Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Seoul Got Soul! Part 2 - Food and Drink!


The next day I managed to meet up with my friend who is the bride of the Wedding! We'd been friends for ages and I had met her in London. It was really good to catch up and get some Korean BBQ. I didn't think that she'd be able to hang out with me before the wedding, since she would be understandably busy juggling the planning of it, as well as looking after both in laws (gulp!). So good to see her!

Afterwards we grabbed a coffee and had a special ice cream on the way there. This brand is very popular, called "SoftTree" I think? Its near Sinsa Dong Garosugil district, which recently has been becoming a more trendy area to hang out. Its like a very buttery rich tasting Ice Cream, quite different to what I had expected, and to top it off they put a piece of real honeycomb to it! So nice... but like my friend says, its probably too rich to be able to eat a lot of!

Buttery Ice Cream with Real Honeycomb! Wow
Later on that night we met up for a meal at some "interesting" American/Korean fusion. There was like fruit pizza (not bad!) and mini burrito things! It was also a pretty cool time to check out Gangnam area once more!

High Street Near Gangnam Station
Most of Seoul incorporates an American grid system where Metro Stations are within the high streets, and then they have more back street areas. What amazes me is the fact that in most streets, there will be the similar, if not the same type of restaurants, like Korean BBQ, or Broth Soup or like Fusions, and yet they all seem to survive despite rivals being right all over the street. I guess it just shows the demand of food that Koreans, old and young enjoy to let all these businesses seemingly thrive equally.




After dinner we went to a pretty well known Shisha Bar called Rainbow. Pretty hippy, but fun! 

View from Balcony Area which we decided to take at the back of the room!

Front of Rainbow, please take off your shoes and put them in these random cloud decorated bags!

Shisha Anyone? Might regret this picture because my mom will see this! =D

One of strange things that has happened to me is that I seemed to have made more Korean friends then Chinese (I'm Chinese btw lol). So visiting Seoul was a great chance to catch up with some more friends that I had met in London during my Uni Days.

We met up in Itaewon, what is now a more trendy area, but known mainly for the fact that it is a more "international" area where foreigners hang out. This is because the American Army Base is held here, and so the area adapted more to it. 

We ate a more "expensive" Korean BBQ this time, but the place specializing more in steak! It was really good... and interestingly enough it was the place which my friend used to live in before they left and it got renovated. Not a lot of people can say that they're not disappointed with the outcome of a place they get kicked out of!

Best Korean BBQ Yet!

Makgeolli is like a Korean Rice Wine type drink, which is slightly sweet. Its pretty good! There serving in a bowl is like traditional way of drinking it, and as traditions go, the youngest usually serve the oldest. Notice also that there are pretzels in the other bowls, its pretty typical for Korean Bars to provide [unlimited] snacks and pickles to their customers to help them not get drunk so fast!

My Makgeolli!
Cheers! or "Geonbae!"

My friend is very nostalgic about London, so he decided to take us to his favorite "Pub" attempt and being English! Not bad... but just way too clean to pull it off in my opinion! However, it did get a very local English drunk guy talking to us randomly afterwards which I'm sure he appreciated! =D

London Pride In Itaewon!
Some very random beers that I've never heard of!

Part 3 soon!!


Thursday, 24 October 2013

Seoul Got Soul! Part 1 - GSL!

So if you hadn't realised in my previous posts (or maybe I hadn't posted it, I cant remember), I had decided to take 2 weeks off for some travelling i.e catching up with some old good friends. The plans is to go to Seoul, Korea for one week and Hong Kong for the other.

This wasn't a random decision thought, it was actually because one of my best friends was getting married, and had invited me to her wedding. Back in my London days, we had a pretty awesome super chilled, procrastinating, bad influence on each other kinda group. So when she invited me I didn't think twice about it, and also thought that I might as well go to Hong Kong as well whilst I'm "in the area".

So right now I'm blogging in Hong Kong, I arrived last night. The flight from Seoul to Hong Kong is only like 3 hours but I was pretty shattered. Apart from the fact I had to sit next to a kid (bad beat) on the plane, it was an ok flight.... although I did start watching an 18 cert movie then things kinda got awkward so stopped. I'm pretty surprised they had 18s!


HELLO (aka Anyong) SEOUL!

I arrived in Seoul after a faster then expected journey of 10 hours in the plane. Apparently they have a faster route now where they fly over Russia instead of nearer the equator over India and China. 
With quite a lot of "plane" experience (I was gonna type in flying experience but that makes it sound like I'm flying the plane lol), I came super prepared;
  • Macbook Air fully charged stocked up on Movies and a whole season of Seinfeld.
  • iPhone 5 with plenty of games ready to be played.
  • A pre-charger thing so that I can top up my phone battery life if needed.
  • iBooks that could be a good read on my phone.
  • Updated music playlists
That being said, Korean Air is pretty good and even had USB slots at the back of the chair which I thought was a great idea. Other airlines should pay attention! Cant be that hard to install eh? There was even a plug underneath my seat (which I didn't even use in the end), which seems to be unheard of in economy seats.



