A ‘Summer in Busan’ Post

Good morning, Jo So Ko fan(s)! For today’s post, I thought I would post pictures from our family trip to Busan this past August. Looking at these photos is bringing me a bit of warmth on this cold winter’s day!

This was a special trip for us despite it being a quick weekend getaway (we declared that we were getting married to my now in-laws). The weather was incredible, the food was fresh and I loved driving around Busan. Well, I loved being a passenger, I don’t think I would have liked being the one behind the wheel in Busan. The roads there are more like slippery waterslides without rules.

I was a happy passenger looking at the amazing bridges from the back seat!

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I fell in love with this house that was next to our accommodation. Although I think it’s just because I love emerald green!

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This was a great cafe and I highly recommend it if you’re a chill traveller like us and just want to sit down for a few hours by the ocean. The coffee was delish and we were able to take our orders into our own little hut and isolate ourselves from the other chill travellers. There was also a hammock which smelled rather sweaty but I wasn’t about to say no to a hammock party in the sun. Oh, and isn’t my husband so cute? He was my boyfriend when we took these pictures!

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After lazing in the sun, we ended up at a beach (of course I don’t remember the name). It was so weird being restricted to such a small swimming section. As an Australian, it was kind of a novelty.

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Let’s look at some foooood!

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Agui-zzim(아귀찜, steamed monkfish smothered in spicy sauce)
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Makchang(막창구이, Entrail or Intestine BBQ)
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Mul-hoe(물회, Cold raw fish soup)

This was my second visit to Busan and it was great to see even more of such a beautiful city. I hope next time we can spend more than a weekend there. If you have written a post about Busan, let me know so I can bookmark ideas for our next trip!

This is my eighth day of posting a daily blog and I am loving it. I feel like I finally have the creative juice to write the things I wanted to when I was working full time!

Have a great day and come back tomorrow for another post!

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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Pasta, Popcorn and Korean Pancakes

I recently wrote about a hip, hop, happnin’ area of Seoul called Sharosugil. In said post, I wrote that while we were there we needed to ‘take mental notes for future date plans so we can come back every single week for the foreseeable future’. Sure enough, we went back exactly one week later for another too-adorable-for-words date. I was in a pizza/pasta or hardcore Korean set meal mood after work. I guess that’s a very vague hunger mood to be in, isn’t it? I was too afraid to rule out any tasty possibilities we may have stumbled upon so I came prepared with back-up hunger cravings.

Wandering down a small street in the university town, we saw this gorgeous little restaurant that we could have almost mistaken for an indoor plant shop and walked right past. When we sat down, we realised that it was, in fact, a risoteria and not a pasta restaurant. Never fear, according to the waitress, the chef can whip you up just about any pasta dish your hunger mood can concoct.  The name of this place is Marcus and you can click the link to find out where it is and what they sell because this Jo So Ko blog isn’t intended to be very informative or useful, it’s a hobby. I must add, the service was amazing and if Korea were a tipping country and I had a job that afforded me the luxury to be able to tip, I would have probably considered tipping them. Enjoy the pictures, the food, the neighbourhood, your life, the vibe etc.

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So, you’ve got yourself a hole in the wall? No worries, shove some corks in it! What hole?

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They should probably rename their restaurant ‘al dente AF’ because that’s exactly what this carbonara was. So good.

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Seafoody, tomatoey risotto!

Meanwhile, on the (narrow) streets of Sharosugil:

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Have you been to this area of Seoul? Which restaurants should we try next? Have the best day!

It’s a date! 샤로수길에서는 데이트!

Over the weekend, we decided to go on a lavish date and live our lives as though we had all the time and money in the world. By that, I mean we ate three different meals within the space of about 3.5 hours with a heartfelt session of karaoke in between meals one and two to settle our appetites. The date location: Sharosugil (샤로수길) which is located near Seoul National University Entrance station on line 2. I just googled this neighbourhood to see how it was spelled in English and found out how trendy and new this it is. I am NEVER a cool and trendy person. I’m always miles behind the times but secretly think I am super trendy in my middle-age-woman-inside-a-twenty-two-year-old state of mind. This time, it’s no secret.

First order of date business: wandering the ‘hood to take mental notes for future date plans so we can come back here every single week for the foreseeable future. This is an important step when in Seoul because most eating establishments you visit are ones you only find out about from walking by and sneakily trying to see what people have on their plates through the window.

