Seoul Day 4 & 5

Hi all!

‘Twas a pretty chill day. We visited Gwangjang market at about 9-ish for brunch. It’s Seoul’s first traditional market and they sell things from food to fabrics to cooking wares. It’s a nice place to have a look around, especially early in the morning when there’s not much crowd and you can get a place at the food stalls from their limited seats and try out the variety of food the market offers.

Directions: Jongno 5-ga station, Exit 7

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A whole row of stalls here selling sundae (pig’s blood sausage) and other meaty stuff, I think.

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Pig’s head on display,

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silkworm pupae, known as beondegi in Korea, is a popular snack food. Although I’m not brave enough to try one, haha. Insects and me do not match.

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We were here at the market to basically try out bibimbap (it’s all vege at the stall we patronised),

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mungbean pancake (which they’re famous for and I majorly love it) and

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mayak gimbap. I was actually pretty confused with this gimbap when I first heard of it as its name literally translates into drug gimbap! Lol. But it is just a mini gimbap, there are no drugs in it (unless pickled, perhaps a kind of veg, is your drug of choice) 😉 Though this (flavour) is definitely not something I would purchase again.

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So I visited this stall twice. The first time I had a taste try of the mentaiko (the tray in front of the lady), which is cod roe. Then we went away and had our meal at the market before I decided to return and purchase a box of it to bring back home. The stall owners were super kind and gave their customers a bottle of yogurt drink! So sweet of them ^^ I was actually planning to give this to my dad so that he could eat it with rice for lunch. Lol, it turned out that he hated it and I had to try my best to finish them (they expire in 1 month). And it’s barely half way through but I’ve given up trying to finish the box.

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Also, I would recommend getting your hands on some Korean seaweed at the market here or even at lotte mart. Let me tell you, once you’ve had a taste of their seaweed (there was this sesame flavoured one, oh gosh!), you’ll never look at seaweed the same way again. It’s literally life-changing! O.O

After brunch, we headed back to Edae as my friend wanted to do some cosmetics shopping. We stopped by Sulbing (a pretty popular dessert chain in Seoul) for shaved ice! We tried out their popular injeolmi shaved ice. It’s basically rice cake powder, mochi and some nuts on top of their (very fine) shaved ice. You pour the condensed milk over the dessert and you are ready to dig in! It takes at least the first 2 mouths to “learn” how to avoid inhaling the powder and choking yourself. But I really love this dish and can’t wait to try out more flavours! Super impressed and definitely highly recommend!!!

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At night, we pretty much headed to lotte mart for some cheap shopping. It’s like GIANT (here in Singapore) or I would hazard a guess and say Walmart (in the States). It’s awesome. They sell everything from clothes, shoes, pet food, toys, food etc. There’s basically a plethora of goods available for you to grab!

Tip: Do remember to bring your own carrier to bring back your loot for the day unless you wish to pay for plastic bags. 🙂

Directions: Seoul Station, Exit 1

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The next day, we headed out early (it was a Sunday), aiming to head to the T-money headquarters so that we could get a refund on the balance in our card. But because neither of us could read Korean, we couldn’t find out their opening hours online. So we got lost at some random commercial building before eventually finding our way to the HQ and discovered it to be closed. It was kinda expected but also quite sian cause we have been dragging out luggage around all day. But eventually my friend spotted the T-money logo at Paris Baguette (PB) and we basically splurged our money (on the card) there. This eventually allowed us to reduce the amount we had in the card such that we could claim our refund from the convenience store at the airport. Phew. It’s quite funny cause I’ve never ever set foot nor tried any of the food from PB but when I went to Seoul, I ended up eating quite a lot of their stuff. I wouldn’t say it’s worth the (previous) hype as I could definitely get waay better bread (at a much lower price) elsewhere.

The beautiful architecture of the old Seoul Station…

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Having not had anything to eat other than banana milk and plain milk the entire morning, I was practically starving and ready to faint by the time we reached the airport. I gobbled up the super delicious gimbap I got from 7-11 in a matter of minutes. The good thing about it is that they already pre-cut the gimbap for you so you just need to pluck and eat. Very convenient for an on-the-go meal.

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Some random procession at the airport… Lol, there was this random passer-by walking alongside the “king and queen” and waving to the people as he walked past them. Super funny, haha.

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Then the crown prince and the princess (?)

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At out transit in Kunming airport, China, in the middle of the night. Their airport was unexpectedly pretty (compared to Shanghai airport),

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and I managed to finish up my entire packet of macarons (there was 6-8 I believe) by the time we reached Kunming. Good job me. So this marks the end of my Seoul trip, and till the next one, bye!

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Seoul Day 3

Hi all!

