EMILIANO & JAEHEE
emiliano@lacasapark.com  917 406 2854
jaehee@lacasapark.com  917 373 1548
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IMG_0379Ssamji Gil in Insadong, Seoul

This is my fourth time visiting Insadong since the first time I went with Mom and Emi when my brother got married about 9 years ago. Somehow Insadong always brings me some sort of nostalgia that actually I really don’t know about that well… But I secretly love that vague and warm nostalgia about my own fantasy of what old Seoul would have been.  I was born in early 70′s so I wasn’t there to live the middle of all but I would have loved it and I don’t know why, but I think I am right about guessing Insadong today somehow carries that old charm of 70′s Seoul. I just feel it. I really like the fact that good portion of Insadong does not allow any cars around. It’s laid back luxury you can have in the middle of busy Seoul. Or in any metropolitan city. It’s relaxing…  Insadong then (1392-1910) was dominated by  Art school, ” Dowhawon”,  is still adorned by many writers, artists and craftsmen. It’s bit bohemian and very traditional despite how commercial it could be yet I am Sssooo thankful that Seoul really is doing a great job to reserve such an area like this till today keeping much character and authenticity.  How do you know the new is good if  you don’t know the old. I believe. Then a few years ago, Ssamji Gil has opened up in Isandong. Ssmjigil is somewhat a mall with 70 shops of small businesses. Hand made soaps, paper shop, a little boutiques sell their one of kind things… And I believe this small mall became a catalyst for the revitalization of Insadong. Unlike other common malls, Ssamjigil sets back allowing the complex to blend into the street-scape. It was quite a generous and considerate decision from the investor and developer point of view. You know how it can easily become. High-rises of million shops selling whatever that is. More money and higher density.  But Ssamji Gil is bit different. It’s a quite low rise structure made out of concrete, metal, glass and wood definitely feeling modern yet warm and approachable by having this open layout using ramp style passage ways (think Guggenheim Museum in NYC but done in rectangular shape rather circular line being able to to house shops easily on the linear lines).  The overall style of Ssamji Gil is easy and airy with naive looking signage, kind of business and an open court yard. It’s a relatively new mall in this old area yet again it’s modern enough to feel relevant to today’s society.  Ssamji Gil has set a perfect sort of new direction for good old Insadong.

IMG_0315Ssamji Gil Court Yard.

IMG_0317A few of actual stair cases in the mall.  A stair way to get to underground level where there are small Korean restaurants and cafes.

IMG_0320Visitors’ scribbles on the washed concrete wall. It looks quite interesting. Below, cute mural of an elevator area.

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IMG_0318A miniature artist shop. These low sitting tables full of yummy traditional Korean food  and snack with Soju are 2/3 of size of your palm. Cute, ha?

IMG_0376Then, cousin Yoonhee and I stopped by at this traditional Korean Accessory shop, Gabe. Cute window captures our eyes. Below, 2 little hats and a pair of baby shoes.

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IMG_0353I ended up getting one of “Norigae”, a tasseled pendant sort of women’s accessories for traditional Korean dresses. They are all hand made and depends on ow elaborate the design is and materials are, the prices starts from $30.00 up to couple grands.  Norigae ws widely used for women in royal family and “Ghi Seng”, the geisha of Korea. Norigae was attached to “Gorum”, a long tie for the traditional Korean outfit, “HanBok”‘s shirt.

450px-Korean_accessory-Norigae-01Hanbok’s shirt, “jugori” and Noriae.

IMG_0356Colorful paper boxes for ” Norigae”. I picked out the top one. Hot pink with black trim.

IMG_0350The shop, Gabe carries all sort of little accessories as these thimbles as well as small pillows for needles, hairpins, textiles and more…

IMG_0340Another thing that really caught my eyes were this hair accessories. You know Emiliano does hair, so whenever I see interesting thing that related to hair styling or tools, I like to take a look at them. ( and it was a little for Emi ). The hairpiece is called ” Tzchokmuri” a braided hair  and the main big hair pin that is used to secure the braid to the head is called ” Binnye”.

IMG_0357A fabulous Binnye, the hairpin. It comes all different sizes, designs, materials and all ( Gold, silver, white gold….)

IMG_0359More Binnye and other hair accessories.

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IMG_0154A simple hair do here. Just one Binnye and Tzchomuri. It’s quite beautiful.

