Mary 2 is offering even better rates for inside cabins on its Oct. 15 sailing from New York. The cost for a 12 day cruise starts at only $799 per person. Teh ship calls at Newport, Bar Harbor, Boston, St. John, Halifax, and stays overnight in Quebec City.