Rays of Splendour


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Sunday in Seoul

If I had spent the Sunday last week largely indoors (due to the rain), solo-shopping and hanging out at Coex, this Sunday’s was the total opposite. I spent it outdoors having a picnic at the Han River with two visiting Singaporeans!

I really love being able to be out in the sun again like this. I always feel that being outdoors does wonders to yourself. Always after being outdoors, I feel so energized!

I’ve never had a picnic by the river for obvious reasons like how Singapore does not have a river where you can do that (and no, Singapore River doesn’t count cos that water body is dotted with development along its sides so no one ever does a picnic there!). So this was my first time and I really loved it a lot. The fact that the skies were cloudy and weather windy makes the atmosphere just apt for a picnic!

To make it fuss-free, I had arranged to have food delivered to the Han River. I turned to the ever reliable ‘Halal Kitchen‘ to order my food. Hassan (the Muslim Korean who owns the shop) is a friend of one of my Thai classmates and it is through the latter that I got to know about this shop. Orders are delivered on time and food’s pretty decent too! I find myself having a growing liking for Japchae Rice ever since I first started ordering from the shop and like any food which I like and will eat repeatedly, I ordered this yet again (oh surprise surprise!) for the picnic. Meantime, the two friends who were with me ordered Dakgalbi Rice. As something to munch on, we ordered some Spicy Fried Chicken Balls as an add on.

As we strolled by the Han River after the picnic, I’m made to realize just how much rain Korea have been receiving these past three to four weeks. I don’t realize it since I’m mostly confined to the mountains where my campus is but looking at some of the trees that were almost fully submerged by the river water which had risen, I’m made aware that we really have been receiving lots of rain! Thank goodness Korea has a good drainage system and its land have a lot of water storage capacity otherwise it’d have flooded!

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We stumbled upon some people from YTN News. Not too sure what they are reporting but it’s cool to see the news people at work nonetheless. Once upon a time back in my growing up years, one of the ambition I had was to be a news journalist! The other two ambitions on my list were to be a teacher or a lawyer. But I had to choose one because each of the career aspirations I had needs me to pursue a specific professional knowledge path. Alhamdulillah, I chose teaching but I still wondered sometimes where I would be now had I chosen to pursue being a lawyer or news journalist.

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We made our way to Garosugil which is like one of my most favourite places in Seoul. Garosugil is replete with materialism from its focus on looks (tons of plastic surgery clinics and hospitals. Yes, HOSPITALS for plastic surgery) to fashion. Basically, the place is just reeking with money and consumerist culture.

Despite that, Garosugil has a lively vibe about it which greets you as soon as you walk down its street. It is this vibe that makes Garosugil one of my most favourite places in Seoul and admittedly, one which I will superbly miss once I’m back in Singapore for good.

Anyway, I wanted to share that I always stumble upon something new when I’m at Garosugil. The ‘something new’ takes the following form this time:

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For reasons unbeknown to my small and unread mind in the aspect of plastic surgery, seems like there is a market for vaginal surgery. My ever curious self would like to know what this is and why people have to do it and hence I’m ever ready to google for it.

But I also know that the internet BEING the internet, I’d probably be thrown unwanted images of the female private parts as well even though I did not request for it (the typical Singaporean reaction in me is actually going “So sueh leh pagi2 buta nampak gambar gini!”). So erm, until I could psychologically overcome that, I’ll hold off my curiosity for now!


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Summer thus far

Compared to last week, the past few days have seen more activity in my life ever since summer semester started. I started the week making a resolve to fill my time with more activities because I really cannot stand having a lack of things to do.

So I’ve taken a long walk from my department to the Central Library to return some books I borrowed. In the process, I took a new path I’ve never taken before. The path cuts through a bit of the mountains and a small part of the forested area but masyaAllah once I was out of that area, I found myself at a very beautiful part of campus I’ve never been before. All these while, I’ve avoided that path because it seems deserted and honestly, I do not know where it would lead me. However I was with a friend at that time and she was pretty keen to accompany me for that walk even though she herself hasn’t gone through the route. Reminders for me:

  • Never be afraid to venture down a different path cos you never know what gems it could lead you too
  • Having someone with you when doing something new gives you strength to pursue it so I should be the same to others if they’re in the same situation

I’ve also attempted to settle a few administrative issues related to the upcoming Fall semester. In addition, the course listings for the new semester are already up! I pray that I’m able to get the last few courses I needed to clear (and also complete researching and writing my thesis!) so that I can graduate by the end of the Fall semester insyaAllah.