The name of this cafe we walked past translates to ‘Your small table’. How sweet is that? I love that they are so up front about the small table size. Don’t worry, I wasn’t expecting a large table, I’d barely fit through the door.

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We were on the hunt for a burger restaurant named ‘9 Ounces’ only to find they had stopped selling burgers by the time we reached the restaurant. We weren’t about to sit in a burger restaurant and sip on cokes while our tummies grumbled, so we walked back to another ‘Burger Joint’ that we passed along the way. It was literally called ‘Burger Joint’ which was a weird name to read in a non-English speaking country. We ordered 2 cheese burgers and a side of tasty fries. The result… well, see for yourself below. I really enjoyed eating a burger that didn’t taste like it was made 4 weeks ago (*Lotteria*). Burger Joint Review: Good burgers, good vibes, good times. My feet were slightly cold but that was not the burger’s fault.

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Second order of business: Karoke. There’s no better way to clear space in your stomach for two post-lunch meals than singing a round of songs in a Korean coin karaoke room. My personal favourite noraebang tune for clearing space is Disney’s ‘Let it Go’. That wasn’t a pun, by the way, I just love Frozen. We then went to a dessert cafe which had a crucial typo in its name and ate strawberry cake and coffees. Be warned, instagram influencers and opportunistic photographers, cafes in Seoul are hella cute and serve up tasty spreads but they’re also hella expensive. Why I regularly pay 5,000 won for a latte is BEYOND me. Here is that cafe now.

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After gorging on a whole cake (which wasn’t really Ju’s style so he had extra room in his stomach) we stumbled upon possibly the best street food ‘pajeon’ ever. Pajeon or ‘Jeon’ are Korean pancakes and they’re often served with ‘Makkeoli’ which is Korean rice wine. We ordered the squid pancake and OH MA G it was hella tasty. We’re already planning to go back there this week for round 2. Lastly, to put into perspective just how expensive coffee is in Korea, this giant plate of squid pancake cost the same amount as my latte from the previous cafe. I’m still a young spring chicken so I should probably stop complaining about the cost of everyday, mundane things. I’ve got my golden years to do that.

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Korean squid pancake and pickled radish

What do you do for dates in Seoul? Let me know! Let’s Skype about it or get our nails done.

Lost in Fruit

Yesterday, as a gust of clean Seoul air swam its way through the dusty cocktail Saturday left behind, I meandered through the back streets of my neighbourhood to go to the local fruit and veg market. To set the scene, let me just say that the back streets near my house would be the perfect place to film an (on-foot) small scale burglary chase or, I don’t know, shoot a catalogue for an elderly women’s fashion movement. It just has that kind of edgy but practical kind of feel to it. Anyway. So, off I trot to the market feeling all empowered and not at all anxious about being the only western person within a 200km radius. I wander up to the bright fruit stall opposite the equally bright fruit stall I usually go to because I thought it would be nice to shake things up a bit. I point to what looks like a basket of juicy mandarins and say (in my best Korean) ‘please give me these mandarins’. The vendor did not correct my attempt to order what was in fact not a basket of mandarins. As she piled the unfamiliar looking mandarins into a black plastic bag, I knew that I had made a terrible mistake. Much to my not at all surprise, I did not protest the above average ($10) price tag for so few “mandarins” (for that matter, I would never protest anything in a second language unless encouraged by alcohol). Instead, I held my head high, faking the aura a person who just purchased exactly what they wanted might possess. I strolled on home, back through the narrow grandma/gangster back streets, past the old men smoking in their pyjama pants outside their homes and into the safety of my home that does not speak to me in Korean. The way I feel when attempting to do anything in a foreign language by myself is crippling and liberating, making any situation where speaking is required quite awkward. My brain wants to shout out random phrases I’ve memorised like ‘happy new year’ or ‘thank you for the food’, but my body just wants to pretend I’m travelling on business and therefore far too important to learn the local language. The result of these conflicting feelings is me just kind of making weird grunting noises with robot arms while I somehow simultaneously nod and shake my head when given any opportunity to speak another language. It’s very sexy.

