Category Archives: Korea

Last Day in Seoul: Relaxing in Samcheongdong

Our last full day in Seoul before we head off to Japan! After all of the shopping and great eats, we were prepared for a relaxed day to wrap it all up–Seoul style.

The goal for the day was to get to a coffee shop and spend time relaxing as many people here do. It’s really a pasttime to just hang out at these cute coffee shops (ref. any Korean drama that takes place in the modern day).

So we headed out to Samcheongdong. We had been there before and loved all the boutique stores and the old downtown vibe, so it was a good destination to chill.

But like most days of late, we have been getting out the door later and later. And this time, we were out by 12pm! So of course, we got our mind on some food and some food on our mind~ Yeah… Ok cheesy references aside, we came across a small little noodle shop as we worked our way closer to Samcheongdong through the small side streets.

Guksu restaurant

Guksu restaurant

Piggy in her new outfit

Piggy in her new outfit

It was hot that day and so a refreshing bibim guksu, which is spicy cold noodles, sounded quite pleasing.

Refreshing Bibimguksu

Refreshing Bibimguksu

Pork got the same dish too

Pork got the same dish too

We have had bibim guksu before, many times, but this place served it almost like a noodle salad on a plate instead of a tin bowl. What was great about it is that they even put shaved ice in the dish to keep the noodles nice and cool. And we especially liked the seaweed in it too.

After our typical inhalation of our meals, we were ready to roll on. Pun intended. I, to speak for myself, have definitely gained more depth on the z-axis, rounding my body and making it more suitable for tumbling down hills.

We went through the same Samcheongdong-ro street which carried the majority of the shops in the area in search of a good place to perch ourselves. Unlike our first time around, there were waaaay more people here given that it was the weekend. We squeezed through the packs of oppas with their skinny nyoja chingus (girlfriends) and stopped in several accessory stores for Piggy to buy some rings. Er.. Not of the engagement kind.

Piggy found some great deals at 5,000 won a pop or ~$5, and bought several cute simple little bands (which she will likely lose as she has done in the past).

Making our way further up the street, we saw a cafe advertising the most scrumptious looking shaved ice dessert we had seen around.

Cafe Dal for patbingsu

Cafe Dal for patbingsu

Green tea patbingsu

Green tea patbingsu

IT WAS SOOOO alright. OK, it wasn’t bad just really really expensive for what you get. The order cost us about $15 and all that comes in it is a large bowl of shaved ice, 2 scoops of green tea ice cream, 1 mochi, half a banana, and a scoop of red bean paste. Really underwhelming for the price. But we’ll let it slide because Korea hadn’t disappointed us before.

Once we got our fill of dessert, we tried to find a hip coffee shop to settle in but ended up going back to Cafe Chloris where we had also went to the last time. We picked up 2 drinks and proceeded to spend the next 3 hours on blogging and researching for Japan.

Back at Cafe Chloris in Samcheongdong

Back at Cafe Chloris in Samcheongdong

As the night drew in, we packed up for home. We wanted to keep the day simple and went into a chicken shop called Oppa Dalk near our place.

The restaurant was a popular fried chicken franchise but we wanted to have a somewhat healthier order this time around and got a simple chicken salad. At least, we thought it was.

Chicken yogurt salad with ICE CREAM

Chicken yogurt salad with ICE CREAM

The salad came with 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream on it! We figured that a yogurt chicken salad is fine, especially since we live in Sunnyvale where yogurt is used liberally in the many Indian joints around us. But ice cream??

Well it ended up being a surprisingly acceptable mix when eating the fried chicken and the ice cream in one bite. I wouldn’t say it was amazing, but it sure was interesting.

We got back to the room by about 9pm since we had an early day ahead. As we were packing, we wanted to review our haul before playing Tetris with our luggage space.

Our makeup and other stuff haul

Our makeup and other stuff haul

Piggy's clothing haul

Piggy’s clothing haul

I would say we did some good damage for the first week of our stay abroad and we had plenty to carry for our next stop in Japan, but it was worth it.

To recount on the past week in Seoul, I must say that it has been a fantastic experience. The delicious food and the wondrous views made the trip thus far so very satisfying. But the biggest takeaways for me are the experiences of discovery, surprise, and even confusion which have all contributed to my feelings of enlightenment. Although I had seen Korea before, I felt I was much more aware of my surroundings this time around and really soaked in the environment. Kamsahamnida Seoul! I hope to see you again.

– pork

Dakgalbi, Banpo Bridge, and Drinking Like Locals!

Getting close to the end of our time in Korea! We are now trying to fit in everything else that we should do in Korea. So we wanted to find some dakgalbi for lunch first. Since Pork had it when he was here when he studied abroad at Yonsei University a long time ago, he wanted to take me to eat it and he knew most of the dakgalbi restaurants were near the university. So we went to Sinchon again! I think the dish is mostly known to be a really good drunchie (drunk munchie) for all those drunk students.. ๐Ÿ™‚ I knew it was spicy marinated chicken cooked on a hot, flat stone, but different restaurants had their own variations of it. The place we went to cooked the chicken with vegetables and cheeeese (mm mm, my favorite)! They also serve it with spaghetti. You can also opt for the fried rice at the end, just make sure to leave 1/3 of the meat and veggies to be cooked with the rice. We didn’t get the fried rice since we didn’t want to be too filled up with carbs, but everyone else in the restaurant seemed to get it and eat it all up. Another nice thing about Korean restaurants is that they provide aprons for you so your clothes don’t get splattered on with the spicy sauce.

Also, the weekend had so many more tourists and people than usual. We noticed a lot of tourists from Taiwan in the restaurant as well as a lot of other areas in general. We were glad to have gone to the really popular tourist areas already, otherwise we would have been packed in like sardines.

Dakgalbi restaurant in Sinchon

Dakgalbi restaurant in Sinchon

Piggy excited to eat

Piggy excited to eat

Pork donning an apron

Pork donning an apron

Raw ingredients ready for some cooking magic

Raw ingredients ready for some cooking magic

Voila! Cooked dakgalbi

Voila! Cooked dakgalbi

Spaghetti added into the mix

Spaghetti added into the mix

After lunch, we decided to cool down at Gong Cha and get some teas. Gong Cha is a really big franchise of tea in Korea; it’s basically the Starbucks of tea. Pork got the Wintermelon with Crema, which was REALLY good. I wanted to steal it. >:] If only my Grapefruit green tea wasn’t so good too, haha. I know, I’m greedy.