Besides school, I’ve also tried to get away from campus for a few hours. I did nothing fancy like travelling but yeah, it was something much needed to rejuvenate myself from constantly being part of school. Staying on campus definitely has its perks but the fact that you’re constantly in a school environment 24/7 can feel taxing so yes, I felt that I needed to get away for a few hours.

I went off to Itaewon on one of the days to treat myself to a Korean lunch! That’s the first Korean meal I had in months (the irony since I’m living in Korea!. Unfortunately, the food wasn’t that great which was a surprise to me cos I’ve always liked the food at this shop those few times I went there to get my Korean fix.

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On another day, I scooted off to Coex with no intention other than to just window shop and check out the much-raved about library.

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Pretty cool design. It’s an open concept library so don’t expect to keep silent at that place. It’s noisy – you can hear the background music coming from the mall speakers, shoppers talking and many more. In a nutshell, it isn’t your typical library!

Although I had no intentions to shop, I ended up getting myself a set of swimming wear. I do not swim and neither do I know how to swim but after this spur of the moment buy, I actually now feel like signing myself up for swimming classes when I’m back in Singapore!

That aside, it only just hit me that Korea is a great place for Muslimahs to purchase a nice set of pretty swimming costume. The shops stock numerous long pants and long-sleeved swim wear in various designs. The Koreans are very wary of exposing their skin to the sun whenever they’re engaged in water activities during summer (very popular during the warm season!) and hence the demand and readily-available stock of such swim attire in the shops.

Lastly, although it’s summer, it’s also the monsoon season in Korea. It’s been raining more days than it is sunny. However when it’s sunny, it’s trulyyy warm.

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My first experience of a rainy, monsoonal East Asian summer. Something old since I’ve experienced monsoon seasons back home too but there also seems to be something different about the monsoon season here.


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Halfway through with summer school

Done with 2 weeks of the summer semester alhamdulillah! 2 more weeks to go before the semester ends!

This is the first time ever that I’ve taken an inter-semester session. I’ve never taken any back in my undergrad days and neither have I taken it during the previous few semesters of post-grad school.

So I never knew just how much motivation it would take for me to psych myself to get to classes even. Seriously, I’ve been late  for practically EVERY lesson these two weeks and it’s only because I took such a long time to convince myself to get out of the house and go to class. I’ve been approaching the TA during breaks to inform him that I’m there and to mark my attendance that I think he’s probably super annoyed at me by now.

Anyway, all I want to do for now is just take a break after the 4 grueling months of spring semester. I get exhausted simply running through my mind the schedule, deadlines and number of meetings with professors to acquire their signatures to settle various administrative issues during the spring semester. When it finally ended with the submission of my last assignment, all I wanted to do was take a break.

So these past 2 weeks of school had naturally been one whereby my mind seems to be out of place. On the one hand, I’m physically there in class and alhamdulillah, 90% mentally there too as I listened to the lectures and tried to absorb the knowledge disseminated. However at the same time, I feel another part of myself just itching to be elsewhere but in class and doing the assignments.

So the rest of the time, my mind and body have been thinking and desiring so much to go on holiday. I do not know where for now but yes, I just want to goooooo somewhere and explore new things.

I feel pretty much stifled and unmotivated after being so dormant like this. In fact, I’m so stifled and unmotivated that I actually do not have much appetite even. Nothing seems to whet my appetite so I’ve been eating things like bread with butter or simply noodles with veggies for my meals.

I look forward to going back to Singapore for a proper break but ironically, I also know that I’ll probably be bored and be even MORE unmotivated because I’ll be spending my days largely alone as my family and friends would probably be busy working.

I sound so cranky right now and all because I’m just emotionally and mentally exhausted.