IMG_0373After quite a time we spent at Gabe, Yoonhee and I headed up to the top floor where there is a lovely passage way with a wooden deck: a garden meets pedestrian board walk like vibe. It’s really really lovely here. I can’t imagine how it would be during Spring and Summer with bloomed flowers and lush green leaves.. and of course more cafes to visit there…

IMG_0312Leaving Ssamji Gil… No that’s not me standing there…!

IMG_0306I just can’t get enough of Korean street food even though most of time i pass it. This is Hottuck, a sort of cryspy pancake that is fried on a hot griddle with sweet syrup inside. Sweet, hot and crispy!  yoonhee and I did not pass it this time. It was delicious!

IMG_0307Crispy Sweet Hottuck!

IMG_0303A herb shop in Insadong.

Insadong is also the best bet to taste varieties of Korean Teas. There are many small and big scaled beautiful traditional tea houses with galleries and beautiful court yards. Kyungin Gallery. is one of many well known Tea Houses where also has a galley And It is my favorite tea house in Insadong.  The Insadong street stretches about 700m offering  fun and rich opportunities to taste traditional culture and art of Korea. And it is my little nostalgia of old Seoul. Go visit and enjoy the laid back old fun and also the new fun of Ssamji gil!

IMG_0201Entrance to down and cool complex fun Hong Ik University town (Hong Dae),  Seoul

Get on the subway line 2 and literally get off at  “Hong Ik University” station in Shin Chon area. It’s very easy to get around in Seoul by Subways. Just like NY. It’s just more pleasant with fancy double sliding glass doors and velvet covered heated seats. Oh and great phone reception on entire subway line! Clean and Fast. Maybe the best way to get around the town for sure. I took Andrew and Jessica with me to stroll Hong Dae ( Dae  means “University”  in Korean) and hope to find a perfect little bar restaurant to sip some good sake and munching on little dishes!

If you were ever been in Tokyo, you would notice it right away. Hong Dae town greatly reminds you of Shibuya and Shimo Kitajawa in Tokyo yet less commercial. Bit grunge, bit bohemian, tiny tiny shops and groups of stream of cute and young people. Especially on the weekend nights, it gets much lively. Little cafes and restaurants and bars are everywhere with cute signs and charming attitude. They look interesting. A huge underground music scenes and weekend artist market called ” Free Market (not Flea Market) is also supposed to be quite cool and hip. There supposed to be many young artists from Hong Ik university and outside selling their art and artsy objects while they are creating them in the market. A few indie bands also joins the weekend art fair. It all sounds quite interesting. Hong Dae town is sort of a small meting pot of Young culture of Seoul.

Below, one of many small shops. It says ” Avenue, Hong Dae”

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IMG_0216_2To top off great reputation to have the best Fine Art  major in Korea at Hong Dae University, the vibe at this university town is Artsy and Carefree.  It’s still commercial yet got lots of character and attitude. You will also find good amount of vintage shops selling accessories and vintage clothing that are  from 70′s and on.

IMG_0213_2One of vintage shops in the town, Cat’s. Their website.  www.lunabagel.com 

IMG_0210_2Andrew trying on a vintage fur vest with leather trim! You know fur is super “In” in Korea and the rest of world. You know!

IMG_0205_2The ultimate Street food, Thukbokki house. Spicy chili sauce rice cake with fish cake, garlic, sugar and more. This is The national street food of Korea.

IMG_0203Ttuckbokki man stirring Ttuckbokki and next to it,  Oden (Japanese fish cake ) on sticks simmering inside Dashi (dried fish based clean broth). Dashi is well known to be the base broth for Udon noodle soup.

IMG_0214_2It’s typical to see many commercial places located on the second floor in Korea. Or let’s say in Asia in general. Especially in Korea though. A small country and crowded city makes the real estate market impressively expensive. I am not kidding the Seoul real estate market is way way more expensive than Manhattan!

IMG_0236_2Karaoke building, ZillerOzone.  Karaoke, Norebang in Korean, gets quite fancy here in Seoul. Individual rooms with drinks and food you can order in. Private service for private parties and free recording of your entire singing session during the stay. You can walk away with a CD with your own recording.