This is my 3rd time in Seoul so by now I have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Arriving in a country you've never been before can be kinda scary. But since I've been here a few times I kinda knew what to do. Usually the best thing to do is to ask anyways, especially at the airport they will have people that speak English.

First thing I did after coming out was to get a phone. A phone? Yes... a phone! I have absolutely no idea why other airports around the world don't do this, but as far as I know Korea is the only place that I have ever seen an airport mobile phone rental contract. The phone charged me 3000 won per day ($3 or £1.75) and of course there are local/international call prices added on. However, if you lose or damage the phone you will be charged like £200, so be careful with it!

After getting the phone, I asked the info desk about which bus to take. You can take the train to Seoul but its actually cheaper and more convenient to take their shuttle buses. This is because there are quite a few of them and a lot of them can take you right to where your place of stay is. The 45 min drive (depending on traffic) on a pretty nice coach cost 15,000 won (£8) and mine was the first stop.

I had booked a hostel place on expedia, and it wasn't the typical studenty style hostels I've been to before. This was an apartment with multiple rooms and each room had en suite shower too. My room was kinda small, the bed took up half of it, but I didn't mind at all, considering I wasn't really going to be there that much anyways.

Despite the non troublesome flight, I had actually barely had any sleep at all. Unfortunately by the time I had got to my room and everything it was 6pm... I had to stay awake otherwise my sleeping would be completely fucked. So I had an idea...


THIS IS GSL!


GSL is Global Starcraft League, and if you have been following this blog you should realise that I absolutely love Starcraft!



Koreans are the best players in Starcraft and since this league started in 2010. There have been no less then 20 tournaments run and since the invention of online streaming its popularity as soured. What is great about the GSL is that its free to go in and watch Starcraft games! So with some hours to kill I looked up where it was and headed down!

After walking waaaay too many blocks then I should have I got there. I actually got off a stop too early thinking that it was Samseung but it was Seoulleung. So confusing! Not only are nearly all the names similar but look at what the metro map is like!

Craziest, scariest tube map ever!

Anyways I finally got there and was able to see one game only lol! Better then nothing eh? It was a Terran vs Zerg match, Fantasy vs Sleep! Haha I just realised that I really needed sleep during that period... wow. Anyways the Terran won and qualified for the next season. In the GSL they have like the premier league and the challenger league, kinda like in sports when there are promotions and relegations.
There wasn't that many people there that night, but it was still pretty cool to see. I didn't manage to catch the casters Khaldor and Wolf that night unfortunately as they ran off quite quickly afterwards.
The main room kinda looks like a theatre room, its all black and has black curtains behind. There is one big screen in the middle showing the stream, inbetween the two booths where the players are. The audience sits in the middle of the room, and there are two flatscreen monitors on the sides too. At the back of the room are two camera cranes, and behind that is a balcony where the casters sit, but facing backwards!


The Plainest Most Uninteresting Entrance Ever!


Front Desk

GSL Room!

From Another Angle

Panoramic View of Whole Room


Entrance to the GSL Room


Banners of Sponsors on the Sides

Hall of Fame with All GSL Winners since 2010!


Fantasy Wins and gets into Premier League! What a Match!

Part 2 coming up soon...



Thursday, 3 October 2013

Aspers Casino Milton Keynes



So Aspers Casino opened on the 5th September in Milton Keynes. It is officially the 2nd "Super Casino" in UK opened since the Government policy has changed. According to the revised Gambling Laws in UK for 2005, a Super Casino is defined as;

"[A] 'Super Casino' is defined as having a minimum customer area of 5000 square metres and at most 1250 unlimited jackpot slot machines"

The first Super Casino is located in Westfields, in Stratford, London... near the Olympic Stadium. Interestingly enough, it is also Aspers who got the deal, as it seems that they are planning to roll out these Super Casinos maybe one or two a year across the country. Why do I say "Interestingly enough"? Well, Aspers before the opening in Stratford, is and was an unknown Casino company. In fact, it is brand spankingly new. Upon some research, I found out that Aspers is actually a new company formed in collaboration with the Australian Casinos, so some kind of special Government deal must have happened to let them have the go ahead, on what I image must be a very expensive Gambling License.

I have waited a little while before doing this review, as obviously its best to give it a little time to settle down before giving it a fair assessment.


LOCATION


The location of UK's 2nd [Official] Super Casino may come as a surprise to many. However, looking at statistics of Milton Keynes being one of the fastest growing cities in UK, this isn't as bad of a location as one may think.

The Casino is located in a big entertainment complex called Xscape. This was originally the UK's biggest indoor man-made manufactured real snow slope. I don't know if this still stands anymore. Inside this complex there is a Cinema, plenty of Restaurants, Bars, a Nightclub, some X-Games themed shops and soon to be a Bowling Alley as well. There is even a "wind blowing up thingy where it keeps you suspended in air" (official term) machine! Across the street, is also more Bars and Pubs, so there certainly is enough nightlife to enjoy around the area. And what is more typical in a big city then to go to the Casino after a night out and lose some money in a spur of drunken poor decision making! =D



I actually live extremely close to the Xscape building, but my love/hate relationship with Casinos (mostly hate to be honest, I'm a nit and don't really like them) means that I cant really decide whether its a good or bad thing? But what is sure, is that my profession right now means that it is almost illogical for me not to go and play some live poker since its so convenient, whether I like it or not.


