A day in Seoul, South Korea

Hello, Seoul/Korea lovers from near and afar! As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am currently a Global Seoul Mate which is basically an ambassador for all things Seoul 2020. So far, this year has been… trying, to say the least.

Our challenges up until now have mostly been related to home life and staying indoors. That changed this month when the theme was announced as ‘A Seoul Itinerary’. I had to challenge myself to put together a one-day itinerary for a trip to Seoul! (I actually cheated and did this over several days because I am quite busy these days… and I also technically don’t live in Seoul, I just work there!) Here is my itinerary for your next trip to Seoul (providing things go well around the world and international borders resume as somewhat normal!)

This itinerary is best for someone coming to the Gangnam area of Seoul for business or a conference. I spend most of my time in the Gangnam/Seocho area of Seoul as my office is located there!

Before you embark on your one-day journey in Seoul, be sure to have the following apps downloaded:

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Naver Maps (English)

Google Maps works better in Korea nowadays but the best way to get exact public transport directions, times and travel durations is to download this app.

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Subway Map App

To get around the Seoul subway, download a map of the Seoul Subway network. I’m sure that there are more apps to download, but I don’t think it’s necessary. If you have a phone in Korea, you will be okay. There is a lot of free wifi in Korea, so It’s not always necessary to purchase internet for your trip… or maybe I’m just old fashioned… Okay, let’s start the itinerary!

 

7:30 am – Yangjae Flower Market

The Yangjae flower market is a great thing to do early in the morning in Seoul. The greenhouses are cool and fresh and there are so many flowers and plants to look at. If you or someone you are travelling with are a big fan of plants, this might be a great way to start off your morning!

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Directions: Take the Shinbundang line to Yangjae Citizen’s Forest, exit via exit 4 and keep walking straight until you see the colourful lego building!

 

8:00 am – Walk along a stream in Seoul

There are so many streams in Seoul, you’re sure to find one on your journey here. My favourite one to walk along is near the flower market and is called ‘Yangjae Cheon’. The stream is peaceful and a great way to get some exercise in before you start a day of… well… walking a lot and exercising!

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9:00 am – Drink some coffee at any cute hidden cafe, the scone is optional

Hint: Yes, there are lots of great chain cafes that will charge you $5 for a watered down cup of coffee milk… or you could search the area you are in for an independent cafe and enjoy a unique experience. Independent cafes (i.e. not Starbucks, Holly’s etc) are usually cheaper and less crowded!

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11:00 am – Find a view of Namsan Tower, it’s beautiful from any angle

My favourite place to see the tower from is Hannam. But it’s also great to go and climb the mountain! I would also recommend taking a bus when going to Namsan areas because you can get a great view of the houses, the tower and the things that are going on! Use Naver maps to find the best route.

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1:00 pm – Time for lunch…Gimbap Heaven

There are gimbap stores all over Korea that sell a huge list of Korean dishes at a very low price. They are usually called ‘Kimbap Country’ or ‘Kimbap Heaven’. Here is what the places usually look like on the outside:

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I  know, it looks intimidating, but the food is cheap, the service is fast and the gimbap is usually amazing! Note: The above is not owned by me.

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2:00 pm – Head across the river to the DDP

If you’re an architecture and design lover, the DDP is a must see location on your Seoul itinerary. The Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) houses exhibitions, restaurants and small design markets all year round. The exhibitions are always design related and often require the purchase of a ticket. When I first came to Seoul in 2017, I stayed in an Air Bnb that overlooked the DDP and it was design heaven.

There is also a lot to do in this area but this district is most famous for its textiles and cheap shopping!

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6:00 pm – Dinner Time ~ The best sashimi in Seoul!

My favourite place in Seoul for sashimi is ‘Yangjae Chobap’. Which means Yangjae sushi. It is the best sashimi I have had in Korea….You will have to go back to the Gangnam area for this stuff…and it’s a tiny little restaurant in a tiny little alley way but it is SO GOOD.