IMG_0218After a few days of hearty delicious Korean food, We are up for some yummy sake and Japanese bites!  We find this small yet wonderful place, ” To-Ra”, a Japanese sake Bar with many tasty dishes!  Traditional looking wooden facade and Japanese sign attracted us right away!

IMG_0217The first floor of the sake bar. A tiny place. We almost walked out thinking not enough space for 3 of us but friendly owner stopped us to try the second floor. Actually the third floor. Their entrance is on the semi second floor. The restaurant is located on a smooth hill. You can actually see well lined up sake bottles from the outside. The entrance floor may be able to serve only 10 people in total. 

IMG_0221The third floor and To-Ra’s actual second floor. Many more tables and bigger space up here. Low ceiling, mixed and matched chairs and tables are cozily covered by dim and warm orange lighting.  It’s perfect for us to tuck ourselves in and do what we wanted to do for this freezing cold night. Order some sake and delicious food and chat the night away…

IMG_0220_2Little nibbles to start. Bean sprouts. It’s on the house. Delicious!

IMG_0224_2Hot Oden pot on the table cooker. Various shapes and kinds of Oden. Mushrooms, scallions and Dashi broth. Let it all boil and just dig in!

IMG_0228_2Fried Squid bites with black squid ink.  So crispy and fresh. Squeeze of lemon and Yum Yum Yum!  Below Jessica and Andrew…

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IMG_0230_2Quick fried soft tofu sitting in a soy based broth…  This was one of my favorite. So tender and so much flavor. I loved it!

IMG_0231Seared tuna with ponzu sauce and side of grilled wild mushroom. It was bit too cold at the center but still yummy. Or we may have been quite full by the time this dish arrived. Regardless, isn’t it pretty!?

IMG_0223Me and Jessica cheering to the night. The last night of great week at the Korea office together.

IMG_0233_2A view of Hong Dae through a cozy window of “To-Ra” Sake bar. 

IMG_0242_2After a long lovely dinner with Andrew and Jessica, we headed out for a little strolling for the town a bit. ( also needed to walk after that big dinner!)  You will find quite many Taro Card readings in the town. About $4.00 a session.

IMG_0241Another Bar, ” Po Cha”.  An old traditional signage for a bar: a wooden box lamp. These small details add lots of little charms to Hong Dae town.

IMG_0243Expect to see millions and billions of coffee shops in Seoul. The least interesting thins is the Star Bucks chain in Seoul. There are so many big and small independent coffee shops that make kick ass authentic coffee!  I was told most of coffee shop owners will go for a year or two of intense training to Italy to learn roasting coffee beans to making a heart on your cappuccino.  No place has disappointed my Italian native trained tongue for a good cup of coffee yet in Seoul.

IMG_0244_2Good interior and exterior design adds more fun to your cup of coffee.

IMG_0239_2A cute Sashimi and Japanese cuisine house, ” Wha Dong”. Wha means Flower in Korean.

IMG_0235_2Bit dirty and cute at the same time. A small street…

IMG_0245_2People are lined up to get into a club, Cocoon.  So Hong Dae town apparently has much appetite for all sort of music like Hip Hop, Jazz, House, Rock, Trans,  drum and base and more… The last Friday of each month  is a “Club Day”. You can do a club hopping with one single ticket you have purchased. Also it’s a great area to try  many small indie bands and other live concerts in Seoul.

IMG_0246Tented Food Carts= Pojang Macha= The best way to taste the most common street food in Korea.

I would say visiting Hong Dae Town is may be the best way to taste the heart of  Young culture in Seoul. With much tiring and suppressing education system in Korea, getting accepted into a college is the biggest deal of your life. And that is ‘ THE TICKET’ to start your true life as an adult. And they will truly enjoy that freedom to live, argue, read and think. And Hong Dae is a really good short cut to glance that Young culture of Korea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0264Entering the Namdaemun Market!

“Cheap and Cheerful” is the best way to describe this well adorned open market, Namdaemun by both locals and foreign visitors from the all around the world. Whole sale and Retail on everything you can imagine! All sort of snacks and Korean Street food , leggings, jeans, nuts, plates, socks, furs, bags… You name it.  They are all affordable and fun. You  will sure find something and everything!  Namdaemun Market is located right next to Shinsegye Department store in Myung Dong. I met up with my dear cousin Yoonhee and we went for a little stroll around!

IMG_0280“Gamegol” King Dumpling House, expect the gigantic dumplings and longest line!  