I need a break, badly.


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Back to solitary life

For the past few months, I’ve had a friend staying over at my place. It felt nice to have a roommate and basically, a companion these past few months. However as of this week, she has gone back to her country for a holiday and at the same time also moved out of the apartment.

These few days, I found myself adjusting back to solo life in Seoul. It’s back to days of waking up, spending my days and turning in for the night to an empty apartment. Since the last time I spoke to my mom on the phone 2 or 3 days back, I’ve not spoken nor communicated with anyone at all.

In the meantime, I’ve been sick but alhamdulillah I’ve gotten heaps better at the time of blogging this. Recuperating and attempting to get well by myself like this made me realize how it is that there could be cases reported whereby no one knew someone living alone had died in the apartment until perhaps a week after their death. I know it’s morbid but I now understand why that could be so. In a context whereby you live alone, lack social connections so basically there is no one who checks on you nor know where you live, and then you fell sick or an accident occurred in the apartment, it’s no wonder cases like that could occur.

That aside, it’s also back to days of scrimping on money. I knew I was lacking money when I got back to Singapore but seeing how it was Ramadan and Eid season – times when the family uses more money than usual – I didn’t have the heart to ask the parents for money to bring back to Korea. So yes, it’s back to days of making do with less.

I haven’t bought any bread since I finished it a few days back so that’s one expense less. Thank goodness Korea sells salad at such a cheap price (1000 – 2000 won only for a packet!) so my meals these few days are just white rice with salad and tomotoes and erm, lots of Eid cookies and crisps which I brought over from Singapore! Hahahah. Alhamdulillah, I still have a few cuts of chicken left which I’m trying to make last as long as possible by only cutting like 5 tiny slices to cook whenever I get too hungry. Lastly though I’ve lots of free time since school is only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, I’ve not gone out. Going out = spending money on transport. Hence, I’ve been staying inside the house since Thursday.

I think I’m really becoming an expert in not spending money. Lol. On a serious note, I appreciate so much my house back in Singapore. When I was back home last week, the whole kitchen felt like Heaven cos it was overflowing with food!

Now, what else should I do to entertain myself in the house till Tuesday afternoon when class starts again?


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Getting colder in Seoul

Temperatures suddenly took a dip downwards last week.

For almost two weeks now, all my summer clothes have been sitting nicely in the wardrobe. Yesterday as I stared at all my summer clothes in the wardrobe (yes, one of the odd things I do in life is to open my wardrobe from time-to-time and just admire look at my clothes), I had the thought that I should probably pack them in a box and send them back to Singapore. If I intend to fly back home for the winter vacation, then it would be good to slowly start sending things back home from now.

My mom was sceptical when I kept mentioning about the cold whenever she texts or calls me for updates. This is because according to her, the information on the internet stated that the temperatures here are about 20 – 21°C whenever she googled for it so in her words “Aku tengok tak sejuk pun tapi kau sibuk cakap sejuk (I read that it’s not cold at all but you kept complaining that it is)”.

Everytime she does that, I will respond with a dramatic “Noooooo maaaaaa! Tidakkk… Sejukkkkk” before explaining to her how those temperatures stated online are just the average values for the whole of Seoul and does not reflect the exact temperature of localized areas. Since my campus and house are located in the mountains, the temperatures here are a few degree celsius lower than the one published online.

I was having a conversation with a friend while on the way home just now and we happened to be talking about the cold. The discussion centred around how it seemed like the lower temperatures came a bit earlier this year and based on the weather patterns the country is facing thus far (for example, the summer of 2016 was the warmest recorded in Seoul), there have been a lot of hearsay among the people here that the winter this time is going to be a lot colder than last year’s. Last year, Seoul experienced it coldest winter with temperatures dipping to a low of -18ºC (the Han River was reported to be frozen at some point!) so I’m thinking that if it’s going to be way colder this year, I need to think of an escape route back to warm, sunny Singapore as soon as I’m done with school.

Although I fret about the cold, I’m also quite happy to embrace it. This is because with the cold, that part of nature which thrives in this environment is now able to reveal its beauty. Just for a span of those few weeks, all of us get to witness that glory.