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Yangjae Chobap (양재초밥)

 

8:00 pm – Coex Starfield Library and Bongeunsa Temple

Okay, so after your day of travel, it’s time to head back to the are where your hotel is… which might be in close proximity to CoEx mall if you are here on business. Currently, there is an incredible public art billboard called ‘The Wave’ displaying at CoEx near SM Town. After you have watched ‘The Wave’, you can wander inside the mall and see the amazing Starfield library. There is always an art installation in the centre of the library that changes regularly. A really great way to wind down at night, find a light meal with a coffee and just enjoy some quiet.

If that’s not quiet enough, cross over the road to go to Bongeunsa Temple; a beautiful temple in the middle of the city.  It is so nice to walk around there at night, especially on a hot Summer’s day!

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Jo So Ko Instagram

Here are the posts for this month’s mission! Be sure to follow my Instagram for all things South Korea!

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9:00 am ~ A walk along a stream followed by coffee and scones at an independent cafe! There are so many streams and rivers in Seoul that give you a quiet and cool break from the bustling city. I personally love the stream near my office (양재천) because it's leafy green and full of surprises! ☕ Chain cafes like Starbucks and Holly's are great, but to get a more unique experience in Seoul, it's best to try and find a smaller cafe tucked away behind busy roads. You don't have to lool to hard to find a cute place to have your morning coffee! ☀️ #globalseoulmate #gsm2020 #visitseoul #seoulguide #myseoul #seoulsearching#mykoreanadventure#seoul#southkorea#koreablogger#expatlife#koreanearandfar#일상#데일리#사진스타그램#양재#양재카페

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Feeling too uncool to be at Arco Cafe, Seongsu-dong, Seoul

If you’ve been feeling a little bit too cool with all of this staying home in your pyjamas business, then head to Seongsu to level out your ego a little bit. The customers at this new cafe, ‘Arco’, looked like they were stopping by for coffee on their way to far cooler, far more important fashion-related things. It was such a lovely cafe with a gallery/concept store on the second floor and a cafe on the ground floor. I really enjoyed our apple crumble and delicious strawberry croissant situation.

I’ve made it my goal for 2020 to make more of an effort to get some friends in this crazy city we live in. Being a foreigner in South Korea, or in any country, can get a little bit overwhelming. Besides, everyone needs to have a good old gossip over a $6 flat white from time to time. I have been so inspired and amazed by the internet community I have found here in South Korea and I hope to meet each and every human I have had an interaction with on Instagram, YouTube and here on my blog!

If you are living in a foreign country, what are some ways you like to meet new friends? Also, if you live in Seoul, and you’re reading these words, I would love to explore an area of Seoul with you? I could honestly have a meaningful conversation with a forest, so don’t worry if you’re a shy/introverted human! I don’t discriminate. Also, upon reflection, maybe telling people I want to meet up with them on the internet is a bit creepy and I totally understand if nobody ever responds to this post…

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This is a mural that was featured in Goblin (the K-drama!!)

 

 

How to Order Coffee in Korean

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Here is a little cheat sheet if you are coming to Korea and want to perfect your coffee ordering skills. This is great for those wanting to improve their skills here in Korea, or for travellers interested in the Korean language visiting Korea. Keep scrolling for an English translation.

S = Sales Assistant, C = Customer ( You!)

S: 안녕하세요. 주문하시겠어요? Or 뭐 드릴까요?

C: 따뜻한 카페라떼 한 잔 주세요.

S: 사이즈는 어떻게 해 드릴까요?

C: 톨 사이즈로 해 주세요.

S: 드시고 가세요?

C: 네, 맞아요.

S: 따뜻한 카페라떼 톨 사이즈 한 잔 맞으세요?

C: 네.

S: 네, 4,500 원 입니다.

—–beep boop beep boop credit card sounds—-

S: 영수증 드릴까요?

C: 괜찮아요. 버려주세요.

S: 옆에서 잠시만 기다려주세요.

C: 네, 감사합니다.

—–coffee machine sound—-

Barista: 36번 고객님, 따뜻한 카페라떼 나왔습니다.

C: 감사합니다.

B: 맛있게 드세요.