Gong Cha! Wintermelon with Crema and Grapefruit green tea

Gong Cha! Wintermelon with Crema and Grapefruit green tea

We walked toward the area of Ewha University to check out the area and maybe do some shopping – definitely did some shopping alright, got a HAUL at this one store called Be Seto. So many cute things for good prices (the range was from 5,000 to 30,000 won but MOST things were 10,000 won). Woo woo! A lot of other clothing stores actually sold similar things so I didn’t bother looking. I had to pee really badly after (from the shopping adrenaline? Baha jk, from that grapefruit tea probably), so we went into the nearest cafe, which was a Dunkin Donuts. Hence, the cronut.

New York pies aka Cronuts

New York pies aka Cronuts

After that, we walked toward the station to get to Banpo Bridge and stopped to get some street food!

Chicken skewer stand in Ewha

Chicken skewer stand in Ewha

Grilled chicken skewer with green onion, spicy sauce, and drizzled cheese

Grilled chicken skewer with green onion, spicy sauce, and drizzled cheese

Pork enjoying a spicy chicken skewer

Pork enjoying a spicy chicken skewer

Banpo bridge is a famous bridge that has a water show every night with lights and music. I honestly didn’t think it was THAT impressive. Maybe we didn’t go on the right night? I’ve seen pictures online where the lights look really vibrant but when we went, I could barely see the differentiation. I will admit though, it is still a nice place to bring your significant other and/or friends, maybe some snacks, and blankets to sit down and chill out.

Banpo bridge water show

Banpo bridge water show

After Banpo Bridge, we set out to find some dinner near our place so we found this alleyway full of food. I think we walked up and down the entire alleyway 3 times before we decided on something. Since it was our last night, I thought we should get some good ol’ KBBQ because it just never gets old when you’re in Korea, haha. But this time, we decided to drink like the Koreans do! Or as close as we could get. We decided to share a bottle of soju. Man oh man, Koreans are hardcore. They usually drink 1 bottle of soju per person for DINNER. And then go drinking more after at multiple bars and then karaoke. I started realizing and was amazed that in all of the restaurants we’ve been going to, even though Pork and I are still in that young, prime-drinking-age, we found the ajusshis/ajimas and older business men/women sitting near us pounding soju like it was nothing. Sharing this bottle of soju and having 1 bottle of beer each got us druuunk. But it was probably the best kind of drunk, definitely didn’t feel sick and had lots of giggles. It was probably the best way to spend our last full night out in Seoul.

Some food alley in Cheongdong near our place!

Some food alley in Cheongdong near our place!

Prepped for KBBQ action

Prepped for KBBQ action

Kalbi and samgyepsal. Yummmmm

Kalbi and samgyepsal. Yummmmm

Piggy pre-buzzed

Piggy pre-buzzed

Drinking soju to have a real KBBQ meal

Drinking soju to have a real KBBQ meal

– piggy

Namdaemun and Namsan Tower

Friday! The trip so far has been so eventful but rewarding. We started off our morning with… walking! Walking is fine and all, but this is probably the most ground I’ve covered on foot especially in such a short period of time. Wish I brought Nikes.

Tip: A lot of people in Seoul either wear fancy business attire or running shoes. So wearing a pair of colorful Nikes here is totally acceptable.

Our first destination was Namdaemun Market, about 1.5 miles away. We passed by City Hall on the way there and it looked like there was some sort of awareness day going on.

In front of City Hall

In front of City Hall

There were yellow ribbons all around just like with breast cancer awareness and pink ribbons. It wasn’t only until I looked it up later that I learned that the yellow ribbons represent hope in light of the Ferry Disaster.

As we began approaching Namdaemun, we followed a crowd into a small street which, of course, was filled with restaurants! The great thing about Seoul is that, the little streets are the places to be. Not sure where to find food? Take a turn off the big road and into the groves of BBQ meats and pork cutlets.

The same way we picked all our other restaurants, we looked for a restaurant filled with people.

Restaurant on the way to Namdaemun

Restaurant on the way to Namdaemun

The restaurant served KBBQ but also regular lunch food like Galbi Tang and Soondubu.

Galbi Tang

Galbi Tang

Soondubu Soup!

Soondubu Soup!

Both dishes were spectacular! Seriously, eating Korean food in Korea has yet to disappoint.

Piggy with her soondubu

Piggy with her soondubu

After our satisfying meal, we shuffled on to Namdaemun Market but had to go through an underground shopping center first.

Namdaemun underground shopping stairs

Namdaemun underground shopping stairs

The stairs were lined with little vendors with tiny nooks where the merchants would sit. Once we were in the shopping center, we found ourselves in another cheap goods galore.

Namdaemun underground shopping

Namdaemun underground shopping

The shops were small, antique shops as well as the typical clothing stalls we’ve seen before. So we made our way to the surface without any purchases.

Namdaemun market packed on Saturday

Namdaemun market packed on Saturday

Whoa! Upon surfacing, we found ourselves in a pool of locals and foreigners all scurrying through the narrow paths of Namdaemun Market. There were plenty of foreigners from China, America, and Europe, all strolling around to admire the variety of apparel as well as food. We even saw a whole section for military style clothing with camo prints.

The market was a fascinating change from the other stalls we’ve seen before in that it reminded me of shopping in Chinatown in LA as a kid, before it got all hipster. The market was old and comprised of a much older merchant base. It’s like where Grandma goes to see friends and play Mah Jong, while someone is inevitably smoking a cigarette while hunched over a pink plastic stool. Yup, nostalgia.

Once we were through the market flurry, we headed in the direction of Myeongdong which was close by. And just a block away from the little stalls of Namdaemun Market, we were greeted by a towering Shinsegae department store.

It was a beauty filled with high end brands like Gucci, Prada, and Burberry. But the best find in the entire building was in B1, a floor for FOOD!

There was a grocery store, a slew of restaurants, and an array of food stalls. This bakery had a wide assortment of baked hot dog goods!

Wide array of hot dog goods at Shinsegae

Wide array of hot dog goods at Shinsegae

It looked amaaaaaazing. But we were too full for another feeding frenzy. But we did find a tea place to quench our thirst. But it was none other than SHARETEA!