Also, I’m reminded of what one of my ustaz mentioned regarding the weather. The weather is God’s. He’s the owner and its determiner so no matter how cold it is, it’s His creation too. So yep, this is a reminder to myself foremost than others that despite being uncomfortable with the cold at times, I have not right to constantly be complaining about something which I did not even create in the first place.

Further, He has not created this cold for naught. There is a bigger reason for the creation of cold temperatures during specific times of the year beyond the comprehension of my small little mind.


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Day trip to Sokcho and Mt Seoraksan

I’ve been craving to spend some time in the mountains, immersing myself in nature and breathing in pure clean air for a few days now. Fortunately with Chuseok, I was presented with a few days of break from school and hence an opportune time to slot in a day trek through one of the nature reserves here.

The location of choice for the trek this time: Mt Seoraksan!

Although Mt Seoraksan is situated in Gangwon-do which is literally another province from Seoul where I currently am, it is still highly accessible. I took the bus (costs me 18,100won for a one-way trip which is quite affordable, I feel!) from the Express Bus Terminal to Sokcho. From Sokcho, I took an intercity bus to get me directly to the entrance of Mt Seoraksan Nature Park. I reckoned that the whole journey from Seoul to the nature park took me about 4 hours (it’s another 4 hours back so technically, I spent lots of time on the road) however I’m allright with that since I really wanted to travel and escape Seoul’s busy city environment for the day.

I loved being in the nature park! The air is truly clear and clean so I felt refreshed after trekking through the place. There are lotsa places to head to once we’re there but I chose to do a simple trek to one of the waterfalls – the Biryong Falls – for the trek this time. It took me about 2 hours of trekking time to reach the falls and another 1.5 hours to get back to the entrance of the nature park.

Some photos to share from the trip:

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As we had a 1950hrs bus back to Seoul to catch, we left Mt Seoraksan Nature Park at about 4.15pm and headed for Sokcho where the bus terminal is located. We had a bit of time left before boarding the bus so we squeezed in a short walk of the Abai Village, an area close to the bus terminal.

Sokcho is actually a town located by the sea. It faces the East Sea. Due to its maritime location, it is no surprise that a lot of development and activities are centred around the waterfront.

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I found myself feeling heaps rejuvenated and with a clearer mind as I made my way back to Seoul at the end of the day trip. I do realize that squeezing in this trip had consequently stretched my budget for the month and I probably cannot spend more than 50,000won in the next two – three weeks (honestly, how I’ll be able to pull this off with things being so expensive in Seoul, I do not know!). Yet, I won’t have done things otherwise.


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Wk 11/104

1) Hanging out at a Korean friend’s house

One of the Koreans I made friends with invited me to her house at Sillim-dong this week. It’s amazing how despite lacking proficiency in English, she is still able to communicate very well with me. On my part, I’m able to connect with her and talk about a lot of things in life.

This makes me realize that when two people are able to click, then that affinity can sometimes be able to surmount the barriers posed by language. On the flipside, two individuals might not even be able to overcome the obstacles posed despite being proficient in a shared language if both lacked that connection in the first place.

In a class I once attended, the ustaz said that God makes for every soul several other souls that they can connect with. For those that they have an affinity with, one of the reasons is because they’ve known and connected with each other before they were born into this world. When the souls entered this world and they happened to encounter another soul whom they have known, liked and connected with in the previous realm, then the two souls instantly recognize each other even though our physical and mental self do not. According to him, this is one of the reasons to explain for instances when we encounter a person and feel as if we’ve known him before, or why we feel so comfortable communicating on a deeper level with someone whom we’ve just met as opposed to others whom we’ve known for a longer time. I say… This certainly puts a new twist to the phrase “It’s like I’ve known you for a lifetime“!

Anyway, back to the friend who invited me to her house. She will be leaving to follow her husband when the latter goes to Australia to further his studies. This means that when I come back to Seoul in August for the fall semester, she would’ve gone to Australia. So truly, it is very nice of her to invite me to her place before we part ways as according to her “I would really like to show you how the Koreans live“.