(NOTE: In case you’re wondering why I took down the post for a while before re-uploading, it was because I wanted to edit a few spelling errors on my phone but when I re-posted it, half of what I wrote went missing -.- Not sure if it’s the phone app problem or what since I didn’t touch those part. So I had to re-write them before posting this post again. Sigh.) 

On this day, we explored the city area and started off from Gwanghwamun Station where we saw King Sejong statue before heading for Gyeongbokgung Palace. Unknown to us, that day (15 May) was King Sejong’s birthday. He was the creator of the Korean characters, Hangul, that we see today. No wonder there were so many kids in school uniform roaming about the Palace area. Before knowing it’s the King’s birthday, I was still thinking the Korean school was unexpectedly lax about attendance if so many kids are daringly (i.e. in school uniform) ditching lessons. Lol.

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Gyeongbokgung Palace is one the many palaces in Seoul and it was constructed during the Joseon Dynasty.

Directions: Gwanghwamun Station, Exit 2. 5-10 mins walk from King Sejong statue (just follow the pathway and walk straight down)

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The Palace entrance fee is 6000 won and if you are just planning to catch the changing of the guard ceremony, there’s no need to purchase a ticket. The ceremony is performed at the Gwanghwamun gate (right in front of the ticketing counter), easily accessible to the public. Also, do take note of the ceremony timings. Last I checked, it was performed at 10:00, 13:00 and 15:00. If you have the time to spare, do drop by to catch it! It was slightly reminiscing of the Korean drama in ancient times as the guards and their whole entourage are adorned in traditional Korean garb. Quite an enriching experience!

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So because we didn’t want to wait for the free English tour at 11:00 and had absolutely no idea about the history of the Palace, we hung around one of the many English or Chinese-speaking tour groups to gain some sense of the Palace’s history. Hehe, so pardon me if my knowledge is kinda fragmented. I tried to supplement some of what I’ve learnt with information Gyeongbokgung sitemap. Okay, first off, the structure below (throne hall or Guenjeongjeon hall) is where important events take place such as the king’s coronation, meeting of foreign envoys etc.

These stone structures which align the pathway to the throne hall indicates the position where the different rank of officials  will line up during official functions.

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I’m entirely loving this repeated and vibrant pattern that adorn the roof of the building structure

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The king’s throne…

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the school for the children where they were taught the Korean characters which King Sejong created,

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and opposite the above hall is the banquet hall (or the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion) where elaborate feasts were held for the foreign envoys or the court officials. The hall was designed as a rectangular structure in a circular compound as part of fengshui. I cannot remember clearly but I think a tour guide mentioned that a dragon (which symbolises fire) was place beneath the hall so that the water surrounding the hall can balance it. I’m not really sure but it’s all fengshui.

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During the Joseon dynasty, the King and Queen had separate sleeping quarters, so below was where they met for some baby making session 😉

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I think there was an exhibition or something going on so these vats, which would be filled with soy sauce in the past, were on display. Anyway, the royal kitchen had to make fresh vats of soy sauce daily and each vat had to be filled. There can be no decrease in the supply of soy sauce. They do take their sauce very seriously 🙂

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We then ended the palace visit with Hywangwonji pond and Hwangwonjeong Pavilion.

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So apparently if you’ve the ticket for the palace, you’ll gain free admission to the National Folk Museum. We didn’t have the time to go into the Museum but we past by these olden-style houses as we tried to find our way out. Lol. They were also many groups of students (from different schools) with props (balloons, flowers etc.) just to take a group-fie. I don’t even think it was their graduation ceremony or something similar! Such elaborate effort for a picture, lol, they really do take their picture very seriously, haha.

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This trio of beautiful ladies were simply ambushed by tourists one after another wanting to take a picture with them in their beautiful hanboks. They don’t even appear to be working for the folk museum but were simply passer-bys roaming the streets. I could even tell that one of them (I think the one on the left) was becoming rather uncomfortable with the sudden horde of tourist wanting a picture after a while. It was literally one after another. Only the one in the middle appeared to be enjoying the rather impromptu photo session, lol.

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Taegeukgi-gil (Korean-flag street) was developed on one Hyoja-dong’s street to mark the nation’s 70th anniversary and victory over Japan. There are 240 flags hung about the Hyoja-dong area, which will remain until the end of this year (i.e. 2015). If you’re heading to Toksochon for lunch or back to Gyeongbokgung Station, you’ll definitely pass by this street.

Directions: Located to the left of the palace compound when facing Gwanghwamun gate. 

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En route to Toksochon for lunch!

Directions: Gyeongbokgung Station, Exit 2. Walk straight for 170m and turn left on Jahamun-ro 5-gil. Tokshochon is located on the left, 10m ahead. 