We found ShareTea!!!

We found ShareTea!!!

We were so thrilled to find this because we had just tried this place back in San Mateo, CA, and loooved it.

We also noticed this neat machine that sanitizes all of the shopping carts with UV.

Ingenious UV sanitizing cart machine

Ingenious UV sanitizing cart machine

It’s pretty amazing and ingenious. One point up for Korea over Amurrrica.

The amazing Shinsegae also had a rooftop garden to relax from shopping desensitization.

Rooftop garden of Shinsegae

Rooftop garden of Shinsegae

There were so many moms here with their babies. I suppose it’s where all the housewives of Seoul hang out.

Aside from the drinks at ShareTea and the food on B1, we had no appetite to buy anything from Shinsegae as it was all designer and beyond our lack of money. So we decided to head back into Myeongdong where we were a few days before.

We went into H&M, Forever 21, Uniqlo, and a few other stores to look for some clothes. Piggy got several shirts and tanks from a store called Top 10 while I got a shirt from BSX, where I was suckered in by how good G Dragon of Big Bang looked in the clothing. He was literally the only model for the store and was plastered on every wall.

As the night rolled in, we had worked up our appetite and so we got a chicken wrap from a food stall.

Chicken wraps with wasabi sauce

Chicken wraps with wasabi sauce vendor

Piggy going in for the bite

Piggy going in for the bite

Dat wasabi sauce

Dat wasabi sauce

The wrap was essentially a Taco Bell chicken wrap taken up 3 levels from the better ingredients and a bomb wasabi sauce.

Just getting through our appetizer made us want a bit more. Piggy had been wanting kimbap practically since we got to Korea so we found a popular kimbap franchise in Myeongdong.

KimGaNe store

KimGaNe store

The prices were stellar at ~$4 a roll. We ordered a tuna kimbap and an assorted kimbap. Both were made to order!

Our 2 orders of scrumptious kimbap

Our 2 orders of scrumptious kimbap

The kimbaps here were loaded with ingredients and felt much heartier. And I loved that they were wrapped in the salty seaweed that’s often used for snacking. It brought out more of the flavors.

Kimbap pieces displaying their bountiful treasures

Kimbap pieces displaying their bountiful treasures

After annihilating our 2 rolls, we were ready for the trek to Namsan tower.

On our way through an underground pass, we saw an old lady with 2 boxes…

Tiny kitten at the subway. Sooo small!

Tiny kitten at the subway. Sooo small!

They were filled with kittens and puppies! They weren’t leashed and the kittens were chilling on the steps while hundreds of people passed by. It did make me sad though since I knew those little fluffs probably weren’t very well fed or taken care of.

The trek to the cable car took about 10 minutes of walking. When we got there, we found way more Chinese tourists than local Koreans and we all had to cram in an elevator to even get to the cable car station.

Elevator to cable car for Namsan Tower

Elevator to cable car for Namsan Tower

After riding the elevator up, which happened to be more of a box on an escalator, we had to wait in line for about 20 minutes just to get on the cable car. But once we got on the cable car, we got a great view of the city as we made our way up. And the tight spaces of the car had all the couples embracing (although Piggy was a little resistant at first, she gave in too). ๐Ÿ˜‰

At the base of the tower, there were many cafe shops and small eateries as well as gift shops for the visitors. We snapped a picture of the tower as we were making our way into the crowd.

Beautiful Namsan Tower glowing at night

Beautiful Namsan Tower glowing at night

One of the main attractions of Namsan Tower is the abundance of lover locks which decorate entire walls and trees!

Lover lock trees. ALL of those are locks!

Lover lock trees. ALL of those are locks!

These locks are hung by couples to symbolize their everlasting love for one another. Although, it’s probably more of a gimmick to make money as the tower sells the locks for $15. But you can still bring your own to save a few bucks.

The view from the top was magical and really made it a great date spot.

Piggy and the glistening city in the background

Piggy and the glistening city in the background

Another neat thing about the tower is that it has shops and attractions inside of the base. There is a restaurant and observatory deck at the top of the tower too, but it costs money so we opted out of it.

Instead, we roamed the inside and found this A Twosome Place banner with Lee Min Ho who we were familiar with from Boy’s Over Flowers (a Korean romantic comedy drama).

Twosome Place banner with Lee Min Ho

Twosome Place banner with Lee Min Ho

After about an hour or so, we were ready to leave the tower. But when we saw the massive line for the cable car down, we knew it would have easily been an hour wait. So, the abled-bodies that we were, decided to hike down from the tower base.

The long descent from Namsan Tower

The long descent from Namsan Tower

It took about 20 minutes of nothing but stairs to reach the bottom. There were plenty of others on the path so it assured us we weren’t doing anything out of the ordinary, and we even saw plenty of people still going up!

Even though we had a 20 minute march down from Namsan Tower, we had about another mile and a half to walk to get back to our room.

On the way we saw a McDonalds with all of its delivery bikes outside. They deliver McDonalds here!

Array of McDonalds delivery bikes

Array of McDonalds delivery bikes

Well they also deliver fried chicken, sushi, and jjajangmyun here too. Ahhh… it would be too easy to get fat here.

And our next meal didn’t help this from being true either. We found a HOF, a common type of Korean pub all around Seoul, and dropped in for some beers and food.

Pork enjoying an ice cold Cass after the long walk

Pork enjoying an ice cold Cass after the long walk

We ordered a spicy tteokboki with seafood dish which is popular to eat with beer.

Ooey, gooey tteokboki and seafood dish

Ooey, gooey tteokboki and seafood dish

And oh boy was it a cheesy, gooey, mouthgasm mess. We managed to eat it all. It was really a great way to more than make up for all of the Calories burned throughout the day, but oh well. We are here to eat! And eat we shall!

Right before getting home, we wrapped up the night by picking up some Makgeolli, a Korean rice wine, to try out in the comforts of our own room. It’s a common drink here but neither of us have ever tried it.

Makgeolli to finish the night

Makgeolli to finish the night

It was surprisingly not bad. It’s about as strong as a Zinfandel but with a grittier consistency like horchata. You can taste and feel a bit of the creaminess from the rice mixture but it still isn’t very thick at all and would be closer in consistency to water than wine.