After one month of living in Seoul, I’m hoping that from here it will get easier. I hope to come home with the right fruit next weekend feeling accomplished and slightly less like an alien. To be fair to myself, the fruits did all look the same, hence this illustration that I decided to draw and share with you all. I hope you enjoyed this anecdote. If you didn’t enjoy it, that’s okay too. It wasn’t meant to change your life or challenge your understanding of fruit and the earth. Have a great day and don’t forget to ‘eat your fruits and juice your vegetables’ according to that annoying guy in the movie ‘Her’. Does anybody know what I’m talking about? I guess I lost you long before that reference and needn’t worry. Annyeong!

Illustration and words by Johanna Quinn. All rights reserved. Image must not be distributed or used without artist’s consent. 2019.

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Highway Rest Stops, Korean Style

I wanted to use this powerful blogging platform to share with you one of my favourite tourist attractions in South Korea: the humble highway rest stop. I don’t know if it’s because of the relief from getting out of a car during a long trip to stretch your legs or the delicious offerings that they have but somewhere in the middle is sweet, sweet paradise. In Korean, these little pockets of roadtrip heaven are called a ‘Hyugeso’ or 휴게소 in Korean!

You can only really access these stops if you’re heading out of town. Most bus trips that are long enough will take a 15 minute rest at one of these places. My face literally lit up when I heard the announcement that we were about to pull into a Hyugeso over the weekend. We travelled from Yeosu to Seoul which is about a four hour drive so a stop for hotdogs and walnut cakes was a necessity! However, the short allotted time period will make you feel like you’re on a reality game show where you have to see how much street food you can consume in 15 minutes with a toilet break thrown in somewhere. Continue reading to see the rest stops in all of their glory.

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It is widely known that when the sun starts to set in the mountains, it is time to stop at a ‘Hyugeso’ and eat until your heart’s content. It’s a very famous proverb first used during the Goreyo dynasty. That’s a ‘chicken or egg’, ‘car or rest stop’ question we don’t have time to answer here today and I am obviosly joking.

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So, let me introduce you to the main reason I love Hyugeso’s: walnut cakes. In Korean they’re called ‘hodu gwaja’ which translates to walnut snacks. (The word ‘cracker’ really undersells the soft pockets of heaven that you will find in your $3 bag that you will inevitably buy after reading such an influential blog post as this). The walnut cakes are filled with sweet and silky red bean paste and are best served hot, fresh from the Ajumma selling them to you. These are tricky to find beyond the confines of a Korean highway rest area but, in my not so humble opinion, it’s worth organising a quick bus/car getaway to try them out. Or even worth an impromptu South Korea trip you didn’t know you needed. Not really. But really.

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Have you tried anything at a Korean highway rest stop? Let me know what your favourite snacks are and I’ll be sure to give them a try! Leave a comment below!

Summer in Seoul: Royal Food

We ate Royal Food like a couple of Royal Korean Emperors and Empresses and boy did we EAT. We ate a LOT. I’m not exaggerating. So much so that, as the meal went on, my enthusiasm for photographing the food faded as my belly became fuller and fuller… and FULLER. Also the images look hella yella (=really yellow toned in Australian) so please excuse the weird colour of these images.

I could not tell you the names of all of these dishes. I mean, I could go and look the names up on Google and write them down beneath each picture… but we all know that we will NOT remember the names and it will be a huge misuse of my precious holiday time… just take my word for it, it was all delish.

At the end of the meal, the lovely Ajumma serving us kindly offered to roll us out of the building and onto Cheonggyecheon like a pair of royal bread rolls. We gracefully declined her offer out of politeness and concern that she would crack a hip. Fortunately, the restaurant overlooked Cheonggyecheon (a masterpiece in landscape architecture and urban planning), and we were able to walk off our enormous meal without any additional rolling assistance.

Round 1:

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Okay, this was the best Japchae of my entire life:

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Okay, I’ve lost track of the rounds…

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Final round aka “sorry, no crib for his bed, food consumption does not compute”

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Is it legal to leave yet? It should be like when you get a vaccination at the doctor and they make you wait for 5 minutes to make sure you don’t pass out. I feel like there should have been a lounge for a post-royal food siesta to make sure we didn’t plummet to our deaths on the elevator ride.

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Cheonggyecheon!

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There is a law in Korea that states ‘thou shalt not sit on the banks of any Korean river (or in any open space for that matter) without a lover by their side’. I wish I was joking. This is a real law and the punishment for all you single rulebreakers is a lifetime of loneliness.