IMG_0271Yum Yum Yum!  Below,  Hand cut noodle soup place. It’s freezing cold out but it does not stop making good hearty noodle. It’s typical scene here to find people wokring and cooking outside of store front. It’s a true open market.

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IMG_0266Fried fish cakes with veggie bits. It’s a great snack for the cold days. Strangers standing next you sharing the moment of munching hot fried fish cakes worms up the cold air.

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IMG_0284Order one and the second order is on the house.   Short strip of indoor food vendors. Noodles, hot soups , bibimbap… friendly smiles greet you the second you walk into.

IMG_0297Deep fried veggie Ho-Ttuck : crispy sticky rice and corn flower dough filled with veggie and glass noodle filling… and  Korean sausages and fish cakes on the grill. Ho-Ttuck is usually filled with sweet syrup. So this is a bit hybrid.

IMG_0296All different kind of miso paste and chilly paste. Seasoned in and made in various ways. Pickled sesame lives and other pickles. These are the best side dish for simple hot steamy rice!

IMG_0274Serious prep for night visitors. All ready to be grilled here. They include beef, pork, seafood, shrimp, pig’s feet… and what else?  Noodles to be stir fried, ramen to be boiled, Spicy sticky rice: Ttuk bok gi.. ” Pojang Macha” : tented night cart , That ‘s how I would translate. It’s nightly event you can taste all sort thing on stick in Korea usually in the open market or even any streets throughout the city. The lady is literally putting plastic tent over her cart with seatings and all. 

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IMG_0290One of a street vendor selling pile of winter jackets. First comes first served, You pick it and you pay it! Haha, You must stop to see him!

IMG_0273Fur Fur and more Fur! I know it’s a Global trend right now but here you will see hundreds of vendors selling all sort of fur items.

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IMG_0270More dumplings!  You will see temporary plastic tents over the entrance to fight the cold everywhere.   It has been only 10 degrees F in Seoul. 

IMG_0252Rustic traditional style plates and bowls.  I loooovvvveee them! Stone bowls for Steaming rice or making hot pots and Bibimbap… Yum!

IMG_0254So beautiful! Metal pots. They come in all different size. The bigger the better I would say!

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If you are in Seoul, check out this Hustle Bustle everyday Open Market ” Namdaemun”!

Get cheap fun clothing and accessories and groceries and taste hearty and affordable all sort of street food!

 

 

 

 


IMG_0204Day 1 in Seoul office with everyone!  We had accomplished a lot and  thought we would have sort of a team dinner yet at the end just 5 of us. And that’s all good and intimate. Heading out from Hotel, we are quite excite to try this ” The BBQ Place” in Seoul that concierge has recommended : Samwon Garden

Seoul by night has much Christmas like vibe still around  the city with countless christmas lights beautifully wrapped around tall branches and it’s quite pretty. Approahcing to Samwon Garden in a taxi, we all are wooing and ahhhhing over thousands and billions of tiny christmas lights covered their ” Garden” in impressive way.  I must say, it’s bit Goddy  and… it’s too much…?  But then we are all loving it. It’s sort of good bad. You know what I mean!

IMG_0200Entering , crossing over a foot bridge to the main hall.  It’s freezing cold in Seoul and all over Korea ( record breaking coldest days have come in 90 years).  Iittle ponds here and there have been completely frozen.  Where are my penguins?

IMG_0205Oh I am loving this old pagoda roofed floor to ceiling  glass walled house main hall. It’s quite beautiful.  The view from the inside looking out to the garden of Samwon by season must be quite lovely. I see frozen ponds and water falls all around the main hall, so during other seasons will have quite a view here. Traditional blue and red lights hanging off the roof are familiar. It’s charming. I am home!

IMG_0217_2The BBQ place. So we order the Marinated ribs ( Gal-Bi) and 2 different cuts of Marinated Bulgogi, one near the neck and one fillet mignon they suggested us to try both. Beautiful wooden charcoal arrives. Instant warmth tickles your face. It feels good. By the way, charcoal grills are much better than the gas grill in my opinion.

IMG_0207The brass ( ?) grill plate arrives. It was designed in a very smart way. The flat top holds the grilled bits of meat, so they don’t get to keep cooking and get dry. Sort of concaved little pools will hold all the juice of meat and also broth that is usually served with Bulgogi. I need one of this.