It was the perfect way to end a long day. Kanbe!

– pork

Samcheongdong, Insadong, and Mapo

Helloooo! So today we decided to first check out Samcheongdong because our friend Ricky recommended it to us (thanks Ricky!) and then head over to Mapo. Since I was low on blood sugar the other day and Paris Baguette saved my life, I told Pork that we HAVE to get it every morning from now on!!! We knew one was across the street from our airbnb so we hurried on over and chose this pastry that honestly looked a little questionable. I remember first thinking that it looked like a savory pastry but Pork wanted it (and he usually likes to choose the weird/different looking things..which I guess explains why he chose me haha ^_^). It looked like a lot of mini square croissants stuck together into a pile with black stuff sprinkled on it. But we took one bite and to my surprise, it was quite pleasant. I’ve noticed a lot of pastries and desserts/drinks made in Korea usually aren’t too sweet, which, yes I know, is an Asian thing but it still caught me by surprise. The texture is probably what caught my attention the most: slightly crunchy and sticky on the outside with a hint of honey but soft and chewy on the inside. After yesterday’s and today’s experience, Paris Baguette (in Korea) will always have a special place in my heart.

Starting the day right with Paris Baguette

Starting the day right with Paris Baguette

Afterward, we proceeded to walk toward Samcheongdong. On the way, we stopped by to take a few pictures of the Sejong Statue, Gyeongbok Palace, and Gwanghwamun Gate.

Sejong Statue

Sejong Statue

Vast view of Gyeongbok Palace

Vast view of Gyeongbok Palace

Gwanghwamun Gate

Gwanghwamun Gate

When you’re under the gate, remember to look up! ๐Ÿ™‚

Beautiful ceiling at the gate

Beautiful ceiling at the gate

Once we were done with those, we wrapped around to the side of the palace.

Walking along the palace wall

Walking along the palace wall

Piggy and the long walls of the palace

Piggy and the long walls of the palace

I actually really loved Samcheongdong. It’s exactly how our friend described it: full of artsy, boutique shops and cafรฉs. We got to these alleyways that are basically at the border of Samcheongdong and the walls had random (but cute) artwork.

Cute doggy art in Samcheongdong

Cute doggy art in Samcheongdong

Getting silly

Getting silly

I think the best way to describe Samcheongdong is a cute downtown area. I honestly don’t feel like I’m in the city anymore. There is one main road, with some back alleyways, and the whole area has that vibe of taking a stroll on a breezy, sunny day. At the end of the main road, we decided to keep going and saw this nice little path that leads to Samcheongdong park.

Path to Samcheongdong Park

Path to Samcheongdong Park

We walked through a forest area and climbed some steps, and found this random area with exercise machines! The park is actually really pretty and peaceful, and I think it’s great that Korea provides these free gym-like machines throughout the park (maybe for people who can’t afford gyms? Or maybe it’s to satisfy part of Korea’s philosophy for keeping the country fit and faaaab!-will make a blog post about that later). Anyway, we even saw random people in business clothes taking a stroll through the park too haha.

Pork rolling out his back in the park

Pork rolling out his back in the park

So Pork and I made the decision to keep going and we got to this sign where it pointed in an upward direction that said, “Prospect Point 600m.” We decided to just do it to see what it was and we definitely didn’t have the right gear on for what was to come next. Just be prepared for lots and lots of steps!! It was truly 600m of stairs at a 45 degree angle. Side Note: I have decided that all Seoulites are stairmasters (no, not the gym machine but literally, masters of stairs). This is because there are so many stairs that we have to climb everyday: sightseeing, inside the stores, to get to certain restaurants, cafรฉs, at the subway station -OMG the subway stations have, on average, 2 or 3 flights of stairs (along with some escalators) that you have to ascend or descend to get to where you need to be (which isn’t so bad) but some stations have 5 or 6+ flights and NO escalators. Think about all those steps and doing that in HEELS. I don’t understand how the Korean women here do it. ANYWAY…

One of many stairs to Prospect Point

One of many stairs to Prospect Point

We reached our destination and what a view! Nice and breezy up there too.

Beautiful view from Prospect Point

Beautiful view from Prospect Point

Piggy with the wind and the spectacular view

Piggy with the wind and the spectacular view

After getting back to the main road of Samcheongdong, Pork and I were definitely thirsty so we stopped by this quaint place called, Chloris Tea Garden. We ordered the Rosemary Lemonade and the Ice Lemongrass. These drinks were definitely on the expensive side (about 7,000 – 9,000 won each) but they were so refreshing to drink after that unplanned hike.

Classy exterior of Chloris Tea Garden in Samcheongdong

Classy exterior of Chloris Tea Garden in Samcheongdong

Pricey but very refreshing drinks from Chloris

Pricey but very refreshing drinks from Chloris

After our nice break, we made our trek to Mapo to visit Mapo bridge and eat some Mapo kalbi! On our way there, we stumbled into Insadong, which was originally planned for another day but we decided to go through it anyway.

Cute mural on the way to Insadong

Cute mural on the way to Insadong

In Insadong, there are mainly traditional Korean souvenirs sold so things that I believe my parents or the older generation would have interest in buying. I would say the main attraction for us was this artsy building called Ssamziegil. It’s actually a tower that has many handmade artistic shops that sell jewelry, key chains, bags, plushies, you name it. Most of the crowd that we saw hanging out at this building was the younger generation so it’s probably the “hip” place to be when in Insadong.

Super artsy Ssamziegil building in Insadong

Super artsy Ssamziegil building in Insadong

Woodsy theme decor

Woodsy theme decor

Random cute kitty in hanbok

Random cute kitty in hanbok

Before heading out, Pork and I were craving some jjajangmyun, so I looked up this place called Hyeonraejang, which is conveniently located in Mapo so once we hit Mapo, we set out to the restaurant first for our late lunch. The noodles were soft and chewy, and I actually finished my plate faster than Pork did, which is crazy because we both eat like vacuums.

Jjajangmyun restaurant in Mapo

Jjajangmyun restaurant in Mapo

Jjajangmyun!!

Jjajangmyun!!

