Sushi and Cherry Blossoms

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Today was a day of sushi and cherry blossoms. The flowers are a’blooming and the birds are a’chirping because spring is a’coming people. The cherry blossoms are nature’s way of saying, ‘hey guys, everything will be okay’.

Cherry blossoms are like the training wheels of nature, they make us feel safe and sound before we summon the confidence to do life with only 2 wheels. After they’re gone, we forget they were even there! Before you know, we’ve smoothly made the winter to summer, heatech to humidity transition.

WHAT AM I SAYING? It was my first back working every day this week and my brain is a little soggy. All of this quarantine has made me lose the humorous edge that helped crown Jo So Ko as the internet’s best travel blog 12 years running.

Time to get some rest, but first, here is a video I made about my work life in Seoul! Check it out if you have nothing better to do 🙂

Exploring Cafes in Seongsu, Seoul, South Korea

Amore, Seongsu

This is an amazing concept store in Seongsu that houses all of Amore Pacific beauty brands and a rooftop cafe. There are lots of skincare and makeup samples to try, but I was more excited by the vintage graphic design and the actual design of the building.

I am still a bit confused about the whole concept but they have a lot of things to offer. I would just love to sit down with the design team for a second to figure out their intentions and perhaps make it a bit more English friendly ~~ but that’s the designer in me. We then went to the cafe on the rooftop, which only really sells green tea flavoured things… so if that’s not yo speed, you’re going have a tricky time up there! However, I think the drinks looked better than they tasted 😦 I would recommend you hold off from going to the cafe and just go to a better one nearby like Cafe Onion (keep scrolling for more!)

Visit the website for more info

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How cute is their branding (from their site)

Cafe Onion, Seongsu

Just down the street from Amore Seongsu (or up the street, depending on which way you walk. Sorry, I’m not a map) is Cafe Onion. It is quite a famous spot here in Seoul and they have multiple cafes around the city. I have been wanting to try their bread for a long time! The coffee and bread is not that different from your local Korean bakery but it has a really nice vibe in the cafe!

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Wifi password on the wet tissue = genius

20200318_182148If you’re curious to see more from these places, be sure to watch the weekly vlog I made last week! Have a great week and stay safe xxx

My Korean husband cooks Jjapaguri from the movie ‘Parasite’

parasite-jjapaguri-sceneIf you fell in love with Bong Joon Ho’s latest film ‘Parasite’, you might be curious about some of the food that was featured in the Oscar-winning movie. At a very tense moment in the movie, the newly appointed maid to the Park family is asked to make a dish called ‘Jjapaguri’. The English translation is ‘Ram-don’ but the Korean name comes from the two different types of instant noodles that are used in the dish. To make Jjapaguri, you need these two types of instant noodles that you can buy from your local Korean supermarket:

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Jjapaghetti and Neoguri

I was curious to try the dish for myself and I’m lucky enough to have a Korean husband who knew exactly how to make it! We live in Korea so these ingredients are readily available. We wanted to keep the recipe as similar to the dish made in the film so we even added beef! (Beef is a very expensive ingredient here in South Korea! Pork is usually the favoured meat). Here is how our meal turned out, it was surprisingly delicious and I think I may even like it more than I like Jjapaghetti by itself:

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The soju is optional!

Hwaseong Fortress: UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Korea

There are fourteen listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites here in South Korea, and one of them is only a 15-minute drive from my home. Hwaseong Fortress is located in the Gyeonggi Province city of Suwon. Suwon is also home to some of Korea’s biggest tech company HQs like Samsung and LG.

The fortress was built in the 18th century by King Jeongjo for defensive and political purposes. It was also built to house the tomb of the King’s father. The Suwoncheon stream runs through the centre of the fortress which you can see in images below. UNESCO’s website state the following about the incredible features of the fortress:

‘The walls incorporate a number of defensive features, most of which are intact. These include floodgates, observation towers, command posts, multiple arrow launcher towers, firearm bastions, angle towers, secret gates, beacon towers, bastions and bunkers’.

Information Source

If you’re looking for a beautiful place to explore that is just outside of Seoul, I would highly recommend visiting the Hwaseong Fortress. People were starting to set up picnics along the stream now that the weather is warming up here. The site boasts gorgeous views of Suwon and is a great way to get in a mini-hike on the weekend. There are also lots of beautiful modern cafes juxtaposed against traditional architecture and the surrounding fortress. Here is the cafe we visited. Scroll to the end of the images to find out how to get there.

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How to Get There

Train and Bus

Take the Line 1 train to Suwon Station and catch the 66 Bus to the fortress

Happy Korean New Year: My First ‘설날’ (New Year) as a ‘며느리’ (Daughter-in-law)

Hello internet world, let’s talk about the fact that the moon calendar makes no sense to us Gregorians! Haha maybe another time, for now let’s just discuss Korean Lunar New Year. Koreans celebrate the Lunar New Year in a celebration called Seollal (설날). This was my first Seollal as a 며느리 (daughter-in-law) so everyone made a big fuss. Traditionally, 며느리’s are supposed to wait on each man’s beckon call and prepare copious amounts of food for the family, as well as clean everything. Fortunately, this was my first time as a daughter-in-law so I just sat there and smiled and made my husband help the women in the kitchen. It’s 2020, damn it!

On New Year’s day (Sat 25th Jan 2020), we ate rice cake soup (떡국) and a yummy eggy pancake. We also had lots of crustaceans and a variety of rural style side dishes. I celebrated Seollal in Yeosu, my husband’s hometown. The food and flavours in Yeosu are different to other parts of Korea. They like very salty side dishes and consume a lot of seafood. Some flavours are too strong for my weak little Australian palate, so I just shamelessly pick at the dishes with the most sugar.