IMG_0208The Grill is ready to go!

IMG_0210Marinated Galbi ( ribs). It has been filleted, marinated and wrapped to be grilled. Filleting helps for beef to get marinated evenly and gets cooked evenly and quickly. It keeps the meat even more tender and well arounds the flavor. Now the restaurant servers will come and help you first by un-wrapping the meat and trimming the bones off the meat using cooking sheers. Typical scene.

IMG_0213_2It’s a heaven!!!!!!  It’s really delicious! They kept bringing more side dishes. I mean honestly, isn’t that the beauty of why we all love Korean food apart from it’s flavor and textures and all. But the Side dishes get you really excite!  Hellen and Cynthia’s hands get busy!

IMG_0216_2Jessica does not do meat. So we order this delicious stone bowl steamed  rice that comes with pancakes, Korean miso stone pot ( Sooooooo Gooooood), and many other it’s own side dishes. The rice that is cooked in this stone bowl is just amazingly delicious. It has dried date, mixed beans, chestnut , slice if ginseng and all sitting pretty on the top of the bed of rice.  They will bring you a bowl of hot rice water to pour it into the stone bowl when the rice is done, so you can make little porridge yourself.

IMG_0215_2One more look!

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IMG_0224_2Here we go the frozen water fall and the pond. It was -16 degree C  = 7 degree F.  You may do BBQ and ice skating here. Hahaha!

samwonI bet they serve meals here during the warm seasons.  Pretty isn’t it?

Samwon Garden is quite well known to both locals and foreign visitors. They had held prestigious events and also do weddings and big parties in their event halls. The garden is much open and big with big rocks and trees that are arranged which reminds me of old Korean landscapes.  I imagine it’s quite lovely with flowers and much green and lush trees here during other seasons.  The food was excellent!  I would usually like to hang at little places that I stumbled into  if you noticed but it was really fun eating and enjoying the view outside with office buddies. It’s a great place to go with bunch of friends and family. Despite the fancy setting, it’s totally casual. And again expect great food here.

Samwon Garden

IMG_0101Moving Digital art by Jennifer Steinkamp, USA: “Rapunzel 9″  greets you at the reception. I absolutely LOVE this.  I would call it ” Underwater creatures’ Fire works”. It’s very Avatar and Christopher Kane. Love Love Love and I want it!  

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IMG_01136th floor Reception.

IMG_0119Lounge at night.  I am never into  trendy hotels.  Or trendy wanna bes with lousy and loud pumping music and cheap decor and all. Especially when it’s a business trip.  You just  can’t rest. It’s too much. If you even hear all that  noise rising to your room, then it’s the worst. But I must admit I really enjoyed staying at W HK on Austin road this trip. Quiet quiet rooms and well pulled off modern and quirky decors. It’s modern and fun in a nice way. And W HK can cook!!

IMG_0116Another great design I really dig. The lamps at the bar on the 6th floor. Illuminating Sting Rays? yeah I think so. It makes a beautiful scene either that is day or night!

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IMG_010620th floor elevator area. It’s a modern day “Alice in Wonderland”

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IMG_0144Digital room number book. Built with lighting system indicating  need cleaning or not to maids.

IMG_0127“Kitchen” entrance.  Beautiful harbor view is impressive in the morning. And  the food is excellent here at kitchen. It serves Breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet of fine international cuisine including fresh sashimi and huge selection of baked goodsAnd beautiful decor. 

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IMG_0068On going floor to ceiling big glass windows along the entire restaurant are absolutely beautiful. And it’s a different take on the view of HK. The Harbor view without the skyline of HK main island and I love it. Especially in the morning the industrial mega size boats look almost shrine and peaceful. It has edge vibe. 

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IMG_0171Loving the beautiful chairs. Deep red adds a great accent through out the floor.

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IMG_0078The wonderful ” Kitchen”!  Filled with all the delicious hearty food with comfortable style. It’s beautiful and  Not intimidating. Fresh smoothie, juices in farm style bottles, a huge range of baked goods and Japanese and Chinese cuisine and so much more. I think the best thing about this Kitchen is the nice and open layout with a style that feels like you are in your good friend’s house who has a lovely lovely kitchen. It’s inviting and cozy. It’s relevant to today and I love it!