—–drink coffee for 4 hours—-

 

English Translation

S = Sales Assistant, C = Customer

S: Hello. Are you ready to order? Or What can I get you?

C: One cup of hot cafe latte, please.

S: What size would you like?

C: Tall size, please.

S: Is that for here?

C: Yes, that’s right.

S: So, that’s one tall hot cafe latte?

C: Yes.

S: Okay, that’s 4,500 won, please.

—–beep boop beep boop credit card sounds—-

S: Do you want a receipt?

C: It’s okay. Please throw it away.

S: Please wait over there for a moment.

C: Yes, thank you.

—–coffee machine sound—-

Barista: Customer 36, your cafe latte is ready.

C: Thank you.

B: Enjoy

—–drink coffee for 4 hours—-

What to Wear in Seoul in December

Brrrr… it’s chilly in this city, I’m pretty sure I saw snow in my bathroom yesterday (not really). When I first came to Korea in 2017, I had no idea how cold things would get come December. This lead to me jumping on my bicycle, racing to the closest Uniqlo from my dormitory, and buying anything that looked like it would keep me warm. Two years later, and I am still wearing the items I bought that day.

I want to help you avoid this shock if you’re planning on coming to Seoul in the cold months of late November, December, and January. This could also be helpful if you’re planning to come to Korea to be an English teacher. Planning your wardrobe for four seasons is hard when you have airline luggage restrictions to consider.

On Looking Good in Winter

Let’s get one thing out of the way, looking cute and stylish is HARD in winter. Once you’ve layered your heat tech and jumpers, you look more like a marshmallow than a fashion icon. Accept it. Be warm. Keep your coat on even though you want to show off your outfit. And don’t let instagram likes dictate the way you dress.

Winter Formula for Getting Dressed:

(Thermal Leggings + Thermal Top + Socks) + Bottom Layer + Jumper + Coat + More Socks + Gloves + Beanie + Scarf – Inappropriate Summer Fabrics + Shoes = You MIGHT be warm today

Basics

Before we get into some the outfits I wore in December, let’s go through my Korean winter essentials. Because I am a foreigner living in Korea, I don’t have a huge wardrobe full of cute outfits. It’s hard to transport an entire wardrobe across the Pacific Ocean. These are the items I can’t live without, so you may be seeing these items recurring throughout the outfits!

1. Cashmere Jumper

2. Warm Scarf

3. Wool Coat / Padding Jacket

4. Knee High Boots / Leather Boots

5. Waterproof Sneakers

6. Heat Tech Leggings, Tops and Singlets

7. WARM Gloves

8. Wool Beanie / Beret

Pro Tip: if you’re planning to move to Korea or any colder climate, the best thing to do is look out for cashmere sales! I picked up my jumper at a huge sale at Vin Prime, a second hand clothing store here in Korea. The quality of your clothes really makes a difference when staying warm, and it doesn’t have to make you broke! My jumper was only $20 and it’s 100% Cashmere.

Outfit #1: Christmas Tree Chic

This first outfit was taken at the beginning of December, hence the bare ankles. I can get away without an extra layer under these pants because they are so WARM, which is why I spent money that was out of my budget to buy them… I paired the pants with some black boots, a cashmere jumper over a t-shirt and a coat. On warmer winter days, you can get away with not wearing any thermal or heat tech layers!

The best investment I made this winter was this pair of green wool structured trousers from COS. They fit me like a glove and are so warm and cosy. I wanted something that looked professional but at the same time would keep me warm. I made this investment back when I thought getting a non-teaching job in Korea was a piece of cake… Also, they look like grass but for your pant legs!

Outfit #2: Incognito Shopping Trip so People don’t Stare at my Foreign Face

I love these grey lambs wool leggings that I bought from the Australian brand Country Road FOUR years ago! They are still keeping me warm. The tote is from a Museum in Singapore, the beanie is from a flea market in Japan and I kind of look like I’m on my way to mug somebody.