We decided to digest by taking a walk to and on Mapo bridge, which was close to the restaurant. So if you guys don’t know about Mapo bridge, it’s known for the most suicides, which I know, is really sad :(, but I basically discovered it through a video that was released awhile ago about how Seoul and Samsung Life Insurance teamed up to remodel the bridge so that less suicides would happen. I thought it was really great that there was an effort made to try to prevent and/or lower the country’s suicide rate through a creative means. (Note: If you google “Mapo bridge of life” now, there are actually a lot of articles that indicate that the results are mixed and the remodel may have attracted MORE suicides. :/) I know it takes more than signs that light up, cute drawings, and voice recordings to completely change that state of mind, but I hope that these changes have helped someone. This should also serve as a reminder to us that we should cherish life and appreciate the people we love in our lives. ๐Ÿ™‚

Lovely day on Mapo bridge

Lovely day on Mapo bridge

Remember LOVE

Remember LOVE

Words to remind visitors the reasons to live

Words to remind visitors the reasons to live

If you guys don’t know, Mapo area is where grilling marinated kalbi and dwaeji got famous. And Pork and I are mainly driven by food when we go visit places. So… besides visiting Mapo bridge, our main goal was to find the famous Mapo kalbi and dwaeji alleyway. We decided to stop by a cafe called Cafe Bene to get some wifiz to find it. Even though we were supposed to be digesting, we decided to go with our gut (as usual) and order the Caramel and Cinnamon Honey Bread even though it was 1400 calories (the restaurant so generously listed all the calories on the menu)..but oh well! The honey bread tasted like what honey bread is probably SUPPOSED to taste like: a slightly crunchy crust on the outside and so delightfully fluffy and spongy on the inside with drizzles of caramel.. Sigh. I know that we’re traveling and it’s expected for us to gain weight..so we will work out after our vacation. At least that’s what we keep telling ourselves now…

Caramel and Cinammon Bread

Caramel and Cinammon Bread

We found this great Mapo kalbi restaurant and we didn’t find out until after our meal that the restaurant was a Certified Mapo Tourist Restaurant! We entered in through the back and exited through the front, haha. So what’s so different about these restaurants is that you sit on floor mats and the grills on the table are all charcoal grills (a charcoal man comes over to your table and puts coals under your grill). We ordered one of each meat (kalbi and dwaeji) and both were deeelicious!!! The meats definitely had a distinct flavor and I guess that’s what Koreans refer to as the “Mapo” taste.

Mapo Galbi restaurant

Mapo Galbi restaurant

Authentic charcoal grill

Authentic charcoal grill

Piggy sitting around ready to eat

Piggy sitting around ready to eat

Pork grilling some Mapo Galbi

Pork grilling some Mapo Galbi

After dinner, we headed home and saw a very important infographic on the subway that we decided to translate ourselves as you can see below:

Don't be a creeper taking selfies with little girls

Don’t be a creeper taking selfies with little girls

๐Ÿ™‚

– piggy

Sinchon, GANGNAM, and Dongdaemun Shopping

Jocheun achim-ieyo (good morning)! Day 3 of our 7 day trip to Korea! Today was filled with a ton of walking. I wished I brought my pedometer. Would’ve broke numbers on it. Pfft oh well.

Starting our day, we hopped on the green line to Sinchon, where the famous Yonsei University is and where I took a Summer program 5 years back. Upon exiting the station, I caught a glimpse of a huge SNSD advertisement and had to stop for a pic.

Large SNSD advertisement

Large SNSD advertisement

Seriously, when celebrities are famous here, they are EVERYWHERE. Like, each celebrity will take up endorsements from 1 brand of each industry. As in they need to be featured on coffee posters, clothing lines, and of course makeup.

As we got out onto the street, we found the giant red tube mirror thing by the station exit.

Giant mirror in Sinchon

Giant mirror in Sinchon

It’s a perfect tool for what so many Koreans here do regularly–admire themselves or fix their meticulously assembled hair. You will easily catch girls AND guys pausing to look at themselves in a mirror or on their phone. We even saw a girl pull out a large mirror, the ones with a handle.

We continued on through Sinchon which was very nostalgic for me. Some stores I remembered from years back were replaced by the newest trends but luckily some remained. After briefly roaming, we saw a busy cold noodle shop and decided to grab a bite.

Pyongyang Choson in Sinchon

Pyongyang Choson in Sinchon

The cold noodles or Naengmyun is popular in Korea especially on hot days as it’s very cool and refreshing. The noodles are usually buckwheat or arrowroot which make for very chewy noodles that need to be cut up with scissors to eat more easily. Piggy got the bibim naengmyun which is the spicy noodles.

Bibim Naengmyun

Bibim Naengmyun

I opted for the mul naengmyun.

Mul Naengmyun

Mul Naengmyun

Both were delicious and made for a very light lunch.

Pork and his noodles

Pork and his noodles

Piggy and her noodles

Piggy and her noodles

We continued roaming Sinchon a bit more.

Streets of Sinchon

Streets of Sinchon

And even stumbled upon some neat art and funky buildings like this cafe.

Wacky cafe in Sinchon

Wacky cafe in Sinchon

After Sinchon, we hopped on the metro for a long ride to Coex mall in Gangnam. It took about 45 mins. but gave me time to nap. Much needed for all the walking ahead.

Once we got to Coex, we discovered it was mostly under construction!

Coex mall in Gangnam

Coex mall in Gangnam

It was a shame because Coex is reknowned for being the largest and most spectacular mall in Seoul. It even has an aquarium. We still got to enjoy the area though and enjoyed the breeze while walking outside before we headed towards Gangnam Station, closer to the heart of Gangnam.

After exiting Gangnam Station, we were greeted with massive highrise buildings.

Towering buildings in Gangnam

Towering buildings in Gangnam

We could definitely see the plethora of sharply dressed businessmen here and the abundance of coffee shops.

We stopped by Angel-in-us Coffee for a break and some free wifi. Hehe.

Angel-in-us Coffee

Angel-in-us Coffee

Speaking of which, we found that there are random pockets of free wifi around Seoul but generally the coffee shops will have free wifi.

Piggy relaxing from all the walking

Piggy relaxing from all the walking

Our iced americano and red orange tea

Our iced americano and red orange tea

We checked our Facebooks (gotta stay in the loop) and then planned our next stop to Sohhyeon Station which is just about half a mile from Gangnam Station. Heading up to the station, we passed by all of the hip bars and shops of Gangnam.