IMG_0176Wonderful Pastry Bar. Home made Jams, Honey, bread, bagels more more more…

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IMG_0138The favorite part of the Kitchen: The Communal table with the fantastic Show case filled with stacks and stacks of plates, bowls and ceramic cats.  Ahhh, It’s so great! The surreal beauty!

IMG_0140I love everything is being stacked in this kitchen. The luxury of having it all. The luxury of all that space you want and you fill it up! It’s so satisfying. I envy it.

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For your next HK trip Check out and Check in at W HK on Austin Road!

 

 

 

 

 

 

ExVotoSo , Emiliano has been talking about EX -Voto arts during our trip and we were hoping to come across a couple really interesting ones from early of the century.  What is EX Voto?  Regardless it’s various forms, EX Voto is votive offering to Saint or Divinity.  EX Voto is placed in churches or chapels where the worshippers seek grace or wishes to give thanks. Thanks to  small to big everyday events in your lives. Ex-votos can take a wide variety of forms. They are not only intended for the helping figure, but also as a testimony to later visitors of the received help. As such they may include texts explaining a miracle attributed to the helper, or symbols such as a painted or modelled reproduction of a miraculously healed body part.   I believe Egypt is one place where you can still find quite a bit of many very old Ex-voto arts or even France, Italy and of course Mexico!   We have visited a few antique shops and flea markets looking for a few good examples of EX-voto arts.  There were many re productions honestly but  saw a few interesting original ones. Especially if you go on line, there are many art dealers these days selling the ones from the early 1900′s to quite recent ones.

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002As you can see, read ( if you know the Spanish!)  or at least imagine, People will draw, paint and write about what had happened and what they are thankful about. They are all done in such naive and humble manners and styles of drawing and painting that often it makes me think that they were done by children not by adult. But then it may be true that some of them were done by actually children.  The subjects are vary from a woman somehow survived from violence,  a family survived from a car accident, a man may have seen a alien, a couple thanking for their engagement. Thankful events have no boundaries.  They are quite cute and adorable regardless how serious the subject is. I love them! All the writing underneath the art usually describes what had happened and what they are thanking for.

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Mexican Ex voto D5

retabloHere’s church covered in EX-voto art.

IMG_0624Cenote Il-Kil : one of over 30,000 cenotes along the Yucatan Peninsula.

The underground river systems of the Yucatan flow beneath the entire peninsula. During the ice ages when the ocean levels were much lower than they are today, what was once a giant coral reef became exposed to the atmosphere and eventually became the Yucatan Peninsula. Massive cave systems were formed by gradual dissolving of the highly porous coral limestone. These caves are called “solution caves” because they were formed by the slightly acidic rainfall dissolving the alkaline limestone. Inside the caves the geological formations such as stalactites and stalagmites are a spectacular sight to see. Many of the caverns eventually collapsed and the sea levels rose partially or completely flooding the cave systems.

We have been eyeing on Il-Kil for a couple years and our travel route from Merida back to Tulum made everything easier. Located right near the main Mayan ruin , Chichen -Itza, Il-Kil is one of the most beautiful and unique cenotes we have visited. It’s a quite different kind of cenote from ones we have been mostly located in northern Yucatan peninsula due to how Il-Kil was actually made.  Il-Kil was made rather by the fallen rocks from the space, yes the gigantic Meteors in the era of Dinosaurs.  In fact , Cenote Il-Kil is one big deeply sunken perfect circle of water pool : a diameter of 60m and a depth of 40m. It is an open shaft, the water level is 25m below the surface and it’s gorgeous!
There are not much under water lives as other cenotes yet Il-Kil’s grand jaw dropping setting is somewhat like a top notch Opera house or an amphitheater like with amazing drapes that is made by the mother nature. It’s magnificent!  There isn’t much of under water activity going on here in Il-Kil and I wonder if it has a lot to do with the way how this cenote was created.  It’s clean fresh water yet deep inky blue and bit greenish water rather than clear crystal sort of water with ton of under water creatures as other most of cenotes that are made through the years of rain falls working through the lime stones.  The most popular action here will be if you have a gut to jump and dive into that deep water from how high the point that you can handle!  Dangerous..? Naaa. You will see little kids here jumping off from quite a height including my boy, Gael!