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Misty clouds to cleanse the palate after what felt like a 300-course meal. I highly recommend a Royal Food experience if you travel to Seoul and you want to taste all of the flavours of Korea in one sitting. It was the tastiest night of my entire existence.

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I went back to Korea a few weeks ago and didn’t blog about it… Hongdae + Lotte World

I am currently in my final year of university and squeezing in trips to South Korea here and there has been my number one motivation to work harder! Although the workload is challenging, what is important to me is this new life I’ve discovered in Korea. About three weeks ago, I slipped away to Seoul for a week right before my final honours presentation for the semester. We stayed in Hongdae and Jamsil and managed to cram a whole lot into a very short space of time! Here is a collection of really random photos taken on my phone and my small tiny point and shoot that doesn’t take very good photos despite being less than a year old and not very cheap…yay cameras.

Hongdae streets at night!

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Naengmyeon (vinegary noodles), BBQ, Kimchi Fried Rice and other yummy things that I don’t know the names of!

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In Korea, fans pay to celebrate the birthdays of their “idols”. It’s like a Kickstarter but for birthday advertisements. I’m still trying to grasp Korean Idol culture…will keep you posted (will literally keep you posted in a blog post…)

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Yellow stairs and mirror situation. Seoul is a giant city but everyone is so chilled out (in my opinion..)

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Lotte World Yes, we wore a couple outfit and I bought bunny ears that I will never get rid of (I’m not putting these pictures on the internet, I like to keep SOME of my pictures private…).

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After exploring Lotte World and becoming delirious with motion sickness and the realisation that we are adult-sized children, we ate potentially the spiciest gamjatang (pork-bone soup) of my entire life. We had to constantly pour water into the pot and look around the room to make sure people couldn’t see us being spice-wusses.

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Our Seoul trip was short and very sweet. We managed to go to an amusement park, a water park, eat a 4-million course Royal Food degustation, go clubbing in Hongdae, eat every tasty Korean dish available, visit our Kakao friends in Hongdae and have an amazing dream-like experience (in 3.5 days). For any long-distance lovers out there, you must know the thrills and joys of being able to spend even just a silent moment together. Time is precious and we certainly don’t have time to waste on super spicy pork soup or bad sushi!!!

Myeongdong

Let’s do a recap of the day where I ordered enough fried chicken to feed a small family and took creepy photos on the subway in Seoul. I’ve been having a minor breakdown in Seoul and I’ve realised that six weeks of Korean lessons prior to arriving here was in fact, not enough. Seoul also appears (to me) to be a very social city and so it feels quite isolating to wander around on your lonesome, eating fried chicken by yourself and getting sauce all over your face without having anyone there to tell you. However, I’ve discovered that the cure for said lonely feelings is to sit in a cafe surrounded by other lonely people. As we speak, the people around me are all studiously tapping and writing away, reading furiously and I even saw a group of people downstairs coding in a big nerdy huddle. The future of this country is literally being developed in this very Starbucks, it feels so exciting. Here are some photos snapped on my journey of doing nothing but everything at the same time.

IMG_0061Streets of shops and restaurants go on for days in Myeongdong. IMG_0063Phone case frenzyIMG_0070It started raining lightly and everyone went into full panic mode, people were practically throwing money at umbrella vendors and taking shelter.IMG_0073Cleaning supplies so colourful that it would almost make me want to clean. Almost.IMG_0045Here is an entire chicken I ordered and a giant bottle of beer. I wanted to try the real deal here in Korea considering I regularly eat Korean Fried Chicken in Melbourne. I successfully ordered in broken Korean and even asked for a bag so I could take away the other three quarters of the chicken that I couldn’t eat. Hello, left over fried chicken for dinner, anyone? I think I might sit in the shower and eat it so I don’t leave sticky-handprint-chicken-crumb marks all over my apartment. IMG_0047A sea of fried chicken restaurants in Myeongdong.IMG_0037From one train, looking out to the other platforms.IMG_0076City Hall Station.IMG_0077I accidentally bought the T Money card bundle that is meant for couples. I now have an awkward matching train card for the oppa that I don’t have, so sad. I can’t imagine Myki coming out with a couples range. (Update: Shortly after I posted this, I fell in love with my now-Oppa!)IMG_0081ReflectionIMG_0098Seoul Station