The hangout areas of Gangnam

The hangout areas of Gangnam

Hopping on the metro, we made a quick trip to Apgujeong, an area still within Gangnam.

Getting low on blood-sugar, we stopped by Paris Baguette, a popular bakery chain also found in the States. Piggy took a few moments then found the pastry she wanted.

“This is the one”, she told me.

Piggy enjoying a chocolate pastry from Paris Baguette

Piggy enjoying a chocolate pastry from Paris Baguette

I took a bite and could see why. It was fluffy, not too sweet, and chocolatey. It was like biting into a creamy pillow of euphoria.

Look at that fluffy chocolate goodness

Look at that fluffy chocolate goodness

So good…

We kept on our trek through the famous Gangnam and made our way to Rodeo Street, the birthplace of none other than the OPP-OPP-OPPAN GANGNAM STYLE! The song rightfully parodies the affluence of Gangnam which we could see from the prevalence of luxury cars.

Just an Audi R8 in Gangnam

Just an Audi R8 in Gangnam

We spotted several Porsches, a Maserati, and a Lamborghini.

Finished with the window shopping (because everything in Gangnam is expensive), we were ready for Dongdaemun.

Walking to Dongdaemun

Walking to Dongdaemun

Dongdaemun is popular amongst tourists and locals for clothing and wholesale goods. It’s a bit like the fashion district in LA where many fabric shops line the sidewalk. But the more popular parts of Dongdaemun are the multiple shopping complexes. Basically, they’re like low end department stores packed with small booths.

We opted to go into Migliore, an 8 floor of shopping mania.

Shopping in Dongdaemun at Migliore

Shopping in Dongdaemun at Migliore

So many clothessss

So many clothessss

Here, you are expected to haggle for a better price. And if you’re not Korean or fluent in it, expect to be ripped off. Which… I’m sure we were. But nevertheless, we managed to get Piggy a few things at a “discount” that she was happy with.

It's packed with clothes

It’s packed with clothes

We were a bit overwhelmed and the clothing started to get repetitive. Although there were still neat things worth buying.

Too much clothes!

Too much clothes!

The Migliore building in Dongdaemun

The Migliore building in Dongdaemun

While in Dongdaemun, we saw PACKS of tourists from Hong Kong, China, and I think the Phillipines.

Tourists and locals in Dongdaemun

Tourists and locals in Dongdaemun

Piggy was glad to be outside after her bit of shopping.

Pleased with shopping

Pleased with shopping

At this point, it was time for dinner and we roamed into the backstreets away from the main roads where all the good food is found.

Backstreets of Dongdaemun

Backstreets of Dongdaemun

And we discovered this poppin’ restaurant.

The awesome chukumi vs. kimchi jiggae restaurant

The awesome chukumi vs. kimchi jiggae restaurant

We saw amazing looking pictures for this place and were able to get seated right away.

Piggy ready to chow down

Piggy ready to chow down

We ordered the first item in the menu which all the other tables seemed to have.

Delectable meal combo

Delectable meal combo

The mussels part of the combo

The mussels part of the combo

This combo came with a SPIIICY octopus and pork belly stir-fry which is cooked at the table. It even came with a pot of mussels and a side of sesame leaves and seaweed.

Close up of the amazing spicy octopus and pork belly

Close up of the amazing spicy octopus and pork belly

This. Was. BOMB! The red sauce packed a lot of heat but this dish was so tasty and different from the typical KBBQ we have back home. This combo cost 13,000 won a person which was totally worth it. They gave plenty of octopus, pork belly, and mussels to more than warrant the price. They also give free refills on seaweed, sesame leaves, and side dishes. It was a solid meal.

I’ll definitely remember it and the spiciness!

Pork feeling the HEAT

Pork feeling the HEAT

Another tip for other foreigners like us, we had to peek over at other tables to figure out how to eat the food. Do as the locals do! Also, a lot of communal places like this serve by the number of people in your party. Just like if you were to get AYCE in America.

With tingly mouths and happy tummies, we wandered Dongdaemun some more and stumbled into DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza). It was a windy, curvy building with sporadic bits of art. We also saw Akdong Musician being projected on a wall!

Akdong Musician!

Akdong Musician!

Outside of the building in the courtyard, we saw an alluring stairway.

Magical stairway to the land of the unicorns and rainbows

Magical stairway to the land of the unicorns and rainbows

This whole structure was incredible. It’s a massive, metallic and round building that’s hard to describe. It felt very futuristic. From the lights, the walls, and pathways, it all felt inspiring.

The marvelous DDP structure

The marvelous DDP structure

Ah, another great day in Seoul. Wish you guys could join us!

– pork

Shopping! Myeongdong, Dog cafe, Hongdae, and Etude House HAUL

After getting some good rest in our Bbungalow, we were ready for Day 2! Today we wanted to hit up Myeongdong, which is famous for tourism and shopping, and Hongdae, which is popular for clubs, bars, and art.

Luckily Myeongdong was only a 15 min. walk away from our place and we wanted to see the city more while we were at it. To get to Myeongdong, we had to cross the man made stream Chonggyecheon, where many people go to relax by the water.

Chonggyecheon Stream on a beautiful day

Chonggyecheon Stream on a beautiful day

The weather was excellent and really made Seoul more charming. Piggy didn’t like that it was windy but she still looked great.

Piggy posing in her outfit for today

Piggy posing in her outfit for today

The walk over to Myeongdong wasn’t bad at all and we stumbled upon some neat things along the way like this giant O in front of Citi bank.

O! A random circle in front of Citi bank

O! A random circle in front of Citi bank

Also we found this patio area decked out with Snow White characters and a giant shroooom!

Huge Shroom!

Huge Shroom!

We started approaching the heart of Myeongdong and picked up an appetite on the way. So we randomly picked one of the many Korean BBQ joints and went with it. This place was called something like Mokgocheon and the waitress knew bits of English and brought us an English menu. That made it soooooo much easier and we got the skirt steak for 9,000 won or $9 USD.

Korean BBQ in Myeongdong

Korean BBQ in Myeongdong

Also we got the stir fried octopus and pork which was delicious and only for 6,000 won! This dish easily goes for $10 in Amurrrica.