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This cenote has extremely well organized facility as clean bathrooms and dressing rooms, parking lots and renting water gears and also towels. We are slowly learning about all kinds of cenotes around the Yucatan peninsula and it is hell of fun project you want to get on!  here also check out  Cenote Dos Ojos!

 

 

 

 

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We don’t know why we are so drawn into Mexico but we are drawn into Mexico and Mexico has been really the one country ( beside our  home Italy) we keep exploring through repeated visits and researches.  I guess it has something to do with unique culture that we are attracted to rather just beautiful beaches and cool drinks to go with… Anyway, our Christmas and New year’s trip has begun on 21st of December with landing on Cancun to get to our beloved home at our heart, Tulum!  Relaxing two days first there…  Hanging on the beach, visiting local friends to say hi, nice lunch at El Tabano and other usual little things we love to do and always couple new adventures we stumble into at Tulum. Low key and just magical… but then our journey really kicked off by taking off to Merida to explore the city and it’s color and culture and a few amazing historical haciendas to spend our Christmas. Then we did little hops of chenotes and other spots on a way back to Tulum on the road to Coba. Cenote Il-Kil near Chichen Itza to Valladolid to Tulum to Akumal to Tulum again discovering new favorite spots and unbelievable mother nature and maybe couple paradises so called if it is really ever exists… It feels like we have done tons of things yet we know we have so much more we can explore here in Yucatan along the Mexican Gulf or other towns as Celestun, Uxumal, Progreso and many more.  Many towns and villages have similarities yet also each has it’s own character and architectural setting along it’s own history. So each visit is always somewhat unique. So far all the people we met have been so kind and friendly to us. We feel welcomed here. Now we have tasted the top of the iceberg of Mexican culture through the last few years, now I feel we definitely had opened up a can of worm to finish it all up . The rest of the iceberg. Traveling allows us to dream, explore, taste, open up our brain, heart and soul. It makes us un-judge or teach not to judge yet also it makes us to get savvier and savvier to navigate and get to new right exciting things in much creative way. We are passionate about it. It’s inspiring and fun to discover and learn. And it definitely helps us to wear our own distinctive color and style.

We had come across many great moments during our trip and here I like to share the essence of Yucateca culture of all!

Christmas eve at Square, Parque de Santa Lucia, Merida: Dancers getting ready to perform traditional Yucatan dance. Elaborate hair pieces, make up and dressing is all quite beautiful. It’s a small and intimate lovely park. And It totally got me all excite! This was the exact kind of situation I wanted to stumble into! The tradition.

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IMG_0172No they are not your typical Mariachi.  The traditional songs they sang were quite classy and  sort of ” Classic” like.

IMG_0051_2Christmas Mesa at Cathedral, Merida : I didn’t understand 80% of the mesa, but it didn’t matter to me. We are not even all that religious but it was beautiful  to be in the Cathedral of Merida with all the locals to spend the night of Christmas. The quire was humble yet gorgeously beautiful. It nurtured our souls. We prayed for everyone we know and we love. Yes including you. Our life and lives of our family, friends, my people at work, Emiliano’s clients. Everyone. It was fulfilling.

IMG_0063Plaza Grande: stroll after the Mesa on Christmas night. The main square where the Cathedral is. All the buildings were dolled with Christmas lights. Below lovely streets by night in Merida.

IMG_0141Beloved book shop by locals and visitors: Amate Books. A great book shop!  Merida.

IMG_0285An amazing Antique shop!  I’ll say this shop is quite compatible to the “Olde good thing” in NY. Amazing antique pieces and especially the religious statues and objects are excellent.  Circa 1913 statue below. Naive and humble expression is what I learnt about most of folk art and religious figures of Yucatan or it could be through out the Mexico. I also like to blog about Ex Voto: the religious folk art, panel painting with a short story to go with mostly thanking for small everyday life event as we came across through books and visiting antique shops during this trip. They are quite fascinating.

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IMG_0289_2Ahhh, what a beautiful face she has! So wanted to wrap her up to bring with us back home then this shop only accepts cash only. We were middle of nowhere to get close to any bank machine. A good excuse to search more sort of things. And honestly, we felt we needed to learn more about these religious figures before we make any silly purchase.

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IMG_0270Selvaged old tiles from colonial homes and haciendas. Quite pretty they are…  Below, me standing on the elaborate flooring of the colonial home where we stayed at.