This is often how I dress when walking to the supermarket – how MuNdAnee. In my old neighbourhood, I got stared at by every second person who walked past me. That’s excluding the shop sellers. To deter the gazers, I would wear a face mask and a beanie, I think it made people more curious because they would have to double take instead of blatantly stare at me. So perhaps the incognito look backfired, in the end! These are my Adidas sneakers that I bought in summer and they are the coolest sneakers I’ve ever owned.

Outift #3: Horse Rider Takes on Inner City Shopping Centre

This horse riding look is my favourite to wear because of these BOOTS. I got these brown leather boots in a Zara sale last year and I feel like a powerful yet bohemian lady. These are the shoes that make me want to get dressed on cold mornings. I love wearing them with tight jeans so I can show off the whole boot. When I cover them in pant or skirt fabric, the boots don’t get to shine! Again, here is my cashmere jumper that I wear basically everyday, cashmere scarf and my padding jacket. I know Koreans aren’t overly fond of Uniqlo these days but I couldn’t survive winter here without their clothes.

I planned on taking more awkward selfies but then we moved house and life did that thing that it does where you suddenly don’t have time to do things. However, most of my outfits look like the ones you saw above in various combinations. I unintentionally have a capsule wardrobe situation due to aforementioned lack of luggage allowance and general lack of money to buy clothes!

Bonus Outfits from December!

Let’s start with this navy moment I had when I went ice skating.

Here is a Christmas look – I love that I can wear my running shoes with jeans and a coat without looking like a business woman with a long commute??? When I know I’m going to be walking around a lot, I have to whisper ‘not today’ to my beloved brown boots and opt for these.

Hugging my bag in the middle of the street.

Road trip outfit in a highway rest stop bathroom

With my friend at Ader Error in Hongdae.

Who is that crazy lady taking self timer pics of her toilet paper outfit??? With her eyes closed?

I’m really sad looking at this photo because I have since lost this scarf. I was doing a very quick job situation in Gangnam, and I dropped it somewhere. It was my favourite Uniqlo cashmere scarf and I can’t seem to find a replacement as soft (and affordable) as this one. rip scarf 😦

I hope you enjoyed my foray into fashion blogging. The moral of the story is choose warmth over style and comfort over ‘but I want to look cute today’. Let me know what your winter staples are and where you like to shop. Have a great day!

Ice Skating at City Hall in Seoul, South Korea

Merry Christmas to the four people who consistently read my blog! I hope you had a great time with loved one(s) and reflected on the year we’ve just had. I have been absent on my blog due to visa struggles and moving house! All of our dilemmas have been solved and we are back to our happy normal life selves. My husband and I recently ventured further south east to Yongin in Gyeonggi Province. We feel so excited to move a little further from Seoul away from the chaos…

Today, we spent our afternoon gliding around City Hall’s ice skating rink in an attempt to enact Frozen 2 on ice. It was my first time strapping into ice skating boots and slipping on ice (I’m Australian, this is all foreign to me, I’ve never even been skiing). I managed to find my rhythm rather quickly thanks to many summers spent rollerblading in my local neighbourhood.

There was ample space for skaters of all varieties: speedsters, grandpas, clusters of friends who all kept falling over, and nervous parents. There was a special section for little kids to learn how to skate and it was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. As well as the learning zone, there was a separate rink for kids and parents to fall over in. I also saw some people playing curling and assumed they were Canadian because who plays curling? Does one ‘play curling‘ or simply just ‘curl‘?

In any case, I regretted not wearing a cape for this icy occasion but I’m pretty sure I’m a contender for Disney’s Frozen 2 On Ice Korea Tour 2020. My husband seemed to be a seasoned skater and glided around effortlessly. He’s good at almost everything so it was no surprise that he had skater’s legs and could spin without hesitation!

How to Ice Skate in Seoul:

If you’re visiting Seoul between Jan and Feb, the ice skating fun will be up and running. Just head to City Hall station on line 2 or line 1 and follow the signs! It’s hard to miss. We were lucky to have a sunny blue sky over us as we skated! It costs 1,000 KRW (roughly $1) to skate for 1 hour including skates and a helmet! How cheap! Also, bring a 500 won coin to use the lockers to keep all of your belongings safe (not that anyone would touch them in Korea!)

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!!!