Stir Fried Octopus and Pork

Stir Fried Octopus and Pork

The food here was delightful and the meat came with a side of shredded onions and a light soy vinegar dressing. The waitress instructed us to eat the meat with the onions and slap on some bean paste sauce. And wow! It was good. The flavor of the bean paste (tenjang) was much more flavorful than what I’m used to having in the States. Piggy was very pleased too.

Piggy with some grilled pork (!!!)

Piggy with some grilled pork (!!!)

After filling our growing bellies, we were ready for SHOPPING!

Myeongdong shopping and food

Myeongdong shopping and food

We proceeded to walk through Myeongdong’s edge towards the department store section so we could loop back to cover more ground. For those who have never been to Myeongdong, it’s like a network of alleys and small streets PACKED with restaurants, tons of beauty stores (more on that later), and clothing stores. So it’s easy to get lost or miss a few alleys.

But before getting into the heart of Myeongdong, we made our way through the Myeongdong Underground Shopping to get to the department stores across the street from Central Myeongdong.

Myeongdong underground shopping

Myeongdong underground shopping

The underground shopping is comprised of a wide corridor of small shops but unfortunately we forgot to snag a pic.

We made our way through to the Lotte Young World department store. And heading in we saw some amazing art haha.

Random wall art that was AMAZING!

Random wall art that was AMAZING!

It’s silly but I thought it was cute. So the Lotte Young World department store is like the many in Korea where each floor houses a variety of name brand clothing stores and other miscellaneous shops setup in a loop so you can circle the floor then head up to the next floor. The basement floor even had a SM entertainment pop up store which sold merchandise from various Kpop groups like EXO and SNSD. But one of the best stores we came across was… LINE!!!

For the non-LINE users, LINE is a wildly popular chat app in Asia which features awesome LINE characters.

Moon from LINE!!

Moon from LINE!!

Isn’t it great? We were so ecstatic for this place since both Piggy and I use LINE with our friends. You should too.

Look! More awesome LINE characters.

Brown and Sally from LINE!

Brown and Sally from LINE!

We seriously spent 20-30 mins. in that store. It was great. Grrreat.

LINE Friends store

LINE Friends store

After finally departing the LINE store, we did the trek through all 6 floors of the department store passing by many unknown brands and a handful of familiar ones (like Muji, Zara, and Uniqlo to name a few). But once we got to the top we were met with a pleasant surprise.

Rooftop garden

Rooftop garden

There was a rooftop garden! And even better was that it had full sized cardboard cut outs of the SNSD members including one of my favorites–Tiffany~

Pork with Tiffany from SNSD

Pork with Tiffany from SNSD

It’s pretty easy to see why she would be one of my faves. No worries, no real romance here. I’ve still got Piggy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The garden was really a nice getaway and some locals looked to be enjoying themselves in the patio area, escaping the crowded city.

Lovely garden away from the city bustle

Lovely garden away from the city bustle

Another nice surprise was finding these Larva characters which happen to be very popular in Korea. Not really sure where they’re from but they look hilarious! hahaha.

Piggy and Larva characters lol

Piggy and Larva characters lol

We finally descended from the Lotte Young World department store and skipped the main Lotte department store nearby since it was all high end and expensive Gucci and Chanel. So we made our way back to Myeongdong central and hit up the one of MANY makeup stores.

OK. To get the idea across, Koreans and makeup are like Americans to Starbucks. It’s freaking everywhere like an airborne virus. There are a handful of major makeup brands here like Etude House, The Face Shop, Missha, Nature Republic, Holika Holika, and Skin Food to name a FEW. We literally saw 4+ of each of these stores within Myeongdong. And Myeongdong AIN’T that big. It was like turning the corner to see the same set of stores over and over again.

Anyway, we did plan on going to Etude House as we got a long shopping list from my sister-in-law haha. Once inside, one of the 6+ workers approached us speaking Chinese. As this is a heavily touristy area, you will find a LOT of workers here speak Chinese (mainly Mandarin) or Japanese… but not so much English.

Extreme Etude House shopping

Extreme Etude House shopping

I snagged a pic of Piggy doing her intense Etude House clean out.

Once we finally finished with the makeup, we saw advertisements for a Dog Cafe. Yup, dog cafe.

Dog Cafe in Myeongdong

Dog Cafe in Myeongdong

Where you go to drink tea and play with dogs that lounge around and poo/pee everywhere. These cafรฉs are popular in Korea because come on… DOGGIES!!!

Doggies everywhere!

Doggies everywhere!

It costed us 8,000 won each ($8 USD) and you get a free drink which is totally worth it for the dogggiesssss. We found an especially cute pug that kept falling asleep.

Piggy and the pug

Piggy and the pug

So adorable but it made me miss my own Piglet (Teddy bear!!) back at home.

We spent a good 30 mins. there before bouncing out back into Myeongdong to get some snacks.

Pro Tip: The street food carts all come out at 4 pm in Myeongdong so keep that in mind when visiting.

Me and Piggy shared one of Korea’s popular ice cream tube snacks which was nice and refreshing.

Popular ice cream tube store

Popular ice cream tube store

Piggy and I enjoyed it.

Piggy and the ice cream thingy

Piggy and the ice cream thingy

Carrying on with our fattiness, I picked up a sweet cinammony pancake thing.

Street food sweets pancakes and savory bun things

Street food sweets pancakes and savory bun things

‘Twas a nice contrast to the cold ice cream.

And of course we couldn’t keep our eyes off dem sausages.

Assorted skewered goodness

Assorted skewered goodness

We also saw these insanely huge cotton candy balls.

Super huge cotton candy!

Super huge cotton candy!

By this point, we were done with Myeongdong and were ready to head into Hongdae, a very popular spot for hip stores, restaurants, and art. Also it’s widely known as the party spot with clubs and bars.

One neat store we went to was Samsammadong, a butterfly wing art store, gallery, and studio. The store offers really creative artwork (remember, art doesn’t just come in the form of paintings) made by art students.

Samsammadong building

Samsammadong building

The building is super hip and snazzy in there with a gallery on the 2nd floor. But we passed as it had a 5,000 won admission fee.

At this point we were thoroughly tired with achy feet. So we rested at a dessert cafe and got some shaved snow or “patbingsoo”.

Mango patbingsoo

Mango patbingsoo

It was getting dark but that’s when Hongdae really comes to life.