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IMG_0197Typical street signs. Street is called “Calle” and the most of street does go by the numbers such as : My home is on Calle 66 between Calle 45 and 47.

IMG_0043_2Gael in front of our colonial home base on Calle 66. Merida. It gets chilly by night and hot during the day.

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IMG_0328The main market in Merida. It was quite intense experience for us to go through this market. First of all, it’s monstrously big. And it was the Christmas eve or what..! The market was absolutely packed. And the way everything is laid out, presented, accepted and lived by the people in Merida. It’s cruelly raw and in your face. We were bit shocked. But then we talked to ourselves…  You know what?  That’s how human live.

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IMG_0333Can you just smell what we are smelling here? Live turkeys walk around next to the taco station. It’s crazy and amazing. Moving on to Fish market. Honestly we have skipped the meat area. We have seen them all at Valladolid market. It gets quite intense. Chunk of half of the cow and everything else hanging by the hooks and blood dripping and all… But we were happy to find the fish section here which Valladolid market didn’t have one.  Actually seafood were quite fresh.  We got half a dozen blue crab and some shrimps to make Christmas dinner before we attended the Mesa at the Cathedral.

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I didn’t write a separate blog about our experience at “Hacienda Ochil“;. But here I like to share a few photos of traditional Yucateca food we had at the hacienda.  It was hearty and delicious at very reasonable price.  Here the chopped fresh garnish for any Yucateca dishes: cilantro, white onion, red onion and radish. Below, Salsa tomate ( no it’s not spicy) and sauteed red onions ( really yummy and sweet)

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IMG_0360Lunch at Hacienda Ochil. A casual buffet style here yet the quality is 4 star restaurant with friendly service. And it’s traditional cuisine you want to experience in one of the most beautiful setting.

IMG_0364Hard boiled turkey egg with turkey meatball in a black sauce. ( actually the texture of the eat ball was bit grainy and powdery like. I did not care for it but I tried at least), pork, osso bucco, chicken, rice, sauteed onion all other usual. But really hearty and authentic. Not your double fried beans you know!

IMG_0375Fried tortilla dough with pork meat inside.

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IMG_0370The best tortilla that we ever had tasted. EVER!  Hand made with Yucateca love! Warm, fresh aroma of corn and just perfect subtle bite to it. Not papery or chewy at all. The perfection. I usually don’t care for any tortilla, so this experience made me pretty much stop eating any other kinds. Snub!

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IMG_0383OK, I got it all. Espresso, a shot of Tequila and Sangrita ( A perfect Tequila chaser. a shot of tomato juice and chili, It’s delicious. It tastes sort of like Bloody Mary but san alcohol). The Sangrita goes after the tequila. And the desert plate ranging Dried papaya with queso ( typical and traditional), Pan dulce ( kind of sugared french toast) and of course, flan. Take a better look at Sangrita!

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IMG_0319Main Entrance to Hacienda Ochil: about 1o mt car ride from Hacienda Yaxcopoil

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IMG_0329Not all Haciendas are this rustic. But we thought it was one good way to dream about how it would have been in it’s shining era. There are many beautiful haciendas available to rent out by the room or even the entire property renovated in fanciest way. They are drop dead gorgeous yet who knows how it had changed from the original condition and details.

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IMG_0467The Ceiba tree of Mayan: The largest tree of the Central America beloved by Bats and Harpie eagles. They are gorgeous!

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IMG_0574It’s so great to know where things come from. When we stopped by at the local bakery shop after the visit to Ochil and saw those bread, it all made sense. The Ceiba bread!! and below the turtle…

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IMG_0591Yes , they are Churros!!!. Hot, Crispy and Swweeeet!!  You can really taste the potato. The Churro man told me he uses red potato flower.

IMG_0608An awesome vintage photo we found at the small flea market at Parque de Santa Lucia on Sunday, Merida.  This must have been carneballe back in the days somewhere in Mexico. Fantastic costumes and make ups!

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I had bit of hard time ot pick out a few photos here out of millions of pictures from millions of moments at Yucatan.

The last picture above will be an anecdote of our new interest in "Ex Voto", especially in religious small paintings done by everyday people. They are fun, naive, shocking and amazing.

Hope you got to taste little bit of it.  If you have any question and need more info about specific thing, drop me an email, I can help you.

Go explore!!