GAMES & POLICY


One of the most noticeable things about this Casino as you walk in is the fact that you are not entitled to sign up to their membership in order to play. This was quite surprising to me, as I thought that this would not only come as standard by law, but if it wasn't I would have thought that the Casinos would like to do it anyways, as its a good way to track players win/losses and possibly illegal activities more easier. Without membership, it makes me think at how things like money laundering, using counterfeits, and other dodgy scams might be tracked. Of course, there are cameras everywhere, so maybe it isn't as bad as I thought, but maybe it could be the company's lack of experience in this area to realize the potential of making everyone sign up.

This is also the first time that I've ever seen a Casino have a completely open window for their cashier. No clear plastic panel or anything, just a desk area and the staff counting money in the open. I'm not saying that its prone to robberies or something, since there seems to only be one door, but still the lack of security there surprises me.

The layout is basically one huge room, with a restaurant on the left and a poker room right at the back. All other games are out in the open spread out. As you come in, there are Slots on the right, then some Roulette tables, and Black Jack, 3 Card Poker and more Roulette tables. In the mid right are a few Punto Banco (more commonly known as "War" or High Card), some ribboned off private tables and a Big Wheel. The middle also has the cashier on the left, and middle middle (!) has the bar. Behind the bar is a big TV screen showing Sports, and next to that are some Sports Betting Machines. I dunno if I explained it that well, but here is their promotional video thingy;




SERVICE


One of the things I noticed when I first came in about the service was really at how poor it was. This was quite shocking to me, until I was told that one of the big clauses was that 70% of the jobs given had to come through the Milton Keynes Jobcentre. So totally understandable, it seems that most of the bar staff, and even dealers are new. This might be quite disconcerting to regular casino goers who expect a level of service, but for me actually I don't really mind it at all. After a while dealers will get faster, and the bar/waiting staff will get better... And it has improved so they just need to be given more time.

If you play live poker you can get free lemonade/coke/tea/coffee as a gratuity. I think this is also true if you are playing the other games too, but don't quote me on that because I don't play them.


POKER


So lets get down to the nitty gritty of it. The Poker. The Poker Room is quite nice, at the moment it is way too big for its needs. Tournaments are around but runners are low and prize pools are pretty even so its probably not even worth entering. Their tournament schedule are as such;


So far I've played just a few, the beginner one for a laugh which got about 4 tables worth and prizepool was so low it just wasn't worth it, and the turbo which got about 4-5 tables worth too if you include the late regs.

I've heard that the Wednesday Knockouts have a ridiculously high £10 bounty, making all the Final Tablists already in profit by the time they get there, and that the Saturday Double Chance being pretty decent as well, getting about 50 players.

However, anyone with a bit of common sense would be critical of the lack of Friday tournaments, and Sunday also randomly having a Pineapple (variant of Texas Hold Em in which you start with 3 cards, and discard one after the flop) tournament, considering these are meant to be the days with the most traffic. I mean, I don't think I've ever even seen a live Pineapple tournament anywhere... and to do it on a Sunday is just really strange.

But I've heard that they will be reviewing the tournaments schedule later on and it should be revised. If anything I think this venue will be pretty good to have for more of the major Poker events in UK.

Cash Games are pretty much 50p/£1 (why not £1-£1, so much easier) and £1-£2. During the weekends in peak hours there'd be like 4 x 50/1 tables and maybe 1 to 2 x 1-2 tables going, so nothing huge. Maybe it will go up. It is pretty awesome though on a weekend to see the random drunkards and/or tryouts who sit down at the tables with the regulars... feels like that scene from Rounders;


(Ending is a bit weird lol sorry haha)

Overall I'm actually impressed. I did think that there'd be an upstairs section, but actually I think having one kinda big room is ok. The TV Sports area is pretty cool at the front, and is actually a good place to hang out, have a beer and watch some good games (whatever your into). I think that area impressed me the most, makes it less corperatey as most casinos feel. I have yet to try the restaurant, it looks quite snazzy, but if your cheap there's a Maccy Dee's round the corner! I'm not really a big gambler despite what I do, I usually go to casinos with friends and watch them play. This might be up there, not as good as Vegas I'm sure, but not a bad effort.

Milton Keynes is an interesting place compared to the rest of UK. It looks like a modern American city (was totally designed in that way) with the grid system. Yes, and roundabouts. If you wanna practice roundabouts and driving, MK is your place! But with the big shopping centre and now this, its definitely worth a day out, I've always said that. A day though... probably is enough! =D Now there's more reason to check it out.

As much as the more conservatives think, I think that this will be a good thing for the city. But like all good things, it will come at a price. Yes, there could and probably will be more gambling problems, but on the other side, there are more jobs, more customers, new events, more reasons for tourists to visit and spend money. Whether the popularity of the Casino will increase is another matter. Either way, all we need now is an Airport and then the 4th bid for that [officially useless] official City status cant be denied?

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