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The decor inside Tolsochon gave off a semi-homely feeling although the hustle and bustle of the servers sort of cancel it out 😂

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At 15,000 won, the ginseng chicken meal was pretty reasonable. But, let me tell you now that I dislike and abhor anything ginseng. I cannot stand the smell nor the taste of it. But because my friend was pretty insistent on trying it, I just followed along. So, I basically just ate the rice (which was stuffed in the chicken) and the chicken meat, leaving out the most nutritious part, the soup 😅. Haha, I do like the rice and the meat because if I avoid the soup, there was almost no taste of ginseng on them (or at least it’s so mild I can’t detect it).

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After lunch we headed to Bukchon Hanok Village to see the old houses there. Once you get out of the Anguk Station exit and walk straight ahead, there would be a tourist information centre located on the right. You’ll be able to grab a map that would showcase the key highlights of the village.

Directions: Anguk Station, Exit 3.

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That’s Bukhasan in the background (which I hope I’ll be able to climb when I return to Korea someday 🙂 )

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Cute little lettuces growing in the backyard of a random person’s home

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So we walk past (what I believe is Insadong) to get back to Anguk Station, and I really like the place. It’s a good mix of cafe, clothes/make up shops and shops selling stationary or other interesting knick-knacks.

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Fried tokpokki…

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In the evening, my friend headed to Juno Hair Salon (Edae branch) to do her hair while I went ahead to explore Ehwa Womens University. Their campus was soo pretty although I was pretty glad that I didn’t study there. Haha. ‘Cause to get anywhere from their entrance, you’ve to climb steep stairs or slopes which will not help your case if you’re running late for class. Lol. Plus, since I’m studying life science now, I wanted to view their science campus (located right at the back of the school -.-). So I gave up walking there halfway as the sky was darkening pretty quickly. Also, I’m surprised to see quite a fair bit of students in stilettos running about slopes and stairs very quickly. All I could think about was: don’t their feet hurt? Or do they take the phrase: beauty is pain too seriously?!?!

Directions: Edae Station, Exit 2. Turn left and walk straight down. You’ll eventually be able to spot the campus. 

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A gorgeous view of the setting sun on campus! What a sight to end the day…Sigh~

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The night streets of Edae.

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Rushed back to Myeongdong at about 9pm for dakgalbi (marinated chicken) at Yoogane! They’ve so many branches around Seoul but this was the one we patronised.

Directions: Myeongdong Station, Exit 9. Go straight 50m and turn right at the first corner. Continue straight for 70m and turn left.  Walk straight ahead and at a soft serve stall located on the right (at the first junction), turn right. The shop should be located on the left. 

Till the next post, bye!

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Seoul Day 2

Hi all!IMG_0211 copy

On our second day in Seoul, we found ourselves waking at 5 am so that we could catch the 9.10 am shuttle bus from Gapyeong station. So here’s me and my daily dose of banana milk for breakfast as we set off for the long day ahead 🙂

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I believed it was here at Mangu Station where we waited quite some time for the train to arrive. So I had my spicy chicken onigiri (I forgot to take a picture of it), that was seriously tongue-numbing spicy ( ;  ; ). Omg! I can still remember that tongue burnt -.-

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This day, we’re heading for Nami island, Petite France and Garden of Morning Calm. So ignoring my scribbles, below is the new shuttle bus schedule if you’re planning to visit the above-mentioned places. You can obtain a copy of it at the tourist information centre, located to the right once you exit out of the station. Do take note (at least at my point of visit), only the Korean bus schedule map was updated with the new timings. Furthermore, some of the stops along the shuttle bus route have been adjusted. So, I’ve included the English names of some of the key stops in the picture below.

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While I’ve previously mentioned on my dismal ability to speak Korean, I’m able to at least discern and read the Korean characters. So, my translation attempt should be fairly accurate. Additionally, the bus fare have recently been increased from 5000 won to 6000 won. Lastly, the shuttle bus stand is actually near the taxi stand (i.e. the area where the green board is in the first picture).

We actually did take quite some time to figure out where the shuttle bus stand was as there was nobody in the tourist information centre when we first reached the place. So after our epic fail communicating with some of the older Korean hikers when we tried to ask for directions, we blindly followed their finger-pointing directions, before realising we would be better off returning back to the centre once more, in hope, there would be someone tending it that could help us.

After boarding the bus, it was a 15 mins ride before we reached the Nami island stop. Just walk towards the tall silver structure in the background below to get to the entrance for the ferry. Keep in mind where the bus dropped you off as that’s where you’ll board the bus again as you continue on with your journey.

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Foreigner’s discount, yes! So just tell the counter that you’re a foreigner and you’ll get to save 2000 won. (Original price: 8000 won; Foreigner’s deal: 6000 won)

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The beautiful view just before we boarded the ferry. I would suggest setting aside 4 hours or so to explore the picturesque island and to have lunch there.