Hongdae at night

Hongdae at night

The picture above didn’t do Hongdae justice but it was really lively and lit up at night. There were also artists that came out to play music with crowds clapping along.

Hongdae was great but both Piggy and I weren’t up for any clubbing and were ready to head home.

We got back to our building and opted to get food at the Korean shop next door. When Piggy and I were exploring the area near our building last night, we smelled that infamous Korean BBQ awesomeness as we passed by this joint. So Piggy pretty much demanded to have it tonight.

Pork and BBQ set

Pork and BBQ set

We got Korean BBQ here but they serve other common Korean food too. We opted for the MoDeum Gogi A (meat set A). The set came with beef and pork belly in all of its delicious juiciness.

Delicious BBQ goodness

Delicious BBQ goodness

Back in our room, we did a damage check and reviewed our haul from Etude House specifically.

Etude House haul!

Etude House haul!

This is just the first haul but Piggy definitely wants more. More to come… More to come…

– pork

Anyeong Seoul and BooZA Chicken!

SEOUL!!!!!! After what felt like the longest day of my life, we have finally arrived!! Yay!! I’ve forgotten how strenuous international flights are on the mind and body. Big props to those of you who do this on a regular basis. Anyway, we took Singapore Airlines to Seoul and I do have to say this is probably the best airline to take for those long haul flights. Everything from the service for checking in to the food and movie choices, I felt like I’ve been missing out on this “royalty” treatment this entire time. (As opposed to just calling out, “Next!” from behind the kiosk, THEY come up to the front of line and escort you to their kiosk.) Don’t get me wrong, there are still flaws in the system (we were delayed by 20-30 minutes), BUT they kept us very well informed. There was a last minute gate change and while Pork and I were sitting at the wrong gate for 10 minutes, someone (I believe he worked for Singapore Airlines) came up to us (as well as all others who were sitting at this gate) and informed us that the gate had changed for our flight.

Once we boarded, they pass out hot towels to each person (they do this again later in the flight, btw) and while we were looking at the entertainment guide, Pork and I notice that there were all these movies that we’ve been wanting to watch and haven’t seen yet!! So excited!!! During our flight, I watched The Lego Movie, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2, and I started American Hustle but I started getting a headache and slightly airsick so I didn’t get very far. I was so sad I didn’t get to watch Gravity (which Pork did, as opposed to Hunger Games) or 12 Years As A Slave! ๐Ÿ™ I looked at their TV choices and they had a full old season of Friends and other popular TV shows as well as international choices. As for the food, I would say it’s probably the best airplane food I’ve had EVER (compared to what I’ve had in the past on United and Eva). I don’t want to bore you all with the details for our meals but for lunch, there was “ice cream” listed as the dessert and I was expecting a frozen container of some random generic brand, but they passed out IT’S-ITS!!!!! For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a cookie ice cream sandwich covered in chocolate. Google it. For you dessert people out there, this sounds like heaven, right? What airline does that!??!?? I’ll tell you who! SINGAPORE!!! Ok, maybe I’m a little too excited about this but I thought my flight experience was really great (minus the airsick part). I can assure you I’m not affiliated with Singapore Airlines at all, I’m just a very happy customer and I will promote ANYTHING when I have an awesome experience. Hope I’ve convinced you to look into them next time you plan that long flight for your next travel adventure. ๐Ÿ™‚

Beautiful, buzzing Seoul Station

Beautiful, buzzing Seoul Station

Pork (left) and Piggy (right) looking tired

Pork (left) and Piggy (right) looking tired

Awesome billboard outside Seoul Station

Awesome billboard outside Seoul Station

Beautiful buildings

Beautiful buildings

It was a beautiful night. There was a light haze that made the scene more beautiful, casting a glow around the lights.

Outside of Gwanghwamun Station

Outside of Gwanghwamun Station

We found the general building to our place just fine but didn’t know how to get to our room! Ack! We had an address and approached a security guard with it. Thankfully he pointed us to the right building and told us “upstairs”. Once we found the entrance, finding our room was pretty easy. ย And at laaaaast….

Our awesome Bbungalow room through air bnb

Our awesome Bbungalow room through air bnb

We made it! Nice place right? It even comes with a hidden kitchen.

Comes with a hidden kitchen

Comes with a hidden kitchen

They also have cute art in the room like this “Red Bull”.

Cute art decorate the room

Cute art decorate the room

After getting settled and cozy in our room, we were ready to eat our first meal in Seoul. We roamed around the area by our place and could tell it was getting late from the prevalence of drunk people. It was a sign that people were done for the night. But because Seoul and our location was so awesome, there were plenty of restaurants nearby still teeming with businessmen and classy couples.

We opted for a fried chicken joint called BooZA Chicken. Because, well, it’s got a great name! Boooooooo-Zaaaaaaaaaaaa~ See? Fun to say. When we got seated, the waiter quickly realized we were American but was still extremely friendly. Great service. He even offered to take a picture for us.

Waiter took our photo at BooZA Chicken

Waiter took our photo at BooZA Chicken

We are pretty tired in this pic but oh did that ice cold beer taste so refreshing– zaaaaaaaa~~

You can also see the plating we got below.

Dinner set

Dinner set

When we ordered, Pork picked the first item in the menu since he knew it read oh-ri-ji-neol chi-kin. But later he realized that it was just “original chicken” in Korean Lol.

BooZA Chicken menu

BooZA Chicken menu

After about 15 minutes our chicken arrived. And wowwwwww it looked so good.

GLORIOUS super crispy fried chicken

GLORIOUS super crispy fried chicken

Our order was a whole chicken aptly separated in thighs, drumsticks, and wings with some potato wedges. They served 2 delectable sauces with the chicken: spicy sweet sauce and super garlicky awesome sauce. The set cost 18,000 won and 6,000 won for 2 beers. That’s 24,000 won or roughly $24 USD in all but so worth it.

It was piping hot but it didn’t stop us from digging in. The first bite… *Crrrrrrunnnchhh*!!! Super crispy skin and tender meat. Seasoned perfectly. It was soooooo good. And it didn’t feel greasy at all! If you never had Korean Fried Chicken (different KFC haha), it’s on a whole new level from any American fried chicken.

And we finished all of it! Boo-Za!!!

Pork enjoying Chicken 8)

Pork enjoying Chicken 8)

-piggy