Some photos from the time we spent together on that day:

20160513_145527_hdr.jpgSaw a Juicy outlet en-route to her house so we went to get a cup of juice for ourselves.

20160513_151038_HDRLike a lot of the houses in Seoul which are located along a steep slope, hers is no exception. It looks steeper in real life. This photo doesn’t do justice to the degree of its steepness!

20160513_151509_HDRHer living room decorated with portraits that she drew herself. My friend is a designer so it’s no surprise that she chose to decorate her house with her artwork!

20160513_151503_HDRThe dining area. Again, it’s decorated by more pieces of her artwork.

20160513_172920_HDRShe made this poster when she got married. Roughly translated, it means “I (in terms of life) did very well  when I was alone but when both of us are together, things are even more excellent.”

20160513_173022_HDRCool poster that shows the wifi access details for guests to her house!

We’re planning to go to a museum some time in June, insyaAllah. Looking forward to that!

2) New places found

I felt the need to take a break from studies this week and resolved to explore a part of Seoul which I hadn’t done before. The initial idea was to head to a nature park but since I’ll be alone, I really did not feel like doing that.

In the end, I decided to head to the eMart at Guro Digital Complex. One of the reasons I went there was to look for some Gudetama merchandise that Del had asked for her birthday. However I couldn’t find them there and was told by the sales representative to head to the eMart at Yeongdeungpo which is bigger and might carry the Gudetama merchandise. On a whim, I decided to head there.

The eMart branch at Yeongdeungpo is located inside the Times Square Shopping Mall. To my surprise, I found myself being in a pretty cool part of Seoul! The mall is huge and has many wings. They had one wing dedicated to luxury items (not my focus here) and another for those looking for items priced between the low and middle range.

The mall has lotsa cool cafes as well like the following which attracted me. I didn’t buy anything from it though as I just had some fruit juice before that.

20160514_190629_HDRThey call it “fish croissant”

20160514_175216_HDRThe fruit juice I had. I kinda like Cafe Pascucci. It sells only products related to fruits and desserts. No meat!

2016-05-14-22-57-47.jpgMy buys at the mall.

I was pretty surprised to discover that Yeongdeungpo is a pretty vibrant shopping area for the locals. I stumbled upon its underground shopping centre which is filled with tons of shops selling clothes at reasonable prices, a stretch of street where there is a night market and countless other shops!

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I have a feeling that I’ll be headed there again soon!

3) Feels like Christmas

I had three packages delivered to my apartment this week. The thrill I felt at opening the door and signing for the packages is such an out-of-this-world feeling that I question the state of my psychological health! I mean, is it allright to feel this pleased at receiving your online purchases? Do I need to seek professional help for this?

That said, one of the packages delivered that made me so happy was this:

Yep, my first purchase from Fashion Valet after a long while! I had stopped buying from the website earlier this year as I was busy preparing to fly to Seoul and then when I had eventually settled down here and ready to buy again, I was told by the people from FV that they do not deliver to Seoul.

However, dUckscarves recently released the Mother’s Day edition (which is just soooooo cute) of its scarves. That tempted me tremendously and ended the shopping hiatus from FV.  I really have to thank my friend for making it a possibility that I received this package.

I always never express it enough to him but I’m truly thankful to him for going the extra mile to help me with all these things and more. For instances like these where he helped to receive my package, checked to ensure its contents were correct and then went out to courier it to Seoul. Or during instances when he listened to me when I’m feeling a bit down from being away from home and offered me advice or just the comfort of a listening ear. Or just contacting me from time to time to ask me what I’m up to which made the days of being away from Singapore be more manageable. I always feel that all these are such a huge inconvenience to him especially since truly, my existence in his life doesn’t add value to it in any way but he still went ahead to do it. So yes, I’m moved by the kindness and feel deeply grateful to God for filling my life with awesome people like him.

Allright, so those are the highlights of my week!

It’s gonna be a short school day next week since one of my professors will be away on a business trip. Regardless, I still have quite a number of assignments and presentations to work on. I’m looking forward to the day I clear all these deadlines.

Ramadan is coming too. That’s yet another thing I pray Allah allows me to experience yet again. Amin.