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Here’s the Cheongyeongwon memorial garden dedicated to the mother of Nami island founder.

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I think these are the white birch trees … After so many trees that are grown in a similar way, I’m kinda confused as to which is which already, haha.

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Some garden we saw where there’s absolutely nobody. So we settled on the ground to bask in the  rays of the warm sun for a short while.

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Maple trees!!!!! *Cue internal screaming* I’m sooo in love with these beautiful trees that I must have taken a ton of their pictures before we even proceeded on with our exploration of the island. #notashamed

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Here are the trees in winter sonata…

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And below is the small but beautiful maple garden. I literally went gaga (it means crazy) over there, lol.

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Some cute little signs around the island, and the ostrich head peaking above the signs

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Surprisingly, there were quite a few ostriches (I counted 6?). I was expecting 2-3 of these birds only.

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These two birds were just alternating, pecking the wood in front of us…

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I’m pleasantly wowed by how much effort goes into decorating the dustbins on the island. It’s looking so pretty that it can totally pass as an information stand from afar

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Lunch was some stir-fry chicken with rice. I would recommend having lunch on Nami island if you plan on visiting Petite France afterwards as there’s nothing, besides snacks, over there.

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Gingko trees,

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and their adorable fan-like leaves…

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So that marks the end of the pictures from Nami island. There are a lot more the island has to offer but I shan’t spoil it for you 😉 It’s an absolutely gorgeous place in Spring and the slightly warm weather made it a good day for wandering about the island. We then left the place at about 12.20 and missed the 12.25 pm shuttle bus 😦 So we make-do and settled in the benches outside 7-11 as we enjoyed our ice-creams and waited for the 1.25 pm bus to Petite France, which took about 25 mins.

Petite France, Petite France… what can I say about it. It was a mild disappointment to be honest. There was simply nothing much to do here and one can practically finish walking the entire area in an hour. At the same entrance fee as Nami island, it was simply not worth the value, time or hype over this place. It was much too touristy as well, although I could’ve turn a blind eye to it if the place was actually good. Note that the foreigner’s deal requires having the foreigner’s coupon which you may obtain from the shuttle bus driver or the tourist information centre. (Original price: 8000 won; Foreigner’s deal: 6000 won)

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In the antique’s house…

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One of the very few un-vandalised paintings left about the area…

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This was in the French house “museum.” The plates that adorned the wall were simply beautiful and had such intricate details to them.

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We then took the 2.50 pm bus to the Garden of Morning Calm. The journey took about 45 minutes  and it was here my friend mis-placed her phone as she slept and we search high and low for it in the bus before I finally called her and we discovered her phone was in her bag -.- The kind shuttle bus driver even search for her phone with us instead of getting impatient and chasing us out. Super nice of him!

The Garden was definitely my favourite amongst all 3 places. It was the least touristy as most tour groups tend to visit Nami and Petite only. Furthermore, if you love flowers and plants, this place is certainly worth a visit! It had such a wide array of different plants and themed gardens that everytime you turn your head, you’re looking at something new. (Original price: 9000 won; Foreigner’s deal with discount coupon: 7000 won) I shan’t say much more but I’ll let the pictures below speak for itself although I don’t think I did the place justice. 

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Oh tulips! It has definitely got to be my favourite flower of them all!

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It was my first time witnessing these stacked rocks that I used to see from Korean shows or documentaries. The rocks have different symbolism to different cultures. For instance, it can be used as a marker or in others, it has spiritual meaning associated with the worship of sacred stones.

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Can you believe the quality of the panorama I took on my iPhone 6?! Such a step-up from my previous iPhone 4s.

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Cute little succulents…

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And we made our way out of the Garden through the Drooping trees.

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So we left the Garden for the 6.00 pm bus towards Cheongpyeong Station where we then headed to Myeongdong for dinner. Dinner that day was samgyeopsal (i.e. BBQ meat) at wangbijib. The food was good, reasonably priced and the servers were friendly. When we went to the branch that was listed below, it was full and waiting time was 20 mins. The servers then immediately brought us to a nearby branch in Myeongdong area. Now that’s what I call efficiency!

Wangbijib Myeongdong

Directions: Myeongdong Station, Exit 9. Go straight 50m and turn right at the first corner. Continue straight 70m and turn left. The shop is located 10m ahead on the left side, on the 2nd floor. 

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Egg bread which my friend bought from the street. It had an interesting texture to it. Kinda like sponge cake yet not sponge cake. Pretty good!

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I’ll end this post with my exorbitant packet of freshly squeeze orange juice (it was only 3/4 full!) at 3 SGD -.- What a ripped off! But I still got it, lol. Till the next post, bye!

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