We also ate steamed pork ribs (갈비찜) and sweet potato noodles (잡재) on New Year’s Day! We paid visits to both grandparents and did our New Year’s bows for good luck and great health. This was my first time bowing in Korea! When you bow on New Year’s Day, you have to say ‘새해 복 많이 받으세요’, which is like saying ‘I hope you receive lots of luck in the new year’.

This holiday went by so quickly but here are some pictures that I managed to snap. Whenever I pull out my phone to take pictures of food, I look so silly! I’m still such a tourist in this country despite living here for over a year. I hope you had a great new year, how did you spend yours? Does your country celebrate the lunar new year?

Sweet potato noodles (잡재), Steamed pork ribs (갈비찜) and Kimchi (feat. Danbi the puppy)
Fresh kimchi, samjang sauce, garlic and a vinegary soup moment.
Close up of the steamed pork ribs (갈비찜)
A beautiful door
No strawberry can out-strawberry a Korean strawberry
A spotty train while we waited for our ride to Yeosu. The New Year’s festivities were happening during the start of the corona virus outbreak, so masks were necessary!
Korean New Year Pancakes with crab, spinach and other yummy things.
My stomach gets angry at me if I eat too much Korean food. It’s like ‘yo, why haven’t you been eating any cake or complex carbohydrates?’

The Colours (and smells) of Gwangjang Market, Seoul, South Korea

Yesterday morning, we popped open our umbrellas and hopped through puddles to get to Seoul’s ‘Jewelry City’. Yes, that is a real place in Seoul, and yes, we finally bought wedding rings as a proclamation of our love. We hadn’t planned on it, but Gwangjang Market was located right next to the city of jewels. We had really been wanting to go there for a long time, what a cowinky dink. My husband is particularly keen on street food and was in heaven at the market.

I’m not sure why I thought otherwise, but shopping for wedding rings is so difficult. Why do western men have to shop alone for engagement rings? What a terrible culture. We went to four different sellers, touched a lot of hands and saw a lot of fake diamonds (they don’t put the real diamonds on display for some reason??). Because of this difficult shopping decision, we had to take a time out and feast on street food. We decided to eat some 족발 (Jokbal – pig’s feet), 잡채 (Japchae – sweet potato noodles) and 떡볶이 (Tteokbokki – spicy rice cakes). We then went in for a second sitting and ate 빈대떡 (mung bean pancakes). What’s was even better was the stall seats were heated. You definitely need a warm bottom to consume things like pig’s feet and mung bean pancake.

It was a happy accident that I had my camera in my bag yesterday. I just woke up with that feeling that a good snap was waiting for me, you know? Despite the cold, the rain and the difficult decision making, we ended our day with full bellies, three wedding rings and the realisation that my husband and I have the same ring size! Enjoy some of the pictures I took, but just remember that I was really hangry whilst taking them. Let me know if you’ve been to the market, I’d love to hear about what you ate!

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Hiking Gwanhaksan

Yesterday, I started my day with full mobility of my lower limbs. I ended the day drunk on makgeolli (Korean rice wine), with shaky knees and frozen fingers. This is of course because we ventured to Gwanhak Mountain, located next to Seoul National University. With autumn in full swing, it was so magical to wander through a trail lined with red and yellow trees, crunching on leaves as we hiked 600m above civilisation!

I wanted to bring my fancy camera but, being a novice hiker, I decided to stick to my camera phone. I didn’t need any unnecessary weight holding me down. Hiking is incredibly popular in Korea so we had many buddies along the way. At the top of the mountain, there is a beautiful temple. Because a lot of high schoolers have their SATs this Thursday, there were prayers and wishes hanging from red lanterns. I wanted to soak in the beauty of it all but the temple was on the edge of a cliff and my hands were turning blue. I was joined on the trail with my husband, two classmates and my lovely Korean teacher (oh, and a lil puppy).

I hope to start hiking more regularly! However, it’s starting to get real chilly and there is no way I’m going up one of these Korean mountains in the winter! There was one very smart businessman selling icecream in the middle of a rather gruelling flight of stairs. By the time we saw his little esky, our sweaty bodies were ready for an icy treat and we (obviously) proceeded to buy them. Little did we know that 30m later, we would reach freezing temperatures and lose our craving for refreshing icecream. Had he sold his popsicles at a higher altitude, he would have had to carry a lot of melted bags of ice down the mountain. A very savvy businessman indeed. Enjoy some pictures! The air was not so great on Sunday so there is a bit of a fog situation! Have a happy week and go to my blog to read more about my life in Seoul, South Korea.

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Gyeongbokgung Palace: Hard to spell, even harder to take a bad picture of!

Yesterday, my fellow Korean class members and I ventured out in the dust to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace. This palace is kind of the pulsing heart of Seoul, the lifeblood of the city. Everything around it is more or less using this palace for energy. That’s the way I see it, anyway. It’s by no means an official tourism slogan… yet.

The last time I visited the palace, it was snowy December and I was with my parents. This time, I was able to see things in a less covered-in-snow way. It was so nice to walk around, snapping pictures of just about every texture and leaf in sight. I also loved uploading my pictures to my laptop to find that half of them are blurry or overexposed. That’s always a cool little surprise. It doesn’t really matter though, because, in the photographing moment, I’m having so much fun! Here are some of the pictures that I was so happy to see after a long day of walking and imagining I lived in one of the traditional Korean buildings. Enjoy!

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NUTELLA HOTTEOK!!!